Page 8 of 11

Re: The Manila Tales –A Summer-ish Series (Updated 7/24)

Posted: Thu Jul 31, 2014 11:30 am
by Hoitash
“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

Previous Chapter

Chapter Ten: The Bastard’s Tale

We went back to the suite after the aquarium, where Kenji and Aunt Hana made dinner, and Satomi and Miya sorted through the baked goods to see which were still good, and try to avoid eating too many of the continually drying muffins (and persuade Miya not to make more.)

After dinner I once again found myself on the balcony. It’s not that I’m anti-social –at least I don’t think of myself as such- but I had just spent a day watching over a pre-teen girl and her attention deficit little sister, so I felt entitled to a little quiet time.

So I watched the sun set as best I could from our balcony, the light slowly receding as shadows claimed the land. If I closed my eyes and listened carefully, I could almost hear the buzz of activity from the far off slums. Even with all the tourist activity, the suburbs were slowly going to sleep, while, further out, the underworld of the slums awoke. Or at least, that’s how I imagined it.

Maybe I did read too much.

Just before the evening gave way to twilight, Miya stepped out onto the balcony, smelling so strongly of insect repellent I coughed. Apparently she hadn’t realized I was out there, because when I coughed she jumped and whirled around. It took a few moments for her to notice me, but she eventually saw me huddled in the balcony’s left corner against the building.

“Oh, that’s where you were.”

“Sorry,” I said, “I told Kenji I was going to be out here.”

Miya blinked a few times before her eyes lit up in recognition, “Oh right. I remember now.”

“I can go back inside-”

Miya smiled and dismissed my remark with a wave, “You’re fine. Don’t mind me.”

I slowly nodded, and Miya turned to look out at the suburbs, and it was only then I noticed she was holding a bulky camera, with a bag strapped to her left side. She looked out at the suburbs and slums beyond, a wistful smile on her face as the sun continued to set.

“I love this view,” she replied, “It changes every time we come here.”

“Probably because they keep demolishing, rebuilding, and expanding.”

Miya looked blankly ahead for a few moments, then nodded, “Huh, that’d do it. Kinda reminds me of my childhood.”

That statement reminded me how truly little I knew about Miya. While I had gleaned or been told a fair amount about the rest of the two families, I knew almost nothing about her beyond the extreme basics. She never really talked about her past or family, except occasionally one of her grandmothers. Despite that, she thought of me and the Nakai children as family, and, based on precedent, probably felt the same way about the other children the Setous knew.

Maybe that was why I felt compelled to look up at her while she started taking pictures, “Miya-san?”

Camera still in place, Miya looked away from her poised camera to look straight at me, “Yes?”

“Why me?”

Miya lowered her camera, looking lost in thought. She stayed like that for a while, and I started feeling guilty about distracting her from her work. Before I could verbalize my guilt, Miya plopped herself down on the balcony floor, sitting cross-legged across from me.

“Because family is important,” Miya declared, “Me, Kenji, and Hana know that. We also know how abstract family really is. Maybe abstract isn’t the right word… how do I put this… Hana had her entire family ripped away from her, and she rebuilt it out of people she loved and who loved her –Hisao, Lilly, Shizune and Misha, even the couple from the newspaper at Yamaku. Kenji’s family was never quiet there, mentally I mean, and many of them died young, or became so lost in their own minds that they may as well have. He and Hisao became close, and then he found me, and so he rebuilt his family, too.

“The idea that family is just people you’re blood related to is narrow minded and petty. Family is much more than blood –it’s a concept, one not restricted by something like DNA. Is this making any sense?”

It was rare that Miya was serious about something, but she always knew how to pick her moments. Still, she caught me off guard with her explanation, which I didn’t quite get yet.

So in response, I said, “I… I’m not sure, honestly. Sorry.”

Miya grinned and pat my head, “It’s fine. I was never good at explaining things. All I’m saying is… you had no one, and nothing. You were lost and alone in the world, handed the shittiest end of the shortest stick I could ever have imagined. You needed someone there for you, and Kenji knew that. When Kenji explained who you were and what had happened to you, I… people shouldn’t have to live through that.”

“Sometimes I wish I hadn’t,” I blurted.

Miya frowned, “Don’t talk like that. You did live through it, and now look where you are; with people who love you, care about you, and will protect you.”

I nodded, “I know. It’s just… a little overwhelming, sometimes. I’m still getting used to it.”

“Yeah, it took me some time to get used to it, too,” Miya admitted, “Three cripples, four lesbians, two orphans, and a bastard, coming together to piece what was left of their lives together into a new one. Sounds like an HBO drama or something.”

I raised an eyebrow, not at Miya’s bluntness, but at part of what she had said, “…Did you say a…?” I trailed off, unwilling to say the word.

Miya grinned and nodded, “Bastard? Yep, that’s me. When he found out my mom was pregnant, her boyfriend panicked and left. I never had a father. My mom worked double shifts as a waitress, so my grandma looked after me. Gran told Mom she should marry for both our sakes, but mom refused. She said she’d marry for love, not obligation. Takano women are a stubborn lot, so my Gran never really pushed the issue.”

“That… that had to suck, growing up,” I said.

If being the orphaned descendent of Korean war laborers was the shortest end of the shittiest stick, a single mother raising a daughter in pre twenty-first century Japan was probably a close second. Even before Them life had been hard for my parents and me. Perhaps that was why Miya had so little trouble taking me into her life; I reminded her of her own situation when she was growing up.

Miya shrugged in response to my statement, “It wasn’t so bad. Gran taught me to bake, and it wasn’t too long before I could work and help support us. That was about the time I started really getting into art, actually. When I was really young I’d use spare bits of chalk to doodle and draw. It was fun, and gave me something to focus on.

“When I was in high school I joined the art club, and they had stuff I couldn’t even think of affording at the time. I had a friend in the photography club, too, and that pretty much cemented my future. Losing myself in art helped me forget all the bad stuff and focus on the good –like those photos from the Amazon. I don’t care that I spent days in a hospital puking up my lungs and hallucinating that I was playing Chinese checkers with Harry Dresden. I remember the water, the jungle, the animals….”

Miya smiled wistfully and looked around. Twilight had given way to night, the dim glow of the suburbs and outlying areas dully piercing through the darkness, while above us the stars twinkled and winked through the black of space.

Miya looked back at me and smiled, “Well, guess I rambled on for a while there.”

“Sorry for distracting you,” I said.

Miya smiled and pat my head again, gently running her fingers through my short black hair, “You’re not a distraction. I can paint this view from memory, anyway.”

Considering how much Miya enjoyed her work, there had to be a warehouse somewhere loaded with paintings and photos. Or at least paintings and a server loaded with photo data.

Either way, I was curious enough to ask, “What do you do with all the paintings you don’t sell?”

“Storage, mostly, though I tend to give them out to friends and family… how much wall space does your dorm have?”

It took me a moment to process the seemingly random question. When I did, and started to think of the answer, the actual implications of it hit me full force. As if these people didn’t do enough for me, Miya was willing to give me a painting she worked on. To share her memories, in a way.

Instead of responding verbally, I launched myself at her, wrapping my arms around her neck and hugging her more tightly than I probably should have.

“Thank you,” I said, “For everything.”

Miya rallied quickly from my assault, gently returning my hug. As she placed one hand on my back and the other on my head she said, “You’re very welcome. Never forget: paperwork or not, you are my Little Lamb. Understood?”

I sniffed and nodded into Miya’s shoulder, “Thank you.”

Miya gently pat my back, and my stifled sobs finally burst out. A mix of sadness, anger, and joy comingled as I cried into Miya’s shoulder. It was a mix I was used to, but that never made dealing with it any easier.

Miya took my breakdown in stride, gently patting my back while I wore myself out. When I had managed to collect myself, I gently pulled away from her. Miya handed me a tissue from her camera bag, saving me the indignity of using my sleeve.

“Thank you,” I said again.

Miya smiled and nodded.

After I cleaned myself up a bit, I checked my watch, wondering just how long we had been outside. Turned out, it had been quite a while.

“I should go inside,” I said, “Sorry again for-”

Miya held up a hand to stop me, “Don’t worry about it. I was just screwing around, anyway.”

I nodded and Miya pat my head again. We both hefted ourselves up, and I headed for the sliding door. I expected Miya to follow me, but she was looking through her camera bag for something. Figuring she had something that let her take pictures at night, I said goodnight to her and went inside.

Next Chapter

Wow, I am laying this sap on with a trowel.

Great, now I’m sober and want waffles. Good thing I have a waffle maker. And whiskey! The day is saved! WAFFLES FOR THE WAFFLE GOD! BOOZE FOR THE BOOZE THRONE!

...Traditionally the term bastard is used in reference to males, but linguistically the word itself is gender neutral, I believe. It's also traditionally a much harsher insult in Germany than the States (which invokes some serious Fridge Brilliance with Flynn from Tangled, but that's a separate tangent.)

Re: The Manila Tales –A Summer-ish Series (Updated 7/31)

Posted: Thu Jul 31, 2014 12:44 pm
by Mirage_GSM
life had been hard for my parents and I me.
It's also traditionally a much harsher insult in Germany than the States
Hmm... Is it?
I've always considered it pretty mild as insults go. Modern usage certainly has a connotation of being mean, but it's nothing you couldn't call a friend when joking.

Re: The Manila Tales –A Summer-ish Series (Updated 7/31)

Posted: Thu Jul 31, 2014 12:53 pm
by Hoitash
life had been hard for my parents and s[/s] me.

The English language hurts my head. Is it too late to move to Quebec (I do like bacon).

It's also traditionally a much harsher insult in Germany than the States

Hmm... Is it?
I've always considered it pretty mild as insults go. Modern usage certainly has a connotation of being mean, but it's nothing you couldn't call a friend when joking.

Historically, then. It probably lost some of it's sting following the social revolutions of the Cold War Era.

Re: The Manila Tales –A Summer-ish Series (Updated 7/31)

Posted: Thu Jul 31, 2014 3:16 pm
by Mirage_GSM
Historically, bastard was not an insult at all. It was mainly used for the illegitimate offspring of nobility, and some "bastards" were even proud of their heritage were allowed to use their fathers' colours (with a small addition to signify their illegitimacy) and could even inherit if there were no legitimate offspring.

Re: The Manila Tales –A Summer-ish Series (Updated 7/31)

Posted: Thu Jul 31, 2014 3:20 pm
by Hoitash
Mirage_GSM wrote:Historically, bastard was not an insult at all. It was mainly used for the illegitimate offspring of nobility, and some "bastards" were even proud of their heritage were allowed to use their fathers' colours (with a small addition to signify their illegitimacy) and could even inherit if there were no legitimate offspring.
True, although perhaps the most famous bastard of them all -some English fellow named William- was reported to become highly irked when his illegitimate parentage was brought up.

Being the founder of a nation can make you a bit testy, I guess.

Huh, now I wanna write a book about the history of insults. Off to see who has done it before me, and to find out if they did it better!

(Actually Leonardo may be the most famous bastard, but that's a separate book idea.)

Re: The Manila Tales –A Summer-ish Series (Updated 8/08)

Posted: Thu Aug 07, 2014 11:08 am
by Hoitash
“Knowledge is power. Guard it well.” –Imperial Thought for the Day

Previous Chapter

Chapter Eleven: The Children’s Tale

Wednesday was going to be a full day. We were going to visit a museum and a nature preserve, then take a trip to Binondo –Manila’s Chinatown- before heading back to the resort. In the morning we were visiting an interactive science museum, mostly for Hisato and Refia’s benefit –or so Uncle Hisao insisted. Multiple times.

After lunch we were heading south to visit a nature preserve for a little while, take a quick trip to Chinatown –Aunt Hana mentioned something about an antique shop- and then it was back to the suite for a well deserved rest.

That was the plan, at least. Considering the places were literally cities apart, I had my doubts we could pull it off. But I failed to account for the local driving mentality.

We had barely left the resort to grab a taxi when Satomi asked if we could play ping-pong after we got back. Since we hadn’t had a chance to check out the amenities in detail, except for the pool in my case, I agreed, after securing permission from Aunt Hana, who said it was fine.

Unfortunately, I could not say the same for the cab ride to the science museum. Serves me right for eating Kenji’s greasy sausages beforehand, I guess. The cabbie took the mess in stride, saying it happened all the time. Fortunately I had managed to aim enough not to hit anyone when I hurled. Still, it took me a bit to recover from the experience, and as we headed towards the museum itself, Miya kept a reassuring arm around me while we got into line, as much to reassure me as to keep my still shaking frame upright.

“Sorry about that,” I muttered for the umpteenth time.

Miya rubbed my shoulder gently, “Don’t worry about it, it’s fine.”

“We’ll grab a snack when we get inside,” Kenji added.

“Sorry,” I muttered again.

Miya sighed, “Look on the bright side; Kenji’s sausages taste the same coming up as they do going down.”

I looked up at Miya and raised an eyebrow, “Um… how did you know that?”

“We’ve been here before, remember?” Kenji remarked, “So relax; it’s not like we’re breaking new ground here.”

Miya nodded, “Yeah, at least you aren’t hallucinating you’re playing Chinese checkers with Harry Dresden.”

I smirked, nodded, and bit back another apology.

When we were through the line, Uncle Hisao and Kenji rounded everyone up for another briefing. It was hard to tell who was more excited –Kenji for getting to make another speech, or Hisao for being the kid in the candy store.

“Before we explain the game plan,” Kenji stated, “I am legally required to remind you that I have been… politely asked not to participate in the Forensic Art Program again, for various reasons that need not concern us at this time.”

“Moving on,” Uncle Hisao interjected, “To keep things simple, we’re just doing a free roam around the various exhibits. Feel free to visit any exhibit you want, just make sure you have a buddy and an adult with you.”

“Soon-hee counts as an adult in this instance,” Kenji added.

Not that you could tell by looking at me.

“So grab a buddy, grab an adult, and have fun,” Miya declared, “and keep your phones on vibrate.”

“I’ll be in the Universe Gallery,” Uncle Hisao declared, and dashed off before anyone could say anything.

“I take it adults are exempt from the buddy rule,” Satomi muttered under her breath.

“King of the Nerds,” Akio muttered back.

“…Fair point,” Satomi muttered. Pivoting on her heel to face me, she asked, “Where’re you headed?”

“I wanna go outside,” Refia declared, reminding me she was once again attached to Satomi.

Aunt Hana walked over to us, “I was going to go to the Campos Park.”

Refia turned around as best she could to look at her mother, “Can we visit the Science Park on the way?”

Aunt Hana smiled and nodded, “Sure.”

Refia grinned and let go of Satomi’s hand, wandering off in what may or may not have been the proper direction. Aunt Hana gave me a quick nod of farewell and followed after her daughter, putting her left hand on Refia’s shoulder rather than holding her hand.

“Um,” Akio stated, making me jump slightly in surprise, “Crap, sorry!”

“It’s fine,” I said, turning around to face him, “Sorry for overreacting. Guess I’m still a little shaky from the cab ride.”

“Um, right,” Akio muttered, “Um, anyway, I was thinking of heading over to the Story of Life exhibit, and I was wondering if you might wanna… escort me?”

“Maybe,” I said. Turning to the two remaining adults, I asked, “Where were you two headed?”

“Nature exhibit,” Miya declared, “It’s nice to be able to look at stuff like that and not worry about lighting and who pays how much for what kind of scenes.”

“I was gonna head to the Tech section,” Kenji said, “Meet up with Hisao along the way.”

“I’m going with Daddy!” Hisato chirped.

I turned to Satomi, who shrugged and said, “I can go with you guys to the life exhibit, I guess.”

“That okay with you?” I asked Akio.

Akio nodded, although he looked a little put out for some reason. With the plan settled, I let Akio lead the way to the exhibit, since I figured he knew where to go. As we walked, I started to remember the two’s tendency to jab and banter with each other. I wasn’t sure I could handle it if they were at each other’s throats the entire time we were at the museum, so I decided to try and head things off before they got too heated.

“Um,” I said, “You two aren’t going to bicker the whole time, are you?”

Satomi shrugged, “That’s up to him.”

“I was about to say the same thing,” Akio remarked.

“Please behave,” I requested, “I’m nauseous enough as it is.”

Akio nodded, “I’ll keep it in check, for your sake.”

“I will endeavor to treat my older brother with respect he deserves,” Satomi stated.

I could practically hear her rolling her eyes. However, Satomi did as I asked, and kept her sarcasm on idle while we roamed the exhibit. The life exhibit was devoted to various natural habitats, and how the animals within them lived and interacted. There was also a section devoted to DNA, which seemed to attract Akio the most. Whereas his father was more focused on electrical chemistry –based on the few articles he had written- Akio seemed more drawn to the natural world.

Satomi seemed vaguely bored throughout most of the exhibit. She really seemed to be a black sheep when it came to science and the Nakai children. Well, not counting Refia still being young. Then again, so were Satomi and Akio. Satomi did like roaming around the different habitats sections, and spent some time looking over a model of a whale shark.

Reading the little placard by the model –which was in several languages- Satomi glanced up at the model and remarked, “Hard to believe something so big could be so docile.”

“Never judge something by its size,” I stated.

Satomi looked at me and smirked, “Fair enough. Still weird to think of a big shark like that as just some plodding plankton eater.”

“Better than the alternative,” Akio remarked from behind me.

I started in surprise as I once again hadn’t expected him behind me.

“Sorry,” Akio stated, “didn’t mean to startle you. Again.”

“My fault,” I said, “I should be used to it by now.”

“Maybe we should put a bell around your neck, Nii-chan,” Satomi quipped.

Akio opened his mouth to retort, but quickly closed it. Satomi refocused her attention on the model shark, while Akio wandered off a bit to look at something else.

Re: The Manila Tales –A Summer-ish Series (Updated 8/08)

Posted: Thu Aug 07, 2014 11:08 am
by Hoitash
Part II:

Eyeing the brown and blue mottled skin, I took a step to the side and remarked, “There is a sort of majestic quality to it.”

Satomi raised an eyebrow at me, “How so?”

“Well, it just goes about its business, swimming around, maybe every now and then a diver comes by for some idle company. Most of the time it just goes to and fro, minding its own business.”

Satomi glanced at the model, then slowly nodded, “Like a big carp. Only not as dumb.”

“Um… sure.”

Once we had our fill of the life exhibit, we decided to head over to the natural history section, where Akio spent most of our time there staring at the T-Rex skeleton. Satomi seemed vaguely interested in it as well.

Glancing at me while looking at the massive mouth with far too many teeth for my liking, Satomi remarked, “Remember when you said not to judge things by their size?”

“I think I read online there’s a debate on whether the T-Rex was a predator or just a scavenger,” I replied.

“...Did you memorize Wikipedia, by chance?”

I shrugged, “Helps distract me from my math homework.”

Satomi nodded, “Gotcha. I do the same thing with my history homework.”

“Same,” Akio stated.

Satomi turned to her brother, “But you actually like history.”

“Yeah, but the homework is boring and tedious.”

Satomi shrugged and wandered off to look at something else –though she stayed in my field of vision- leaving me and Akio to eye the massive fossil skeleton.

“I tried to read Jurassic Park once,” Akio remarked, “Hurt my head.”

“Maybe try again in a few years?” I suggested.

Akio nodded, “Maybe. Um, do you read sci-fi?”

“I’m more of a high fantasy fan,” I replied, “Although I have a friend who’s a huge fan of your mom’s writing. Steampunk’s not really my thing.”

“It can be an acquired taste,” Akio stated.

“It has cool clothes, at least,” Satomi said.

I jumped and turned to face Satomi; this time she had startled me, instead of her brother.

“Sorry,” Satomi said, “But I got a text from Dad saying to regroup at the Tech exhibit.”

Akio checked his wristwatch and raised an eyebrow, “Huh. Maybe if we head there now we’ll actually leave before lunch.”

After regrouping and a late lunch, we headed south to the nature preserve. Though attached to a sprawling resort of its own, the preserve was open to the public. Refia seemed a bit worn out from the museum, so I gave her a piggy-back ride as we strolled around. Fortunately being short was an advantage for this, as it was less likely she’d hit a branch.

I still had to keep an eye out, though, because Refia kept getting distracted by the preserve’s primary occupant: birds. They were everywhere, flitting and flying around and above, in various sizes and speeds.

To be fair to Refia, though, Satomi and Miya were also really enjoying them. Miya seemed to make a game of whether or not she could photograph a bird before it flittered off, and Satomi was captivated by the more exotic bird’s colors and plumage.

When a black and white bird with a big stiff tail landed right in front of Refia on a branch, Miya quickly snapped a photo. The bird –an oriental robin if I remembered right- tilted its head at Refia, who tilted hers in response. The bird fluttered its wings, aimed a single black eye at Miya for a moment, and flew off.

“Okay,” Satomi said, “That was kinda cool.”

Refia nodded, then looked down at her sister, “Nee-chan, if I’m like a fish, are you like a bird?”

“…How do you figure that?”

“You’re quick, flit around all the time, and are attracted to pretty colors.”

“…Eh, I guess that works.”

“Aren’t you both birds, though?” Miya remarked.

“…Oh right!” Refia chirped, which elicited several responses from surrounding birds, “I’m an albatross!”

“I guess that makes me a fishing trawler,” I remarked.
Which might explain my fondness for seafood, at least.

After roaming around the preserve for a while, and somehow avoiding any mess inducing incidents with the birds, we headed off for Chinatown. On the way Miya lamented that we couldn’t visit the museum attached to the resort, to which Hisao remarked that the next time they came, they’d have to invite Lilly’s family.

Another suicidal cab ride later, and we were in Chinatown. I wasn’t sure if our time there was ironic or not, but at least the place had cool architecture and good food.

The imperial legacy in Binonda was very obvious and reflected in the architecture, which consisted of Spanish buildings that dated back centuries, mixed with more traditional Chinese structures whose ages varied, though the aesthetic remained more or less the same. We weren’t the only tourists wandering around, but it was still odd to be gawking at buildings older than some countries while the locals went about their day.

Akio was pulling Refia watching duty this time around, which was fortunate, as besides constantly twisting and turning to look at the buildings, she kept wanting to wander to the scattered food venders. I shared that sentiment myself thanks to all the walking, but we seemed to be on a mission; Aunt Hana was walking very determinedly ahead of us, Uncle Hisao at her right side as we walked.

While we wandered, Kenji would point to the occasional building, squinting at it for a few moments before explaining what it was or had been. This more often than not resulted in a tangent about the Spanish colonization, which led to the American colonization, and around back to the Spanish when Kenji managed to focus on a different building. He also translated the occasional Spanish signs if any of us asked him to, and answered questions when someone –usually Akio- asked them. It was pretty cool listening to Kenji talk about history and the buildings. It made it seem more real, having it explained while surrounded by it.

I couldn’t help wondering if any of them felt weird wandering through the place, but I would never vocalize the question. I did hear snippets of Uncle Hisao and Aunt Hana’s conversation, which seemed to consist mostly of them wondering where the heck we were going.

“Was it a left at the next block?” Uncle Hisao muttered.

“Right in two blocks,” Aunt Hana said, “I don’t like the other one –the owner stares.”

After two more blocks of walking we indeed took a right, where we stood in place for a moment while the two got their bearings. Eventually Aunt Hana pulled out a map, and after a couple minutes folded it back up.

“That way,” she declared, and started moving.

“Where’re we going?” Satomi asked.

“Around,” Uncle Hisao replied, “On the way, your mother wants to look at an antique shop.”

“Again?” Satomi asked.

“You should be used to it by now,” Akio remarked.

“…Good point. Can we look, too?”

“If you’re very careful and don’t touch anything,” Aunt Hana replied.

It took a little more wandering until we found our destination –or rather, Aunt Hana’s destination. What had probably been the warehouse for a Spanish monastery built centuries ago was now an antique shop loaded with a plethora of stuff.

That was the best way I could describe it. From what I could see through the windows, it was stuff. A lot of stuff. Old stuff, granted –again, probably older than some countries. But stuff what it was, and what Aunt Hana hoped to find here, I wasn’t sure. Based on what I knew, it probably had a motor, though. And two wheels.

“Who wants to go inside?” Uncle Hisao asked.

Satomi and Akio raised their hands.

“I’ll stay out here with Hisato,” Miya stated.

“I’ll head in,” Kenji said, “Who knows what they picked up since last time we were here?”

Uncle Hisao sighed, “You’re not gonna buy another bandolier are you?”

“Maybe,” Kenji said, “Or maybe a Bouie knife.”

“No knives,” Miya stated, glancing at Hisato as he clung to her back.

“Does anyone else smell noodles?” Refia interjected.

Miya immediately started sniffing the air, as did I. It took a few seconds, but eventually I was able to pick the scent of cooking food through the light, heavy summer breeze. After looking around for a few moments, I saw the food stand across the street. It was an old, rickety wooden stand that consisted of little more than scrap wood nailed together with a menu stapled to one side over a white awning roof, a wooden counter, some benches, and whatever cooking supplies the vendor had cobbled together. Still, it smelled good. Really good.

“There’s a noodle stand over there,” I pointed out, “I think.”

Re: The Manila Tales –A Summer-ish Series (Updated 8/08)

Posted: Thu Aug 07, 2014 11:09 am
by Hoitash
Part III:

“Noodles!” Refia cried, and started walking towards the vendor.

Fortunately Akio was still holding on to her, so he was able to pull her back before someone ran into her or she ran into traffic.

“Refia!” Aunt Hana chided, “Think before you walk, remember?”

Refia looked over to her mother and nodded, “Yes, Mom.”

Miya smirked and pat her head, “You want some noodles?”

“Isn’t dinner gonna be soon?” Satomi asked.

“Maybe,” Uncle Hisao stated, “We don’t know if this shop has what Hana wants, after all.”

Miya turned to me, “You want something to eat?”

I was pretty hungry, so I nodded.

“We’ll be over there, then,” Miya said, “Have fun.”

“Don’t overdo it,” Uncle Hisao advised, before following Aunt Hana into the shop.

When everyone else had followed them into the shop –me taking over Refia duty - the four of us headed to the nearest crosswalk. Crossing the street could be just as dangerous as driving in it, but we all managed, and Miya freed one of her hands to get the cart owner’s attention by wrapping on the wooden counter.

The vendor turned around to face us. He was an older man with several missing teeth, very little hair, a large bandana, and leathery skin. He grinned at Miya and asked her what she wanted in English.

Miya took a seat at the farthest left stool and plopped Hisato down next to her. Refia sat next to him, and me next to her. While we sat, Miya asked Hisato if he wanted anything, and he nodded and asked for some melon flavored shaved ice.

Miya relayed the order, and the vendor smiled and stated, “No problem. Anything else?

Miya glanced at the menu for a second, then asked, “I’ll have a bowl of lukba over rice, please Refia, what did you want?”


…A small plate of fried noodles, and…” Miya turned to me, “What did you want, Soon-hee? I’m buying, so don’t worry about what it might be.”

Considering she bought the most expensive thing on the menu –fried horse meat dipped in vinegar- that was an interesting statement.

I spent a few seconds looking at the menu before turning to the vendor, “I’ll have a bowl of seafood soup, please. And some orange flavored shaved ice, and is there any melon in the melon flavor?.”

The scientists sucked it all out. Ragweed allergy?

I nodded.

No worries, Lady, you’re fine.”

Er, thanks,” I said.

The vendor nodded, took his payment, told Miya it would be ready in a bit, and went to work. Despite the fact his entire business was a gigantic fire hazard, he seemed to have no problem with large open flames, which made me fortunate Aunt Hana wasn’t around. If he did have a fire extinguisher handy, I didn’t see it, but I hoped he had one under the counter.

While we were waiting for the food, Miya turned to me and asked, “Today’s been kinda random, but I hope you’re enjoying it.”

I nodded, “It’s been fun and I don’t mind the random wandering –I like the architecture here.”

“Yeah, out of all the Chinatowns I’ve been to, this is my favorite,” Miya stated, “although I liked the food in DC.”

“…You went to the US Capitol?”

Miya nodded, “While I was studying abroad. I’ll have to show you the pictures some time. I managed to do a quick landscape while I was over there, but it’s in storage. Or maybe I sold it so I could visit Gran….”

While Miya pondered the fate of the painting, the vendor started handing out food, handing Miya Hisato’s ice and placing a plate of noodles in front of Refia. Refia poked the noodles a bit before gingerly tasting one. She quickly sucked it up, and waited with admirable effort for the rest of the food to arrive.

Hisato didn’t have that option, and though he didn’t seem very hungry, he was probably hot enough to make up for it. Being near the stand’s stove wasn’t helping, either, and I gratefully accepted my own ice. He must’ve made mine shortly after Hisato’s.

The man definitely knew what he was doing, and went about his work with the speed worthy of a short-order cook. It didn’t take much longer for Miya and me to receive our food, either. The soup was hot, obviously, but good. Miya seemed to enjoy hers as well, while Refia was finally able to tear into her own plate of food.

I didn’t have anything to say while we ate, and neither did Miya. Though I was curious about some of the things she might have eaten while she travelled, I was also worried what she might say in response. Better not to ask. At least not while I was eating. I instead watched the cook clean up after our order.

He was only partway through when a wandering woman sat herself down on the last bench next to me and ordered something in Chinese. The cook responded and went to work; I got the feeling she was a regular. The woman glanced at us once and smiled at Hisato when the two caught each other’s gaze, but otherwise ignored us.

When we were done, we left the stand and wandered around for a bit, Refia riding my back while Hisato walked. The soup hadn’t been too heavy, so the ice had settled reasonably well. Miya took more photos, getting the three of us in a group shot by one of the area’s venerable buildings. It wasn’t long after that that she got a text message, which she quickly replied to before putting her phone back in her pocket.

“They’re done,” Miya said, “I forgot I said we’d be by the stand, but I told them we moved. C’mon,” she said to Hisato, “time to get back to Daddy.”

“Yay!” Hisato chirped.

We hadn’t gone far from the antique shop, and the others were leaving as we approached the front door. Satomi and Akio were in front, talking about something. Akio was holding what looked like a carefully wrapped book, while Satomi was holding something in both hands, about the size of a small jewelry box. Kenji was wearing a combat helmet that looked like someone had beat with a shovel –and they probably had. Aunt Hana and Uncle Hisao didn’t have anything with them, but they were talking about something, and they were close enough I could pick them up from over the surrounding city noise and their children’s bickering.

“You know you’re going to have to rebuild that entire engine, right?” Uncle Hisao was saying.

Aunt Hana smiled and nodded, “That’s why I bought it.”

“I’ll tell David we’ll need more cargo space,” Kenji interjected.

“Thank you,” Aunt Hana remarked, “Oh, there you are.”

We were close enough at that point that we could speak to each other, and Aunt Hana had her gaze locked on Miya.

Grimacing sheepishly, Miya tapped her camera bag and said, “Yeah, sorry. I wanted to take some pictures while we waited.”

“It’s fine,” Uncle Hisao said.

Aunt Hana smiled and nodded, “He’s right. Thanks for looking after them while I shopped.”

“Noodles!” Refia chirped.

Miya chuckled while Uncle Hisao checked his watch.

“We should be heading back,” he said, “Everyone ready to go?”

We were, so Uncle Hisao and Kenji took the lead as we started looking for a cab to flag down. While we walked Satomi took up a pace next to me, between the Setous and the rest of her family –not counting Refia, who was still on my back.

“Hi Nee-chan,” Refia said, “What’d you buy?”

“Music box,” Satomi replied, “I liked the song, and I can use it as a jewelry box when I’m older. Hee-neesan, are we still on for ping-pong later?”

I had to admire her drive; we had spent several hours roaming an interactive museum, several more hours wandering around a nature preserve, and yet a couple more hours roaming Chinatown on a combination history tour and motorcycle hunt.

Despite that, Satomi still wanted to head to the resort’s rec center. I was a bit worn out from the day, and I could tell Refia was because I could feel her start to doze off on my back. Still, I had already agreed, and besides, after a quick shower –just because I was used to the constant layer of sweat didn’t mean I liked it- and either a quick snack, or even dinner depending on the time, I’d probably be up for it.

So I nodded and said, “Sure.”

Satomi grinned and picked up her pace to be next to Uncle Hisao and Kenji, who had given up flagging down a cab and were instead looking on a map, likely for the nearest bus stop.

It had been a busy day. And for me at least, it seemed like it was going to be a busy evening, too. My arms were a bit tired from carrying Refia, my legs were sore from all the walking, I was still hungry, and the heat and humidity were making me nauseous and sticky.

Definitely worth it.

Next Chapter

Fortunately, they’re not all sap fests. Not my style.

And yes, Washington, DC has a Chinatown. The Red Roof Inn there kinda sucks, but has a good Irish bar in it.

Yes, an Irish bar in a hotel in Chinatown in the capital of the United States of America. Don’t question it. I certainly didn’t when I was there (too busy drinking and writing a paper.)

Re: The Manila Tales –A Summer-ish Series (Updated 8/08)

Posted: Thu Aug 07, 2014 11:49 am
by Mirage_GSM
It didn’t take much longer for Miya and I me to receive our food,
Guess what I found ;-)

Back when you published the first chapter of H&K, MD - who would have thought that a story like this would spring from it...

Re: The Manila Tales –A Summer-ish Series (Updated 8/08)

Posted: Thu Aug 07, 2014 11:55 am
by Hoitash
Mirage_GSM wrote:
It didn’t take much longer for Miya and I me to receive our food,
Guess what I found ;-)
I really need to look that one up. Also fixed.
Back when you published the first chapter of H&K, MD - who would have thought that a story like this would spring from it...
Not me, that's for sure :)

I figured I'd write a prequel series where Hisao and Kenji dealt with normal cases, with the occasional knife happy nut thrown in once in a while for fun.

I save such antics for my non fan fiction writing now. I believe the world is better for it (guess we'll find out when I'm published.)

Still, I do enjoy writing in the setting, regardless of the content involved.

Re: The Manila Tales –A Summer-ish Series (Updated 8/08)

Posted: Thu Aug 07, 2014 12:07 pm
by Mirage_GSM
I really need to look that one up.
It's really simple: Just remove the "[person] and" from the sentence and see what's left.
If what's left is "It didn’t take much longer for Miya and I to receive our food,..." then something is wrong.

Re: The Manila Tales –A Summer-ish Series (Updated 8/08)

Posted: Thu Aug 07, 2014 12:22 pm
by Hoitash
Mirage_GSM wrote:
I really need to look that one up.
It's really simple: Just remove the "[person] and" from the sentence and see what's left.
If what's left is "It didn’t take much longer for Miya and I to receive our food,..." then something is wrong.
Ah. I am enlightened.

Thank you :)

Re: The Manila Tales –A Summer-ish Series (Updated 8/08)

Posted: Thu Aug 07, 2014 11:46 pm
by Serviam
That music doesn't play that excerpt from Bach's Sarabande, BWV 1010, does it?

Re: The Manila Tales –A Summer-ish Series (Updated 8/08)

Posted: Thu Aug 07, 2014 11:58 pm
by Hoitash
Serviam wrote:That music doesn't play that excerpt from Bach's Sarabande, BWV 1010, does it?
More likely a piece of Spanish classical music, or Chinese. Heck, maybe something from the Imperial Era. The possibilities are endless!

Re: The Manila Tales –A Summer-ish Series (Updated 8/13)

Posted: Wed Aug 13, 2014 12:59 pm
by Hoitash
“Yes, it makes you cock-a-hoop to be "Rider" to your troop,
And branded with a blasted worsted spur,
When you envy, O how keenly, one poor Tommy being cleanly
Who blacks your boots and sometimes calls you "Sir". –Rudyard Kipling’s “Gentlemen-Rankers”

Previous Chapter

Chapter Twelve: The Oldest Daughter’s Tale

Everyone kind of zoned out for a bit after we got back to the suite. When they had recovered, Aunt Hana and Kenji made dinner, and shortly after that I found myself dragged to the rec room by Satomi. I had asked if anyone else wanted to go –with their parents permission, of course- but everyone else was either too tired, or was already doing something.

Satomi didn’t seem to have that problem. As we headed downstairs I started to notice why. She was moving slower than she had during the day, and was breathing more steadily. She also wasn’t talking nearly as much. Those actions were deliberate, as if she was conserving energy she had managed to recover.

She had gained a second wind, like an athlete during training. Since she didn’t jog with Akio or Uncle Hisao, I wasn’t sure where she got the training from, and I was curious, so as we took the elevator down, I asked if she was in any school clubs. It was a roundabout way of asking, but I don’t like to pry, in the hopes that people return the sentiment.

“Just the baseball club,” Satomi replied when I asked, “My middle school has a fashion club, but it’s full of stuck-up snots. Although the baseball club is its own set of issues.”

“You play baseball?”

I never claimed to be a master detective, or anything.

Satomi smirked and nodded, “Uncle Kenji got me interested. It kinda sucks, though, ‘cuz I can’t play catch with him or Dad –those balls are hard, and if it hits Dad, well….”

I nodded.

“But Miki-san’s a fan, too, and her augmetic arm can throw really well.”

“I’m sorry, who?”

The elevator dinged and opened. As we headed to the rec room, Satomi explained, “Friend of Mom and Dad’s from high school.”

“Ah,” I said, “Another Yamaku alum, then.”

Satomi nodded, “Oh yeah, you’re going there now. I’ve been hearing about that place as long as I can remember. What’s it like?”

I expected the question, but in response all I mustered was a shrug and a generic, “It’s a high school. Granted it’s on a hill and some of the students are missing limbs and stuff, but it’s still a high school.”

Satomi nodded and titled her head in thought, “It’s hard to think of Dad as a high schooler… maybe ‘cuz he’s a teacher, so it’s hard to imagine him on the other side of the desks.”

“Maybe,” I said.

At the rec room sign-in desk I picked up some paddles and balls. Since it was late, the place was pretty sparsely occupied. A couple of teenagers were playing pool while some older men played mahjong in a corner. One of the ping-pong tables was occupied by a couple girls about my age, while a young boy who looked like one of their little brothers was saddled with keeping score.

We took an available table at the far end of the room, standing across from each other as we took our places. We bowed to each other and Satomi offered to serve.

“Go ahead,” I said, “I’m a lousy server.”

Besides, I had only played a few times with Maiko and a friend from the Judo club. I was okay, but someone who played even casually could kick my metaphorical butt.

“Okay, oh, and don’t worry about keeping score,” Satomi said, “I just wanted to get outta the room for a while.”

“We were out of the room all day,” I pointed out.

Satomi rolled her eyes and served. I could tell it was weak as I passed it back. As we played it became pretty obvious that she was holding back. While we pinged and ponged, she seemed deep in thought, and I was starting to wonder if for once someone wanted to talk to me, rather than the other way around.

After we switched servers and I finally managed to get the ball going in the right direction, I decided to take the initiative. I was nominally in charge of the younger kids, and besides, I wanted to help. She was a decent kid, just young and impatient.

As I hit the ball and sent it back over the miniature net, I asked, “Something on your mind?”

“Maybe,” Satomi said. She waited until we had done a few more passes before asking, “Do you think I fit in with the rest of my family?”

“…Well, you get along well. As well as siblings and kids and their parents do, at least.”

Satomi sighed and lowered the paddle too far, causing the ball to bounce off into the distance, “That’s not what I meant. I got it.”

Satomi dashed off to grab the ball and came back with it. Since she was holding it she served, still looking lost in thought.

Once we were back in the rhythm of passing the ball back and forth without really playing, I asked, “So what did you mean?”

“Sometimes I feel like a black sheep, or something,” Satomi said, “I mean, my family all plays chess and reads and is into nerdy stuff, and I like fashion and baseball. Well, except Refia, but she’s just a little kid and can’t focus very well.”

“And has a good sense of direction,” I remarked.

“Yeah, having my Dad’s navigational skills kinda sucks,” Satomi stated.

As we pinged and ponged, I started thinking about when I was Satomi’s age. I don’t like thinking about Before, because it usually ends up reminding me of my time with Them, which usually means a nightmare and a night session vomiting in the bathroom. But Satomi was looking to me for advice and support, and that was something I could do, at least with this. And if she needed to know how to break someone’s leg with a stool, but that’s a different discussion.

Taking a deep breath to steady myself, I passed the ball back and said, “When I was your age, I felt similar regarding my Dad.”

Apparently surprised by my willingness to talk about my family, Satomi missed the ball, which bounced off under a vending machine.

“I’ll get it,” I said, to give me time to gather my thoughts. And grab a snack.

I managed to fish the ball from under the machine, which I spent a second examining. I wanted to make sure I could give my little lecture without breaking down in tears or a panic attack, and again, I wanted a snack.

“You can’t just leave me hanging like that,” Satomi said.

I jumped and whirled around. Impatient as ever, Satomi had followed me, and I had been so focused on my own thoughts I hadn’t heard her sneak up on me.

“Sorry,” Satomi said.

After my breathing slowed, I smirked and jerked a thumb at the machine, “You can make it up to me by buying me a bag of Famous Amos.”

Satomi raised an eyebrow, “A bag of what?”

“They’re little chocolate chip cookies from the States,” I explained, “You can try one if you want.”

Miya tended to mail me foreign snacks.

Satomi shrugged and stepped up to the machine. I pointed out the tan and brown bag with blue letters, and she shoved some coins into the slot. The spiral metal rod whirred and dumped the bag, and Satomi fished it out, opening it and tentatively eating one of the small, round cookies, about the size of a large coin.

“…That’s not bad,” Satomi stated. Handing me the bag, she added, “Not as good as Miya’s, though.”

“True,” I said, “Back to the game?”

Satomi nodded and took up her position. I tossed her the ball and put the small bag of cookies in my right pocket, so I could still play. Granted I’d be distracted, but it’s not like we were playing a real game anyway.

Satomi served and I passed the ball, and we once again entered a rhythm as the ball clicked against our paddles and the board. For the amount of control she had over the ball, she had to play regularly, and very well at that.

“Anyway,” I said, getting back to the topic at hand, “My Dad worked long hours as a janitor, so I rarely saw him, even though I stayed home most of the time. Since I hardly ever saw him, we didn’t speak much, and I started to feel like we weren’t that close. I hated that feeling, because it was just the three of us, in this little shitty apartment in a slum at the edge of town. My grandmother had died in childbirth, and my grandfather died shortly after the war. At the end of the day all we had was each other, and I felt like I was growing apart from my father.”

“…Did… you ever have a chance to get over that?” Satomi asked.

I didn’t respond right away, wondering how to answer. When I passed the ball, Satomi hit it harder than she had been, and as a result it went wide. I managed to lean over and serve it back. Satomi hit it and put it back into place, and our rhythm resumed.

“You are really good at this,” I remarked.

Satomi shrugged, “This I can play with Dad.”

“True. Speaking of, yes I did manage to work through it, thanks to Mom. She explained to me that… well, here’s the thing. You know how to you guys, blood doesn’t matter to make you family?”

Satomi nodded.

“Well, one of the things that goes with that, is that it doesn’t matter if you’re alike or not. They’ll still love you, because you’re a part of that family. I mean I’m about as unlike the rest of you as you can get, and yet here I am.”

“You’re not that different,” Satomi stated, “You read a lot, like history, and know three languages.”

“Fair enough, but you get what I’m saying, right?”

Satomi smiled, “Black sheep or not, I’m their black sheep. So between us, we got our own flock, I guess.”

I smirked at the comment. After a few more back and forths I took over serving. Once I managed to get the ball on the board, I remarked, “Besides, you’re more like them than you give yourself credit for.”

Satomi raised an eyebrow as she adjusted my wide serve to make it easier to return, “How so?”

“You’re kind and caring, in your own way,” I said, “and you’re accepting and nonjudgmental.”

“I guess. You wanna play for a score now? Winner gets the rest of the cookies?”

“That is not a bet I would take, but we can play for a score, if you want.”

Satomi shrugged, which I took as a yes, and served the ball. Immediately she upped her game, putting more force into the ball and pulling off shots that made it difficult for me to pass back. More than once I missed the ball and had to go get it. As a result, it wasn’t long before she won.

Satomi grinned and bowed to me, “Good game, Hee-neesan.”

I returned the bow and smile, “Not much of a challenge, was I?”

“Not really,” Satomi admitted, “Wanna head back up?”

“Sure,” I replied.

After I returned the balls –the ones we could find, anyway- and paddles, we headed to the elevator. We were the only ones in it as we rode up, and as we did I noticed Satomi was still looking lost in thought. Examining her features let me see her resemblance to her mother, although she had Uncle Hisao’s eyes, including the inquisitive, intellectual sharpness I so often saw in the man himself.

We caught each other’s gaze and Satomi raised an eyebrow, “Somethin’ up?”

“You looked lost in thought, still,” I replied.

Satomi shifted in place as the elevator stopped and dinged open. I moved to get out, but she didn’t. Instead, she looked up at me, hesitation etched on her features. It made her face look older than it was.

“…This is probably gonna upset you,” off to a good start, then, “But, do you remember a lot about them? Your parents, I mean.”

I shrugged, trying to keep my response short while I still could say anything without upsetting myself, “Not a lot, but some. Smells, sounds, things they said. I can still remember their voices, when I focus on it. Since I was with my mom a lot, I remember her best. She even taught me some Korean –my Dad didn’t want me to learn, because he was worried it’d make me stick out too much. He was kinda paranoid about stuff like that.”

Which was why we weren’t registered.

“Oh,” Satomi said.

No one had called the elevator, but it had closed on us. Satomi hit the open button and stepped outside, and I followed her back to the room.

“Thanks,” Satomi said as we walked through the hallway, “Sorry for the questions.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I said, “I hope I helped.”

Satomi nodded, “You did. I know it sounded like bullshit to you, but it’s something I worry about as I get older.”

“Nakais seem to worry a lot,” I remarked.

Satomi nodded, “Yeah. Oh, could you not mention anything we talked about to anyone? Please?”

I smiled and nodded, “No problem.”

Next Chapter

I’m going to Gen Con tonight, so I’m posting this early for all y’all. As I said in the USM Summer Series, my ability to access a computer for the next few days will be limited to non-existent, so I might not be able to respond to anything for a bit. Rest assured that there is very little chance my travel companions will get pissed off enough to leave me stranded in Indianapolis.

They may or may not kill me, though. I’m not sure yet.