I'm back!!! Alive and kicking after being sick, not because of the ah1n1 virus..I'm just really really REALLY exhausted that I became susceptible to sickness. Anyways, It's been a while since I've updated this fic... so yeah... as promised, here's the chapter 7. Enjoy!
“Yoh! What are you doing?” Rika recognized Miki’s voice and swiftly closed her laptop.
“Hi! When did you arrive?” Rika asked nervously. She was reading some comments on Kuwagata’s site when Miki suddenly spoke from behind her.
“Just now… What were you reading?” Miki asked as she sat on the chair opposite Rika. Rika quickly thought of a nice alibi. She hadn’t told anyone in this branch about her fandom.
“Well, it’s nothing. Just surfing the net and opened up my best friend’s blog. I really miss her and her blog is a quick way to know what she’s been doing now.”
“Ohhh, a blog…. From what I’ve heard, it’s like an online journal right? Where people can posts pictures and write about what happened in their lives?”
“Yes, that’s it… But not all blogs are just about themselves. It can also be about their hobbies or favorite artists… It’s like they are making an unofficial site about it, without, of course, the knowledge of the one they’re writing about.”
“Ahh, so if I really like playing basketball, I would write something about it on my blog, like the rules and history and stuff… and if I like to listen to some artists… say Three-Tums, I would write about the latest news about them or their discography… right?” Rika’s eyes suddenly lit up at the mention of her favorite group. She can’t think properly for she was trying to restrain herself from squealing and blabbering about it. She remembered the fanfic that she’s currently following. It’s about Reina being a basketball player and Eri playing it at night.
“Yes that’s it! Woah, I didn’t know that you were listening to ‘Three-Tums’… that’s new… You know…”
“I don’t… I just heard it from the news. So, did you order some food yet?” Rika’s ‘adrenaline’ was suddenly stopped by Miki’s (piercing) words. How can she expect someone like Miki to enjoy the kind of music that her favorite group was singing? Her impression of Miki was that she liked groups like Malice Garden, L’arc and Ciel, Kaggra and other JRock artists. She imagined Miki always shouting at their concerts together with the other people and was wearing a black outfit with heavy ‘metal’ accessories and having thick, make-ups.
“No not yet. What do you like… Oh… wait… Don’t tell me…”
“Yakiniku!” The two of them said simultaneously. It was Miki’s favorite food. The two called the waiter and ordered. Rika noticed Miki looking closely at her.
“Is there a dirt on my face?” Rika finally asked after she can no longer bare Miki staring at her.
“Is it just me or because of the cold weather but it seemed that you lost some weight? You seemed slimmer now.”
“Really? Maybe because there’s so much pressure on my part like being asked to go to places in such a short time that I haven’t noticed that I’m already losing weight.” Miki blinked several times. They haven’t received any notice that morning about the visit unlike the first time that Rika stayed with them.
“Your father surprised you again right? Is he that inconsiderable?” Rika giggled. Miki gave her a glare which made Rika laugh louder. Miki knew that she was fooled by her boss.
“I don’t know because it’s only a joke! The real reason is that I’m doing some exercise every day. You know. December’s really a cold month and that’s my trigger for asthma so I need to make my body stronger.” Rika stopped laughing because she remembered something that Miki said earlier. “Hey, you mentioned basketball. Do you like it?”
“Yep.” Miki answered before the waiter arrived with their drinks. Miki ordered an orange juice while Rika settled for an iced tea. “Before I was playing volleyball then I became a varsity player of basketball when I’m in high school. I’m not really interested in it at first but my two friends introduced me to it. I’m not really good at it at first but someone taught me some skills and I’m pretty proud to say that I eventually became the captain of our team.” Rika’s eyes widened. She really admired and envied athletes. She wanted to become a varsity player before but her teachers were ‘forcing’ her to study more. The only sport that they allowed her to participate in was chess where she can increase her thinking ability and logic.
“Woah! Sugoi! You didn’t tell it to me before.” Rika thought for a while. For the last three months that she stayed here in Hokkaido, she really never dared to know Miki further. She didn’t take the initiative to befriend her more for Miki was different. Different in a sense that she’s always alone and glaring at most people she met and she knew that Miki was just forcing herself not to glare at her because she’s her boss. Eventually, within those three months she was able to change or lessen Miki’s attitude, and then Ms. Abe helped her also. She was satisfied changing her and talking with her, but she never found out the real Miki. They were both the same; they were hiding their true self from the other people.
“Am I not telling you now?” Miki replied sarcastically. Rika was taken aback and then laughed. This is the ‘real’ Miki Fujimoto. The two chatted while eating the food that they ordered. They were having fun that afternoon. After eating, they decided to take a walk. They passed a music store. In the window pane, Rika noticed something inside a store. It was something she wanted for so long; a limited edition copy of Three-Tums’ Christmas album. She was searching for it for four years now. It’s the last album of Three-Tums under an independent label before they transferred to Hello! Project. Rika pulled Miki inside.
“Ehhh? What are we doing here?” Miki asked. She was oblivious at what was happening to her boss. Rika wanted to squeal at delight when she grabbed the CD. She tried to compose herself by doing some ‘breathing exercise’. “Hey, are you alright? Do you need to see a doctor?” Miki asked worriedly. This is the first time that she saw her boss act like this. She was afraid that Rika was having an asthma attack right now.
“No, I’m fine. Don’t worry about me. I’m just really happy!”
“I’ve finally found what I’ve been searching for four years!” Rika placed the CD in front of Miki’s face. “I finally got hold of this album!” Miki stared blankly at the thing in front of her.
“So, you’re a fan of them?” Miki asked while giving a weird glance at her. Rika felt like a cold water was suddenly poured onto her. She showed her other side to another colleague. Rika wasn’t sure of what she will do next. It worked with Hitomi because she was a ‘closet’ fangirl too but with Miki, she felt like it’s a different story.
“Well, my best friend likes this group. She introduced this to me and, I kinda liked their tune. I’ve been searching for this for years because this is the perfect gift that I can give to my best friend.” Rika told the truth at first but she lied at her last sentence. She will not give her precious CD to Ayumi, although she might lend it to her or give her a copy. And then Rika saw it again, Miki’s mysterious sadness.
Rika woke up suddenly. It’s already 4 in the morning and she didn’t have a good sleep at all. She just finished reading the new chapter three hours ago and she dreamt exactly what happened two days before; the time she visited Hokkaido. She can’t explain why she was being disturbed by Miki’s behavior. Inside, she made a theory that she already considered Miki as her friend than being just a colleague at work that’s why she’s somewhat concerned by her inner sadness. But what bothered her most was the puzzling statement that Miki said to her before they parted their ways…
“I’m having a funeral…”
She got up and went to her kitchen to drink some milk. As she was ready to go to bed again and sleep for another hour, she saw her laptop and her unconscious mind made her open it. Instinctively, her fingers typed an address and her conscious mind gained back its control after seeing that there’s a new update on the story that she’s following; a double post that she haven’t noticed earlier.
Reina left something in her locker that’s why she decided to sneak back to her room. After getting her book, she quietly walked back to towards the main door.
“AHHH!!! I’M SO SORRY!!! I just forgot my book and… ehh?” Reina saw a girl hiding behind the door. “Michishige-san? What are you doing here at this hour?”
“Well, I was doing my assignment back home when I realized that I forgot my notebook. So I decided to sneak here. And you? What are you doing here at this time? The gym’s on the other side of this building.” Sayumi eyed her closely. Reina held up the book that she forgot in her room.
“Same as you. I forgot my book so after our practice, I sneaked in here too.” The two laughed at the similarity of their situation. They decided to walk home together.
“So, you’re always playing basketball with your friend… Why didn’t you join our club?” Reina asked the taller one. Sayumi looked at her seriously.
“Because my beauty doesn’t fit the world of athletes. I’m more suitable being the muse or a captain of a cheerleading squad.” At this, Reina coughed out loud. She didn’t want to be rude or something, but she breathed in some smoke from a passerby who was smoking at that time. And besides, Sayumi’s pretty so there’s no need to disagree with her statement.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that.”
“Hahahah, well, you have a funny way to react on a joke.”
“Ehh? So that was really a joke?” Reina slapped her forehead. She realized that she was as gullible as her two friends. “I should have known.”
“Well, it’s not your fault. It’s really hard to know whether I’m joking or not.” Sayumi suddenly turned serious. “You can ask Eri for that. I’m always fooling her.” Reina was bemused by the reaction of her companion. Usually, if a person was telling that he was making fun of his friend, that person will usually laugh, but that’s not the case this time. And she was sure that Sayumi’s not joking this time. She will ask Eri about it when they meet each other later. “The main reason is that I do not want to play basketball without Eri. You know, we’re unbeatable when we’re together and I hate losing so yeah, why do something with all your heart if you don’t precisely know what the outcome will be?”
“But isn’t it the main reason why we always do our best? That unpredictability of the result is always a part of our everyday life, not just sports and that will make us do something that even surpasses what we thought is our limitation. I hate to lose too, that’s why I always practice to improve myself. I always think that there are better players than me. That’s my motivation.” Reina replied. This was the first time that they had a long conversation and a pretty serious one. She can’t stand people who easily give up on challenges and people who don’t even make an effort were the worst ones of all.
“Well, I guess you’re correct… But still, I don’t want to play it if Eri’s not with me. Basketball is something special for me… and for her I guess.”
“So, why don’t you play with her then? Is she from a different school? I always forgot to ask about it when we’re playing basketball together.” Sayumi didn’t let her companion see that she’s grinning.
“She’s not studying. Her auntie was the one who’s tutoring her. Have she told you a secret about her real identity?” Reina’s wonky eyes widen. Could it be that Eri was telling the truth and her observations were just fooling her?
“Is she really a vampire?”
“Oh, so she told you about it already. I thought she hasn’t because it seems that you’re not scared of her.”
“Because I thought that she’s only joking.” Reina stared at Sayumi’s eyes. She really wanted to know whether she was telling the truth this time.
“Well, I know that it’s hard to believe in these modern times but some paranormal things really do exist. But don’t worry. Her kind is good although they were portrayed badly in movies and stuffs.” Reina’s mouth was widely opened. She looked at Sayumi’s eyes and saw that she’s serious in saying those things.
“So, are there other vampires existing?”
“Yes of course. Most of them were in Europe but her family is staying here in Japan and man they’re really weird specially Eri. She’s always spacing out and if you ask me, she’s maybe an alien vampire so to speak. Hey, are you alright?” Sayumi moved her hands back and forth in front of Reina’s eyes. Reina mind was clouded right now because of the ‘vampire’ fact that Sayumi was giving her. She didn’t know why but she stared at Sayumi’s neck, scanning for something. Sayumi noticed that Reina’s eyes were fixated on her neck. “She won’t bite me. Although I’m a mortal and I’ll die someday and leave her, she won’t make me into a vampire. So don’t worry, she’s harmless.”
“Yeah, I know that. She said that she’d rather buy her food at the blood bank than drink mine because I’m her friend. By the way, I somewhat told my two friends that she’s a vampire because I thought that it’s not true. They wanted to meet the person who helped me improve my basketball skills and I somewhat revealed that she’s a vampire because they were curious why I have to get up early in the morning.”
“It’s alright. You were just telling the truth.” Sayumi replied. She suddenly stopped in front of a white bungalow house. “I’m already here. So they wanted to meet Eri? We will play basketball this midnight. You can ask her then about that.”
“Thanks.” Reina smiled and waved goodbye to Sayumi. She was just five steps away from her when she heard Sayumi yelled at her.
“I looked serious right? I told you I’m pretty hard to read whether I’m joking or not.” Reina looked back, bewildered at what the other said.
“HUH?!?” Reina yelled back.
“That vampire thing was really a joke. The truth is she’s sick and she’s afraid to tell it to you because you might not want to continue your friendship with her. Just let her explain it to you later.”
Rika just finished posting her comment for the said chapter. She was laughing because Sayumi was making fun of Reina. On the other hand, she was also curious about the way Sayumi was acting. It’s hard to know whether she was telling the truth or not. And Rika can’t see whether what she feels for Eri was the truth or not. She re-read again the past chapters to look for more clues and also because her sleepiness vanished. As she read the past comments, she realized that two particular individual looked like they were fighting on-line.
“Fans were scary nowadays. They look like they would kill for their pairing.. Wait… I’m scary too right? Especially when I’m too happy or flailing because of my fandom but still.. It’s different. I hope they can fix their differences. They are still, after all, following one group and that’s Three-Tums. I’m a TanaKamei fan but I also like KameShige. And don’t forget Ayumi’s TanaShige pairing. I hope Kuwagata can fix this one. I do hope it would be a threesome of Three-Tums, hehehe. Slowly my innocent mind is being corrupted by these dirty thoughts. Wait…”
Rika saw her own comment on chapter 6. She was ‘high’ when she made that comment and she haven’t realized what she wrote until now.
“It’s like a natural instinct for us. To move away from someone who’s different from us…”
“I’m different from the normal people. Hitomi’s different too. And the people who thought that she’s different were distancing themselves away from her… I can really relate to the story.”
She decided not to sleep anymore and read every fanfic she could but after a while, she was running out of new fanfics to read, or new comments to reply to. Out of boredom, she decided to make a drabble without thinking. She just wrote what comes first to her mind; not minding the topic or the outcome of the story. She let her mind drift freely into the unknown and uncertain part of her consciousness.
Can we call ourselves, friends? How can you differentiate an acquaintance from a friend? How do two people start friendship? Is there a rule that needs to be followed or you just both feel it? That’s something that’s been plaguing my mind ever since. Reina… are you my friend… or acquaintance?
Sayumi and you… Both of you became my acquaintance because of the audition. As the years pass by there were lots of memories we shared together and to be honest, I feel like Sayumi is really my friend, a best friend. We do things together, tell each other secrets, and always be there for each other through thick and thin; on and off screen. But you? Sure we do lots of things. We also hang out together often but then, I feel that something’s missing. On screen you were so close to me but off screen you become someone I don’t know. You always act indifferent when the cameras are not rolling. You have that far away, stone-faced look in your eyes, as if I do not exist in front of you.
I know that the word ‘friend’ is only a label, we only need to show it. But Reina, I don’t FEEL like I’m your friend at all.
Reina crumpled the piece of paper that she was reading a minute ago and threw it in the trash bin beside her. She was waiting for this to happen. It’s the only way out to ease her suffering. The truth is, Eri was really important to her; way too important than an ordinary friend. But she was afraid to show her real feelings. Feelings that need to be suppressed as early as possible. It will be hard but she will do it without regret… for the sake of the two of them.
“Ohayou… It looks like you haven’t slept a bit.” Hitomi non-energetically greeted her.
“Yeah, and I should say the same to you too.” Rika replied. She was waiting for the bus when Hitomi stopped her car in front of her again.
“Well, my friend was bothering me to check her draft. It’s almost midnight when I sent her the chapters. I bet you read it that’s why your eyes were like that?” Hitomi inquired. Rika’s energy was coming back to her whenever she liked the topic; and this was the topic that she liked the most.
“You are right. And I wouldn’t have noticed that she posted the next chapter if I haven’t woken up from a… dream.” Rika wanted to say ‘from a nightmare’ but her dream can’t be considered a nightmare. She just dreamt what happened to her in Hokkaido and there’s nothing ‘horrific’ or ‘terrifying’ that occurred in there.
“Ahh, I thought it’s because of a nightmare. She did a double post this midnight...” Rika thought about Hitomi’s comment. Her voice lacks the energy so her statement can be interpreted in two ways. The first one was that it’s really a statement and the other meaning was that she’s questioning her that her friend did a double post for the day but she was too ‘lazy’ to do a rising intonation at the end. It’s possible that she didn’t know that Kuwagata posted two chapters at once because she proof-read four chapters. Or it could be possible that her subordinate already proofed-read chapter 6 before and what she finished last night was the 7th chapter and then Kuwagata posted the two chapters at once.
“Yep, a double post.” Rika answered and observed Hitomi’s actions. Like Reina to Sayumi, she can’t tell whether Hitomi knew about it or not. And she was really curious about it; after all, Hitomi was Kuwagata’s proof-reader. If she noticed that Hitomi knew about it, that means that Kuwagata was really a fast writer because she made chapters in such a short time or if she noticed that her subordinate didn’t know about it, then Kuwagata might have posted it without checking its grammar or she asked another person to proof-read her work. But Hitomi didn’t react even a little bit so she really didn’t know the answer to her own question.
“She’s like Sayumi… she’s hard to read.” She brushed off the thought and used that chance to talk with Hitomi about their fandom.
“What’s your favorite boy band or girl band?” Rika started.
“Girl band, its Three-Tums and then I’m more into the sounds of KAT-TUN.”
“Is it because you like their ‘rock’ sounds? Or because Reina’s brother is in there?”
“Both.” The two continued chatting about the latest news about their favorite groups but suddenly, Rika noticed something dangling on the car’s rear view mirror.
“Hey… is that a keychain version of a ‘Kuwagata’?”
“Yes. It’s actually a cell phone accessory. Do you want it?” Rika was surprised at the sudden question.
“Ehh?! It’s yours right. Why would I want it?”
“Because ‘Kuwagata’ bought it. I’ll give it for you… Besides, you’ll go back to your place in two weeks right? Make that my parting gift for you... or an early Christmas gift.” Hitomi removed the accessory from her mirror and hand it over to her boss. Rika looked at it longingly.
“WOAH!!!! A thing from my favorite writer!!! HAhaha, so I can’t get the first-hand access to her fics but… indirectly.. because of her friend… I GOT A GIFT FROM HER!!!!”
“Am I just imagining things because from the lack of sleep… or it’s really real that I saw you grinning like a psychotic killer back there?” Rika snapped back to reality when she heard Hitomi’s voice. Her fangirl side was popping-up once more.
“No, I’m not. I’m just smiling.” They were nearing their office. Hitomi stopped the car near the corner and Rika left her subordinate’s car.
“Thanks for the lift... and for this gift.”