Volume 3, Chapter 5-1: Catching up With Chihiro

Winter Break 2016 Week 2 Friday

Waking up, I did not feel the magic of Christmas. I spent yesterday fighting in a virtual arena. What had my life become? Still, the contrast from this year’s winter holiday compared to last year’s was huge.

“Good, she’s not here,” I muttered, heading downstairs.

Mom sat at the dinner table, staring at her tablet with concern. I peered over her shoulder and saw a news story about broken windows at a nearby mall.

“This morning the store manager found all of his windows shattered. Security guards have already gone over the footage but found nothing. No merchandise was stolen and police believe it to be vandalism. No details on any potential suspects have been made available,” the reporter said.

“Good morning, Yuki,” she greeted.

“Morning. It’s rare for you to watch the news so early. Did something come up?” I asked, pointing at her tablet.

“There was suppose to be a story about your dad’s company but I haven’t seen anything. I give up,” she responded.

“Oh, my friend is coming over again,” I revealed.

“Is it Tess? I’m surprised you’re making friends so quickly. You never were too good at that,” Mom asked.

“Yeah, it’s her. What are you talking about? I have plenty of friends,” I retorted.

“I believe you, my daughter. I only hope you can find someone as good as Tess in terms of boys,” Mom mentioned.

Ignoring her comment, I finished breakfast and headed out to the backyard. Opening the garage door, I saw Dad with a mask on. He held a blowtorch in his right hand and examined a piece of metal in his left. Placing the tool down, Dad pulled up his mask and greeted me.

“Yuki, how rare for you to visit me. Did something happen?” he asked, sitting down on an old recliner.

“No, I just heard loud noises and came to check it out. Are you close to being done with your secret project yet?” I asked, standing near the door.

“Maybe halfway there. I wish I could tell you what it was. By the way, your friend here is a really talented girl. She pointed out a few things I hadn’t noticed myself. Be sure to keep her as a friend, she’s a good one,” Dad suddenly brought up.

Of course Tess would show up in these situations. Dad stood with his blowtorch at just the right angle, blocking my view of her. The Gatekeeper, wearing goggles, examined a bundle of wire.

“Good morning, Tomo. Your father here is a really talented craftsman,” she complimented, laying out the wire on the work table.

“I…. you know what, I won’t say anything. How long has she been here, Dad?” I asked, looking over at him.

“About half an hour,” he answered.

“Are we starting yet, Tess?” I asked.

“Yes. I specifically came early so you could enjoy Christmas,” she replied.

“So you do know that it’s a holiday,” I observed.

“Let’s go, Tomo. The faster I finish, the more time you will have,” she stated.

“It was nice meeting you. You can stop by anytime,” Dad yelled as we left.

A brutal three hours later, it was noon. Tess wrapped up her speed lessons on the remaining material. She placed everything back in the plastic bin and lifted it up.

“That’s all you need to know. The rest you can keep for your personal use. Oh, that reminds me. I believe Fel will stop by later,” Tess said.

“You need any help?” I asked, opening my room door for her.

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“No, I’m fine. I’ll send an online quiz to you tomorrow. Be sure to do it. As a reward, I will not pester you anymore,” Tess revealed.

I escorted Tess to the front door and watched her drive off. I didn’t have much to do but study. A message came from Felicity, informing me she would arrive in two hours. Might as well see what Yuka or Manami was up to while waiting for her.

I texted Yuka and realized she might be busy. What was his name again? Uh, Champ…. something. She might be out with her boyfriend so I didn’t expect a fast response. Maybe Manami? She shouldn’t be busy but then again she was a pretty popular girl. It wouldn’t be too strange if she scheduled something prior.

I received a phone call after sending out the texts. It was my high school friend, Shin Chihiro. It had been awhile since we spoke last, almost a month ago, so I was caught off guard by her sudden call.

“Hey, Yuki, it’s been awhile. Are you free today?” she asked.

“Yeah. Chihiro, how have you been? I’ve been busy with a few things so I haven’t talked to you in awhile,” I replied.

“Yeah, I heard about Ichizen. It’s a bummer but I know you’ll bounce back. I don’t have anything to do today so I wanted to stop by. I’m almost at your house,” Chihiro asked.

“That’s fine. My friend might come by later too, I hope you don’t mind,” I responded.

“That’s no problem at all. I haven’t been in your house in forever. It will be really nice to catch up. Look forward to seeing you, Yuki!” Chihiro hung up.

I returned downstairs and turned on the television. I jumped between various channels until my doorbell rang. She wasn’t lying about being close by.

“Yuki! So nice to see you again!” Chihiro greeted me with a hug.

She sat down next to me on the couch and placed a paper bag down on the floor. Mom peeked in and left immediately after noticing my stare. Chihiro pulled a wrapped present out of her bag, handing it to me.

“Oh, Chihiro, you didn’t have to,” I started.

“No, I don’t want to hear it. We’ve been friends since high school but I never once got you a gift. I don’t expect anything back. But if you really want to repay me, let’s hang out more! Come on, let’s go to your room! I want to see how you’ve changed it since you entered college, ” Chihiro directed, pushing me toward the stairs.

“What is it, Mom?” I asked when she pulled me aside.

“Nothing much. You just keep on bringing friends over. I am impressed. Bring these snacks up. Have fun catching up,” Mom said, handing me a plate of food.

“Thanks. How did you prepare all of this so fast?” I asked, pointing at the tray of food.

“That’s a secret. Go! I’m sure she’s tired of waiting for you already,” Mom urged.

You really meddle too much sometimes but I appreciate it. In my room, Chihiro already opened up my closet, staring at the clothes inside.

“That was fast, Chihiro,” I commented, setting the tray of food down.

“Sorry, just curious. Your room still looks the same as ever. Just like your clothes,” Chihiro said, closing the door.

“You can’t expect too big of a change, you know. Chihiro, how’s school over there? Are you getting by?” I asked.

“Not too bad. You have a harder time than I do, don’t you? It’s too bad we don’t go to the same school anymore. What’s new with you? Any new friends? Maybe a boyfriend?” Chihiro barraged me with questions.

“I met a few new…. people. I don’t know if I can call them friends but they seem okay for now. I guess I consider two of them my friends. Felicity Smoke is the person stopping by later. Then there’s Zha Tess, kind of a weirdo, but she’s pretty dependable,” I revealed.

“What about those other people you mentioned? Any cool boys?” Chihiro asked.

“Not really,” I shook my head.

I couldn’t bash Shan and the others too much. Kisai and Shui both worked. I’m sure Shan was involved with things. Not too sure about Zhuyu though. Their initial first impressions rubbed me the wrong way but I couldn’t hold it against them forever. Still not enough to label them as cool.

“That’s too bad. I was hoping to meet them. One might catch my eye, you know?” Chihiro remarked, moving away from my closet.

“I don’t think you want to be involved with them,” I said, picking up a snack.

“Oh, why? Are they involved in some illegal activities? Wait, don’t tell me that you’ve gotten mixed up in the wrong crowd?” Chihiro showed concern at my words.

“No, it’s nothing like that. They aren’t exactly the type of people who you normally would want to be friends with,” I stumbled, searching for the correct words.

“Okay, okay, I won’t pry any further. You have me intrigued now. If you ever change your mind, you know where I am,” Chihiro said with a small grin.

“This is pretty relaxing. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a normal conversation. No pretenses or any awkwardness,” I brought up, biting into an egg roll.

“Really? I’m glad that I can help out,” Chihiro revealed.

If only I could tell you, Chihiro. So much had gone down in the last few months that I couldn’t believe it myself. She noticed all the papers and notebooks on my desk. Oh, I forgot to clean up after Tess left.

“You’ve been busy, I see. So dedicated even during winter break. I have to admire that, Yuki. Let’s see, what do we have? Intermediate physics, calculus….,” she read, inspecting the material on my table.

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“It’s just something I’ve been trying to brush up on for future classes. You know, it never hurts to be too prepared,” I laughed awkwardly.

“I get it, Yuki. Still, this is some pretty hard stuff. I haven’t touched math since high school. You’re brave to keep pursuing it,” Chihiro complimented.

“What’s new with you, Chihiro? Anything interesting I don’t know about?” I shifted the topic.

“Nothing too much. It’s been pretty much the same old, same old. Oh, I work at the mall now. Stop by if you need any clothes,” Chihiro answered.

I informed Chihiro about Yuka’s boyfriend, among other topics. Time passed by pretty quickly as we talked. When my phone vibrated, I looked at the screen and saw a text from Felicity.

“Chihiro, do you mind waiting here? My friend is here,” I requested.

“No problem,” Chihiro replied.

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