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[IC][Story][Arc 1] Ti Kallisti
[IC][Story][Arc 1] Ti Kallisti
"Ti Kallisti" (part 1 of 4)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Los Angeles International Airport

I was sitting in a brand new van, going nowhere.  I was intending to go somewhere, of course, but as so many other L.A. stories go, I was stuck in traffic on an overpass.  Leave it to L.A. to design an airport like a freeway, only fill it with too many cars.

The white van was decorated only with a single azure stripe which flowed into a wide elliptical hook shape on the front door, with a blue oval dotting the inside of the hook.  It was one of those so-called 15 passenger vans, though I was pretty sure you couldn't fit fifteen Americans in there.  Right now though, the van only had two passengers.

The van lurched to life, then came to a sudden stop ten seconds later.  I rolled forward in my seat.  "Athena," I chided, "You have to look at the cars in front of him, too.  He's got nowhere to go, so there's no reason to jerk forward."

"Sorry, Brent," she frowned.  I really wish that I had been able to teach Athena Glory to drive with a smaller car, but it was pretty clear we were going to need a big vehicle to transport all of the residents of our apartments for outings, even for something as simple as for shopping.

The choice to buy the van was proven right yesterday, when I was informed that we'd be getting seven new tenants to live in our complex.  And what tenants they would be -- Chiyo, Osaka, Sakaki, Tomo, Yomi, Kagura, and Kaorin.  Names that were already burned in my mind, as the students of Azumanga Daioh.

I was really excited to meet the characters of my favorite anime.  At least, that's how I was supposed to feel, right?  But I don't know though, I've never been much for fannish devotion.  I've met famous actors and and Congressmembers, and they all just seem like ordinary folks to me; maybe they just shine a little more brightly.

So honestly, I was anxious.  I wanted them to like me, and I wanted to like them.  Liking someone on TV is not the same as knowing the real person.  Real people have flaws and habits you don't see on-screen.  But honestly honestly, I just wanted them to be happy here -- and I wanted to make Yomi and Tomo laugh.

When the van finally inched forward to the international terminal, Athena hopped out, and I got into the driver's seat.  Someone had to wait for our new arrivals -- Athena was experienced at that, and not allowed to drive solo on a learner's permit.  I pulled the van around and began to circle the airport.  "Fun".

Athena, for her part, had shown pretty good aptitude for motor vehicles, so long as she could keep her concentration.  Having spent her youth piloting larger vehicles than this while dodging motorboats, the only thing that still tripped her up was the engine's sudden power.  

Athena carried a sign bearing the names of two of our passengers in large letters in two different scripts, lovingly written by our Japanese resident, Akari Mizunashi.

Quote:    水原 MIZUHARA
    榊 SAKAKI

It turns out that writing kanji manages to be difficult even if you have an example in front of you, and that a practiced hand makes all the difference.  It's kind of old school, holding up a sign for VIP pickup, but people still do it.  The modern way wouldn't do; I truly doubted they had opted for an interuniversal cell phone plan.

Anyway, the names chosen were something of a social hack; from watching the anime, those were the two most likely to spot their names and react appropriately.  The report forwarded from Sebastian indicated that Tomo Takino appeared to be the group's leader, which made me wonder exactly what led to that tragic misunderstanding.  Unless they were entirely different from fiction, the only way Tomo gets to be the leader is under the Peter Principle.

Athena texted me to come pick them up, but it took me another five minutes to circle back around to the international terminal.  When I arrived, I saw the silver-haired undine surrounded by seven Japanese young women in the shade of the wide concrete overhang.  The tall one was conversing with Athena, while the rest of them looked appropriately bedraggled for passengers on a long flight from Singapore.  Only one of them was chipper, and running around the group like a moron.  I decided: nope, exact same Tomo as I would expect.

As I pulled the the curb, Athena yanked the car doors open.  The shorter one with long brown hair asked, "Miss Athena, are you a gal?"  She had the widest eyes I had ever seen on a person from East Asia.  That would be Osaka, codename Ayumu Kasuga -- or is that backwards?

Athena did have light hair and tanned skin, but a closer inspection would have revealed only simple silver earrings and a complete lack of false fingernails.  "Uh, yeah I guess?" she replied, ignorant of twentieth century fashion trends.

Kagura said, "Cool!  It's going to be an laid-back place if they have gals working there."  She was the tannest member of the group, though I was actually surprised that her swimmer's tan wasn't even darker, considering how late in the year it was.  She definitely had the athletic arms of a practitioner of the aquatic arts.

Chiyo Mihama had the remnant of a recent sunburn on her neck and arms.  She was dealing with the downside of pale skin, as exemplified by her twintails of orangish-red hair.  I felt her pain -- repeatedly, given my own complexion.  And certainly, the warm, dry Santa Ana wind today wasn't helping.  She sat down and dutifully buckled her seatbelt, but then realized that she couldn't reach the precious A/C vent above her head to point it toward her.

Luckily Sakaki was tall enough to reach Chiyo's vent from her adjacent seat.  For all of the build-up in the anime, Sakaki wasn't really all that tall in person;  I still had a a half-head on her.  But her dark hair, long legs, and larger build definitely made her look more imposing than the rest of these women.  I just had the advantage of knowing she was a real softie at heart.

Kaori and Yomi looked as if the trip did not suit them, and the brunettes dragged themselves aboard the van.  It looks like the trip had really worn them out, however they got to our world.

In contrast, Tomo hopped in the seat right behind me and asserted, "Take us to the beach resort, and step on it, my good man!"  She, like every one of the new arrivals, was a Japanese teenager.  Pushing 155 centimeters, she wasn't even a whole head taller than the tweenage Chiyo-chan -- and that gap would be closing pretty soon.  Tomo had a round face, wide eyes and an open-mouthed smile; her arm gestured forward into another mass of traffic.

"The beach, we definitely got.  The resort…" I lingered.  Athena was already shaking her head in the negative.  "Oh come on, it's not that bad!"

Athena shrugged.  She closed the side door, then hopped into the front with me.  She toggled the radio off, and told me,  "All seven here, only two bags."

"Oh," I nodded.  "Shopping trip later."  Still at the wheel, I fought my way away from the curb, and towards the lanes of cars that were actually moving.

She pulled a lever underneath the seat, and turned the chair all the way around.  "Good morning, ladies.  My name is Athena Glory, and I'm one of your fellow residents at your new apartment.  Driving the car is Brent Laabs, your apartment manager."

"Hi everyone," I waved, not really looking behind me to keep my focus on the traffic ahead instead.

I heard a few obligatory yoroshiku behind me.

"If you need some help, you'll be able to find him in room 1 of the apartments.

"Now, if you look to the left, you can see the Theme Building, an example of futuristic Googie architecture.  Built in 1960, it was designed to resemble a flying saucer."  Athena was actually giving a tour.  Incredible.  She'd been here all of two weeks and she already knew more about the place than I did.

Behind me, Osaka pointed out the window, "Whoa, UFO!!"

"Very Space Age," Chiyo remarked.  

As we drove to the edge of the airport, Tomo blurted, "Holy freaking crap those are giant letters!"

"What's an X-A-L?" Osaka asked.  I was really happy to let our tour guide do her job.

The tenant report from Sebastian was right: they did speak English.  Actually, really well, well enough that they were speaking it without even thinking about it.  Not even talking to each other in Japanese, except for the occasional word.  Interesting.

Their rooms were ready enough for now, on the north side of the second floor.  Akari had convinced me to buy futons for the new arrivals' rooms.  That way, they could decide on their own mattress and bed set, if they wanted one, and we could reuse the futons for guests.  The beds that I had bought in haste were not exactly a hit -- Athena wanted a firmer mattress, while little Alice wanted a softer mattress with no lumps in a four-poster.

The only thing that remained, then, was to partition the new group and hand out the keys.

"We have two bedroom apartments here, so you're going to have to pair up.  Remember, it's not permanent, you can always switch later," I said.  I watched with interest, because unlike the last time I couldn't anticipate exactly how this would go.

"Now who do I want to live with?" Yomi Mizuhara wondered aloud.

Tomo's hand shot up, "Ooh ooh me!  Pick me!"

"Doesn't anyone want to room with me?  Anyone at all?"

"Meeee!"  Tomo's arms waved back and forth in front of Yomi's field of vision.  "Pick me, meeee!"

Yomi sighed, "Fine.  I wouldn't want anyone else to suffer Tomo."


You could see the wheels turning in Kaorin's head, as her blush began radiating heat.  She meekly offered, "Miss… Miss Saka…"

Tomo interjected, "Who's going to live with Chiyo-chan?  We can't have her live alone, this is a dangerous, lawless country overrun by cowboy gangs with guns."

What, no tsukkomi from Yomi for that one?

"It's not that bad, Tomo," Chiyo explained, "I was already planning on living here."

"Don't worry Chiyo-chan, I will protect you," Sakaki declared.

A wide, innocent smile appeared on Chiyo's face, "Thank you so much, Miss Sakaki!"

"Miss Saka-aaah," Kaorin was clearly let down by this turn of events.

"Well, Ah guess that makes you'n me roomies.  Please take real good care of me, Kagura," Osaka offered.  Kagura returned her bow.

In the end, Tomo and Yomi got number 9, directly above my own apartment.  Kaorin was next door in number 10, adjacent to Osaka and Kagura in number 11.  Taking the other large corner apartment in number 12 were Sakaki and her ward Chiyo.

I was a little worried about one thing, though.  "Are you okay with living alone, Kaorin?"  Not that I had a solution or anything.

The short girl with her a perfectly angled shingle bob took her time to answer.  "No, it's fine, I'm—" she paused, "I'm right in the middle of it all this time, so I'm not going to lose again!"  She held her fists to her breast.  "Oh, I'm sorry, don't mind me, I must be really tired or something."

I could have sworn I felt the heat radiating off her cheeks, but that was probably just a trick of the Devil Winds.  "Nah, it's okay.  Let me know if you need anything."
"Kitto daijoubu da yo." - Sakura Kinomoto
RE: [IC][Story][Arc 1] Ti Kallisti
Wednesday, September 28, 3:57 AM

Akari couldn't fall back to sleep tonight, and she didn't know why.  Perhaps it was the Santa Ana winds blowing through the night, keeping her room uncomfortably warm.  Or maybe it was something about the new arrivals in the apartment.  Once she had woken up, her mind started going around in circles.

She had been thinking a lot about the youngest one, Chiyo-chan, she was called.  Akari could imagine how she felt, as she too had left home at a young age to chase her dream in distant lands.  But Chiyo-chan had left her home with no warning, and Akari could feel that she had left something important behind.  So too had the tall girl, Sakaki-san, left something very dear to her behind.  Akari had no idea how she knew this, but she could feel it inside.

She sighed.  This wasn't getting her anywhere near sleep.  She decided to put on clothes, and wander around outside for a while.  Maybe a walk would tire her out.

She eschewed the elevator and walked down the stairs into the warm night.  It wasn't exactly quiet out, with the offshore wind rustling leaves in the trees, bending tall palm trees towards the ocean.  But the dry winds were comfortable to walk in at night.  It felt like the warmth of daylight on her skin came from the rising crescent moon, like a long starlit eclipse.

With no particular destination, she wandered up onto the beach boardwalk, passing a couple sleeping beach bums along the way.  It was so different, so empty without the tourists and surfers and hipsters, but she liked this side of Venice too.

Akari wandered up to the canal zone, and then crossed through towards downtown.  The orange glow of street lamps guided her way through the night, wherever she happened to be going.  

She sneezed so suddenly that it brought her to a halt.  The wind brought plenty of things to tickle her nose, that was certain.  That was one side-effect of the so-called Devil Winds, but they didn't seem to quite live up to the hype.  There was nothing to be afraid of tonight; the last of the drunks had found their way home, and the roads were empty but for a the occasional car.

Akari found herself following the rundown old train tracks embedded in the pavement of Abbot Kinney Boulevard.  They hadn't been here before, had they?

Then she heard the roar of something coming towards her, pushing through the wind.  A minute later, a large vehicle bearing a single bright light turned onto the street, with several cars following behind.  The boxy, cherry red locomotive led a set of six train cars down the old tracks.  The brakes squealed as the train rolled to a halt besides the little shops along the boulevard.

"What sort of train runs this late at night?" she asked no one.  Akari couldn't stop herself from walking closer to investigate.  While the cars had the number 666 emblazoned on the side, a sign in the front car read "Starlight Express".  "Huh."  And then, a few cats came leaping out of the passenger cars.  Akari walked out into the middle of the street to get a closer look.

In the shadow of the train, she saw someone large with pointed ears in a blue railroad uniform and called out to him, "Cait Sìth!"

A tall orange creature turned to face her; it was oblong, with the skinniest of arms.  Akari apologized, "Oh, sorry, I thought you were someone else."  And he started to turn back around.

But all of ten seconds later, curiosity got the better of her. "Excuse me, but are you a cat?"

A booming, masculine voice emerged from the bipedal feline's mouth, "Now that is an excellent question!  Now, you wouldn't happen to be one of those people who believe that other people are cats just because they have pointed ears and fur and a long tail, would you?"  His eyes grew narrow and his fur became a roiling red color.

"Eep!"  And then she thought about it a minute, and said, "No, but are you not a cat?"

His fur returned to the orange color.  "I am as much a cat as you are a human, child."

"My name is Akari Mizunashi?  What's yours?"

"Is that your true name, I wonder?"

"I think so?"

"No, your true name has not yet been given," the cat creature determined.

OK, this was managing to be even weirder than she expected.  "Hahii?"

"You may call me Mihama."

"Where does this train go?  Can it take me home again?"

Mihama's skin shifted to a swirl of reds and yellows, and he swayed back and forth for a minute.  His skin shifted back to it's normal hue, and he remarked, "No ticket."

"I see," Akari said sadly.

"All we have right now are one-way fares."  His giant eyes narrowed, and after a moment he spoke again.  "You are the one who heard the calls, are you not?  Follow me."

She followed him a aft past a few passenger cars, where they came upon a juvenile cat with distinctive brown markings, sitting on the pavement next to a large white dog.  The dog had a thick coat and a plume of a tail, which she identified as a Great Pyrenees.  Akari couldn't make out what kind of cat it was, concluding it must be a mixed breed.

Mihama's skinny right arm wiggled in an entirely impossible fashion for a few seconds, until it pointed steadily towards the cat.  "This one seeks the branch of the sacred tree.  Will you take her there?"

The idea tickled something at the back of her mind.  And well, she couldn't leave a cat alone on her quest, could she?  Without hesitation, she pledged, "I will."

The little cat's eyes met Akari's and her face softened, as if to say that she would trust this human.  The dog stood up, and rubbed against Akari, as if to say that he had trusted her all along.

"I must go.  We must not get off track," Mihama said, as he floated back aboard the train.

"Just…  If you see Cait Sìth, tell him that I want to see him again, please."

"Foolish child," he boomed, "to seek the fair folk.  I suppose that's why he likes you.  I will relay the message true."  He returned inside, and the hum of the locomotive rumbled through the street.

"Well, it's late tonight.  Will you come home with me?" she asked the cat.

"Nyan."  Akari and her quest companions started walking back towards her apartment.  Meanwhile, the train departed, following invisible tracks up into the sky.

The cat seemed very determined, while the dog followed alongside Akari with an easy gait.  Akari didn't feel foolish, like he had said. Although she realized that she had adopted a couple of strays on the request of a catlike—thingy—Mihama, which was perhaps not the wisest thing to do.

Wait, she thought and blushed, he said Cait Sìth liked her?

She had ended up walking even further than she had intended, and then all of that happened, so by the time she returned to the apartment, morning twilight was creeping across the sky.  Well, all she had to do was find a divine tree.  That couldn't be too hard, right?  There had to be a sakaki somewhere in America, right, or maybe just a really old oak.

And all at once, she realized how stupid she had been, and knew she was supposed to find Sakaki-san.  Silly kitty riddle.  Maybe this quest was almost over.

It wouldn't be kind to wake them—but they were jet-lagged, and would likely be awake anyway.  She decided that it wouldn't be right to delay a quest, and journeyed up to the second floor.

Akari held out her hands.  "Do you need any help up the stairs, kitty?"

The kitten ignored her offer and leapt up the steps.  The dog, on the other hand, came and brushed his head against her hands.

"Not you, silly dog, you're too heavy," she giggled.  "Come on!"

She walked up to the second story, and unlocked the door.  And the Akari knocked on the first door on her right.

About sixty seconds and a couple of knocks later, the door opened to reveal the imposing presence of Sakaki, wearing a loose T-Shirt, shorts, and a frown.  Akari reflexively took a step back.

"I'm sorry for intruding," Akari said timidly, "but I was wondering if you knew this cat?"

Sakaki looked down, and a smile lit up her face.

"Maya!"  Sakaki picked up the wildcat and nuzzled her.  "Maya!"  The cat returned her attention with a little lick on the nose.  "You really did find me!"  Holding the cat in front of her, she spun around and around with a big smile on her face, humming happily.

And as suddenly as it began, her mien became serious, as if she had caught herself doing something deeply embarrassing.  "I am in your debt," Sakaki said formally.

"I didn't do anything, really."

But Sakaki had turned her attention elsewhere.  "Sorry to make you wait, Tadakichi-san. Chiyo-chan is in here.  She opened the door to Chiyo's room, and Tadakichi trotted over to her futon, walked in three circled, and lay down right in the middle of the bed.

This was enough to wake Chiyo up, though.  "Bwah?"  She rubbed her eyes.  "Oh, Tadakichi-san, is that you?"

He stood up and gave Chiyo a good sniff on the face, while she petted his head.

"How did you even get here?"

Sakaki explained, "Akari-san brought her here."

"I didn't do anything, really.  Maya did most of the work, I think."

"Thank you so much!" she said while hanging around Tadakichi's neck.  "You too, Maya."


Since it was now past sunrise, and all three were now fully awake and excited, Chiyo convinced the other two to join her radio exercises.  Not that any radio station in L.A. had broadcasted them for decades, but with the help of YouTube lots of things are possible.

They moved downstairs into the yard, and started the calesthenics.   Mr. Tadakichi stood guard over his humans, sniffing around the building.  He must have decided he liked the places, because he began staking out a territorial claim with head and leg held high.  As for the iriomote wildcat, Maya just collapsed on the ground, content that she was finally where she needed to be.
"Kitto daijoubu da yo." - Sakura Kinomoto
RE: [IC][Story][Arc 1] Ti Kallisti
Thursday, September 29, 2016, 8:49 PM

Yomi was used to Tomo invading her space, but now that she lived with all of her schoolmates living in the same apartment complex, everyone except Osaka had managed to wander into Yomi's living room.  Not that she minded, as it's not like she had anything important to study for.

"I still can't believe we're time travellers.  It's so romantic!" Kaori said to the room.  Or perhaps just to herself; there were often times when she couldn't tell if she was being ignored.

It felt like another one of those times for half a minute, until Yomi set down out of her book.  "I can't believe it either."

"I know, right?  It's like maybe, because of tradition, something couldn't happen before, but now in the future, maybe two people can— they can—"

"That's not what I meant.  Doesn't something seem odd with this picture?"  Yomi held up a copy of the complete Lord of the Rings next to her face.  The book was on loan from the manager, with a bookmark a good hundred pages in.

By now, everyone had tuned in to the conversation, but met Yomi's query with blank stares nonetheless.

Tomo murmured, "No?  Yomi was always a huge nerd."

"What I don't understand is why I can speak and write English so well."

"Eh?" wondered Chiyo-chan.  "What do you mean?"  She put down her own book, an American edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

"Well, I know that you were always fluent in English, but that's because you're so smart."

"She's a fricking genius," Tomo inserted.

While hitting Tomo's forehead with a convient paper fan, Yomi calmly continued, "None of the rest of us were quite that good.  Even Tomo was only passable at speaking English, and she was better than me.  But now... why does Osaka speak English with a Southern accent?"

"Something has changed us," Sakaki declared.

"Right.  That ... or we're not who we remember ourselves to be."

The room turned absolutely silent as everyone thought through the implications of that thought.

Eventually, it was Chiyo who broke the silence, her eyes welling up with the beginnings of tears, "Yomi, if I'm not Chiyo Mihama, who am I?  What am I, a clone?"

Sakaki knelt down to Chiyo's eye level, and took her hand.  "No.  You are Chiyo-chan.  I don't think anyone could replace all of the little details about ourselves.  Nor the way we feel about each other."

"Miss Sakaki!"  Chiyo hugged Sakaki like a circle around the sun.

Kaori sat quietly in the corner watching the scene, her face reddening as her hands were clasped together.

Tomo decided that this was not the moment to use her joke about clones, even though Chiyo and Sakaki's Lily Rank just increased.  Contrary to popular opinion, Tomo Takino did have her limits.  She internally cursed that she'd probably have to wait another few months for an opportunity to use that gag, but so it goes in comedy.

Moreover, what Yomi had said really was troubling.  Tomo had been thinking about it too, silently amazed at the world of multilingual puns that had opened up to her and Yomi.  It was stressful enough to find yourself adrift in another world.  But it was quite a bit worse to know that you were not quite the same person you had been before.

"Um, why don't we just ask the manager if he knows?"  Kagura queried.

Tomo narrated, "Baka Ranger Red uses her special power: Ask the teacher!"
"Kitto daijoubu da yo." - Sakura Kinomoto
RE: [IC][Story][Arc 1] Ti Kallisti
I heard a rather loud banging on my door.

"Kanrinnin-san, Kanrinnin-saaaan!"

I paused the DVR, hopped out of my chair, and walked over to the door.  I really hoped nothing was wrong in this old building, because it's not fun finding a plumber at 9 PM.  My grandfather was a plumber by trade, but if genetics is right, that means I'm only 25% plumber.  Which is just not enough.

"Oh hi... everyone."  The entire cast of Azumanga Daioh, sans teachers, was in front of my door.  Including an actual wildcat.  Just great.  "What seems to be the problem?"

Kagura glanced at Yomi, who only returned the words, "Your idea, Red."

Kagura took a deep breath.  "Why can I speak English so well?  I never used to be able to talk this well.  Why does Osaka's Kansai accent sound like the American South in English?  It's all so strange."

"Well, that's... complicated."  I mean, I had a guess, but I didn't really know how to break it to them.

Yomi asserted, "More to the point:  How did coming to this world change us?  I don't buy the timeslip story; there's something subtly different about this world.  And why would some aristocrat decide to house us all for free so fast?  Just look out the door, and you can see some beach bums with worse luck than we've had.  So why are we so important?"

Yikes.  "Well, you had better all come inside." I guess it was time to give the girls "The Talk".  I hadn't expected to be able to hide it for very long, but really -- Koyomi is scary-smart.  The girls of Aria still hadn't figured out this much in two weeks of living here, much less three days.  "Nothing gets by you, Mizuhara, does it."

She just smiled and took a seat on my couch.

"OK, I don't really understand it myself, but I know a few facts you're missing.  I think you're right about being from a different universe, or something.  There's no record of a real person named Mizuhara Koyomi living in the Tokyo Metro Area in 2003.  Or of that of your friends or teachers."

"Real person?" asked Chiyo.

"Yeah, and I don't mean you're not real people, sorry, I'm screwing this up.  There is, however, a fictional record of your life.  You all are the starring characters of a manga and anime called Azumanga Daioh.  Only a few of us even know that you're in this world.  Most everyone thinks you're completely fictional."

There was a moment of stunned silence from the assembled young women, finally broken by Tomo.  "At least we got an anime series."  And then everyone started talking all at once.

Having waded through various unanswerable existential questions, we finally got to the important question, posed by Kaorin: "What the hell is 'Azumanga Daioh' supposed to mean?"

"Something like 'Azuma's manga for Daioh magazine'. The author is Kiyohiko Azuma. What?  Don't give me that look.  It's not even bad compared to some of the light novel titles these days, some of them are like fifty words long."

"So if I'm getting this straight, our real father is this Azuma guy who wrote us all?"

A sultry Tomo teased, "Don't worry Kaorin, we're not sisters by blood."

"Wha!  What!" Kaori turned a bright shade of red and started waving her arms rapidly.  "That's not what I meant!"

I chuckled, but took back control of the conversation anyway.  "Osaka, Chiyo: you'll understand what Tomo meant when you're older.  Anyway, I don't know if Azuma-sensei is your father, or if you existed in a different universe than mine -- and Azuma-sensei only channeled his knowledge of your world into storytelling.  Maybe true creativity only comes from God, and we can only tell stories that He has already created."

"But looping back to the anime: why does Osaka speak with perfect English in a Southern accent?" Yomi asked. "How does that make sense unless we come from the anime?"

"Why are y'all so worried about little ol' me?"

"I have a whole lifetime of memories; I don't think a TV show or manga could describe everything that is me."  Sakaki always keeps her cool, on screen or in reality.

"I don't think you have that much to worry about, Yomi.  You're all great girls, and real enough to me."  And, I thought, the problem with our kind of mind -- me and Yomi -- is that one never knows when to stop asking questions without easy answers.

Kagura had a question. "So what kind of anime is it?  I mean, it doesn't show us doing, well... you know."

"Don't worry, there's a minimum of fanservice."  I added jazz hands for emphasis.  "Just the lives of seven ordinary high school girls.  Come on, let's go watch an episode in the common room.   It'll be natsukashii for all of you to see your first year of high school again, I'm sure.  Heck, I wish I had an anime of my school life, it'd be way better than a yearbook."

We made our way across the hall, and I hooked up my laptop to the flat-panel TV.  Everyone sat down to watch, some on the floor because I still didn't have enough furniture yet -- yet another thing I had to fix.  After 24 minutes of laughs and smiles, the melodious "Raspberry Heaven" began to play.  Everyone was in much better spirits now.

Chiyo spoke first, "It's so weird to see myself as a cartoon.  I mean I'm not 2D, but that girl looks so much like me, living my life."

Kagura asked, "Hey, when do I get to be in it?"

"Episode 3, I think.  You're still in the other class, right?"

"Oh yeah, that's right."

Tomo asked, "So if we're all in the anime, who's the most popular character?"

"Oh, that," I said.  "Well, the most popular would have to be Osaka."

"WHAT???!?!" was the near-unanimous response, with the remaining response being, "But Sakaki-san is the coolest!"  Geez, I gotta be careful answering Tomo's questions, so many cans of worms.

With the politeness of a Southern belle, Osaka laughed. "He he he, some girls got it."

Most everyone wondered back to their rooms to consider everything they'd learned tonight. At least they were in good enough spirits now to consider instead of worry.  And for that, I really needed to thank the person who was still lurking around, examining all of the knicknacks in my room.  "Tomo, seriously, thanks for defusing that situation.  I mean, I have no idea how to handle things like this."

"Yeah, well if you can't understand something, you gotta make a joke out of it.  Until you do understand.  Or not."

"Sorry to turn your world upside down.  You are now sailor senshi, and the cake is a lie.  Heavy stuff."

"The cake is a lie?"

"Man, when did Portal come out?  You missed out on so much pop culture, girl."

"Omigosh, I really did!" Tomo realized.  "So.  I have 15 years of manga to catch up on.  Any recommendations?  Is Inuyasha still going?"

"Heh, no, she finally finished that one.  But One Piece is still going strong!"

"Oh man, really?  Awesome."

"Yeah, I never got into that one."

"You should, it's pretty good.  Or at least it was.  So what anime has there been that I have to see?"

"Right, what would I watch if I had been cryogenically frozen for 15 years, so that I don't miss out on the great anime of the future?!"


"Oh right!"  I remembered her taste in anime from the show. "Tomo, you need to watch The Woman Called Fujiko Mine.  Like, right now."

"Maji de?!"  Tomo's eyes turned into giant twinkles.

"C'mon, let's stop everything but our beating hearts and go watch it."

"I have no idea what that means but I am so in!"

Tomo plopped down on my couch, and I queued up the first episode of the newish Lupin III spinoff.  It was only as I sat down beside her that I thought, that maybe inviting a girl I had met three days ago to my room to watch an anime containing this many bare breasts was not the brightest idea.  But Tomo was already enraptured by the first frames nonetheless.  Maybe this would all work out OK.
"Kitto daijoubu da yo." - Sakura Kinomoto
RE: [IC][Story][Arc 1] Ti Kallisti

There was a knock on my door.  Answering it, I was met by the smiling face of Tomo Takino.

"Manager, my room needs more towels."

"Already?"  I opened a closet and pulled out a couple.  "Here ya go."  She went merrily along her way.

Five minutes later -- Knock-knock -- Tomo again.  "I need a room service menu."

"Tomo, we're not a beach resort."

"But I'm huuungrrry…"

"Cook for yourself."  I closed the door.

Another knock, another Tomo.  "Can you show me the way to your onsen?  No peeping, 'kay?"

I sighed.

Tomo was really annoying in real life.  There's a theory of comedy that funny things are essentially pain that happens to someone else.  

"C'mon, tell me, tell me!"

I handed her a brochure to the La Brea Tar Pits, and slammed the door.

I heard the words yelled through the door, "This is so going on Yelp! You hear me!"
"Kitto daijoubu da yo." - Sakura Kinomoto

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