"Fukai Mori"
(Dark Forest)

Edelyn was a quiet girl, often seen writing in a giant black notebook with her headphones on. She was also frequently seen hanging with her best friend Jason, a short Chinese boy whom she called Shippo. They both loved Japanese animation and J-Pop, or Japanese pop music. In Robotics Club, they worked diligently but silently as the foreign music blared from their headphones. They were two oddballs who'd found each other and stuck together, a perfect pair. She had been given a nickname by Shippo, which he called her all the time, and that was Ed.
One day, the two friends were meeting at Almeda Mall, their favorite hangout because of the food and the arcade with a DDR machine. They were siting in the food court, eating slices of cheese pizza when Shippo reached into his pocket and took out a folded piece of paper. He dropped it on the table and finished his slice before he spoke. "I found this in the cafeteria today, Ed, I thought you'd be interested," he said, pushing the paper towards her. Ed wiped her greasy hands on a napkin and took up the white square, unfolding it to see the words "TALENT SHOW" in large letters at the top.
She soon discovered that it was a sign up sheet for the school's talent show, and first prize was $100! A jolt of excitement went through her body, but then she thought about the situation. Singing was a favorite pastime of hers, and Shippo knew that she was very good at it by listening to her sing InuYasha theme songs in the car on their way to various places. She loved to sing, and it made her happy like nothing else could sometimes. What he wasn't aware of was that she was deftly afraid of standing in front of a large crowd of people. How was she supposed to sing well and win the contest if she couldn't even bring herself to get onto the stage? Shippo glanced at his friend and gave her a big, wide grin, which made her laugh.
"What's wrong?" he asked, seeing Ed's face long and pale.
"Shippo, did I ever tell you what I was afraid of?" the girl questioned, seeming as if to escape the subject.
"No, not that I can recall."
"Well... I'm afraid of standing alone before a large crowd."
"You have stage fright?"
"Yes Shippo, stage fright. I couldn't do this, because I probably faint if I could manage to get on stage!"
"But you love singing, I've seen how happy it makes you. You would definitely win."
"How can I?"
"You'll get you over your fear. Just promise me you'll turn in the form?"
"Okay, I'll do that much." Ed stood up, stuffing the entry form into her own pocket, and Shippo followed her down the hallway to the TILT arcade, where they played some rounds of DDR, Tekken and Soul Caliber before leaving to meet up with their ride. In the car, Ed thought of something she hadn't before.
"What am I going to sing?" she asked Shippo.
"Fukai Mori," he replied swiftly. "You know all the lyrics, both Japanese and English."
"Shippo, not everyone has the same appreciation for J-Pop as us."
"Make them," he said boldly, flashing his friend another grin.
A week later, Ed found herself in the auditorium among the other contestants for a dress rehearsal before the show later that night. She was so nervous she felt as if she were going to pass out. But then she remembered what Shippo had told her, and the anxiety eased a bit. Ed wanted to leave, but something made her stay. As the others practiced she wrote to stay calm. But then it was her turn, and the teacher called her up to the stage. It seemed like an eternity passed from her seat to the side stairway of the stage. And it took another just for her to walk up them and up to the microphone. He knees felt weak, but then she thought of Shippo again, saying "You love singing, I've seen how happy it makes you. You would definitely win."
The teacher put her CD into the player. In her stomach she felt so many nervous butterflies it was as if they were filling it up to the top. Then Ed heard the guitar at the beginning of the song; she banished all the butterflies and just sang. Everyone's mouths dropped as the words came out.
"Fukai fukai mori no oku ni, ima mo kitto.
Okizari ni, shita kokoro, kakushite'ru yo.
Sagasu, hodo no, chikara mo naku, tsukarehateta. Hitobito wa, eien no, yami ni kieru.
Chisai, mama nara kitto, ima demo mieta, ka na..."
The teacher cut her off there, and she went back to her seat feeling a great burden being lifted form her shoulders. As the other kids passed her on the way to the stage, they snickered and said, "She'll never win!" Ed just smiled and blocked them out. Suddenly she realized she wasn't afraid anymore. Shippo had been right, and she knew she could never be afraid to do something she loved. Now she thought, "So, maybe I will win after all..."
It was seven, about time for the show to start. The auditorium was completely packed, and Ed peered through the curtains searching for her confidence. He was sitting in the third row. When his eyes saw her face, he gave her the trademark Shippo grin and flashed a V for victory sign. Edelyn returned the gesture before ducking back behind the curtain. Soon the show was under way; soon they got to Ed's song. When the curtain closed on the previous performer, the girl took a deep breath. Remember Shippo... I can do this...
"And now performing a song in Japanese for us, please welcome Edelyn!" The curtains drew back and the music began again. I CAN do this...
"Fukai fukai mori no oku ni, ima mo kitto.
Okizari ni, shita kokoro, kakushite'ru yo."
Ed just sang, to be her, to be happy. The whole time she stole glances at Shippo, who was mouthing the words right along with her. When she finished, Ed bowed and walked off slowly. The boy who went after her laughed at her again, but she didn't care. Inside she was bursting with joy. She waited patiently for the other competitors to finish, then returned to the stage to hear the judges' results.
"In third place, Torrance, Tess and Julie in "The mind of a Prep." People clapped, and three girls stepped forward from the line of performers. The teacher handed them each a white ribbon.
"In second place, Roger with 'My Girlfriend'." More clapping, and he got a red ribbon. Then Ed relaxed, feeling as if she knew she wasn't first. How could she be, she sang in a foreign language! The announcer looked at the top of the list and said the unexpected.
"And in first place, with her amazing performance, Edelyn with 'Fukai Mori'." Ed took four steps forward, and the teacher gave her a large blue ribbon. The whole audience rose, giving the girl a standing ovation while she turned as red as her Chinese shirt. "Winners may claim their money Monday at school. Thank you and goodnight!" Ed jumped off the stage and rushed through the people to get to Shippo. They gave each other a great big hug, and were now both wearing large, wide grins.
"I told you could do it, Ed," remarked Shippo.
"And I thank you for that. Singing and great friends make me really, really happy!" Ed said.