Twenty minutes until school is over. The year exercise in futility would end, and all the education of thousands of teenagers in all of Japan would halt as they spent their summer trying to capture the wonder and youth that they were entitled to.
Fifteen minutes until summer vacation, where the beaches were full, the teachers asleep, and the girls were barely clothed. Everyone gave up work, putting themselves entirely to relaxing and relieving themselves of half a year of stress.
Ten minutes until I lost my freedom. No longer could I rely on school to catch up on hours upon hours of sleep lost at my night job. No, instead my daytime hours would be spent working, just like nighttime.
Five minutes until I was to visit my father. It was the one day of actual rest that my mother absolutely insisted on, when she wasn't to busy drinking or sleeping around. Despite my general dislike for my father, I was fine with meeting him and my sister for a day. I slept over there, and then got up next morning for my first day of daytime work in almost a year.
There it was, the distinct sound of a bell ringing, of students celebrating as they rushed out of the building. It was the sound of a new summer, a sound that I had dreaded for the past five years.
My name is Michio Fujii, and I hate summer.
I biked. It was just something I did, and why not? It got me place to place, which was school, then work, then home for a brief hour, then repeat. It was a great source of exercise, and I needed the all the exercise. Biking was also free and since I only had a very small amount of money, all of which ended up being funneled into my mother's beer money, a penny saved is a penny earned.
It was quite an effort to bike all the way to my father's house, and I knew that well from the start. I had hoped that this was the year I could make it all the way, and I did get farther along the way than I did last year. Fifty-seven miles from school is as far as I could make it before I called the forbidden number. Ten minutes later, a black car pulled up beside me. I tossed my biked into the trunk before jumping into the front seat.
There stood my father, Satoshi Fujii. He was what I was trained to hate and despise by my mother, and to this day I could not smile in his direction without feeling sick to my stomach. He did not have such reservations, as he flashed me a million dollar smile.
"And how is the Journey-Man doing now that school is out?" I shivered a bit when he used his nickname for me. While he was successful and hard working, values that I considered incredibly important, he was not the smartest tool in the shed, nor was he the sharpest.
"You know how it is, work, work, and more work." He gave off a sigh.
"I know that your mother can be a little bit-"He began a lecture I knew from heart.
"A lot, not a little, you know that." I interjected.
"Fine, very loose with money, and you know that if I could, the child support checks would be under your discretion to spend. I trust you to be able to balance a budget." He finished lamely.
"Well, since that it quite impossible for you to do that, I suggest you stop giving me false hope." I was being rude, and I knew that; however, this was the one time in the whole year where I could take out my anger on someone I didn't live with and was partially to blame for this whole mess.
My father and mother used to be married, something that was not uncommon for parents. They got divorced a few years back, and we kids were divided in the settlements. I was sent over to my mother and my sister to my father. While I do not blame my father for wanting a divorce, I still resented him for not taking me with him. He made money, and I knew that if I lived under his roof, I might not have to work night shifts to put food on the table; heck, I might not even have to work! Alas, this was a dream that is far beyond my capacities, the best I could hope for was a good night's sleep.
He didn't respond to my previous statement, so I figured it was a good time to put on some music. I flipped a switch on the radio, and some Japanese folk music began to softly blare from the speakers. A mellow song began to invade my mind through my ears. It was a melody that demand sleep from me, and who was I to deny the lascivious pleasing of a lute?
I absolutely hate my father's house. Not because it is a horrible house, but rather it was so incredibly cozy. It was a large house, especially when compared to my mother's cramped apartment. There was also a bed on the second floor, a bed that only served its purpose once a year. My father kept that bed for me and me alone, and by god that was the best present I ever needed, because it was infinitely better than the three blankets on the ground that also never got used over at my house.
My father pulled over in front of the behemoth house and gave me a sharp rap to the head to wake me up. As I was already awake, this was merely redundant.
"I'm up, I'm up." I said groggily.
"Then get out already, someone has been waiting to see you." I knew who he was referring to, and I also knew that she would never be happy to see me. Her name was Sakura Fujii, and she was my biological sister; also the unspoken reason for my families divorce. I didn't blame her for it though, she was only two at the time, and I was mature enough to consider it only partially her fault that I lived with who I did. Yet despite my skeptic nature, she was outside the front door, watching us get out of the car. Thankfully she didn't come over to us to say hello or anything, as that would absolutely blow my mind. Instead, she just gave me an obligatory wave of her hand, not even looking up from the handheld game system she was intently staring at. Then she walked into the house, letting the door close behind her.
"Really? I didn't know that she could see us through that screen." I bluntly tried to put a rain on my father's 'we are all a family that loves each other despite the fact that we only see each other once a year' parade.
"I guess she does a real good job at containing her excitement." Satoshi at least had the grace to look sheepish as he scratched the back of his head in embarrassment.
I walked into the house right on the heels of my father. The house was the exact same as I left it; western style, a color scheme of beige and a slightly different type of beige, and furniture that cost more than my mother's house and my year's salary. Not that working at a shop produced a lot of income. I don't understand why my father filled his house with such expensive things, as it made more sense to have cheap, yet functional material objects. There were a few minor changes in exact pieces of overpriced uselessness that inhabited this house, but that could just be my memory failing.
My father mentioned something about dinner, though I ignored him and walked upstairs. Now I definitely noticed some changes in the paintings and other various forms of decorations, but still, it was nothing that was out of the ordinary for a man with too much disposable income.
I took a turn and found myself facing the door to my room. At least, it was the door to my room, before pink sparkles and glitter factored into the equation. I decided on forgoing the courtesy knock and opened up the door. There was my sister lying down on her bed; incredibly focused on her game system.
"Michio, what the hell are you doing?" she exclaimed. I just stared at her in disbelief; wondering if I took a wrong turn somewhere. I walked over to her bed and bent down to examine it. The bed was mine, even though the pink comforter and sheets did a great job of hiding that fact.
"It should be me asking that, why are you in my room?" She made an annoyed face.
"Well, it isn't my fault, this room has the best bed, and it would have been too hard for dad to move it to my old room." She then tried to wave me out of the room, but I wasn't budging, and she was still looking down at the screen.
"Sakura, could you please come down here and set the dishes up." My father called from downstairs. Sakura sighed and got up from bed; her game tossed back onto my bed.
"You aren't sleeping here, 'Journey-man'." my sister mimicked my nickname as she walked out the door. I stayed in her room, fuming at my horrible luck and her equally horrible selfishness. I couldn't believe that she would have taken away the best part of my year! It just boiled my blood thinking of that!
A cheap, 8-bit chime rang throughout the room, ruining my rambling rant. I looked at the offender, the pink video game system. I walked over to it, and saw a girl on the screen. The girl had long, pink hair, and was dressed in a schoolgirl's uniform. She was relatively short in comparison to me, though for a girl I suppose she would be an average height. It embarrassed me to say it, but she was really well proportioned. If she were really I would have had no qualms about going out with her.
That was stupid. She is just a picture on a screen, nothing special at all. A brief wave of curiosity washed over me. What is it like to play this game? What is the appeal? I mean, besides the obvious pretty girls… Wait, why does Sakura play this game? I doubt that she was into that sort of thing, but then again I didn't know her that well. And I also doubt that this would be her preferred way of me finding this out.
Or, maybe this was just a well thought out plan. She pressed a button or something and then it went to this screen. It is quite possible that this was a cheat of sorts, and the game she was playing wasn't anything close to what the screen displayed.
There is only one way to find out.
I reached out and grabbed the game; my hand partially covering the girl. The only thing that wasn't covered was her face.
I saw her wink at me.
Then I saw nothingness.
My eyes snapped open. There was no girl. There was no nothingness; as a ceiling definitely counts as something. Said ceiling had the same, or something so similar that I didn't notice pink wall (which is quite likely), paper that my sister had.
I tried to sit up, but found that I couldn't. My entire body was numb; I couldn't even feel the comforter on my skin.
Wait, since when did I put any comforter? My sister would sooner kick me out of a bed than try to make me feel warm in it. My father might, but he was probably looking forward to eating dinner with me after my nap. It clearly wasn't the afternoon I last remembered. Wait, I don't even remember falling asleep at all! All that I could recall was that I touched that game… thingy.
Feeling had finally returned to my body, and it was not exactly a good thing. Whatever I was wearing was very much not my school uniform. It was tight and light and a bit form fitting. There was something tickling the back of my neck, so I stretched my arm so I good brush whatever it was… away…
What the Hell?
I bolted upright. There was a rush of wind going through hair behind me, and the tickling feeling got worse, not better. There was also a, how do I put this, bounce on my chest. Neither of these things got my spirits up.
I got out of bed and ran over to a mirror that I was absolutely sure did not exist before. The room was almost identical to my old one after my sister had 'redecorated' (yes, I had finally mentally given the room to my sister, anything to wake up from this fever dream).
What I saw in the mirror nearly gave me a heart attack. Standing there, in cute, girly pajamas, was a girl. She was shorter than I was, and much curvier. Her long, pink hair went down to her shoulder blades, and it shimmered with an almost ethereal shine. The girl in the mirror had large eyes that were as pink as her hair, and there was something, outside the impossibility of someone having pink eyes, about them that bugged me. It was clearly the girl from the game, but that wasn't the thing that sent shivers up a spine that I was rather unfamiliar with.
The girl… the girl in the mirror… she is me.
And that was when I promptly stopped thinking.