Hello everyone! Finally got to write this chapter.
Words to look out for:
Kanreki: Kanreki is your 60th birthday. It symbolizes a full circle. Every year has its own zodiac sign and element. This means that your sign "returns" every 12th year. Furthermore, there are five elements. On your 60th birthday (12 x 5), you're back to your "original" year.
Raijin: One of the Japanese deities. Raijin is the god of thunder and lightning.
Jane Austen: Famous British author who lived from 1775 - 1817. Some of her most famous works are "Pride and Prejudice", "Sense and Sensibility" and "Emma".
Charlotte Brontë: One of the famous Brontë sisters. They were authors as well. Charlotte Brontë lived from 1816 - 1855. She wrote "Jane Eyre", "Shirley" and "Villette".
Judoka: Someone who trains judo. Female users can refer to themselves (or be referred to) as "judokate".
Flowers and knowledge growing strong!
Sepia brown eyes looked at the shelves. There were numerous soda bottles in front of her. Alcohol was off limits for several reasons. The main one was that she and her friends were too young. Reason number two was what her university lessons had taught her. 'I swear. Those human anatomy lessons have put me off alcohol for life. Or until my kanreki at least' recalled Himiko. She smiled when she saw the diet soda brand Marii and Kininata loved. 'That one is coming with me. At least it's a better option than full sugar soda. I think me and Arkai can go with this one' decided the female. She laid both bottles in her basket.
'Next on my list is chicken meat. I need enough for four portions. Marii and I don't eat that much. I know Arkai loves his chicken. Especially since he's getting into shape for his judo exam' recalled the teenager. Her friend was crunching numbers, training at the gym or resting these days. She had given him a food plan that should help him out. He was elated for the help she gave him. Having a list of what you should eat made things less stressful for him. Furthermore, the girl was already doing something similar herself.
She had gradually cut down on the refined sugar plus the unhealthy fat. Vegetables, fruits plus protein filled the gap. This proved to be a smart decision. Her skin was clearer while her energy levels were more stable. 'Maybe I should take some more nutrition classes in the future. I mean, this is something everyone should learn! Thank Kami my home economics teacher was an qualified chef. He knew his nutrition quite well' recalled the nurse student. In ninth grade, her class was having home economics. The class was split into two groups. Each group was taught nutrition, cooking, cleaning, textile care plus food preparation.
This quickly became one of her favourite lessons. The female already helped out with the cooking sometimes. Learning what a healthy diet consisted of made her more conscious about food. A classmate of hers even lost 6 kilos ((OOC: Roughly 15 Ibs.)) that school year. The guy told he was biking to school instead of taking the bus. Furthermore, the crisps plus the sugary soda was gone. They were replaced with tea and carrots.
'I wonder what happened to him. Especially since he joined the swimming club in our last year' recalled the freshman. She went towards the chicken section. Sepia brown eyes scanned the different options. 'That's interesting. The chopped up meat is more expensive than the fillets. I think I'll go for the fillets. I can cut them up at home. If there is anything left, we can share it' decided the girl. She took the 500 gram packet and went to the cash register.
There were not many people in the queue. Suddenly, her cell phone buzzed. The teenager picked up the phone to see who it was. 'Hello Himiko. Bought the carrots, beets, eggplants and tomatoes. Want me to slice them? I have already washed them. Marii' read the SMS. 'Thank you Marii. Please slice them up and put them in a plastic container. Try to separate them with aluminium foil. Himiko' wrote the girl. She had just sent the message when the person in front of her paid his groceries.
Himiko laid the soda plus the chicken on the counter. "600 yen please" told the clerk. The female laid the gold coin plus the silver one at the counter. "Thank you. Have a nice day" told the freshman. She picked up her groceries and left the supermarket. A fresh breeze made her smile. The black-haired girl was happy that spring was finally here. Sure, her exams were only a couple weeks away. The nature however brightened her mood considerably. A combination of sunlight plus warmer temperatures elevated her mood. Especially when the trees were in bloom.
Another positive was that the girl could put away her winter clothes. Her boots laid far back in her cupboard. The winter coat had been replaced with a lighter khaki jacket. Himiko stopped when she reached the traffic light crossing. A couple of girls in a sailor uniform were chatting next to her. 'I can't believe it's only been a year since I graduated! Feels so much longer' realized the female. This year had been so challenging on many levels. Being responsible for getting up or preparing for lessons were the easy parts. Her parents had apparently done a great job on that part.
It was the social part that were the most challenging for her. The freshman felt intimidated when she sat in the large auditoriums with several unknown people. Especially if Chie sat far away. 'Come to think of it...I have only gotten one new friend this year. Said friend is the best friend of Arkai. I guess I got some room for improvement there. I have become closer to Marii though. Same goes for Arkai. Maybe I should speak with them. Especially since I'll be in a people-oriented profession' decided the girl.
Suddenly, she heard a thunderclap in the distance. Sepia brown eyes widened when they looked up at the skies. They were covered with ominous gray rain clouds. 'Oh shoot. Looks like I need to run for it' thought the nurse student. Her legs started to move faster as she headed for the college. She took deep breaths as her feet hit the grass. The female felt slightly panicked when a couple drops hit her face. 'I JUST HAVE A HUNDRED FEET LEFT! PLEASE DON'T START YET RAIJIN-SAMA!' prayed the teenager. Raijin must have heard her prayer. The rain did not started to fall until she reached the entrance area.
"Phew. I just about made it" muttered the girl. She opened the door as she entered the college building. The warm light plus the faint woody smell made her feel welcome. Especially since a classic song was playing at the radio. The black-haired female gave the clerk a polite nod. He gave her a polite smile in return. The female walked straight to her mail box. A clear 'clack' confirmed that the lock was open. Her mail box was empty except for some adverts. Himiko walked up to her dorm room after she emptied the mail box. She smiled when she saw the kitchen was empty. It was time to cook some of the chicken.
The steel cut through the vegetables with precision. 'That is the last piece. Guess I just have to store them in the box now' decided the female. She laid the sliced up carrots in a small plastic container. Marii laid the plastic boxes in a larger plastic bag. Said bag had her name written on it with bold hiragana. The girl laid the plastic bag in the back of the fridge. 'Better put something in front of it. I can't be too careful' decided the girl. She laid her cucumber and a small bag with tomato in front of it.
Sharing a fridge with other people was nothing new to her. Living in a large family had taught her that labeling food was crucial. Except if it was something that nobody but her would touch. 'That should do the trick. Time to get some studying done. My literature exam is just three weeks away' recalled the teenager. She went back to her dorm room. The whole hallway was quiet despite that it was Friday night. A majority of the residents were preparing or in the midst of their exams. Almost everyone were studying, writing or a blend of both. The female was no exception to that rule. Especially after the horrific outcome of her Christmas exams.
'Calm down Marii. You can do this. English literature pre 1900 is all about the classics. Concentrate on Charles Dickens, the Brontë sisters, Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell. Those are the authors our lecturers have featured. Plus some of the more popular works such as "Dracula" and "Frankenstein". Furthermore, I should take a look at the time period. That ALWAYS influences the literature at that time. At least that was what my lecturer said yesterday' recalled the language student. She opened up the door to her dorm room. The girl turned on her laptop before she found her notebooks. Ice blue eyes scanned her handwriting.
'Hm...this is interesting. Austen is somewhat different from Charlotte Brontë. That's a bit odd given that they're female authors who lived in the same country. I think I need to compare their books. Time to go on the internet' decided the girl. She clicked on her browser while she laid her notebook on her lap. 'We discussed "Pride and Prejudice" just a month ago. The book we read from Charlotte Brontë was "Jane Eyre". Let's see if there is a difference between them' thought the female brunette. She typed in the two titles in her browser. Her brain kicked into high gear as she looked at the information regarding the books. "Pride and Prejudice" was published more than thirty years prior to "Jane Eyre". The female wrote down this information in a document. Next was to investigate the time period they lived in.
'Austen grew up in the regency era. She was more familiar with the family values and traditions of the late 18th century. Brontë however witnessed the immense impact of the industrial revolution. The way she experienced it was very different from Austen. Furthermore, Brontë grew up at the start of the reign of Queen Victoria. Their background was quite different as well. Austen became famous in her lifetime while the Brontë sisters did not. The sisters came from a lower middle class respectable background. Their father worked as a priest. Austen was borne in an upper middle class family. The Brontë sisters therefore needed the money that Austen never did. Hm...this is quite fascinating. I better paste this into the document as well' decided Marii.
Suddenly, her phone started ringing. The number made her smile. "Hello Kininata. How are you?" greeted the girl. "I'm not too bad, thanks for asking. How are you?" replied the male. "I'm checking up on English literature. I bet you're busy looking up on the genetic laws" joked the language student. "I was. Listen, me and Arkai are taking the bus at 1 PM tomorrow. Himiko-san said she would leave a little earlier to secure a spot. Want to meet us at the bus stop?" inquired Kininata. "Sure! I got all the vegetables by the way. I hope you guys got your hands on a grill" told the female. "We did. I even found some plastic cup someone had left for everyone to use. See you tomorrow Marii" said the guy. "See you too. Say hello to Arkai from me!" replied the brunette. "I will. Good bye and stay strong!" answered her friend. He hung up a few moments later.
The girl picked up her cell phone and wrote down the appointment in her calendar. 'There! Can't WAIT to go to the hanami tomorrow. I've been studying pretty much every afternoon for the last three weeks. My eyes are probably going to get shocked tomorrow with all the pink flowers' mused the freshman. Her eyes wandered down to the notebook a few moments later.
'Plastic cups, check. Paper plates, check. Napkins, check. Disposable grill, check. Bricks, check. Decent lighter, check. Makeshift skewers, check. Looks like we're ready to go' concluded the male. He laid everything in a plastic bag while his friend locked the door. "Ready to go Arkai?" asked the male. "Mhm. I can't wait to do some grilling. It's been ages" replied the guy. Kosame did not have many days where you could grill food. On the rare sunny summer day, several suburban streets smelled of grilled food or spices. "I hope Himiko-san found a good spot for us. Especially since the weather today is terrific. Won't be many of those days next week" observed Kininata.
"That's fine with me. I got two exams coming up in three weeks or less" replied Arkai. They walked down the stairs and reached the lobby. The building was more quiet than usual. This was not very odd since it was 12:30 PM on a Friday. Most people were either studying or attending lessons. Both of them squinted a little when they exited the building. Bright sunshine bathed the campus in a warm light. Several of the cherry blossom trees were in full bloom. Furthermore, several of the plants sported green buds. The fresh air made the two students smile. This was a far cry from the muggy spring back in Kosame. Sure, Enrai featured more temperamental weather than Kosame. The crisp coastal air plus milder winters outweighed this however.
"Does your family have any plans for the summer Kininata?" inquired the male as they walked towards the bus stop. "Only two. We're going to visit some extended family near Hitofuki in late June. We're staying with my aunt for a week first. Next is my uncle. He's got a summer house near the coast. We're staying there for ten days. I'm going on a kendo camp in late July as well. What about you?" replied his friend. "We're going to my cousins wedding in mid July first. He's living two east of Hitofuki. It's near the sea, so we decided to stay there for ten days. I am going on a music festival in Rabendā in early August. I'm going with Koji" informed the accountancy student.
"What kind of festival is it? Rabendā has at least three festival from May to August" recalled the biology student. "We're going to the Pink Ladies festival. Gaga Koh is the main attraction. Yuri Ikebana will play there too" told the guy. His friend nodded as they reached the bus stop. Only a pair of business men stood there. Both of them were reading something on their phones.
"Arkai-san! Kininata! I'm so glad to see you!" shouted a female voice. Both of the guys looked up. Marii was approaching them with a large smile. She held a plastic bag in her right hand. Her male friends noticed she wore a bright turquoise summer dress over black leggings. A pair of simple slate gray sneakers were on her feet. Her hair was tied back in a simple ponytail. "Hey there Marii-san! Happy to see you too" greeted the male brunette. "Glad to see you too Marii. It's been a while" replied the male.
"It has. How has your exam preparation been going?" asked the girl. "Three words. A. Numbers. Game" answered the male in a deadpan voice. The language student shivered. "How bad are we talking here?" inquired his female friend. "It feels like I am stuck in a matrix number scene. Even seeing the timetable there makes me nervous" informed Arkai. "I have been studying evolution of life on Earth. Keeping tabs on all the species are daunting. However, they definitely left out some - ahem - missing links" explained the redhead.
His friends could not help but to snort in laughter. "Oh - there's the bus!" exclaimed the female brunette. Her friends looked up as the vehicle drove into the bus stop. They entered the bus before they went to the back of the bus. The bus was nearly empty. "How long does it take to get there?" inquired the younger guy. "It should take us about 15 minutes. Doubt it will take longer. The traffic is nearly non-existent" answered the female. The bus drove towards the center of Enrai. Taller buildings plus more business people started to become more common.
Marii smiled while she looked out of Enrai. It certainly lived up to its name. The city had a certain energy that few others had. Enrai was not a business center such as Kashiwa. Nor was it a shipping capital like Mashimizu. No - Enrai got their income from science. This attracted people from different backgrounds. Enrai university featured several STEM programs as well. 'I wonder if I will stay here after I finish my degree. Enrai is a larger city than Kumono after all. However, it's not too far away from home. Or maybe I should move to a city where I can use my degree. Numbers and formulas are the same no matter the nation after all' recalled the girl.
"Next stop: Raijin bridge" said the driver. His voice snapped her out of her thoughts. Her eyes looked out of the bus. Said bridge was straight ahead of them. The park was at the other side of the bridge. "This is our stop" told the language student. The trio picked up their bags before they left the bus. "You can go ahead Marii. You know the way after all" told Kininata. "Sure" replied his friend. She walked ahead with her friends. "Glad she's wearing that dress. Makes her easier to see" muttered the accountancy student. His friend nodded in agreement. Her bright turquoise dress stood out from the sea of black, gray and navy business suits.
The trio weaved through the crowd while making their way to the park. Suddenly, a familiar tune started to ring. "Is it you?" inquired the shorter male. His friend shook his head. Almost on cue, the female picked up her phone. "Hello Himiko. Hm? You did? That's great! We're nearly at the other side of Raijin bridge now. We should be there in five. See you then! Bye bye" said the teenager. She stopped up for a few moments so her friends could catch up.
"Himiko just called. She got a spot near the river bank. It's on the south side of the Raijin bridge. It's close to a modern art sculpture that looks like a sphere" informed the girl. "Brilliant! I bet those spots will be hard to get later on" replied the male brunette. "We need to go down those stairs. Then, we just have to keep walking straight" told his female friend. The two guys nodded as they followed her.
'Any moment now' thought the girl as she glanced down at her wristwatch. She was sitting on a large blanket that Chie had borrowed her. The riverbank area was not that crowded right now. After all, it was only 1:15 PM. Most people were still at work or in school. 'I suppose this is a great advantage of being a college or university student. We got the freedom to do things like this while people are at work. Better enjoy it to the fullest. I doubt I can go to hanamis at 1 PM as a nurse' thought Himiko. She put on her sunglasses before she stood upright.
Her sepia brown eyes checked her surroundings. A group of old women sat on her left side. On her right sat a trio of mothers with their babies. The sight made her smile. Especially since the babies were adorable. "Himiko! Over here!" shouted a baritone voice. A smile formed at her face when she saw Arkai wave his hands. Kininata gave her a smile as they came closer. Marii was a few steps behind. Her height plus her brown hair made her blend in more.
"Hello. I am so glad all of us were able to meet. Especially since we got nice weather for once" greeted the female. "I second that. Especially since I looked at the weather forecast for Kosame. It's been raining for three days straight, and it won't stop until tomorrow. I am glad I'm here" informed the younger male. "Sorry to hear that Kininata-san. Let's sit down. Should we start on the food straight away?" inquired the nurse student.
"I want to wait a little bit. All that walking made me thirsty" admitted her female friend. "Same" told the taller guy. "Great! I got your-". "IIIAAAAAAH!" screamed a voice. The quartet jumped as the loud scream cut through the silence. They immediately turned towards the location of the sound. It turned out that one of the babies had fallen face first into the grass. His small face was bright red. "Don't worry Sadao-kun. Mommy is here" assured one of the women. She sported a long bob that matched her pallid skin. The quartet noticed that her hair was cherry blossom pink. Her midnight blue eyes were slightly wide with worry.
"Poor kid. That must have hurt" sighed the older female. Her brown eyes brimmed with sympathy. Being a nurse on the sensitive side brought out that in her. She glanced over at her female friend. She had a similar expression on her face. Fortunately, the baby stopped crying a few minutes later. They turned their attention back tot he food. "Thanks for buying my and Kininata's favorite soda Himiko! I really appreciate that" told the teenager. Her statement made the 19-year old smile. "You're welcome Marii. I have a bottle for the two of us as well" assured Himiko while looking at the accountancy student. He gave her a huge grin in return. "Thanks a bunch Himiko. Should we start firing up the disposable barbecue?" inquired the guy.
"Yeah, I think we should do that. Do you know how to do it? Because I don't" admitted Marii. "Don't worry Marii. I've done it several times" assured the younger guy. He started to read the instructions while his friend picked up the lighter. "Should I light this one?" asked the male. He held the lighter over the barbecue's core. His friend looked at him with bugged out eyes. "ARE YOU CRAZY MAN!? YOU DON'T IGNITE THE CENTER FIRST! YOU HAVE TO IGNITE A CORNER!" screamed the redhead. His reaction made his friends stare. It was the first time in months they heard him scream like that.
The male took a deep breath. "Sorry about that. It's just old habits from the lab. Let's just say that open fire there can cause some - ahem - issues if handled incorrectly. Could you please put the grill on the bricks we brought with us? Make sure it's even. Next, ignite the upper left corner please" instructed the teenager. "Sure" replied his friend in a somewhat timid voice. He laid the bricks down on the ground in front of him. The male brunette ignited the upper left corner afterwards.
"We need the lighting paper to fully burn away before we can start. The coal should be grey with ash. Maybe we can start on the skewers?" suggested the guy. "I think so too. What kind of vegetables do you have Marii-san?" asked the older male. "I have sliced up carrots, beets, eggplants and tomatoes. Pretty sure they should go well with what Himiko bought" replied the female. She removed the plastic boxes from her bag. The guys handed out the skewers before they put on their vegetables.
"Let's see...the carrots are a bit too hard to put on the skewers. I like my creation however" stated the language student. Eggplants, tomatoes plus chicken pieces was drilled onto her skewer. "No beets Marii-san?" inquired Arkai with a wry smile. He had put two pieces of beets on the top followed by two chicken pieces. A pair of eggplants were at the bottom. "Uhm...I am a bit unsure. Perhaps I should taste a raw one first. Do you mind if I take a piece guys?" asked the girl. Her friends shook their heads.
She picked up a piece and ate it. "Hm. Not too bad. I think I'll try one for my next skewer" told the female brunette. "Good girl! You're pushing yourself out of the comfort zone. Which is good according to my sensei. Then again, being a judokate is unusual in itself" replied the guy. "You're nervous about your exam Arkai?" asked the older girl. "Mhm. I am a little nervous. The level here is higher than in Kosame. However, our sensei is quite experienced. She would not let me take the exam if I wasn't ready" told the accountancy student. "What belt colour are you taking again?" inquired the younger male. "Blue. Second last one before black" informed his friend.
"That's impressive. How long do you need to train to get that far?" inquired the nurse student. Her friend knitted his brows a little. "Hm...it usually takes two years for an adult. Takes longer if you're a child or a young teenager. I started training when I was 12. We went through the belt colours a bit slower. I did not train between 10th grade and my junior year in high school either. Wanted to focus on my education. Furthermore, the sensei at that time had room for improvement. Many people quit because of that" replied the accountancy student. "That's a shame. Is the dojo here any better?" asked the female. "It is. My sensei here has more experience. She's a third dan while my Kosame sensei was a second dan. Dan grades are used for black belts. They are graded from first to tenth dan, tenth being the highest" explained the male brunette.
The black-haired girl nodded as she put the vegetables on her skewer. "I think the barbecue is ready. The ashes are grey" informed her female friend. Her friend group glanced at the barbecue. All of the ashes were bright grey now. "Great! I'm starving" stated the biology student. They laid their skewers on the barbecue. It did not take long until the smell of grilled vegetables and chicken tickled their noses. The boys took the paper plates plus the napkins out of the bag. "Sorry for the mismatching sets. Our roommates were kind enough to donate these to us. However, they were from two separate parties" informed the younger guy.
"No, I think it's cool. Really like the colours on this one" stated the female brunette. She looked at a napkin that was deep purple with white polka dots. "Are these plates made of recycled paper?" asked the older female. "They are. Hence the greyish brown colour" replied the redhead with a smile. The quartet removed the skewers from the grill a few minutes later. "Yum! This is DELICIOUS! I swear, this beats my meager cooking any day" exclaimed the kendo student. "Same" agreed the younger female. Her ice blue eyes shone like crystals in the sunlight.
"Maybe we should make this an annual tradition? I don't know about you, but this gives me energy to continue my exam preparations" informed Himiko. Her female friend smiled when she heard that. Seeing her shy friend enjoying herself at a social event was a great step forward. Especially since only one of the group members was a close friend. The quartet was about to start on their second skewer when a small breeze blew through the park. Numerous flower petals danced through the air. 'How beautiful' thought the two males. It was not often you saw something like this in Kosame. Some of the petals blew in their direction. "Ergh, I think I got some stuck in my face" complained the judoka. His male friend snorted in laughter. The taller guy had small petals all over his navy blue T-shirt. To add insult to injury, the kanji for "courage" was printed on the T-shirt. "Hey, you shouldn't be the one laughing. You got petals stuck to your hair" informed the teenager.
"I do? Is he making this up Marii?" inquired Kininata. Her barely contained laughter paired with the huge smile gave away the answer. "Great. Can any of you two please remove it?" sighed the guy. "Let me do it" replied Marii. She sat down in front of her friend before she started to remove the petals. The girl started to remove the petals from his cardinal red hair. 'Huh. He smells a bit like my dad. Maybe they use the same cologne' noticed the teenager. "There we go! All gone" stated the female with a smile.
"Thanks Marii" told her friend with a smile. "So...should we toast for good exam results?" suggested the biology student. "Definitely" agreed the language student. "Cheers!" shouted the quartet before raising their glasses. They chugged down some soda after clinking them together. All of them smiled. This afternoon was a welcome break from all the studying.