As I said in the last post of the previous version of this story ( s/3189505/1/An-Unlikely-Magical-Girl-and-an-Unlikely-World-War) I had done too many mistakes, plot-wise and technically, that if I ever tried to edit things away, this story will collapse. Also, I had felt, and been informed, that too many technical aspects of the story had turned off readers just from the first chapter alone.
So, without further ado...wait.
I should show what the different font types in this story stand for:
Normal font is Japanese being spoken by the characters, whether in narration or "in dialogue"
Italic is English being spoken by the characters
'Italic between apostrophes' are thoughts.
Bold is for words that had emphasis.
"Ang mga salitang" inside the apostrophe's that are in different languages are meant to be read as they are, since well...they are different languages
Now that's over with...without further ado here it is.
May 3, 2013
My four year old daughter tugged at my skirt as I was picking up the change from the counter.
"What is it Ao?"
"Mama, I want a YanYan."
She quickly pointed at the candy rack beside the convenience store's cash register.
"Ao, it's dinner time," I said while putting the change inside my beloved wallet. "There's food at home. Why do you still want a snack?"
Ao beamed a cute smile at me.
"It's for dessert."
I mentally shivered at the thought of biscuits for dessert. In my opinion the only proper desserts after dinner were ice cream, halo-halo or cold purin of either Japanese or Filipino style.
"You don't like Yan Yan, Mama?"
"I never liked biscuits," I said while picking up the two bags of groceries from the counter. After I did so, I faced Ao.
She nodded glumly and followed me towards the door of the FamilyMart. Halfway there, I caught my reflection on the convex mirror above the door.
I looked sloppy and unmotherly because of my rumpled blue t-shirt and the visible grains of cooked rice sticking to the end of my jeans. Thankfully there weren't any problems with my physical features; my shoulder length hair wasn't frazzled by the day's activities, I had washed my face before going out to buy groceries and my naturally light brown skin looked nice whether dry or not.
"Ao, stay here for a little bit. I'm just going to fix my clothes."
As I quickly fixed my shirt using the mirror, I saw the clerk shaking her head, and a pair of mothers who were directly behind me whispered to each other while giving off scandalized looks at me.
I sighed in exasperation, especially since it had already been three years since I was outed as a teenage mother in the neighborhood.
'I wonder what it would take to make these people move past condemnation and start looking at me as a mother?'
After I fixed the shirt and brushed the grains of rice away, I turned around and stared back at the two gossips. The women quickly acted innocent and started putting their groceries on the cashier's counter.
"Mama?" my daughter asked as I huffed and picked up the groceries.
"Let's go Ao," I said while a smile. I didn't bother answering her implied question seeing as its too early to let my daughter discover people like those gossips exist.
We walked out of the FamilyMart store and onto the streetlamp lit sidewalks of Matsumoto.
May 3, 2013
"Ichigo, you should be studying now," Mom said as I laid out the plates on the table.
"I'll do that later on with Kurumi," I said while putting down the last plate on the table.
I smiled to myself at seeing my handiwork; five sets of plates for the main dish, bowls for rice, bowls for miso soup, and chopsticks. All that remained to set the table was to put the food on their respective places.
Before I was able to move towards the rice cooker, Mom intervened.
"Really Ichigo, let me finish this. Go back to your room and start studying. I'll call you when Ao and the brat gets here."
I mentally sighed at Mom's continued refusal to call Kurumi by her name. On one hand, Ao was now almost five years old. She already understood enough words to know what Mom was calling my wife. On the other hand 'brat' was infinitely better than the early days, when Mom was calling her 'whore'.
'I should do something about that as soon as possible .Gotta tell Dad before I do that though.'
"Very well Mom. I'll go prepare our study materials upstairs."
After Mom waved me away with a smile, I walked out of the kitchen dining room, and into the hallway that connects the entrance, the stairs, the converted living room, and the bathroom.
May 3, 2013
As we walked home, Ao asked a question.
"Mama, why are those old women looking at us like that?"
"Old women? What old women?"
If I recalled the scene earlier correctly, no one in that line was old enough to count as a senior citizen. At most, some might be forty years old, which still didn't count as a senior citizen.
"You know, the woman who you gave money to, and the two women who were whispering to each other while looking at us."
I stared at my daughter and giggled at the hilarity of hearing my daughter call the cashier and those two gossips 'old,' when they were only a few years older than me. And then the ramifications hit me.
If Ao thought people the age of Ichigo's parents and my parents were old, then logically she would think that people become parents at my age. Which would be a very, very bad thing.
'...is it time to tell her about our circumstances?'
I shook those thoughts out of my head and answered.
"Ao, forget about those 'old women.' They're just people with too much time on their hands."
"But you feel angry when they look at you like that, Mama."
"I'm not angry."
"Mama, you're lying. I can feel you being angry at them when you looked back at the two whispering old women."
I was puzzled by Ao's statement. After all, I wasn't angry at the time I looked back.
'...or was I?'
I quickly changed the topic.
"Ao, tell me, what would you do if those 'old women' look badly at us again?"
"I would run up to them and them to stop picking a fight with you, Mama."
I felt a fuzzy feeling at the sight of Ao getting ready to protect me from the world...just like her father always did for me since we started going out. Unfortunately, I had to nip this in the bud.
"Don't do that Ao."
"Why Mama?" Ao asked as we sidestepped an old man walking his black haired dog.
"Because that would just create more trouble where there is none. See...those 'old women' probably had been taught to be like that to people who didn't conform to society's rules, like me."
I gave her a sad smile, when I saw her looking at me in puzzlement.
I smiled at my forgetfulness. Ao might be a smart child, but she was still four years old. There were still many words that she wouldn't understand.
"A society is a group of people with a set of rules that they all follow. Still with me Ao?"
"Now, I did something outrageous by society's standards. Because of that, many people...would not be nice to me."
"That's mean. What does outrageous mean, mama? And what did you do?"
At hearing her ask about what I did that was so outrageous, I instantly decided to change the topic so she would get distracted away from her question.
"Outrageous is something so bad that people become angry upon learning what that was."
I hoped that Ao would forget the question that I didn't want to answer anytime soon, however it was to no avail.
"Mama, you didn't answer everything. What did you do that is outrageous?"
'Was I like this as a child? If so, I hate you karma. I hate you, hate you, hate you.'
"Ao, not now. Maybe when you grow up, ok?"
Ao pouted, and stopped walking.
I quickly looked around us for anyone who could see this tantrum.
After seeing that the nearest people around were the drivers of the occasional car, and the old man we passed by earlier, I looked down at my daughter.
"Ao, is this something that you really need to know now?"
"Because you always feel angry when people look at you like those two old women did earlier. I'm just...worried for you, Mama."
I softly sighed and hugged my adorable daughter.
"Ao, the answer isn't something you will ever like. Trust me."
"I, Ikeda Kurumi, your Mama, do swear that the reason why other people aren't nice to me is something that would make you sad."
"But if that is so, shouldn't you say sorry so those people would stop being not nice to you?"
I winced, since that hit a very sore spot with me.
"I wish some things happened differently, but no. I'm not going to apologize."
'I'm not apologizing for giving birth or for taking care of you. Never. I'm your mother, and mothers take care of their children.'
Ao looked up at me in confusion.
"So, you aren't sorry for the reason some people are not nice to you?"
I let go of Ao and started walking again, while she skipped at my right side.
"...most of the time."
There were moments in the past when I regretted becoming pregnant. Like when the ostracism at school became too much for me. Or when I had a very bad fight with my Monster in law...I mean Mother in those were moments of weakness on my part.
There was one piece of advice that got me through all those times, alongside my daughter and my fiance's love. They were Mama's words when I left home to live with Ichigo and the Ohta family. She said "Firmly hold onto yourself, and stay resolute. The path you are walking is a righteous one."
From that point on I decided that I will be the mother of my child...no matter what others say.
We walked home in silence.
May 3, 2013
After I finished putting all our notebooks, books, and writing materials on my desk, placing our school bags to one side of the desk, and arranging the seats for me and Kurumi, I was left with nothing else to do but wait for Kurumi and Ao to come home from the FamilyMart down the street.
However, I was bored. I couldn't muster the energy to study when my wife wasn't here. So instead of spending the time just staring out the window, I occupied myself with looking around our room.
At one side of the room were two cabinets, filled with all of our clothes. One cabinet, bought and given to us by Kurumi's Dad for her and Ao's use, was a beautifully decorated, pink wooden cabinet that came complete with a full body mirror, clothes racks, and drawers and some hangers inside it.
The other was made by Dad and me on one fine Sunday using plywood, nails, sandpaper, door hinges, screws and a cabin hook that he bought from a local hardware, and a hammer and screwdriver that he borrowed from Camp Matsumoto.
The futons were beside the cabinets, all rolled up and ready for use when it's time to sleep.
Behind me was our desk and the windows and curtains, while the wall directly opposite me was where the door and the switch for the lights in the room were placed.
The last side of the room was a gallery of pictures, either put inside hanging picture frames by Mom or wrapped in plastic and attached to the wall with thumbtacks by Kurumi.
The pictures were about pretty much all the most important events of my life up to this day.
There was my first picture, where I was swaddled in a blanket and cradled in Mom's arms a few hours after birth. There's when Mom started teaching me how to read and write, at age three. The first time I went to school at age six. My tenth birthday. My first picture with Kurumi. Our first date. First kiss. An innocuous selfie of us on the day we made Ao. The day Kurumi started living in with us. Our first picture as a family, my first picture with my daughter, and so on and so forth...
...I wasn't bored anymore, not after seeing my life in pictures.
I stood up from my chair and started stretching.
If I couldn't study without Kurumi, then I'm going to exercise. I couldn't let my body get out of shape if I am to join the Self-defence forces, just like Dad.
May 3, 2013
We were now almost back home, which was on the other side of the three way junction directly in front of us.
As I waited for the pedestrian lights to change, Ao started waving in the direction of Camp Matsumoto, on the other side of the street to my left. I quickly took a look.
The guard on duty was hesitantly waving back at Ao. Moments later he then stood back to attention. I didn't know why, but I felt worried all of a sudden.
"Who are you waving to, Ao?"
"I'm waving to Mr. Moriya, Mama. He is Aya's father. Do you remember when I told you about Aya?"
Ever since she had been able to walk, we always took Ao on bi-weekly outdoor excursions, since it's sad if she's always at home. During last week's excursion, where she was accompanied by Mother, Ao made friends with a girl one year younger than her at the public park north of here. She then told us all about Aya at dinner…with no mention whatsoever of Aya's papa being a soldier.
"How did you know Mr. Moriya was a soldier?"
"Because Aya's Mama showed me and Grandma a picture of their family from her wallet."
At this point I had a suspicion as to what this was all about.
"Why did she do that?"
"Because she recognized us when she saw us. She said 'Oh. Aren't you Sergeant First Class Ohta's wife and granddaughter?' And then she started talking to Grandma while Aya and I play near her."
"…and I guess Mother told you to keep quiet about that from us, right?"
My suspicion was confirmed when Ao nodded. Basically, Mrs. Moriya was trying to gain favor with Father on behalf of her husband, by going through her daughter and my daughter.
I felt that it was a sad attempt, and wasn't well thought out in the first place. Had she checked if Father was her husband's commanding officer? Or if he's the type of person who goes along with being buttered up? Did she check to see how Father was thought of by his fellow ranked officers? Or by his superiors?
I also had a feeling that her husband had no knowledge of what she's doing, if that hesitant attempt at a wave was any indication…and that made me doubt the sincerity of Aya's friendship with Ao.
'Damn it Mother, why didn't you finish things there and then?'
Whatever she was thinking, I'm stopping this as soon as possible. I will not allow anyone to use my daughter for anything nefarious.
I kneeled down and made Ao turn towards me.
"Ao, Mr. Moriya's on duty. Don't distract him anymore from now on or Father would have to scold Mr. Moriya."
"Because Mr. Moriya is supposed to be guarding the gate. And if he is to do that properly, he wasn't supposed to be distracted by anyone. Now do you understand?"
I sighed in relief once she nodded.
Now that Ao won't bother Mr Moriya, my next step was to meet Mrs. Moriya herself and ask her a few pointed questions.
May 3, 2013
I had been doing the bent leg raise exercise for thirty seconds when the air suddenly felt unnaturally cold. I quickly took a look at the windows. After seeing that they're shut close, I sat up from the floor and looked around.
The door was closed. And Dad and me fixed the roof above last year.
The curtains suddenly shut close, the lights turned off, and the door locked on its own.
In the unnaturally silent darkness, I got on the balls of my feet and into an unarmed stance, ready to fight inside our bedroom.
May 3, 2013
Moments after the pedestrian lights turned green, we finally got home.
Our home was two story building with unpainted wooden walls, a typical Japanese roof made of ceramic tiles, a very little garden that separates the house from the sidewalk in front of it and a little fence made of finger width sticks and heavy duty rope Father got from somewhere.
As I was about to turn the doorknob, something soft and sticky and wet hit the back of my head.
'I didn't just get bird droppings on my hair, right?'
"Mama, is that jelly on your hair?"
I quickly wiped my hair with my left hand. As soon as I brought it to my face, I sniffed at it.
As Ao said, it was Konyaku. I stepped back, leaving the shopping bags at the door, and looked at the sky, wondering if someone dropped konyaku from a passing airplane.
The streetlights around our home suddenly flickered.
"Mama, what is that?" Ao nervously said while hugging my right side.
"It's probably a power fluctuation."
Across the street, I saw Moriya walking out of the guardhouse with a flashlight in hand.
The lights flickered again, the headlights of a passing car the only source of light for a second.
"Mama, I think someone is watching us."
I looked everywhere for this person who Ao thought was watching us.
The lights flickered once again, and I finally saw something that made me shiver.
It was a furry grey rat as big as my foot, with a blue ribbon tied around its neck. It was standing up on its hind legs, looking at us with intelligence that does not belong to an animal.
"Ohh. It's a cute, scary feeling mouse."
I stared down at my daughter.
Ao noticed me after a few more moments of weird baby talking.
"What's wrong – "
The flickering streetlights interrupted her.
When the lights came on again, I saw the rat looking at us while standing on a…
'Faded pink cotton wallet... nylon zipper whose paint has peeled off long ago...Hello Kitty keychain…isn't that my wallet?'
"Is that your wallet Mama?" Ao herself asked.
I quickly patted down my left pocket, to feel nothing inside it. I then looked down and pulled the pocket inside out.
Upon seeing that there was no wallet inside my pocket, I looked back at the rat while wondering how the wallet fell out. I quickly saw that it had in its teeth and paws a ten thousand yen note. And it looked like it will tear the money apart.
"No! Bad mousey! No biting Mama's money. Put it down, put it down now."
Ao walked nearer to the damn rat, lecturing it like it is a trained animal.
The rat suddenly tore the note apart.
"The money," I mumbled in shock.
Father's salary as a Sergeant First Class was enough for three people, not for five. So ever since I moved in with Ichigo I had been using the money in my savings account to supplement his income.
"Don't you break the money card!" Ao suddenly shouted.
This time the rat held my JP Bank ATM card in its jaws.
"Oh no you don't!" I yelled.
I took a step forward and leapt, hands outstretched to catch the fucking rat.
Time slowed down enough for me to notice a bone-chilling detail.
The rat was looking at me with incredulity. Then it quickly jumped between my closing hands.
'WaitwhydidIju – '
I belly flopped on the sidewalk hard enough that I spent a few moments trying to get air back into my lungs. Once the pain was gone I looked at my hands.
I had both the wallet and the torn paper bill in my hands. All that was left was to retrieve the ATM card.
"Give the card back!"
I looked at where Ao's –
No, that sudden cut-off was intentional.
I truly, deeply thank everyone who had a hand in the reviews of this story, from Stardestroyer and Spacebattles to Xnxx and Fictionpress.