While sitting in the overcrowded train for about ten minutes, filled with tired businessmen, sweaty students and gossiping housewives, I peered out the window and caught a glimpse of what Tokyo looked like as we got closer to my destination.
Compared to where I live now and my old hometown, Tokyo was a huge step up in my opinion in terms of infrastructure and places to visit.
The buildings were almost as tall as mountains as they pierced the clouds above, since it was close to evening time, there were a lot of neon signs glowing with Japanese text either saying "We're open" or "Business hours", all highlighted by bright kanji in all different colors; prominently red or black and there was a lot of people walking everywhere so I couldn't make out what the streets or roads looked like half the time.
What surprised me even more, was that there were some cars zooming by, despite the fact that most of the roads were blocked off or full of people walking on the pavement. You rarely see anyone using a vehicle in my new town, let alone a car to get anywhere, because since it was such a close knit community, you could literally walk to your school, work or to a convenience store close by.
"Wow, this is pretty cool," I thought in amazement of the new sights, "I wonder if I'll have time to explore the streets later?"
Hopefully mom won't notice me gone for a few hours since she'll probably be out searching for a job still or drinking at the nearby bar drowning her sorrows in spirits and nattering her jobless frustrations to the bartender.
"Now arriving at Chiyoda station," announced a lady's voice over the intercom system.
"Here goes nothing," I thought nervously, psyching myself up.
I exited the train, gasping for fresh air from all the perspiration and odor clogging my nostrils, put a kick in my step and walked to the station. Just leaving the station alone was enough to make me agoraphobic, people kept bumping into each other at the speed of light, more businessmen walked sulkily to their nightly desk jobs or to go home and escape their miserable schedule, women conversed with their friends about something their neighbor did last night with another man's wife and there were no children to be spotted anywhere in the crowd, maybe they got eaten in this sea of people, who knows.
I made my way out the station as I was blinded by bright lights coming from glowing neon signs and incandescent street lights, people were walking to and fro from work trying to escape the pressure of their menial day jobs, some restaurants had people eating their bowls of ramen noodles outside or standing up as the steam exited the restaurant's interior, people in popular anime mascot costumes stood outside waving as they tried getting people's attention in the hopes of taking the sweltering death traps they call costumes off, and oddly enough some cars had anime girls plastered onto the sides of their door frames, with the most notable being that of Hatsuki Mine, the most iconic Vocaloid character in the entire country.
The alluring cityscape was so overwhelming, that I could get lost in it's bustling excitement for weeks on end. However that's not my priority at the moment.
"Maybe next time, I have a date with destiny," I thought, cringing at the same time when thinking of that line.
As I followed the directions listed on my phone, provided by the receptionist who answered my call, I have to cross the street, take a few turns and I will be there in no time flat. Hopefully she doesn't send me on a wild goose chase and the directions don't actually take me to some weird erotica club, but then again that would be a funny story to explain to mom.
I gazed at my watch to see the time was 3:45 PM. I began worrying slightly at that moment, because my appointment was booked for 4:30 and it took me months to get it, not to mention the amount of badgering I had to do via e-mail just to get their attention, ugh.. never again.
I pushed through some more crowds of people, and as I was about to make the final left corner turn, I was obstructed by a construction roadblock that was repairing a portion of the road due to a car accident involving a speeding red car and a truck full of steel pipes.
"Are you fucking kidding me!?" I mumbled, stamping my feet at the ground angrily, "Just my luck, this is the safest route to take and some jackass decides that speeding to work is the best solution!?"
In a fit of desperation, I was mentally debating whether this was a sign from God telling me to succumb to a normal high school life or just him trolling me. Oh well, time to improvise!
I then notice an alley close by that seemed to have a similar route to my destination and decided to see if there was a shortcut available, so that I could trim some time off my journey and maybe get there earlier than expected.
Kanari you idiot, you're just asking to get accosted by some stranger who has the creeps for young girls, what are you a shojo heroine!? Glancing at my watch again, it was cutting too close to 4 PM and I couldn't afford any more inconveniences, so I took a leap of faith and walked through the slightly dark alleyway, not regretting any of my life choices thus far.
In hindsight, this wasn't the smartest move on my part, because as I skimmed through the grungy alley praying for a shortcut to appear, I was greeted by a heaping dose of reality that was a dead end and a grey brick wall.
"Oh screw you universe, I should have known this was a terrible plan from the get go, I should have trusted my gut," I said pounding my fist against the bricks.
"Oh well time, to turn back and try again."
I turned my back only to be greeted by three sleazy looking gentleman, appearing out of nowhere like specters, with their hands in their pockets and their faces displaying the slimiest expressions I've ever seen in my entire life.
"Oh, what have we here?" said the slightly lanky man on the left wearing a ripped green vest, ripped jeans and slippers.
"A mouse that willingly wanders into the trap, who'd have thunk it," said the pale looking man on the right wearing no shirt, short baggy camo pants and white sneakers.
"And a pretty cute one to boot," said the well dressed man in the middle wearing an unbuttoned purple dress shirt, dark black pants, pointed black dress shoes with a cigarette in his mouth, "Hey, this ain't no place for a little girl like you."
I was slightly intimidated by their appearances, but was not deterred as I tried to negotiate with them on letting me leave unscathed. Highly unlikely they would, but it's worth a shot at this point.
"I'm well aware of that, sir, I just made the wrong turn and would like to leave and get out of your way ASAP, if you'll excuse me."
"Ooh, this one is sassy but polite, sounds like a keeper," the lanky man said with a sickening grin on his face.
"Yeah and she's got a smoking hot bod too," the shirtless man said licking his lips with slobber oozing out of the corners of his mouth.
"Calm down guys, this one's mine," said the well dressed man halting his minions as he approached me slowly, puffing on his cigarette like he's some yakuza scum.
The smoke fumed intensely as it blew into my face, making me cough abundantly and irritating my senses to no end. Why at a time like this! Does the universe hate me or something!? What is this a romance manga gone wrong!?
"Excuse me gentlemen, I have somewhere to be, I don't have time for your games."
I tried to slink around him but he kept blocking my path as he chuckled loudly and I started sweating a bit.
"You're funny, girlie," he remarked, "How'd you like a job in...modelling?"
His sketchy request didn't make me think twice about it, as I shook my head and found a little opening when he was caught off guard by my refusal.
"As much as I appreciate your offer, sir, I'm not the vain or gullible type who'd buy into something as suspicious as that offer."
I leave him hanging as I tried to make my way out of the alley, but not before his minions stepped in front of me, grabbed me by my arms with their sweaty, meaty palms and giggled like the perverted freaks they were all along.
"What are you doing! Get off me!" I yell angrily, trying to shake them off as my bag falls out of my grasp and onto the dirty ground.
"Oh, that was not a request, it's a demand," he said approaching me closer and puffing more smoke in my face to annoy me further.
"You see, I'm looking for girls like you," he said smugly, "The nerdy bookworm type of girl with a bit of sass in her step."
I was disgusted by his sleazy methods as I continued to struggle for my life, but his minions had iron grips and didn't let go for one second.
"I love girls who can read," said the shirtless man slushing his tongue around in his mouth, "Read me a story later, will you sweetheart?"
"Yeah!" said the lanky man in a suggestive tone, "I have the perfect book for you!"
As the men laughed their asses off, the well dressed smoker walked ahead of us, as the two minions dragged me over to where he was headed, as he opened up a metallic door that was dark with zero light in the hallway and in the distance I could hear a female screaming her lungs out in horror, as the sound fades bit by bit with each whimper.
"Don't worry your pretty little head, we'll take good care of you."
My life flashed before my eyes faster than lightning, is this it...my dreams of becoming a professional mangaka...down the drain...am I going to be a slave... or worse...die?
I closed my eyes, wincing in fear as the two men continued to push me closer to my demise, as the smoker grinned devilishly as if he got someone to sign a blood contract in exchange for their life.
"There you are!" yelled an unfamiliar deep male voice, "Where have you been!?"
The two goons stopped dragging me along as they were caught off guard by the male's voice and the smoker grunted and clicked his tongue in disappointment.
"You had me worried sick," the voice continued, "Next time, let's window shop together to avoid anymore trouble."
I caught a glimpse of the voice's owner, despite how scared I was, I was more piqued by the person who called out to me, a boy dressed in dark clothing and wearing a concerned, cold expression on his face.
He was tall at about 6 ft. or maybe taller, his jet black hair was slicked back by grease with some strands sitting on his forehead, his eyes were bright red which gave him a demonic look to his already cold glare, his white skin was not tan but it wasn't pale either, he had generally attractive facial features, an average looking build and a five o' clock shadow.
He wore a grey long sleeved shirt that was adorned with a white skull and crossbones logo on the front, a black leather zip up jacket was worn over it, he wore dark blue jeans, red and black high tops, there was a pair of dark shades hanging on his shirt collar and he had a chain wallet in his right pocket.
"Hey beat it, buddy!" the smoker said, "I'm just going to ask this girl a few questions, I promise it won't take too long."
"Yeah," his minions said in unison before he glared at them to shut their mouths and to obey.
"What took you so long!" I told the darkly clothed boy, trying to play along with the charade, "I thought boys were fast pissers, next time you make me wait, I'm leaving you with the bill."
My acting wasn't the best but it's the only way to convince these creeps to lay off me and to crawl back to whatever hole they came out of, hopefully they buy it.
"My bad," he says in a monotone voice, "Let's go, your parents are going to have my head if you're not home by curfew."
The boy fiercely grabbed me by my arms, as the goons loosened their hold and stood back, dumbfounded by his valiance and courage.
"Tch! What a buzzkill," he said taking his cigarette and stomping it on the ground, "Come on boys, this one is no fun."
The smoker and his minions disappeared further into the darkness of the alleyway, as the tall dark haired boy dragged me out of the tiny corridor and back into the bright and vivacious city life of Tokyo. The blinding lights were even more intense than before, my clothes were ruffled slightly and my glasses were crooked from the scuffle that ensued and I was glad to still be in one piece.
"Oh thank the lord!" I screamed almost kissing the ground, before realizing that people walk on it with their dirty shoes.
But my ecstatic state wore thin soon after realizing my person felt lighter than usual and I started to get frazzled.
"Where's my bag!" I frantically shouted taking a quick glance at the dark alley, realizing that I had lost it due to those three thugs' scandalous antics.
"Looking for this," the boy said swinging my bag around containing my one shot and drawings.
"AH!" I gasped as I grabbed it from him enthusiastically and hugged it like my pillow at night when I'm sleeping.
"Thank you so much! Are you an angel sent from above?!"
My lame attempt at a compliment didn't seem to amuse him judging from his cold demeanor and ever present deathly stare, but I caught a smidgen of a smile from his face before it quickly turned to a frown with a snap of your fingers.
The awkwardness was amplified even more by the people passing by, as they stared at these two teenagers having some sort of lover's spat or something. Dude, say something, at least try and act like everything that happened in the last five minutes wasn't all an illusion.
Annoyed even further by my savior's lifeless behavior, I gazed at my watch to see that it was...4:15!
"Oh shit! I'm going to be late!" I anxiously remarked as I looked in the distance and see that I'm further from my location than originally intended, "What crap luck I have today, did I piss off a gypsy or something!?"
Before I could do a 100 meter sprint to the office, I was stopped by a familiar arm grab, as the darkly dressed boy pulled me along and escorted me somewhere close to the pavement.
"Umm... I'm headed in the opposite direction," I say trying to wane his advance, "I'm fine on my own."
He turned around, gave me another cold, red eyed glare as he continued to drag me to where he was headed and stopped before showing me what he meant.
He pointed to a black motorcycle that sported a silver purring engine and had two helmets conveniently available; one in red and the other black.
"Oh! You want to offer me a ride to my appointment?"
He nodded with not much inflection in his facial features and sat on his motorcycle putting on his helmet like it was any other day.
"I'd hate to impose on you after all that you have done for me," I say trying to be modest, "I can wa-AAHH!"
Before I could finish my sentence, the boy pulled me by the arm, sat me down on the back of his seat and strapped the helmet on my head like a father putting a bicycle helmet on his son's head.
"Isn't it illegal for two people to be on a two wheeled vehicle like this?"
The boy shook his head, not worrying about driver safety as if he was a stunt double in an action movie who was impervious to fear.
"Hold on tight," he said nonchalantly, ignoring the fact that a girl was next to him as he started revving up his hog, totally unfazed about potentially breaking the law.
I secured my bag, made sure my notes were in order and patted the boy on the back to let him know I was ready to depart.
As we rode off to Jueisha, I hugged the boy's leather jacket which meant I was hugging him as well, which made the ride even more uncomfortable than it already was.
However what shocked me was the fact that he actually had more muscle to his frame than my first initial glance suggested at the beginning of our encounter. He was very warm to touch like a teddy bear with a bad attitude who loved black attire, it's not something you'd get to brag that often to your friends without them laughing at you in disbelief.
Luckily I have no friends here, so it's sad win-win for me.
As we stopped at a red light, I took more of the scenery in as to relieve myself from the stress of almost getting assaulted by strangers and was astounded from what I saw. Billboards lit up the city with radiant colors of the rainbow, there were some more restaurants that offered other food cuisines such as Indian, Chinese and oddly enough American, there were some posters of upcoming anime series plastered on otaku goods stores and I saw more cars decorated with anime girls highlighted by their cute poses and risqué clothing.
"Wow!" I say in amazement, "This is so beautiful."
The boy agreed with his grunt as he started to slow down and turn on the brakes of his motorcycle.
"There it is," he said pointing to a large building that looked like something out of a business magazine.
I took off the helmet, fixed my glasses and got a better look at the place in all it's magnificent glory.
It was a relatively tall corner building, nothing close to a skyscraper but still impressively tall, the walls were all glass as there was about seven or eight floors judging from the exterior and the company's name "Jueisha" was written in white kanji for the citizens to look at.
I stood up, stared at the logo in excitement and looked at my watch again to see it was 4:25 PM. I made it!
"I'm here..." I sniffed, "My dreams...they're just within my reach."
I tried to hold back my tears but was overwhelmed by the joy of it all, I'm alive, well and prepared for anything now!
"Thank you," I say bowing to the boy, "I didn't catch your name?"
"Mitsuru," he mumbled turning his head away from me.
"Well I owe you one, Mitsuru," I politely nod, "It was nice meeting you, I hope to see you again."
"Hmmm.." he mumbled again.
I then headed off into the building not before hearing someone whisper something along the lines of, "Same."
Oh who cares, I have an appointment to adhere to, no time for romantic tension.
I walked into the building as the automatic door opened up to a huge looking lobby area with giant pillars keeping this building up, glass windows so that you could see the many different employees passing by with papers and notes from their authors/artists and the receptionist desk was in front of me where there was a lady in a light grey pantsuit with her black hair straightened, typing something on a computer.
"Excuse m-me," I say trying to get her attention, "Good day."
"Oh hello there, do you have an appointment, miss?"
I was still flabbergasted at how professional this building looked like from the inside, and wasn't surprised to see that there were little to no posters of Weekly Shonen Hop advertising their series anywhere, they must only do that for their floor or something.
"Yes, ma'am, I have a 4:30 appointment with Mr. Togawa of Weekly Shonen Hop."
She then typed on her computer as I was still agape in amazement, taking in more of the building and absorbing it's scent to familiarize myself with it for future reference.
"Yes, I have a Ms. Kikojo here to see you, Mr. Togawa," she says speaking to him on the phone.
She put the phone down, told me that he would be right with me in five minutes and that I could have a seat while I wait.
I thanked her, but then got a whiff of that thug's smoke and realized that I still stunk from the chemicals and odor and decided to freshen up.
"Excuse me, I have to powder my nose," I asked her, trying to make a good first impression with my soon to be editor, "Where's the nearest bathroom."
"It's right over to your right where the waiting room is," she said.
I headed to the waiting room, where there was about five or six other people waiting as well, then entered the women's restroom, placed my bag on the sink countertop, washed my face from all the ash and smoke, grabbed the perfume I store in my bag pocket for stuff like this and calmed my nerves.
"This is it, don't get cold feet, Kanari!" I say pumping myself up, "All I need to do is impress him with my drawing and literary skills, and it's a done deal."
I slapped my face to get rid of any last worries and headed out of the bathroom, wiping my face from the water and sitting down awaiting my turn.
I played a game on my phone for a few minutes, texted mom that I will be home late and that dinner was in the microwave if she wanted it and just doodled in my sketch pad before it was time to meet him. The process was time consuming as hell, the people sitting in this room as well were equally as tense, with their nerves skyrocketing to new heights, some of them showed others their projects ahead of time to gain a confidence boost and some got so scared that they accidentally ripped one of the pages in half and tried to repair it with tape or just re-draw the scene entirely.
It was that bad huh? Well life isn't going to hand you any benefits unless you work for them, so it's best to be prepared.
I double checked my one shot one last time and despite how tumultuous it's been on the way here, the pages were still crisp and intact with some only gaining a slight crease in the corner. Based on how long some of the people in here tried to recreate their drawings, they must have done battle manga in an attempt to get their series greenlit quickly, based on how successful most battle manga are nowadays.
For me, I'm probably going to be the one to stand out the most since my series might be the next Nisekai or Two Like Ra, that's quite a shoe to fill but I will try to make it work.
"Ms. Kikojo, Mr. Togawa will see you now, he's in booth five," said the receptionist from earlier.
Alright, this is the moment of truth, is he going to like my series? Is he a serious editor who takes pride in making stories successful? Or is he that editor who will not check up on and only care about the final draft before it's due?
As I walked to the booth, I pondered these questions, shaking like a tree as I was greeted by a male voice.
"It's very nice to meet you, Ms. Kikojo."
"It's a pleasure to meet you as well, Mr. Togawa."
"A true piece of writing can be dangerous, it can change your life...for better or for worse."
Another quote that I saw somewhere but don't quote me on that :)