Yui and Ritsu were the best of friends in High School. Their matching laziness and possible stupidity got them through the boredom of everyday life. Maybe this old photographic memory will rekindle that old friendship that was lost…
Keion!!!! (K-ON!!!!) “Dust In The Wind” Part 7
Last time “The Wakaba Girls” recorded their album and took many photos for their once in a lifetime photo book. Now that they have succeeded in readying for a professional coming out, they are going out to celebrate.
Also, a pair of old friends find each other again!
“Besides, the time still passes by even if you walk in place…” ‘Answer.’ “The Wakaba Girls” Nao Okuda.
Tsumugi had offered the limo to Sumire for the girls to take for their little after recording party, but they were satisfied with their cars and the van that Jun took Azusa around in.
As always, Nao was alone, with the choice of three vehicles to ride in, Ui took the chance to ride with Sumire whose extremely costly European sports car with the Lambo doors was the ideal choice for showing up at a fancy restaurant.
Tonight, they were going to be the rock band, in a place where men had to wear a suit and women a dress, Kimono or Yukata, this group was all decked out in semi-matching party wear, but it would be overlooked and they had a private room to boot.
The three vehicles pulled up to the valet and three vested men approached each quickly—deep down, the men wanted to fight each other over Sumire’s car, but they had to be professional.
Nao’s Lancer Ralliart didn’t have a standard key, so she dug through her small translucent vinyl back pack purse and gave her whole keychain with the electronic key box to the valet after he came around to the right door and opened it for her to help her out. The man gave Nao a ticket and quickly took her car carefully to the parking area.
The attendant for Jun and Azusa waited patiently for Jun to help Azusa out of the van with the lowering wheelchair ramp and after she closed the machine back up she handed the key to the man and he gave her a ticket then followed suit with parking.
On the left side of Sumire’s car, the attendant opened the Lambo door and helped Ui out and closed it behind her, he then went to the right and helped Sumire out and gave her the ticket, he had a smile on his face as he boarded the costly car and took it to the parking area.
The girls made their way to the door where they were greeted and another attendant held the door for the group, Nao was fixing her corset as she walked because it just wouldn’t stay in place. Jun pushed Azusa, and Ui and Sumire were talking.
Inside, the staff quickly took the girls to their private room which was behind a sliding rice paper door. There was a large low table in the center of the room with thick, plush pillows at each sitting area and one sitting pillow with a back rest which was for Azusa.
A young woman dressed in a black and white maid’s uniform stood by the door at the ready for the girls; she would be serving them for the duration of their time spent.
Jun and Nao helped Azusa to sit and the Maid took the wheelchair to a corner of the room, she then handed the girls menus and prepared tea for them as they looked over what they wanted.
Jun sat very close to Azusa with one of her legs stretched out behind the sitting pillow and one under Azusa’s legs keeping her in a tipped back position, her right arm was always ready to bar Azusa from falling forward if she had to. It was strange for Jun to be positioned in such a way with her friend, but none of the girls said anything because they have seen it before.
After high school, Jun had met a guy in the nursing program in college and they were together the whole time to the point where they were going to get married. After what had happened to Azusa, Jun had broken their relationship which was hurtful to both she and the guy; although Jun was content with her choice she still thought about him often—Azusa however, blamed herself for ruining Jun’s long relationship and her chance at marriage with someone she loved; in return for Jun giving herself to Azusa she did everything that Jun told her to do, the only thing that bothered her was Jun’s constant recommendation for Azusa to wear a harness on her upper body. Jun “cradling” Azusa in public places when they had to sit on the floor was just another thing that Azusa agreed to without complaint.
Nao sat at the head of the table closest to Azusa with her purse next to her on the right just incase she had to assist Jun in a hurry. Sumire sat in the larger center part of the table near Nao, and Ui sat at the other head next to Jun.
The group decided on a large amount of sushi and Azusa specifically requested Fugu or poisonous puffer fish. Jun understood and so did Nao, but it was Ui and Sumire who protested.
“Azusa-Chan, do you really think it’s a good idea to have something like that? You have to sign a waver and there is a chance that…well, you know what it can do,
Ui said concerned.
“I know what it can do…it can taste great with a little burning and numbness—you have to have Fugu sushi, it’s amazing! I know what you’re talking about Ui, don’t worry about it, its just to scare people and make it more appealing,” Azusa replied.
“Well, if you say so, I’m just worried, that’s all,” Ui said.
The girls sat around talking, mostly about the excitement of the release of their album and photo book. The meal was great and Azusa’s Fugu was harmless—dinner seemed to have passed like lightning and they were already outside waiting for the valets to bring their cars.
It had been decided that Karaoke would be cancelled mainly because Nao didn’t have any interest after what she felt were hurtful things to say to her even if they were jokes from friends. Jun covered for Nao and said that Azusa was really in need of returning home over being very tired, so the girls all split up after goodbyes and went their separate ways.
Azusa looked out the left window of the van while Jun drove on the right, she suddenly said, “Jun, I have a big favor to ask you.”
Still looking at the road, Jun said, “What’s that?”
“I want to see Mio,” Azusa replied.
Jun took a deep breath, going to see Mio was not going to be an easy task, so she said, “It’s really late; she is probably asleep.”
“Just go to her apartment and see if the lights are on…please, I’m so sorry to ask you this, I know what you’ll have to do,” Azusa said softly with a tone of desperation.
“I don’t know how you talk me into these things, but all right, we’ll go to Mio’s, it’s on the way…you do know that Ritsu lives with her right?” Jun replied.
“Yes, I know, I hope she is there too,” Azusa said.
After a few minutes more Jun pulled into the parking lot of the apartment complex in which Mio lived with Ritsu, she drove slowly near to where Mio’s room was and stopped. The lights were on, so Jun knew what she would have to do… She wasn’t looking forward to it.
Jun parked the van and got out, she went to the left door and opened it; she then unstrapped Azusa and turned with her back facing her friend.
Jun squatted a bit and Azusa wrapped her arms around Jun’s upper body. With a bit of effort, Jun took hold of the dead weight of Azusa’s legs and then stepped forward enough to get the door closed thankfully by Azusa pushing it briskly.
Jun began to walk towards the steps with Azusa on her back, she wasn’t very heavy, but because Azusa couldn’t really support herself except with her arms, Jun felt like she was lugging a huge sack of rice. When she reached the bottom of the steps, Jun said, “Third floor right?”
“I’m so sorry Jun—please,” Azusa said sorrowfully and Jun began to climb the steps carefully leaning forward so she didn’t end up tipping over backwards. As she got up each flight, Jun could feel her breath wearing thin but she continued to climb until she reached Mio’s door.
“OK Akiyama Mio, you better be home…” Jun said breathlessly, she turned sideways and Azusa knocked.
After just a short moment, they heard a response from Mio, “Ritsu, is that you?”
“Mio, its Jun, please, please…please…oh shit, open the door Mio,” Jun said breathing hard.
Azusa and Jun could hear the locks being disengaged and then footsteps going away from the door and Mio said, “You can come in now.”
Jun wanted to drop Azusa, her muscles were tired and she felt like there was no strength left in her and she said, “You don’t understand Mio, I don’t have my hands free, please, I know your scared, but you have to open the door.”
“I…I can’t Jun, I’m really sorry, I just can’t…” Mio replied sadly.
“It’s ok Jun, put me down, I can’t reach the knob from this position, just put me down…” Azusa said and then they could hear Mio through the door say, “Is Azusa with you!”
Jun didn’t reply as she squatted with the last of her energy and put Azusa down on the concrete landing, she then opened the door and Azusa looked into the room and said, “It’s been a long time Mio-Senpai.”
Azusa began to crawl into the apartment dragging her legs behind her and she said, “I remember we were at one of Mugi’s summer homes and Ritsu wanted to do a test of courage…kind of funny really, she never got to play her prank on any of us because Sawako Sensei showed up out of nowhere and scared the color out of you…” Azusa continued to drag herself across the carpet as Jun stood by the open door and Mio stood in fear behind the Kotatsu with her Kiseru in hand, the smoke flowing through the room. Azusa continued, “So, here is a joke for you…Sawako Sensei says; and this was when we were in that huge bath, you know, towels wrapped around our heads and such, our long black hair sticking out…so Sawa-Chan says, ‘I can’t tell the difference between the two of you without my glasses’ or something like that, so she uses our bust size…then you knocked her block off before she took a feel—who knows, maybe stunts like that kept her from ever getting married? You won’t calm down will you Mio, you are so frightened—Jun, close and lock the door or I’ll have to share my diaper with Mio.”
Jun entered and closed the door, she then switched all the locks and strung the chains, this time Mio didn’t double check it. Jun couldn’t stand seeing Azusa crawl on the floor anymore and as she went to her friend, Mio laid her pipe in the large ashtray on the Kotatsu and knelt down to Azusa causing Jun to stop her movement. Mio took a deep breath and took hold of Azusa and held her as best as she could and said, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to make it look like I didn’t care…I am just scared…” Azusa said, “What are you afraid of Mio, I’m still Azusa and I love you as much as I always did, I look up to you as much as I always did, its just that I’ve been hurt and that isn’t a good enough reason for you to not see me.”
“You don’t understand Azusa, it’s not that at all, but I remember everything you said, and it hurts that you aren’t the same as you were; it hurts to see you like this, to see you in pain and battered and unable to walk, I still love you, its just that it is so painful for me to see you like this and that is why I was avoiding you, I just want to cry all the time just thinking about it…” Mio said sadly.
“You could have called me on the phone, I can still talk you know—and you are the smart one of the group…say duh Mio.” Azusa said with a smile.
Mio held Azusa tightly and whispered, “Duh…”
Ritsu was exhausted, school in the early morning, waitress-Maid in the afternoon and cleaning the music store at night—she had to work her way up to a sales person. Probably the worse part about working at 10-GIA was the fact that her little yellow Yamaha drum kit was on display in the middle of the store on something like a podium or platform. Her old “Hip-Gig” had a “not for sale” sign on it and it looked down on her as she was on her knees cleaning. It was a cruel thing that Tsumugi did having it there after all the years that passed since she sold it for just enough to survive for three days before moving in with Maki.
Ritsu carried a bag that had her waitress uniform over her shoulder and a small purse that held the bare minimum that she needed. Ritsu wore blue pants and a white collared shirt with a red apron slung over her shoulder, these were her clothes for the music store. What she had worn to school was in the bag with her uniform, changing multiple times a day made her feel like an actress—maybe as though she were Juliet again in the school play, but that only required the one costume…
Ritsu came upon a “Lawson Station” the blue and white coloring was really glowing under the lights and the inside was bright through the large windows. The convenience store seemed like a good place to pick up some dinner because she had told Mio to eat without her earlier in the morning before she left for school.
Ritsu entered Lawson and the clerk greeted her, so she raised her weary hand in reply and tried to smile. Making her way through the aisles, Ritsu had suddenly stopped to look at the figures and statues exclusive to Lawson Station…how neat was that! She saw a lot of items from the Anime Evangelion and a few others and they were all so nice, but costly…so, she moved on. When she arrived at the refrigerator sections she looked through the glass for something cold but good, it was still so hot out.
A woman with mid-back length brown hair was the only other person in the store and Ritsu looked over to her, she wore a light dress and had a bear-shaped purse…funny, she saw the purse before? When it hit her, Ritsu thought about quietly and quickly leaving, but she sighed and walked towards the woman and said, “Excuse me, Yui?”
Yui turned around and stood in shock for a moment and then with an emotionless expression on her face she said, “Ritchan.”
The girls stood in front of each other for a few moments unsure what to say until Yui said, “Ritchan, you have to try the pork bun, it’s chilled and has a sweet and spicy sauce that is just wonderful. I really had to get used to the taste, but I really like it.”
“How much? I don’t have much money for food really. Mio cooks and…” Ritsu began and Yui said, “Just 200 yen ($2.04) get 2, you can take one home to Mio-Chan.”
Ritsu picked up a packaged pork bun and then another and then Yui took hold of her arm with her free hand and they went to where the canned coffee and teas were. “UCC coffee is great, you can get milk coffee and it tastes nice—you look so tired anyway, so it’ll do you good. There is one with Anime characters on the can…Here, do you like Evangelion? There is Mari, Asuka, Rei, Shinji, Kaworu…I like Asuka; here, you take Mari, she has glasses like Nao-Chan.” Yui said handing Ritsu a can of milk coffee with an image of a pretty girl wearing pink.
Yui then took hold of Ritsu again and took her to the snack aisle and to where the cakes were. “They aren’t as good as what Mugi-Chan brought, but I really think you should try the apple cake, it’s really good!”
“I was hoping for just Pocky, if that’s ok…Yui,” Ritsu said carefully.
“Awww! All right, Pocky it is, you can share it with Mio-Chan. Come on, it’ll be like 600 yen for everything; let’s go pay and sit out on the sidewalk and eat,” Yui said happily.
Ritsu followed Yui to the counter and watched her old friend put what she had in her hands down, she then turned and took all of Ritsu’s and said, “Tonight it’s on me!”
Ritsu wanted to stop Yui and pay for her own, but it was far too late and she was still unsure what had just happened. Yui and Ritsu hadn’t spoken for years; the last time was the pity invite to Tsumugi and Sumire’s wedding and they never saw each other again after that—Yui was acting like they saw each other a day ago?
After Yui paid and the clerk bagged everything, she took hold of it and thanked him, she and Ritsu then left the store back into the heat, it wasn’t horribly hot, but it was a bit uncomfortable, something that Yui never liked, but this time she wasn’t complaining. Yui once again took Ritsu by the arm and directed her to the left side of the door to Lawson and sat down and patted the sidewalk next to her instructing Ritsu to sit.
Ritsu sat down and pulled her bag off of her shoulder and let it sit on the concrete—at this point, Yui was rummaging through the bag and pulled out the UCC coffee first, she checked the characters keeping her Asuka in red for herself and handing Mari in pink to Ritsu who took it and thanked Yui. The girls opened the cans and took a drink of the cold milk coffee and were satisfied, Yui said, “Good, right?”
“Yes, thank you Yui,” Ritsu replied and put the can down next to her. Yui took out two of the pork buns and handed one to Ritsu and said, “Eat up, I promise you’ll love it!”
With another thanks, Ritsu opened the clear wrapper and began eating the pork bun, it was cold and the bread was firm yet soft and the meat inside was so perfect with the sauce being a tangy joy. Yui continued on hers as she took out her apple cake from the bag and then holding the pork bun in her teeth she rolled up the top of the plastic bag and handed it to Ritsu with the other pork bun and Pocky inside. Ritsu took the bag and smiled, with Yui returning an even brighter smile.
“I missed you Ritchan, I’m glad that we met like this—‘A fateful encounter between two estranged friends eating something yummy on the perch of the Station of Lawson!’ You really hurt my feelings Ritchan, but I forgive you; just promise me that you won’t leave again ok?” Yui said.
“I’m sorry Yui-Chan, I didn’t mean for any of that to happen. I won’t leave again, I promise…Thank you for buying, it’ll save Mio and I…” Ritsu started to say, she then leaned against Yui’s shoulder and closed her eyes, her face contorted and she began to cry—Ritsu wasn’t sure if it was because she was tired, or if it was because Yui forgave her without a single care; as though nothing ever happened.
Yui turned and hugged Ritsu hard and tight and said, “Its ok, everything will be fine, I know it will. Welcome home Ritchan.”
After the girls had settled and finished eating, they made their way towards the apartment that Ritsu shared with Mio. Yui wanted to see Mio again, she was excited.
“You look so pretty with long hair Ritchan, you are no longer a forelock monster!” Yui said happily. Ritsu smiled and left it at that, she couldn’t really keep telling Yui that she couldn’t afford a hair cut.
Yui and Ritsu could recognize the van in the parking lot and Yui said, “Did you know that Jun was coming over?”
“No, I wonder why?” Ritsu replied.
The girls climbed the steps to the third floor and Ritsu knocked and called out to Mio and began opening the multiple locks, she pushed the door in until it stopped on the chains and then she used another key to unlock the links which fell to the trim around the door making a scraping sound as they swung back and forth.
“Why so many?” Yui asked.
“You really don’t want to know Yui,” Ritsu replied as she opened the door, and when both Ritsu and Yui stepped in, they saw Jun on the floor against the wall holding Azusa who was sleeping or half asleep and Mio sitting at the Kotatsu smoking her Kiseru. Mio looked up and smiled seeing Yui who waved with both hands and her innocent smile upon her face. Jun looked to them and smiled herself. At this point however, Azusa opened her eyes from the noise, as quiet as Ritsu and Yui were trying to be and looked directly at Yui who suddenly said full of excitement, “Azu-nyan!”
“Oh no, here she comes…” Azusa mumbled.
Friendships have amassed or maybe simply began returning to what they used to be. Next time, the dust begins to settle, but for how long…? Be here, next Thursday for Part 8 of K-ON!!!! “Dust in the Wind!”