[Complete] The Wages of Managing Sense (Sho)

Completed longer Arashi-related fanfics

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Re: [Complete] The Wages of Managing Sense (Sho)

Post by mclam01 » Wed Jan 24, 2018 3:00 pm

Ch 21

Chiaki’s military precision in breaking down what we should all do in order was a stroke of genius. If it had been left to us, we would have argued over who was supposed to do what and who would go see Nino and who would go see Alys, and nothing would be done. I could only imagine what they each must be going through. As soon as I dropped off Chiaki at Jindai with the promise to keep her abreast of further developments and to drop in on the greenhouse next week, I made my way to Aiba’s flat where we had agreed to meet. It had been settled that I would drive since Aiba would be getting the food with which we would be force feeding Nino. If his long silence and disconnected keitai were anything to go by, it meant that he was as depressed as Alys over what had transpired between them.

I found it puzzling that Alys should be pushing Nino away even after she had apparently settled the whole business of the tabloid article, and I told Aiba so when he met me at the car at the bottom of his residential building. Once that matter was resolved, they could go back the way they were, couldn’t they? Unless she felt that she had done something shameful… but what could she have done? She adored Nino; I could see that; the rest of the guys could see that. Perhaps Nino said something to her, or did something to her and she had enough and wanted to push him away. That was likely. Aiba however preferred to think that they had merely misunderstood each other at some level and needed to reconnect again. Speaking on the matter of reconnecting, I found myself puzzling over the matter of MatsuJun’s contact – the mysterious ‘Sora’ whom he had called. However it was not the time to think on that. Aiba and I needed to find Nino and to determine if we could do anything for him

We had driven past his house for the fourth time when we finally saw the light being turned on. Finally, a sign of life. Both Aiba and I were getting worried, so worried that Aiba had to buy all of Nino’s favourite foods in a bid to coax him to see sense, and I bought the evening edition of the tabloid. To our surprise and relief, it contained the student’s apology as well as an article on the standard of students currently in the country. Surely, this would cheer Nino up a little. It had certainly improved our manager’s mood when Aiba phoned him with the news. This was so much so that Aiba had a huge grin on his face. “Manager said he’s read this evening’s edition! He says mama is incredible to have pulled off a co…cou…”

“Coup, Aiba-chan,” I offered, waving a hand to indicate that he continue with the rest of our manager’s words.

“Hai, that’s it! She pulled off a coup and managed to save both her name as a sensei and Nino’s. He wants to meet her because she can spin the doctor,” he jabbered on.

“Spin-doctor, Aiba-chan,” I corrected once more.

“Hai, that’s it! I think he approves of mama!” Aiba was almost gleeful.

“Tell that to Nino. He needs to know more than we do,” I pointed out as soon as the car was parked.

However, as could be anticipated, Nino was anything but predictable. In the first place, he was reluctant to admit us into his home. He tried to discourage us by informing us that he was playing a game and did not want to be disturbed. Aiba and I knew better – there were no sounds coming from behind the door, which meant that the Playstation II wasn’t turned on. After I insisted that he open the door in my most threatening tone, he let us in and collapsed into one of the many bean bag things he used as seats around his place.

Aiba lifted a foot and nudged Arashi’s diminutive sarcastic bastard and received a cutting remark before he related that Alys was as upset as Nino appeared to us. A few pithy comebacks later, I demanded to know what had transpired between them. Alys had given very little details, and I wanted to hear Nino’s perspective on things to ensure that their wires were not crossed over a miscommunication.

Nino, being the king of understatement informed us from his lying position on the bean bag seat, “There was a scene with blinds and books and many things were said over a desk.”

That was not helpful, not helpful at all. At that moment, I didn’t know who was worse – Alys or Nino. They both seemed to be equivocating by their very truculence over what had transpired between them. Deciding that he should know how seriously she regarded his reputation and his standing in the Johnny’s Entertainment production line, I flung the tabloid at him, with the page open to the ‘Revenge Plot against Todai Sensei unravelled. Student Apologies’ headline and told him, “While you were moping over your current misfortune, a new development occurred. Your good name has been restored. That’s this evening’s edition of the dreaded tabloid.”

His eyes briefly flickered up in interest as he scanned the article. I took it to be a good sign that he still was concerned enough to bother with his professor’s welfare and reputation.

“The student had the good grace to say that the considerable distance between the lectern and the back door of the lecture theatre rendered any clear identification of you impossible, and that it was an invasion of Alys’s privacy to take that picture. All’s well it would seem. There’s a retraction and apology on page fifty-eight from the paper for publishing a photo of that wasn’t conclusively proven to be you, as well as another article on the quality of students currently in Japanese tertiary institutions,” I added, hoping that it would improve his mood and render him more liable to tell us what had happened when he saw Alys-san that morning.

Aiba seemed to notice Nino’s interest too and he rubbed his hand affectionately over Nino’s hair as the younger member turned to the page of the tabloid’s retraction and apology. “Manager has settled the thing with Boss Johnny too. The boss-man wasn’t happy but said that if mama passed our manager’s interview, he’ll close an eye to her. Manager wants to meet her too after he read this article. He said she was good with ‘spin-doctoring’ or something like that.” When Nino gave no hint of joining in his enthusiastic rant, Aiba shook him vigorously, “Why are you still like this? You should be happy.”

Nino accompanied his scathing reply with a scornful look, “Am I expected to rejoice? Banzai! There, I’ve rejoiced, now leave me alone.”

Aiba, who was visibly hurt by that response, quizzed, “Did you fight with mama? Did you make mamma cry like that?”

“I said earlier that there was a scene with blinds and books and things were said over a desk. Don’t you ever pay attention?” Nino was being waspish. If he did not have the look of a wounded and possibly dying animal on his face, I would have smacked the back of his head. It would seem that Nino was still in his self-pitying mode. He and his professor were impossible to deal with when they were in despair. She was so incapacitated that she couldn’t drag herself outdoors unless it was to give a lecture, and he was so incapacitated that he could only lie down and wallow in misery.

“What did you say to her?” I demanded. After much hemming-and-hawing, he finally revealed what we already knew Alys-san, namely that she had told him to leave because they were essentially over.

That only seemed to incense Aiba, who was more worked up over the whole issue than Nino was, as he strove to extract the nature of what Nino had said to Alys-san.

I had to caution Aiba before he would release Nino. I guess Nino was as shaken as I was from the sudden outburst from our other band mate, for he immediately reached for the yellow blanket-cape thing he wore for the ‘Step and Go’ PV and wrapped himself in it whilst lying down on his hideous red bean bag and playing with a Western jazz CD. After rubbing his face on the security blanket-cape he revealed that he had learnt more about her than he wanted to. What he eventually told Aiba-chan and me was shocking, I do not deny. It turns out that I had been right in one of my hypothesis, namely the one where Alys felt she had done something to render herself undeserving of Nino. I had expected her to be a brilliant scholar, but I had not expected her to be a former mistress of her old professor. However, I did note that the key descriptive term was ‘former mistress’. No wonder Nino was in two minds as to how he should regard Alys-san. I too was very much shocked by this epiphany.

Aiba, not usually known for brilliant feats of intellectual prowess only nodded to himself and placed his head at half-cock looking at us as if not quite understanding why I should be stunned by the revelation and why Nino was upset over this aspect of Alys’s past. He seriously stated his opinion with all the clarity that was worthy of a newscaster, complete with wild gesticulations, “I don’t see any problem. That was all long ago before she met you, so it shouldn’t matter, ne? She didn’t want a boyfriend after him and studied hard after that, so it must mean that he hurt her real bad. If he hurt her that bad, then she doesn’t love him anymore, ne? She worked hard and studied hard and became a university sensei because she wanted to prove to herself that she was as good as him and his wife, ne? She doesn’t love him anymore because if she did, she could go back to him now that she’s a sensei and they are kind of equal. But she continues to work hard because to her being a sensei is what she really wants, not that old lover of hers.”

That was very, very impressive. I did not think Aiba had it in him to be so thoroughly commonsensical about the matter. It was in all in Alys’s past after all. It was very deep thinking indeed. What I found more worrying in Nino’s account was the fact that Alys-san’s career was still in jeopardy because of the jealousy of her ex-lover’s wife. While I do not approve of her hiding the matter from Nino, I could see her reasons for doing so. An affair with a married man no matter how long ago (even if the affair is long over) is not something any sane person talks about to others in public. Furthermore, anyone who looked at Alys-san and Nino could see that they were good together with their semi-evil smirks of doom. Her worries on the academic troubles bordered onto the unhealthy. Fearing that it would impinge upon her mental abilities, I resolved to have a talk with her about it to determine if I could offer her some kind of assistance, advice or a listening ear. If Nino was like an annoying brat of a brother to all of Arashi, then his girlfriend was our sister – it would be the honourable thing to help our sister out, especially when her annoying brat of a boyfriend was in an emotional, self-pitying mode.

Nino, still wallowing in his own perceived misery and thereby conveniently forgetting that Alys-san was likely in as much pain as he was, concentrated his efforts at covering himself and his face with that security blanket-cape he wore for the ‘Step and Go’ PV and said something that eerily echoed that which Alys-san had said earlier to us. “… We were a done deal. She doesn’t care. If she doesn’t care, I don’t care.”

These two would be terribly amusing if this were a skit on stage. I have never seen two more stubborn and emotionally autistic people in my life. Addressing Nino seriously, I told him, “She more than cares for you. Look at what she’s done for you. She returns your acerbic witticism for acerbic witticism; she makes you soups. She doesn’t treat you like a star; she treats you like a man she adores.”

“That must be your imagination. For all I know, I could be another affair to her,” Nino moaned, burying himself under the blanket-cape thing.

Not satisfied with that answer, Aiba sought to obtain any kind of response from Nino. “Mama wouldn’t answer the phone and sound like she’s crying if she didn’t care about you, Nino. She wouldn’t sniff and say nothing’s wrong when I asked her what happened between you two today. What are you doing with that yellow blanket?”

“She gave it to me! Give it back!” Nino snatched a hand up to retrieve it. Ah, so that was it! She had given it to him… Hmm… They must have been together for a while longer than I had expected. That he wanted the blanket-cape was a good sign. He still loved her despite all his words to the contrary. What was I going to do to make them both see sense? Perhaps Chiaki would have an idea…

My thoughts on that were put on hold because I felt a vibration in my pocket. Digging out my keitai, I saw that it was Matsumoto. Wasn’t he supposed to be with Alys? “Sho-kun,” Matusmoto began without preamble as soon as I picked up. “Teng sensei, Alys.. She just fell over convulsing. I gave her one of the pills she had been trying to grab from the table. She doesn’t want to go the hospital, but I’ve sent her there. She can’t say much right now other than ‘no Ninomiya’.”

“Nani?” Now I was in shock. Although I now knew why she was Japanese horror movie pale, I would have not have expected her to have agitated herself into a seizure. A seizure – that must mean she has epilepsy. I wonder if Nino knows… Ah, but she said she didn’t want Nino at the moment. Having him near could trigger further agitation and another seizure. “I’ll be there. Is she sure?”

“No Ninomiya – that’s what she said. We’re in Todai emergency ward, east wing. Doctors say she will be fine as the fit lasted for less than five minutes. But I was frightened, ne,Sho.”

“Okay,” I soothed and hung up. Nino, you idiot! Look what you’ve done to your girlfriend! However much I wanted to say that, I did not. Agitating him would serve no purpose, so I smiled and bade him take care of himself. “Oi, Aiba, I need you to drive, I’m not feeling well.” With that, I dragged Aiba out of the house with me.

“What’s wrong, Sho? Want me to take you to the doctor?” Aiba asked with concern, fishing in my pockets for the car keys.

“Not me, Alys-san. She had an epileptic seizure,” I told him, my voice heavy with anxiety when we were in the privacy of my car. There was no telling whether Nino would overhear us and I did not want disrespect the professor’s wishes. “MatsuJun’s with her. Todai hospital, Aiba-chan.”

~~~~more to follow~~~~
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Re: [Complete] The Wages of Managing Sense (Sho)

Post by mclam01 » Wed Jan 24, 2018 3:00 pm

Many thanks to the readers following this story. *bows deeply*


Chapter 22

“Sho-kun! Aiba-chan,” Matsumoto almost wailed when we entered the small ward where Alys-san was laid up, her colouring almost approximating that of the white sheets. “I didn’t know what happened. We were bitching about Nino and his bad habits when she said she smelled burning preserved plums and started to open a bottle of pills. Before she could take one, she was convulsing! I was so frightened!”

I nodded sympathetically and patted him on the shoulder. I had a cousin who suffered from epilepsy, so I was fully cognisant of how horrifying it could be when witnessing an attack of fits for the very first time. Fortunately, it had been Matsumoto with her. Despite his young age, he had the presence of mind to quickly grasp the severity of the situation. Aiba would have panicked, Ohno would have been frozen from fear, and Nino… Well, now wasn’t the time to discuss Nino, not when his girlfriend is currently recovering.

“Why burning preserved plums?” Aiba questioned, looking intently at Alys-san and touching something on the pillow.

“Some people have an aura before an attack. Seems like she’s one of them. What agitated her?” I asked when Aiba sat by the corner of the bed and made a remark about Alys-san’s hair or some similar comment.

Matsumoto cupped his chin in his hands and shot me an eloquent sideways glance. Ah… I see – it had to be Nino. “Need you ask? When I told her that none of us could get hold of him because he’s distressed by what has happened, she looked straight in my eyes and asked us to take care of him.”

Those two were shameless, bold-faced liars when it came to their own relationship. I shook my head. One wallowed and moped, the other agitated herself into her present condition.

“Mama?” Aiba ventured softly, bending over the patient. A limp wrist slowly lifted itself and flicked him away dismissively.

I smiled and chuckled softly in spite of the gravity of the situation. That was just exactly like Nino. When you least expect it, he would flick you away because he found you bothersome. His Alys apparently shared the same habits. They were neat ironies – independently pursuing their own course but rather needy when it concerned each other.

Aiba made a play for grabbing her hand. “Mama! Baby-chan was so worried… Ne, about Nino…”

“Let go. Go away,” she answered dismissively in English. I noticed that she was speaking rather slowly. That could mean that the seizure had hit the speech centre. It would be a day or two before her brain waves returned to normal. It was always the case with my cousin during his attacks.

“Professor Teng, this is Sakurai,” I pronounced carefully in English lest I agitate her further. Patients recovering from epilepsy were always volatile regardless as to how tired they are by the attacks. If the speech centre of her brain had been hit, it was likely that she was still disoriented. I did not want to further aggravate her condition by informing her that she was far away from home, in a foreign land and away from her family. If the first thing she said upon waking up was in English, it could only mean she was still trying to find her bearings. I had to carry on, to see what else I could do for her – both her own sake and for Nino’s. “You had an epilepsy attack.”

She seemed to understand. “Diazepam,” she went on, darting her eyes to the bed stand where a jug and a plastic container of pills stood. I checked the bottle to confirm that it was what she was asking for and rang for the doctor via the bedside bell. “Prog.. Prognosis… Ah, bother! The attack, how long did it last?”

“MatsuJun says it was less than five minutes,” I handed her the pills and a glass of water.

“I have to go. I have a lecture in an hour,” she said weakly, still in English upon swallowing the two capsules. “Where’s Mencius?”

I shook my head at her and shot a look at Aiba to remain quiet. Alys-san must still be disoriented in the aftermath of the attack. “Your pet?”

“A book,” she answered curtly or as curtly as a person in her condition could. “If you don’t do your readings, you won’t pass.”

“I am not a student. I’m a friend. You’re not going to teach. You don’t have to teach today. I will call the university and the department for you. You are going to rest,” I gently told her, patting her hand. In the background, I could hear Aiba asking MatsuJun what was going on, to which Matsumoto whispered that we were speaking in English because she was too ill to speak in Japanese.

She flicked her wrist dismissively at me again. This time both Matsumoto and I exchanged knowing glances and smiled – that was definitely like Nino. The two of them were like two peas in a pod – same wit, same wicked streak, same secretive habits, same birth date.

“Do you want or need anything?” I asked, watching her attempt to prop herself up. “Anyone I should call?” I extended a hand to help her up when she shot me a brief dangerous glare and flicked her wrist at me.

“Books. I want my books, organiser planner, lecture notes,” she said when the doctor came in. “Ah, doctor, discharge me,” she insisted, still going on in English. “I have a history of these things. No harm done.”

The doctor looked strangely at her as he picked up the clipboard by her bed, and then looked at the three of us in amazement, possibly wondering what three-fifths of Arashi were doing visiting a patient. “Miss Teng…”

“Doctor Teng. I did not get a PhD to be called ‘Miss’ the rest of my life,” she growled weakly.

“Yes, certainly Doctor Teng. It is the University of Tokyo Hospital policy to hold epilepsy patients for at least three days for observation. May I suggest that you take a week to recuperate here?” he continued, reading the file and writing something in it. “Your language and speech cortex has been rather shocked in the seizure. You will need a week’s rest for those parts of the brain to regain their former agility.”

She gave him a sneering look. “Do you know what goes on in my mind? I can give you the Stephanus numbers to Platonic dialogues. Making assumptions only makes an arse out of yourself. My brain is fine. Epilepsy is something chronic I deal with once in a long while. Discharge me.”

“Alys,” I tried to reason with her. She was really worse than Nino in his darker moods. “Just try for one night, and if you don’t like it, I’ll take you home. I’ll send Jun to bring your books.”

She seemed to find that idea amenable and nodded, falling back onto the pillow. “They’re on the coffee table. Bring also my laptop, writing material and La Traviata CD,” she managed in rather strangled and hesitant Japanese. She had been listening to the doctor after all. Poor woman was trying to force the parts of the brain that her seizure had afflicted to work.

The doctor seemed relieved that she was no longer insisting on having her own way. After telling us that we should not be tiring her any further, he left, leaving us to watch over her.

“Did you find him?” she asked in, knocking aside Aiba’s hand when he tried to hold it. “Is he all right?” I looked up at Matsumoto in brief confusion until he mouthed ‘Nino’. Ah, so that was it…Her immediate thoughts on regaining her bearings were of him. Oh those two infuriating idiots!

“He’s okay,” I replied. “Do you want to see him?”

“No.” she turned over on the bed away from us. “Tell him nothing. Come back and poke pins tomorrow. I’ll be more responsive.”

Matsumoto and I smiled somewhat at her sarcastic jab at herself. That must be why Nino adored her. Aiba sighed and looked at her with tears and something else in his eyes that I could not define before shuffling out with us.

According to her wishes, Matsumoto, and I went back to her place and picked up the things she wanted, while Aiba, suddenly hit by a wave of depression, decided that he wanted to go drinking alone. Left alone with MatsuJun, he and I proceeded to tease out what we had gleaned from Nino and Alys in our conversations with them. By which time, he and I were in agreement that we had the two stupidest people in our acquaintance who were somehow hell bent on torturing each other for no known reason. Rather, Alys thought she had a reason, but I couldn’t just tell MatsuJun about her past affair. It was not something one should go around telling. In the end, we decided that he would call our manager to see her, and obtain the clearance she needed from the powers that be at our ‘employment agency’ as Nino’s girlfriend (because to us – they were a couple – a screwed up couple, but a couple all the same) and I would see her the following morning to attempt to foster some kind of reconciliation between her and Nino.

Come morning and a brief phone call to Chiaki to ask what kind of flowers I should give to someone who’s recuperating (see, I do learn from past mistakes), I went to Alys’s ward with a bouquet of white julienne and her books and whatnot. She was already up and was on her keitai demanding that someone make arrangements to allow her to deliver her lectures via teleconferencing.

“Feeling better?” I asked. She only flicked a wrist dismissively. “Your books, pen and papers.” I announced as she took them eagerly from me. “Ano, I don’t know how to say this…” I began and paused, but started up again when she shot me a look of pure irritation. “Nino told me everything – about your career crisis, and your old lover.”

She raised a brow and pushed her glasses up. “I did not know that disgust and contempt could be conveyed by proxy,” she uttered coldly.

“The past is long gone. Nino will get over it. What’s important is what you have together,” I counselled.

“He wouldn’t speak to me again. He thinks that I am that kind of a woman,” she said softly, unzipping the laptop bag and handing me the plug for the wall. “Moreover, after all the nonsense with that publication and the fear of his own career being put into a standstill, he now sees me as a troublesome person. He will keep away and that will be that.”

“He cares for you in his own way,” I said, pondering on the best way of bringing up the subject of her as she logged into her laptop.

“Utter tosh,” she said in English when her keitai rang. “Excuse me,” she apologised and took the call, which was predominantly in English and something I listened to with great interest. “Henri, mon ami! Non, non, ça va bien. Vraiment! I’m fine… It takes a lot more than this to kill me… Hmm? Really? Send it via email, I’m hooked up with wireless. What does the exec summary say? Hmm…”

I recoiled and backed further back into my seat at that point because she seemed to listening to the other person on the line with a positively evil smirk on her face. It was on the same level of evil smirks of Nino’s scheming Ni no Arashi ones when something unravelled exactly as he anticipated. That just served the dual purpose of frightening me and confirming what I thought Nino saw in her.

“I’m opening the attachment now,” she continued in the receiver in a low chuckling purr, and her lips curled into a devilish smirk that I had only seen once on Nino when he pulled his blood coughing stunt on poor Ohno. “Henry, Henry… Does it look like what I think it does?” I peered over at the laptop screen and saw the summary or extract of some kind of conference paper in English. “Oh yes, of course… Need you ask? Book me on that seminar, I’m going with you.”

“Conference invitation?” I enquired when she hung up.

“Something like that,” she smirked again.

I cleared my throat, hoping that she would see sense. “About Nino…”

“I rather he know nothing. There are things I have to settle, Sho-kun. I do not need distractions,” she replied vaguely and with a sigh added, “Knowing him, he would be immersing himself in his stage play or one of his games.” She paused and continued to fiddle with her laptop thereby avoiding my eyes. “Take care of him. He coughs at night due to the damp. That freeloader is going to work himself into a decline if he isn’t careful.”

I shook my head. “I really don’t understand you two.”

“Neither do I, if we are being honest,” she curled her lips at her laptop.

“Now about those emails you’ve been receiving…My mother is relatively well respected in the academic world in Japan and I am sure if you speak to her, she would be more than willing to assist a fellow intellectual. The things that you have been facing are cruel, cowardly and…” I would have gone on but she cut me off.

“This is between Rose de Winter and me,” she said frostily, a smirk playing at corner of her mouth. “I will see her at the conference sans her husband. My old friend and colleague Dr Henry Goldman will be there as well to ensure that I am well protected. If my position in Todai’s philosophy department is threatened, I will take you up on your offer. Until then… Let’s just say, Prague will make or break my career, Sho-kun, and where I am more concerned – this is more important to me than the freeloading brat.”

“What will make or break your career?” asked MatsuJun as he sauntered in with a single stalk of Chinese chrysanthemum.

“Jun-kun!” she burst out in unfeigned delight, stretching out her hands towards him.
To my surprise, he took hold of them and smiled at her instead of leering. “Nee-san!” he greeted, bowling me over. Matsumoto hardly ever let anyone touch him. He usually avoided open gestures like hers. Hmm… They must have bonded when they were bitching about Nino the previous night.

“Nothing really, I was just telling Sho-kun about my upcoming philosophy conference in Prague as an observer. Exciting stuff,” she explained without giving away what she had told me. She was truly a sneaky person, and from the way I saw it, the only person who could out-think Nino.


NOTES:

In the language of flowers -
White Julienne means "do not despair"
Chinese Chrysanthemum means "Be cheerful in adversity"

~~~~more to follow shortly~~~~
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Re: [Complete] The Wages of Managing Sense (Sho)

Post by mclam01 » Wed Jan 24, 2018 3:01 pm

Sincere thanks to my readers. *bows deeply*

Chapter 23

When Chiaki and I went to see Alys the day after I learned about her Prague conference and her firm, stubborn refusal for help (for which Chiaki had labelled spirited, honourable and admirable), she was wrapping up a video conferencing lecture. Ohno was sitting in a corner drawing something and giggling to himself, occasionally glancing up at her as if she were his model.

“No questions? Good. I want you read up on how rites and ghosts affect the way Mencius views the state for next week,” she said before pulling the microphone out from her left ear. “Ah, Sho-kun and wife,” she greeted when we entered, Chiaki bowing slightly. “No formalities while I’m in a hospital gown please.”

“Charmed to finally make your acquaintance, Teng sensei,” Chiaki responded smoothly. “Sho and the boys have often talked about you.”

“It’s true, infamy is something I live with,” she sighed dramatically, closing her laptop. “But seriously, it is very kind of you to come see me… may I enquire as to how I should address you?”

“Nakahara Chiaki desu, but you may call me Chiaki,” my girlfriend offered generously as I wandered over to Ohno’s corner and peeped over his sketchpad.

“Alys for me,” smiled the professor. “I hear you’re the brains and prudence behind Sho.”

“I said that,” Ohno contributed, tilting his sketchpad over to me. He should not have done so for I burst out in a low laugh. Ohno had caricatured Alys-san’s lecturing expression into several yonkamas.

Chiaki shook her head and smiled. “That confirms it, doesn’t it?” However, immediately after that, her voice took on a serious note. “What about Ninomiya-san? Have you considered that you’re the moderating influence in his life?”

“No one can restrain that freeloading leech,” Alys-san smiled fondly but ruefully. “I have my reasons for keeping my distance.”

“Sho told me you wanted to concentrate on salvaging your academic career first,” Chiaki nodded in understanding with an approving look in her eyes. “While all that is very good and well, Ninomiya-san needs to hear from you. Just a simple word to let him know that you still care, and the rest will be up to him. If he doesn’t want anything to do with you after that, then it’s the baka’s loss.”

Alys-san seemed to consider this briefly for she was taping her lips (and Ohno started sketching her again). “That would not do. If he wants me, he should come to me. I am not going to him. Who does he think he is? What does he think he is, if he expects me to go to him?”

“It’s not a matter of face, Alys,” cautioned Chiaki.

“Of course not. It’s a matter of pride. Moreover, he’s busy enough with his own commitments, he does not need me or anyone else for that matter breathing down his neck,” Alys-san stated firmly.

“Can’t you see that…” Chiaki’s scold that I could tell was on the tip of her tongue was neatly truncated by the arrival of our manager. That was a completely unexpected plot twist. Matsumoto’s handiwork no doubt. He did possess the wondrous ability to command people to dance to his tune.

“Teng sensei, Chiaki-sama, boys,” he saluted gruffly, handing Alys-san his name card. “I’m here on official business for Johnny’s Entertainment.”

Alys-san simply raised a brow, sat up perfectly upright from her position on the bed and extended a hand to receive the card. Her gestures were deliberately calculated, I could tell. They resembled my mother’s when she met guests of my father’s whom she did not like – cold and polite, almost imperiously so.

“Won’t you sit down?” She looked at the name card again as Chiaki meandered her way to me with an uneasy look in her eyes, as if begging me to intervene lest our manager go too far in aggravating Alys-san.

“I understand you are the Todai sensei in the incident.” Our manager seemed to scrutinise her thoroughly. “I expected someone who was less…”

“Petite, sickly, plain, incapacitated? More pugnacious?” she returned, taking up a book from under a pillow and placing the name card in it.

“Nothing so uncomplimentary. I had thought from the way you smoothened things over the whole issue of you and Ninomiya to seem like a cleverly concocted plot by a student that you were more noxious than the way you look. You’re just a slip of a girl,” he said decisively, perching his sunglasses on the top of his head and staring intently at her.

Her lips curled into a dangerous smirk that would have almost passed for Matsumoto’s leer if she were a beautiful woman. “Points of information, my good man,” she slipped into keigo, her voice dangerously low and cold, “The word you’re looking for is malicious or shrewd. Secondly, I’m older than Ohno-san by a few months. Do not mistake what you see now for Teng Alys the person. Appearances can often be misleading. For instance, this Ninomiya-san you mentioned is a devil with the face of an angel. I would have expected you to know better seeing how you come in contact with that person on a near daily basis.”

Chiaki’s eyes widened in stunned disbelief as she gripped my arm, her fingers almost digging into my flesh. I was completely in agreement with her – there was something steely hidden beneath her velvet glove and her physically weak, Japanese horror movie pale appearance. Alys was viciously cold. I wonder if Nino knows how she can be, or what sort of a woman he had gotten for himself. On the one hand, I admired his guts for picking someone like her who would speak like that to our manager. On the other, I worried for Alys’s fate if our manager should lose his temper. Despite these fears, I found myself amused by the fact that she had obliquely described Nino exactly as she saw him. She clearly knew him and from the sounds of it, she liked him just the way he was. Ohno, happily oblivious to these proceedings, was happening continued sketching, occasionally looking up at Alys and back at his sketchpad.

“Do you think she’ll tear your manager to pieces?” Chiaki whispered. “I had an inkling that she could be formidable and callous, but to use keigo in this context and in that tone….”

“I think her imperious ways are the very means through which she governs Nino,” I whispered back. “I know I should stop them but I can’t bring myself too.”

“You know the aura she exudes? It’s worse than you when you complain about the service at the restaurant we usually go to,” Chiaki noted. “If she gets out of this alive, I’m going to cultivate her friendship.”

“If you become as frightening as her, I’ll run away and take our daughter,” I whispered, placing a hand over hers that was on my elbow, and thinking of some means through which I could intervene and defuse the explosive potential of our manager’s conversation with Alys.

“Then I’ll have to make sure to tie you closer to me,” she replied, wrapping her arm around my waist. It was a move that led Ohno to turn towards us and start sketching us instead.

Our manager fell silent for what seemed like ages until he broke in a hearty laugh. “You’ve got guts.”

“Obviously. Everyone has them. It’s a matter of whether we use them as weapons or as something with which to hang ourselves,” she answered with a condescending smile playing at her lips as she adjusted the glasses on her nose. “Shall we cut to the chase?”

“Indeed,” our manager stated, bowing his head at her. Was that a tacit acknowledgement of Alys by the JE management? Hopefully, that meant he approved of her. If he did, then Nino would not worry about hiding her existence from the JE powers-that-be.

“If you’re trying to buy my silence, I suggest you leave. No self-respecting woman would sell her soul in such an insufferable manner,” she intoned frostily.

“Everyone has their price, even you, Teng sensei.”

“I must ask you to leave,” was the curt response, “this is most insulting.”

“I will, but first -- why did you give the impression that the culprit had mistaken Ninomiya for someone else? You could have admitted the truth.”

“It is honourable and just to protect the reputation of others who are vulnerable and not in a position to protect themselves,” she said testily, neatly evading the issue of the extent of her relationship to Nino.

“You wanted to protect him?”

“You may very well think that. I could not possibly comment.” Alys kept her face expressionless – another deliberate move. Oh, if Nino had been there. He would have laughed himself hysterical at the scene with our manager. Our manager, I think, could sense that Alys-san had an indefinable substance that did not cow to his methods.

Our manager leaned forward and pushed his point. “Why?”

“The whole point of human interaction is concern for others. That concern necessarily predicates having an interest in the welfare of others; interest in the welfare of others in turn predicates concern for the reputation of others,” she responded. Chiaki too was nodding firmly to Alys-san’s words by this point. I approved too on the principles espoused.

After another pregnant pause, our manager extended a hand to Alys-san. “Teng sensei, you have my endorsement. If anything further happens in the press leaking news about you and Ninomiya, the Jimusho and I will manage it.”

She took his hand firmly, her thin fingers tightly gripping our manager’s proffered hand. “There will be no further incident.”

“I’ll inform the Boss about you. He should have no objections. Ninomiya is a lucky dog to have you,” our manager said. I coughed loudly. “Hai, Sakurai too – he doesn’t deserve someone like Chiaki-sama, and that’s my stated opinion.”

“Most men hardly deserve the women they’re with,” Chiaki laughed, bowing to our manager for the compliment as she jabbed me in the ribs with her elbow.

Our manager paused before throwing his head back in a merry laugh. “You’re right about that, Chiaki-sama, a hundred and one percent right.”


NOTES:

keigo = a very formal mode of speech in which you speak down to a person.

~~~~more to follow soon~~~~
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Re: [Complete] The Wages of Managing Sense (Sho)

Post by mclam01 » Wed Jan 24, 2018 3:01 pm

Here's the next instalment. *bows deeply*

Ch 24

Finally, it seemed that all was set to right at last. Well, almost everything if Alys-san could be finally persuaded to see Nino. But as Chiaki and I discovered, she was incredibly obstinate and insistent that Nino should go to her if he wanted her. I was at a loss to understand this behaviour from someone who could so quickly gain our manager’s approval while completely allaying his fears. How could she be so set on a particular way of thinking? If anything, her exchange with our manager demonstrated that she had the ability to think quickly on her feet. Why then was she so reluctant to do anything where Nino was concerned?

I posed the same question to Chiaki when I met her at the Jindai Tropical greenhouse two days later. “What do you suppose are Alys-san’s motivations for keeping her hospitalisation from Nino? She never once asked for him.”

Chiaki dumped a pot in my arms and indicated that I follow her to another part of the greenhouse close to the lily pond. “That’s because she’s afraid that he would turn her away. Imagine if she told him that she wanted to see him and he said no. How would she feel? She’s a proud woman, even more so than me. She will not stand to be treated like that. It would cripple her emotionally.”

“She’s not emotionally crippled. The two of them are emotionally autistic. Somehow, I feel that it would much simpler if we were to kidnap the two of them and lock them in a cupboard,” I opined, automatically taking up a small spade and moving to ease the sapling out of its pot.

Chiaki laughed when I shrugged a shoulder to prevent the sweat from dripping down. Removing her gardening hat and placing it on my head, she replied, “That could potentially backfire if they killed each other in the cupboard. You’ve seen what she can be like at the hospital. Going from the little I’ve seen of Ninomiya, I would hazard a guess that his bite is as nasty as his bark.”

“All that barking and biting only means they’re passionate,” I wiggled my eyebrows suggestively. “Imagine what they will happen when they are in such close proximity when all their repartee is traded.”

“You’re a pervert, Sho!” She threatened with a spade. “They could be playing games for all you know! Alys seems to be interested in DS games; she was looking online for the latest games when we visited.”

“She games? I didn’t know that,” I looked up and tilted the hat back.

“PC and DS games mainly. She was playing one on her laptop while listening to the opera yesterday.”

“I tell you, Chiaki – if we throw Nino and Alys-san in a cupboard, they will be in a compromised position when we open it again. That’s how they are – they love and hate equally. Sometimes, it’s frightening how passionate they can be when they are only smirking evilly at each other across the table. You can feel the tension when she flicks her wrist at him or when he shoots her a dismissive look – whatever they do, they will smirk at each other. It’s positively evil, I tell you. They’re not quiet and sedate like we are.”

“You’re not sedate. You have panic attacks.”

“Compared to them, we are sedate.”

“Are you suggesting, Sho, that we are dull?” Chiaki gasped in a mock tone of displeasure.

I grinned as our gloved hands met while patting the sapling in the soil. “We’re different, Okaachan. We’re an old married couple with a child. We’ve settled on a less volatile plane in our relationship. Lock us in a cupboard and we would curse our luck and fall asleep until someone came to our rescue.”

She twitched her mouth to the side in disapproval before laughing. “That’s you and only you, Sho! I would try to see if our keitai could still receive signals and attempt to make a call out for help. Waiting around for help could be helpless if no one actually knows we’re in the cupboard!”

“Hmm… Is that so?” I pretended to be puzzled. I was enjoying this fair too much. “That must be why men get married – to have wives making all the major decisions. Aiba did say sometime ago backstage during a Shukudai recording that fathers lie on the sofa scratching their balls and mothers manage everything.”

“What a terrible and vulgar analogy!” she exclaimed, checking the sap of a nearby tree. “Take this sample and put it in the orbital shaker when we get back to the office.”

“But it’s true for the most part in most families, if you think about it,” I insisted, knowing that Aiba sometimes did say things with a nugget of truth to them. “It might be true of us, since I am completely useless without you telling me what I should do and what I should not do.”

“Was that meant to be a compliment?” she asked, peering from being a suspended pot of orchids with a piece of charcoal in her hand.

“I meant it in general as a hypothetical exercise. If we’re talking about this matter vis-à-vis people like Alys-san and Nino, then they would be deviations from the mean.”

“But still within the allowable margin of standard deviation error,” she returned, sprinkling water on the charcoal of the orchid plants.

“Besides, you’re anything but normal and sedate, and you know that, Sakurai Sho!” She looked askance at me as we trudged to the bougainvillea patch.

“Compared to Aiba, I am. Could you imagine it if Aiba had broken your green house panel with a football?” I teased, squatting down and inspecting the hybrid that was our daughter for parasites or insects. No ants would be crawling on her if I could help it.

“I suppose I would have killed him, let the fire ants dispose of his body and dumped his bones in the lily pond,” she joked, an arm akimbo as she fetched the watering pot. “I’ve learnt my lesson. One Arashi chap is annoying enough. The horde of them will lead one to insanity on continued association. I’m sure Alys would agree.”

I paused and took the watering pot from Chiaki. “Now that you mention it, I don’t really know what she’s thinking. She’s kind to Aiba, but there’s an edge to her kindness. She likes MatsuJun, she treats him like a younger brother. I don’t know what she thinks of Ohno or of me or you.”

“Did they razz her as much as they did me when they met her for the first time?” Chiaki asked, taking a leaf sample from the bougainvillea hybrid.

“Matsumoto did, not as much as he did with you though. Aiba… Now he was on a completely new level of spontaneous with her. He played coy with you because you are a little frightening.”

“Am not!” she protested.

“That’s subjective, Okaachan.” I grinned cheekily before coming seriously to the point. “Aiba wasn’t as spontaneous with you as he was with us or Alys-san. He gravitated towards her. It’s his way, I know. But at the back of my head, I find it worrying. The way he looked at her when we first found out that Matsumoto had admitted her to the hospital – Aiba was distraught. The way he looks at her… It’s almost the same way Nino looks at her when he isn’t smirking like the devilish bastard that he is.”

“That only means he looks on her as a semi-maternal figure. You’re reading too much into it. I’m sure Alys isn’t encouraging him if that’s what you’re thinking,” she warned.

“Iya.” I shook my head firmly, wondering whether I was truly imagining things. “She wouldn’t encourage him. But do you think she should know so that she could deal with Aiba in case he thinks he’s infatuated with her?”

“Aiba-chan just loves people who care for him. That’s a very good trait to have. He’s such a boy that he wouldn’t know what it means to be in love until he’s too caught up in it and it smacks him right between the eyes. From the way I see it, he’s fine around her – completely normal.” She sighed. “Sho, look at me.” I obliged her with some reservation on her words. “Aiba-chan is all right. He’s the same around me as he is around her.”

I only hoped she was right about that. For some reason, I could not forget the look Aiba had thrown Alys-san when we left the night she had been warded. There was more than friendly concern in his eyes. That guy… If he wasn’t careful, he would really be half in love with her before he knew it. By which time, he would be utterly miserable and would have to deal with Nino. “I guess you’re right,” I conceded at last, choosing not to burden Chiaki with my thoughts lest she think I was being irrational. “It’s Alys-san and Nino we’re worried about.”

“I really don’t understand what kind of relationship they have. Do they communicate on any level? They’re both self-centred, callous, vindictive, and downright stubborn,” Chiaki went on, more for her own thought processes than my benefit. “She loves him but won’t see him unless he goes to her first. He, on his part, can’t go to her because he doesn’t know she wants him to. Do we have to make placards for them to wave about or signs to hang around their necks?”

“Oh… We have a plan,” I whispered, looking around for effect as if it were a matter of utmost secrecy.

“Nothing embarrassing on your Shukudai show I hope,” she warned, her voice with the hint of disapproval.

“Nah… We, that is, Matsumoto and I have been trying to hint gently to Ohno that he let slip about Alys-san to Nino. They are close – the two of them, always together like best friends at the kindergarten. The probability of success is very high.”

“The probability of that is 50-50 and you know it, Sho.” Chiaki rose and tore the gloves from her hands. “Talking to Ohno-san is sometimes akin to talking to a brick wall; you wonder how much of it sinks in. That 50-50 probability is the same reason why we’re checking up on our hybrid. There’s a 50% chance it’ll flower in due course; and there’s a 50% chance that it won’t because I designed the hybrid to be sterile. You will never know, and you placed all your eggs in the Ohno basket? That is not prudent.”

“Would you rather we entrusted it to Aiba?” I asked, getting a little exasperated.

“Hmm… Valid point,” she acknowledged. “Still, I wish you wouldn’t meddle so overtly. If Alys finds out, you’re going to be in trouble.”

“She won’t.” I stated confidently. “Now, what’s this business about the 50-50 chance that our daughter wouldn’t flower?”

Although the question was more of a diversionary tactic than anything, I really did wonder whether the hybrid bougainvillea would yield flowers. More to the point, I wondered whether its lack of flowers portended something negative in my private life. Did it pertain to me or to that of my friends? Whatever it was, it was too horrible to contemplate for moment, and I settled instead for listening to Chiaki ramble on the reasons for which the bougainvillea may or may not flower.

~~~~more to come shortly~~~~~
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Re: [Complete] The Wages of Managing Sense (Sho)

Post by mclam01 » Wed Jan 24, 2018 3:02 pm

Chapter 25

The plan that I had hinted obliquely to Chiaki involved getting Ohno to drop hints to Nino that Alys-san did want to see him even if she did not explicitly say so. For the five days that she was warded (the doctor decided to allow her to leave early), we all took turns to visit her and whenever we would drop a word about Nino and his current butai rehearsals, she would always ask whether he was well and whether he had cut his hair. Whenever one of us brought up the topic as to whether we should tell Nino to come see her, she would defect the subject or retreat into sullen silence. I was getting very fed up of this vacillation, especially since I heard from Ohno who visited Nino at his rehearsal that he was the epitome of professionalism on stage, but the moment he started playing his fancy DS, his game playing was more desultory than usual. That was a clear sign that he spent his free time in private contemplation. He must have thought about his professor; he must be thinking of her – otherwise why would he remain distracted even while gaming?

Although the idea of kidnapping them and locking them in a cupboard was looking increasingly attractive to me, I could not do it on my own. When I floated that ‘policy balloon’ to Matsumoto, it was immediately shot down. Aiba refused to participate in a scheme that could potentially rob his ‘mama’ of her dignity and continued his campaign to avoid Nino. He said it was a boycott of sarcastic people. The poor fellow did not know that his precious ‘mama’ could be as vicious as Nino, either that or he was deluded about her. I needed to have a talk with Aiba if this kept up. It wasn’t that I was afraid he would do something like professing his half-baked sentiments towards Alys-san. It wasn’t his style to make a move on a friend’s girl. But I worried that Aiba could be getting more muddled if this were to go on. For now, however, I had the more pressing matter of trying to get our dazed leader to drop hints to Nino.

“So, Ohno-kun,” I began as soon as I heard news from Aiba that he had dropped Alys-san at her place on her discharge, “have you seen Nino lately? Think he could make it for the Shukundai shoot in two days? He’s been so busy with his butai lately that we’ve not seen him.”

“I saw him yesterday after my own rehearsal,” Ohno volunteered with a smile. “He’s still the same – very touchy-feely.”

“Did he say anything about Alys-san?”

“No.”

“That’s bad.” I had known that Nino could be an insensitive clod, but being this callous was going too far.

“I know,” concurred Ohno, his lower lip protruding in thought. “But he held out a hand from his game when I said I went to see her. I don’t know what she usually gives him or I would have bought it for him.”

“Eh?” I braked hard at the traffic light and turned to look at Ohno. Did Nino still expect her to supply him with herbal teas and barley water? So he wasn’t as indifferent to her as he would like us to think. That was very encouraging news indeed. “Are you telling me that Nino expected you to give him something from Alys-san?”

He nodded, momentarily confused. “But I didn’t tell him about the hospital. I just slapped his hand in a low-five, and he looked up from his game once.”

“That was it?”

He nodded again.

“What kind of expression was on his face?”

“Unreadable. I don’t know. You know… like the way paper is but without the words.”

“Blank and inscrutable. That’s a good sign. He wants to see her. I think she wants to see him.”

“Oh, she does,” he agreed placidly. “She says he owes her money. I don’t know how to ask him to repay the money.”

I looked askance at Ohno. The money jibes were part of Nino’s and Alys-san’s routine. They were always talking about money and joking about it. Most couples would go ‘I love you’, but the two of them would go ‘you owe me money’. Truly amusing in a perverse kind of way. “It’s a joke, Ohno-kun,” I explained.

“Oh…” he paused and frowned, wrinkling his nose as if he were tasting food. “That must be why she was crying.”

“Was she watching an opera? She gets emotional watching or even listening to operas, especially the ones where the hero and heroine die,” I frowned in exasperation.

“Only the hero dies in this one. He had a very big nose and he died. Alys said it was French. Then she said Nino was like this other nobleman character, not the hero who died, but another one, a nobleman who sent the hero to war to get him out the way, but later became friends with him,” Ohno said, shaking his head, clearly unable to understand how Alys-san thought.

“She misses him, ne?”

“I’ve been thinking…”

“Yes, Ohno-kun?” I ventured wearily, not knowing whether he was going to utter a non sequitur.

“I’ve been thinking… you know you and MatsuJun have been saying that I should go see Nino…. And I thought that I know Alys misses him and I know that he misses her… so I thought that maybe Nino didn’t know. Maybe I should tell him to see her. Now would be good, ne? Now that she’s at home and not in hospital,” he rambled with a secret smile on his face.

“Hai, you should see him and encourage him to see her. It would be doing him some good. Manager-san likes her; we like her – they have nothing more to worry about,” I suggested in a completely unsubtle manner.

“Hmm…” he seemed to consider the matter briefly. “I’ll tell him tomorrow, okay?”

That was easier than I had expected. I would have expected more resistance not capitulation, but I was never one to look a gift horse in the mouth. If he needed little convincing to gently push Nino in the right direction, so be it. I was confident that the success rate of this mission would be extremely high. I had no idea how successful it would be if Matsumoto had not called me.

“Jun! This had better be good! I’m about to go to bed! It’s almost three!” I snarled into the keitai. It had been a tiring day in recordings, filming for News Zero and Shukudai; I was irritated and tired. It was raining and therefore cooling, and I had on the new pyjamas Chiaki had bought me. I wanted to sleep in my bed in these comfortable conditions.

Matsumoto’s voice contained the barest hint of a laugh. “Alys Nee-chan just called, ne, asking me whether I sent Nino to her.”

“He went to her place?” I leapt up from bed. I had not expected developments to occur this quickly. Wait till I tell Chiaki! Who says my schemes never work! Here is a fine show of my brilliance!

“Yeah, looks like Riida finally got off his arse and did something. She told me she gave him an umbrella and instructed him to go home.”

“Chotto matte,” I was still trying to wrap my head around the concept. “You mean to say that she didn’t let him into her flat?”

“He didn’t go up to her place. He called her when he downstairs looking up at her window like some stupid romantic tragic hero from a very badly written shoujo manga,” Matsumoto must have enjoyed imagining how the scene had played out.

Meanwhile, I was still in shock. Evidently, the two of them were more obstinate than I had previously supposed. “Did he apologise? Explain why he was there? Anything?”

“She said he asked her for the time and that he was there because he was there.”

“That’s not an explanation!” I bellowed in annoyance. “She’s a philosopher so there has be something there, but he can’t just say things like that! Whatever happened to ‘Darling, I love you. I’m sorry for being a bastard!’ We have to do something about them!”

“Tell me about it. We’ll call for a meeting after Shukudai tomorrow, four of us, at the usual pub, and decide what we can do about Nino’s stupidity.”

“But I’m meeting Chiaki tomorrow night!” I protested.

“Bring her along,” Matsumoto cried out as if it were the most natural thing for me to do. “We’ll need someone like her to keep Aiba-chan in order when he gets drunk now that Alys-chan is obviously not with us. We need Alys-chan back. Aiba seems to listen to whatever she tells him. He’s got a serious mother complex, that guy. I’ll drive him home if he gets drunk. No worries.”

“And park the car at your place?”

“I’ll tell him he lost it to me in a drunken bet. I’ll return it after twenty-four hours! Don’t be such a mother, Sho-kun!” he laughed. “So, we’re all set for tomorrow? We’ll tease Nino and after abandoning him and making like we’re going home separately, we meet at the pub. My usual table, get Chiaki-chan to use my name if she has to get in, and we strategise. Ja, ne. Night!” And after another laugh, he hung up.

Sometimes Matsumoto just gets on my nerves. I have no problems with him when he’s serious. But when he’s plotting, I wonder about him sometimes… But he did have a point, we would have to observe Nino to determine if he needed a further push.

~~~~more to come~~~~
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Re: [Complete] The Wages of Managing Sense (Sho)

Post by mclam01 » Wed Jan 24, 2018 3:02 pm

My internet has been down for the past 28 hours. To remedy that, I bring you two chapters. Douzo. *bows deeply*

Chapter 26

Observe Nino, we did. Our eyes followed him everywhere on the Shukndai set; rather all our eyes did except for Ohno’s. Ohno was determined to play up the Ohmiya factor on the set that day. I think it was a subtle sign that he approved of what Nino had done the previous night or this morning, depending how you want to see it. I’ve always believed that the day only ended when you went to bed, so no matter what time I slept, it would still be ‘today’ even if I went to bed at 4am. I’m weird that way, even Chiaki says so. Well, I wanted to send out the signal to Nino that he was doing well too, and draped an arm around his shoulder and all that. But Aiba was still glaring at Nino as if he were dog excrement on his shoe. Matsumoto settled for staring at Nino, as if studying him. By the time the shot ended, we all emerged from the television station to find it raining. Without a backward glance at us, Nino opened a blue umbrella, finished a cigarette in record time, slouched in dejection at some private thought, readjusted his guitar on his shoulder and left after a hastily uttered, “Uwah! Good thing I have shade! Night, guys!”

Well, so much for our plan of acting natural and leaving separately for the pub. We could only look at each other in a kind of stunned silence.

“Is he going to pull a Ni no Arashi thing?” Aiba asked, inching closer to me and looking around for cameras.

“I doubt it. He’s slouching too much. That’s a clear sign of pensive depression,” I opined, looking around for cameras just in case. When dealing with Nino, it sometimes pays to err on the side of caution. “Well then, shall we head to the pub? Chiaki’s waiting for us.”

Unusually and amazingly, four-fifths of Arashi reached the pub in silence. Only Chiaki’s quiet “Hello” broke into the thoughtful and pregnant silence that had been hanging in the air. “What happened?” she asked on taking on arm. “Did you get reprimanded for doing something stupid on television?”

“Ne, Aki-chan,” Aiba began before any of us could answer. “Nino went to see mama yesterday after his rehearsal.”

“I know, I heard from Sho,” she smiled thinly at him as I called for drinks.

“He had his guitar with him today,” Matsumoto hastened to add. “And a blue umbrella that said ‘Todai’ in one panel.”

“I don’t like it at all,” complained Aiba when his beer arrived. He took a quick glug and repeated, “I don’t like it. He shouldn’t be playing with mama like that.”

“But he likes games,” Ohno pointed out as if it were the most painfully obvious thing.

“What I want to know is why he has his guitar,” I asked, frowning into my beer.

“Did you notice that he was coughing and sneezing a little? He looks like he hasn’t had much sleep,” said Matsumoto suddenly with a generous toss of his hair.

“He should be sick after leaving mama so upset,” declared Aiba, taking up his beer and nearly finishing the glass. If he was going to keep at it, he would be drunk before he usually was. “She loves him and when she’s sick, he doesn’t even email her. He can’t treat her like that.”

“Shhh..” I tried soothing Aiba’s ruffled feathers by hugging him, hoping against my gut instinct that it was a childish rant and not the beginning of some infatuation he thought he had for Alys-san. “He went to see her yesterday. That can only mean he’s sorry.”

“Magnificent apology,” Matsumoto spat, lighting a cigarette and holding it delicately between his fingers, “Going to your girlfriend’s apartment complex,ne standing at the bottom of her window, calling her keitai, ne, and asking her for the time and telling her you’re there because you are there. Eh…Whoever wrote the script to that drama should be clubbed with a golf club.”

“A nine iron should be about right for Nino’s head,” Aiba muttered under his breath and I glared at him.

Chiaki, ever the diplomat, tried to defuse the tension at our table by appealing to quickly receding commonsense. “I’m sure that it took a lot of courage for him to go there after she stated that she wanted him to leave when they quarrelled. We must give him credit where it is due.”

“What now?” asked Matsumoto, passing his cigarette to Ohno who had been tapping the table for it. “Ano, ne, we know she wants him and he wants her, but they’re both too baka and stubborn to see that. This will sound really perverse, ne, but I want our sarcastic bastard back.”

Ohno exhaled the cigarette smoke and leant an arm on MatsuJun’s shoulder, his eyes suddenly serious. “Why did he have his guitar today?”

A very good question. He didn’t need it for his butai rehearsal and he certainly did not need it on today’s Shukundai recording. What was he going to do with it. “You may be on to something,” I said, meeting Chiaki’s speculative look with a weak smile. “He was listening to something on his mp3 player and playing his game at the same time. Usually he only plays games. Listening to music is something he does before he sleeps or if he wants to vegetate. Doing both could mean…”

“He doesn’t want to hear his own thoughts,” suggested MatsuJun thoughtfully tapping his lower lip.

“Or he doesn’t want to hear us badmouthing him,” Aiba said sourly.

“Or he’s plotting something,” I added, patting Aiba on his shoulder again to calm him.

“He plots at a time like this?” Chiaki cried out in astonishment. The assembled Arashi members nodded at her slowly. “What would he be plotting? More pranks? He has no reason to play childish pranks on you when you’re all being so off-standish with him!”

“Not plotting on us directly, but on her,” MatsuJun said off-handedly, taking the cigarette back from Ohno. “Knowing what we do of him…” He was cut off by his keitai ringing. “Excuse me…” He turned to the side to take the call.

“I think you should leave them alone to settle this between them,” Chiaki averred, wiping some of the beer from my trousers. “Ninomiya went to see her; she saw him – they now know that they can’t just walk away from each other. Give them time. They would be throwing themselves in each other’s arms and smirking evilly in good time.”

“Sho-kun,” Matsumoto called out, throwing me his keitai. Chiaki worriedly tugged at my elbow insisting that I take the call. “Emergency. Alys is on the line. She wants to know Manager’s home number.”

“Why?” I asked, finishing the beer in my mug. Aiba’s eyes flew up and he tried to grab the keitai but Ohno managed to hold him back.

“Nino,” came his laconic reply as he rubbed his brow and lit another cigarette. “Talk to her.”

Silence descended at our table as all eyes fell unblinkingly on me, even Chiaki was looking intently at me as she patted my knee in encouragement. Well, I had better take the call then.

“Alys-san? How may I assist you? I’m afraid our manager would be asleep at this hour,” I said into the receiver with a nervous laugh.

“How do I go about admitting Kazunari into a hospital without drawing any attention,” her voice came across as extremely quiet and calm. My momentarily joy at her intimate use of his name that I had never heard pass her lips was replaced by stunned horror when she continued, “He’s collapsed, fainted – call it what you will.”

“Nino collapsed!” I jumped up from my seat, repeating her words. Aiba was so shocked by the revelation that he knocked over his glass. On his part, Ohno could only reach freeze in his seat.

Her explanation came in the same cold, unwavering voice. “He came to see me in the rain. The bloody fool abandoned the umbrella and started singing. He’s slightly feverish. My preliminary prognosis is that he collapsed from exhaustion and caught something while standing in the rain. We’re at my place. The security guard helped move him up to my flat. He needs to be checked up.”

“Alys-san…”

“Don’t bloody prevaricate, Sakurai,” her smooth, frosty tone belying the severity of the words she conveyed. “I can only change cold towel compresses for and force feed glucose solution to my imbecilic freeloader boyfriend for so long. You had either tell me the damn procedure for admitting him and maintaining his anonymity or you come here and pick him up before he gets delirious.”

“You got back together?” I exclaimed, grinning in spite of the panic I felt on hearing that Nino had collapsed after an attempt to serenade her.

“Eh?” the guys all exclaimed and Chiaki shot me an ‘I-told-you-so’ look.

“That’s not important! The fool has a fever and just collapsed in the rain! Do you have your priorities screwed on backwards?” Alys-san’s tone was as imperiously cold as ever. Being impassive must be a coping mechanism for her. It was something I could understand. At least that way, she wouldn’t panic and be completely useless as I was in a full panic attack.

“I understand. I’ll be there with Chiaki and MatsuJun,” I replied grimly and hung up.

When I threw the keitai back to Arashi’s baby, Aiba started to drink from Ohno’s beer mug. “How’s Nino?” he asked in a thin voice.

“Feverish. Ohno-kun, see that Aiba-chan gets home safely,” I answered, holding on to Chiaki’s hand for comfort. “Jun, I need your help in admitting Nino to hospital.”

~~~~~more to come shortly~~~~~
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Re: [Complete] The Wages of Managing Sense (Sho)

Post by mclam01 » Wed Jan 24, 2018 3:03 pm

Chapter 27

Alys was surprisingly composed when we arrived to make the call to the hospital according to JE procedure to admit Nino. There was a suitcase in the hall next to the sofa that she said was for her upcoming Prague conference. Other than the constant trembling in her hands that she was continually wringing when she wasn’t changing cold towel compresses on his forehead, she appeared perfectly serene. I left Chiaki to see to her while Matsumoto and I tried to arrange matters with the nearest hospital and ensure maximum anonymity for our unfortunate friend. I don’t know how Chiaki and Alys could remain so calm under those circumstances. I was a little panicky myself, not quite knowing what to do other than arrange for some kind of privacy for Nino lest we were found out. Fortunately, Matsumoto was made of sterner and graver stuff and he quickly grasped the severity of the situation. He swept in, made a phone call to the necessary JE authorities and our manager. When all was settled, the ambulance had arrived and Alys was visibly popping the pills for epilepsy and her heart in a bid to keep calm.

Despite Chiaki’s insistence and Matsumoto’s murmurs that Alys should rest, she would brook no refusal to her claims to see things through. She didn’t do things ‘half-arsedly’ as she said in English as she wrapped a shawl around herself and demanded that if I didn’t take her to the hospital along with Nino, she would walk there. Before we knew it, she had glared at Matsumoto’s suggestion that she change out of her nightgown, commandeered my car keys, and asked Chiaki if she would be so kind as to drive her to the hospital. I would not have expected that of her, or perhaps I should, but Chiaki seemed mesmerised by her cause and was determined to help her.

As Chiaki explained in the car on the way back from the hospital where we had left Alys cursing Nino for being an irritant in English, “We shouldn’t make a fuss over her. She knows what she wants. If she wants to stay by his side, we should let her be. It’s not like she’s going smother him with a pillow the moment we’re gone.”

“I don’t understand women,” I sighed then quickly added, “except for present company. She’s in no condition to look after Nino. She should be leaving it to the professionals instead of watching him. It’s not going to do him any good.”

“But she wants to be with him,” stressed Chiaki, dusting some imaginary piece of lint from my sleeve. “She’s going to be away for a week and a half. It would ease her mind to know that he’s safe and out of danger.”

“Nino does not put himself in danger. He puts others there to take the fall; she should know that by now,” I pointed out.

“It does not stop her from worrying. Let me put it to you this way, Sho,” she reasoned, tapping a finger on the speedometer as a warning that I was going too fast. And I was – I was irritated by Nino’s irresponsible act of making his girlfriend worry, and annoyed with Alys for driving Nino to his current state. “Would you like it if I sat quietly at home waiting for news of you if something had happened to you? You would want me to be there for you when you came to, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes, but that’s different!”

“How?”

“We’re more sensible than that – than them!”

Chiaki folded her arms and closed her eyes, undoubtedly counting to ten to quell her anger. “Alys is an intelligent human being. Her first thought was taking care of someone who had fainted almost at her doorstep; her next thought was about her work and the conference she would be attending and how it was a damned nuisance to have this Ninomiya distraction when she had her career to consider. That is what I call a sensible woman. She is still able to prioritise her life.”

“Staying over night at the hospital watching over Nino isn’t going to forward her career, not when she has to leave in the afternoon for Prague!” I remonstrated.

“She brought her book and writing material with her, and I volunteered you as a chauffeur to drive her to the airport tomorrow,” Chiaki’s lips curled in a fair facsimile of Alys-san’s devilish one. I really should reconsider my girlfriend’s moral compass if she thought I could be cowed by a smirk.

“So I have no choice in the matter?” I shook my head and smiled in resignation. Never argue with a woman, my father once said – he had a point. They had a reason for doing everything they did. It was better to attempt to understand the reasoning than to launch a quarrel.

“None whatsoever,” she grinned. “You’re also picking her up when she gets back. We have plans to go to a Butler café soon.”

“Why a Butler café?” I asked, nodding at the request that I chauffeur Alys. The woman had epilepsy, she shouldn’t be driving, so I didn’t mind. But this business with the butler café was disturbing.

“She and I are stuck with selfish insensitive clods like Nino and you; we deserve to be treated like the ladies of the manor. I don’t complain about your dental assistants in blue dresses fantasies when you talk about the club you used to with MatsuJun and Aiba, so leave Alys and me to our butlers. We promise not to do anything more than ogle,” she laughed, causing me to panic. I had no idea Chiaki would ogle at men. She had me and yet she ogled at others? Hmm… It wasn’t like I was any better. I still took a second look at pretty girls, not that I did anything. Well, I could live with that. If I could look at pretty girls; she could look at handsome guys too.

“I’ll trust you on that,” I sighed, rolling my eyes. “However, I don’t want to hear that you’ve been pinching any one else’s butt.” To which sally, she only laughed and prodded my stomach affectionately.

Come the afternoon when I was due to pick up Alys, she was visibly calmer than she had been the night before. Her hands were no longer shaking and she stood like Audrey Hepburn at the front of Merton Building with a suitcase and her laptop bag. She smiled a greeting and climbed in the car apologising for the trouble she had caused Chiaki and me.

“No trouble at all,” I smiled reassuringly at her, noticing with some alarm that she was paler than was normal for her and had a hand at her mouth. That was the look of someone about to throw up. Don’t tell me she and Nino had already consummated their relationship to that extent.

Somehow she collected herself to pull a plastic bag from her laptop bag, and with a deft flick opened it, whereupon she proceeded to throw up in the bag. I was thankful for that. She could have vomited in the car and made things worse. She had a good head on her shoulders. However, I really should talk to Nino about leaving his girlfriend in such a state.

“Are you expecting perhaps?” I asked, deciding to be direct as soon as she finished and slumped back in the seat. Directness always helps to minimise misunderstanding.

She took a gulp of water and smiled thinly at me. “You think we would allow ourselves an additional financial burden? Why would he and I make such a mistake when we haven’t a high opinion of children? You frown, Sho-kun, but that is how he and I think. Moreover, I am not meant for being a container for such a cause. My health, you see – too much a strain on my heart. This thing – motion sickness – I get it all the time in cars, on boats, on planes. It’s worse when I fly.”

“I am sorry to hear that,” I murmured sympathetically.

“Don’t be sorry unless I’m dead. Even if I’m dead, do not feel sorry. I do not accept pity,” she snapped and shook a little ointment from a small bottle and rubbed it on her temples.

As could be expected from a woman who has been through a great deal in her life, Alys was a tough woman if she had to be. I opted to defuse the tension in the car by asking, “Am I picking you up when you get back?”

“That would be nice, but if would be troublesome, don’t bother,” her voice came across as strained and tired.

“Chiaki commanded me to, and I must obey or I will suffer a fate worse than death.” I shuddered, recalling the painful stings of the fire ants.

“Torture involving thousands of tiny biting insects is infinitely more enjoyable than straightforward whipping and bone breaking. It keeps the victims alive longer, and imagine the excruciating pain they must feel. It must be simply delightful to watch,” she purred with a twinkle in her eyes and a smirk playing on her lips. As I was taken aback by her vivid description of using insects for torture, I could not immediately respond. I did not know which was more frightening – the fact that she would find torture amusing or that Chiaki had told her about the fire ants. Did the two of them trade notes on boyfriends already? That was a horrible thought to contemplate. “Just joking, Sho-kun,” she rolled her eyes, smirking and smacking me on the arm.

“I knew that,” I quickly stated with a smile. That only earned me an ‘oh-sure-you-did’ look. “How is he?”

“Just the flu, or so I was told,” she yawned, opening her laptop and extracting a brown envelope. “For him. Inform him that there is no love letter full of sentimental tripe enclosed.”

“What is it?” I asked when she placed it on the dashboard.

“A game and the walkthrough,” she smirked evilly, adjusting her glasses.

“He’ll feel insulted,” I warned after a low whistle.

Her lips curled into another smirk. “Good.” She paused and pressed her lips together before going on, “I should be back for the opening night of his performance. If your manger is holding tickets for you lot, save one for me. Better yet, tell him to send me one. Chiaki has my personal email address; she’ll know how to get me.”

“You can’t go if you’re too jetlagged,” I stated out of concern.

“Twenty-four hours without sleep is nothing. I don’t start hallucinating from sleep deprivation until the fifty hour mark,” she deadpanned. “Trust me, Sho, I’m worse if you wake me up from jetlag slumber than if I don’t sleep at all for twenty-four hours. If your manager cares to send me the ticket,” she added, fishing out a name card from her laptop bag and leaving it on the dashboard as soon as we pulled up at the airport, “Send it to my residence at Merton. Address is at the back.”

“What about Nino?” I asked when she got out of the car.

“Look after him, make sure he eats, rests, cuts his hair, smokes less and sleeps. If I find him worse for wear or incapacitated when I return, I’ll steal your bougainvillea daughter and raise it as my own,” she smirked. Oh yes, she was formidable. Only she could manage him, and I certainly hoped Nino wasn’t too idiotic to realise that.

~~~~more to come shortly; stay tuned~~~~
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Re: [Complete] The Wages of Managing Sense (Sho)

Post by mclam01 » Wed Jan 24, 2018 3:04 pm

Here is today's instalment. *bows deeply*

Chapter 28

The week and a half that Alys spent in Europe must have been trying for her. I know from Chiaki that the two of them kept in touch, just what about I had no idea and I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. I had nothing against my girlfriend befriending Nino’s girl; I just some reservation as to whether encouraging them to discuss the latest twists in one of the josei manga they were following as well as men at Butler cafés was the right thing to do. At some point, Matsumoto and I were emailing her too; rather she emailed MatsuJun and I emailed her. First, the emails were about fairly innocuous things like checking whether a certain DS game was available in Japan. Matsumoto had gone to Akihabara for that. Other than learning that waitresses at the Victorian Romance Emma café were incredibly cute because they had glasses, he did not find the game. Alys wouldn’t say aught either. When I enquired after her conference, she only answered in English that it was ‘profitable’ and that she was ‘secure in her prospects’. I took it to mean that things had gone well for her. When I picked her up at the airport with Chiaki at a crazy time early in the morning after a Shukudai shoot, she was barely speaking and looking like she wanted to strangle anyone who dared speak to her. I guess that makes her one of those people who could not sleep on the plane.

By evening, when Chiaki, Matsumoto and I went to fetch her for Nino’s butai, she was properly made up, in a nice dress, her hair done up differently and most unusually, with a splash of makeup. I wasn’t used to seeing her with makeup. Chiaki hardly wears makeup herself, and it had already been a pleasant shock for me that she had thrown on a magenta uneven helm dress and lipstick. Surely, if I thought my girlfriend was a goddess when she made the effort to dress up, Nino would feel the same towards his professor when he saw her. Matsumoto could only eye the two women with amused speculation behind his carefully folded arms. I was also somewhat surprised to see that she had a floral tribute and a gift she said were peace offerings for her freeloader. I nearly choked on my drink at the use of the possessive pronoun; it was the same possessive pronoun Nino used when talking about her. If I had thoughts as to whether their mutual possessiveness was healthy, I kept it to myself.

Our manager, unaware of my thoughts, was utterly stunned by the appearances of Chiaki and Alys. And who wouldn’t be by two goddesses who outshone even our resident fashionista? Manager-san took their hands and bowed over them as if he were that Andre fellow from Rose of Versailles (Matsumoto’s words not mine).

“Ah, the lovely Chiaki-sama, I’ll tell the stage hands to get you your favourite plum tea. Has Sakurai been giving you trouble? Tell me if he has and I will punish him for you!” our manager announced with a deadly glance in my direction for good measure. Despite looking like a gangster, he was really a devoted family man. From the way he spoke to the ladies, it was clear that he had come to regard them as something like daughters.

“He has been very good, I assure you,” Chiaki laughed, rolling her eyes and exchanging a look with Alys.

Our manager nodded and smiled, before clapping his hands and barking at someone to fetch tea for the ladies. “The elegant Miyuki-no-miya,” he addressed Alys. “So happy to have you back with us. Ninomiya is in his dressing room. Do you want me to drag him out here for you?”

She paused for a moment to stifle her laugh and settled for smirking. Matsumoto and I rolled our eyes on catching the pun our manager had so lamely executed. “Flattery will get you everywhere. Come now, Uncle,” she continued, taking his right arm and Chiaki taking his left, “tell me all the news with you. Have you been keeping well?”

“Oh yes, you look peaky. Have the boys been troubling you again?” Chiaki asked, laughing in spite of herself.

Matsumoto swallowed a chuckle as we moved to the dressing room. “Looks like they’ve got him wrapped around their little fingers.”

I could only shake my head and clamp a hand at my mouth lest I laugh myself hysterical at the thought of our manager being completely under the thumbs of two Arashi girlfriends. While it did speak highly of the abilities of the ladies to charm him, it did not paint our poor manager in a flattering light. These were the thoughts still on my mind when I hovered outside the dressing room as Matsumoto waltzed in with an unjustifiable swagger and dropped Nino the present and bouquet that Alys had specially picked out for him. If he wasn’t careful, he was going to take her for granted – that selfish, sarcastic bastard.

It appeared that a week and a half away from his professor led Nino to be more than a little restless. You should have seen him in his dressing room hours before his opening performance. He was playing on his game console with Aiba chattering on something, and Ohno lost in own thoughts. Nothing unusual there, but it seemed like Nino didn’t know what to do with himself. He constantly adjusted his posture, flung his feet on the table, removed them again, kicked off his shoes and rested his feet on another chair only to remove them again. He was restless. Was our diminutive bastard that nervous? I seriously doubt it. His pre-concert nerves were infinitely calmer than this where he responded to nerves by simply being quieter than usual.

“He’s finally cut his hair, I see,” came the British accented voice of Alys as she stole a glance at him from the door.

“You can go in; it’s free access for you,” I told her, noticing that she had a quiet smile playing on her lips as she looked at him, adjusting her glasses.

“It would distract him from his game,” she firmly answered and backed away from the door. Her eyes widened as she turned her head towards me. “Good Lord! Ohno-kun saw me. He just grinned and waved.”

True enough, we heard Ohno loudly declare, “There was a something with shiny white things. Brown swan with white shiny things.”

As soon as he ventured out, he grinned at me and indicated with a thumb that I should go in and participate in the budding mayhem, then he stopped looked at Alys with his head cocked to the side.

“Swan!” he exclaimed in an excited whisper, bending his arm and wrist into a swan gesture.

Puzzled by what he could mean by that, I copied his gesture and he nodded approvingly at me.

He grinned. “See, Sho-kun thinks you’re a swan too. Where are the shiny white things?”

“In the hair, at the back. A beaded haircomb,” Alys replied, steering him away from the dressing room.

“Ooh! Pretty and shiny! You’re back! Welcome back!” he cried out, genuinely happy and lowered his voice to tell her something I couldn’t catch, but to which she nodded carefully and patted his shoulder encouragingly. “Have you seen Nino? I know you’ve seen him from out here, but you must. He’ll be happy. You want fruit? One of the kohai bands sent him fruit.”

“No, no, come along, and tell me the news, it’s been ages since we talked, Ohno-kun,” she smiled indulgently and carefully took him by the elbow away from the vicinity of the dressing room.

I could almost bang my head on the wall. She was deliberately sidestepping any opportunity to see him. What was I going to do with her? Hmm… Perhaps if Nino were goaded and given a little push, he might go to her and obviate all this running around and hiding behind doors and peeping at each other nonsense. With that thought, I pasted on a smile and walked into the room just as Matsumoto was about to explain the significance of the pink heather.

~~~~~more to follow shortly~~~~~
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Re: [Complete] The Wages of Managing Sense (Sho)

Post by mclam01 » Wed Jan 24, 2018 3:04 pm

Here's today's instalment. *bows deeply*


Chapter 29

To the best of my knowledge, Nino and his professor were back together again but not seeing each other. I do not know how that works in practice, though I could understand the logic behind their enforced separation due to their individual work commitments. For much of his butai run, they did not meet. She would dodge any attempt by the guys to take her to see him. She would make some excuse, citing work or books that she had to read or papers she had to write or lessons she had to prepare. Yet, she would always make some kind of herbal tea or soup for him for his performances everyday. For the first few days, she arranged for Matsumoto to hand him the ‘poisons’, then it was my turn, then Aiba’s turn. It was getting to be terribly tedious from my point of view, but Nino – that idiot was enjoying himself. He would pretend to extend an indifferent hand for the bottle or container, and indifferently open it and take a mock tentative taste, declare it horrible but eat it or drink it all up.

Nino, on his part, was no better than Alys. He wanted to see her, I know he did; we all did. Yet, he didn’t make any effort to go to her. Infuriatingly, all he would do was remain in his chair, feet on the table, playing the game she got him and occasionally asking us strange questions. According to Matsumoto, he wanted to know what was a ‘xenophon’. Then he asked me what kind of a title was ‘Anabasis’. After three hours' research, I learnt that he was enquiring after a book by Xenophon entitled ‘Anabasis’, a philosophy book. The plot thickens, eh? So, it was for her. It had to be. When I told him what I had discovered, he went, “Is that right? Think you can check up the price of the latest English translation for me? Write it down for me – the title, translator, everything.”

Why doesn’t that baka just order the book online and have it sent to her? He knows where she lives; she knows where he lives. Why does he have to exploit me to check up on the price of a book? It doesn’t end that. I learnt from Aiba that Nino requested that he buy it for him. Even our manager thought Nino was being too lazy. But our manager is a strange man – his motivations in dubbing Nino lazy could be due to a myriad of factors, or that he wanted us to see Chiaki and Alys again. It’s strange. Whenever he sees anyone of us, he would ask why we didn’t bring Chiaki-sama or Miyuki-no-miya for a visit. If I didn’t know better, it would seem like he cared more for our girls than he did for us. That’s nonsensical thinking by the way because our manager really did care for us in that slightly bluff, warped way of his. But when he thinks that Nino and Alys are strange, then he does have a valid point.

Just when I thought the whole dynamics of Nino’s and Alys’s relationship was rather perverse, I couldn’t stop but be amused by them. Precisely because it was so perverse that I wanted to observe it, if only to prevent them from tearing each other limb from limb if and when they should fight. I was voicing this exact same reservation to Chiaki when we were en route to the closing night of Nino’s butai.

“Don’t you find her perverse in stringing him along?” I quizzed, “Nino puts up with it only because he gets free drinks from the woman. And him? He’s even worse. He’s giving the impression that he doesn’t really care if she goes or stays, and yet, he expects others to buy a book that he knows she wants. What is wrong with them?”

“Are you still hung up about not locking them in a cupboard?” Chiaki shot me a look that clearly cast doubt on my ability to rationalise things. “They’re both not the pestering sorts. He knows she has her own life, with her work. She knows he has his own life, with his own work. The way I see it, they have a healthy respect for each other.”

I gasped in exasperation, “That’s because, mother of my beautiful bougainvillea hybrid, you are completely logical and believe that everyone thinks like you. The two of them defy logic.”

“See here, Sho,” she rolled her eyes in between bites of a milk pan, “you defy logic too. You keep asking every other day whether the hybrid has flowered even though you drop by the greenhouse once a week to look at it. No one would have thought you were annoying pestering baka if they look at you.”

“I do not pester. In fact, I’ve been told that I smoulder,” I raised a suggestive brow.

“You pout like a petulant child; you have tantrums like a petulant child when the waitress doesn’t serve you; and you’re irritating like a petulant child. Notice the pattern?” she riposted teasingly.

“It has to be better than Nino and his smirks,” I pouted in displeasure. I am not a petulant child. I just have problems with patience.

Chiaki waved her milk pan in front of my mouth. “Bite, masticate, swallow and digest. You’re being sulky. That can only mean you’re hungry. Eat this and fill a corner of your stomach for now.”

“Damn Nino! If he would go to Alys-san, we would have eaten dinner, gone to his performance and then gone for supper, instead of bringing him dinner,” I complained, biting into the pan.

Chiaki reached a hand across and changed the gear. “Concentrate on driving! You’re the one who said Nino had to be fed since Aiba-chan could not be trusted to feed him and the wonderfully cunning plan to bring along bento so that we could all eat together and cheer him on. Whatever happened to your spirit of good will?” she chided when we pulled into the parking space allocated to the staff of the theatre.

“It depreciates when my hunger appreciates, like a curve, want me to plot it? I could elucidate with illustrations,” I answered, getting out of the car and taking the takeaway bento boxes with me before letting her out on her side. “That diminutive baka had better appreciate this.”

She sighed and adjusted my collar, pulling it hard and making me stumble forward a little. “You know as well as I do that he appreciates it. He’s just not as vocal as you are.”

I harrumphed my acknowledgement and tucked her hand at my elbow as we greeted our manager who fawned over his beloved Chiaki-sama with a wider smile than usual, telling us that there was still some dim sum if we would like some. Really now! That man treats my girl better than he treats me. Truly amusing. After assuring him that we would tell him if we were still hungry later, we made our way to the dressing room where we heard the very distinct giggling laugh of Nino and the crisp accent of Alys. Chiaki and I exchanged a smile. You would too if you were there. All the harebrained schemes we concocted to get them to see each other, none of them worked and there they were laughing at something together while holed up in his dressing room.

“Don’t poke it and then offer it to me that way!” Nino giggled harder than he was previously.

“Then how am I supposed to take it up? Poking through is the easiest method! It’s slippery! You try!” she demanded with a hint of a laugh to her voice, and I heard the sounds of something repeatedly hitting the wooden flooring. Chiaki’s eyes widened at that exchange. I was too stunned to say anything on my part. Just what was going on in there?

“Hmm-mmm,” he made a sound of protest, still trying hard not to lapse into a giggling fit. “You’re nearer. You’re on the floor, aren’t you? I’ll have to bend down.”

“You’re stooping already!” came Alys’s voice and a loud smack and another giggle from Nino. “What difference will it make if you bend forward a little more? Come down to my level at least. I can’t imagine lying like this is good for my back.”

“But you have a pillow!” he complained.

“Then come down! Or you’re not going to get any of this!” she laughed and more thumping sounds were discerned.

“Then you won’t get any of what I have!” he laughed.

Goodness! What were they doing? Was it what I think it was? They must be either very stupid or shameless. Very likely, all of those options. Chiaki backed away slowly from the door just as one of the stagehands knocked on the door with a flask of tea.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Chiaki managed to utter. Thankfully she did so. I was in no position to give voice to my opinions. I certainly did not want to know what sort of recreational game play they were currently engaged in.

The stagehand shrugged and said that it was all right and opened the door. The couple therein said hello and thanked him. As he left, Chiaki and I poked our head in, uncertain as to what we would find. There was either something very wrong with the stagehand if he did not find whatever they were doing objectionable or whatever they were doing was a common occurrence that it now bothered no one. The second was particularly horrifying to me. I knew from experience that their conversations tended to be a potpourri of insults, shouting matches and discussions on money. I had not expected their private engagements to be so… enthusiastic.

Whatever we had expected, we did not expect to find Nino seated in a chair leaning forward with his elbows at his knees taunting Alys with a dumpling he had gripped between his chopsticks. A quick survey of the room revealed that there was a box of dumplings on his dressing table. She was lying on a rug on the floor with a laptop open and two opened books, and her elbows propped on a pillow as she waved a single chopstick with a siew mai near his mouth. Near her laptop was an open box of siew mai.

“Oh, hello!” Alys-san said cheerfully in English, still waving the single chopstick in front of Nino as she stared at the laptop screen.

“Hey there, guys!” Nino greeted us. “Close your mouths before the flies make their home there.”

“We thought…” I released the breath I did not realise I had been holding. “We thought you were… you know…”

“What?” asked Nino, finally taking the siew mai in his mouth and popping the dumpling into hers before joining her on the floor with his box of dumplings.

“Sho was thinking of perverse, unspeakable things,” Chiaki stated, jabbing me in the stomach with her elbow. I was not! I was merely worried that they had gotten too carried away.

“I thought I was the eroi one! Sho, I never thought you had it in you!” Nino teased with a semi-flirtatious smirk. “Ne, Alys-chan, Sho-kun thought we were doing the washing machine routine for real.”

“Tell him we charge spectators.” Alys-san typed something into her laptop as Nino picked up a dumpling and jabbed it near her mouth.

“Yeah, so unless you bring us suitcases full of money, no washing machine show,” he smirked, then tried to get her to eat, with a hand on her left buttock. Right… I did not just see that. I may be used to seeing him do that to Ohno, but I wasn’t used to seeing him do that to Alys. I was more disturbed by the fact that she didn’t seem to mind. “Oi, sensei, take a bite. You can’t keep working.”

“Let me finish this sentence first. The department clerk needs the syllabus by Monday.” She waved away his hand with the chopsticks and muttered to herself as she continued typing. But her left hand, I noticed had reached over to touch his knee

“Would you believe her!” Nino mock complained as he nudged her elbows so that she would make room for him on the pillow. “She came here to work because of the free electricity.”

“We brought bento. I thought it would be great if you had real food for a change,” I volunteered, looking back and forth at them when she scuttled over and they both stared at the laptop screen as he whispered something in her ear. How did they make whatever they had work? They were both self-centred, each concerned for only the things they liked doing, and yet they found such happiness in ordinary things like being in each other’s company. A psychologist or sociologist could write a paper about them and no one would be any closer to unravelling what they were.

“You know,” Chiaki whispered to me as Nino rested his chin on her shoulder and she rubbed her cheek next to his. “I think you’re right for a change. There is something rather perverse about them – cute but perverse.”

“Told you so,” I muttered, wondering whether they were aware of how they looked and sounded to others. Knowing what I did about them, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did this deliberately in public in the name of ‘fun’.

“Alys-chan, they brought food. Free food. Eat first, ne? Oi, sensei! Eat first. You can work when I’m on stage,” Nino suggested to her as he waved for Chiaki and me to sit down.

“Not now! I’m already on the seventh week’s reading list,” she said testily.

“Eat now, or…” he stopped, whispered something in her ear with his trademark smirk of doom, and nuzzled her neck.

“You wouldn’t dare, Freeloader! Not now! Not here!” She glared at him, paling quickly and then blushing.

“Try me, Teng sensei! You can’t always be the one dishing it out. I can bite too or have you forgotten?” He smirked again, planting a series of kisses on her neck when she continued working on the laptop.

I coughed and looked to the side for the moment, hoping that it would serve as an adequate reminder to the perverse pair that Chiaki and I were still there and anything but oblivious to whatever it is they were doing. On her part, Chiaki took a few steps back and urged me to do the same. Perhaps it would be better if we let them get over with whatever they seemed to be doing. I would have followed my girlfriend’s excellent lead and left the world’s most perverse couple to their own devices if the professor had not let out a small almost whimpering sigh. Chiaki’s eyes widened as she tugged my hand pressing me to leave with her and let them be. But I couldn’t just leave the professor unprotected alone with Nino.

“Damnable freeloader,” she purred, slanting her head to the side thereby allowing him freer excess to her neck. “I hate that. If you don’t stop, this is going to be your murder weapon,” she continued unevenly, pulling down the cover of the laptop.

“Don’t lie this time. You know you like it!” he taunted, with a final nip at her collarbone. I could not approve of that, not if he was using teeth, and I had indeed caught sight of teeth. I was beginning to think that the two of them were not for public consumption at all and would have said something about it if he had not snatched away her hands from the notebook and continued, “Eat now, or I’m not going to stop with just that!”

She glowered at him as she smacked him hard on the arm and gave him an evil smirk. “You’re a contemptuous little freeloading imbecile and I despise you utterly!”

“I despise you more!” he laughed, pressing his lips reverently to the nape of her neck again.

Chiaki shook her head and sighed as she handed out the bento to them and flashed me a warning look to keep any remarks I had on the situation before us to myself. She needn’t worry. At that moment, I only wanted to laugh at them. The way Nino and Alys treated each other was perverse but affectionate. There were shades of possessiveness in their treatment of each other. It was made all the more ironic by the fact that whenever Nino was among the guys and talking about our girls, he always called Alys the only game he would never be able to play to completion. The two of them were truly amusing to observe – both physically needy, both emotionally autistic, both of them selfish lovers, both never saying what they really mean to each other and yet somehow understanding each other. That makes them much funnier and more disconcerting than Nino’s and Ohno’s Ohmiya skits.


~~~~~more to come ~~~~~
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Re: [Complete] The Wages of Managing Sense (Sho)

Post by mclam01 » Wed Jan 24, 2018 3:05 pm

Today's instalment. Douzo. *bows deeply*


Chapter 30

Now that all was well in the warped slightly sadomasochistic world of Nino and his professor and all was well in the lives of the rest of the Arashi lads, I was more at ease. However, I was still discomfited by the rumours in Central about Nino and Alys being mythical entities, specifically a kitsune and yuki-onna. This was so much so that the Juniors in particular now crossed to the other side of the corridors if they saw Nino, which in turn, amused the guys as well as the members of the other bands who shared our floor at Central. I have a fair idea as to the origins of this preposterous rumour. However, I chose to do nothing since there was no damage done. It was up to me to keep the order or everyone who run amok. It was not as easy as it looks to keep everyone in check. It wasn’t something I particularly excelled in. I felt that it was something I had to do because I worried about them. Arashi wasn’t Arashi if the fellows weren’t doing something madcap and laughing themselves silly over trivial things. Perhaps Matsumoto was right - perhaps I’m the mother of the group making sure that everyone had enough of what he needed and was kept happy.

Six months after the closure of his butai, it seemed that Nino was back to his waspish, stingy little self. In turn, he took Alys to Ohno’s spring butai where they made dinner for all of us and spent much smirking over something. Ohno seemed to bear himself better now that Nino was ‘normal’ again (please note that I use this term very subjectively) and the two of them were whispering and giggling over something. I hoped it wasn’t an Ohmiya plot to throw JE Central into disarray. The other two were moderately well as far as I could tell. Matsumoto was still slightly snippy with his nose in his novels and manga – all by the same authoress, one Sakiyama Jewel, and the same mangaka, one Fujiwara no Murasaki. There was definitely something strange there. Even Nino was giving him funny looks, but Nino sometimes gives everyone funny looks. Saying so could be giving Nino less credit that should have been due to him. He was an observant bastard. I wouldn’t be surprised if he knew something about MatsuJun that we didn’t. Aiba, seemingly oblivious to what was going on, appeared happy that everything was normal again for the band. Notice my choice of words – Aiba ‘seemed’ oblivious and ‘appeared’ happy. I had reservations about him. When he was by himself in the Arashi room, he would stare up at the ceiling, hugging his soft toy dog with a look of great dejection. His monotonous act of staring at the ceiling would be broken whenever Nino brought beverages or snacks from his professor. Poor Aiba – it would seem that he was in the throes of some private trouble.

More disquieting than his despondent ceiling staring act were the questions he had been asking since the passing of April, sometime after Easter. I remembered the bizarreness of Aiba coming to a head after Easter because Nino sardonically joked that Alys only chose to be a practising member of the Church of England twice a year, namely during Easter and Christmas. It was particularly disquieting because Aiba was asking questions like why people chose to drown or fling themselves on train tracks. Aiba wasn’t suicidal, I had nothing to worry on that score. He enjoyed living life too much to do something that foolish. However, the way he said it conveyed the impression that it was more than an academic question. Out of concern, I asked him if he wanted to talk about it but he attributed my questions to an overactive imagination. Ohno seemed to be doing better at getting the younger fellow to open up and I left it at that. So long as Aiba was talking to someone about his private troubles and not keeping it to himself, I could rest easy.

Indeed, things did look like they were settling back into some semblance of normalcy. Our manager yelled at us to behave during shoots; we continued shouting obscenities unfit for the ears of ladies in the showers at each other and we seemed to remain popular with the fangirls. Chiaki and Alys had gotten into the habit of calling the fangirls rabid, which could be true. The fans did scream a great deal and would chase us down the street if they ever found us that we were trawling down the same pavements as they were. Save for the minor fact that they were not frothing at the mouth, I would say that the fangirls were rather rabid. However, the ladies remained impassively unimpressed with us though according to Chiaki, the new saplings seemed to respond very well to Arashi’s music and were growing very well. Similarly, Nino had revealed to the guys during one particularly drunken evening that his Alys-san only listened to our music when she was in the library because it cheered her up. He added that she would dance between the shelves while searching for books because he thought she believed no one would see her that way. I remembered Matsumoto being very blasé with that revelation. Aiba and I seemed to find that epiphany ticklish. Who would have imagined that the constantly strait-laced Teng sensei would dance to our music between the shelves? She was as strange and enigmatic as Nino sometimes.

I was trying to put into words – this strange enigmatic way of women – for a News Zero report on the modern Japanese woman without mentioning the fair ladies of Arashi (our exaggeration prone manager’s words not mine) when Matsumoto threw a cushion at me. I liked a bit of fun and mayhem like anyone else but sudden attacks when I was busy with work was not something I dealt with very well.

This was more so because I had been reading a disturbing newspaper article about the mysterious disappearance and reappearance of the only female classical music conductor in Japan. It had caused an uproar a week ago, sometime during Easter when the conductor in question, went missing. My mother was extremely vocal about the disappearance and the Tokyo City Metropolitan Opera’s cancelled performances. Nino was bitching about it too because his absent professor had a ticket to a performance of Elektra for which he had to collect the refund owing to the cancelled show. I had just been getting to the part where the article highlighted the conductor’s credentials when I was attacked without provocation and the newspapers spilled onto the floor.

“What’s the meaning of that?” I bellowed at him, starting up from the chair.

In so doing, I startled Ohno from his drawing and he scrambled across the room to follow the charcoal stick that was rapidly rolling away, leaving Nino to stick a hand out from his game console and smacking our titular leader’s butt in the process. Aiba was startled out of his ceiling staring reverie and sat up, hugging his soft toy ever closer. Perhaps bellowing wasn’t the most sensible thing to do.

“Shikibu Bookshop, Sho, I need your opinion on something,” Matsumoto said, removing his glasses and closing his book.

“I don’t read novels,” I replied with folded arms, wondering what he was driving at. If he wanted a book, he could jolly well go and get it himself. Why drag me into the fray?

As if sensing the unspoken tension in the air, Aiba crawled over to the newspapers and picked them up, trying to arrange them by page numbers.

“It’s a non-fiction title on IPE,” he placidly said, rising casually and putting on the sunglasses he favoured along with a scarf. Did he have to look like a model wherever he went? No wonder Chiaki never thought much of his style. “I need someone with your expertise in the field.”

IPE? Did something hit Matsumoto Jun on the head? Did he even know what IPE stood for? What would he want a book on International Political Economy for? This was getting intriguing, all right, I’ll bite. If it wasn’t worth my while, that idiot’s going to get it. “Fine, but it’s going to be crowded now,” I stated, throwing on a passable disguise complete with false moustache. I did not enjoy jostling through the mid-afternoon crowd of housewives and students at shops. I was once groped in the area south of the navel by a pervvy old lady at the supermarket and I went there in the mid-afternoon, and as such, avoided mid-afternoon crowds as far as possible.

“That’s the point, ne. We’ll blend right in. Want anything? Food? Drinks?” he winked before turning around to face the others, of whom the artist was still drawing, the gamer was still playing and Aiba was staring at something in the newspaper he had just tried to rearrange.

On finding no response other than Aiba saying something about him feeling like a Kogepan and repeating his disturbing question of drowning and train tracks, Nino mumbling something about apple tarts for his professor when she returned from a conference the following day, and Ohno giggling to himself as he tried to prod Nino’s foot with his newly regained charcoal stick, we left them to their own devices.

“What’s this really about, Jun?” I finally asked when we got to car park. “You wouldn’t want to know about International Political Economy even if it were the only subject left to study on the face of the earth.”

“Keys, I’ll drive!” he said, extending his hand in his best commanding manner. “Let’s find Aiba a kogepan keitai toy-thing to cheer him up and go for Alys Nee-chan’s apple tarts first.”

I stared hard at him, not quite sure I was hearing right. Matsumoto was seriously getting the guys all the things they had been half-mumbling about? Aiba was probably being metaphorical when he likened himself to a burnt bun. “I demand an explanation!” I said, holding the keys just beyond his reach.

“Alys Nee-chan likes French apple tarts; Nino likes to steal the apple pieces before she can get to them. We’re buying them apple tarts. She’ll be happy, ne, to see that there are tarts for when she gets back tomorrow. Aiba, ne, he’s bored and listless; he needs a new toy. You’re not being a very good mother today, so I’m taking over,” he laughed, raising a brow and snatching the keys.

“These petty tricks aren’t going to work with me,” I growled as I clambered into the car. “What do you want to talk about that can’t be heard by anyone else?”

He only smiled flirtatiously at me as we rolled onto the main road. “Ano, do you think we could sing Love Parade and you could do your ‘Can’t let go’ solo for the event Manager-san told us about this morning?”

“I don’t see why not, if you would cease changing the subject, Jun!” I warned him with a suspicious glare. While it was unusual for us to perform at private events, it was not unheard of, especially if the person or persons asking for us were influential enough. Therefore, it came as no surprise to me or the rest of the guys where our manager told us that morning that we would be expected to sing at the Alliance Publishing launch for a new book by an author whose name I failed to catch.

“Ah, but you see, Sho-kun, I’m not,” he answered, steepling his hands briefly as we stopped at the traffic light. “I believe the agent-manager of the author, ne, you may have heard her name incidentally – Sakiyama sensei -- asked for us personally.”

“What has this got to do with you and your sudden desire to learn about International Political Economy?” I asked, folding my arms in impatience. This mode of hemming-and-hawing on Matsumoto’s part was beginning to get on my nerves.

“Shikibu is playing host to a book signing that should be ending in…” He paused and checked his watch. “…fifteen minutes. Eto, Sakiyama sensei’s latest, entitled ‘Eloquent Silence’. I need you to queue for me while I run the errands and get the guys the things they want, ne.”

My palm automatically connected to my forehead at his lack of planning and at my failure to see that we were engaged to perform at the same author’s launch at her publishing house. Just how they were connected was something else altogether. When will Matusmoto learn that conspiracies are one of those things I particularly abhor? I sighed and tried to lecture him about the propriety of book signings, “If you want your book signed, shouldn’t you be queuing earlier instead of the last fifteen minutes?”

“Why?” he shrugged noncommittally, stopping right before the bookshop where there was a meandering queue of women and (surprisingly) middle aged men clutching books near a sign that said ‘Book Launch with Sakiyama Jewel’. “It’s always worked for me, especially with Sakiyama sensei, ne. Out, Sho! Ano, I’ll get the tarts; I know which bakery Alys Nee-chan likes; you don’t. Queue for me, eh! If time’s up and I’m not back, her agent-manager may get in the way, ne. Just tell her, ne that Momo petto wants the book signed and to wait.”

“Momo petto?” I questioned, stepping out and holding on to the door. That was a very pathetic rehashing of the name he was called on one of his dramas. I hoped he realised that.

“Hai, Momo petto,” he smirked.

I really dislike it when people smirk; it usually means they know something I don’t; and I do not like being kept in the dark. It’s like that story my mother used to tell me when I was a boy about this Greek chap trying to reach the grapes but couldn’t, and wanted to drink from the water at his waist but couldn’t. That was exactly what I felt at that moment.

“I will be back, ne. Eh, don’t look like that! You’ll scare the housewives in the queue.” he laughed as I shut the door in an angry slam and shuttled off. He had better return soon, before the other patrons of the shop realised that I didn’t quite belong there.

~~~~~more to come~~~~~
mclam01
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Re: [Complete] The Wages of Managing Sense (Sho)

Post by mclam01 » Wed Jan 24, 2018 3:05 pm

Author's note:

Owing to pressing work deadlines/commitments, I have not the time to edit this chapter. As the typescript for this story and its omake is complete, I will still post one chapter a day. However, please bear in mind that until my real life editorial and translation deadlines are met, I will not have the time to edit the rest of this story. Any inconvenience to readers is deeply regretted. *bows deeply*


Chapter 31

After entering the bookshop, picking up a volume of that dodgy volume with the picture of a starry sky and the silhouette of a man in the corner with a visible glistening tear near where his eyes would be, I joined the queue, mentally cursing Matsumoto for roping me into this thankless task. I didn’t mind performing at the publishing house for the author’s formal launch there. It was a job, and part of my contract. But doing chores like this wasn’t part of my contract. I may care for the welfare of the Arashi members, but doing something like this – queuing to get what looked like a tragic romance novel signed, was going too far. What did he take me for? I wasn’t really his mother! I wasn’t going to queue for a stupid novel because he wanted it signed!

What kind of a novel was Eloquent Silence anyway? It was a misnomer. Silence is silence – slightly uncomfortable when one is alone, but perfectly tolerable. There was nothing in silence, how could it be eloquent? These novelists were a strange lot. Thank heavens Chiaki wasn’t into romance novels. I didn’t mind her reading journals on fungi and plants and telling me about the latest scientific developments. I could stomach that. It was rather fascinating to learn about plant life and what made them the way they were. I didn’t even mind her reading Josei manga and telling me the plot. I could stomach how angsty it all was. But I draw the line at romance novels.

My impression of romance novels involve weepy heroines hanging themselves because the bastard of a hero wasn’t man enough to take her in his arms and whisk her away. How Matsumoto could read those stories, I had no idea. I understand that I may be over-generalising because Alys-san reads old-fashioned English romance novels where there is no kissing or hand-holding. That kind of romance, I don’t mind. The restraint there is admirable and sometimes more can be conveyed in a glance than a kiss. But these modern romance novels? Bah!

I couldn’t believe that I had been thus exploited and was on the verge of calling Chiaki to help whittle away the time when a rather mannish looking woman dressed in a pinstriped pants suit stopped me from moving forward in the queue by placing a very large sign that read:
NO FURTHER AUTOGRAPHS FROM HERE ON

That was outrageous! I had wasted fifteen minutes of my time in a queue, in a disguise, trying to get a book signed by an authoress I neither cared for nor wanted to meet, and I was told that I wouldn’t get a stupid signature on a stupid book for the equally stupid Matsumoto? Hell, no! I wasn’t going to stand for it!

“Excuse me, madam,” I addressed the mannish woman, tapping my fingers on the book cover in a bid to check my anger. “I’ve been in this queue for a good while and I demand to get the book signed!”

The woman inclined her head forward in the manner of a tortoise, swept her eyes briefly over me in the most disparaging manner possible and sneered, “Listen here, you! If I let you past this barrier, sensei’s fans behind you would demand the same, and when will it end, hmmm? There has to be a limit. Try the next book signing event.”

“It is imperative that I obtain her autograph,” I insisted, trying my best to keep myself in check. While I conceded that the woman had a point, it had now become a matter of principle. I did not wait in vain for things. If I’m waiting for something, I make sure I jolly well get it.

The mannish woman, who I assumed was the authoress's agent or manager sneered derisively at me, “Sakiyama sensei does not entertain the likes of you.”

I had not wanted to say something this embarrassing, but seeing how the queue had mainly dispersed, I saw no harm in it. The only thing it would cost me was some dignity, and even then, it would be for Matsumoto to devise a clever way of repay this injury to my pride. I swallowed hard and said as quickly as I could muster with a bow and offering the book, “Kindly inform Sakiyama sensei that Momo petto requests a moment of her time for an autograph.”

She scowled at me and scoffed, “You’re not Momo petto.”

“Actually, that’s my personal assistant,” came the laughing voice of Arashi’s pretty boy princess. “Thank you, I’ll take it from here,” he continued, swaggering up with a small paper bag from an anime gift shop and a bakery plastic bag in one hand, and spinning my car keys in his other hand.

“Matsumoto, just what do you think you’re doing?” I hissed under my breath as he tossed the car keys back at me.

Ignoring me and my deathly glare, he offered a smile to the mannish woman. “Kiyora-chan, you get lovelier every time I see you, ne,” he cooed, reducing her to a fit of giggles, thereby amazing me. “I know I shouldn’t ask, eh… but do you think you could let me in to see Sora-chan please?”

“Matsumoto… I’m warning you!” I repeated, grabbing his elbow.

Without hesitation, he linked arms with me, “Ano, this is my good friend and associate, Sakurai-san.”

“I didn’t know he’s one of yours! Well, well, go in, you can both see her,” instructed the woman with a smile that looked more like a grimace.

“Matsumoto, explain yourself,” I growled lowly, following him as he made a beeline for the fiction shelves.

Instead of answering, he simply pointed to the area where a table had been set up and where a woman with shoulder length hair and glasses sat signing a book for the last fan in line. She was rather well put together, with the kind of beauty that most men would appreciate. Her face was more round than angular, her nose rather flat and her mouth a little too large, but she had style. A colourful scarf tied around her neck offset the simple knee length grey dress she had on. She didn’t come across as the outdoorsy type like Chiaki, and she certainly wasn’t of the sickly, scholarly persuasion like Nino’s professor. Now it was becoming clear. Well, so the ‘Sora’ he had spoken to on the phone some time ago was this Sakiyama Jewel sensei. Matsumoto was a man of discerning taste it would appear.

“Kono ko ii, ne?” I muttered appreciatively.

“You think so?” he looked at me in astonishment and turning his eyes towards her as she spun the pen between her fingers. “She’s just okay, middling, ne. She’s going to tuck her hair behind her ear any moment now and cap that pen.” As she did so, he chuckled softly. “Ano, she’s very predictable at events like this. Ne, where’s the book?”

I slapped the book into his chest, briefly incapacitating him from the impact. “You dragged me here to peep at your girlfriend in between bookshelves?” I exclaimed, shaking my head. There were dozens of simpler avenues to take rather than staring at a friend’s girlfriend like a common voyeur.

“Come meet her; she may base the anti-hero of her next novel on you, ne, if she likes you,” he laughed, dragging me forward, waving to the mannish woman he had earlier called ‘Kiyora-chan’ with a roguish smile hovering on his lips. “Domo, sensei. Ne, ne, your biggest fan is here,” he joked, lowering his sunglasses briefly. “Eh, sign my book for me?”

“You’re late,” she chided with a twinkle in her eyes as she wrote something in the book for Matsumoto. “Had to touch up your makeup before coming?”

“I’m naturally beautiful, ne. There’s nothing to touch up,” he laughed, slapping me in the back. “Ano, I got you a present for the launch. Congratulations, Sora-chan.”

She sighed and removed her glasses, carefully wrapping them in cloth and keeping them in a case that she quickly popped into the handbag at her lap. “I told you I didn’t need anything. You shouldn’t be spending recklessly,” she sighed again and shook her head before pausing. “We’ll talk in the back. It would be easier with less people around. Oneesan will manage the rest.” The mannish woman nodded as Matsumoto helped the authoress up.

“Ne, don’t you want to know what I got for you?” he asked, hooking a stray lock of hair behind her ear as we got to the back of the bookshop where the stocks lay in wait. “Don!” he flashed two hands at me as if I were a product in an infomercial. “Your present for the launch – a colleague and also an old friend.”

“Matsumoto! I’m not for sale or redemption… This had not be one of your poor attempts at a joke…” I warned as he divested me of my sunglasses and scarf. What did he think I was? A pumpkin at the market he could unveil and sell? Nino may auction himself off if he felt he needed the money – a potentially interesting scenario that, but not something feasible since his professor would really whip him to death if he had another woman on the side. I had some self-respect, and felt that Matsumoto had carried his joke too far.

There was an audibly sharp intake of air as Sakiyama sensei looked at me, forcing me to leave off my scold. Instantly, a hand flew up to her mouth and she blinked rapidly in shock (I think it was shock) so much so that MatsuJun had to support her. “Sakurai-kun!” she gasped. “Why? It isn’t possible when… Oh my! It is Sakurai-kun! Jun-chan! Will he sign my autograph book, you think?” she asked when she had regained mastery of herself.

“Ask him yourself, ne. He’s there,” smirked he with a wink at me. “Ano, Sora’s a fan of your social commentaries on News Zero. I wanted to surprise her, ne. The dissemblance was necessary to ensure your cooperation.”

“You could have asked! I would have agreed to meet your girlfriend!” I stated, with a worried glance at the authoress as she tried not to faint.

That seemed to have knocked her commonsense back into her for she turned to Matsumoto and threw her hands up in the air. “Jun-chan, you could have asked him! You are nothing but a horrid pompous arse!” Then she bowed at me. “I’m so sorry to have put you through this trouble. I apologise on his behalf. Sometimes things don’t register in his thick skull. I am thankful that you took the time to come here even though it may not have been out of your free will.”

“Iya, iya, Matsumoto-kun’s always dances to his own beat, sometimes forcing others to go along with it,” I protested. I was always uncomfortable whenever ladies apologised to me without having done anything wrong. The fault in this case clearly lay with Matsumoto. She seemed nice enough, and I was well disposed towards her. “I enjoyed meeting you, Sakiyama sensei, even if I am not an avid reader of your work.”

“It feels so odd to hear my pen name like that! Kujo Sora desu, I prefer to hear my own name when I’m not signing books.” She blushed and bowed again.

Ah! Her surname and the name of the bookshop explained everything. Shikibu had been in the Kujo family for generations. No wonder she chose to hold her launch there. It bespoke of her humility of acknowledging her roots without bringing to play that her family was formerly of the Sekkan-ke. I found this trait of hers very becoming. I would have said something more if her sister-cum-manager had not reappeared and informed her that they would have to go to Kinokuniya for the launch there. She and Matsumoto bade each other a quiet goodbye whereupon he said, he would have another surprise for her next week. After a few more quiet words I could not catch where I turned away to give them some moments of privacy, I heard MatsuJun laugh.

As the authoress and her sister departed for their next destination in a van, I shook my head at the elaborate ruse he had taken to get me here, and at the pestering he must have deployed at our hapless manager to get us to perform at the event at Alliance Publishing. “Who else knows?” I asked him when I managed to retrieve my disguise and rearrange myself.

“The management and Nino,” he said when we were on the pavement outside walking towards the car. “He told me while we were on tour that I shouldn’t leave private books lying around.” I raised a brow to signal that an elaboration was in order. “He found a book she had signed on the sofa, and he returned it. Unexpected of him, ne?”

“Our manager will think that we’ve all gone soft,” I commented, starting up the car.

“That’s because we have, ne,” MatsuJun seriously intoned, and I did think that he was right. However, that did not allay my fears that Nino would have something up his sleeve. I earnestly hoped he wasn’t going to do something at the promotional book launch at the publishing house or Jun would skin him alive.


NOTES:

Kono ko ii, ne = that's a nice looking girl, no? Cf. to Nino's story where Sho says this about Alys. The exact chapter number escapes me at the moment.


For all references to do with Sora (Jun's girlfriend) read below.

Sekkan-ke or Sekkan family used to hold the titles of Sessho and Kampaku in the Heian and Meiji eras.
Sessho was a title given to a regent who was named to assist either a child emperor before his coming of age, or an empress.
Kampaku was a vizier/chief advisor for the emperor, but was the title of both first secretary and regent who assists an adult emperor. During the Heian era, they were the effective rulers of Japan.

The Fujiwara clan was the primary holders of the Kampaku and Sessho titles. The clan has been split into 5 families who held these titles, namely, Konoe, Kujo, Ichijo, Takatsukasa and Nijo. Collectively, these 5 families were known as the Sekkan-ke.

Shikibu bookshop reference
Shikibu Murasaki who wrote 'Tale of Genji' is part of the Fujiwara clan. Her real name is unknown. Shikibu refers to her father's position in the Bureau of Ceremony in the Heian Court.

Members of the Sekkan-ke were nobles or Kazoku, and used to hold titles in the Japanese court. The initial rank distribution for kazoku houses of kuge descent depended on the highest possible office to which its ancestors had been entitled in the imperial court. Thus, the heirs of the five regent houses (go-seike) of the Fujiwara dynasty (Konoe, Takatsukasa, Kujo, Ichijo, and Nijo) all became princes/dukes. However, after the Second World War, the Constitution of Japan abolished the kazoku and ended the use of all titles of nobility or rank outside the immediate imperial family. Nonetheless, many descendants of former kazoku families continue to occupy prominent roles in Japanese society and industry.


* As a former aristocrat, Sora has some peculiarities that we will see in Jun’s story.

~~~~~more to come shortly~~~~~
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Re: [Complete] The Wages of Managing Sense (Sho)

Post by mclam01 » Wed Jan 24, 2018 3:06 pm

Many thanks to the readers who left reviews. Your encouragements are much valued. A few more chapters to go before this story wraps. *bows deeply*


Chapter 32

The following day was Saturday. In lieu of practicing at the publishing house, we had decided to shift the practice schedule to Sunday and spend a day out relieving stress. That in simple terms meant that we had set aside Saturday to play football with Chiaki. It was generally something we tried to do once a month. As was customary on these occasions, one of us would bring some kind of nourishment for the rest. That day was Nino’s turn, but we did not really have our hopes up. Trusting Nino to set money aside to feed the guys was like trusting a fish to breath out of water – utterly futile. The guys had prepared for this eventuality by deciding to go out for a bite after the game. Chiaki had offered to make us something, but we declined on principle.

We had arranged to meet at the Keio densha station at two in the afternoon. That was reasonable, as it allowed everyone to sleep in until noon and then make their way to the destination. What I had not expected was that the guys and Chiaki would make bets as to whether Nino would show up.

“Who would have thought a messy novelist would have taken up with Jun?” Chiaki said off-handedly when I told her of my encounter of Kujo Sora (better known as Sakiyama Jewel to her reading public). “Though that would explain why Jun was so anxious to recommend her work to me the last time I was at your employment agency.”

“Shouldn’t it be the other way around? MatsuJun’s the fastidious type,” I pointed out.

“It is the choice of the woman whether she takes a man up on his offer,” she stated with a pointed glare. “You don’t mean for the woman to accept the first offer that comes her way, do you?”

“Of course not. That’s imprudent.”

“I’m glad you can see that. I look forward to meeting this novelist one of these days. I’ve heard that writers are often eccentric. It would be interesting to see the type of eccentricity she embodies.”

“The professor’s eccentric,” I stated.

“In her own way, she is, however throw her with the boyfriend and they’re sweet in all the wrong twisted ways. Speaking of the devil, what do you think?” Chiaki asked, dabbing the sweat from my brow with a handkerchief. “Will Nino be a no show today?”

“You’ve lost confidence in your favourite,” I teased. “Does that mean that I have supplanted him?”

She rolled her eyes and poked my arm affectionately. “Not in a thousand years, and it’s not a matter of losing confidence in him; it’s a matter of logic. Chances are, Nino would have picked Alys up from the airport and then squired her home. It’s not that difficult a choice to make – pamper jet-lagged girlfriend he sees when he can spare the time or play football with friends whom he sees almost daily.”

Matsumoto arrived next with his bag slung over his shoulder like a male model. He tossed his head like a shampoo model and readjusted his sunglasses with a wide grin. “How much did we say we’ll put in the pot?” he asked Chiaki after giving me a friendly pat on the arm.

“100 yen per person if he wants to be in. I’m in for 100 yen that says he won’t show,” she replied, staring disapprovingly at his outfit. “Why do you have a sequined scarf, Matsumoto-kun? That’s hideous!”

“I like it! It goes with the shoes.” He lifted the hems of his trousers and revealed the silver streaks by the side of the footwear. “My ensemble is perfectly coordinated. It’s better than your brown monotone.”

“At least I’m practical!” she riposted mischievously. “Sho, tell him!”

“Yes, she is, now leave her alone, vainpot,” I sighed, shaking my head. Why the boys behave like a bunch of monkeys around Chiaki? Sometimes I wished they would behave just a little and Chiaki would be able to see that we’re really rather well-disciplined. However, she seemed to harbour the belief they were irrepressibly cheeky creatures, and as they really were thus, I could not disabuse her. Bringing matters back to that which they had been discussing, I coughed deliberately and voiced my disapproval. “Why are you putting money as to whether Nino would show up?”

“He’ll come,” stated Ohno firmly as he walked through the gantry and waved at us with sketchbook in hand. “100 yen. I’m sure he’ll come. He told me this morning he would.”

“Ohno-kun! How could you?” I groaned in exasperation. While I appreciated his confidence in Nino, I did not think it boded well for Arashi’s leader to go around making bets on his fellow member’s attendance of a friendly football game.

“Eh?” he looked up from the sketchpad he had just flipped open, with the pencil that had earlier been tucked behind his ear now in his hand. “How could I what?”

“Put money on Nino!” I slapped my palm to my forehead. Did no one have any sense as to what was right or wrong in my band of friends?

“Because I trust him.” Ohno smiled brightly and started working on whatever it was he had in his sketchbook.

“Was this your idea, Matsumoto?” I asked with a deathly glare.

“No, it’s Chiaki-chan’s, ne,” he giggled, resting an elbow at Ohno’s shoulder and looking down at his work. “Ano, ne, I like that! Could you design one for me too?”

“Chiaki, why? I thought you had more sense than this?” My eyes implored her to tell me that this was just a joke. But I knew better. Whenever she had that gleam in her eyes, she was dead serious.

“It’s just for fun, and you know the probability of him turning up is slim,” she explained, tugging affectionately at my arm.

“Did you mean me? I’m here! I’m here!” Aiba announced, waving wildly as soon as he saw us.

“Ne, are you in or out?” Matsumoto asked him, still leaning on Ohno.

“Of what?” Aiba asked, looking at me in confusion.

“There’s an illegal betting centre operated by my girlfriend as to whether Nino’ll show up,” I groaned, wanting to knock my head on the wall at the ridiculousness of the whole venture.

“How much?” enquired Aiba instead of feeling aghast that such a reprehensible thing was going on in our midst.

“100 yen,” Matsumoto said without looking up from Ohno’s sketch, tilting his head to examine it.

Aiba clapped his hands together and giggled. “How exciting! 100 yen says Nino won’t come.” I groaned again and it seemed that everyone was ignoring me.

“What’s that, Riida?” Aiba asked, repeatedly jabbing at Ohno’s sketchbook.

“The clasp for a chain,” he chattered on excitedly that someone had taken an active interest in it. “There’s a spring mechanism here that activates here, you have know that it is opened by this thing here. And this is a pendant. I originally drew it as earrings, but it looks better as a pendant. But it could be earrings too, I know it could it but the weight of it could be troublesome, unless the design was changed a little.”

“It’s 2.15, Nino’s late,” Matsumoto clicked his tongue in mock disapproval. “Even I came on time! Will someone please praise me?”

“I don’t see how that’s worthy of praise,” Chiaki wagged a finger at him as they continued to peer over Ohno’s sketchbook.

Aiba looked up from the book. “I still don’t get it. I’ll call Nino to check. Maybe he’s still playing a game.” He dug out his keitai and pressed it to his ear.

“You know, Alys-chan landed this morning,” Matsumoto reminded him.

“So?” he mouthed, and frowned, lifting the keitai from his ear and staring at it. “Nino’s not picking up. Is it on silent? I got the answering voice thingy.”

“Told you so,” sniggered both Chiaki and Matsumoto.

“Cheesecake after football?” Chiaki suggested.

“Oreo cheesecake!” Aiba clapped his hands. “Let’s buy a piece for mama and surprise her tonight on our way back!”

I rolled my eyes at them. It seemed that no one had any idea of what was right or wrong anymore – even my girlfriend had joined in the general mayhem and rowdiness. There was one way to extirpate this nonsense and that was to call Nino or Alys to make sure he showed up and thereby ensuring that none of them made any money out of it. Nino’s keitai was in the state Aiba had mentioned. It was on but he did not answer. Very likely it was on silent mode or he was away from it. Well, there was only Alys left to call. After an impossibly long interval, she picked up her keitai. “Moshi, moshi, Alys-san?” I ventured uncertainly when all I heard was silence on the line.

“You have some nerve calling! Who in Dante’s circles of hell are you to wake me from my slumber?” she snarled in English.

“It’s Sho,” I managed in English, suddenly remembering that she once told me waking her from jet-lagged sleep was far worse than her staying up. She sounded like she wanted to kill me or worse – devise some kind of a torture with many tiny biting insects. I should have known better than to call her when she had just endured close to a twenty-four hour flight including transit time. There was nothing else to do but to be as polite as possible. “We just wanted to know whether you knew Nino’s present location.”

“Don’t use the royal pronoun with me when I’ve a splitting headache!” she snapped, still in English. “Can’t you call him instead?”

“He’s not picking up,” I explained apologetically. Chiaki mouthed ‘what’s wrong’ when she saw that I was speaking in English. ‘Alys’ I mouthed back to her and she seemed to understand, for she patted my arm and leaned comfortingly on me.

“Insufferable! He’s making me lose sleep over this?” Alys-san continued to rant. “Darling! Sho’s on the phone!” she shouted shrilly in English, and I was left holding the phone some distance away from my ear. Chiaki must have heard it too because her eyes widened.

I heard the sounds of something creaking and Nino’s voice. “Feeling better? You were kicking just now. Nightmare?”

“I’m having one now! I’m ecstatically happy a migraine is drilling in my skull!” she snapped while yawning.

Nino’s sardonic tone rang out, “Yeah, I’m deliriously overjoyed to have a decomposing corpse of a girlfriend yelling at me. Do you want soup? It’ll be ready in a while.”

Hmm… That indicates he was somewhere at her place. If he was, he had jolly well take up the phone.

“Don’t give me that nonsense, freeloader! Sho woke me up because he wanted to know which pit of hell you had descended into! Just take the phone and take his stupid call,” she responded, her voice sleepy yet shrill.

“Make something up! Tell him to call my keitai. I’ll get you some renkon soup,” Nino shouted back. That masochistic bastard wanted me to hear that! I’ll get him when I next see him!

“I want sleep not soup!” she continued crossly as she dropped the keitai. At least I think she dropped it because I heard a loud plop sound. “Just take the call.”

“I don’t know where my keitai is. If he called, maybe I’d know where it is,” Nino whined, his voice sounding nearer, like he was in the room with her.

Sounds of a pillow used to hit something came audibly on the line. “Is it in the bath? No? Laundry room? No? Check under the bed. It’s probably still in your jeans.”

“It’s yours, not mine,” Nino laughed. “Oh wait – panda, sweater, scarf, underwear, housecoat – Oh! mine’s here with the books. Right, here’s my keitai. What will I do without you, Alys-chan!”

“Don’t you dare laugh at me!!” she scolded and I heard other kinds of sounds that I couldn’t place.

“You kick and talk when you sleep! Why else would I have to go to the kitchen to cook! It’s not for your welfare I can tell you!”

She retorted, “Bloody freeloader! You sleep talk too! I hope you’re black-and-blue. Just take his call, freeloader, and let me sleep in peace.”

“Patience, my Alys. We’ll get eternal rest when we take over hell.”

“Sho is on the phone. Take the bloody call!” she snapped in English.

“That’s his problem. Make up an excuse for me.”

“Keep talking back like that and I’ll leave your hair to fester along with the maggots!” she snapped, still yawning.

“Keep talking like that and we’ll take this to the dining table, Alys-chan,” Nino laughed and I heard the creaking sound again. “Don’t waste your time with him. Hang up and go back to sleep. I need to check on the soup.”

“He’s in the kitchen,” she yawned in English into the keitai she must have picked up again.

“We’re supposed to be playing football…” I explained, now quite frightened of her. I had no idea she could shout like that. I certainly did not want to know that Nino had lost his pants and his keitai along with it.

“Freeloader! He said something about football!” she shouted again and paused. I heard something muffled in the background. “Next time, I have to pick up a call for you, I’ll make sure you die a slow and painful death while being tied up on a bed of nails. Tying you to the bathtub is too comfortable for you! It will be a bed of nails next time, you hear me!” She picked up the receiver again with a yawn as she growled testily, “He said he’s running late and he’ll meet you at the field. Is that all?”

“Yes,” I said and would have apologised if she did not hang up then and there.

“Well?” Chiaki asked, stroking my back to calm me.

“Was that mama?” Aiba enquired eagerly with a grin.

I nodded grimly. “She’s not coming. She said he’ll be here,” I shuddered somewhat, even though I was comforted by Chiaki’s gentle reassuring pats. “Nino kept her… Never mind…. She’s utterly frightening when she’s woken up!” I whispered to my girlfriend.

Ohno must have had overheard that statement for he smiled and said, “Nino’s the same. But he’s coming. I know he is.”

What could I do but nod grimly as I slowly collected myself. At which point, I was thankful that the two sarcastic imps were happily perverse in their own world.

~~~~~more to come~~~~~
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Re: [Complete] The Wages of Managing Sense (Sho)

Post by mclam01 » Wed Jan 24, 2018 3:07 pm

Chapter 33

Nino arrived an hour late that day, carrying just a container of soup that he said he was sharing with Ohno because he loved his Oh-chan the best. When Aiba started to demand a taste, Nino loudly declared that he only cooked for his Oh-chan and his Alys-chan; everyone else who wanted a taste would have to pay for his master chef soup. It looked like rather ordinary soup but I was too polite to say that. When Chiaki asked why he hadn’t just come straight from home, he replied that he didn’t want his Alys-chan to be hungry when she woke up. When we all stared at him, he only shrugged, smirked and said that she had to eat something since he wasn’t going to be there for her to eat when she woke up. Now that was just wrong. The mental image for that – let’s just say I do not wish to contemplate it. Chiaki only thought it was sweet in a perverse way. Ohno, incidentally, won the jackpot money because he was the only one who believed Nino would show up, and Ohno, being the closest to Nino, split the money with him. If I didn’t know better, I would say that it was a clever ploy by Nino to milk money from us. Chiaki shushed my speculations by calling me ungracious, and that my open doubt of my friends’ integrity rendered me unfit to be the father of her bougainvillea hybrid.

I was still shuddering over the implications of Chiaki’s threat a few days later when we were at JE Central, resting after a gruelling day practicing for the Alliance Publishing House private event. Ohno and Nino were lying on the sofa giggling about something in his sketchbook, and MatsuJun was busy trying to find his book that must have slipped down somewhere under the sofa. Aiba had gone off in high spirits because ‘mama’ was taking him out to real English tea before she went home to England for the summer, or so he gleefully announced. Nino was particularly unconcerned with that, and only darkly intoned that if his Alys-chan paid for it, he would make sure Aiba piggybacked him everywhere for a week.

It seemed that everyone would be busy for the summer – we had another summer tour, Chiaki had a new hybrid to plant and was posing for a friend who did figure drawing and oils at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music or Geidai, and Alys would be going home for the summer to teach a course on Machiavelli in Pembroke College in Cambridge (or was it Oxford) as Todai was let out for the academic year. Just as I was of the mind that everything was back to normal when the relative peace was broken by Ohno sitting up and asking whether I knew of any jewellery stores that custom made jewellery. Apparently, his mother wasn’t sure of any such establishment and she suggested that he ask me.

“You asked your mother where to make the jewellery you designed for her?” Matsumoto asked incredulously as he fished his book out from under the sofa. “That kills the surprise, ne, Riida?”

“She doesn’t mind. Besides, Nino needs to know where the shop is too,” Ohno stated before whispering something to his best friend and making them both laugh.

I rolled my eyes at my bandmates and friends. One had no subtlety, the other was obnoxious and the third was too busy ignoring everyone else. “I know a place. But I can only take you there and leave you stranded. I’m meeting Chiaki in a bit.”

Matsumoto sighed loudly in the manner favoured by tragic heroes of the stage, complete with a wrist dramatically on his forehead. “Oh, Sho! Why do you always leave me high and dry and stranded and bereft? Have you no compassion for my nerves?”

Nino sniggered and hugged a chortling Ohno, quickly adding, “It’s Sho-kun’s way – to love us and leave us. Whatever will happen to poor Chiaki?”

“She’ll be in better shape than the two of you will be if you don’t stop this nonsense,” I cautioned with folded arms. Despite my attempts to sound serious, I could not help but grin at their general silliness.

“There’s three of us,” Ohno helpfully pointed out.

“I had graciously excluded you from the motley crew since you were not an instigator, but I could include you if you are so wish,” I said with the utmost placidity. “Come on,” I added, when the guys were still laughing themselves stupid. “I’ll take you to the shop.”

“MatsuJun, you coming?” Nino asked when we were all properly dressed in the day’s tasteless disguises and in the lift en route downstairs.

“Not today, I’m going shopping,” he gave us a salute and sauntered off as soon as the doors opened. Not likely. He was wearing his good pair of shoes. That could only mean date with his authoress. Who did he think he was fooling -- Ohno?

“Well, you two,” I warned the Ohmiya duo as we were all in the car. “I want you on your best behaviour. I don’t want my parents to be unable to show their faces at that shop because their son’s friends had misbehaved at that establishment.”

“We’re always well-behaved when in public, aren’t we, Oh-chan?” teased Nino with a laugh.

“Whatever it is, behave – that means you too, Ohno!” I insisted, wondering not for the first time, how I always managed to get myself roped into helping these idiots out. If it were the fact that I would be meeting Chiaki for a pleasant evening out, I would have lost my patience with them.

“How long do they take to make the things,” our artist asked blithely as he stared out the window.

“A month sometimes longer. It depends on the intricacy of the design and the size of the object,” I replied. “What are you two getting made?”

“Something.” Nino folded his arms and scowled.

“Me? I’m getting earrings,” Ohno volunteered. “Nino’s thing will cost more.”

“Don’t remind me how many days I put off cutting my hair and put off eating just to get the money for this!” Nino sighed in mock complaint. “I thought Oh-chan’s will cost more. You wanted rubies or something for the drops.”

“Black pearls aren’t that cheap, I think,” Ohno stated decisively. “Are they?”

“Depends,” I answered thoughtfully. Our titular leader was a good son to think of his mother, even though I was sure rubies weren’t exactly suited to his mother. However, he is his mother’s son, he would know her tastes better than I would. Nino’s choice was more interesting… Pearls would suit his mother that was true; they suit more professional women actually, except Chiaki. Chiaki’s more suited to emeralds. “For your mother too, freeloader?”

“For Alys sensei,” Ohno volunteered again, before breaking into laughter. I saw from the rearview mirror that he was besieged with Nino’s tickles for giving him away. Ah… That would explain both the secrecy behind Nino’s actions, and why he allowed Alys to take Aiba out for tea. He didn’t want her to find out.

“Why pearls? Garnets would be better for her. She’s pale enough to carry it off,” I suggested, turning at the junction and breaking up their tickle spree.

“She doesn’t like precious stones much,” Nino shot back, looking out the window with an arm around Ohno as they watched everything zoom by. “She’s classy, like a pearl. All us June babies are; it’s not something you can understand.”

I laughed lowly. It was typical of Nino to be dismissive of others who disagreed with his preconceived opinions. “Just because she shares the same birthday as you doesn’t mean you have to get a birthstone. She may think it’s just costume jewellery.”

“Just because she’s too frugal to wear jewellery doesn’t mean she is devoid of taste. Shut up and drive, Sakurai,” Nino sulkily said.

Ohno patted him in the appointed way of all imagined kindergarten best friends, and pouted. “Yes, shut up and drive, Sakurai!”

I rolled my eyes at them. They were going to be a handful for the shop assistants if I didn’t keep them in check. “This is it, boys. Behave. Don’t touch anything, give your designs to the…” I would have continued if the keitai hadn’t rung. Hmm… Chiaki on the line, which could mean she couldn’t get out of a meeting with the Jindai director or there was a problem in the laboratory. “Sorry, you two. Chiaki needs me. Think you can handle yourselves?” They flashed me wide grins and peace signs. Ah well, best to leave them to it.

Returning to the insistently ringing keitai, I put on my most cheerful voice. If Chiaki was stuck in a meeting with the ‘old farts’ of the Jindai Botanical Garden board, her mood was going to be explosive. “Yes, wifey?”

“Can we cancel tonight, Sho? You could have more time to rehearse for your upcoming gig and summer tour.” Her breathing sounded shallow over the line and I frowned. Chiaki was constantly calm and collected. If she was flustered, something distractions must have happened either to her mother or her plants.

“Are you all right? Is it your mother?” I enquired. “Do you want me to check on her?”

“Iya, work related.” The sounds of her typing reached my ears.

“Did something happen at the laboratory?” I asked with concern, mentally plotting the fastest possible route to Jindai from my current location. I haven’t been there in nearly two months given my current schedule; it was entirely likely that one of her new strains of plants had become infected and she was upset over that. The plants were her babies after all. “Anything you want me to do? I could bring you something to eat and you can tell me everything. You aren’t hurt, are you?”

“I’m as fit as fiddle. It’s just that there’s been a development and I’m trying to understand it. Thus far, it’s defying the preliminary analysis,” she rattled on. “I don’t know if it’s because of the graft or if it’s because of the cutting from which I took the original. I don’t know whether it means its cellular structure has been compromised.”

“Has there been an infection on a plant?” I asked for want of something witty to say to assuage her fears of whatever was going on. If she was rattling on pointlessly, she must be a great deal more shaken than she was letting on. “Do you want me to go to you?”

“Would you come?” she spoke quickly, half in confusion and half in excitement. “I need you at the greenhouse; you have to see this!”

~~~~~more to come~~~~~
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Re: [Complete] The Wages of Managing Sense (Sho)

Post by mclam01 » Wed Jan 24, 2018 3:07 pm

Chapter 34

When I finally arrived at the Tropical Collection greenhouse after speeding through at least two traffic lights, I found Chiaki in her office drinking copious amounts of coffee and poring through various papers. It may look like a perfectly ordinary scene, but in actuality, you could feel the tension in the air as Chiaki frowned over the papers and took in more coffee than I thought was good for her.

“Bad day?” I asked, sitting down at her desk and patting her hand. “Did something happen vis-à-vis the fiscal management of the greenhouse or the Tropical Collection? I would be more than happy to look through the figures for you to see if there has been any irregularity.”

“You’re here at last!” she exclaimed, resting her head on my knee in sudden exhaustion. “I’ve been tightly wound up for the past week. I’m sorry I didn’t call sooner. But I wanted to tabulate the breakdown of the molecular structure of the reaction agent.”

“There, there,” I soothed, patting her head even though I had no idea what she was talking about. “I’ve been busy too. So, what’s been bothering you?”

She propped her head up. “I’m more intrigued than bothered. The hybrid has flowered but the bracts are of different colours,” she stated.

I was ashamed that it did not immediately register in my mind. You would think that having a girlfriend who talked about and to plants would give me a better insight into the leafy friends that populate our world. Unfortunately, whenever scientific terms are used, I get a little lost. This must be how the guys generally feel when I rattle on about economics or politics. “The bracts of what hybrid?”

“Our hybrid!” she slapped my thigh in annoyance. “The bougainvillea hybrid! Have you become a heartless philanderer and forgotten about our little one?”

“It finally flowered?” I gasped, not quite believing the news. It was good news, wasn’t it? Then why was she so perplexed?

“Yes, the flowers are in clusters off three as the parent cutting. But the bracts vary from yellow, magenta to pale pink. It should really only be one colour. The parent cutting is pale pink and the graft is orangish. In such a case, it is possible by a slim probability for the bracts to be either orangish or pinkish, not three different colours. I’ve been running tests on a sample of each bract and the sap of the plant for the past week, but am still no closer to uncovering why it is the way it is,” she let out in one very fast breath.

“I see…” I managed to nod in what could pass for reasonable understanding to the casual observer. However, I was really thinking. What are bracts? Oh yes, I remember – those petal-like leaves that covered the white flowers of the bougainvillea. “Do you mean each individual bract surrounding the flowers is of a different colour, or do you mean that each cluster of bracts differs in colour?”

Chiaki blinked in seeming disbelief. “Did you just pose an intelligent question? Do I have to run tests on you too to determine if you’re normal?”

“I feel normal, thank you for making such a heartfelt enquiry,” I grinned, sweeping the hair back from her forehead. “Now, let’s see the little one and rejoice over this miracle in nature.”

“It’s not natural, Sho! That’s what I’m getting it!” she insisted and would have stamped her feet if she thought it would get me to stop teasing her. “It’s a specially designed hybrid; it’s supposed to be in a certain way, not throw up things out of the blue.”

“And because it has, it has thrown your logical mind off-kilter,” I said with understanding as I hooked her hand to my elbow and left her office for the bougainvillea patch. “There is always the deviation from the mean. Outliers – that’s what we call them in economics. Outliers always exist. There is nothing you can do about them. You either leave them out when calculating the average or you adjust for the skew. In this case, we have only one sample and the sample is known to deviate from the established mean. Does not that obviate any further analysis?”

“If you’re going to adopt that professorial tone with me, I’ll run off screaming in terror!” She shook her head still trying to grapple with the shock of the bougainvillea’s mismatched bracts.

“I’m surprised you haven’t done so already,” I commented when we were finally before the bougainvillea hybrid.

“That’s because I know what a panicky idiot you are most of the time.” She inclined her to the side. “See… I can’t understand that. Everything here is ordered to my specifications; I created them; I planted them; I should know what each specimen is capable of producing. Yet this one perplexes me. It’s the first time this has happened.” She pointed to the plant. “See there, it seems to be otherwise healthy – pest-free, disease-resistant to a certain degree. But such a profusion of colours is an aberration.”

Hmm… I did see what she meant. The now sturdy shrub was playing host to different coloured clusters of bracts. Highly unusual, even by my standards. However, it did not detract from the beauty of the plant and added a certain charm to it. I am a very biased father. I thought the hybrid was beautiful, unique and every bit like the mother that had created her. Why couldn’t Chiaki see that? The hybrid reflected her and the many parts that made up her character – from cool logic, to never doing anything by halves, and to being useful in whatever situation. The hybrid was Chiaki writ small.

“You could look at it in one of two ways,” I said with due consideration, slowly digesting what she said and patting the hand that she had tightened over my elbow to soothe the anxiety that must be running through her mind. These scientists always reacted in the same manner whenever something defied their hypotheses. “In the first method, you are right to call it an aberration. It is an aberration because you were meddling around creating this hybrid. It had been an aberration from the moment you decided to take one cutting and graft it on another plant and take the resultant sapling and shooting strange genes into it. In light of this then, it follows that an aberration would produce bracts of different colours.”

Chiaki bit her lower lip and hung her head as if I had just scolded her. I hadn’t, you must understand. I was merely pointing out to her that one way of interpreting the unusual circumstances surrounding the colouration of our little one. “You do have a valid point. I did create this aberration. It doesn’t speak much of my ability as a biotechnologist. Right, we’re going drinking. It’s depressing to think that something I did in the laboratory had caused it to be like this.”

I grabbed her arm just as she was about to move off and spun her around so that she could take a good look at the hybrid and hopefully see what I saw. “I’m not quite finished. That was just the first school of thought. A second school of thought would view this as one of the finest instances of plant biotechnology. I have never seen a hybrid with different coloured bracts before, and from the way you’ve been acting, I take it that the plant biotechnology community would be equally as surprised. Conduct more research on it, write a paper about it, get it published.” She opened her mouth as if to say something but quickly closed it again. “I personally subscribe to the second school of thought. She’s lovely, vibrant and unique – just like her mother.”

To which compliment, Chiaki only burst out into a low chuckle, which she tried to hide very badly by burying her face at the crook of my neck. “It turns out you have a tiny bit of intelligence in you after all.”

“Only when demonstrating that logic doesn’t always carry through; in situations where a thorough analysis is needed, I’m completely useless without you,” I replied, slowly stroking her back. It wasn’t like Chiaki to be this physically needy. We weren’t the particularly touchy-feely sort like Nino and his professor who always needed to be touching. Her own notion of the hybrid had turned out horribly because of something she did must have hit her harder than I expected. Well, that oughtn’t surprise me. She always held a very high standard for herself.

“I’m glad someone finally realised how utterly moronic he is,” she said at last, pecking me lightly on the lips. “But you’re my moron.”

I couldn’t help but grin. So I had been rewarded for a re-instilling faith in herself – ah well, I did deserve it. “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” I laughed, walking her out of the greenhouse and towards the car.

“What’s new in the crazy drizzling world of yours?” she asked lightly when I opened the door for her. Ah, it was just her baiting me again. She would never call us ‘Arashi’ in public, choosing instead to call us ‘Drizzle’. In a way, she was perfectly right. With the guys, it would be always be drizzling mayhem and general silliness. Some things just didn’t change, and I wouldn’t like if it were otherwise.

I started the engine first and allowed a serious look to settle on my face. “Let’s see… Owing to the harsh rehearsal schedules over the Alliance Publishing event and the summer tour, the boys’ tension have been running far too high. As an upshot, by this time, Nino and Ohno will have wrecked a custom-made jewellery store; Matsumoto and Kujo-san would have bought half of Harajuku; and Aiba would have stuffed himself full of cakes and biscuits and be too sick to have dinner.”

She threw her head back in a loud, rambunctious laugh. That was Chiaki all over – always open and free with me, never pretending to hide her true self. “Be serious. They can’t all be so dissipated! Even Alys claims that each of you has some redeeming characteristic.”

“Don’t believe me?” I grinned widely at her before turning my attention back to the road. “I will tell you all, wifey, and then you’ll see how I arrived at my clever deductions. First off, Aiba-chan was asking everyone in the recording studio what was ‘hard icing’ and whether it was different from the cream usually found on cakes. The reason for that lay in ….”

Throughout my narration as to all the guys had done that day and claimed they would be doing, Chiaki laughed and shook her head in disbelief. Ah yes, nothing changes when I’m with her. It was just the way I liked it. We had no secrets; we discuss everything, and she reined me in whenever she thought I was going overboard. She would definitely make a good wife. Now, if only I knew what I could offer her other than the craziness that was me… I supposed getting married to her a couple years down the road would be kind of like this too. However, before that, I would have to try to be a better person so as to completely deserve her.

~~~~~more to come shortly~~~~~
mclam01
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Re: [Complete] The Wages of Managing Sense (Sho)

Post by mclam01 » Wed Jan 24, 2018 3:08 pm

Chapter 35 – Epilogue

For the months that followed the revelation that my bougainvillea daughter had multicoloured bracts, Chiaki and I were busy with our own commitments. Chiaki had to write a paper on the strange phenomenon that was our beloved daughter, and Arashi put on a private performance at Alliance Publishing where the guys finally met MatsuJun’s elusive novelist. Arashi had finally returned to Tokyo from our summer tour and had some semblance of a break when the News Zero studio requested that I do a report on the upcoming art exhibition of a new talent the artistic world had dubbed ‘the dazzling deaf beauty of the Japan Art Circuit’.

Apparently, she was a doctoral student of the impossibly temperamental and demanding, and internationally renowned modern artist, Toyomi Hoshina at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku, better known colloquially as Geidai. It wasn’t everyday that I would have the chance to interview with one of the rising talents of the art world, so I jumped at the opportunity. If the artist in question, one Morimoto Kaoru, was a Geidai doctoral student, she must be frightfully brilliant at her work, so much so that she was unable to find a job. Geidai had a low turnover rate of students finding jobs even if it was as notoriously difficult to gain admittance into as Todai. Art graduates were regrettably not in demand as they were not deemed to be contributing actively to the economy. As an economics graduate myself, I found such ideas reprehensible.

People held different jobs to serve different purposes in society. It was preposterous to suggest that some people were useless because they didn’t do things that could ostensibly bring in money didn’t mean they no purpose in life. I had great respect for those in the arts. They saw things in life as a whole and made something out of what they saw. This Morimoto-san must be of a similar stamp if she’s Toyomi Hoshina’s student. Hoshina is famous for being very abstract in his art; my father owns an oil-on-canvas by that chap, and I do not understand what the painting is about. Therefore, if the master is thus, it stands to reason that the disciple is similar. Not all arts graduates from Geidai managed to be hired by Dentsu. Dentsu’s advertisements tend to be mainstream and appeal to the common masses. The fact that Morimoto-san is able to have an exhibition demonstrates that her art must be similarly abstract and much too thought-provoking for the pleasure-seeking mainstream. My preliminary interviews with Hoshina sensei (who insisted that everyone call him Toyomi) revealed that he hadn’t had such a promising protégée in years and wanted to promote her work because he felt she had artistically come into her own. Morimoto-san’s other art teachers also had much to say about her penchant for mixed medium, depressing oil paintings that depicted the human condition as something degenerative.

Whatever my expectations on Morimoto’s art, I had not expected to find a cute young lady with a penchant for floral print dresses and tying her hair in pigtails, mostly deaf and dependent on her hearing aid. But that wasn’t the surprising epiphany I unearthed. In my capacity as a newscaster and interviewer of this brightest new gem in the Art Circuit, I was treated to a private showing of the exhibition. What I discovered there was jaw-dropping. It wasn’t the fact that she was a prolific artist that caught me off guard. It wasn’t even the fact that she painted nudes and had a set she called ‘Reflections of modern womanhood’. I was most startled by two paintings in particular. Those two, which were incidentally very tasteful nudes, piqued my interest, and when research was conducted, I was inundated with so many discordant facts that I didn’t know what to do. Like any man blessed with a significant other who had more than the modicum of sense he possessed, I called Chiaki as soon as I got out of the Geidai Founder’s Hall.

“Yes, Sho? Are you going to tell me that you rather have pork instead of mutton when I make dinner tomorrow?” she asked playfully.

“We need to talk,” I said simply, rubbing my brow. This whole thing of coming away with all that I had uncovered in the course of my research was overwhelming, and it was giving me a splitting headache. Information overload was a terrible bitch to deal with, more so than Chiaki’s menstrual mood swings.

A long, pregnant pause fell over the phone until she spoke lowly. “I’m done at Jindai anyway. Where do I see you?”

“I’ll pick you up in fifteen.”

Chiaki had already locked up the greenhouse and was waiting for me, unusually subdued. When we left the botanical gardens, we fell into an uncomfortable silence that seemed to last an eternity. We remained locked in this discomfiting silence for what seemed a good long while until she could bear it and no longer and reverted to her usual form of a no-nonsense constantly inquisitive and logical botanist. “What brought on the ‘we need to talk’? You want to tell me, do you not? Go ahead and do it. You claim you wish to ‘talk’ and you haven’t even uttered a sound.”

She turned to face me as she threaded her fingers tightly together, and in so doing, straining her knuckles until they were as pale as Alys sensei’s hands. As I hardly knew where to begin, I stole a quick glance at her before trying together my thoughts.

“The question is,” she went on, looking away and out the window as we hit a traffic jam. “Why am I so worried? Who am I worried for? And what is the answer? Hmm? Ha! Listen to me – filling in the silence when all it does is pour in like water into a sinking ship. Are we sinking, Sho? Is this what this is about?”

“What is this ‘this’ you speak of?” My lips finally parted with a sound.

Startled, she jerked her head to look at me. “This?” she parroted. “You were about to say that you’ve found someone else, haven’t you? Well then, I wish you much joy. Let me out of the car.”

“You think that I would…” I asked, turning to her with undisguised surprise. How could she think that? I hadn’t time to breathe sometimes and she thought I would be out cavorting with other women and had found someone else? While that thought was titillating in its own way, I was far from amused. However, I forced myself to laugh nervously so as to break the tension that had fallen between us. “You’re not getting out of the car until we settle this, Chiaki. This whole thing is making me sick, and giving me a headache. It’s not you. It’s what I learnt today.” I paused and hooked up the earpiece to keitai just to have something to do to steady my thoughts. When I found my tongue again, I went on, “Would you care to enlighten me as to how you and Alys are related to Morimoto Kaoru?”

“I beg your pardon?” she gasped, her eyes widening.

“This isn’t about us, Chiaki. I only want to know if Morimoto Kaoru is the artist friend you said you were helping out over the summer. Is she Alys’s artist friend you mentioned?”

She looked me over dispassionately. And she would have been the picture of outward calm had not a nerve throbbed at the corner of her temple. “What is this really about?”

“I’ve seen the nudes. I do not object to you doing something like that. It’s fine if it’s for art. What I want to know is the connection between two Arashi girlfriends and this painter,” I said, rubbing my brow in thought. “There’s an Ohno dimension to this as well. Yes, wifey, our Ohno. This painter is also somehow connected to him. Did you of this connection? If so, how long have you known and why have you kept it from me?”

Chiaki appeared stunned by this revelation as she nervously tugged the ends of her hair. “I do not know anything about that. Neither of them said anything about it. Let’s back track a little for a while. We’re not breaking up because you fancy someone else?”

I only answered her with a significant look to assure her that I most certainly did not mean anything like that. To which assurance, she sighed and ran a hand through her hair.

“Just checking,” she said apologetically. “Now, back to Ohno-kun. If there’s a link to him, shouldn’t you be talking to him?”

“Capital notion!” I slapped my thigh in approbation. “Why hadn’t I thought of that!”

“Because I hadn’t planted that thought in your head.” She shook her head and unlaced her previously tightly threaded fingers.

Grinning apologetically at her for unintentionally placing her on a brief emotional rollercoaster, I inserted the keitai earpiece so that I could talk while driving and hit the quick call button for our titular leader’s mobile device. As soon as he picked up, I came to the point. “Ohno-kun, I have a tension headache, so I am going to be blunt. Would you care to enlighten me on the nature of your relationship or Alys-san’s relationship or even Chiaki’s relationship to the painter, Morimoto Kaoru?”

“Eh? How did you know about Kaoru?” he asked, the shock reverberating in his voice.

My suspicions were now raised. As such, I made free to enquire, “You call her Kaoru? Just who is she to you?”

“Er… I just know her. You’re doing something for her exhibition? Why? How?” he hedged slightly.

Chiaki placed a hand over mine on the steering wheel in silent encouragement to continue. I took a swallow and blustered on, “Tonight, News Zero will be broadcasting a segment tonight on the Toyomi Hoshina sensei’s launch of his protégée’s work. I was asked to cover it. I had a sneak peek at the gallery. Very impressive stuff. The research undertaken revealed that this protégée, one Morimoto Kaoru by name, had her formal artistic debut designing the background sets for the second act of Amatsukaze – your butai project last year. I dug deeper and visited the Gedai Founder’s Memorial Gallery today for a sneak preview of Morimoto Kaoru’s ‘Reflections’. Guess what I found? Nudes of Chiaki and Alys entitled ‘The Birth of Nature’s Protectress’ and ‘The Philosopher’s Secret’ respectively. I’ve nothing against nudes. Those were very artistic and well executed. However, I am struck by the coincidences. How did Toyomi Hoshina’s protégée come to be acquainted with two Arashi girlfriends?”

Ohno hesitated again. “Err… They were already friends from long ago?”

I was getting nowhere with this line of questioning. I would have to gently coax the information out of him them with firm reason. “That was my initial thought given the little Chiaki told me about the artist friend she met with Alys. That was my exact thought until I learnt that Morimoto-san had been the background set designer for Act Two of Amatsukaze and then saw a painting of a very familiar baseball cap entitled ‘Satoshi’. Two coincidences, I can stomach. Three is where I begin to suspect something; four is when it stops being a coincidence.”

“Eh? Nani?” he gasped.

“You’re as much in the dark as I am then,” I sighed when I realised that he didn’t know either. There were too many facts and I couldn’t make sense of it. The only way I could think out of this was to talk things face-to-face with Ohno.

He interrupted me before I could make the suggestion, blurting out in the process something I found interesting enough to be a corner piece of this puzzle. “I know about Kaoru and Alys, but even then I’ve not see the pieces. I thought of just going to the exhibition tomorrow when it opens to see the pieces. I didn’t know about the rest.”

“Okay, Ohno-kun, this is getting weird. Chiaki and I are headed for dinner. I would greatly appreciate it if you joined us and we’ll have a parlay at Mejiro two shops down the sushi place manager-san always takes us to,” I stated in a tone that would brook no refusal.

He seemed to understand for he replied, “I’ll go.”

“I’ll see you in half an hour,” I said and hung up. “What do you think?” I asked Chiaki as we made it out of the traffic jam that had been hindering us for the past twenty minutes. “You heard all of it.”

“But not enough to arrive at a definitive answer. I have my suspicions though, and if you cared to exercise your brain, you would see it too,” she replied while staring straight at the road ahead. “Who knew that the Alys could be so silent where her friends’ interests were concerned?”

“Watch it, wifey, or you’ll be a converted fan of the discreet Alys soon. You and I know that the Ninomiyas live for corrupting everyone near them,” I mocked gently.

“Be that as it may, Alys is a dear friend of mine,” announced my girlfriend stoutly with folded arms. Letting her believe what she liked, I remained silent until we reached the Mejiro Italian restaurant where we had agreed to meet Ohno.

He made good time and arrived within five minutes of our being seated. As he was hemming and hawing in uncertainty as to where he should begin, I decided to put him out of his misery by laying down the facts of what we did know. I hoped that so doing would serve the dual purposes of allaying any fears he might have on the issue and encourage him to open up on the things he knew.

“Between the three of us,” I began, as the menus were placed before us. “I am confident of piecing together this story. Let us start with what we know. You two know what I have learned about Morimoto Kaoru-san in the course of the research for tonight News Zero’s report. Chiaki revealed on the way here that she is acquainted with Morimoto-san. She wouldn’t tell me more. Now, would someone be so kind as to tell me what’s going on?”

Ohno-kun nodded agreeably with a pout. “I want to know that to. How did Chiaki know Kaoru? I know how Kaoru knows Alys because Nino knows about Kaoru too and we let them meet and everything, and they get along really great because Alys likes art too.”

A nerve throbbed at the corner of Chiaki’s mouth as she struggled with her patience to get to the bottom of this conundrum. “Let’s rewind for a bit. You mean to tell me that: one – you and Kaoru-chan are actually a couple, and two – the Ninomiya-Teng pair is privy to that information?”

Ohno seemed relieved that Chiaki had figured that much out and nodded with a smile.

I, on the other hand, had been left in the dark. Just what was going on that Nino knew about it as well? It wasn’t a Nino-and-Alys plot, was it? If the two of them were plotting, it would result in an apocalypse. “Eh? Why I haven’t figured it out? Wifey, how did you know?”

With her woman’s intuition, Chiaki sensed my impending panic attack at the inability to see the completed puzzle when all the pieces were already before me. I didn’t think well under pressure and this time was no exception. Placing an arm around me, she soothed, “Elementary, Sho. Ohno-kun just mentioned that Nino is acquainted with Kaoru because he had introduced them. It follows that if Ohno-kun made the introduction to Nino-kun, he would have also done the same by Alys. Those two ladies are sly things. They didn’t breathe a word about it. To think that I had been consorting with them because I thought Kaoru-chan was Alys’s friend.”

“They didn’t tell you?” Ohno was practically beaming.

“Just how long have Nino and his better half known?” I asked, at last understanding that Morimoto-san and our titular leader had been seeing each other, and that our diminutive bastard and his Alys were in the know.

“Since the time Jun wanted to follow Nino to Todai to see his mysterious girlfriend,” he chirped up, relief evident in his cheerfulness. “Umai! I should bring Okaasan and Kaoru here!”

“And how long as this thing between you and Morimoto-san been going on?” I asked

“Since we got back from the ‘Time’ summer tour,” was the simple answer. My goodness! He had kept his amour under wraps for so long with no one the wiser about it. After that revelation, the sky could be falling soon and I would no longer be surprised.

That thought was so ticklish to me that I was unable to help myself from chortling aloud. “You’re truly superb! You’ve kept your girlfriend under wraps for so long with none of us the wiser. To think that Nino and Alys would be privy to this too. I’ve always guessed that you would have a wife stashed away someway, but this is too hilarious.”

“But I’m not married – not yet!” he protested.

A thought then occurred to me, and I sought to clarify. “And you got together with the woman who designed the set for your butai? That is unexpected. Does manager-san know?”

“No one else knows – just Okaasan, Otousan, Nino and Alys. She’s not the set designer. She’s really just a postgraduate student or something like that at Geidai.” He sounded proud of his artist, and he should be. She was a remarkable artist and a pleasant, likeable woman.

“Toyomi Hoshina’s doctoral student in oil painting to be precise. The dazzling deaf beauty of the Japan’s Art Circuit – that’s what a few art galleries have christened her. And she’s your girlfriend? I’m still flabbergasted by that connection,” I recited the information that I had already gleaned from my research and the interview I had with her.

Struck by the realisation that she had been friends with another Arashi girlfriend without knowing that little detail, Chiaki could only shake her head. “There are always wheels within wheels in anything to do with the drizzling boys. I didn’t suspect anything throughout the time I’ve known Kaoru-chan. I saw them on the train one day while going to Ueno Park for sap samples and Alys introduced her as a friend from Geidai. We got off at the Ueno stop where Alys was accompanying Kaoru-chan for an afternoon stroll-and-sketch session, and we started talking. It was incredible how we just clicked, and before long we were going out for tea and to Butler cafés and whatnot. Ohno-kun, you weren’t mentioned at all, not once.”

“I did tell you Alys is discreet. I just didn’t know she could be as silent as the grave. Morimoto-san’s pretty circumspect too. Ohno-kun has chosen well,” I complimented.

That seemed to have the desired effect, for he broke into a wide smile. “I think so too! But what I don’t understand is why Chiaki is modelling for Kaoru. I know Alys did so because Kaoru asked her too”

Chiaki responded with her usual logical alacrity, “That’s simple. Part of the ‘Reflections’ series encompasses reflections of the ordinary modern woman. Kaoru-chan spoke of wanting to demonstrate that modern women had a lot more going for us than we thought. Her vision of the modern female embraces both the nurturing aspect traditionally associated with womanhood as well as the masculine aspects of the modern woman’s mind. So in the ‘Reflections of Women’ sub-series, all the works therein sought to emphasise the new Athena-Aphrodite hybrid or the new Hera-Artemis hybrid that she thought women should be. Just because we work hard at our careers and can out-think men with our superior intellectual capability doesn’t mean we’re de-sexualised. It was a novel concept and I supported it by agreeing to be her model when she asked me a little before the summer. While you drizzling boys were away cavorting with fangirls, I helped with ‘The Birth of Nature’s Protectress’ piece. I’m very proud of how that turned out.”

I nodded in agreement and resisted the urge to gesticulate with my hands. “Very entrancing, very tasteful. Instead of the birth of Venus from the sea, we have the birth of nature’s protectress from a Sakura tree crushing a tractor with a foot and dissolving half-constructed buildings with a glare. I’m buying that painting as soon as the exhibition accepts bids. When you told me you were posing for an artist who was Alys’s friend, I didn’t think that the world would be this small.”

My botanist rolled her eyes at the blandishment as she addressed Ohno. “Kaoru-chan’s work is deeply symbolic and powerful. I enjoyed working with her. As previously mentioned, I did not know she was your girlfriend. If I had known, I would have likely not posed for her. Imagine if word gets out, and the drizzle boys are discovered to have girlfriends tucked away in a corner. Alys is another story altogether. She has strong feelings and would do anything to help a friend and weather all consequences as they came.”

“There’s no need to fear on that account. There will be no mention of Ohno-kun in the news report tonight because Morimoto-san made no mention of him in the interview. I will not be so indiscreet as to bring embarrassment to my friend by making a tactless remark on his private life. This is a purely artistic venture that will be frequented, I have no doubt, by the true artists and not the motley crew of plebs who know nothing about the value of art. There will be no censure on either the artist or her models, and there is next to no chance of anyone discovering that two of the models are intimately acquainted with us,” I assured my friend and girlfriend. This was a matter of utmost secrecy, any fool could see that. It would be to no one’s benefit if the news of Ohno and Morimoto-san got out. I had seen enough of what could happen from the near disastrously explosive situation stemming from Nino’s liaison with Alys. I had no wish for a similar situation to befall any of my friends.

Ohno grinned his cheerful and relieved thanks. “Then it’s okay then!”

“While all that’s going swimmingly, I don’t think it’s fair for Morimoto-san that you’re keeping her away from your friends. She might get the impression that you’re ashamed of her because she’s almost deaf,” I ventured as a reminder that our manager could not be kept in the dark indefinitely.

Chiaki did not approve of my ‘mothering’ tendencies and told me not to interfere with a mighty glare that would have rivalled Matsumoto’s if he was in one of his dark moods.

My words seemed to deflate something Ohno for his shoulders sagged and he smiled wanly. “I don’t want anyone to know,” he stated insistently, like he was begging Chiaki and me to remain silent for his sake. “It’s just between Kaoru and me. Why should people know? I trust Nino and his sensei; I trust Okaasan and Otousan; I trust Morimoto papa and mama; I trust you and Chiaki. It stops there. I’m not ashamed of her. I just don’t want her to go through what we go through where people look at us like animals in a zoo wondering what we’re like. Kaoru doesn’t need that kind of looks. No one does. I think I can keep everything quiet. I think Kaoru likes it like that too because if there were people looking at her like they look at Arashi then she wouldn’t be able to concentrate on her art anymore. I won’t do anything to take that part of her away from her. So I’m not going to say anything about her. She has her friends too in Geidai and. I’ve seen some of them but never talked to them. They look like nice people. Even Toyomi sensei’s pretty nice. Kaoru has Chiaki and Alys as friends too, so that’s okay. Chiaki and Alys can look after her too.”

When he put it like that, I had nothing else to say. Thus far, they had managed to keep things quiet, and if Ohno-kun insisted, I was honour bound to respect his wishes. Chiaki seemed to find my sudden reticence amusing for she laughingly thanked Ohno for shutting me up.

“He deserved that,” she laughed, giving me a sly sideways glance. “I perfectly understand your admirable sentiments and applaud you for them. There is, however, one residual question I have left.”

“Which is?” I asked after paying the waiter.

“The question’s not directed at you!” she stated dismissively before addressing our companion. “Does Nino know about Alys’s nude?”

“He does. He wants to see it. Is it good? I’ve not seen it,” came his honest reply.

“Neither have I,” Chiaki sighed. As soon as she said that, both set of eyes fell on me, waiting for me to say something. Surely they did not expect me to say anything on such a sensitive issue.

“What?” I feigned innocence and sank further into the seat, wishing that I could get away without saying anymore. “It’s as tastefully done as Chiaki’s, only a little darker thematically. Nino would appreciate it precisely because it is contrary to the image that we usually have of Alys as a proper no-nonsense professor.” I halted there because I didn’t know what else to say about that painting other than it was bold, provocative, and seductive. Nino had probably seen his pale Alys looking that occasionally. All of Arashi and some of the other members of the other bands had occasionally seen them pawing each other (or mauling each other, Aiba once said with fear in his eyes) enthusiastically. The Ninomiyas, as Chiaki referred to them in conversation, didn’t know what ‘shame’ was, and at times, I believe she was right.

Realising that something else was expected of me, I continued, “You’ll see it when you do. Anyhow, I must be off. The News Zero studio awaits. Well, Ohno-kun, Chiaki and I will be at the launch tomorrow to loan my support to your girl on our day off. Is Nino going?”

“I’m going with him tomorrow,” pouted Ohno, clearly disappointed that we were leaving so soon.

“Excellent! Then wifey and I will see you tomorrow,” I offered, hoping that it would cheer him up somewhat.

“What a small world we live in! That went well,” Chiaki ventured when we reached the car. “Now that peace has been restored, I feel I must warn you – never use the ‘we need to talk’ line on me again.”

Grinning sheepishly at her, I puckered my lips in a quick air kiss and got into the car. “What else could I say? We did have to talk about the Morimoto Kaoru connection vis-à-vis you, Ohno and Alys. It was the most effective way of putting this across.”

“Effective way of giving me a heart attack more likely,” she sulked. “You know, Sho,” she began again quietly and with careful deliberation in her words, “if you ever prefer someone else, I will not be an impediment. All you have to do is let me know. I promise I will not kick up a fuss.”

I cracked a thin smile at her. From the way she spoke, I wouldn’t be surprised if she expected me come clean with a confession on the non-existent other woman. How could she doubt me after all this time? I wasn’t fickle or flighty. I needed a kind of commonsensical ordinary domesticity that Chiaki brought to our relationship. Perhaps it was time that I made that clear to her.

“There is this woman I know,” I ventured, being deliberately nonchalant about it. I saw her tense up from the corner of my eyes and I continued, “Tall, plain-speaking, intelligent and passionately committed to reason. She’s mother to at least twenty different plant species and never fails to puts me in my place.”

“Are you trying to flatter me?” she asked, a laugh brimming at her eyes when she finally caught the gist of my words.

“Am I that transparent?” I sighed, having failed at my attempt to be clever and witty, or both. How could Nino and Alys manage to make these backhanded compliments seem so simple and subtly flirtatious when they say these things to each other from behind their respective games and books, I had no idea. When I tried it, it came out clumsy and seemed doom to failure.

“Oh yes,” she said placidly, and then paused to gently add, “however, you should know that the offer is on the table indefinitely. If I am a passing fancy and you do prefer someone else, I won’t fuss. I only want us to remain friends if it comes to that.”

I tried to offer a genuine compliment and that was her commonsensical response? How very remarkable! Her calm and logic never failed to touch me. If words wouldn’t do to convince her that I was in earnest, then there was only action. As we neared the train station, I pulled up into its adjoining car park abruptly and stopped the car, leaving the engine running. “How can I make present company believe that I haven’t a bevy of beauties at my beck and call, and that she is not a passing fancy?” I sharply questioned, turning to her with a look of complete gravity.

“When I’m alone, I think of all the difficulties – what the possible consequences of this relationship would yield for you – how much trouble this could cause for your public image – what your employment agency actually thinks of me – I wonder if perhaps it wouldn’t be a big mistake to carry on with you. And then I think that it would be a much greater mistake to let you go because you can’t be trusted to keep yourself in check when you have to see to the need of the rest of the drizzle boys, and I end up not knowing what to do,” she said, adopting a rallying tone of forced casualness.

“I’ve heard enough,” I intoned seriously, and put an end to further recriminations by fastening my lips to hers.

The responsive quiver I felt in her arms expressed enough and I would have tightened my embrace had not she broken free and uttered breathlessly, “That’s an end to the discussion, I believe.”

And it was. For once, I had managed to silence Chiaki and conclusively demonstrate that I was indeed serious about an undertaking completely unrelated to work.


~~~~~~The end for now ~~~~~~~


Not quite, the omake is up next. Hopefully, by tomorrow or Sunday. Please wait for it!
mclam01
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Re: [Complete] The Wages of Managing Sense (Sho)

Post by mclam01 » Wed Jan 24, 2018 3:09 pm

Wages of Managing Sense - Omake

‘Hip Hop Boogie Mayhem’


A lady whose neat legs were encased in very fine riding boots entered the parlour of the cottage with a riding crop tucked under the arm that was carrying the full sweep of the side-saddle skirt. She carried herself purposefully with easy manners and a humorous look about the eyes, and upon desiring that the tea things be sent up to the study, headed there herself.

Once ensconced in the sanctity of the most lived in part of her temporary abode, she tossed aside her veiled bonnet, put on the second CD to the limited edition of Arashi’s Dream ‘A’ Live album, and dipped her pen in the ink stand in preparation of the writing she would have to do. The clock struck eleven o’clock in the morning, and she had just settled down with her tea and writings at the escritoire when the book-lined door violently opened to admit a handsome man with striking features, a smouldering set of lips and piercing eyes.

“What is the meaning of this, Lady Strange?” he demanded, dramatically waving a copy of The Wages of Managing Sense.

“Ah, Mr Sakurai,” greeted the authoress in a faint English Public School accent as she continued perusing the papers in her hand, occasionally writing something when it struck her. “What an unexpected surprise! Won’t you stay and have tea?”

“I demand to know what you are trying to do with this?” he went on, his lower lip quivering in displeasure as he threw the book down on a side table. “You cannot possibly be serious about the way the plot is being written? You depicted me as a voyeur, a person who makes inopportune remarks, and a panicky cry-baby, and then you have me kiss my girlfriend in an insipid way at the end of the whole story?”

Lady Strange handed her guest a cup of tea with a gentle turn of her wrist to indicate that he help himself to the sugar, lemon and milk. “It’s for plot purposes. The Wages of Managing Sense is your story as much as it is mine. I can’t have everything going smoothly for you. You must have some drama, some private anxieties or private concerns. I merely fleshed them out.”

“You mean you made me run around like a madman by endowing me with no artistic talent, and the character of a papa-hen fretting over his brood!” spat Sho Sakurai as he stripped his hands of his gloves with something akin to vengeance.

Unperturbed, Lady Strange was about to reply that Sho did have a mother-hen tendency and did really possess appalling artistic vision when she was interrupted by the sudden entry of a second guest through the door.

“What is the meaning of this, Lady Strange?” quizzed a lanky youth with dark features, a straight nose, black-rimmed glasses, and just the barest hint of an Edo-era drawl to his angry voice. He was dressed in clothes that the authoress herself was unable to afford, nor cared to afford.

The authoress, still wearing her placid expression, turned her gaze at the newcomer and allowed her eyes to drift to the book he was brandishing most emphatically before her. “How nice of you to join me, Mr Matsumoto!” she said with a self-satisfied nod. “I see you received the copy I sent out.”

“Ano, ne, I should be the hero of the piece not Sho!” protested Jun Matsumoto, his chest swelling in indignation. “It wasn’t easy to get Sho to go to Shikibu bookshop to meet Sora! You could have covered it in greater detail, ne! Eto, is my intellect to be neglected over his, ne, because he’s your favourite?”

“I am working on your story as we speak. It’s the longest one so far because you think a great deal, and I believe I have captured your tastes just so in the working drafts.” Her ladyship gestured to the tea things. “Would you care for a cup?”

A derisive snort arose from the otherwise silent Jun accompanied by a mighty glare as Sho strove to ignore her by opening his hostess’s cabinet and extracting a glass and a bottle of scotch.

“What is the meaning of this, Lady Strange?” the raspy voice of a slim gentleman who had just burst into the study. “You made me a love-sick puppy where my heart goes doki-doki every time I see mama! Are you even giving me a girlfriend or not! I can’t spend all five books sighing over her! I demand a pretty girlfriend!”

“I’m sure you’re very interesting, Mr Aiba, but the second story is Sho’s,” the authoress explained, returning to her papers. “Furthermore, you have more ups and downs in your moods than the rest of them. It would not be easy to write your story. I will give you a capable, clever and comely girl when I get to it, d’accord? It’s not easy for yours because you have some inner turmoil you will need to resolve before your lady appears on the scene.”

“You mean <i>you</i> have turmoil! You…” The rest of Masaki Aiba’s answer was truncated by the arrival of a pair of newcomers – a charming fellow whose only physical defect was a terrible slouching hunch, and a willowy lady whose health was regrettably indifferent.

“What is the meaning of this, Lady Strange?” came the united voices of the couple for whom the authoress secretly had a soft spot.

“Mama!” cried Masaki cheerfully as the woman who had just entered hand-in-hand with a man the others greeted as “Nino.”

“Bonjour, Monsieur et Madame Ninomiya. Delighted you could join us. Were Monsieur et Madame Ohno not with you today?” teased the authoress with a playful curling of her amused lips.

“Don’t call us that! Do you need to have us make an exhibition of ourselves in every story?” demanded the lady in a clipped, carefully modulated Oxbridge tone with a hand pressed to her very, very modest bosom as if in pain.

The gentleman whom the authoress had joking referred to as her husband helped her to the chaise lounge and supportively held her hand. “Alys, my dear, be mindful of your weak heart. Let me do this,” he said gently.

“Really now,” the authoress cocked a sardonic brow. “Every time I write a story, the two of you try to take over. I would have thought that the warning I gave you in the first omake would have successfully kept you in check. Let that be a lesson to you, Mr Ninomiya, Dr Teng – never think you can manipulate the writer to write a plot because the writer can manipulate what you want to happen to her advantage.”

“Yeah, we really love dancing to your tune when you throw us together and then separate us again and then throw in that idiot Aiba into the mix!” he spat acidly, tightly threading his fingers with his better half’s. “Taking over the others’ stories, corrupting Oh-chan, torturing Aiba’s emotions are things we already do on a daily basis anyway.”

Her ladyship smiled in amusement and sipped her tea with a great show of impassivity. “Ah, but I did warn you against taking over the stories. You had your turn. Let the others have their say. Furthermore, I am not writing anything that you do not do. No one can be in doubt of your enthusiasm for each other.”

On hearing that, Nino turned reproachfully on Lady Strange. “At least let us live together! Oh wait, you can’t let us do that because it would spoil your plots for the other stories! Ha! What plot? You’re letting Oh-chan get en…"

“Stop him! He’ll give away the plot to Life’s Colours and Sounds.” Jun shouted as he, Masaki and Sho dived at Nino, knocking over the smaller man.

“Cease molesting my Freeloader! If you’re going to kill him, do it cleanly!” demanded Dr Alys Teng (doctor of philosophy, not medicine) as she picked her other half from the floor and placed him beside her on the chaise lounge.

Lady Strange only chuckled as she settled back in her chair, eagerly watching the drama unfold.

“My dear Alys! Have you forgotten that if you successfully poison me, I will return to claim you too?” Nino smirked, the corners of his eyes crinkling slightly as he pressed his lady’s hand warmly.

The three other chaps who had restrained him returned to their previous occupation of casting aspersions on their authoress’s sanity and character when they saw that all was peaceful once again.

Alys’s lips curled warningly at Nino in a dangerous catlike smirk. “You know, according to the plans for Satoshi’s story, we’re actually more subdued than we were in Sho’s. It very comfortably approximates a perverted old married couple feel in the chapter where he looks us up at Todai.”

“Yeah, we should just elope and get a special license in Britain if someone would just let us!” Nino spat viciously with a glare at their creator.

“Actually, you both are more zealous in your affectionate displays before certain individuals such as Sho and Masaki,” contributed the authoress helpfully with a playful twinkle in her eyes.

“So that’s why they were the way they were backstage for Nino’s play!” Sho exclaimed in sudden realisation.

“Is that why in Jun’s story and mine, I see them…” gasped Masaki as he knelt down on the floor on the verge of tears.

“Oh yes,” murmured Nino with a look of carnal glee on his features while leaning his head on Alys’s.

“Ano, ne,” coughed the tall, brooding Jun who had hitherto been leaning his elbow on the mantelpiece, momentarily diverting the assembled company from the Ninomiya couple’s icy glare of contempt and Sho glancing up from his third glass of scotch. “I’m not sure I like the role assigned to me. Eto, I was hoping that I would be a more active member of Arashi, and a more demonstratively sensitive boyfriend, ne. I would have engineered something less elaborate than what you had me do for Sora in The Wages of Managing Sense. What is the meaning of that, ne, Lady Strange?”

“Mr Matsumoto, you are a kind sort and you will come into your own in Cover to Cover when…” Unfortunately, the authoress was rudely interrupted by the arrival of a set of two females.

“Not as elaborate as the way she planned for my first meeting with Sho. I mean, come on! Would anyone play football at the botanical gardens when there are open fields for sports?” exclaimed the voice of a tanned, statuesque woman as she stepped through the door in the company of a houmongi-clad, almost noble looking young woman.

“Or me,” said the personage in an orange and green houmongi as she flicked a stray lock of dark hair from her left eye and hooked it behind her ear. “She painted me out to me a slovenly novelist! How can I be a respectable novelist if I’m perpetually disorganised? She even has me writing social dramas with ‘a dash’ of romance! Romance of all things! How can I be respectable novelist if I write novels with ‘a dash’ of romance?”

“Yes,” chimed the two newly arrived women in unison. “What is the meaning of that, Lady Strange?”

“Well, Miss Nakahara and Miss Kujo, tout le monde,” said the authoress, setting aside her papers and looking at everyone with a patient smile. “I write you according to how I see you.”

“Or how <i>each character</i> sees everyone else,” pointed out Nino as he curled his lips disdainfully at the sight of Sho drinking alcohol so early in the day.

“Thank you, Mr Ninomiya. However, I feel you ought to know that every one of you…” the redoubtable authoress nodded and paused to raise her voice an octave. “Including those of you who are about to walk in that door.”

The couple whom Lady Strange greeted as ‘Mr Ohno’ and ‘Miss Morimoto’ entered, shyly and apologetically bowing to everyone. On seeing the newcomers, Sho poured Satoshi Ohno a drink muttering sotto voce that he would need it if he was to survive this particular omake.

“Now that we are all here, may I continue?” Murmurs of assent were heard and Lady Strange went on, “As I was saying, all of you are at my mercy. I could kill you off if I so desired it. Mr Ninomiya and Mr Matsumoto, there is no need to stare at Mr Sakurai because he’s drinking in the late morning. He is a highly experienced drinker. I could have written him as a professional wine master if I was writing an Alternate Universe fiction!”

“Now that’s a profession I would have liked!” declared Sho, raising his glass in approval. “I’m sure we would have dissipated evenings of drinking and porn …”

“Oi, Sakurai! Control yourself!” interjected Jun in scandalised tones. “We have ladies present.”

Lady Strange rolled her eyes and beseeched whatever deity who was listening to keep her guests under control. “Are you going to complain too, Monsieur et Madame Ohno? I would not have pegged you both for the complaining sort!”

“As a matter of fact,” said the pretty Miss Morimoto (AKA Madame Ohno) in a lisp as she turned on her hearing aid. “I rather like how I was portrayed. What about you, Satoshi-kun?”

“I don’t mind, it seems that your brother’s bakery has been getting a lot more business since the rumours of our story, ne. And our story’s next, isn’t it, Kaoru? I can say that we have fish gutting, painting, clay works, and art exhibitions,” revealed Satoshi Ohno cheerfully.

“I can’t have the lot of you complaining how I write you! You just are what you – corny lines, goofy and adorkable boys who have faux intellectual discussion and all that jazz!” the authoress stated, her lips tightly pursed and her eyes narrowed just the slightest bit when she saw Nino and Alys were presently ignoring everyone and playing their respective DSes, doubtlessly against each other. They were getting too complacent. Some trouble or comedic scene should be invented to get them to appreciate how difficult it was to write characters like theirs. Perhaps a ‘kanojo no bangohan’ would be interesting.

By Jove, that’s good! I should include it somewhere, thought Lady Strange as she quickly wrote something in her papers.

“Ano, I demand more sensitivity and awareness!” said Jun with a touch of defiance.

“And I demand that I write better than social dramas with ‘a dash’ of romance!” insisted Sora Kujo with a dramatic fist pound in her palm.

“I don’t want to be mooning over mama in all the stories! I demand my own girlfriend!” wailed Masaki pathetically.

“I can’t always be silly, make me more mindful of things!” demanded Sho.

“I don’t want to be dangling after mama in all the stories!” bemoaned Masaki pathetically .

“But you are mooning over Alys; we have definitive proof in Ohno’s story!” hollered all the characters in unison.

Unperturbed by the host of literary creations – her literary creations no less – descending on her with their ever increasing list of requests, Lady Strange carried on writing and soon, it became clear just exactly what she was trying to accomplish. For no sooner had she put down lifted her pen from the page when Masaki Aiba fell to the floor, looking quite purple in the face.

“What happened? What is the meaning of this, Lady Strange?” asked Sho, cringing in fearful uncertainty when his closest friend in the group collapsed at his feet with a loud crash.

“Two words come to mind,” said Lady Strange blandly, taking up her pen and tapping it on her lips thoughtfully.

“Apoplectic seizure?” offered Alys as she prodded at him with a pen in mild fascination.

“No.” Their hostess and creator twisted her lips into a knowing smirk. “Good riddance.”

“Why?” asked Nino as he fished through Aiba’s pockets for the latter’s wallet and looking in it before turning to address his partner. “Alys, my dear, we’re having dinner on Aiba tonight.”

The authoress sighed and cupped her chin in her hand. “I did say I could kill you if I so wished it.” she batted her eyes coquettishly at the shocked company before writing some more. “I could just as easily revive you, if I wished it, but only if I really wanted to.”

“That’s madness!” pointed out Sho in a sudden panic. “I will not stand for this! You are a part of us; we are a part of you! Your stories revolve around us. There would be no plot if you killed us!”

“But you see,” Lady Strange cracked an enigmatic smile and looked up at her creations. “I am both a part of you, and apart from you. I can will you into existence as easily as I can will you to run as mad as I am running now. But don’t worry – you will merely run mad, you won’t faint. You will be doing lots of running about in Mr Ohno’s story and in Mr Matsumoto’s. You have my word.”

“That’s utter tosh! Your word is as good as that set-up you’re planning where Kaoru and Ohno …” Before Alys could finish that which she was about to say, she flopped back into the chaise lounge, quiet and to all intents dead.

The assembled had not expected that the authoress would be so perverse as to kill off one of her favourite heroines, but it seemed like she had.

“She’s only fainted. She’ll be back for Messrs Ohno, Matsumoto and Aiba’s stories. I can’t kill her off yet. I had to keep her quiet otherwise she’d blab about part of the plot for Life’s Colours and Sounds,” muttered the authoress in bored voice.

When all shocked eyes fell on her, all Lady Strange could say was, “Bugger off.”

And they did. But not before picking up the pens that were lying conveniently around and throwing them at her as if they were darts.

“What is the meaning of this, you ungrateful lot?” the authoress exclaimed, before rolling her eyes with the mental note to work with a new cast of less recalcitrant characters. “Oh, bugger indeed,” she managed to sputter before passing out.

With their authoress temporarily out for the count, the characters (yes, even the ones who had fainted and were subsequently revived) chorused, “Stay tuned for the next story! Yoroshiku onegai shimasu!”

“It’s about Kaoru!” Ohno beamed with a hand indicating the pretty creature in pigtails.

“And Satoshi-kun!” Kaoru smiled, gesturing at Ohno with a paintbrush.

Disposing their authoress’s body behind a priest hole, Chiaki and Sho added, “Where there will be private thoughts on fishing, art, baked goods…”

“Where Oh-chan’s thoughts on the dynamics of our relationship during and after the hushed-up tabloid scandal will be showcased,” the Ninomiya couple quickly interjected, as they pressed their cheeks together.

Aiba bounced back up on his feet, came between Nino and Alys with a cheeky grin and laughed, “Where I make a confession to Captain!”

“Eh?” Everyone’s eyes widened instantly.

“Not that kind of confession. An admission of something!” chortled Aiba, slapping his own thighs.

“And where a revelation follows an art exhibition!” Jun and Sora shouted out.

“We’ll be seeing you in Life’s Colours and Sounds,” all the characters announced, waving noisemakers for no good reason at all.


~~~~~ to be continued… maybe… ~~~~~

Acknowledgements

Gratitude is extended to all my readers for following this story to the end, and through this insane omake. *bows deeply* Ohno's story will be featured next where we will more about the delightful Kaoru. She's such a sweet thing, quite different from the commonsensical Chiaki, and the sardonic Alys.

As I have little to offer, I bring you a brief preview of Ch 1 of Ohno's story, entitled 'Life's Colours and Sounds':

“Satoshi!” came Okaasan’s voice from somewhere in the house – from the kitchen I think. She’s planning our dinner after looking at the offers in the supermarket advertisement in the newspapers. She always decides what’s for dinner after looking in the newspapers and then in the fridge to see what we have.

“Hai!” I answered her.

“Stop cleaning your sweat with your sleeve! Proper boys don’t do that!” she shouted so that I could hear.

“Hai!” I gulped nervously. Okaasan is scary sometimes; she always knows what I’m doing even though I can’t see her anywhere. Maybe she has eyes at the back of her head that see everything. Mothers are great and wonderful but also very scary.


It should be up some time next week, so watch for it, all right? *bows again and potters away*
mclam01
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Re: [Complete] The Wages of Managing Sense (Sho)

Post by mclam01 » Wed Jan 24, 2018 3:09 pm

Omake (お負け but often written オマケ) means extra or bonus in Japanese. Omake often include comedy sketches where the characters behave out of character, or subtly address opinions of the fandom known to the writers. Sometimes scenes from the telly show or OVA (or manga) are humorously re-dubbed or re-written. Omake can also consist of non-canonical, and often comedic crossovers.

The idea is that I will have omake for each story of the 'Whither my love' series. Sugoi, ne? I think so!

Please bear in mind that the omake is meant to be a joke, for humour and fun. No offence is intended, and I certainly own nothing except the girls and myself.
ingoblue
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Re: [Complete] The Wages of Managing Sense (Sho)

Post by ingoblue » Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:56 am

I remember reading this on the old forum. The Whither my Love series is amazing, I loved it then and I still love it now!
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