Chapter 12 - Truths and Lies at Mecchen House (cont.)
Mami suddenly snapped a photo of Nathan and me. “So, anything change?”
I shook my head and she scampered over to where Miki and Jamie had gone. Ms. Ishida welcomed us back with a small box in her hands. It looked to be some sort of group game. Tara bounced around, looking much revived. She plopped down next to Ami and talked about her day.
Ami didn’t seem as embarrassed. She smiled at us and asked if we wanted to play the game. It was a game that sounded similar to “Two Truths and a Lie”. Nathan was hesitant, but I wanted to try it because of what I could learn about the girls. Tara cheered and ran to go ask if anyone else would be playing.
Ms. Ishida laid the game board out, and Ami sipped a little more of her soup before finally setting it aside on the tray. Nana bowed to me. I returned the bow and sat near Ami. Nana sat nearer than I expected, but still a fair distance from me. I didn’t notice any telling facial cues from her but then, her expression didn’t vary much. I asked her how things were.
And what’s she been doing lately?
“Something for school?” I asked
“Something of purpose.”
“Purpose is that which defines meaning. That without purpose has no meaning. Many things arise from purposeful intent, especially those which may make no sense. Their purpose needs to be uncovered.”
“What do you think about what’s happening to the three of us?” I wondered if I should’ve asked that. Nana looked at me for several moments before finally saying, “My thoughts on that subject are also varied, as well as complex.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean there is much I do not understand. I have listened and I have tried my best. I am sorry I cannot do more.” She bowed slowly. I was just glad she was still talking to me after how our one chat ended. I decided not to push things further for now. I logged away my questions for another time.
I still had plenty to deal with anyway. Since Ami seemed alright, my next priority was to see if Jamie was alright too. After that was figuring out what was going on with Nina and Katsumi and this whole “demoness” business. If none of that turned up any answers, I could always dig around with the other girls for info on “Hitomi”, if she was real. And then, even though Jamie had dismissed them, there was probably even more to be found in the books in their neat pile on the floor.
Ms. Ishida took Ami’s tray away and offered a few kind words and a subtle suggestion that if she maintained a cleaner room, then maybe her health would follow in kind. Ami said she would consider it.
Nathan supported Ms. Ishida on the idea of a clean room as the gateway to clean health. He certainly lived by that. Ami rubbed her head, looked to me, and asked, “I guess my room is a real mess. What do you think?”
I noticed a subtle, pale blush on Ami’s cheeks. I was worried for a moment that it was the sign of a recurrence of her illness, but I also wondered if it meant something else. Nevertheless, I chose my words carefully, “I think it would help you feel better if your room was more organized and comfortable to be in.”
“But how? Will you help me? It feels sometimes like that room is fighting against me and I don’t have enough energy to conquer it.” My mind held the image of her room in my thoughts and what I’d seen there of the strange and the mundane. I wasn’t sure where I would begin on such a project, but it sounded like a way to spend more time near Ami, and I had no problems with that. Tara returned with a slower bounce to her step and Mami right behind her.
“Reiko and Sumi can’t join. Sumi made me promise not to tell what they were doing and why, so I can’t.” I raised an eyebrow. Tara made a zipper-motion with her mouth-line and a locking key. She said Miki and Jamie were still talking in the bathroom and would maybe join in a few minutes.
Mami frowned. “There wasn’t anything new to film, so I got bored.” Mami agreed to join in the game. Nina and Katsumi were still talking too but, as Tara explained, “They’re not very happy.”
“Do you think they would let me talk to them?” I asked Tara. She tottered on her feet and said, “I dunno. Katsumi wasn’t too happy with me interrupting. She might toast you brown. Poor Keli-kun!” She gave me a quick hug. I was prepared to take the risk since Katsumi had been mad at me for more and I’d survived it. But one look at Tara’s face convinced me to just let them have their fight, discussion, or whatever was going on between them. I told Tara, “Okay. I’ll let them cool down first.”
She cheered. “Yay! And we can play now too! Giggles and cinnamon with bubbles, licorice, and socio-informatics!” I gave her a look and she playfully bonked her head and said, “Sowwy, Keli-kun. Just being silly!” I couldn’t help but let all the confusion, unanswered questions, and worry slip away around Tara.
Ms. Ishida took out a card table and set it next to the couch. Tara danced with the game box held close to her, set it on the table, and began picking apart the rest of the stuff in the box.
The game looked simple. It had a few hundred cards, a multi-colored board, and a couple of magical girl-like figures. Ms. Ishida explained, “We lost the original player pieces a few months ago so Tara used some figures she had in place of them.”
“They’re lots more fun to play with. Oh! I need Juri-chan! You gotta play with her! Please, please, please!” She held the figurine out to me like a desperate offering. Playing as this “Juri-chan” seemed a lot easier than the prospect of cosplay and karaoke as her, so I accepted the piece and set it on the starting square.
Tara gave herself the one she called “Ada-chan”. She giggled between attempts at cackling. I assumed the character she picked was something like the show’s antagonist.
She passed one to Nana. Tara smiled. “That’s Queen Akara. Yumeko doesn’t know she’s really her mother. She speaks to her in her sleep, and sometimes she’s like a little voice in Yumeko-chan’s ear which inspires her to do what she must and be the best magical girl she can be!”
Nana gazed at Tara, then back at the figure. Nana closed her eyes and clutched the figure close to her bosom. Mami coughed and reminded her, “Umm. It’s supposed to go on the board.”
She opened her eyes and looked at Mami. She still held the figure to her chest. With her hands carefully cradling the back and base, Nana set the figurine on the starting square. Her fingers lingered around the figure before drifting away. Easing back on the couch, her eyes were still on Queen Akara. The figure did look very elegant.
Tara clapped her hands. “Yay! Nana likes it! That’s right. You didn’t play last time, Nana. Do you like Queen Akara? If you want, you can have her. I don’t mind.”
Nana slipped her eyes over to Tara and back to Queen Akara. Finally, she said, “There is no need.” Tara turned her head and asked, “Are you sure? It’s okay.” Nana said, with still eyes, “I am sure.”
Tara smiled and moved on to selecting a piece for Mami. She slipped a bit of tongue out the side of her mouth-line and dug for a particular piece under the others. She came up with a girlish figure with hair the same shade as Mami’s. Tara waved it around. “I just put her in. You remember her?”
Mami looked at the young girl on the stand with a wide, devious-looking grin. She rubbed her arm a little. “Yeah. Chara, right?”
“Yup! She is so you! Don’t you think?” Tara held out the figure.
Mami’s hand didn’t reach out for the figure at first. Then she held it just a moment before returning it to Tara. “Umm, do you have Noriko?”
Tara blinked. “You want Noriko?”
“Well. I’m just curious.” She looked a bit more interested than that.
Tara bowed her head. “I do, but Miki asked me to hold onto it for her, in case she plays.” Mami mouthed an “O” and nodded a bit. “That’s… alright. Do you have Shika?”
She rummaged a little more and came up with another figure. “Right here. You want that one?”
Mami nearly nodded, but rather looked over at Ms. Ishida and asked, “Is that okay? I mean, you’ve only played with Shika.” Ms. Ishida waved a hand. “Oh! Don’t worry about it. I don’t mind a bit.”
Shielding her face a little on the side, Mami asked, “You’re sure? It’s okay?”
Ms. Ishida nodded calmly. Mami looked at the figure before her, rubbed her fingers together, and then held up her palm. “Never mind. You should play with it, Ms. Ishida. In fact, I insist. I’ll take Chara.” There was some discussion, but Mami made it clear in a level voice that this was what she wanted. When Tara passed Chara to her, she held it as one would a tea bag. She set it beside Ms. Ishida’s Shika.
For Nathan, the character he’d cosplayed as was fine. He studied the figure carefully and brushed back a bit of his hair. The girl had blush on her cheeks to match Nathan’s cheeks right then and was dressed in a perfect rendition of the outfit he’d been wearing. Tara explained it was her usual magical battle uniform.
Tara had the hardest time finding a good figure for Ami. Eventually, they settled on a boy in a flowing robe with long, black hair and piercing eyes. It was the first male I’d seen associated with Pretty Yumeko Hime Galaxy, but he sure seemed to fit the role of “mysterious bishounen” in magical girl shows. Ami gave a little laugh and pressed him to her cheek. She announced, “Here’s one boy Katsumi will never get!” I half-expected Katsumi to make a ninja-like return at that moment, but she remained away.
Jamie and Miki rejoined us a moment later. Jamie didn’t say anything. He just slunk over to an open spot near me. His hair had gained a yellow clip in addition to all the pins.
I tried to mime the words “What happened?” but I wasn’t sure if lip-reading would work in anime format. I hoped my body language expressed the message to Jamie. But even then, my body was a little different, so I wasn’t sure if I was even sending out the same language. I noticed Nana watched my gestures. Mami was focused on Miki.
Miki pumped her fist. “Yes! Let’s play! For victory! And, above all, for fun! You’re never gonna guess my answers. ‘Go go Noriko!’” Tara passed the small, jogging figure of Noriko to Miki, who sailed it around and onto the starting mark like a little helicopter. Mami’s look turned sour. She posed, “How about a personal challenge? You versus me to victory.”
Miki leaned over, as though yanked by a cord. “I’m listening.”
“First to finish reaps the rewards.”
Miki rubbed her cheek. “Overall winner or better-than finish?”
Mami shrugged. “I’m always willing to negotiate. The terms are that the winner may choose the loser’s figure as her regular playing piece.”
Clearly, Mami wasn’t just ‘curious’ about the other pieces and ‘alright’ with how her selection turned up. Miki mused on the offer and said, “But I like my piece. What’s in it for me?”
Mami tapped her fingers, humming a bit to herself before offering, “Total fer…forgiveness of your… financial obligations to me.” I didn’t know Miki had any such debt to Mami but, considering Miki’s competitive nature and how quickly Mami had worked on us, it didn’t surprise me.
Miki pursed her lips. “That’s a lot of past challenges I owe you. You sure? I mean this figure can’t be worth that much. I’m sure you can get one like it for a few hundred yen.” She looked to Tara, who gave a little nod of confirmation and offered, “I can take you to where you can buy one.” I wondered if that place was the anime shop at the crux of our situation. Tara added, “And you can borrow another Noriko figure I have. I don’t mind.”
Mami shook her head. “That won’t be necessary. I know I can buy it and where. I just… want to do this.” The whole thing seemed rather bewildering to me. A figure is a figure. What did one matter more than any other? Besides, it was just a game.
Miki expressed this point with one last word of caution. “Remember, it’s just a game for fun and to help Ami feel better.” Ami blushed a bit. She had better color in her cheeks now. I assumed that was a good thing here as well.
“I know. I think this will be fun. I promise no hard feelings, no matter how it turns out. Just a good game.”
Miki bowed her head. “If you’re alright with it, then I promise a good and honorable game.”
That out of the way, Tara wondered on what figure to give Jamie. Jamie waved his hand. “That’s fine. I’m not playing.”
Tara seemed near whimpering. “B-b-but it’d be so cute…”
Jamie sighed and let his mouth-line undulate. “The same one I cosplayed as?”
“That was Yumeko. I don’t have one of her in the box. Yet maybe… nopers. I thought I had this particular one of Yumeko’s childhood best friend, but I don’t have her figure either. Although, I do have a Fushi-kun!” The figure Tara pulled out of the box was a fraction of the height of the others and a bright color of purple all over its body. It had a sideways, arching grin and was shaped like a furry egg. It sure looked like a mascot character.
Tara explained, “It’s Yumeko’s dad! Formerly the King of Joukai. He’s from later in the first series after the Death Urge has overrun Joukai.” Jamie looked perplexed but accepted the figure. From what I’d learned so far, I had to ask Tara a couple of questions about the anime.
“Umm… I was just wondering. Wasn’t Yumeko’s childhood best friend a boy? And I thought she ran away to Earth when she was older? So, how could she have a childhood friend on Earth?”
Tara clapped. “Yay! Keli-kun listens well! Yup! Well, I don’t want to say much because then it won’t be a surprise but… in the show Yumeko becomes Yume-kun when in magical form.”
Ami smiled. “Those parts are interesting. But they’re too short, and there are not enough of them.” I wondered about that from Ami. After all, she’d said she didn’t like the show. Well, she could like the girls-turning-into-boys part without liking the whole thing. I figured it was a question for when she was feeling better.
Tara continued the background of the anime. “Yume is the one who does battle and who everyone sees and all the girls in school have a crush on. It makes Yumeko so embarrassed. Now about the childhood best friend, Kinji. It’s revealed they met each other on Earth when staying there for a time as kids. Each thought the other was an earthling. Hmm… to explain Kinji… without giving all the cute stuff away. Well, he becomes a girl, like Yumeko becomes a boy, but it’s a secret till the end of the first season. They only show him changing into his magical form, Maiko, once in the second-to-last episode of that season.”
Naturally, the first question that came to my mind was, “How come Katsumi isn’t as big a fan as you?” I posed the question to Tara, but I wondered if saying her name would bring about her return. Not in this case.
Jamie seemed lost in thought.
Tara pondered my question, rocking back and forth like in a chair. “Well, I reckon it’s because of how rare what she likes is in the show. The change of Kinji, while cute, is a side part and doesn’t figure very much in things. Also, the OVA rewrote things so he actually was a girl all along, the magic just revealed his true form. It’s revealed in a real trippy dream sequence… oopsies. I’m spoiling the whole plot… I swear it’s great. I have all the episodes, even the unaired ones which were never completed. You’re welcome to watch them with me any time you like.”
Ami blushed. “That’s a familiar invite…”
Tara razzed her playfully with fingers on her cheeks. “You have so much more to see!”
Ami bowed her head and said, with a bit more seriousness than Tara, “You know how I feel about the show in general. I will concede I enjoyed some parts.”
Tara dipped her head down and back. “Understood!”
It was a relief to know Ami was honest with Tara about her PYHG feelings. Mami looked tense though. Her eyes were set and her head low. She asked, “So, are we ready to play this game yet or what?”
Tara raised her hand like a flag-waver on the starting line to a race and sliced it down. “Yup! Begin!”