Author's notes: English is not my mother tongue, so please forgive any grammar mistakes and awkward sentences.
This story contains many sacrilegious things, like OOCness, shôjo-ai and random violence. As hinted in the summary, this story turns Azumanga into a parody of bad Shônen fighting manga, with its loads of clichés and archetype characters.
There are also quite a lot of references, some obvious, some hidden, to various manga and animé, to Japanese history, to martial arts, etc.
Some of them will be explained in the Author's notes at the bottom of a chapter.
I don't want to completely drown the reader in Useless Pseudo-Japanese™. However, I will be using Japanese honorifics (-chan, -san, -kun, etc.), and sometimes typical Japanese interjections (anô, ne, aa, etc.) and common words (sensei, Hanami, etc.). The less-known words will be explained in the Author's notes.
Also , in this story, when you read °something like that° within dialog, it means that a character is speaking in another language than Japanese (English, Chinese...).
Fist of the Necoconeco
Chapter 1: Prelude to awakening.
(Where Sakaki-san and Chiyo-chan do their morning stretches ... )
I just love the way her pigtails bounce playfully as she is doing her morning stretches to the slow tune of the tape recorder we set on the grass ... just looking at her makes me feel all warm inside.
Fortunately, after two years, I have become somewhat used to her amazing cuteness. When I watch her I'm not overcome every time by this odd sensation anymore -- I mean this strange reaction of my body which sometimes happens when I look at something really cute and small ... or soft, or dainty ... or fluffy ...
Anyway, when I'm overwhelmed by something's cuteness -- or fluffiness -- I feel like both giggling and sobbing at the same time; overpowering shivers go through my whole body, as well as a sudden and strong wave of heat. It leaves me completely flushed and breathless. When it happens, I try to hide it the best I can; I feel so weak and helpless, and it's so embarrassing ... If people noticed it, they would think I am weird.
It usually occurs when I'm, so to say, taken by surprise by something cute, like for example a kitten suddenly jumping on a wall while I'm walking home ... or my coming across a picture of a Necoconeco doll while leafing through a magazine ... or Kaori-san showing me photos of the kittens her cat just gave birth to.
Well, obviously, it mostly seems to happen when kittens are involved ... yes, nothing can beat a kitten in matters of cuteness. And fluffiness.
Come to think of it, Chiyo-chan and I have been spending a lot of time with each other lately. That's probably because our houses are so close. We often walk together to school in the mornings, and then back home after class. And of course I join her whenever I can when she takes Tadakichi-san for a walk.
Ah, Tadakichi-san; such a nice dog, so gentle and peaceful, albeit quite imposing. He lets me pet him every time I wish.
Anyway, right now I'm doing morning calisthenics with Chiyo-chan. We've taken up this habit since Kurosawa-sensei tried to encourage us to develop our flexibility by doing stretching exercises regularly. She gave us little calendar cards so we could keep track of each time we did a series of exercises; she then would draw a cute bunny head in the box corresponding to the weekday. Just like we did in elementary school. It really inspired me to do my best (especially since my own bunny drawing skills are sub par).
Since the Spring holidays began, Chiyo-chan has been walking Tadakichi-san in the mornings instead of the afternoons. So I get up a little earlier than usual and meet her during her stroll; then we go back to her home and do a few stretching routines in her garden while listening to music.
I convinced Chiyo-chan to use a softer kind of music, so we could do our stretches more slowly. It's better for the muscles, and it also allows me to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and Chiyo-chan's company for a little longer.
By chance, a few months ago I was taking a walk in a park where cats are known to gather when I came across a few elderly people doing some sort of slow gymnastic exercises. As the weather was nice, I found myself a place under the shade of a tree not far from them and started doing my own stretching routine. A kind lady approached me then and suggested I did my movements more slowly in order not to put too much of a strain on the ligaments. She then invited me to join her Tai Chi Chuan class.
Well, to make a long story short, I've been regularly taking Tai Chi Chuan classes with her since then. Her name is Miss Wang, and she practices traditional Chinese medicine at a nearby clinic. She also teaches a small number of people what she describes as an ancient family style of Tai Chi, and some other "Taoist internal arts".
Well, I don't know much about Chinese arts or culture, but I sure do enjoy those lessons. I don't even have to pay her anything; the only thing she asks from her students is dedication. So I'm kind of honored I was chosen by her.
I really love practicing Tai Chi. It is quite surprising that she taught me so many different forms already; I thought one had to practice a form for several years before being allowed to move on to the next. But when I asked her, Wang-sensei told me I am that I'm "qualified" to learn them, thanks to my "unusual talent".
Well, she probably just said that to make me blush; since I am by far the youngest person in her small group of students, they often tease me good-naturedly; some of them even call me "grasshopper". It does sound somehow cute, so it makes me a little happy.
My practicing Tai Chi does also make my parents quite ecstatic; before they were always complaining: "Why don't you go and practice a sport?", "Why do you let your talents go to waste?", "Why did you stop doing gymnastics when you were ten, you were sooo good!" ... and so on.
At least when I'm doing Tai Chi, I don't have to achieve some kind of "top performance" or to compete against anyone. Whenever I feel like it, I can go into one of the forms I like; it is very soothing and allows me to "find my center", like Sensei says.
It's not that I didn't enjoy doing rhythmic gymnastics when I was younger, but ... well ... anyway, I'm much too big to compete in gymnastics nowadays. It would look awkward and weird.
(Sigh ... ) my height ... at the beginning of our first year of high school I was about 1m75; then last year's physical examination revealed that I had nearly reached the 1m80 mark ... and it looks like I've had another growth spurt since then. I really dread this year's examination. What kind of girl is over 1m80? Am I going to become some sort of scary giantess? I can't believe I'm the tallest person in my class! There are a small number of taller boys in school, but they are all in other classes. How embarrassing!
And it's not like I can slouch to appear smaller; during my childhood I was always told to watch my posture and to keep my back straight, so it has become an ingrained habit. Moreover, Wang-sensei always insists that we should stand as if we were suspended to the sky by a string attached to our head.
Still, I feel a little twinge in my heart every time I look at Chiyo-chan. I shouldn't be jealous of my dear friend, but sometimes I really wish I were just like her. At her age I was already well over 1m60.
Of course, I know that I should accept myself as I am, and stop wishing for the impossible, but no matter how absurd and irrational it is, I'm always hoping that someday a fairy will suddenly pop out of nowhere and offer me a wish. And of course I will say, "please make me small and cute like Chiyo-chan!".
Hmm, Chiyo-chan herself would make an adorable fairy, actually ... with a translucent pink dress and little wings. Or she could hover in the air by fluttering her pigtails, like in the dream Ayumu-chan told me about the other day. No wonder Ayumu-chan looks so happy all the time, if her dreamlands are inhabited by little Chiyo-fairies ...
Ack! Again this weird sensation! I'm starting to shiver, and a strong heat wave is sweeping through my whole body! I shouldn't get lost in my thoughts like that ... I slowly go into a Tai Chi routine to get my breathing under control.
"Oh, what are you doing, Sakaki-san? Are you dancing?" Chiyo-chan is smiling and looking at me with her big brown eyes.
"No ... this is, um, a Tai Chi Chuan form."
"Ah, Tai Chi Chuan? You mean this gymnastic old people sometimes practice in the park?"
"Whoa! You just accelerated really quickly. I was under the impression that Tai Chi was always very slow."
"Well, I wouldn't know ... Sensei teaches it like this. It's an old family style, so I suppose it's different than the modern forms. The fast whip-like movements are supposed to help getting rid of unnecessary tension in the body."
"Wow, I didn't know you could do this! Your motions look so graceful; it's really beautiful to watch! But it seems so complex, you must have been practicing for a long time!"
Despite the calming influence of the form, I can feel myself blushing. Chiyo-chan has just called me graceful.
"Umm, not really, not for very long. And it's not as complicated as it looks," I say, finishing the form. "Actually, I think it's rather easy to do if you watch Sensei closely, and emulate her, and um ... go with the flow, I guess."
"The flow? Oh I see; it does look like your movements flow like water. It's really elegant, and impressive!"
Oh, that's what she meant by "graceful", I had hoped for a second it would be more in the sense of "dainty". But still, it feels nice being praised by Chiyo-chan.
"What is it called -- I mean, what you just did, Sakaki-san?"
"That was, um, the 'Wave Hands Like Clouds' postures of the Yang Lu-Chan form, I think."
"Oh, it even sounds beautiful! Um, do you think you could show me another one of these forms? Ah, um ... if it's not a bother to you, I mean ..." she says, waving her small arms apologetically in front of her. Her shyness is really one of her more endearing features ...
"Ah ... not at all, of course. I guess I could show you the Yang Cheng-Fu form ... 'Parting the Horse's Mane' looks really nice, at least when done by Sensei. Um ... or 'Fair Maiden Flies to the Moon' from the Yang Yiu-Chung form, which is very beautiful too ... but this one would require a sword."
"Wow, a sword!"
"Ah! I mean, no, it's just ... don't worry, we don't do any kind of fighting or violent things in Tai Chi, honest! It's just that ... it's not a weapon, but rather a decorative object. The blade it completely flexible, it couldn't hurt anybody, really!"
I myself was reluctant at first to use a weapon during the lessons, but it is true that this kind of training sword couldn't hurt anyone; besides, the hilt has pretty golden decorations, and there's a nice red tuft attached to it.
"Oh, it's 10 o'clock already!" suddenly exclaims Chiyo-chan. "I've got to go back and make preparations for tomorrows Hanami picnic! Um, Sakaki-san, do you think we could meet early at the park tomorrow morning? We could find a nice spot to watch the sakura trees, and then you could show me some of your beautiful Tai Chi forms before everyone arrives, ne?"
"Aa ... it's no problem Chiyo-chan; I'll be sure to meet you and Tadakichi-san at 8:30 ... I guess I'll go home now and make some preparations of my own. See you tomorrow then, have a nice day ... Goodbye, Tadakichi-san."
"Have a nice day, Sakaki-san! Be sure to bring your sword, hehe!"
Chiyo-chan waves cheerfully at me as I'm walking back home; a few times I turn to wave back. She sure is looking forward to this Hanami picnic we're having with all our friends from school. So am I, I must say. Spring is my favorite season, and I can't imagine anything more enjoyable than sitting peacefully in the grass and watching sakura blossoms in the company of my friends.
What a nice day, I almost feel like skipping ... but I catch myself just in time; I would look silly and awkward anyway.
Hmm, maybe I'll come across Kamineko on the way home; I hope he's in a good mood today.