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"Sticks and Stones"


'A Gentleman Of Leisure'


"And those Amerikan boys were so rude," said Chiyo, her pigtails quivering with indignation. "Almost as soon as I arrived at the college, some of them started to call me Chico!"

"Is that an Amerikan name, then?" asked Yomi.

"Sort of. It's Hispanic, only it's a boy's name! But then worse than that, someone went further and started to call me 'Chico My Hamster'."

"'My' is a possessive word in English, isn't it?" Sakaki said thoughtfully.

"So what does 'Hamster' mean?" said Yomi.

"It just means 'hamusutaa'," Chiyo said. "We use their word. I know it's a small, cute little creature, but I don't believe the students were thinking like that - they weren't clever in that way. It just seemed funny to them because they thought it sounded something like my name."

"So what did you do?" Kagura asked.

"Nothing, I just ignored them," Chiyo said firmly. "To react would have been undignified, and I would have felt I had lost face, so I simply took no notice, and refused to respond. Eventually most of them got tired of their little joke and gave up."

"I wouldn't have let them get away with it!" Tomo exclaimed. "I would have given them my special Tomo double-chop!" and she suddenly leaped to her feet and proceeded to demonstrate - straight down at Chiyo's head before anyone could stop her.

Except that just as Tomo's arm flashed downwards, Chiyo leaned very slightly to her left and put up her hand, diverting Tomo's massive karate blow so that it completely missed, skimming past Chiyo's right shoulder and making Tomo, off balance, simply hurl herself to the cafe floor in a sprawling heap.

"Waah! What happened? How did I miss?"

"Baka!" exclaimed Yomi and Kagura simultaneously, and burst out laughing. Chiyo jumped up, apologising profusely, and helped the shocked genki girl back to her chair, while Osaka, who up till then had said almost nothing, produced a paper napkin and mopped up her spilled drink for her.

"No one would believe she's been a fully qualified probationary police constable for almost three months, would they?" Yomi observed to no one in particular. "It's a good thing she's not in uniform, because now everybody's looking at us!"

"That was amazing!" said Kagura, shaking her head. "If I hadn't actually seen it with my own eyes...!"

"Silly Tomo-chan," said Osaka mildly. "Didn't you hear Chiyo-chan say that she'd learned some martial arts moves of her own from these Slayer women? That was just like watching Bruce Lee in 'Enter the Dragon'."

"So now she's Blue Four?" Tomo said, dismayed.

"A lot's happened to her since we all saw her last, remember," Sakaki pointed out quietly.

"Yes it has - look," Chiyo said, proudly pushing her chest out, "I've been growing too. I might even get to be Hawaiian, if I'm lucky!"

"She's certainly taller," Yomi observed, smiling. "Good for you, Chiyo-chan. At least something you really wanted has come out of your year in the USA."

"As well as something I'll bet you'd rather hadn't happened," Kagura said.

Chiyo nodded soberly. "But even that has turned out well in the end," she reminded them. "I'm going to England in the autumn to study Ancient Languages at Cambridge University. And Giles-sensei has even arranged for me to visit the Middle Eastern, and Oriental Antiquities Departments at the British Museum as well, whenever I like."

"Wow! He must really know some important people."

"He told me he used to work there himself when he was younger. He has influential friends."

"It sounds to me as if he has influence himself," Yomi said thoughtfully. "Especially if you understood rightly about these girls, and what they do. Mind you, I still find it all a little difficult to believe."

"Oh, I'm quite sure I understood," Chiyo replied seriously. "You should have seen them. They are extraordinary people."

"So what happened to you after they all went off to England?"

"Oh, well my father stayed with me in Seattle for several days, until he was absolutely sure I was going to be OK. He offered to let me come home if I wanted, but I decided to stay on at the college. Well, it was that or study on my own back here in Japan, and although I missed you all very much, I thought I would learn more from the tutors than just by myself." She shrugged.

"Of course," she went on, "once everything had got back to normal, one of the Amerikan anime fan-boys thought up a nice new nick-name for me."

Her expression changed suddenly from a sunny smile to an angry scowl. Her friends could almost see a little thundercloud stuffed full of lightening bolts hovering just above her head, and she looked about ready to consign the offender to the nether regions of the lowest Hell available.

"What was it?" asked Osaka, wide-eyed.