Omake - Trip
It was summer.
The plans had already been made. Schedule for Monday – work. Tuesday – work. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday – work. Sunday? Could it be? Something different? Ah, yes. Getting up at the crack of dawn, and sitting through a three-hour train ride. Arrival at his mother's place, where he would be subject to her lectures and her predictions – which were amazingly accurate, yet never seemed to bode well for him. Then after dinner, a three-hour train ride back to Sakuranomori – where he would face an early wake-up call for the following morning.
Was it fate?
But wait, as it turned out, he would be able to have a vacation after all. Aoi and her mother were taking their yearly one-week trip, during which he would have triple duty. So it was only fair that he would get a week off. So the following week, he would be granted a vacation – which, inevitably, would be spent at his mother's place.
There had to be an alternate reality, right? One where he would be able to enjoy summer break, like most normal teenagers. Instead of being stuck with work or at his mother's place, where every moment that was not spent on work was dedicated to finishing his summer homework or doing chores around the house. Even playing the piano was a luxury that he had to bargain for. He could use an escape hatch right about now, thank you.
But there was someone, somewhere, who had heard his wish. And so, just for one day, his wish would be granted… his friends, too, would be freed from their indentured servanthood, and they would make wonderful memories, at a place that had been especially prepared for them...
* * *
The beach. Ah, yes!
Now this was more like it. The sun. The water. Food and drinks. Games. And best of all – the swimsuits! Finally, a chance to escape the clutches of the Oribe family rule!
And the best part was, everyone was there. Aoi. The twins. Nanaka. And even Asami. OK, so Hinako wasn't there, but she didn't count. The important part was who weren't there – the parents, who all seemed to think that it was just fine for a group of teenagers to do whatever they wanted for a few hours, completely unsupervised.
Yes, a miracle had been granted, in more ways than one. And so, hopefully, he would be granted the opportunity to make great memories, ones he could always share with his friends – and never, ever, dream of revealing to his mother.
Ah, but the roadblocks.
Maybe bringing Aoi wasn't such a great idea? No doubt, his aunt had a list of rules all prepared – and Aoi was going to enforce them, in full.
"Aren't you going to change into your swimsuits?" Sana finally asked.
All the girls turned towards Aoi.
"I told the girls not to bring them," Aoi clarified. "No one felt like swimming anyway, so there was no point."
No point? No point?! They had just stamped on his hopes (and Shuu's), and that's all she could say?
"What are we doing, then?" Sana asked.
"Hmm. I have a list of ideas. We can play the watermelon splitting game; Shuu brought one for us. Or play volleyball, if we can find a court to play in. After we eat, it's free time. We can walk around the beach or check the nearby shops, or anything else you want to do. Did everyone bring their cell phones?"
"Yes," was the common reply.
"Remember, we need to be on the bus by 9:00PM. No exceptions. But until then, let's have a good time!"
About that – those swimsuits would've really helped, but Sana figured it was a lost cause.
* * *
First up, the watermelon-splitting game. The goal of this game was simple. They would first split up into pairs. One person was blindfolded, and would swing a stick in an attempt to break the watermelon – while the other person was responsible for guiding the blindfolded person. Each pair would take turns until the watermelon cracked open, and the winning pair would get first choice among the slices.
That was the theory, anyway.
Some of them actually managed to hit the watermelon, only to have the stick slide right off. Or bounced right back at them. Shuu accidentally hit himself on the knee, and he was now yelping in pain. Asami had the most success, and hit the watermelon flush – but it only left the tiniest of dents. And Sana decided to swing the stick like a golf club, and ended up tweaking his wrist. After a while, it became apparent that no one would succeed – so Aoi decided to cut it open.
Actually, even that was being generous, as the colored part of the watermelon was only in the center. Who had bought this inedible piece of junk, anyway? Still, weighed by a vague sense of guilt, they decided to force it down their throats – only to be stopped by Aoi. It would give them a stomachache, she claimed.
* * *
Next up, volleyball.
They had to wait half an hour for a court to open. And there were no boundary lines, so they had to spend a few minutes making them. But those were but small inconveniences; now they were ready to roll!
Shuu and Shuri had insisted on being on the same team and Nanaka had pulled him aside. Then Nanaka insisted on having Aoi on their side, so the teams were set. They would play to 15, with Asami serving first.
First serve – right into the net.
OK, so they were just getting warmed up. See? Aoi got her serve over the net, which landed between three people. Easy point.
The game continued, with both sides struggling to just get the ball over the net. There would be no laser serves, or spectacular digs, or a sky-high leap followed by a pulverizing spike. Shuu was the only one to try a spike, only to see his attempt hit the middle of the net. Finally, Asami made one last error and that was game. They would be shooed off the court as they made their way back to their spot – where their lunch was waiting for them.
Fortunately the food was mercifully edible; after all, Aoi and Sana had done the honors, while Shuri was kept some distance away from the kitchen (at everyone's request). So it was now free time, and a perfect opportunity to make some… memories.
* * *
It would've helped if she had a swimsuit on.
But no, she didn't "feel like it". Since when was she such a prude? Even her sleeveless sundress had been left at home, replaced by something she must have borrowed from her aunt.
Well, that was her loss. After all, there were plenty of curvaceous figures to feast upon; and some of them were wearing particularly delicious swimsuits –
"Why did you do that for?"
"Stop going off and staring at people! Why can't you look at me?"
He had tried, but she had covered up all the parts he wanted to see. Though, that didn't stop him from lowering his eyes –
– SLAP –
"Don't look at me like that! We can do it later, OK? But not today. We're here to have fun. And no, not that way."
Judging from her face, which had turned bright red – she was going to let him off easy. All he had to do was to serve as her slave for a day, and all would be forgiven. So he would have to control his appetite for now, and it wouldn't be too long before she provided the main course… and a little dessert afterwards, if he was lucky.
Of course, it was easier said than done.
"What do you mean, you're out of money?"
Look, it's not like he had any say in it. He never got to see any of the money he had "earned" from his part-time job; it was gone by the time he paid for rent and food. And Aoi had made sure to empty his wallet before they left, for "security reasons".
"Sorry, Nanaka. But I'm broke."
"Please, Sana? How about this bracelet? It's only 500 yen. Don't tell me you don't even have that much."
Gees, now she had to rub it in.
"Aoi has all my money. So – "
"Can't you call and ask her?"
Sana did, and got the answer he expected – DENIED.
* * *
Asami looked up from the book she was reading.
"What's going on?"
"Oh, that was my cousin. He's with Nanaka right now."
"Are you sure they'll be all right?"
Aoi gave a mischievous smile. "Oh, I'll make sure that they are. Hoshino-san, can you help me?"
"Give Sana a call every few minutes. And keep him on the phone as long as you can. I'm sure that will keep them out of trouble. I'll try calling the twins."
With that, both of them returned to their books.
* * *
"Are you sure it's OK to turn off our phones?"
"Sh!" his voice lowered to a whisper. "We have to be very quiet. We can't take any chances…"
Ah. It had taken some effort, but they had finally found a spot – their spot, where they could be all alone. It was a little hard to see, but it would have to do.
"Shuri, I have something for you. I hope you like it."
She opened the little box – and nearly screamed from pure joy.
"Shuu! Where did you get this? Oh, I don't know how long it's been. Thank you so much. But how? Why? What if you got caught?"
"Don't worry about that. Could I try some?"
"Of course! But you have to be careful not to get hooked. It's great if you do it once in a while, but if you do it too often…"
Ah, yes, Shuri's date in court. It was a miracle that she had avoided jail time; their dad must have worked out a back-door deal.
But nothing was going to go wrong this time. It was just this once, right? A special occasion. And perhaps, this day would become even more special, before it came to an end…
"Thank you. I missed it so much. I wish there was something I could do to pay you back…"
"You don't have to do anything," Shuu whispered into her ear – then lowered her to the ground.
* * *
Yet another phone call.
This was starting to get ridiculous. Was this the fourth? Or the fifth? The first couple were nice; on the other hand, maybe he shouldn't have ignored the glares he was receiving. But after the third, there had been – repercussions. Yes, she had found a way to "punish" him – it was a good thing she didn't have a whip, chains, handcuffs, or ropes, or things could have gone much worse for him.
This time, Sana didn't even bother. He handed the phone to Nanaka, who wasted no time in chewing Asami out. But Nanaka's face quickly turned red, as she handed Sana his phone – ah. There must have been a misunderstanding.
"Have you seen the twins? I've been trying to reach them for the last couple of hours, but they wouldn't answer. Something must have happened to them. Come here as soon as you can."
So it was an emergency.
First up, a visit to the lifeguard. He explained that the twins probably just lost track of time, and would probably come back on their own. So at least one person should be waiting at their spot (for the time being, this was Asami). A second person (Aoi) would be waiting at the bus stop; if the twins were running late, they would probably head over there directly. As for the other two (Sana and Nanaka), they were to check out shops, restaurants, and the video arcade – all potential time sinks. In the meantime, the lifeguard would notify all the other lifeguards that were on duty, and make periodic announcements.
Time was running short; they had less an hour before the last bus. Enough time for him and Nanaka to check a few spots – but the twins were nowhere to be found. And time was running short…
The dreaded call from Aoi.
"Meet us at the bus stop. We couldn't find them. I already called the police, and they said they'll take care of everything."
"Sorry, Sana. But it's up to the police now."
* * *
"That was wonderful. I hope this could last forever…"
A look at the watch.
Well, it looked as if they might get their wish.
"What do we do now? How are we going to get back?"
"Mmm…" He still hadn't gotten past the moaning stage.
"Shouldn't we do something? We have to find a way to get home!"
"We can always pray for a miracle…"
As if on cue, they were visited by a bright light.
* * *
"Yes? Oh. At least they were found. Thank you."
"Aoi-san? What was that all about?"
"That was from the police station. They found them."
Or not. The twins had been busted, to put it kindly – and were waiting for their parents to take them home. And Aoi had the feeling that she had been given the heavily edited version.
"I wonder why they turned their phone off."
Same reason you turn yours off when you're with Nanaka.
"Let's not worry about them. At least they're safe. Speaking of which, shouldn't you turn yours on?"
What for? Oh. Wait. Yes, that. His phone had been on the whole time, but he had missed the call amongst all the hubbub.
"Mom? Sorry I missed the call. Things got a bit confusing – "
"It's all right. Did you have a good time?"
Who was he talking to?
"Shuu and Shuri were missing, and we were trying to find them. I completely forgot – "
"Don't worry. I just wanted to know whether you had fun."
"It was OK, I guess." Translation: it was a living nightmare. "What did you do?"
"I went to the racetrack. I hoped you could come. I picked three winners and an exacta. I made – oh, about 200,000."
200,000! That explained everything. Now he was really regretting going to the beach. The excitement, in seeing winner after winner come in… going out to eat at a nice restaurant… having his mother be super-nice to him for a day… he could see it all. But it was an opportunity missed, as usual.
"That's great. Maybe – next week?"
"Next week, I'm getting my sink replaced. I hope you can come, Sana. I could really use your help."
Oh, bummer. But should he have expected anything else?
* * *
"I'm sorry, Dad. This won't happen again."
"It wasn't his fault! It was me. I was the reason this happened."
"From what they told me, you were doing it together."
"Please, Dad. Help!"
That would cost him. And even if he paid them off, there was no guarantee that this wouldn't get out – after all, they had evidence.
"I've had enough of this. Why can't you stop?" He pointed his finger at Shuri. "You always have to have more, more, more."
"And you too! Your sister's trying to turn things around, and you have to go off and get her into trouble!"
"Good! It's about time. You'll have plenty of time to be sorry, behind bars! And you better hope you don't get sent to reform school after this!"
"But that's too – "
Time. It looked like their five minutes were up.