"Hey," he asked; "Why do they call it K.O. if it's easier to say knock out?"
"Probably the syllables," Mamimi humored him. "Naku outoh."
"Ah." The man turned away, resting his hands on his large knees. Struggling to fit comfortably in the airplane seat, he kept moving around, squirming and sweating. "So, uh. Any tips you have for me? So I don't offend anyone?"
"Don't worry too much," she said. "You're a foreigner." She looked out the window, he hair sliding over her ears. "So you'll be forgiven easily."
Outside the window, the airplane's wing raced past and the engine screamed higher and higher. At last, the ground started dropping away.
Here in America, she thought; I didn't find anything. Raising her old camera, she tilted it and snapped a shot.
Mabase. Though the rubble has been cleared, everything still looks the same. It looks like that, but I think everyone has moved on and forgotten. Like it was all just a bad rumor. Slinging her camera case over her beat up messenger bag, Mamimi trudged down that familiar bridge. And though I moved on, too, I can't help but feel left behind.
Out from her bag, a wah-ing guitar cried out, wailing slowly before looping. Shuffling a hand into her bag, she slid her phone open. "Hello?" she asked.
"Mamimi," a concerned woman exclaimed; "You didn't tell me you were leaving for Japan."
"I'm there," Mamimi answered.
"WHAT?" the woman panicked. "Ah! This is because of that confest, isn't it? I understand how important it is to you, but you have an obligation! A legal contract! And you have yet to send me the portfolio for that Indonesian water buffalo shoot–"
"–Cameraman," Mamimi interrupted, correcting her; "Cameraman Confest. Oh. And you'll get that thing later. I'll be at my summer home for now, though, freelancing." She slowly brought the phone away from her ear. "Don't try to find it, chief. There's no address." She closed her phone, unaware of the woman's hysterical screaming on the other line. Looking up at the orange sky, Mamimi dropped her arms at her sides, breathing in the familiar humidity. Summer. I don't know if this is a good feeling or a bad one.
"Oooh? Naota didn't let you know?" his father questioned her patronizingly. "He left for University. He got scholarships, recommendation letters, an apartment, a life–" Suddenly, the man became crazed; "–his own college slice-of-life with a harem of Akamatsu-sensei proportions to boot– why– that boy left his dear father behind just so he could continue doing all these impossible things! Upsetting and reminding–"
Carrying a basket of laundry, Canti walked by. Judging by the clean condition of the Nandaba household, it appeared that he had gotten even better at such chores.
"Hey, Lord Canti," Mamimi greeted the robot, ignoring Kamon's rambling. "Long time no see."
Rotating his head, slightly, Canti looked at her and froze, trying to remember who she was. His cooling fan even kicked on. Finally, his screen blushed in embarrassment and he clumsily dropped the basket, panicking and bending down– quickly throwing clothes back in.
"You haven't changed at all," Mamimi said, kneeling down and helping him. "It's selfish, I know, but it makes me feel relieved."
Blankly staring at her, puzzled, the robot watched her bend and crawl away in her miniskirt, huffing and struggling to reach underneath the TV cabinet. Just as he became aware of what he was staring at, a pair of boxers were thrown over his reddening screen.
"Ah. I missed." Mamimi said.
In the night, just the two of them sat on the front porch. Briefly, Naota's grandfather opened his nearby door, only a crack, and glared out. "Hmph," he sniffled, shutting the door once more.
Ignoring him, Mamimi gulped her drink and pulled away to breathe. "I flew back here," she said. "And now I don't know why. It feels like a waste." She shook the can. "But maybe... these are a good reason." She crushed the red can and looked up. "Yeah. They don't have these drinks over there."
Listening closely, Canti turned his screen and looked at her. For some reason, he was suddenly wearing a brown bomber jacket with gold stars on the epaulets. Maybe he had worn it to impress her.
"I needed a really good picture," Mamimi explained suddenly. "To enter in that contest that got my career going. A tribute. I thought I could use Naota again, and this scenery, but."
Whirring his head, Canti looked up at the sky and then back at her. This girl, now a woman, had fuller lips, though they still pouted and shined the same as always.
During all these years, while he had stayed here, living honestly, what had she been off doing? Did she ever think about him from time to time?
He stared down. Well of course not. No matter how honestly he lived, he couldn't change the fact that even if he was a nice guy, he was still just a robot.
"I really wanted to see Naota again," Mamimi went on. "I wonder how tall he's gotten? Probably really tall. And I wonder how he looks? I guess I could ask for pictures, but it's not the same."
Canti stood up, towering over her. He was tall, too– couldn't she see?
"You going somewhere, Lord Canti?" she regarded him. "Can I go with you?"
Holding out his hand, she took it, standing up. Wrapping her arms around his, and standing on his feet, the air swirled beneath them, disturbing dust and the bits of leaves on the porch. Hovering, they lifted up and into the sky. He held onto her tightly.
It didn't make sense for a robot to feel like this, and honestly, it was really dumb. Robots don't feel jealousy or miss people. Their functions are simple and they just do chores and pretend– that's all they're good for. But maybe, Canti wondered, that's a more human trait than previously believed.
"This," Mamimi managed out, the wind stuffing her mouth full of hair; "is also a good enough reason, I think."
Though they didn't say anything more to each other, they knew exactly where they wanted to go. Flying over the grid-like town, they drifted all night together and then ascended, dropping onto the grassy embankment of the burnt down schoolhouse.
Creating a flattened circle in the grass, they landed, and with a teetering stance, Mamimi stepped off. Pulling a barbecue lighter from her bag, she ignited and held it forward. "This all is still the same, too." Turning around, she reached into her camera bag and threw a large and very expensive camera at Canti. "Be my cameraman, okay?" She turned away.
Fumbling, he let the camera accidentally slip through his hands. Diving and sliding, though, he caught and saved it. Relieved, his screen displayed an empty white speech bubble– a deep sigh.
"The light's breaking. In only eight minutes, the sun will rise," Mamimi exclaimed, climbing atop a burnt timber. "You'd think that this is a symbolic number, but many numbers are symbolic, including one, two, three, four, six, and seven. Five doesn't seem to be as much, though. But there's five fingers on our hands and toes– and it's been five years since I left here." Bending down, she reached into her messenger bag and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. "I've always been called 'useless', 'stupid' and 'no good', so I believed it." She lighted each cigarette, and stuck them into the dirt all around, like many burning embers. "You probably wouldn't believe it, but I used to really hurt people. It was because that was the only way for me to get respect." Reaching into her bag once again, she pulled out a long white bandage and stood back up on the timber. "When I stopped doing all those foolish things, though, I wasn't cool anymore. I became the gang's next target and everyone at school still avoided me. I changed but everyone stayed the same. And when I didn't fight back, I became subhuman. Just because I didn't want to hurt anyone anymore."
Canti stopped only a little ways away, holding the camera in hand. Raising it up, just as the dawn broke, he tilted it her way. Though they didn't need to say anything more to each other, they knew exactly when to take the photo. Mamimi, standing on a burnt timber, contrasted with the burning cigarettes and the dawn's breaking light.
Together, they sat under the bridge by the river that morning, and as the sunlight matured, Mamimi rested in Canti's lap. "It felt good to tell all that to another person," she said, closing her eyes. "We should do this more often, right? 'Cause if you have anything to tell me, I'll listen. We have all summer." She turned and kissed him on his TV grill.