Ummmm... not much of an explanation. I started something like this... what, maybe three years ago. I reread it and most of it kinda sucked. Sooo, decided to redo it since I'm home sick. Forgive the sucky first chapter, it will get better!

Hope you like!

"Mae, aren't you coming down for your special birthday dinner?"

I rolled my eyes, clicking another YouTube link for Trey Songz. Right now all I wanted to do was block out my mother. "I'm busy," I called back.

"Would you get down here? I made the ramen like you wanted."

I pushed myself away from the computer and opened the door. I was just in my socks, a tank top, and shorts, and I knew my mom was the only one down there. The few friends I had were strictly school friends, as in I never hung out with them outside of classes. They never invited me anywhere, I never invited them anywhere. They'd just turn it down anyway.

I walked down the stairs, my hand sliding down the rail as I went. "Why is it always just me and you for all my birthdays?" I mumbled, sitting down at the table in front of my bowl of ramen. (Ever since I'd found out it existed, sure, I loved it. My mom brought it over from Japan, it was like one of the main things over there. She never made the instant kind for my birthday, always from scratch.) "Dad's never here, and his relatives are always busy. Where's your side of the family? Don't I have any aunts or uncles in Japan?"

For like five seconds, my mother looked kind of unnerved. "Mae, your relatives in Japan - they don't have time to take off every year. They're busy too."

"So they can't take off one day for their niece's birthday? I'm seventeen. I'm practically an adult." I picked up my chopsticks and picked at the noodles and tiny shrimp floating in the bowl. "If they don't come next year when I turn eighteen, I'm gonna flip my shit."

"Mae." My mother swatted me with her fan. "What have I told you about that language? I didn't talk like that until I was twenty-one."

"Starts way earlier now, kaa-san." I closed my eyes, just breathing in the smell of the ramen. "Where's Dad anyway? He's never home."

"He's on a business trip, Mae." She sat down at her own bowl. "You know that."

"I don't see why he has to be on one for three weeks out of every month. I barely see him."

She shrugged. "He was home a lot when you were a baby, you know."

"Yeah. But I'm not a baby anymore, kaa-san." I sighed, looking into my bowl of ramen. I could see my reflection, and let's just say I didn't look anything like a woman. Not a seventeen-year-old, that's for sure.

All I saw was a little kid, whining for her daddy, begging for attention. I was so pathetic.

Kaa-san had fallen asleep quite a while ago, and I was still up. I decided that since this was my seventeenth birthday, I could stay up past midnight. Besides, it was a weekend; no school tomorrow.

Before she'd come upstairs to go to sleep, I snuck into her room to do some snooping. Can you blame me? I was curious about my relatives in Japan. Maybe she had something there. And score - I found a CD in one of the drawers. It was marked with a piece of tape that said Konoha. I figured that was the name of the city in Japan where she'd lived before.

I had been waiting for her to be sound asleep before I looked at it. Since I'd heard her lock her door an hour ago (which meant she was going to Dreamland), she was probably zonked out by now, so I deemed it safe to look at the CD.

I put it in my computer, and up came the autoplay window. Apparently there were several types of files on this thing - pictures, videos, text documents, and music. Now the question was, which one did I want to investigate first?

I clicked on the music and after a second, the window came up. Disappointing, there was only one file, Inori. So I clicked on it to listen to it, and it sounded like Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up", but it was in Japanese and it was a girl singing. The melody was the same, but the words were probably something different than the original.

"Urunda hitomi no oku ni

Kawaranu kimi no sugata

'Doko made sekai wa tsudzuku no?'

Todaeta hibi no kotoba

Kogoeru arashi no yoru mo

Mada minu kimi e tsudzuku

Oshiete umi wataru kaze

Inori wa toki wo koeru..."

It was beautiful, so I looked up the lyrics and the translation in English. The first verse and chorus went something like In the depths of my tear-filled eyes/Is your everlasting beauty/"How far does the world go?"/Those words from our bygone days/Even on those freezing, stormy nights/Though you are still out of sight, I continue on/Please tell me, ocean-crossing wings/That my prayers will pass through time...

I wondered why my mother had a song like that on this file. Sure, it was pretty, but if that was the only reason, wouldn't she have it with the rest of her songs on that other CD marked J-Pop? If it reminded her of where she came from, there must've been some real drama going on with her and her family. Maybe that was why they never visited.

While I finished listening to it on a continuous loop, I opened up the pictures.

There were about ten of them. There were two marked Me and Nii-chan's Sensei, 1 and 2, which were a younger version of my mother and some older guy. In the first one, he had his arm around her and she was giving a cheeky grin while holding up the peace sign. In the second one, they were hugging.

Then there were three marked with Oro and Mae-chan. I saw my name, and I was intrigued - of course, I would have looked at them anyway, but who the hell was Oro? She'd never told me about anyone with that name. And since the previous two pics had "nii-chan" in the name, I thought it was safe to assume that whoever Oro was, it was her big brother. But why would they include my name too? I'd never met him.

The first picture had an outside setting. In it there was a guy probably a little bit older than my mom, with white skin - I'm not talking Asian white, I'm talking white as chalk - and long black hair. Cradled in one of his arms was a little baby; me, obviously. I guess it must have been taken when I was really young, otherwise I would have remembered this guy. He was smiling at the camera, while the younger me was apparently nipping at the bottle in his other hand.

The second picture was inside. The same guy, this time in a chair. His eyes were closed, and I was on his lap. We were both sleeping - I guess maybe we'd fallen asleep together.

In the third picture, I was a little older - six months, maybe. We were outside again, and he had me on his knee. This time he was giving the peace sign.

Another picture was Oro Training. It was the same guy as in those last few pics, but he looked younger - like, how old I was right at this moment. He was holding a kunai knife. My mother had one, but she'd only shown it to me once and never took it out of her room. I knew she also had a shuriken, and she kept a katana in the basement. I just thought it was a weird cultural thing. Did she really used to fight with them? Oh my God, did she still?

The last two pics were scenery, obviously from my mom's hometown. One was an open-air shop with a banner above it that said Ichiraku's Ramen. The other was a mountain with some guys' faces carved into it, kind of like Mount Rushmore.

I looked at the video folder next. Like the music folder, there was only one file there. Oddly, it had the same title as one of the pictures - Oro Training. In the video, he was about the same age as that picture. It showed him reeling back and hurling a shuriken at what looked like a dummy. It hit the center of one of the targets on the thing, and he shot a smirk at the camera. Someone, presumably my mother, screamed her praise. "Good shot! Wai!"

Finally, all that was left was the text doc. I opened up that folder, and there was only one in this too - titled Oro's Email.

I opened it up, naturally. It was after midnight - Kaa-san wouldn't know I contacted him, she wasn't awake. The email address was lordofsnakes(). Weird, I know. But if you knew my uncle, you'd understand.

I tempted fate, and I sent him an e-mail.

My name is Mae Novak, and I think my mom is your sister.

Who are you?

Soooo? Whatcha thinkin'? Like? No?

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Thanks for reading! ^^