Chapter 33

Meeting Lisa

From the journal of Kenichi Shirahama during his travels:

Dear Journal,

My 25th birthday just passed. I thought about calling back home, but for some reason I thought it would be really awkward. After all, I haven't really been doing all that well. Maybe I ought to work hard for a little longer before I tell them how I'm doing.

Uwaaaah! Time passes so quickly! I can't believe it's been six years. It's kind of daunting to think I haven't seen Miu in that long, but her face is still vivid in my mind. And I've only been to two places! This is kind of embarrassing. I hope I can get some real training done at my next destination.

Leaving Brazil was harder than I expected. After beating Raimundo, I fought Luiz. I still won since I have a ton more experience, but I think I'll visit them again for the rematch I'm sure he'll demand. Knowing I was coming back, it made saying goodbye that much more difficult.

Especially since I don't know where I'm going next. Vietnam? India? I've always wanted to see Italy. But maybe I should go somewhere a little closer to where I am now. It's not necessarily on the same continent, but technically on the same hemisphere. I already have a contact there anyways!

This is just conjecture. I'll probably head back to Europe or something. We'll see.

I decided to go to the United States after all.

I'm kind of nervous! You know, there are a lot of stereotypes about Americans. I wonder if they're true or not. I also hope that my English is good enough! After my college years in England I've definitely become fluent, but somehow going to America is different. I know how to handle Europeans. I have no experience with Americans other than Jennifer Grey, and I only met her once.

I hope I don't have to learn to like fast food, because I can only handle so much of that stuff.

When I got off the plane, the first thing I noticed was how fast everything was moving. I mean, there's a rush hour in Japan as well but this was just insane! It was like people were constantly late for something! It really put my on edge just to be standing near so much anxiety!

Once I got used to it, it wasn't that bad. Apparently something Americans value is speed- fast food, fast service, fast everything. Everywhere you go you have to learn to accept the culture.

I'll be staying with Freya during my stay in America, but I hope I won't be burdening her for long. She met me at the airport and was very kind.

Freya's hair has gotten a lot longer, and maturity suits her well. I'm glad that we've all grown so much!

She drove me to her home- on the way there she told me that she had a bit of trouble during her college years, but judging from her car and clothes she wasn't suffering anymore. When we arrived at her home and she opened the door, I was surprised by what came to greet us.

Or rather who. Apparently, Freya had a child with Siegfried!

Kids are really cute! Freya's baby is no exception- her face is plump and her hands are chubby, with gorgeous huge blue eyes just like her mother's and hair the same color as her father's. Adorable!

Her name is Lisa Kugenin. It is an American name, I think. Freya probably gave it to her so people wouldn't look at her weird in school and stuff.

When I first saw her, she had a long stick in her hands. It was as long as her body like a walking-stick.

Freya told me she was four years old, and I was even more surprised to learn that she was already training in martial arts! Jesus, these people need to calm down! Let the kids grow a little before making them master their bodies! But Miu was trained since she was a baby too, so I guess it really does make you stronger.

Lisa is training in the Kugatachi style under her mother and is, apparently, a very talented staff-user for her age. Freya said she was a genius. Normally I would have chalked it up to a doting mother, but I watched her train one time and I think she's right. Lisa is definitely going to be a great master one day. Freya is lucky to have such a talented child. After all, now Lisa won't have to work as hard as certain talent-less weaklings! (me) (;_;)

They live in a small house, since Freya never was one for extravagance and the two really didn't need much room, but their back yard was enormous. After a quick promise to not wreck the grass or fences, Freya said I was free to use it to train.

Lisa was a bit too young for school, so Freya was relieved to let me watch Lisa while she was at work. After all, babysitting costs add up. During the day and between her own, Lisa would almost always come out and watch my training. She seemed fascinated, and kind of confused about my ki training. I assume she was sensing the ki but didn't know what it was yet. I'm sure Freya will explain it to her eventually.

Lisa spoke often to her mother, but her tone was soft and soporific. To me, she rarely said anything. The only noise she made was through her cello, which I was quite impressed with her skill at. I swear, a normal four-year-old would not be able to be this skilled in everything. It must be genetic since both Siegfried and Freya are really talented people.

When I came to America, I kind of had the intention of asking Freya to spar with me a few times. I always hate fighting women, but we're on the same level anyways so I shouldn't be in a situation to get a hit in anyways. But Freya, although she's not suffering anymore, works hard. Like, really hard.

She seems to like her job, but it looks so taxing. She comes home every day with this look of utter exhaustion on her face. I'm not to bad at cooking, so I usually make her something to eat. After that, she spends some time with Lisa and finds the energy to give her a martial arts lesson and train her own abilities. She's still a practicing martial-artist! It makes my tired just thinking about it.

When I mentioned the whole "sparring" thing to her, just to offer her some variation in her usual training regime, she thanked me but said that she was weaker than me and she knew that I couldn't hit women.

Hah! Freya thinks I'm stronger than her! She has no idea how much of a slacker I've been. I feel absolutely horrible about it. I mean, sure I haven't gotten any weaker and I was able to overcome Raimundo's gym, but that does not mean I'm getting stronger! I think people overestimate me a little.

She also gave me permission to take Lisa out to parks and things. As long as I told her where we were going beforehand and I made sure to always keep my eye on her, it was fine.

This made me happy. I kind of like kids, and its an incredible experience to have one rely on you like that. Although they maybe don't realize or notice it, their entire life depends on you. It's up to you to protect and make that child strong. It's a wicked responsibility, but it is so empowering.

I think I'm getting carried away. After all, Lisa isn't my baby.

Me and Lisa hang out a lot more now. It feels kind of strange to describe my social life as "hanging out with a four-year-old," but that's what I have reverted to. Well, it's better than middle school when I was "hanging out with myself" (;_;).

There's something I notice about Lisa. She seems a little weird. When I take her to the nearest park/playground, she kind of avoids the other kids. Frankly, they kind of avoid her too. I mean, I guess she's a little creepy for the other toddlers. After all, she could easily pound their faces into the ground and you can kind of tell. Hell, she probably could have destroyed me before I started training!

I mean, sure she's kind of standoffish, but Lisa is a very sweet girl. She's polite and calm and always knows the right thing to say. She doesn't smile often, but it's a beautiful sight. She's honest, and you can always tell when she is truly happy. But I guess a lot of kids are like that before they really experience the world: I love her innocence!

I think she has made a friend! Whenever we go to the park, a strange stray cat is always there waiting for her, and she spends a whole lot of time petting and stroking it. I think she's really attached to the cat. Some would say that having no friends other than a cat is unhealthy, but I didn't really have a friend until I met Miu and we became friends, and then Niijima forced his fake friendship on me! I turned out fine (I hope...).

I think it's great that Lisa can form a bond like that with the cat. I wonder if she'll ask Freya if she can keep it. I'll definitely vouch for her then, because she just looks so adorable hugging a little cat.

Hah~... kids are so cute!

"Hey, do you want me to teach you something?" I asked Lisa. She jumped in surprise. I didn't usually say anything to her when she watched me train. To be honest, I needed to muster a lot of courage to offer. I mean, what right do I have to teach her a move? I'm not even an elite master yet!

She nodded curtly, then hesitated.

"Do you use a staff?" she asked. I smiled.

"I know the basics of using weapons," I said, squatting down to talk to her at her level. "But I'm not a master at using a staff specifically. Is that a problem?" Lisa nodded fervently.

"Mother says that women are stronger with a weapon," she said quietly with a reciting tone. "It's smarter to train your body with a weapon than just your fists."

"That may be true to some extent," I said thoughtfully. "But what if you don't have a weapon? Don't you think you ought to at least have a way to protect yourself?" Lisa thought about this.

"What if I forget how to use my staff?" Lisa asked softly. I laughed a little. Maybe that was rude. I patted her head. Maybe that came across as condescending.

"You really love using your staff, right?" I asked. She seems pretty passionate about it. Lisa nodded. "Then you won't forget. Martial arts can become a part of you, and you won't lose it. Now, do you want to learn one move? It could come in handy."

She hesitated again, then nodded once. I grinned, then stood up.

"Pay close attention," I said, taking up the familiar stance. She mimicked the position. "I'm going to teach you something derived from Baguazhang that is sometimes called the stepping method. But I know it as kouho haiho."

We've got a problem.

Today, at the park Lisa was playing and a young boy started to bother her. Lisa can usually hold her own in this type of situation, but I lost my cool when the little boy kicked her cat. I told him to lay off and leave Lisa alone.

What he did was get his guardian. The man was older, maybe early twenties or late teens. Could have been the kid's brother, could have been his father. Anyways, I could tell right off the bat that this guy was the type to go looking for a fight.

He started to get snippy, accusing me of harassing his son and stuff. At around this time I realized that the guy wasn't just any brawler; he was a martial artist. Albeit a low-level one. I could probably defeat him without too much trouble, but you could never be sure.

He started picking a fight, and I used a small, harmless jujitsu hold to pacify him. I really didn't do anything wrong! I arm-locked him for about a second so that he would cool off and then I let him go. No harm done!

But he gets really red in the face, probably mad or embarrassed, and he scoops up Lisa's cat and starts to run away. Meanwhile, the little boy started to push Lisa around. She used Kouho Haiho on him, and the kid fell, but he turned around quickly and grabbed her leg, lifting it up so she would topple over out of balance. This toddler had obviously been in a baby-sized scuffle before.

I rushed over to Lisa, who was crying a little bit. I looked all over for injuries, but there was only a little scrape on her knee. When I asked her why she was still crying, she looked up at me with a look of heartbreak.

"The kitty is gone," she said softly, hiccuping quietly. "They took him. I want the kitty to be here with me." Something in me snapped. Lisa cried sometimes, but never like this.

"Lisa..." I said, standing up slowly, offering my hand to help her to her feet. She struggled, but stood as she wiped fears of of her face. It made no difference, since different tears quickly replaced them.

"Please... Ken-sensei," Lisa had already begun to call him that. "Help me. Please help me get him back." I smiled with determination.

"You bet, Lisa," I said, placing my hand on her head. "We'll get him back."

Yep. I'm going all commando on that man just to get a cat on. Because a crying child asked me to. This is gonna be trouble.

Hope it doesn't end in disaster.

I'll report in when it's all done.

-Kenichi Shirahama