Disclaimers: *a scroll unrolls, right to left* I, Jason M. Lee, hereby declare that I do not own "Rurouni Kenshin - Meiji Kenkaku Romantan" in any form of anime or manga or merchandise. All rights are due to Watsuki-sensei and Sony, as well Fuji TV. Asiyah belongs to Firuze-senpai, except Kazeki, who is of my own creation. *hanko of "Rii Jie" in katakana gets stamped onto the scroll*
*bursts out laughing* Couldn't help myself! I always wanted to do that! ^\^V
% % % % % denotes scene change from a location/characters
* * * * * denotes same time but scene change
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Part 5: Of Holidays and Flying Mishaps
One week later....
Twilight began to settle along the edges of the old and new buildings in London. Children began to settle for bed while adults that had prepared for the graveyard shifts started out onto the tubes. At the foot of one hotel, it was bustling with people like ants on collecting food.
Men and women, all wearing army green, were running back and forth to the silver buses, tossing bags to and fro efficiently. Orders given out by the superiors, random chatter by the lower ranks, it was just the usual events of them getting ready to go back to being UN Peacekeepers on mainland Europe.
Scanning through his clipboard, Ash made sure check off what was already loaded: food, appropriate clothing, medical equipment, electronic paraphernalia, and the rest of the supplies. Another soldier was noting the carry-able arsenal on another bus, making sure that not a thing exploded or misfired by accident. As the current CO was out sick from food poisoning, the eldest Kamaryn was squad leader for the time being, even though he was an intelligence officer.
'Over a bunch of American idiots in which they outnumber the British soldiers 3 to 1. How does Sam and Soren stand this... this... this wildness of their subordinates? Half of those jokes are downright ridiculous!'
"Yo, Cap'n! Everything's loaded and we're ready to hit the road!"
Giving a low sigh, Ash nodded and switched to Captain mode, tucking his clipboard and nodding to his second-in-command.
"Company! Teeennn-HUT!!" shouted the First Lieutenant.
Immediately, all of the Peacekeepers scrambled to stand in front of him, skipping formation given the lack of space.
"All those present, go to your assigned buses. We'll be heading to Southampton, and then boarding back onto the /HMS Edinburgh/. Dismissed!"
All saluted. "YES, SIR!"
Thankfully, the trip was uneventful. As it was night creeping in, most of them were already counting sheep or sawing logs, some were chatting quietly, a couple player poker with space available, or whatever bus activities. Ash himself was busy writing away a reply e-mail, sent from Karen. Though the connection with the Net was a bit shoddy, since he was using his PDA to do it, connected to his cell in order to get further reception.
Subject: HAPPY! and don't kill me for this!!
Date: Mon, 16 Dec 2002 23:30:25
Hey, big brother!
How's Peacekeeping going? I'm fine, as you already know from Sam and Soren, no doubt. Don't worry. Hospital says clean bill so I'm back on my feet and back in UCLA. Not to mention swinging a bokken on the students again. They just don't get it that you can't just impress visitors in order to get extra points! Bakas! And they've been slacking off again! Geeze...]
Ash had to smile at that. One past visit to the dojo, in army green, demonstrated how strict Karen could get. Most of the female students had to do a kata over fifty times (staring at him like a movie star) while the guys did another kata fifty-five times (trying to get out of practicing in order to talk about military).
[Bad news is that I got evicted by the landlord (Damn, fat pig) so you won't be able to visit there any longer. Good news is that I found a new place to stay. Although, I'm not sure if you're going to like it or not....]
Ice-blue eyes narrowed at that part. Even through electronic messages, she was always capable of transmitting her emotions on certain subjects.
[Thing is, I'm staying at this cop's place between Hollywood and Beverly Hills. He has two wards, one a cop rookie and the other a fifth-grade student. Quite the bachelor's pad, don'cha think?]
'She's staying at a bachelor's home?' Before he could break another tooth crown, Ash continued on.
[Now before you break your teeth again, listen first. He's actually quite nice though, if not a bit odd for doing laundry and cooking. Well, doing the laundry and having one heckvua green thumb, that is. His name is Kenneth Hilmringer, one of the sergeants in LAPD. The older ward, Kazeki Shinryuu, is the rookie but we call him Zeke for short. He does most of the cooking and housework. Yiheng Ming is Zeke's little bro and quite the brat. He keeps on calling me "ugly" for some reason. Wait till I get my bokken on him! I might teach aikido but I know kendo!]
A soft chuckle broke out at the part of her indignation on mentioning the kid. After picking up her first shinai at the age of six, any guy who would out right speak against "girls playing swords" found himself kissing bamboo and then asphalt or tatami. To say the least, Sam and Soren were extremely amused, whereas Ash himself prided on introducing the Art to her.
[Overall, it's a good deal. I get to stay and pay part of the bills while getting my own room with no leaks and no damages. 'Sides, the place is almost entirely straight out of Japan and wouldn't want them to be putting up plaster again. They even have a dojo that I can use whenever I like!
BTW, I'm attending a ballet performance at the Music Center before Christmas Eve, the 'Nutcracker' to be exact. Ken invited me but the main reason is that since Zeke's conducting the orchestra, they get free tickets to the really good seats, most definitely box seats. Later, we'll be heading over to Kyoto for the New Years party Ken's family is holding, then homeward bound. I'll bring back some souvenirs, maybe some of that green tea you've been so fond of and a bit of cherry mochi. Though I have to consider Customs...]
Any military personnel looking at Ash at the moment would've fainted, since the intelligence officer was smiling. Well, close to smiling for the man dubbed "the Ice Snake Captain" by the younger soldiers.
[Hope you're doing well. Can't wait till your next vacation, whenever that is. Bring me back some scones from England!
Your loving, baby sister,
Swiftly, Ash sent a replying e-mail before switching back to his clipboard and laptop, updating much needed reports. As much as he hated filling these things out, this captain was glad that they stuck mainly with electronic ones instead of the usual paper forms; took damn less time and less chance of a mess from mistakes.
'I really should check out this Hilmringer.'
Last time Karen went on a date with an earlier guy back in high school, the idiot turned out to be a womanizer and a total asshole. Let's just say that Sam and Soren had a very long "talk" with Attempted-Boy Friend #24, involving some duct tape, plastic ties, hand cuffs, and some rope.
Fingers flying over his laptop, piercing eyes skimmed over the scrolling information, with the officer's picture.
'Negotiator/sergeant of the LAPD. On the force after graduating with high honors from the Academy, one of the most successful negotiators currently. Elder twin brother is one of the captains, also noted for his excellence in accuracy shooting as well apprehending the most criminals in the least amount of time.
'Now this is interesting.... Kevin "Battai" Hilmringer.... I knew that family name was partially familiar. Who wouldn't forget the time he made one of the largest bust in police record after fresh out of the Academy? Even Soren speaks highly of him, as well the man's wife.'
More scanning of the profile revealed nothing more than the usual mentionings: awards, noted key points in career, etc. So he closed the window.
'That man will do fine in my book......'
A tiny smirk flitted onto Ash's face.
'......if he proves himself in combat. Memo: ask the colonel for some time off.'
The surrounding Peacekeepers near him all suddenly got the chills, one even pulling a vest out.
% % % % % % % %
"Chibi? What's the matter?"
"The other kids were making fun of me again." Small fists rubbed bleary eyes.
Cool and calloused hands brushed his hair and held him close. "Maa maa.... Was it about you seeing things that happen in that happened later?"
"I told them that Aki-chan was gonna get hurt by playing with the knife but they didn't believe and then when he got hurt they all yelled at me and said they were gonna tell their kaa-chan and tou-chan and--"
A shushing sound, silencing him.
"Let them think what they like. I think that what you can see is wonderful but you have to remember, not everybody will believe you."
"Like how I said I saw kaa-chan and tou-chan taken away and none of the bigger people believed me?" Innocent, grass-colored orbs looked up, still teary.
Her arms tighten around him, like a warm blanket with jasmine. "Yes, because they didn't understand and don't want to understand what you have. Not everyone can see what you see. Keep it a secret but if people ask, say you just only knew or it was a feeling. Only tell when you trust that person."
A faint cry, that of a fussing baby, came from another room.
"For now, be the little happy brother that I love and be the best nii-chan to our baby otouto. When you're older, maybe you'll understand more. Just remember, try to follow your heart."
"Un!" A childish smile, a tooth missing.
A returning one, before she disappeared up in flames.
Shock went through him, eyes widening and irises constricting. In his arms, his baby sibling cried out in the darkness, tears mixing with the cold snow falling amidst the sea of fire.
"ZEKE! WAKE UP!!!"
Shaking hands finally got the rookie away from the dreaming world.
"Huh? Wha...." Looking around, Zeke saw that he was sleeping on his desk, still at the station. Most of the other employees had already left for their businesses, spending time with either family or friends and whatnots.
Ken's concerned face drifted into view. "You okay?"
Running a hand through damp bangs, he gave a shaky sigh. "Bad memories. What did you wake me up for?"
A calloused hand pointed at the time bouncing around on the computer, noting it 4:45PM. "You still have the ballet performance and then we have to catch a flight to Tokyo."
The "Ararara!" came out in a very Lupin III manner, thus Zeke scrambling to finish up several report in record time, plus grabbing his duffel. Not to mention snatching up the bag containing his tuxedo.
A smile from the older officer, both bags already slung over one shoulder. "Good to go, so as long you got extra tickets for him and Toan. Miss Karen also requested three more for her relatives."
"'Relatives'?" Green/blue eyes blinked owlishly, one hand pulling out a small stack of the aforementioned paper pieces from a pocket.
"Her two older brothers and her elder sister-in-law."
One black eyebrow raised up, a ghost of a smile. "Out as a date with Karen-san?"
Ken sputtered. "N-Nothing really! She was hoping to see 'the Nutcracker' for a long time!"
"Suuuuuure," Zeke quipped but handed over the tickets nevertheless, as well dropping by two more at their boss' office. "C'mon, lover boy."
"Watch it or you're getting triple paperwork."
"Anything but that! I think I'm gonna need glasses or contacts if this keeps up!"
Laughter ran throughout the precinct, as it was a running joke that the youngest rookie often got the most of the paperwork. For some reason, give him a stack as big as a computer terminal and he'll finish it within half-hour. Papers often come in from other departments, such as Forensics, the coroner, adding to the load.
* * * * * * * *
"How do I look?"
Giving a little twirl, Karen stopped in front of the small group assembled in the living room. As this was a formal occasion, she was at a loss on what to wear, not since her prom (which ended with two protective brothers chasing the escort after finding out that the idiot had nearly slipped something into her drink). Thankfully, her elder sister-in-law came to the rescue......and some teasing remarks.
Some time after the whole Udian incident, Karen finally told her brothers about her moving in with a bachelor (in reality, a week after). Suffice to say, Ken wound up face to face with a M-16 and a twelve-gauge, and two VERY over-reacting elder siblings in "protective-big-brother-mode" after opening the front gate the very next day.
"KENNETH HILMRINGER! YOU BETTER MAKE IT CLEAR THE HECK OUR SISTER IS STAYING WITH YOU!" Three guess to which sibling that was and the first two don't count.
The other one merely smiled grimly and fingered the trigger guard on his shotgun. "Yes, do explain to us WHY our only sister is living with you. No, not that I'm worried since you're also a law enforcer but more for our family."
Ken sweatdropped. Protective family members he dealt with before, true but relatives not THIS overprotective. Must be them standing for their father and mother, as Karen had told him all of their parents passed away due to either failing health or occupational hazards.
To say Karen wasn't pleased would be an understatement: both adult men were soon sitting in seiza position while she went on a full-blown tirade that lasted at the most four hours (as well both brothers had the comical flowing tears on their faces; you'd be embarrassed if you got told by your sister, younger sister no less).
"SAM! SOREN! THE HELL YOU TWO ARE DOING?!?!?!?!?! HAVE YOU IDIOTS NO SHAME?!"
"No, ma'am," both replied, unison and visibly cowering under her wrath.
"YOU DON'T BRING OUT GUNS AND POINT THEM AT SOMEONE'S FACE, MUCH LESS POINT-BLANK!! LOADED OR UNLOADED, YOU TWO COULD HAVE LOST YOUR JOBS!!!"
"WHAT WOULD MOM THINK?! I CAN'T BELIEVE THE TWO OF YOU!! DON'T YOU DARE DO THAT EVER AGAIN!!"
"DO YOU WANT SHAME ON OUR FAMILY?!?! FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!! SAMUEL AND DAD HAVE GOTTA BE ROLLING IN THEIR GRAVES RIGHT NOW!" She was referring to her stepfather, who happened to be Sam's late adopted father; he had also worked with law enforcement until some idiot got their hands on some Angel Dust (better known as PCP) and a chainsaw. Needless to say, the dummy got life with no chance of parole.
")#($&%!!! $)%(#$_!!!! &%~)@#!!!! YAROU!!!! BOTH OF YOU ARE AHOUS!!! BAKA BAKA BAKA BAKA BAKA!!!!!"
And that was only the first few minutes.
Zeke had quietly joked to his guardian, "She's almost as scary as MY big sister when she's angry at her fiancée or something else." Thankfully, Soren and Sam profusely apologized to Ken and made it up by helping with dinner, surprising Yiheng (the kid thought that cooking was reserved for girls and "girly men", except his big brother) at their skill.
Looking away from the mirror on fixing his tie, lavender eyes widened at the sight.
A dark-blue, long-sleeved cheongsam was embroidered with white butterflies that flitted through jasmine blossoms in full bloom. Even though winter in LA wasn't exactly all that freezing, it was still cold enough to opt for the cheongsam be fitted to not have the traditional side-slit. Black two-inch-heel shoes, a light-blue shawl and matching butterfly earrings completed the outfit. Half of Karen's hair was pinned up into a bun, held by a gold phoenix pin dangling a tiny mother-of-pearl and a indigo ribbon; the rest hung down her back in soft waves.
Sam gave a thumbs up with a wink, whereas Soren smiled brightly. Yiheng grinned widely, struggling with his tie. "Ken thinks yer pretty... hag." Zeke wasn't present, having left earlier for preparations at the Music Center.
"Yiheng!" Ken protested, red gracing his cheeks as well Karen's. 'More than pretty......'
"Yi!" The university student covered her face, barely hiding the flush of anger and embarrassment.
Her sister-in-law laughed, holding up her hand to her mouth and those presented swore they saw fox ears pop up (save the FBI instructor, who only raised an eyebrow). "Now really, Karrie. Take it as a compliment from someone who hasn't tried to peek up your skirt!"
Sam and Soren quickly looked over at Ken, who immediately raised up his hands in defense.
"Don't you start, Meg!" Karen shrieked.
Dr. Megan Taniak Sagraa merely laughed again and flicked some of her hair back, then deftly finished up Yiheng's tie. Known for her looks, graceful air, sharp tongue, genius brains, and flirting behavior, she is one woman to be wary of when around, even her husband. Do be very careful with what you say if there are sharp, medical equipment around. Especially in the dark purple dress she was currently wearing, as the saying goes, "dressed to kill".
Wanting to help people, Megan followed her parents and grandparents' footsteps of being a doctor (pediatrics and family) but wound up being a employed under a drug-smuggling ring for nearly three terrifying years. Sam had taken the lady in after a major narcotics bust and she was allowed probation under the eye of an officer, being that Megan had been taken by force at gunpoint when she accidentally witnessed a drug deal gone bad.
After quite the strangest on-off relationship that included arguments over the oddest/smallest thing which lasted over six months, the two finally tied the knot (Karen and Soren still joked about the reception, having taped a close-to-roaring-drunk-and-passing-out bride draping herself over a grinning cat-got-the-canary/cream groom).
"You truly are a fox," Karen's stepbrother spoke, drawing his wife close. "C'mon guys, we're gonna be late and I KNOW that you won't be happy if you don't get to watch 'The Nutcracker' this year." Sam finished it by pointing a finger at his sister.
"Who are you and what did you do to Sam?" Soren quipped, then ducking his head to avoid a swing.
With that said, they were able to reach the Music Center with ample time to spare (even with the closeness to Christmas, traffic actually went quite smoothly) and meeting up with Kevin's family (Megan and Karen immediately cooed over Keith, while questioning an embarrassed Ennis on his mixed hair color). The staff there recognized the twins on sight and quickly ushered them into their reserved seats, providing a terrific view of the stage and the orchestra pit. Small snacks as well some drinks were presented since dinner was out of question with the current tight schedule. Apparently, the Kamaryn/Saagra family were also headed to Japan on the same flight the Hilmringers were for the same reasons.
Sipping some water, Karen turned over to Ken and smiled. "I really appreciate it. Thank you for this."
A returning one, one hand waving nonchalantly since his mouth was full. "Nothing really. Zeke tries to get rid of those tickets whenever he can and this was an opportunity."
"Not just because to take me out?" she teased, brandishing a fork after spearing a piece of chicken.
"With your brothers breathing down my neck?" he returned, jabbing a thumb behind him.
Both male siblings sat back down and thankfully, the ballet was starting, thus saving them from
Typhoon Karen. For this occasion, Zeke had let his hair out of its ponytail and slicked the bangs to one side with a bit of gel, making him appear a bit older (even with the short height, Yiheng joked that his big sibling looked a heck like Laguna Loire from "Final Fantasy VIII"). From a distance, one would never have thought the sixteen-and-half year-old was a professional part-time conductor and police rookie at the same time.
Throughout the length of the program, Ken couldn't help but keep glancing over at Karen discreetly. She was watching the entire show with a childish gleam in her eyes and rapt attention, along with Toni and Megan. All three loved the story as young girls and they were slightly surprised about that mutual interest. The negotiator's movements didn't go unnoticed.
"Checking out my baby sister?" Sam muttered under his breath.
"Leave my baby brother alone," Kevin sniped back quietly.
Both remaining siblings tried to diffuse the situation before they got out of hand, which Megan did it by pinching her husband's ear and Toni poking her's. Ennis, Yiheng and Keith snickered at their free show before quickly paying back attention to the real performance.
When intermission came, Ennis excused himself for some fresh air and to stretch his muscles. Walking outside of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (where the "Nutcracker" was held), his eyes caught bright red hair in a simple canary dress and white blouse also leaving the front doors.
Sharp emerald eyes whipped around to face him and a smirk reached her face. "Oh? You got roped into this as well, Yorkshire?"
He held his tongue, not wanting a reprimand from Toni later (if she ever found out) and sat down on a nearby bench, one hand gesturing for her to do the same.
"So, what brings you here?" he asked before tilting his head back to look at the stars.
Asiyah Khanume merely tucked a strand of crimson locks behind her ear, patted the dress around her, and slowly changed her smirk into a small smile. Same age as Ennis, as well attending some of the same classes, the two were quite the pair in many ways. From martial arts to academics to other skills, both strived to be the best they can, often competing to the extent that the more financially clever students began making betting pools (often in secret, since the school board looked down on gambling but most teachers didn't really care). How it all started, neither could clearly remember but they agreed that it was probably during their early childhood when memories were at the weakest. Now, the two were considered as best of friends (although Toni often bugged Ennis about his "relationship" with the Lebanese student, often having a smile that frightened him to no end).
"Other than my aunt and uncle wanting to see the show, I love the story."
"You got lucky. Toni made me come." He paused, placing his hands behind his head. "Not that I really mind."
A chuckle. "Is that so? You're the kind who would do anything for your sister, aren't you?"
"Hey, if she raised you since you were a kid after your parents were gone, wouldn't ya?"
"Point taken." Asiyah looked up as well, a wistful smile on her face. "I'm an only child so I don't really know the meaning of having a sibling. Much less love from your birth parents. Not even a having a cousin who spends half his time working at a major business comes close."
"Other than having someone to argue with or go for comfort, there's always the chance of nieces and nephews." Several happy memories on taking care of Keith slipped in, warming him inside against the night air a bit. Until a couple of the little redhead acting like a monster popped up, those got pounded back down.
"Maybe I should stay with your place for awhile for some experience?" she asked innocently.
Ennis immediately blushed and sputtered. "What? My sis is already asking me about you! I can't have her getting funny ideas! Bad enough with my brother-in-law and nephew! The brat's only five!"
Peals of laughter broke out from her, causing him to turn even redder and bring out some mutterings about "crazy girls". Calming down a bit, Asiyah rubbed her arms and breathed into her hands, having forgotten to bring a jacket.
Said article of clothing was being held in front of her face. Ennis had his head turned away, fighting the blush.
"Here. Sis would yell at me for not being a gentleman and I doubt your aunt would like it if you got sick because of me."
A bright smile came as she took the proffered jacket, which at once turned into a smirk.
"Gentleman, eh? Whadya do, take lessons from your brother-in-law?"
Something sounding a bit like "yeah right" came out but Ennis smiled as well.
"C'mon, intermission's almost over."
"But your jac--"
Ennis waved a hand. "Nah. Keep it. I've got plenty at home. Happens when your uncle's ward turns out to be a sewing fanatic. Prob'ly could give the major designers a run for their money if he really tried."
Heading back into the warm Pavilion, the two exchanged holiday wishes and reluctantly separated to go back to their respective seats.
Both ignored the adults' questions on lack/addition of clothing.
% % % % % % % %
"Huh, both baka deshis are coming over with their families, as well extra luggage."
"Will you stop calling them that?"
"Hmpm, you would if you had to teach those two for almost a decade."
"They chose to learn from you." A deep sigh. "Wish she could see them now, she'd be so proud of them. What's this about extra luggage?"
"Apparently, one of those bakas got himself another boarder, who has relatives coming over."
A raised eyebrow, then lifting of a sake jug. The other held his choko underneath.
"Do you think it'll be like last years?"
"This time, I'd say much more....interesting. If the old man has a say in it himself."
Somewhere in the mansion, a voice called out "I heard that!" Both drinkers chuckled.
"Still sharp as ever, that he is."
"Who do you think got their brains from?"
% % % % % % % %
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
"I hate airports, I hate airports, I hate airports....."
"Rooster, you have GOT to get over that fear of yours!"
Sam turned a baleful look at his wife, stopping his mantra. "Ever got lost inside an airport for the whole day when you were a six-year old kid? That's what happened. Almost got run over several times."
Megan softened at her husband, wrapping an arm around him. "Sorry, Rooster. It's just that.... when I was still with the mafia, I never really paid attention to anything around me. Depression and hope, you know."
"Mou, KNEW we should've gotten the red-eye flight!" Karen huffed, zipping up her jacket. "That way, we could at least knock him out with some medicine or something."
"Karen! I will not let my husband be drugged like some dog or cat with a tranquilizer!"
"It'll be a heck lot easier traveling than having him complain continuously!"
The whole group had left for the airport almost right after the performance, changing out of their formal clothes first. Thankfully, their luggage were loaded onto a ready airport shuttle. Considering it was during the holiday rush, which the LA freeways were notorious for heavy traffic around that time, the two youngest boys fell asleep immediately. Zeke and Ennis stuck with battling each other on their GBAs while the adults exchanged soft chatter, occasionally listening to the radio.
Heading in to get their luggage check-in and heading toward the gate turned out to be interesting. Sam had immediately became adamant of not wanting to go inside, freezing up upon seeing the glass sliding doors. It took the other three men and two teens to finally wrestle him inside as they were causing quite a scene, drawing stares from other people.
Now, there were at their boarding gate and waiting to board the plane, Sam sitting with knees drawn up to his chest and shivering. Keith, on the other hand, had plastered himself to the window, watching the outside with childish interest, often asking Yiheng "what's that?" and "what are they doing?", who answered to the best he could without snapping. After all, the young student was like the little redhead once, asking Zeke when they had reached America for the first time. The K-9s had to be put into carriers and carted off to the animal section after swallowing some tranq pills, as per regulations since they were bigger than a toy-size dog.
Sitting next to Ken, Karen rested her head against his shoulder, eyes fluttering close. Noticing her warm closeness, he only blinked and shifted so that she could be more comfortable. In the background, Soren was busy spinning a pair of Chinese health balls in his hands as to avoid throwing himself onto Ken, a grim smile plastered on. Kevin merely looked with a bit of interest showing on his face, absentmindedly folding some random origami.
Karen closed her eyes, a small smile on her lips.
"Nothing really... For being a friend, for putting up with my quirks, and just listening to me. Even though we've been living in the same house for barely a month."
A silence between them, ignoring the sounds of the airport.
After another half-hour of waiting, the intercom in their section blared to life.
"Flight 976 from Los Angeles to Tokyo, we will now begin boarding...."
Dai go no Author's Notes ("dai go no" = "Number 5 of"):
Firuze had wanted to see what would Karen's (Kaoru) brothers reaction would be after they find out she's living with Kevin and that was the best I could think up at the moment without going into much detail. Would've made it longer but my eyes tend to get tired and dried up when I look at a screen too long. 'Sides, I like playing around with the "big brother protective" thing. ^\^
For letting me borrow Asiyah, hats off to ya, Fi-senpai! Hope I got her as close as you originally portrayed her, senpai.
In Downtown Los Angeles, the Music Center is composed of four venues, taking up about two or three city blocks and is considered a tourist landmark, so to speak. The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is where actual performances are held (went there during elementary school for field trip; ahhh.... the old days of being a bratty and immature kid), like "The Nutcracker". The Ahmanson Theatre for shows like "The Phantom Opera", as well the Mark Taper Forum, a smaller relative of the Ahmanson. And now the brand new Walt Disney Concert Hall, home of the Los Angeles Philharmonics and Master Chorale. The idea for having such a Christmas ballet classic to be held down in LA came up when I was visiting up in San Francisco around the winter break. www.musiccenter.org is your site for info on upcoming shows and events of the LA Music Center.
There IS an actual ship named the /HMS Edinburgh/ with the Royal Navy of England (or Great Britain, or the United Kingdom). The /Edinburgh/ is a Type 42 Destroyer and is the largest one in the Royal Navy of that class. Backbone on providing anti-air defense armaments, as well quite effective against opponents on sea. You can go onboard and have a peek when it's visiting ports but you'll have to catch it first. Here's the URL: www.royal-navy.mod.uk/ In military talk, "CO" means "commanding officer".
Southampton should be familiar to most of you, if you know your National Geographic alongside with the history about the /Titanic/. No, I'm not trying to jinx Ash. It is one port that I know which might be capable of sending off the Navy ships from England.
The email addresses for Karen and Ash? Ah-heh...... Hey, it works. *shrugs*
In Japanese families, tradition has them heading back home to Japan if they're out of the country or if they can make it, in order to celebrate the coming new year. Normally, preparations begin on Dec. 13, house cleaning and food making to rake in the good luck. In China, it's something similar, although the Chinese begins their preparations about 4 weeks before the Lunar New Year (the wife returns to visit her family is one such tradition).
Los Angeles International Airport, LAX for short, is one of the world's most busiest airports that exists. Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport beats LAX, having obtained the name of "World's Busiest Airport" in the Guinness Book of World Records, while Hong Kong International is the "World's Largest Airport Terminal". I have to attest to Hong Kong's airport being the biggest, having been there myself a couple years ago. www.guinessworldrecords.com for info on both largest and busiest while www.lawa.org for more info on LAX and other airports near the LA area.
"Red-eye flight" is a term for us use to air traveling. Basically, middle of the night/extreme early morning flight that leaves you with, well, red eyes from the time spent in a plane. Happens if the plane ride is over five hours or you're crossing multiple time-zones heading west.
On Sam's fear of airports, I played with that on Sano's fear of steam trains. While Sano is afraid of trains on "how can so much metal move so fast?", I used the concept of childhood influence that Sam got lost in an airport once before living with Karen. Can't say much about myself on fears but I do have a fear of heights, but usually if there's no barriers (like scaffolding for).
Chinese health balls are weights with chimes inside, the yin-yang symbol on each and are often given as gifts for those who have failing health. Rolling the two balls in your hands is said to help with improving blood circulation, improve on your sleeping patterns, improve memory, and various other points that benefits the body and the mind. The trick? Pressure points on the hands. When you rotate both in your hands, the weight presses on the pressure points, simulating the corresponding ones in the body. It's also said to relieve stress. Hmmm.....