Kind of Lost

Hello, my name is Onodera Ritsu and I currently work as an editor of shoujo manga for Marukawa Publishing. Now, you see, I'm supposed to be here as an editor, I repeat editor. But no matter how many times I tell this to my client, she doesn't seem to understand that. Don't get me wrong, I find nothing wrong with inking or pasting screen tones. But she's taking it to another level right now.

"Please!" She whined, shoving a pen on my hand. "I guess there was a mix up but I need an assistant now!"

"Sensei, what you're asking me to do isn't what assistants normally do!" But she was already running to her drawer, grabbing mounds of brushes and paints before laying them on the table where I was sitting.

"But no one else knows how to do water color spreads anymore!" She was frantically opening paint sets and dunking brushes. "Please, the deadline is in a day and I have to do all of these!" She pointed at a stack of papers, all void of any progress. Sakurami Hana, the feature artist of a twenty page spread in the next magazine. Only problem was, there was a miscommunication between the people that told her the details of the spread. She heard seven weeks when in actually it was seven days. This happens a lot with this girl, even today; she had called in to ask for an emergency assistant but ended up saying editor instead.

"A lot of people do, but it's too late to get someone else now." I sighed, "But there's no helping it now, is there?" I grabbed a large brush and got out the paints. "Let's get to it."

"Thank you so much Ritsu!" She cried out, "I love you!" She started telling me the tone she wanted and the hair colors of the characters. I nodded and started painting the paper. We had started around the late afternoon and it was the next day by the time we had finished.

"Are you okay with how they turned out?" I asked, scanning a nervous eye over the currently drying spreads. It had been a while since I painted anything.

"You kidding me?!" She laughed tiredly, "They're beautiful, better than what I could ever do." Although she's originally a shonen artist to begin with and never really cared how pretty her art was, her art was known as the most beautiful in shonen manga that Marukawa scouted her for a shojo spread. It's a shame that she doesn't plan on sticking with the genre; she has this connection to shonen that nothing could sever.

"Don't say that, they're all your designs and if anything you should be yelling at the mess I made on the third one." I scratched my head sheepishly; I had knocked a cup of water all over the third spread. This set us back because her copy machine had recently broken so I had to blow dry the paper than iron it out flat, then finally trace over it twice to get another image.

"But you made up for it with this sky, working in the shojo editing department really made your art more pretty looking!" She traced her hand over the sunset I painted. It was pink and yellow and was my favorite one I did. "Hey, Ritsu?" She suddenly looked really serious and a bit sad. "When are you coming back?"

I just looked at her, and then looked away. "What do you mean Hana-sempai?"

She laughed, "We're not in school anymore, no need for the 'sempai' Ritsu." She ruffled my hair like how she would always do when we were still in school. I felt my face flush in embarrassment, it had just slipped out. "And I mean, coming back to the manga world, not as an editor but as the artist."

"I'm not, I'm perfectly fine as the editor, in fact," I smiled at her, "I love it!" I wasn't lying to her either; being an editor was something I truly loved doing.

"But you also love making the stories, drawing the characters, and being the person at the other side of the table," She continued, "the one listening to the critiques instead of the one giving them."

"Well, it's not like I'm going to quit my job to try and start a career that will probably fail." I murmured, but that was the reality of things. I didn't have enough time in the day to do both editing and making manga. Plus, I just don't have that level of talent that's needed to be able to make a living off of it. And hey, I love editing too so why would I even try?

"What are you saying?" She groaned, "All the people you've helped out told you the same thing I'm telling you!" She sighed, walking over to me and pulled me into a hug. "You know Ritsu, I can get you publicity if you want?"

"What?!" I pulled away to look at her like she's mad. She's a super popular manga artist who always has her work in the top ten each month. Why would she even think about doing something like that?" And as if she read the look on my face she poked my face and snickered.

"You're going to be at the Mangala right?" She asked suddenly. I am going to the, in my opinion, badly named event. Really, manga gala sounds better than the weird love child name of the two.

"I am, it's required that everyone go unless they have a big excuse right?" I was eyeing her; she still had the mischievous smile on her face.

"Okay, see you there!" She quickly shoved the spreads into a manila envelope and shoved me out the door. What is wrong with this woman?

I was on the train, heading back to Marukawa. We finished just in time to fit with the two hour ride required. Of course she would own a fax machine too small for the paper she used; she should really upgrade her equipment. She was one of the only manga artist that refused to use markers or go digital. But that plays a factor in her art; it has warmth to it that guarantees her top ranking. But most of all, she loves doing what she does. She's a big comedian and a strong headed person so the love struck heroine made her sick to the stomach.

I looked over her one shot and it was just like her and anyone could tell it was hers. It had an overpowering girl and a shy awkward boy. The only possible way she would ever do shojo know that I thought about it?

I tried my hardest not to fall asleep and I had a few close calls here and there but I managed to make it back to Marukawa in time.

"I brought it!" I announced, handing the envelope to the frantic printing staff who rushed it to the printing room. I was so tired and my hands ached. I haven't painted in so long and on top of that, I did the entire text pasting and it was very word heavy for a manga. I just apologized to an annoyed Yokozawa and made my way to the desk.

"I don't understand why you were there for so long," He sneered, "it was only editing twenty pages for god's sake." Everyone else seemed to agree with him, it was only twenty pages. Twenty pages of painting and inking and screen toning and editing and correcting and redoing and doing so with just two people in eight hours, but you know, only twenty pages. I just slumped into my chair and rested my head on my arms. I'm so sleepy right now, I could just-

"Haha look guys, Ritsu fell asleep!"


~Dreaming~

I rolled the pen around my hand for what seemed like hours until I got my next task. I was currently at my sensei's house to help out with whatever was needed and so far, I've been doing close to nothing. I'm Onodera Ritsu and I'm aspiring to become a full fledged mangaka!

That guy over there is a manga artist I'm currently assisting. What I would give to be published and successful like him. To put it bluntly, I admire him so much, after all, he's even got an animation made and running!

"Ritsu, can you help me with something?" I jumped up the moment after he had called my name.

"Yes?" I looked at him, trying to show how excited I was at the prospect. I ran to his desk, wondering which image he'd assign me to or what tools I'd have to use.

"You said you would do anything for me, correct?" He smiled, and motioned his hand to the other assistants to come over as well.

"Of course!" I said, putting my whole faith into this man. After all, as a teacher to his student, he would teach me so much.

"Then, I need you to," he paused and sat back and took out his phone, "inspire me."

"What do you me-!" I felt cold hands grab my hair and yank me down. They tore off my sweater and started pulling at my pants. My hands were pinned down and my body shook in fear. "Please, stop this!"

"Like I said Ritsu, inspire me." And with a click, he started recording.

~Dreaming~


"Onodera, Onodera!" I opened my eyes slowly, and my vision was really blurry. All I could see was a figure coming closer to me.

''Inspire me..."

I froze and I felt a bead of sweat slide down my face. My hands were shaking and so was pretty much the rest of my body. I closed my eyes shut again and tried backing away. Though, I seemed to forget that I was in chair and fell over onto the ground.

The sudden impact snapped me out of my daze. I looked up to see a very concerned Tanako-san.

"Hey, are you okay?" He offered a hand but I only shrank back and got up on my own.

"Y-Yes, I'm sorry for scaring you." I tried to laugh it off and get back to work. "Oh, I'm sorry about falling asleep, it won't happen again."

"Who cares that you fell asleep, I'm seriously worried about you!" His voice was loud and I turned to face him and he continued. "Look Onodera, everyone else went home!" I scanned the room and he was right, everyone else was really gone. And it was really dark outside, the only source of lights that were on were the desk lamps.

"Why didn't you wake me up sooner!" I scrambled to get all my things in order before turning to leave the building. "Takano-san, come on!" And when I turned back, the look on his face made me want to shrink.

"Onodera, I really care for you." He said, in a voice a lot more quiet, but ringing so much louder in my ears. "Is there something wrong?" He started to walk towards me and my mind told me to run away from him. That I would be hurt again but I stood my ground. My heart told me that he wouldn't do that, and when he pulled me into a hug, I melted into his scent. He was nothing like those other people. He was annoyingly stubborn, blunt, and did everything at his own pace. But he was also so kind and loving and that's what made me love... Wait, hold on a minute.

I felt my face boil with heat and blood. Kind?! Loving?! What do I love?! I pushed away from Takano-san, my face flush with embarrassment. "Wh-What are you saying?!" I made a frantic motion to the door and managed to get out, "I was just having a bad dream, that's all. People have bad dreams once in a while! And I thank you for letting me get my sleep but now how am I supposed to fall asleep again once I'm home. It would have been better if you had waken me up or something. Also, what were you doing staying here?! And-" I stopped my rambling when I saw Takano-san break a chuckle. "Are you laughing at me?!" I asked, pointing an accusing finger.

"Yes I am, nice to know you still have your cognitive function intact. I wonder how some people can be so clumsy." He mocked, referencing my earlier fall. He also gathered up his things and looked me straight in the eye, "Let's go home."

The train ride home was pretty awkward. Takano-san's eyes were dark and he kept zoning out throughout the trip. It was pretty obvious how tired he was. I was thankful for the quiet ride however. I needed to just be with someone, just have the silent comfort of each other's company. That was all. I inwardly groaned once the conductor announced our stop. I gently shook Takano-san awake and we somehow managed to make our way to our hall.

"Stay the night." Takano-san said suddenly.

"What?!" I asked back only to be attacked in another bear hug. Honestly, we were only a couple years apart, how the heck was he so much taller.

"I love you." He whispered into my ear and I just pushed him away and ran to my door.

"Go to bed Takano-san, you're being insane!" I shouted before slamming my door shut. I could hear him open and close the door to his own room and I just slid down to the floor. I would never admit it to him but right now, I can't take the affection. The way he started to slide his hands around my waist made me want to start freaking out, and not just in the usual way I would.

"Why," I breathed, "did I have to have that dream..." I started to cry and I couldn't help, because that 'dream', wasn't really a dream at all.