DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT OWN GUNDAM

CHAPTER ONE

"EXPERIENCE OUR WORLD AND BE A PART OF IT!"

"I'm sorry, Isamu-kun. I…I can't go out with you."

And there it was. I knew she was going to say it but I clung to the possibility anyway. I admit my chances were slim but I was still hopeful because…because we had history. She is my beloved childhood friend and we were very close. It was the advantage I had over the others who tried and failed. It was my trump card. It was also the reason why she rejected me.

"I'm sorry." She whispered and looked away. "I like you…but not like that."

I was prepared for rejection…or at least that's what I've been telling myself. I spent countless nights pondering on how to respond to this situation without embarrassing myself or letting my emotions get the better of me. Well I guess I didn't prepare enough. But then again, how could I have prepared for what she was about to tell me?

"Kaede…" I grabbed her shoulders. "Why? Why can't you go out with me?" My voice sounded pathetic and desperate. "Why!?" My grip on her tightened.

"I-Isamu!" She shrieked and I let go immediately. She didn't use any honorifics and I tried to remember the last time she did that. Hearing her say my first name without any honorifics usually made me extremely happy but this time is different. The way she looked at me when she said my name… It made my blood run cold. "What's with you?" She fidgeted and made a disgusted expression while biting her lip.

"I'm sorry! I didn't mean to… I'm sorry, Kaede. Please, at least tell me why." Again, hearing that desperation in my voice made me hate myself even more.

She didn't answer but her expression softened as she continued biting her lip.

"No. Forget it. It's…it's okay." I gritted my teeth and turned around to walk away. "I'm sorry, Kaede. I shouldn't have called you out here. I'm sorry for wasting your time."

"Wait! Isamu-kun!"

I stopped but didn't turn back.

There was nothing but awkward silence for five minutes and then she finally spoke."I'm…seeing someone."

"What!?" I nearly gasped and this time I turned around. "But you…"

"I was lying, Isamu-kun. I'm sorry but I was lying. I had to lie! I didn't want you or my parents to find out! I'm seeing someone and he's…he's not a student of this school. He's not even a student at all. He's someone older and…he…he's been really good to me. He buys me things. He provides me-

"No! No! I don't wanna hear anymore of this!" I screamed and glared at her.

"Isamu-kun…" She tried to touch my hand but I quickly took a step back.

This time it was my turn to be disgusted.

"And those rumors I keep hearing about you?"

She didn't reply but the look on her face was the only answer I needed.

"Kaede…"

And with that my world fell apart. I didn't say anything anymore. I just gave her one final look of disgust and ran away. I had no particular direction in mind. I just kept running and running and running like an idiot. When I got home late that night, I locked myself in my room. For three whole days I didn't come out even when my parents and friends begged me to. My dad finally broke down the door to get in and gave me a good punch to the face to snap me back to reality.

Boy…

Looking back, I can't help but laugh.

Oh yeah I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Tachibana Isamu. During my freshman year in high school, I confessed to my beloved childhood friend, Hatayama Kaede, but it ended in heart break and not to mention that I found out she's not the kind of person I thought she was. Of course, before the confession, there were the rumors but I dismissed them as nothing but juvenile gossip you hear every day in high school. She is pretty and popular after all. People tend to get jealous when you get all the attention. Plus, I'm her childhood friend and have been with her since I was four. I know her better than anyone else in school.

Or so I thought.

I continued attending school after that but I quit my club and just kept to myself. I became very gloomy and unsociable. All of my friends left me one by one but it didn't bother me one bit. Soon afterwards, my whole class forgot I existed. I was a ghost. I completely stopped talking to Kaede after the confession. Not even a glance or nod when we pass each other in the school hallway or when I bump into her while walking back from school since she lives next door. I was angry of course but I was even more afraid of her. I was terrified. Every time I hear her talk or laugh, I turned pale. It was a nightmare but in the end I got used to it. Before I knew it, the school year ended and I spent the whole break cooped up in my room, playing video games and reading manga. Just being as lazy as possible. My parents didn't say anything or object since they knew what happened. They pretty much left me to my own devices. I didn't see Kaede at all during that time and I was glad.

Then came the new school term and everything was still the same. My friends and classmates still treat me like I'm invisible. The rumors about Kaede gradually worsened. I wondered if I'm gonna spend my high school days like this. I'm no idiot. I knew the only way to escape this madness was to stop dwelling on Kaede and move on. Start fresh! Stop being so depressed and properly apologize to my family, friends and classmates. I mean, just what the hell am I waiting for? A push? Was I waiting for someone to pat my back and say, "Don't give up! Just hang in there, Isamu!" or "You can do it, Isamu! Forget about her! I'm sure there's someone for you out there."

No.

I was waiting for Kaede to come back to me.

Come back and ask for forgiveness.

Then we can be together.

Heh.

Pathetic.

Maybe I am an idiot after all.

The days passed by and on the third month of the new term, my mom told us the son of her American friend is moving to Japan. He's going to stay with us. That's when everything changed.


The day I met Vinny was also one of the worst days of my life. It was after school. Most of my classmates have left the classroom to attend club or go home or fool around with their friends at the arcade or karaoke place. It was common for those without clubs to loiter in the room after class and for some reason I decided to join them that day. If only I knew what I was gonna see that particular day then I would have left the moment the bell rang. Anyway, I was just sitting there being miserable as always and once again being thankful that I was seated next to the window. I enjoy looking outside sometimes - it helps me relax. I guess I was so relaxed on that day that I dozed off for a minute only to be woken up by the girl sitting behind me. She was giggling like a maniac while texting, probably with her boyfriend or something. I yawned and finally decided to leave. I was about to grab my bag when suddenly two of my male classmates started to have a discussion that's a little hard to ignore. They're talking pretty loudly while vigorously flailing their arms like excited little kids. They were talking about Gunpla Battle. It's the latest craze these days and it's even making it big internationally. I'm no fan boy, but I like a few anime, manga, and I play the occasional video game but I never really cared for Gunpla Battle since Gundam and mecha in general doesn't interest me. However, I understand its appeal though and the science behind Gunpla Battle, the Plavsky Particles, is particularly intriguing to me. Well, I admit I was amused by their conversation so I decided to stay for a bit to listen. Big mistake that was.

"Mitsuo's GN-X totally kicked his ass, man!"

"Sure, that guy lost but you gotta admit he put up quite a fight. The way he handled that Leo was just freaking amazing."

"Yeah. Mitsuo was even impressed."

"Hey, I hear that Masachika chick is fighting some guy from Tokyo next week. I don't wanna miss that."

"Oh man. Juro's place's gonna be packed if Miss Justice is fighting. Her fans will be all over the place and ogling at her rack."

"I don't see what's so special about her. I'm more interested in that maid of hers."

"How dare youuuu!" A girl wearing glasses suddenly stood up from her chair and angrily approached the boys. She has brown curly hair and a face full of freckles. She is Minaguchi Keiko, a weird and moody girl who, on the first day of school, shamelessly admitted to everyone, including our homeroom teacher, that she is a lesbian and has absolutely no interest in males.

"Aw crud..." One of the boys made a sour look. "Speaking of fans, here's the biggest one and probably the craziest too."

"Ugh." The other boy shook his head. "I shouldn't have said that."

"Oh right you are!" Keiko pointed at him. "How dare you disrespect my Onee-sama!"

"Oh calm down, Minaguchi."

"Calm down my ass! I won't calm down until I-

"A-HEM." Everyone stopped what they're doing and focused their attention to the direction of the voice. Our homeroom teacher was standing in the doorway and holding a box full of books. "What are you kids still doing here? Go home already."

"Yes sir…" Everyone, except me, said. I just nodded quietly.

"Minaguchi, stop bullying those two." He scratched his chin.

"Grrr…" Keiko grabbed her bag and stomped away.

The boys laughed and grabbed their bags too. "We're off, Sensei." They waved as they left the classroom and the rest followed.

I was about to go too when the teacher blocked my path and pointed at me. "You."

"Sir?"

"Looking gloomy as always, Tachibana-kun." He sighed. "Well, come with me. I need someone to boss around while we sort the books in the library. Maybe some good old fashioned manual labor will brighten that gloomy face of yours." He smiled. "Maybe not but I still need the help anyway." He laughed and signaled me to follow.

"Yes sir." I sighed and dropped my bag.

It was past six when I was done helping out in the library. It took longer than expected and the teacher apologized for that, promising to treat me to a bowl of ramen on Monday. I looked at the window and saw the sun was already down. I took out my cellphone and texted my mom as I made my way back to the classroom to retrieve my bag. It was dark but the room next to mine still had the lights on. It was pretty late and I wondered who was still staying there. I thought about peeking but decided against it. I need to hurry up - my folks were probably getting worried. But alas, fate was just too cruel. It picked the wrong time to humor my curiosity. The door slid open and Kaede came out, fixing her top. Her hair was a mess and I immediately knew what she was doing. Following behind her was a tall male student - an upperclassman and a well-known delinquent. He was shocked at first when he saw me but then smiled as he patted her head. He left without saying a word. Judging from that mocking smile I guess he's one of the few who knows Kaede is my childhood friend and next door neighbor. Maybe he'd been at her place before and… No, I don't wanna think about it.

"Isamu-kun…" Kaede's voice was trembling.

I was completely frozen. At first, everything was just a blank, like my mind had been wiped clean. It took almost a minute to process everything and slowly return to my senses. I tried to say something but ended up mumbling incoherently. I looked away and ran my fingers through my hair. I realized I was shaking; it was a weird mixture of anger, embarrassment and fear. My legs finally found their strength and quickly went in to my classroom. I stayed in there for like twenty minutes, hoping she would be gone when I go out but she was still there waiting for me. I didn't even look at her as I made my way downstairs. She grabbed my sleeve but I just pulled away and continued walking. During that moment, I just wanna scream and repeatedly bash my head on the wall.


It was around eight when I got home and mom was super pissed. "You're late, young man." I found her waiting in the living room with her arms crossed.

"I texted you." I said while taking off my shoes and put on my slippers. "My teacher asked me to help out in the library and it took longer than expected. He promised to treat me ramen though so I guess it's cool."

"No, it's not cool. You could have said no."

"Mom! You know I can't say no to my homeroom teacher."

"Fine, fine." She sighed and then gave me a concerned look after noticing my haggard expression. "What's wrong?"

"Oh it's nothing."

She frowned and rubbed her forehead. "You bumped into Kaede again, didn't you?"

"N-No…" I looked away.

"You're such a bad liar." She smiled bitterly. "Just like your father."

"Yeah, yeah." I stretched my arms and legs. "Anyway, time to eat. I'm starving."

"Isamu, do you know what today is?"

"Last day of school. Tomorrow is Sunday so nothing but sleep and video games." I said with a bitter smile of my own but I doubt there would be any sleep after what I've seen today. Maybe I should go out tomorrow and spend the whole day killing time in a manga café or something but the sight of Kaede's house would probably just scare me away. Yeah. Laugh all you want but I am that terrified.

"I can't believe you forgot." She looked irritated.

"I'm sorry, Mom." I sat on the couch and massaged my right arm. "It's been a crummy day and I got a lot on my mind. So what's up? What's so special about today if you don't mind reminding me?"

Mom smiled mischievously. "Hehehe…"

"Don't give me that creepy laugh, you old hag."

"Don't get cheeky with me!" She flicked my forehead.

"Ow!"

"Look." She pointed to the foyer and I saw a pair of worn-out sneakers that I don't recognize. I was probably too distraught when I entered the house that I didn't notice them when I took off my own shoes.

"Hey do we have a-

"Look!" She said again and pointed to a pile of luggage and unopened cardboard boxes near the stairs.

"Mom, what's going on?"

"Now look behind you!"

"Yahallo!" A male foreigner with strawberry blonde hair suddenly jumped out from behind the couch I'm sitting on. He's tall and looks older than me.

"Aaaaaaaah!" I was so surprised that I screamed like a girl. "M-M-Mom, there's a foreigner here!"

"Now look out!" Mom quickly got out of the way as my thirteen year old sister, Shizuka, came out of nowhere and hit me in the head with a harisen (AN: a large folding fan).

"Yooouch!"

"Nii-san, you big dope!" She hit me again. "Where have you been!? Mom doesn't want us to start dinner until you arrive and you sure took your darn time. I bet you were just moping around town and thinking about Kaede again! We're having sukiyaki. Do you get what I'm saying here, Nii-san? We're. Having. Suki-freaking-yaki!" She slung the harisen over her shoulder like a gun and raised one of her eyebrows. "Do you understand?" She said in English.

"Whoa! Nice tsukkomi, Shizuka-chan!" The foreigner said and gave her the thumbs-up.

"Teehee." She giggled. "Thanks!"

I quickly stood up, totally confused and irritated. "Okay just what the heck is going on here and who the heck is that guy!?" I pointed at the weird foreigner standing behind the couch and he just smiled at me like an idiot. "And what the heck is wrong with you, you little imp!?" I lightly kicked my little sister and she growled at me.

"Are you so depressed that you forgot?" My dad came out from the kitchen and lighted his pipe. "Today is the day our American guest arrives. Now stop being rude and go introduce yourself, Isamu-kun."

"Yo." Our American guest patted my left shoulder. "The name's Vincent Harvey but you can just call me Vinny. Nice to meet you, Isamu-kun."

Ugh. He just called me by my first name and come to think of it, he also called Shizuka by her first name too when he complimented her after hitting me with that blasted fan. Foreigners.

"Likewise." I smiled nervously and shook his hand. "Tachibana Isamu. You can just call me Isamu-kun since…well…since you're already…" I trailed off.

"Isn't he the cutest?" My mom smiled. "His Japanese is really good."

"To be honest, I was slightly disappointed. I was hoping I could practice speaking English with him." My dad sighed.

"You can still do that, Dad." Shizuka said. "I mean he can still speak English."

"But it's kinda embarrassing now that I know he's fluent in Japanese." My dad chuckled.

"How is that embarrassing?" I asked.

"It just is."

"I'm sorry, Vinny-san. My family's pretty weird." I scratched my head. "Aaaaanyway! I'm starving and Shizuka is definitely starving and I'm guessing our guest is starving too so how about we continue this while we eat?" I forced a smile.

"Sukiyaki! Sukiyaki! Sukiyaki!" Shizuka happily marched to the dining room while twirling the harisen like it's some sort of marching baton.


During dinner, Vinny told us the story of how our moms became good friends. Turns out Vinny's mom stayed in Japan before and worked with Mom in the same company. This was before Mom got married to Dad and became a housewife. Her name was Rebecca and she was older but Mom was her superior and boss. They didn't get along at first, partly because Rebecca didn't enjoy taking orders from someone younger. They were pretty professional about it at first but as the months went by it soon grew to hate that reached a breaking point where they had a really bad physical altercation in some seedy host club in the red light district. That got me and Shizuka raising our eyebrows but Dad just chuckled. Everything was settled after a really weird and embarrassing incident that involved Mom's angry ex-boyfriend from high school and a very confused Dutchman.

"I didn't expect Rebecca to help me back then but I was happy to find out she's actually a good person. She may be crude, mean, nosy and sometimes lazy but she has a strong sense of justice and won't turn a blind eye even if it's the person who clobbered her with a Dom Perignon bottle." Mom added with a smile. "She practically saved my life and we've been friends ever since."

"Man, those times were pretty hellish for me." Dad sighed. "I was still dating your mom when she and Rebecca started hanging out. For some reason, Rebecca didn't like me and totally did not approve of our relationship. She was very protective of her and wouldn't hesitate to put me in the hospital if given the chance. Every time she saw me with your mom, Rebecca would just pull me away and put me in a headlock until I passed out. Oh one time she drugged me, shoved me in the trunk of her car, drove all the way to Aokigahara Forest and tried to pay a bunch of delinquents to hang me but got caught by the park rangers. Boy oh boy, that sure was a mess." Dad then laughed heartily like it was some sort of fond memory.

Both me and Shizuka just sat there with our mouths wide open, completely horrified.

"Good times, good times." He continued laughing. "She and your mom are real tight alright. Rebecca would invite her for drinks almost every night and they do all kinds of crazy stuff afterwards. Oh I remember one time they got so wasted they beat up a bunch of theme park mascots while wearing school swim suits and-Ow!" Mom interrupted him with a sharp elbow to the stomach.

"I don't think the kids would like to hear that one, Kazuo." She said in a low and threatening voice.

"R-Right." Dad nodded.

Shizuka cleared her throat and turned her attention back to Vinny. "A-A-Anyway! Let's talk about you this time! Is this your first time in Japan?"

"Nope. Me and my family visited a bunch of times. I believe I was eighteen last time I was here with my folks."

"Wait. How old are you now anyway?" Shizuka asked.

"I'm twenty." Vinny looked embarrassed and my little sister gasped.

"And now you're gonna start living here." I said and took a sip of my miso soup.

"Uh-huh. Just like Mom, I also fell in love with this country. She taught me the language and pretty much everything I need to know about Japan. I guess you could say she's a big influence and before I knew it, I was a hardcore Japanophile like her."

"Jaapaanoooo…" The word was unfamiliar to Shizuka and she tried to pronounce it. I was unfamiliar with the word too but I didn't say anything.

"Japanophile" Mom said it in perfect English. "Japanophile is a person who has a strong interest in Japan and Japanese culture."

"Listen…I…uh…I just want everyone to know that I didn't do this on a whim. I didn't come here to be a tourist or something. I'm really serious about this. This is a very serious decision for me. I've discussed this with my parents for a long time now. Dad was against it at first and it literally took me two years to convince him. He was a rock I tell you. He wouldn't budge at all but thanks to Mom he gave in and said yes."

"I don't wanna know what Rebecca-san did to the poor guy." Dad shuddered and Mom elbowed him again.

"Ugh. What the hell am I doing?" Vinny scratched his head and looked kinda frustrated. "To be honest, the real reason for moving here is…uh…Look I'll just show you!" He stood up and ran to the living room.

Minutes later, he came back with a huge grin on his face and put something on the table for us to see.

"I love Japan and I really do want to live here but this…this is what gave me the resolve to go with my decision after so much deliberation. This is the reason why I worked so hard to convince Dad."

"Gunpla." I immediately recognized the robot plastic model. How could I not recognize it? I always see them in TV and magazines thanks to the current craze that took the world by storm years ago. I then remembered the amusing discussion Minaguchi and the others had a few hours ago. "Wait, Vinny-san, don't tell me you're a…"

"Yep! I'm both a Builder and a Fighter!" He stood up straight and pounded his chest proudly. "Gundam is my life. I watched every show so far, read all the manga and novels I could find, collected and built all kinds of kits and now I participate in Gunpla Battles! I decided to live here in Japan because not only do I love this country but it's also where Gundam originated. I know Gunpla Battle has spread worldwide but I want to play Gunpla Battle here! In this country! In Japan! I know it sounds silly and childish but-

"There's nothing wrong with being passionate, son." Dad nodded while smiling. "A real man must be passionate even if it's about toys or Idols."

"Oh remind me to burn those Kirara Blu-rays I found in your closet last night, dear." Mom glared and cracked her knuckles. Dad just hung his head and whimpered.

"Then that means you're going to fight in the world championship tournament, right?" Shizuka squealed, her eyes sparkling. "The Seventh Gunpla Battle World Championship is coming soon. The boys in my class have been talking about it non-stop and I've seen the commercials on TV. Are you going to qualify?"

"Hah! I wish." Vinny said bitterly and sat down. "I'd love to but I don't think I can take on the world championship yet. I need to hone my skills first before I can fight the big boys. So I'm just gonna keep building and training until I'm ready!" His smile was so boyish and earnest that I couldn't help but smile too. I gotta admit his enthusiasm is kinda infectious. Even Mom and Dad found his child-like excitement amusing and were nodding their heads. It must be nice to be passionate about something.

I carefully grabbed the Gunpla to get a good look. "So what kind of Gundam is this?" I never watched a Gundam show but I know it's a Gundam thanks to the iconic V-shaped fin on the head. It had a simple but sleek design and sported a red and white color scheme. Its only weapon was a samurai sword.

"My latest work." Vinny said proudly. "The MBF-P02 Gundam Astray Red Frame from the side-story manga, Gundam SEED Astray."

"It's well-made." I said and carefully moved the limbs. "I can tell you really worked hard building this thing and didn't half-ass it like some of my classmates. I gotta say I'm impressed." And no, I'm not flattering him. I really am impressed.

"Thanks!"

Mom then looked at her watch. "Okay kids, I know all this talk about Gunpla is exciting and all but it's getting late so finish your dinner."

I handed the Gunpla back to Vinny.

"Hey Isamu-kun, on the way here I spotted a model shop near the supermarket."

"You mean Juro's Model Works?"

"Yeah! That one! I wanna scope it out tomorrow and maybe even test out their battle system if they have one."

"They do actually and I hear it's a pretty big one too. Some of my classmates play there all the time."

"Sweet!" He said in English and pumped his fist. "Say how about tagging along, Isamu-kun? You could see me in action and maybe I could even get you interested. I could help you pick something easy to build and we'll-"

"I don't know…I'm a little busy tomorrow so I don't think I can go with you."

"Yeah. Busy moping around and thinking about Kaede!" Shizuka rolled her eyes.

"Shizuka!" Mom's voice was sharp and stern. "Isamu, I think you should go with him. Play tour guide and show him around town. I'm sure you could use the distraction to keep certain things off your mind even just for a while."

"But Mom…" I tried to protest.

"Isamu." My mom crossed her arms.

"Don't be rude to our guest now, Isamu." My dad joined in. "Papa will get mad."

"Oh…uh…listen…uh…I didn't mean to make this awkward. I was just inviting you and…uh…you don't have to come along if you don't want to." Vinny said sadly and looked like he regretted inviting me.

"Oh don't be silly. He's going to come because I'm ordering him to." Mom patted my head and Shizuka snickered again. "Right, Isamu-kun?"

"Fine, fine. I'll go with him. Sheesh." I sighed and continued eating. "But I doubt you'll get me interested. Not when everything is a mess." I mumbled under my breath.


After dinner, I took a bath and brushed my teeth in the upstairs bathroom. My parents were still down in the living room watching a horror movie. I could hear Dad screaming like a little girl and Mom was laughing non-stop. I wonder if she's laughing at my dad or at the movie - probably both. As I passed by the guest room I heard Vinny unpacking his stuff. A loud thud suddenly made me stop and I quickly turned around. I thought about going in to help but before my hand could even touch and turn the door knob I quickly changed my mind. I rubbed my forehead and sighed as I went back to my room.

I found Shizuka lying on my bed and reading one of my mangas. "What are you doing here?" I asked sharply and closed the door.

"So what do you think of him" She asked without glancing.

I sat on the floor and pressed my back on the bed. "He's a nice guy."

"Yeah he is. The whole Gunpla thing surprised me though."

"Me too. Honestly, I think Gunpla is pretty childish but then again a lot of adults participate in Gunpla Battles. I wonder if they're all like him."

"So you think you gonna get along with him tomorrow?"

"It's going to be fine. I know I sounded a bit rude a while ago but I don't really mind accompanying him and playing tour guide. Like I said he's a nice guy and I kinda admire his enthusiasm with Gunpla but it's just that…I saw Kaede again today."

"Well that's nothing new." She said in a mocking tone.

"This time it's different though and much much worse. It's not like the usual. I didn't bump into her on the way home or something. This time I saw her with someone and well…I can now tell you that the rumors are one hundred percent true." I smiled bitterly and told her what happened in school.

I told her every little detail.

"Nii-san…" She closed the manga and sat next to me.

"Shizuka, what the hell am I doing? It's not like she cheated on me or anything. She was already doing this before I confessed and-"

"It can't be helped. She's your childhood friend after all. Our childhood friend." She sighed. "You're not the only one who's depressed about this too, you know. Don't forget I treated her like a big sister and in some ways looked up to her. Now I'm very…disillusioned so you're not alone. Difference is that you're an idiot and you let this whole thing eat you up."

"I heard this sermon before."

"And I'm going to keep telling you until you pull yourself together. Geez." She puffed her cheeks. "You know Mom and Dad can be pretty weird but we got your back, Nii-san. And maybe Vinny-san too if you let him. I know we just met the guy but I have this feeling that he won't let you down. Call it intuition or whatever but my gut tells me he's going to be a good friend. Well if I'm wrong we could always kick him out." She giggled. "Anyway, like I said I got your back. Just say the word, Nii-san. I can open that window right now and I'm gonna crash through Kaede's room like some Special Forces agent and give her a piece of my mind. I can even dish out physical violence if you allow it. I'm told my figure-four leg lock is no joke. I can break her like a twig and make her apologize to you. Just say the word, Nii-san."

"Haha! As much I wanna see you do that I don't want to see my precious little sister to get arrested for trespassing and assault." I chuckled. "Anyway, thank you, Shizuka. You sure know how to cheer me up. I gotta admit you always give the best pep talks even if they terrify me sometimes. I guess I feel a little better now. Thanks again."

And that's my little sister. Yeah she can be annoying and bratty like any little sister but one thing is for sure about Shizuka: I can always count on her. The days after my confession to Kaede, she never left my side. My parents almost gave up on me but Shizuka never did. She was always there reminding me to find my balls and stop moping around like an idiot. One time she even dumped a bucket of cold water on my head just because she couldn't stand seeing me looking like a zombie. I believe that happened during the second week after the confession. Of course I got so mad I nearly hit her but in the end I realized she was just really worried about me. I think it's safe to say that she's the reason why I didn't completely become a shut-in and returned to school. I didn't want to disappoint her I guess and waste all her hard work cheering me up.


As expected I didn't get much sleep. I think I was out for three hours and spent the rest of the night staring at the ceiling and thinking about Kaede. Ten minutes before seven I got up, washed my face and brushed my teeth. Breakfast was more peaceful compared to last night's dinner. Shizuka just ate toast and left quickly to watch TV, Dad was more interested in the newspaper, Mom was reading a book about…uh…rare turnips, and Vinny was just quietly eating his bacon and eggs. He didn't say anything at all except for morning greetings and he wasn't his usual energetic self. I then noticed the bags under his eyes and realized I'm not the only one who didn't get enough sleep. He was probably up all night sorting his stuff and I immediately felt guilty for not helping him.

After breakfast, I graciously volunteered to do the dishes while the rest joined Shizuka in the living room to watch some retro magical girl show. Vinny has only been here for a day and looks like he's already fitting in with my family. I guess he finally recovered his pep since I could now hear him laughing along with my folks and sister. He then started shouting like a little kid when a commercial about the upcoming Seventh Gunpla Battle World Championship was shown. I chuckled and remembered what my little sister said about him last night. So she thinks he won't let me down, huh? Well we'll just see. Minutes later, I joined them and I gotta admit the next two hours was actually pretty pleasant.

So yeah…

One big happy family.

Me and Vinny got ready around ten. I guess this morning's family bonding got my spirits up enough that I'm now actually looking forward to this little trip. I was putting on my shoes in the entrance foyer when my sister sneaked up behind me and slapped my back really hard. "You want me to go out first and see if the coast is clear?"

"The heck are you talking about, my adorable little sister?" I stood up after tying up my shoes. I checked my pockets to see if I didn't forget my wallet and phone.

"Oh you know what I'm talking about. No need to be shy, my spineless big brother. Little sister is here to serve." She saluted.

"I'll manage, my adorable little sister." I patted her head.

"Fight-o." She lightly punched my chest and gave a warm smile. "No really. You want me to intercept if she's out there? That figure-four leg lock offer still stands, my spineless big brother."

"Please no." I sighed. "Oh by the way, I forgot to ask you this but did Vinny-san ask about Kaede? He may be a big kid but I'm pretty sure he's not an idiot. I'm sure he has an idea what's going on since you and Mom weren't exactly discreet talking about my situation last night. So I'm wondering if he got a little curious and asked you or Mom."

"Nah." Shizuka shook her head. "He's minding his own business but yeah, I think he has an idea. Mom also dropped a few hints yesterday before you arrived from school."

"That old hag." I gritted my teeth.

"Sorry for the wait." Vinny came out from the kitchen. "Your mom insisted on giving me spending money. I tried to refuse but she's really-"

"Oh c'mon, Vinny-san. Never turn down money. If you don't want it then I'll take-"

"Shizuka." I glared.

"I'm kidding! You two boys enjoy now!" She pushed us to the front door. "Oh and Nii-san, don't forget to buy cake. If you forget I'll kill you in your sleep."


We didn't run into Kaede when we left the house and I was very thankful for that. I wouldn't know what to do if we did see her. I'll probably say or do something really embarrassing or uncool and it would totally take a toll on my mental health. As we walked I glanced at her house and shuddered. I felt like an idiot for torturing myself like this. Vinny noticed the uncomfortable look on my face but he didn't say anything. He just smiled and offered me gum. As I played tour guide and showed him around town, I felt a little bit nostalgic and realized it's been a while since I hung out with someone other than my family. My depression cost me my friends and it nearly ruined my relationship with my family if it weren't for Shizuka's stubbornness. To be honest I wasn't really expecting much from this excursion but little by little I started to have fun and enjoy Vinny's company. He's a cheerful guy who talks a lot but not once did I feel annoyed or irritated by it. We went to the park (where he took pictures), the arcade (where we played every fighting game we could find), the used book store (where I bought a crap load of manga), and even the shrine on the outskirts of the city. Around one in the afternoon, we went back to the market center and had extra large beef bowls for lunch and we even had seconds! After that, we went to the mall and Vinny bought a bunch of caps and a jacket. We got separated for a while so I could wander around while he did his shopping but quickly regrouped when I spotted two female classmates of mine. We then went back to the park and rested for half an hour while drinking iced coffee. Vinny then stood up from the bench we were sitting on and looked at his watch. I guess it's time for the main event.

It was four in the afternoon and we found ourselves standing in-front of the model shop Vinny wanted to check. "Juro's Model Works." I said in a flat tone.

"Juro's Model Works." Vinny repeated and smiled.

"Watcha waiting for? Let's go in."

"Right!" He cracked his knuckles.

Before we could even take one step, the shop's automatic sliding doors slid open and my eyes went wide with shock when I recognized the person coming out. "Minaguchi!?"

"Huh?" My classmate raised one of her eyebrows when she noticed me. "Oh hey it's…uh…you. The gloomy guy in my class. What's your name again?"

"T-T-Tachibana." I mumbled.

"What?"

"T-T-Tachi...bana..."

"Hey speak up! I can't hear you."

"Tachibana Isamu!" I nearly screamed.

"Right. Tachibana-san." She crossed her arms. "So you into Gunpla too?"

"No." I immediately replied. "My friend here…"

"Your friend?" She turned her attention to Vinny. "Oh my…"

Vinny just smiled and waved his hand.

"Hmmm…" She studied him for a moment and then sniffed his hair. What the hell is wrong with this girl, I thought. Vinny just looked at me nervously and I returned a nervous look of my own. She then offered her hand and Vinny, ever the friendly guy, took it without hesitation. "My name is Keiko Minaguchi." She spoke slowly and in English.

"Oh hi Keiko-san." Vinny also replied in English. "My name is Vincent Harvey. Nice to meet you."

"I…like…girls."

"Oh…uh…I like girls too."

I placed my hand on my face and sighed.

"I hate…boys."

"Isamu-kun, she said she hates boys." Vinny went back to Japanese and nudged me.

"I know what she said." I rolled my eyes.

"Onee-sama is the best." Keiko spoke again. "Onee-sama is...uh...hmm...Onee-sama is my bride."

"Minaguchi-san, Vinny-san here can speak Japanese fluently. In fact, he's practically Japanese so please could you stop that."

"….."

"….."

"What? Why are you two looking at me like that?" I took a step back. This situation is getting weird and I really wanna go home.

"Mugyaaaaaaaaah!" Minaguchi suddenly shrieked.

"What, what, what!?"

"Vincent!" She pointed at him.

"Vinny."

"Vinny!" She spun around and did a ridiculous pose. "I'm bored. Onee-sama is not here."

"Onee-sama?" Vinny looked at me and I just shrugged.

"Let's Gunpla!"

"You mean Gunpla Battle?"

"Yes." She said in English and did a thumbs-up.

"Is…she challenging you?" I asked.

"Looks like it."

"Ugh. This is giving me a headache. I'll think I'll just wait here and-"

"Dude, why don't you watch our match?"

"Uh…"

"Pleeeeeease." He clasped his hands. "It wouldn't hurt and I wanna show my Fighter skills."

"Watch." Minaguchi poked my chest.

"Sheeeesh." I frowned. "Okay, okay I'll watch. You two weirdos win."

"Haha!" Vinny rubbed his hands. "It's settled then! Let me show you my world, dude." He pulled out an unfamiliar Gunpla from his backpack and smiled.

"Whoa. A Hyaku Shiki." Minaguchi whistled.

"Isamu-kun, I dunno what the heck is going on with you but I wanna help. I want you to experience the joys of Gunpla. I want you to experience our world, man. Experience our world and be a part of it!"


AUTHOR'S NOTES:

Muffin here...

Oh man. It's been like what, two or three years? Well it's good to be back and I hope I managed to improve my writing during my absence but I doubt it. So yeah feel free to criticize and point out any mistakes but please...be gentle lol.

This fanfic is kinda like an experiment for me. This is the first time I wrote in first-person perspective and I had a lot of trouble but thanks to Yopee and Shiro Tsubasa's help I think everything turned out fine. Well I hope. Anyway, major thanks to you guys. Be sure to check out Shiro's work. He's a cool dude. Oh and this is also the first time I tried writing drama so I apologize if the opening scenes are a little iffy. The thing about the Kaede character is definitely a product of my ero-manga obsession lol, particularly NTR. It's kinda obvious lol. This fic is definitely about Gunpla Battle and it will be mostly light-hearted fun. I just want the main character to have a messed-up backstory.

Aaaanyway! Enjoy the story and post reviews!