Chapter 6:

Chikako’s Date Part 2

Paradise on Earth


After her baffling statements, Nori opts to tell me a bit about her and what she remembers. Nori’s mom was the descendant of Zainichi Koreans, and her dad was the descendant of Japanese immigrants who lived in the US. When her dad taught English in Japan after finishing his undergrad, he met Nori’s mom who also just finished undergrad at the time, but who instead got a degree in communications she didn’t know what to do with. One thing led to another, and Nori was born.

Nori told me she spent the first few years of her life in Japan. Only to move back to the United States when her father decided to go back to school to get licensed in therapy after a few years of working an awful corporate job. On the other hand, her mom learned English and trained to be a mediations consultant to try to actually earn money with her communications degree. Nori remembers moving to the United States when she was about four years old or so. At home, she would speak Japanese since she is a citizen of both here plus the US and her parents wanted her to be able to speak the language. So, she would spend a lot of time as a kid studying and watching anime as a way of doing that, while her parents were busy doing their jobs. Which is how she became a “weeaboo” or as she would self-identify as an otaku.

Nori looked unusually solemn when talking about this. I don’t want to read too much into it because that would probably be a hassle, but it is weird.

Anyway, by the time Nori was done explaining this, the waiter had already brought our meals. When we ate, we went back and forth about various anime and manga and our opinions on them since I’m always up for talking about stuff like that despite the situation.

Some of the highlights included:

Realizing our favorite shows involved time travel, mine being Re:Zerum and hers being Steins;Barrier.

Me being appalled that she had only seen one idol show and hadn’t seen Bad Dunk, only read it.

Her being appalled that I had only seen Jasmine & Friday, and that I didn’t care about any of the directors’ other works.

Us making more jokes about Miyabaki along with her chastising me about not knowing Kanno.

In summation, a good time.

After she paid for both our meals and got up to walk away, she told me to bike her all the way to the edge of town where the mountains begin. I asked her “Why should I? It’s too far away and I barely know you.” She answered, “In exchange, you get to have a cute girl hugging your back along with the ice pop I’ll buy you later… or something.”

If it’s anything like Hayami’s hugs then we’ll crash before we make it past three blocks but “Whatever, sure,” I say as I roll my eyes and unlock Kaiyo’s bike. “I want to know what you meant by ‘not remembering anything’ anyway so…wait… we ate here and were all friendly on purpose, so I’d bike you there!”

“Tee hee, I have no idea what you mean. I’m just a dumb American returnee, aren’t I?” She teases while making a face like a certain iconic child who loves sweets.

Sigh

Maybe I should ask Hayami later how to get more out of these girls?

Because they sure are getting a lot out of me.

As I’m biking Nori to the far edges of my town towards the mountains, she states with the expectation that I’m going to disagree with her “I think Bevi is overrated.”

“Why did you say that?”

“What, are you offended?

“No, I’m just confused why you blurted out this Strike On Giant character completely unprompted.”

“It’s okay, I know you harbor a deep and unrestrained love for this man. If only you could be safe from harm in his arms. Unfortunately, your lust must be kept hidden from the society that doesn’t allow you two to be together!”

“Stop making this sound like a BL novel!”

From my guess, Nori said all that super animated because her weight kept shifting on my back.

“I just think he’s cool, okay? I think that’s a pretty normal opinion. It’s fujoshi trash like you that inflate him to the point of godhood,” I say, turning my head around. Something I have to quickly stop doing or else we run the risk of ramming into a garbage can or something.

“I’m offended. I’ll have you know I’ve never shipped Bevi with anyone in my time,” Nori proudly says.

“Wow, I’m so proud of you.”

“But…don’t tell me you wouldn’t be interested in Suka from Steins;Barrier?”

“Uh, are you?”

“Yeah? What are you into men?”

“No! It’s because I’m not, that I’m not interested!”

“Well, if you were okay with Kaiyo dressing you up in pink and paying for an hour with you then I guess you would admire Suka more than anything.”

“Why does everyone know about the dress?!”

Mentioning the dress is like getting four balls at this point. It’s basically free and people ignore the results after the inning is over.

“Hearing this makes me feel like Taru is your idol or something,” I say, trying to get back at her.

“Actually, it’s Christine, she also likes Suka because has taste, unlike you.”

“Now if you were as smart as Christine, then we would be getting somewhere.”

“In terms of what?”

“In terms of you becoming a functioning member of society.”

“I am perfectly functioning right now thank you very much. My expiration date’s in two weeks.”

“Are you dying!?”

“My bad, I meant two years.”

“What happens then!”

“Then I won’t be a cute high schooler anymore,” Nori said in a tone half-serious but also too serious for me to assume it’s a joke.

I think even she realized that because she went silent.

What are we teaching our young girls?

Though our conversation did make me curious about something.

“Hey Nori, I was wondering, do you have other role models? Christine is a pretty weird one I would say, she’s quite smart yeah, but she’s also not someone I would immediately think of,” I ask, trying to change the conversation.

“I have a few: Dash from Daigun, Sorairo, Yoseph, Gamina, Mab, Naka, among others,” Nori lists while counting the characters on her fingers. “What about you?”

“Not really, I have waifus or characters I like more so than characters I admire.”

“That explains a lot.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?!”

“When you don’t have anyone to admire then there’s nowhere for you to go. There’s no basis for where you should be. Like, as a human being.”

“Now look at you being all poetic.”

“I’m serious, Ideals are important!”

“I have ideals.”

“Like what? Because so far you give me the impression you don’t”

“That I value normalcy, above all else.”

“And you’re doing a pretty good job at that I see.”

“You’re like Giruto,” Nori blurts out before I can respond.

“You mean cool?”

“I mean a hypocrite. Giruto pretends to be an edgy solo-player when all he does is hang out with cute girls.”

“I’m guessing you don’t like Sword and O-line?

“Not really, no. I think it sucks.”

“Color me surprised.”

“I can tell you’re no—… we’re here,” Nori says, after which I come to a stop. “Stay here for a second.”

Nori jumps off the back of Kaiyo’s bike and starts walking the 50ft towards the overpass. I don’t immediately follow her because I have no idea what she is trying to do. she never really explained why she wanted to come out here but only that she wanted me to take her. Nori walks under the overpass and looks around, seemingly checking for something. It’s almost 7:00pm now so it’s not like the sun is going down or anything, it’s just hotter than Howser’s castle out here.

Nori, more quickly now, walks through the overpass like she’s at a swimming pool trying not to run and… slams into something?

What the hell?

She’s holding her nose oh crap.

Like a concerned parent, I bike over to where Nori is standing under the overpass and hastily ask “are you okay!”

Nori lets go of her nose and affirms “yeah, I’m fine. My hat took most of the hit for me.”

“What was that?”

“Take a look for yourself,” Nori tells me, way too calm for what just happened.

I set my gaze towards the area where Nori crashed into, and I’m absolutely dumbfounded. All I see is a relatively open and green area with mountains in the background and a road going through them. There’s nothing out of the ordinary at all, and yet now I find myself tepid to even take a step.

Despite everything in my body telling me to stop—I take a few steps, holding my hand out in front of me. I walk past the overpass and touch… something.

Something solid.

That doesn’t make noise.

It feels like a wall but in the most generic way possible.

What I mean is that there is no real texture to this “wall.” It just feels like an impassable space, a limit at the end of the world. Like an invisible wall in a video game almost, except this is real life.

I look back at Nori stunned as she stands there with her arms crossed, giving me this inquisitive expression like she crossed something off an imaginary list.

“Let’s call it “The Wall,” Nori tells me, saying “the wall” in English. “I think it’s less confusing that way.”

“It’s also similar to a certain time stopping ability, I’m sure that’s just a coincidence though.”

“Oh, totally,” Nori affirms with a nod.

Nori then looks at the ground, picks up a palm sized stone, and throws it at “the wall.”

It goes past the wall as if nothing was wrong.

While I’m staring, mouth agape at the stone that I now can’t access because I can’t go through “the wall” to get it, Nori yells “Look in the sky!”

I turn around to see her pointing at a flock of crows about to fly above the overpass. We both stop in expectation and turn towards the Mountains again where the rock would be. Instead of hearing a bunch of caws by injured crows, we see them continuing to soar through the sky.

“Why?... Why is this happening Nori?!”

“I… don’t know,” Nori honestly answers. “I just wanted to test something.”

“Test what?”

“If we could leave,” Nori states very matter of fact.

My eyes widen beyond anything I can remember, maybe they did during the dream last night, but I couldn’t tell.

What does she mean “leave?”

“Remember how I told you an hour ago that I didn’t remember anything before walking into Class 1-D?” Nori askes me.

“Yeah?”

“Well, my name on the board, I don’t remember writing that. The house I went home to yesterday, I don’t remember ever living in, but I somehow “knew” where it was. The parents I came home to, they act the same, but everything feels off—like they’re out of place. I talked to you yesterday, and I feel like I know you, but I can’t recall where from. I reference anime I couldn’t have possibly watched before I turned sixteen. I can speak Japanese way better than I ever could before. Honestly, my memory of anything since I finished 10th grade in the US doesn’t exist. Does my nervousness yesterday now make sense to you?” Nori prompts after giving me such an intense serving of information.

“Yes but… what are you saying?”

“Sato, I’m saying that something very wrong is going on here. I’m not sure what or who’s doing it, but my hunch was confirmed when I bumped into “the wall” a minute ago.

“So, what do you want me to do about it? Why are you wrapping me up in this, huh? I just want normalcy; I just want to go home and play my dating sims. I don’t want anything to do with “the wall” or any of this weird nonsense!”

I’m scared, this is a lot to handle.

Nori immediately recognizes my distress and consuls me that “No! I’m not telling you that we now have to climb in a giant robot and fight God or anything, no, no. This is much less scary than that, I mean you saw me earlier I was enjoying myself, right? This place isn’t terrible or anything, I like your town. But in the same vein as one of my heroes, I would like to see how this works out of curiosity. Like, what the properties are, if there are rules, and if we could break them. I brought you out here because I thought you could handle it, and I need your help because I can’t do it alone.”

I back up a bit and am barely able to get out while looking down at my blue shorts “I just… I…”

Nori walks over to me, grabs my right hand, looks me in the eye, and tells me “Please, I don’t have anyone else here and I don’t think Sachio can. And honestly, that girl is too sweet to be involved in this. So only you can do this, I…” Nori looks away.

Only to hold my hand even more tightly, intensely stare at me again and affirm with the kindest confidence I’ve seen from her all day,

“I need you.”

I don’t know what to say. Honestly, I don’t think anyone has ever needed me this much before in a scenario where I could actually help. I don’t want to do this, in fact, everything is telling me not to. If anything, my body is telling me to jump on Kaiyo’s bike and peddle like I’m in the Olympics all the way into Mitsuru’s arms. I would take that painful death over this anxiety any day. Thinking about Kon, ‘accompany’ would be really handy right about now, to Dike or anywhere else but here.

But looking into Nori’s eyes, I can tell she’s serious. A kind of sincerity you can’t really find anymore, outside of people like Sachio and even then, her sincerity is very worn down. This is strong, but also fragile, in the sense that I could crash her entire world depending on how I answer.

I’m not a hero. Just a kid, just Junichiro Sato.

I could decide not to care about this kind of thing. I could kick Chikako Nori out of the group chat and tell everyone to ignore her because she’s some crazy person who thinks there’s an invisible wall around our town that doesn’t make sound and only stops human beings.

Chikako Nori, the half-Korean girl from America who likes BL and catboys and old anime too much.

I could get rid of her at this very moment.

I could.

I sit there in the silence for a few moments, taking in the quaint nature around me. The continuous buzzing of the cicadas acting as a replacement for silence. Or, more accurately, whatever sound you could use to replace my thinking.

Ziing-Ziiiing

Ziing-Ziiiing

Eventually, with the little conviction I could muster, with everything telling me to scream and run, with my stomach spinning sick in continuous cartwheels, I am finally able to say,

“…okay.”