Chapter 39:

Ch.15 Errands (3/5)

Sleeping Princess


The day was slightly warmer than usual in the winter and this put my spirits up a bit. We drove in silence for a moment as I found myself twisting the ends of my hair. But with my hair up in a ponytail now it gave me fewer strains to mess with.Bookmark here

"You look professional, Madoka-san. I like it."Bookmark here

"H-Huh?"Bookmark here

"You didn't have to dress up to come out with me...but I appreciate that you did so. You look mature...it suits you."Bookmark here

Why was she doing this? Complimenting me like we're on some kind of date or something? I found my left finger tapping away at my thigh. It was so loud in my head that...I hoped Mari-san wouldn't pick up on it. So, instead of replying, I went to the next best option...Bookmark here

“S-So, where to first, Mari-san?”Bookmark here

She just giggled likely noticing my reddened cheeks. Well, that's what I had to assume anyway.Bookmark here

“First I need to stop by a writer’s apartment. She hasn’t responded to the publication notice of her novel…something tells me she’s late and trying to hide until it’s ready.”Bookmark here

With a sharp sigh, she shrugged her shoulders as she turned the corner.Bookmark here

“Sorry that it’s nothing more exciting…like a criminal on the run.”Bookmark here

“Criminal on the run. Mari-san catching criminals…”Bookmark here

I giggled as I mumbled softly. That's when it happened, I began picturing Mari-san in an officer outfit...Bookmark here

But it would have to be the kind with a tighter skirt...Not that I'd want to see her figure or anything. That's when I came to the realization of what I was just doing...So, I rebuked my thoughts once again.Bookmark here

“What, you don’t think I’d make a good detective like in those dramas?”Bookmark here

I looked out the side window now. That officer outfit stayed in my mind until I shook it loose. But a fragment of it idolized in my chest causing my stomach to hurt slightly.Bookmark here

“…Well, you are really smart so…I could see it..."Bookmark here

“Hm? What did you say?”Bookmark here

“Oh, nothing…”Bookmark here

At a failed attempt to cool down my chest, I looked down at my thighs.Bookmark here

“No! I wanna know. What did you say, Madoka-san?”Bookmark here

Air spat from my mouth. Mari-san was certainly relentless and it was...kind of cute.Bookmark here

“I said…you’re pretty smart, Mari-san.”Bookmark here

With a shrug of her shoulders and a slight giggle, she turned the next corner.Bookmark here

“I don’t get why everyone says that. I’m just your normal, boring woman.”Bookmark here

I could hear a hint of something in her voice. As if she honestly thought that was true. For a while, the conversation between us died down which ended up being good for my heart. With all my fidgeting and nervousness, knowing that we're basically stuck in an enclosed box together I couldn't settle down. This was nothing like how when my mom took me places...I was stuck in a space, trapped with the woman that my body seemed to...be attracted to. How else was I supposed to handle this situation?Bookmark here

After around five minutes or so in silence, we pulled up to a set of apartments. The place was pretty run down, to be honest. I wondered if the life of a writer is this harsh? If I had to live in a place like this to get by writing the stories I love...would I be willing to do that?Bookmark here

We stepped out and made our way up the steps to the second floor. The view of the cityscape was breathtaking from up here as I looked out into the distance. It contrasted the rundown estate as if this view shouldn't exist here in the first place. As I followed Mari-san she made her way to a door marked with room number, 203. The name of the resident was a singular, Yashiro. No family name...just a given one. This was already suspicious to me.Bookmark here

“Yashiro-san!”Bookmark here

After a knock or two, Mari-san cried out again.Bookmark here

“Yashiro-san! It’s Koda Mari from the Ojima Editorial Bureau…”Bookmark here

That’s when the door aggressively opened, causing us to back up slightly.Bookmark here

“Mari-san! I’m glad to see you…"Bookmark here

Suddenly, she glared at me with an intense passion. I could feel overwhelming darkness pouring from her veins, causing me to back up slightly. Bookmark here

"Eehh, who is this, Mari-san?”Bookmark here

The woman with dirty brown hair and wildlife dark eyes dissected me with her deathlike glare. She stood around my height with horrid dark rings circling under her eyes making her seem far older and tired than I'm sure she was. Still wrapped in the morning gown at nearly noon she struck me as...quite the lazy individual. If I had to guess an age range...maybe she would be a little older than Taylor-sensei...around 24 or 25? But I couldn't tell with how poorly kept she appeared.Bookmark here

“Where are my manners, please, come in!”Bookmark here

At her invitation, we stepped inside. The place was…let’s just put it bluntly, a complete pigsty. I wanted to clean the entire place up. But I held off on to my urges as I slump my shoulders. There are cups of ramen as far as the eye can see and piles and piles of novels lied about all the rooms. It would seem the dishes are even piling up... Everywhere felt cluttered and unkept.Bookmark here

“Madoka-san this here is Yashiro-san, the writer I spoke about…And Yashiro-san this is Nakagawa Madoka-san. She’s my stepdaughter but today she’s an intern and likely my replacement soon.”Bookmark here

“Intern, replacement? What are you talking ab-”Bookmark here

I questioned but all I get in response was a tug on my finger and a wink from Mari-san. It sounded as if Mari-san was having fun so, I shrugged and played along with her antics.Bookmark here

"Eeeehhh, but you said you're not going anywhere, Koda Mari-san!"Bookmark here

In a fury, the writer kicked back and fell to the floor. With all her might she tossed about on her wood tile, making all kinds of a ruckus. I was slightly afraid the neighbors might complain about it.Bookmark here

Mari-san just held her stomach while giggling in amusement but to me, it looked like a temper tantrum from a child. With all the wailing she did along with her hands and feet smashing into the floor, I was afraid she might break a limb on her body.Bookmark here

"It's not fair! I don't wanna work with that mean redhead! I only want to work with Mari-san!"Bookmark here

The troublemaker sighed deeply, she was seriously enjoying all this. After letting her sprawl about for a minute Mari-san finally spoke up...Bookmark here

"Oh gosh, you're so gullible Yashiro-san. I didn't even have to go far with that lie. But seriously, she's going to be observing me today, Yashiro-san. Don't worry...I'm not going anywhere right now."Bookmark here

"R-Really Mari-san?"Bookmark here

The now all-tuckered-out writer beamed up in an instant.Bookmark here

“Please take a seat then!”Bookmark here

The host offered but...there was nowhere to actually sit. Mari-san however found a cardboard box and casually made herself a home...like this was normal to her.Bookmark here

“Ahhh…Mari-san?”Bookmark here

Without a word, she took my hand gently. With a calming expression, she pulled me down next to her. Out shoulders touched briefly as I found my hips caressing hers. We were like Siamese twins now as we watched Yashiro-san pace around the room relentlessly. Her darkened eyes strain so far that my own began to hurt just watching her.Bookmark here

“Ah…Yashiro-san. The manuscript?”Bookmark here

Mari-san cut right to the point. However, her charismatic smile stayed on her face. She was really good at saving face. But to me...she seemed a tad frustrated.Bookmark here

“Oh…well you see. I…don’t have it.”Bookmark here

“Well, this is the fourth time this month that you…ah, don’t have it. My boss has already threatened to drop your story, you know?”Bookmark here

“But you don’t understand! I…want to bring back the dog, Yashiro-san.”Bookmark here

With a sharp sigh, Mari-san sat straight up in a seeming fury.Bookmark here

“You can’t bring back the dog! Your readers would hate you for the inconsistencies and it’ll ruin the entire story. Do you know how much turmoil you caused the last time we had to retract the prints because you didn't want to kill off a character?”Bookmark here

That's when my mind flew back to that morning with Mari-san screaming "She should have just died!" Maybe this is what she was talking about? But then I remembered her saying "He." Not "Her."Bookmark here

Yashiro-san leisurely danced about the room. Something told me she wasn’t all there in the head. As she talked she wouldn’t even look at us. It was as if we were a figment of her imagination.Bookmark here

“When can we expect your manuscript then, Yashiro-san?”Bookmark here

“Next week!”Bookmark here

“You said that three weeks ago, Yashiro-san!”Bookmark here

“Intern!”Bookmark here

Without realizing that she was referring to me, Yashiro-san rushed over and stood over me.Bookmark here

"Answer me, Yashiro-san!"Bookmark here

Mari cried from the side. Her facade was casually breaking now.Bookmark here

“Ah…yes?”Bookmark here

“Have you read my books? The Ashe of the Fallen?”Bookmark here

“Ah….no, I haven’t.”Bookmark here

That’s when it dawned on me who she was.Bookmark here

“Wait, you write the Ashe of the Fallen series?!”Bookmark here

That was a super big story, especially to preteens. But I thought the writer of that series is a male. A bunch of my old schoolmates used to read it. If I recall, it's a fantasy romance about extraterrestrials meeting everyday girls and falling in love. I don't know the fine details but it's certainly the kind of book a teenager is meant to connect with. I was certain they told me countless times that the writer...was a male. Maybe...Yashiro-san is the male pen name that she goes by...but then what's her real name?Bookmark here

“Don’t patronize my stepdaughter, Yashiro-san.”Bookmark here

Mari-san aggressively cut in while hugging my side. I could feel her soft breast push up against my shoulder. Normally, I wouldn't mind something like that...but nowadays with my feelings being assaulted so regularly...I've become quite sensitive to this sort of embrace.Bookmark here

"Ehhp!"Bookmark here

I squealed as I felt her nails brush against my tender handles. I don't think Mari-san realized it but...I wanted to rush out the door now. My...body was getting warmer by the minute. Could it be that Mari-san does these things...without thinking?!Bookmark here

It didn't help that Yashiro had her rugged face close to mine. Too many odd sensations were assaulting me at once and I wanted to explode!Bookmark here

But as abruptly as this all happened, she stood up and walked away. Rubbing her ears Yashiro-san continued.Bookmark here

“Well, intern. Believe it or not, that book wouldn’t have reached the 6th volume without the help of your stepmom here.”Bookmark here

That's when Mari-san took her arm from around me causing my body to cool down slightly. As I exhaled deeply I questioned Yashiro-san further.Bookmark here

“What do you mean?”Bookmark here

Mari-san visibly looked disturbed when she brought this up, however, rubbing the back of her neck.Bookmark here

“Do you really have to go into his, Yashiro-san?”Bookmark here

The writer approached a messy table and lifted a fair amount of papers.Bookmark here

“Here’s the manuscript. You knew I had it finished a while back, didn’t you Marita-san?”Bookmark here

“Don't call me Marita-san...and yep…you just love to give our boss a heart attack.”Bookmark here

“You see intern. Mari-san stood up for me and even fought to give me a month grace period in my time of need. Without her, they would have canceled my story.”Bookmark here

“Mari-san did?”Bookmark here

With a huff as she read Mari-san stuck her pinky in her left ear.Bookmark here

“All I did was lie… Said you had an emergency and needed time off, Yashiro-san.”Bookmark here

With a sharp exhale she continued...Bookmark here

"But in actuality...you bought a new bird and got too carried away with not working..."Bookmark here

"But you put your neck out for me Mari-san. You could have been punished if your boss found out..."Bookmark here

"It was nothing...now enough."Bookmark here

Mari-san chuckled. Even if she made it sound like it was nothing…this black-haired annoyance saved this writer's career. Now that I thought more about it…I bet Mari-san does a bunch of things for others…and probably doesn't believe it's too much.Bookmark here

“Modest…”Bookmark here

“Hm?”Bookmark here

Mari-san turned to me in bewilderment.Bookmark here

It would seem that she was too engrossed in the story and didn’t catch my mumbling words.Bookmark here

“…It’s nothing.”Bookmark here

When I met eyes with her…that fire burned slightly in my stomach. So, Mari-san is the modest kind, isn't she? If the past me did find something about her that I don’t know…maybe I’ll be able to piece together me from the past. Slowly...I was beginning to understand my feelings, wasn't I?Bookmark here

She went back to the manuscript for a moment and then after what felt like a few more minutes she nodded.Bookmark here

“It’s great. The quality is outstanding but…I have a few changes I suggest you make. Firstly, starting off with the transition from here to there. If you flip the context the other way it flows better. It changes the emotional appeal for the reader. The last thing you want is for them to set the book down in the first place..."Bookmark here

As Mari-san list off her critiques, it was a new side to the ever joker, Mari-san. Her professionalism attitude verged on that of a mature scholarly woman. This was a side to Mari-san I haven’t seen before. She took her job seriously, despite how she would joke around at home. So, I sat silently as she continued her explanations.Bookmark here

After what felt like five or so minutes of suggestions, she concluded her findings and we made our way to the door.Bookmark here

“Peace, Marita-san!”Bookmark here

“Don’t call me, Marita-san…”Bookmark here

Yashiro-san chuckled slightly.Bookmark here

“Eh, Intern!”Bookmark here

“Huh? My name is Nakagawa Madoka.”Bookmark here

Slightly annoyed by the sudden nickname I was given.Bookmark here

“Stick by this chick. She’ll get you places.”Bookmark here

Stick by her? Those words glued to my mind. Then suddenly, the morning dream filtered back into my mind. The one with Mari-san holding me in her embrace...but calling me by mom's name...Bookmark here

The door shut, waking me from my delusion. I couldn't help but judge my daydreams as I turned to Mari-san still with the manuscript in hand.Bookmark here

“What a mess of a person…”Bookmark here

I added.Bookmark here

Mari-san chuckled turning back to me.Bookmark here

“Never become like her, Madoka-san.”Bookmark here

My eyebrow raised slightly.Bookmark here

“Did you see her place?”Bookmark here

“Oh, yeah that’s right. You’re a neat freak. Hehe!”Bookmark here

She cried while her soft finger bonked my nose. That’s when it came to me, she was teasing me. Did she expect that reply? I jolted back.Bookmark here

“D-Don’t bully me, Mari-san.”Bookmark here

“Sorry, I couldn’t help it!”Bookmark here

She laughed as she walked away from me. She was treating me how I treated Hana-chan earlier today...maybe I had that coming. My face felt like fire was walking on top of it...was the entire day going to feel like this or will I get used to it soon enough? I was beginning to get dizzy now.Bookmark here

“Come on Madoka-san, next we have to drop off the manuscript to my boss. She's been waiting for weeks to see this.”Bookmark here

“R-Right!”Bookmark here

I raced after her, sticking to her just like Yashiro-san told me to.Bookmark here

Bookmarked
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