Chapter 11:

Chapter 10

Hachiko - A Hachishakusama Story

Maki and I were about to eat breakfast as we prepared for a day of shopping. My little sister Maki was going with me to help him pick out some clothes for Hachiko. I was really anxious to get this day started. Maki was in the kitchen making an omelette while I was at the table buttering toast for both of us.Bookmark here

“Hey Maki, where did you learn to make eggs anyway? ”Bookmark here

“I learned from our mother before she married that other jerk.”Bookmark here

I didn’t know how to respond to that so I put my head down and let out a defeated sounding grunt.Bookmark here

“Kazu, do you still blame yourself for that?”Bookmark here

Again, I had no clue what to say to her. I did blame myself. I blamed myself for that jerk our mother married. I blamed myself for the way he treated my sister. I blamed myself for everything that happened. Bookmark here

“Yeah.”Bookmark here

“It’s not your fault Kazu. She was happy and you just wanted to see mom happy right?”Bookmark here

Again, I just grunted in frustration. As much as I hate to admit it, Maki was like a ray of sunshine. My days are brighter with her around. I’d be lost without the shrimp. Lucky for me, that Maki took that grunt as me being in agreement because I had no words.Bookmark here

“I wanted to see her happy too, she’s our mother. It’s not your fault he turned out to be a jerk.”Bookmark here

“Yeah…”Bookmark here

“Kazu. All you did was say that you wanted to see her happy and if that meant a new father then it means a new father..”Bookmark here

“But look at the way he treated you Maki. He treated you like something he stepped in and couldn’t get off his shoe.”Bookmark here

“Yeah…he did....”Bookmark here

“What would have happened if I didn’t move out and take you with me?”Bookmark here

Maki grunted in frustration, kind of like I did not too long ago. She was getting into my habits a little too much.Bookmark here

Maki walked to the table with the omelette and placed the plate on the table but didn't sit down right away.Bookmark here

“Maki, do you know how many nights I stayed awake to make sure he didn’t try to hurt you?”Bookmark here

“Kazuuuuu...”Bookmark here

Well that sounded way too familiar. Like a certain 8 foot tall vampire creature lady. Only it came from a 4 foot tall shrimp. Maki put her head down before taking a seat at the table, across from me. She looked so sad. That was a sight I hoped I never had to see again. Bookmark here

“Poor Maki. I swear I’ll protect you.”Bookmark here

Maki reached across the table and put her little hands on top of my left hand. Bookmark here

“Kazu. You saved me from that jerk. I’m glad you took me with you.”Bookmark here

“Don’t you miss mom?”Bookmark here

“I do. I’m sure someday we’ll see her again...I hope.”Bookmark here

“Anything can happen right?”Bookmark here

“Yeah. I’m sure my awesome brother will find her.”Bookmark here

“You have an awesome brother?”Bookmark here

“Yeah but it’s kind of lame that toast is the best thing he can cook.”Bookmark here

And with that, I bit into both pieces of toast I put on the table and stared at Maki as I chewed.Bookmark here

“I’m eating your toast shrimp. Ha ha.”Bookmark here

“You suck Kazu! I take back what I said about you being awesome.”Bookmark here

“Really?! Are you sure?”Bookmark here

“Yeah! I’m sure you suck!”Bookmark here

Maki crossed her arms and pouted. She thought she was going to sucker me into making more by sulking. I mean, I was going to anyway. She can really lay on the guilt pretty thick. Bookmark here

“You’re not awesome at all. Can’t believe you want your cute amazing sister to starve.”Bookmark here

“You know I’m not falling for that right?”Bookmark here

‘You’re not?”Bookmark here

“No.”Bookmark here

“What if I make sausages?”Bookmark here

“I’ll think about making more toast. Maybe...”Bookmark here

Maki got up and ran to the kitchen to make sausage while I put more bread in the fancy little toaster thing I bought. It was actually the first thing I purchased when we moved out. Who wouldn’t want the perfect toast maker. But I had a question that was nagging me since she seemed a bit too excited to go with me, shopping. Bookmark here

“Hey Maki. Why do you want to go shopping with me anyway?”Bookmark here

Maki turned to me and flashed a big cheesy smile and said “I just want to go shopping with my brother.”Bookmark here

“Really?!”Bookmark here

I guess I didn’t realize it but I smiled when she said that. I guess I was happy that she wanted to come and I didn’t have to feel like I was dragging her along, like when we go food shopping.Bookmark here

“No. But it made you smile.”Bookmark here

“Just hurry up with the sausage before I eat your toast again.”Bookmark here

“You know I was kidding, right??? Kazu?!”Bookmark here

“Better hurry up with that sausage…”Bookmark here

“I’m coming, I’m coming!! Please don’t eat my toast again!”Bookmark here

Maki brought the plate of sausage to the table and I handed her a plate with two pieces of toast. I always make sure Maki isn’t at the table when I make her toast so she doesn’t see that I add a bit of honey. I’m guessing it’s that bit of honey that made her like my toast so much.Bookmark here

“Kazu, are you ever going to tell me how your toast is always better than mine?”Bookmark here

“No. You made fun of me one too many times, brat. Hurry up and eat so we can go shopping.”Bookmark here

She pouted for a little bit, after I said that but she ate her toast and cleared the table too. Bookmark here

We both headed upstairs to get ready to go shopping. Maki ran to the bathroom so she could shower first. That was fine, I wanted to hit my room first and jump on the forum to update my site visits. Now that I knew Hachiko was out there, I had to protect her any way I could. I posted a few pictures of the woods near the vault and made a post to try to discourage anyone from ever trying to go out there again. Bookmark here

“It’s me, Kazuhito, legend of the relic forum and greatest folklore hunter you losers will ever see! [insert evil laugh here] I’m here to report my findings on my last hunt. Remember the bank vault on the hill? The one that was supposed to have some monster in it? Well I went there and looked around. There’s nothing there. It’s just an empty vault covered by heavy brush, high grass and weeds. It was a true waste of time but I guess most of these are, right? They’re urban legends and folklore. It’s the thrill of the hunt that keeps us going. I wish there was a monster there because I would have fought it with my bare hands. On to the next on the list.”Bookmark here

So I checked the vault off the list and left my statement. Bookmark here

“That should protect her for a while. At least from the forum geeks.”Bookmark here

Soon after that I heard Maki scream down the hallway. “I’m done with the bathroom!”Bookmark here

“Okay!” Bookmark here

I walked down the hall to get in the shower but as I passed Maki’s room, she was standing there at her doorway, wrapped in towels like a mummy. Her hair, obviously her body and she actually had another wrapped around her waist. So we didn’t have a towel shortage, we had Maki using all of them. Ugh. Anyway, she was just standing there grinning and I couldn’t figure out why. Then as soon as I was about to pass her, she said…Bookmark here

“Kazu, we’re out of towels.”Bookmark here

I knew she used a lot of towels but didn’t think she would use them all before washing more. I had to do what any self respecting person would do. I had to use the shirt I was wearing as a towel. Bookmark here

“Guess I know what I’m going to pick up when we’re out.”Bookmark here

I headed to the bathroom to shower but then realized I should pick up towels for Hachiko too. I was definitely curious on how she kept clean and all that. I should bring more of that kind of stuff with me next time.Bookmark here

I finished showering, used my shirt as a towel and got dressed. Bookmark here

By the time I was done in the bathroom, Maki had already headed downstairs, I could hear her putting her shoes on. So I headed downstairs to put my shoes on and we headed towards the shopping district.Bookmark here

On the way to the shopping district, we passed several cats and Maki stopped to pet each one. I forgot how much Maki loves cats but unfortunately I couldn’t have one in the house.Bookmark here

“Maki.”Bookmark here

“Yes Kazu?”Bookmark here

“That’s like the 5th cat you stopped to pet.”Bookmark here

Maki started giggling and said, “Actually it’s the 7th.”Bookmark here

“You really love cats don’t you?”Bookmark here

“I do but I know you’re allergic and we could never have one, so I play with all the neighborhood cats on the way to the shops or school or when they look lonely.”Bookmark here

“Sometimes you can be incredibly sweet. You’re still a brat but a sweet brat.”Bookmark here

“You jerk! I know today is important for you so I’ll stop petting the cats.”Bookmark here

“You’re really showing your mature side lately. What are you trying to get out of me?”Bookmark here

“Nothing Kazu! I swear! I just know that you always protect me and take care of me and sometimes I go too far when I make fun of you. I don’t want you to hate me like HE does…”Bookmark here

“I doubt that’ll happen so relax.”Bookmark here

Maki was walking about 2 steps behind me but she caught up and grabbed my hand as we continued on to the shopping district.Bookmark here

“You okay Maki?”Bookmark here

“Yeah.”Bookmark here

“You just want to hold my hand?”Bookmark here

“Yeah.”Bookmark here

“Our father really did a number on her. I hope she’s going to be able to put it all behind her one day. Until then I have to protect her.”Bookmark here

Maki noticed the hat shop across the street and she’s never been in there. I’ve never even noticed it in all the time we lived there but I was probably never looking for it. Before I knew it, she was pulling me towards the store. Bookmark here

“Let’s go there. You said she needs to be out of the sun right? And you did draw a hat on that sketch you did. So let’s get her one of those really big beautiful hats like mom used to wear.”Bookmark here

“Hold on Maki! You’re going to pull my arm off.”Bookmark here

“Kazu, if an 11 year old can pull your arm off then you need to work out a little more, you nerd. Come on nerd boy!”Bookmark here

Of course I gave in. The brat had me wrapped around her finger. I don’t know if it’s because my wanting to protect her or I was just a sucker. So we jogged across the street and started staring in the window.Bookmark here

“You know, these hats are kind of expensive…”Bookmark here

Maki turned to me and just gave me a stare. I wasn’t sure what she wanted.Bookmark here

“What?!”Bookmark here

Maki just continued to stare at me.Bookmark here

“What?! What Maki!?!?”Bookmark here

Maki kept staring at me and I was getting frazzled because I don’t like not knowing why someone is staring at me. It made me feel so awkward.Bookmark here

“Would you stop staring at me like that!?!”Bookmark here

“Sorry Kazu. I was hoping you would take the hint.”Bookmark here

I stared at her and I’m pretty sure my stare was blank since I had no clue what to think. I had to ask her, “Has that ever worked before?”Bookmark here

“No. I guess not. Anyway, I think one of these hats would be amazing. It’s stylish, it’s wide so it gives more coverage from the sun and...I guess it reminds me of mom a little bit too.”Bookmark here

“I see. Ok, let’s go in and get a better look.”Bookmark here

“Yay!”Bookmark here

As we walked in the door, we saw this woman who kind of looked like our mother. She was wearing a hat that definitely caught our attention as we were both staring at her. Even if it wasn’t for the hat, before us stood a tall, statuesque woman with long jet black hair, wearing round sunglasses and a long sundress that actually looked like what I drew as something I want to get for Hachiko. The hat did obscure her face a bit so never really got a good look at her. But it seemed like we both had the same idea since we looked at each other and said, “That’s the one!”Bookmark here

The women jumped a little since we startled her.Bookmark here

“Sorry miss. Excuse us. It’s just that the hat you’re wearing reminds us of someone and we may buy one just like it.”Bookmark here

“It can’t be for the pretty, young lady here. This hat is almost as big as her.”Bookmark here

Before I could say anything, Maki jumped in and said, “No ma’am. It’s for his girlfriend.”Bookmark here

“Oh really? Well I hope she likes it, young man.”Bookmark here

“Thank you ma’am but she’s not really my girlfriend.”Bookmark here

“I see. Well young man, I’m sure whoever she is, that she’ll love the gift.”Bookmark here

“See Kazu! She thinks so too.”Bookmark here

The woman tried to hide her face a bit like she was trying to hide her identity. What I came to know later was that we actually ran into our mother and didn’t even know it. She never wore glasses and always had short hair. Before that moment, we hadn’t seen her in over 2 years. If we had a chance to do it over, I’m sure we could have figured it out. Kind of crazy right? You bump into your mother and don’t even realize it. It was almost as if she was watching over us from afar. She lived 2 towns over so there was no point in her being where we are. Funny how things happen, isn’t it? Bookmark here

“Maki, you don’t need to keep selling me on it. I’ll buy it, I'll buy it.”Bookmark here

While we picked up the hat and looked at it, the woman we were speaking to, slipped out the front door.Bookmark here

I could have sworn when she walked towards the door she whispered something. It sounded like, “I can’t believe I ran into them together. They grew up so much. Take good care of her Kazuhito.” Or maybe it’s what I was hoping for? At that point our mother was becoming a memory more than a reality.Bookmark here

We started walking to the counter and I looked around but the woman was gone. I guess when we went towards the door, she actually left.Bookmark here

“Kazu? That lady left? I wanted to thank her again.”Bookmark here

“Maki, you’re acting too mature today. Go back to being a brat.”Bookmark here

“Hey!”Bookmark here

I went up to the counter to buy the hat while Maki wandered towards the door. After I paid for the hat, I followed her out of the store. Though I noticed Maki giving me this odd look, kind of like she was trying to get my attention.Bookmark here

"Hey. Young man."Bookmark here

“What has that lady started…”Bookmark here

“Young man. Young man. Hey, young man. Are you paying attention to me?!”Bookmark here

I guess I didn’t notice it before that but she was reaching her hand out to me. So I grabbed her hand.Bookmark here

“Thank you, young man.”Bookmark here

“Usually you don't want me holding your hand. You always say you're old enough and won't get lost.”Bookmark here

Maki turned her head and I’m sure she was pouting before she said, “I know. Just do it okay!”Bookmark here

“Alright, alright. So Maki, where do we go next?”Bookmark here

As we started walking, Maki started pulling on my hand to get my attention. She noticed something I didn’t. There was someone watching us and I just didn’t see it.Bookmark here

“Kazu. Kazu. That guy over there. Look at him! Behind the old lady looking in the window. I think he's watching us!”Bookmark here

“Are you kidding me? That’s Sato. That’s definitely Sato. What the hell is he doing...”Bookmark here

“Sato?!”Bookmark here

“Hey Kazuhito. I see you're on a date. She looks a little young though.”Bookmark here

“Don't be gross dude. That’s my little sister, Maki.”Bookmark here

“Oh right. Hideki did say you had a sister who came to the store all the time. I knew she looked familiar. You’re the girl who always buys ice cream and gummi bears.”Bookmark here

Maki pointed at him like she was out of one of those Ace Detective games.Bookmark here

“You’re the guy who’s always reading manga when I come to the store!”Bookmark here

“Sato…..”Bookmark here

Maki bowed to Sato and said, “Thank you for taking care of my nerdy brother.”Bookmark here

“Maki!”Bookmark here

Maki bowed again and said, “I mean, thank you for taking care of my big brother.”Bookmark here

“Wow. What a well mannered young lady. Even if you did just tell my boss I read manga at work.”Bookmark here

“Come on Sato. Don’t make her head bigger than it already is.”Bookmark here

“Awwww. Don’t be mean, Kazuhito, she’s cute.”Bookmark here

Maki blushed and started acting like she’s shy. “Thank you mister Sato.”Bookmark here

“I’ll let you guys get back to your shopping. It was nice meeting you Maki.”Bookmark here

Sato walked off in the other direction. I was sure he only said hello because Maki spotted him. He definitely looked like he was trying to be sneaky or something. I wasn’t sure if he was spying on me or someone else though. Bookmark here

As Sato walked away, it looked like he was mumbling something to himself. Bookmark here

Sato mumbled to himself, “Hideki always tries to make Kazuhito seem like a bad guy but he seems alright. Wonder who the hat was for. That was a pretty big box so it can’t be for the shrimp. Maybe he really does have a girlfriend.”Bookmark here

After that little encounter I led Maki to the dress store that I noticed on my way to work the day before.Bookmark here

“ do you know about the dress store Kazu? Are you secretly wearing dresses? You do hang out with those other forum weirdos. You might be into some weird stuff...”Bookmark here

I stared at her for a few seconds and she flinched once or twice before I flicked her on the forehead. Wasn’t too hard or anything, just enough that she got the message that she was out of line for that one.Bookmark here

“Who do you think buys your clothes?”Bookmark here

“I’m guessing it’s not the clothes fairy…”Bookmark here

“Smartass. Let’s go in.”Bookmark here

So we walked into the dress store and Maki got as excited as a kid at Christmas. She was smiling, giggling and basically bouncing from rack to rack, looking at everything that caught her eye and that was basically EVERYTHING.Bookmark here

“I want to try that one! And that one! That one too!”Bookmark here

“And you were just calling me a weirdo for knowing where it is...”Bookmark here

“Yeah...sorry Kazu. Let’s get what we came for.”Bookmark here

“Maki. I will get you something for helping me. But only if you’re helpful.”Bookmark here

“Thank you, thank you, thank you, Kazu. You’re the best brother ever.”Bookmark here

“Can we take care of what we came for first?”Bookmark here

“Sure Kazu.”Bookmark here

Maki grabbed my hand again and she actually led me to the adult section. On the way to the adult section we passed a mannequin wearing what looked like an ordinary white sundress to me but it seemed to catch Maki’s attention and she pointed it out to me.Bookmark here

“Look at that one Kazu. It even looks like your drawing.”Bookmark here

“I guess it does look like my drawing though it’s all white. It’s nice but she has very pale skin. VERY pale. Do you think it would work? Maybe we should get something with color?”Bookmark here

Maki quickly looked around for things she could use to accent the dress. Seemed like my little sister knew exactly what she was doing. She may goof off and act like a slacker but Maki would always come through when I needed her to. Anyway, what was I talking about again… Right. Maki saw that ultra white dress like a blank easel for her to color. She was running around the store looking for things that would go with the dress. She ran up to items, brought them back and tried to match them up with the dress and this went on for about 10 minutes. I just stepped back and watched her try to figure this out. It’s easy buying clothes for an 11 year old but trying to outfit a woman, creature or whatever she is, was not.Bookmark here

“Hey Maki. You know I can’t buy the whole store right?”Bookmark here

Maki turned to me with this fake shocked look on her face and said, “We’re not rich!??”Bookmark here

I couldn’t help but laugh at her goofiness. Bookmark here

“Ok, Kazu, would you be alright with getting 2 outfits? Well it would be four because I have to sew them together to make something long enough for her.”Bookmark here

“That sounds expensive.”Bookmark here

...and with that, Maki looked up at me and gave me a thumbs up and a big smile, then she patted me on the shoulder and said, “No. Not at all bro. I got you.”Bookmark here

“That doesn’t sound reassuring from an 11 year old.”Bookmark here

“Just trust me and grab that white dress and the green one behind it.”Bookmark here

“You sure?”Bookmark here

“Yes Kazu. Now see the black skirts behind you? Grab 2 of those too.”Bookmark here

“You really sound like you know what you’re doing.”Bookmark here

“Peasant, have you not learned that I know everything yet?”Bookmark here

“Oh great. She’s doing her princess thing. I’m just going to nod and agree.”Bookmark here

Maki started looking back and forth before saying, “We need fabric. A lot of fabric. Like a lot, lot.”Bookmark here

“Hey princess, we don’t have to be extra fancy you know.”Bookmark here

“Awwwwwwww...okay Kazu. One really nice, almost fancy outfit to go with the hat and one casual?”Bookmark here

”Sure.”Bookmark here

“And you know how those basketball players are like realllllllllllllllly super tall? What about one of those track suits?”Bookmark here

“You realize that you made fun of me for wanting to get her clothes right?”Bookmark here

“I did? No, no. You’re imagining things Kazu. I would never make fun of my big brother, who’s trying to help out his girlfriend, who I haven’t met yet, and I hope he brings her home so I can see her in one of the outfits that I made for her. So I would never ever make fun of you.”Bookmark here

“Wow. I must be imagining a lot of things. But since that jerk Hideki made me take his hours a few times last week, I do have some extra cash so let’s do it.”Bookmark here

I wasn’t sure when she stopped listening but she definitely did. She was still looking around the store while I was talking, like she just assumed I was going to say yes.Bookmark here

“We need this and this, and that one too. Oh, oh! And material to make leggings and gloves.”Bookmark here

I just gave in and said, “Okay.”Bookmark here

Maki noticed how I just seemed to be going with the flow.Bookmark here

“Hey Kazu. You sure she’s not your girlfriend? You’re making this way too easy. I can’t even make fun of you.”Bookmark here

“That’s the barometer now? And didn’t you say you wouldn’t make fun of me?”Bookmark here

“Seriously Kazu. Do you like her? If you do then you should tell her.”Bookmark here

“It’s complicated.”Bookmark here

“Well you better make it uncomplicated, young man. Let’s get this stuff and then go get me some fabric. Your not girlfriend is going to look like a model when I’m done.”Bookmark here

“You talk a big game Maki. Are you sure?”Bookmark here

Maki grabbed a sparkly belt and handed it to me.Bookmark here

“We’re done here, young man. You have my permission to go pay for this stuff.”Bookmark here

“Wow, thanks princess Maki. Anything else?”Bookmark here

Maki handed me two dresses other dresses which were for her.Bookmark here

“These too, young man.”Bookmark here

“Yes, princess. Sure, sure.”Bookmark here

So I took the dresses from her and went to the counter to pay for them and the woman at the register smiled and said “You have good taste, sir. Your daughter will be happy.”Bookmark here

“Daughter?!”Bookmark here

“I’m sorry. Isn’t the little girl behind you your daughter?”Bookmark here

Wasn’t sure if Maki was following me or not since she was interested in just about everything in the store. But there she was behind me, with her hands crossed behind her back, trying to look innocent. Well I guess she always looked innocent.Bookmark here

“No. No no no. That’s my little sister. Do I look old enough to have kids?”Bookmark here

“I’m so sorry sir. Forgive my impertinence.” Bookmark here

The woman started bowing to me which was kind of embarrassing since it was just a simple mistake.Bookmark here

.Bookmark here

“It’s okay ma’am. Please stop bowing.”Bookmark here

The lady at the counter started wrapping up everything and then I felt a tug on my shirt. Maki was trying to get my attention. Bookmark here

“Do I really look that young, Kazu?”Bookmark here

“Maki. You are 11. Of course you do.”Bookmark here

“I’m sorry for the confusion, sir. I wrapped everything for you.”Bookmark here

Maki jumped in front of me when she sees the smaller box, wondering if it’s for her.Bookmark here

“Is that one for me?”Bookmark here

The lady at the counter handed it to Maki and said, “Yes it is, young lady.”Bookmark here

“You wrapped it so pretty! Thank you!”Bookmark here

I grabbed the other bags and said, “Thank you ma’am.” Bookmark here

Then as we started on our way out the store. Maki noticed another dress she liked and before she could say anything, I stopped her.Bookmark here

“Let’s go shrimp. I already got you two dresses right?”Bookmark here

“Awww...okay Kazu.”Bookmark here

Then she ran in front of me and spun around so she was facing me. She flashed that big bright smile of hers and said, “You’re right. Thank you bro. Let’s go get some food.”Bookmark here

“You know. I guess it wouldn’t be too bad if I ended up with a daughter like her. She may be kind of spoiled and a little bratty but she’s a good kid.”Bookmark here

We left the store and I decided I wanted ramen at the stand I usually go to when I’m working. So I pointed it out to Maki and asked her if she wanted to try it.Bookmark here

“Hey Maki. There’s this ramen stand across the street. It’s really good. I go there for lunch a lot. Want to try it?”Bookmark here

“Are you going to make fun of me if I get the mild one?”Bookmark here

“Maybe. I won’t know until we get there.”Bookmark here

“Kazuuuuuuuuu…”Bookmark here

“You could always get it with less spice, you know. This cook will make it just how you want.”Bookmark here

“Really?!!?!? Then, young man, I want to try the spicy ramen. But not toooo spicy.”Bookmark here

“That lady at the hat store really left an impression on you didn’t she.”Bookmark here

“Why would you say that, young man?”Bookmark here

We walked across the street to the ramen stand and I let Maki sit in my usual spot. The end seat and I sat next to her, on her right. The ramen shop cook came over to take our orders. I went first since I knew Maki would take a while figuring it out.Bookmark here

“I’ll have a number 3, spicy with extra meat and…”Bookmark here

Maki pulled on my sleeve to get my attention. Usually I order for both of us but I guess she’s ready to start doing it herself.Bookmark here

“Let me order Kazu. Please! I can do it.”Bookmark here

“Ok, tell her what you want, Maki.”Bookmark here

“I want number 2, no 4, wait...number 5. Spicy but not too spicy. Half as spicy? And can I have extra meat too, please.”Bookmark here

The cook gave her a smile and replied, “Ok, little lady. You got it.”Bookmark here

The cook started making our food. But of course I took notice of little Maki trying to be more mature.Bookmark here

“You’re really trying to show off today, little miss mature.”Bookmark here

While waiting for our food, 2 of Maki’s friends from school showed up. I was about to be introduced to her 2 best friends in a very loud way.Bookmark here

“MAKI!”, Kimiko screamed at the top of her lungs.Bookmark here

“Kimiko!? Asuka?! What are you doing here?!”Bookmark here

“I wanted to go clothes shopping but Kimiko just had to tag along.”Bookmark here

“Hey! You know you would be lonely without me. You agree with me, right Maki!?”Bookmark here

”I don’t know Kimiko...Asuka looks pretty mad right now.”Bookmark here

“Oh come on. That’s her normal face. Right Sukisuki?”Bookmark here

Asuka looked at Kimiko with that look you would see a disappointed mother give her child, and just shook her head.Bookmark here

“You’re mean Sukisuki. Anyway, Maki what are you doing out here? Are you with someone?”Bookmark here

I was sitting there looking at my phone and Maki pointed at me before saying, “Yeah ,my nerdy brother Kazuhito.”Bookmark here

“Thanks shrimp. I'll remember that.”Bookmark here

Kimiko replied to Maki with, “Don’t be like that Maki. I think he’s cute.”Bookmark here

Asuka followed up with, “Maki, you didn’t tell us you had such a handsome brother.”Bookmark here

“Ewwwww. Don’t perv out on my lame, nerdy brother. Soooooo lame.”Bookmark here

While the little ones were talking, I noticed someone at the other end of the stand. It was the hat store woman from before. She didn’t have the hat on which is why I didn’t notice her there before. The hat was next to her on a stool. It looked like Maki was okay with her friends so I went over to talk to the hat store woman again.Bookmark here

“Uh oh. Kazuhito is coming my way. Did he notice me without the hat? Does he realize it’s me? Hopefully my glasses are enough to fool him.”Bookmark here

“Hi again, ma’am.”Bookmark here

“Oh hello, young man. How are you and your sister?”Bookmark here

“We’re good ma’am. We’re still shopping. I saw you over here and my sister is with her friends so I wanted to say hello, and thank you again for earlier.”Bookmark here

“That’s so sweet. And it’s nice that you and your sister seem to get along so well.”Bookmark here

“Well, she’s all I have. My mother married this jerk and he was tormenting her, so when I moved out I took my sister with me. I hope my mother doesn’t hate me for it but I couldn’t let him keep tormenting her. She still has some pretty bad flashbacks.”Bookmark here

“That’s why my babies left? Kazuhito you broke my heart when you left without telling me why.”Bookmark here

“I’m sure your mother would understand. You did tell her, right?”Bookmark here

“No ma’am. I feel so ashamed and I don’t even know if I can face her now. I never told her because I didn’t want her to feel guilty. I still blame myself for kind of pushing for them to be together. She seemed happy and that’s all I wanted. I just wanted her to be happy. Do you think I was wrong?”Bookmark here

“Young man, it looks like you’re taking good care of your sister. You seem like you're doing well for yourself too. I think your mother would be proud of you if she knew just how well you two are doing. She might be a little heartbroken though since you did leave without telling her. Maybe you should call her or write her a letter.”Bookmark here

“You’re probably right ma’am. I should. I know the shrimp misses her and I do too.”Bookmark here

The lady stood up to get ready to leave. She already ate and I happened to catch her before she left.Bookmark here

“I think you should. I’m sure your mother probably misses you and wants to know how you two are doing. Call her, young man.”Bookmark here

She puts her hat back on, grabbed her bag and started to walk away.Bookmark here

“If you’ll excuse me, I do have to go. Take care, young man, and take care of the little lady. Maybe we’ll bump into each other again.”Bookmark here

“Thank you ma’am. I will contact her. I promise.”Bookmark here

“I’m sure she’s probably been waiting to hear from you, young man.”Bookmark here

“You know, since we saw you in the store, my sister has been calling me, young man too.”Bookmark here

She started laughing as she walked away. But she turned back to say one last thing.Bookmark here

“Tell the little cutie I say goodbye and I’m glad I could leave a little piece of me with her.”Bookmark here

“I will ma’am. Thank you again. Take care.”Bookmark here

After our conversation, I walked back over to the girls and my food was waiting there for me. Of course Maki noticed that I disappeared.Bookmark here

“Where did you go, young man?”Bookmark here

“I was just talking to that lady from before. The one from the hat store.”Bookmark here

“REALLY!?!? Why didn’t you tell me??!?”Bookmark here

“You were here with your friends.”Bookmark here

“It was Kimiko and Asuka right? Don’t want to screw up their names and really look like a lame nerd. I’m pretty sure Asuka is the one with the hime haircut.”Bookmark here

“You’re Kimiko. And you were Asuka, right?”Bookmark here

They both looked at each other before answering.Bookmark here

Both replied, “Yes sir, Mr big brother.”Bookmark here

“Wow, they’re so polite.”Bookmark here

“Come on guys. Don’t make his head bigger than it already is.”Bookmark here

“Hey! My head is the appropriate size.”Bookmark here

“That’s what you say if you think your head is big. Big head! Big head!”Bookmark here

“Maki, I was about to invite your friends to join us and buy them ramen but I guess I don’t have…”Bookmark here

“Okay! I’ll be good! Sorry Kazu.”Bookmark here

“Brat.”Bookmark here

Of course the talkative Kimiko jumped right in with, “You’re really going to buy us ramen mister big brother?!”Bookmark here

“Yeah. Take my seat. You guys can sit together.”Bookmark here

Asuka and Kimiko looked at each other like they were in a competition and getting ready to do battle and both of them exclaimed at the same time. “I want to sit next to mister big brother!”Bookmark here

“ do I solve this one.”Bookmark here

“That wouldn’t be fair. I’ll move down and sit on the end, and let Maki sit next to me. This way you guys can sit together.”Bookmark here

As usual, Kimiko jumped in first again, “Awwwwwwwwwww…you’re right mister big brother. We’ll sit over here on the other side of Maki.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, you’re right.”Bookmark here

So I got the cook’s attention to order for Maki’s friends, “Excuse me, miss, can we have two more ramens for the girls? Thank you.”Bookmark here

I pointed at Maki’s bowl to tell her I wanted 2 more like that. Mine was spicy beef but Maki’s was chicken and a little less spicy so I figured that would be good for them.Bookmark here

“I got chicken for you two. Only a little spicy. Hope that’s okay.”Bookmark here

I was expecting Kimiko to be the first one to say something but Asuka put her hand over Kimiko’s mouth and spoke first. I guess she knew Kimiko would beat her to the punch too.Bookmark here

“Mister big brother is so nice. Thank you mister big brother!”Bookmark here

“Yeah Maki, we might have to take him from you. Thank you mister big brother.”Bookmark here

Maki grabbed onto my right arm like someone was really trying to take me away from her.Bookmark here

“He’s mine! No one can have him!”Bookmark here

“Maki, calm down. I’m sure they were joking. Right girls?”Bookmark here

“Yeah. We were joking Maki.”Bookmark here

Asuka pointed at Maki before saying, “You really love him, don’t you.”Bookmark here

“N-n-n-n-n-nooooo. I’m not saying I do but I’m not saying I don’t…”Bookmark here

“You girls seem like you get along well. Thank you for taking care of my bratty, spoiled, loud, obnoxious sister.” Bookmark here

Maki started pouting and the girls laughed. The cook also laughed and tried to hide it but she heard that too.Bookmark here

“....Kazu.”Bookmark here

I put my arm around Maki and kissed her on the forehead. Maki started blushing and put both hands on her forehead like she’s trying to cover the spot where I kissed her.Bookmark here

“Ewwwwwwww…”Bookmark here

Kimiko took this chance to tease Maki and Asuka followed right behind her.Bookmark here

“I would let mister big brother kiss me on the forehead.”Bookmark here

“Me too.”Bookmark here

The cook joined in on teasing Maki too.Bookmark here

“I think I would too.”Bookmark here

Maki grabbed my arm again and meakly said, “he’s mine.”Bookmark here

“Alright, you guys heard the princess. I’m hers and no one else can have me.”Bookmark here

The two friends and the chef at the same time said, “Awwww...not fair,” and laughed.Bookmark here

The cook decided to try to calm Maki after that. She said to her, “I’m sorry, little one. I didn’t mean to tease you. Just so you know, your brother comes here for lunch and I tease him too but he didn’t tell me that the little sister he talks about all the time, was such a cutie.”Bookmark here

“You talk about me Kazu?”Bookmark here

“Yeah…”Bookmark here

“All the time?”Bookmark here

“I don’t know…maybe.”Bookmark here

Kimiko jumped in to say “Now I really might have to steal him. A handsome brother who cares about his little sister. He’s perfect.”Bookmark here

Asuka flicked Kimiko hard on the forehead. If I used that kind of force on Maki, she might go flying across the room or through the wall or something. That girl is ruthless.Bookmark here

“Hey! You know you were thinking it too. He’s so much better than your mean brother.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, but I didn’t say it out loud. Idiot.”Bookmark here

“Maki knows I would never steal her brother. Right Maki?”Bookmark here

Maki turned and flicked Kimiko on the forehead too.Bookmark here

“Come on! Stop doing that, I don’t want brain damage.”Bookmark here

“So that’s where Maki gets it from.”Bookmark here

Maki and I finished our ramen and got up to leave. We still had more shopping to do. So I pushed my bowl towards the cook. Maki noticed what I did and she pushed her bowl forward too.Bookmark here

The cook decided to use the girls’ name for me when she asked if I was leaving.Bookmark here

“You’re leaving mister big brother?”Bookmark here

“Her too?”Bookmark here

“Yeah. Me and the shrimp still have more shopping to do. Thank you for the food.”Bookmark here

I bowed and Maki followed my lead. She bowed and said, “Thank you for the food.”Bookmark here

“She really is trying to be more grown up.”Bookmark here

Kimiko jumped up to say goodbye but she ended up knocking her food over.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry Miss cook.”Bookmark here

“Kimiko! This is why me and Maki always have to look out for you. Dummy.”Bookmark here

“Sorry Asuka. I didn’t mean to...”Bookmark here

I felt bad for Kimiko, she took that nuclear forehead flick and survived. So I rubbed her forehead trying to make her feel better.Bookmark here

“It’s okay Kimiko. I’m sure Miss Cook knows you didn’t mean to. Right?”Bookmark here

“Yes, don’t worry about it little darling.”Bookmark here

“See? It’s okay.”Bookmark here

Kimiko hugged me which agitated Maki.Bookmark here

“Thank you mister big brother. You really are awesome.”Bookmark here

“A-a-a-a-a-a-a-suka...she she she she...m-m-m-m-my Kazu.”Bookmark here

Asuka grabbed Kimiko and pulled her off me. Then she pushed her head down to bow.Bookmark here

“Sorry mister big brother. She’s so impulsive and uncontrollable. She’s like a wild animal”Bookmark here

“Hey!”Bookmark here

“It’s okay. Really. But could you guys just call me Kazuhito? Mister big brother sounds too formal.”Bookmark here

“Seems like this Asuka is the one guiding their behavior. She seems so calm and collected. Good to know that Maki has friends who seem to care about her.”Bookmark here

“Ok Mr Kazuhito. I’ll make sure the idiot calls you that too.”Bookmark here

“Hey!!!!!!”Bookmark here

We grabbed our bags and Maki grabbed my hand as we left.Bookmark here

“I’ll see you guys at school tomorrow. Bye!”Bookmark here

“Bye Maki. Bye Mr big broth--”Bookmark here

Asuka smacked Kimiko in the back of the head.Bookmark here

“That poor girl. She’s going to have no brain cells left after these two are done with her.”Bookmark here

“Bye Mr Kazuhito!”Bookmark here

We started to walk away to continue our shopping trip. Kimiko and Asuka sat back down to finish eating. The cook gave Kimiko another bowl since she spilled the first one.Bookmark here

“I’m not an idiot Sukisuki.”Bookmark here

“Sorry Kimiko. That was a little harsh.”Bookmark here

The cook child in on their conversion, “You two seem like you’re good friends. You should try not to be so hard on each other. You don’t want to grow apart.”Bookmark here

“That’ll never happen. Asuka needs me.”Bookmark here

“I do?”Bookmark here

“Yeah! Or you would be a boring, knowitall with no friends.”Bookmark here

Kimiko was joking around but Asuka took it kind of seriously.Bookmark here

“Really? Look at the way you flirted with Mr Kazuhito. You need me to keep you in check or you’ll do something stupid. Stupid.”Bookmark here

“Girls. No fighting.”Bookmark here

They both looked at the cook and at the same time said “We’re not fighting!”Bookmark here

Kimiko grabbed Asuka and hugged her hard.Bookmark here

“See. We’re not fighting Ms. Cook. We’re best friends.”Bookmark here

“Let go of me you gorilla. How are you so strong!?”Bookmark here

The chef was holding a ladel and gave them the look of a mother who was about to smack them into next week.Bookmark here

“I know you girls aren’t fighting in my shop, right?”Bookmark here

“No ma’am! I’m sorry! Sukisuki is sorry too! Right?!?”Bookmark here

“Sorry Ms. Cook. No fighting. Got it.”Bookmark here

The girls put their heads down and kept eating.Bookmark here

“You always get me in trouble Kimiko.”Bookmark here

“Sorry Sukisusu…”Bookmark here

“Would you stop calling me those goofy names.”Bookmark here

“No. You’re my Suki.”Bookmark here

“You dummy.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.