Chapter 8:

Tokyo: Chapter 4

The Kimochi Warui Diary

Jotaro and I were at opposite ends of the elevator, standing… waiting. Between us, Neko-chan was in her own world, humming a tune while swaying side to side. Bookmark here

Finally, we reached the fourth floor. The elevator doors slid open, revealing a dark room. Bookmark here

Through the dim lights, we could make out three rows of tables. Behind some of them were Japanese men, some of them in full suit and tie and well into their thirties. They were intently watching something off to the side, just out of our view. Bookmark here

We stepped out of the elevator to see what they were staring at: Bookmark here

A Japanese girl singing and dancing on a stage. She was dressed in full maid get-up, similar to Neko-chan’s, complete with the white leggings, lacey frills, and even her own set of animal ears. Her shoulder-length, black hair had a bit of a curl to it. Honestly, she was totally my type, but I didn’t want to stare.Bookmark here

The maid was finishing her performance just as we got in. After the lights returned to their normal brightness, even more maid girls came out from the back to start fulfilling orders for the customers.Bookmark here

“Buu~” said Neko-chan. “It looks like you just missed a performance from our top maid! But if you come back tomorrow, too, then maybe—”Bookmark here

“That’s fine,” I said. “Let’s just take our seats.”Bookmark here

Neko-chan led us to the other side of the stage, to an area with restaurant-style seating. We took our seats and she handed us the menus. Bookmark here

After bingeing on packaged foods from 7-Eleven, we supposed a dessert was fitting, even if it was still early in the day.Bookmark here

“I’ll have the ice cream sundae,” Jotaro said. Bookmark here

“For me, it’s the melon soda.”Bookmark here

“Good choices, masters!” Neko-chan said. “And by the way, when you select items from this part of the menu, you get a special prize!” Bookmark here

Without caring to elaborate, she zipped off to the kitchen. Bookmark here

While we waited for Neko-chan to return, I suddenly noticed the music playing on the ceiling speakers. Where have I heard this before…? Bookmark here

It was an extremely sugary Japanese pop song—one that I knew was popular in the online anime communities, but I just couldn’t pin down the name. Bookmark here

Frankly, I really liked this kind of music, and I’d listened to similar songs hundreds of times. Adding this song to one of my playlists for later would be an incredible treat.Bookmark here

I wondered if Neko-chan could tell me the song name. No… I mean, she just works here, right? How would she know? Besides, I’d be outing myself as an otaku by asking. Even if I tried to play it off like I was just curious… Nah, there was no way.Bookmark here

Talking about this kind of stuff in public just isn’t acceptable 99% of the time. Go ahead and try, but you’ll be forcing yourself to face all kinds of scrutiny. Here are your options:Bookmark here

1) Stand proud for what you like, no matter how weird it is, and face the social ramifications Bookmark here

2) Pretend you actually have nothing to do with it, creating some kind of convenient lie (no one will believe you)Bookmark here

3) Feign confidence and get a horrible feeling in your gut while trying to convince everyone around you that you’re actually confident and uncaring Bookmark here

Regardless of what you choose, you have to face conflict. No one will accept it without making some kind of remark. Bookmark here

You will always walk around feeling alienated, alone, and paranoid that the people who don’t “get it” will find out your secret.Bookmark here

The only place you can truly open up is online. Bookmark here

This song, for example… It was undoubtedly uploaded on YouTube, with thousands of like-minded fans in the comment section. You’d never know any of their ages, genders, nationalities… But they’d all be united by this common thread.Bookmark here

“Masters, masters!” Neko-chan burst out of the kitchen with a tray under her cat paw. Our dessert items slid across the tray as she swung around to our table. “Your desserts have arrived!” Bookmark here

After Neko-chan placed them on the table, she stood to attention:Bookmark here

“Now watch me, masters, as I bless these tasty treats with my magical moé spell!” Bookmark here

Neko-chan then put her hands in a heart, waved them over our food, and said some magical sounding things in Japanese. Bookmark here

When she finished the spell, she bowed deeply.Bookmark here

“Enjoy your dessert, masters.”Bookmark here

She started to walk away, but then twirled right back around. Bookmark here

“That’s right, I almost forgot! Since you two chose from the special dessert menu, you both get to draw a number and receive a prize!”Bookmark here

She held out a bag, and we each pulled out a scrap of paper with a number on it.Bookmark here

“For you,” she said to Jotaro. “You get a magical keychain! Nya~” Bookmark here

She handed Jotaro a rubbery keychain that was shaped like the maid café’s logo. Jotaro said nothing. He attached it to his backpack’s zipper.Bookmark here

“And for you,” she said to me. “You got the ultimate mega super-duper most amazing prize of all…”Bookmark here

Let me guess, a coupon?Bookmark here

“A picture with the top maid!!”Bookmark here

Wait… Seriously? If the top maid was indeed the same girl I saw singing and dancing on stage, she was by far the cutest maid in the whole café. This took a sudden turn for the awesome.Bookmark here

After finishing our desserts and paying the bill, Neko-chan called all the maid girls next to the stage. Then, she turned around and waved for me to come over.Bookmark here

M-me? You want me?Bookmark here

As I approached, the maids began to disperse. And there, standing in her own glowing light, was the top maid.Bookmark here

At first, I felt bad. I bet she has to take photos with sweaty, old perverts all the time… Bookmark here

But maybe she was glad to be taking a picture with a young foreigner this time? After all, the maid girls were full of smiles and excited chatter. Clearly, they were having fun with the whole thing.Bookmark here

I started getting nervous thinking about it.Bookmark here

Come on, get a grip. This whole thing is so silly.Bookmark here

Neko-chan positioned me and the top maid next to each other. Meanwhile, another maid readied the camera. Bookmark here

Now that she was standing here next to me, I had to admit—the top maid was totally adorable. She was almost two whole heads shorter than me. I could probably pick her up and spin her around… Maybe I could pick her up for the picture! Hahah, nah, just kidding… Unless? Nah, better not.Bookmark here

The top maid got into her pose for the photo: both fingertips on her cheeks. Bookmark here

Meanwhile, the maid with the camera was waving her hand to get me closer into the frame. All the while, Neko-chan was jumping around in the back with glee. Bookmark here

I had to admit… the mood was contagious. So, I copied the top maid’s pose, and I let out a huge smile. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t worried about how I’d look in a photo. Bookmark here

Click! Bookmark here

The camera flashed. A second later, the photo began printing. As soon as it came out, the maids snatched it up, threw it down on a table, and got to work with a set of markers. Bookmark here

After they finished drawing on the picture, they gave it back to me.Bookmark here

And then, together, all the maid girls bowed and said in unison: Bookmark here

「ありがとうございました!」Bookmark here

Wow! Maybe there really was something to the whole moé moé magical spell thing?Bookmark here

With my body tingling and full of maid magic, I looked down at the photograph.Bookmark here

But what I saw was a zombie.Bookmark here

At first, I assumed the picture hadn’t finished developing. Bookmark here

No… That was just how she had looked.Bookmark here

The top maid’s face was pale and lifeless. The flash from the camera revealed the tired bags under her eyes. Her mouth was curved slightly upward, but the cold, black eyes said everything. There was no shine or glimmer in them—just the look of a tired and overworked teenager. Bookmark here

I looked up so I could see the top maid, as she appeared in real life—but she was gone. She was already in a corner of the café, spinning around and performing a “magical moé spell” for two older salarymen. Bookmark here

On the other side of the photo was myself, with an enormously stupid grin on my face. The maids had drawn some kanji and hearts on the photo.Bookmark here

I shoved the picture in my pocket, mumbled out an “arigatou” back at them, and headed over to Jotaro at the table.Bookmark here

“Got my picture,” I said. “Let’s get outta here.”Bookmark here

As we headed for the elevator, Neko-chan called out to us. “Hold on, masters! We have to tell you where the hostel is, remember?”Bookmark here

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