Chapter 24:

My Past has Revealed Itself, Once Again.

My Dad is an Otaku, My Mom is a Fujoshi, and I Wish I Was Dead

How did things end up this way?

If you had told me earlier today that my karate team captain was going to follow me home, I would have laughed and called you crazy, and yet here I am, walking right by him as we turn onto the quiet street that my house is on. It's early evening and an unusually clear night for monsoon season, which makes this not quite as awkward as it could have been. But still, it's pretty awkward. We haven't said a single word to each other the whole way.

What's even crazier is how my parents were totally fine with it. In fact, it was their idea. All I did was send my mom a text that I had a "friend" who wanted to talk to her about something sometime, and she immediately sent back Yeah, bring him over tonight! I made enough to share! All this on about an hour's notice. Don't you have to plan this out weeks in advance, and get a gift and dress nice, and then tell the parents about how you want to marry their daughter, and then...This doesn't make any sense, but nothing about my mom makes sense in the first place. I'm just gonna have to deal with it.

As we reach the door, I gulp. I really do not want her flying off the handle for a second time in as many weeks. Especially since this entire situation is her idea

We're close enough to the door that I can hear voices coming from inside.

"Like I told you, there's absolutely no one that can compete with Reo's cuteness! She's the ultimate waifu!"

"You're still going on about this? Asumi is the best and that's a fact! You like that emotionless doll over her?!"

Wow, my mom is mad.

"At least Reo's kind to Shinta! All that annoying ginger does is yell at him!"

It looks like my dad is just making it worse. They've been together for long enough- he should know exactly what happens when he eggs her on.

"Asumi has a soft side, and that creepy blue puppet has no emotions! I can't believe you! You've had two decades to get Asumi's adorableness through your chubby idiot head and you still can't realize it? Are you stupid or something?"

"If you can't realize how cute Reo is, you're stupider!"

"No, you're the stupid one!"

"No, you are!"

"No, you-"

I sigh as I open the door. "I'm home-"

Immediately, my parents jump up from the couch and my dad frantically scrambles to turn off whatever they were watching on the TV. "Welcome back-" my mom starts. She's sweating like a pig. "L-lovely weather we're having, isn't it..."

At least she's not dressed up like a magical girl today. I'd die if my senpai saw that. She's making progress.

"Uhhh, my name is Shunsuke Takeno, it's very nice to meet you," Takeno-senpai replies. He reaches into his bag. "I brought this gift for mother sells calligraphy and I thought it would look nice in your home." Sure enough, he pulls out a medium-size canvas with several characters written on it, in several colors, with the forms turning into animals and plants.

When did he get the time to go buy this? Was he just carrying this around this whole time? It wouldn't surprise me. Knowing Takeno-senpai, he was definitely thinking about how to apologize long before we talked today.

My dad responds, trying a bit too hard to sound cheerful. "It's so nice Haruto brought a friend over. He hasn't in a few years, so we were a bit worried...but make yourself at home."

Shut the hell up, old man. I do have friends.

My mom skips over to the foyer as I'm taking my shoes off. "Oh, this is really cute!" she exclaims, looking at the artwork my senpai is holding out. "Tell your mom I said thank you-" And suddenly she cuts off as she makes eye contact with him. "Ah! It's you!"

Takeno-senpai looks like he's just seen a ghost. Please, Mom, please don't go off on him again. I didn't ask if he could come by- it was your idea. He didn't specify where or when- he just said he wanted to apologize at some point. You were the one who decided that he could swing on by like he was a close friend or family member, immediately. It's on you to at least be a gracious host, or at least hold to the bare minimum standard of decency and not fly off the handle at your guest.

Oh, wait...I don't think I ever specified who my "friend" was. I'll ignore that. Heh, heh...

As soon as Takeno-senpai sees her stare, he immediately launches into his apology, but this time it's more rushed. "I want to sincerely apologize for my lack of leadership and judgment that's affected Kouga-kun and the many students under my tutelage...especially to you, his father-" he glances at my dad- "and to you, his younger sister." He bends over toward my mom and says, "I won't be mean to your onii-chan anymore," and then stands back up. "Please accept this as a token of my apology." He's just pulled out another piece of calligraphy. Apparently they're a set or something. How long was he walking around with them in his bag? Days? Weeks?

"Hold on a second," my mom snaps. "I'm his mother."

"" Takeno-senpai is starting to go red in the face.

"You heard me. I'm his mother."

"I'm his sister. Nice to meet you." When did Kaede get here? I wasn't even paying attention. She's standing in the back near the dining table, her expression barely changed, but I get the feeling she's enjoying this.

Takeno-senpai has turned a brighter shade of red. " me, ma'am...please accept this as my apology for my lapse of judgment that has harmed your son..."

She glares. I'm about ready to jump in to try and stop her from going on another rampage. Why do I have to do this again? How come my life always ends up like this?

Fortunately, before she can, my dad jumps in. "Thank you for the gifts, Takeno-kun- we accept your apology. Water under the bridge." Then he takes a look at the artwork he's holding. "This is very creative calligraphy. I don't think I've seen it done multicolored. Does your mother also do the traditional kind?"

"Yes, she does, but these ones that she sells as art are the most popular..." Takeno-senpai replies, still flustered. Mom is still shooting him a glare, and then as my dad takes the paper out of his hands, she squeezes between the two of them until she's right in front of my club captain.

"Say, you seem really familiar," she says with a frown.

Takeno-senpai starts backing away. He's as red as the pickles that come in curry and looks like he's going to turn tail and run any second now. "If'n ye'd so kindly give me a lil' bitta room, miss..."

Whoa. Where did that accent come from? I've never heard him speak that way before. It doesn't sound right coming out of his mouth.

Suddenly, my mom's face lights up. "I knew it! You are Tora-kun, aren't you?"

Who's that?

Takeno-senpai has gone from red to pale. "Uhh...Ah don' happen ta know any fella by that name..."

"No way, it is really you!" Her eyes sparkle. "Haruto, don't you remember him?"

"Uhh...who?" That name's totally unfamiliar.

Takeno-senpai looks as confused as I am. Like I said, my mom makes no sense. Just a couple weeks ago she was trying to kick his...uhh...reproductive organs into the stratosphere and here she is acting like he's her long-lost child.

"You know! The one that would come up from Kyushu for the summer! You remember him?"

"Not really."

"Tomoyuki, surely you remember him!"

"I kinda remember there being a kid who was only there during the summer..." my dad replies, scratching his chin. "But didn't he have a shaved head, though? He wore a straw hat around all the time, too."

"Takeno-kun, where did you grow up?" my mom asks.

"Uhh...Kagoshima...I moved here for high school..." At least his normal accent looks to be back.

"IT IS HIM!" Mom exclaims, puffing out her chest. "I'm right! How could you both have forgotten?"

Near the back of the room, Kaede pipes up. "I remember him. He said he was from Kagoshima way back then. Don't you remember him, Niichan? He taught you how to catch your first fish."

As soon as she says that, an image pops into my mind. I'm seven, sitting on the pier of the local fishing pond, holding a cheap plastic rental rod. The water's calm and nothing is biting. I sit there on the grass and wait by my bait bucket for what seems like hours until my bobber disappears, and then I jerk and pull it up with all my might. Slowly, a thrashing carp emerges from the water. It's tiny, but it's on my hook. I pull it over. On one side of me is five-year-old Kaede, staring in amazement at what her big brother just did.

On the other side of me is a smiling boy in a straw hat and overalls.

I shift to another memory. I don't know if it was this same summer or another one. We're on a bench in the park, me and Kaede and that same boy. There may have been others there, but I can't see them if they were.

His voice, a slow, pleasant drawl, floats into my mind. Yup, mah daddy is a karate teacher, but he's way too mean and it's borin'...Ah wish Ah could be livin' here with y'all instead'a way out in the country...maybe Ah'll move here some day!

Another scene flashes in my mind. It must have been the first time we met. I must have been five or something. The boy with the straw hat is standing in front of my house. Mah name's Shunsuke but everyone calls me Tora...cause Ah can't write kanji good...

Hold on.

Wait a minute.

First Bakery Idol Reika, now Tora-kun? Within a month? What is going on?

"Yeah," I nod slowly, "I do remember him now."

Takeno-senpai has his mouth open. He was not expecting this. I don't blame him.

"See?" my mom crows. "How could you forget him? He had the cutest little accent and he was like a little Nako from Burukumon...Ahhh, don't mind that last part, Tora-kun!" She frantically waves her hand.

"Please...don't call me that...Kouga-san..."

"Seriously, how on earth did you forget, Haruto?" my mom asks, sighing.

Obviously, we both forgot each other because we hadn't seen each other in 10 years! And I always thought his name actually was Tora-something for the longest time! It's not that hard to figure out why we wouldn't recognize each other! Can you identify your childhood friends after they grow up if you haven't seen them for years? Didn't think so.

I think Takeno-senpai has given up. He's just looking down at the ground. Poor guy. What a horrible way to be reunited with a long-lost friend.

The only way that this could get worse is if someone else who knew him showed up...

The door slams open behind us, and a loud voice floats in from the foyer. "Hey, Chisato-san! I'm here to pick up dinner!"

And here she comes now.

Ayame comes proudly strutting into the living room with her chest puffed out, holding her English quiz in front of her. "Look! I got a 38! I didn't get the chance to show Haru-kun yet!"

Completely oblivious to the fact that Ayame's score is not anything that anyone should be proud of, my mom beams. "Congrats, Aya-chan! You did better than Arata in the summer event- I mean, uhh...that's fantastic and the result of all your hard work!"

Suddenly, she catches sight of the unexpected guest. "Is that-"

My mom about jumps over to Ayame. "You remember Tora-kun?!" she says, giddy with excitement.

"Yeah!" Ayame exclaims. She hunches herself over and puts a finger on her chin. "If'n ya sneak up on the stag beetle thisaway, ya can ketch yerself a right big 'un!" she exclaims in an almost perfect replica of the accent Takeno-senpai was using.

I think Takeno-senpai's turned blue. Dear Buddha, this is painful to watch. Please, make it stop.

"That's Tora-kun! He was so nice, he came all the way here to apologize, and as soon as I saw him I knew who it was!"

For a second, I can see Ayame's childlike brain struggle to process what she's hearing, especially since the last time she saw Takeno-senpai was when my mom nearly forcefully prevented him from being able to have children. Then, I see the metaphorical candle above her head (she's not smart enough for a lightbulb) light up. "Eh? You're Tora-kun? No way!"

"A-a-a-ah would prefer you'd be so kind and not call me that..." Takeno blurts out, flustered. The accent's back again, and he's also back to looking like his soul has left his body.

Ayame smirks. I never like it when she does that. Nothing good is going to follow. "You know, since you owe Haru-kun, I need someone to help me at Comiket...I can count on you, right?" she asks with the smuggest grin possible.

He owes me! He owes you absolutely nothing! Leave him alone!

"A-Ah don't know wha' a comic cat done be, but Ah'd be glad ta' help ya!" Takeno-senpai exclaims.

And...that's the worst possible response he could have given. Why on earth did he agree to her stupid scheme?

"Comiket?" Mom asks in surprise. "Are you going to-" and just like that she and Ayame start chattering about otaku stuff.

With their attention off him, Takeno-senpai grimaces and turns to me, like he's in some serious pain. Not that I blame him. "Kouga, help me!" he hisses in a whisper.

"What? Why?"

"There are too many women here!"

"What do you want me to do about it?!"

"Just get me out of here! Please!"

My mom and childhood friend are chattering like two birds fighting over a crumb in a parking lot, so much so that my dad and sister are staring at them with worried looks. Mom's been so good at controlling herself lately...but she can't help it when Ayame's around.

"Ahem." I clear my throat and they suddenly stop talking. "My friend here has a bit of a stomach ache, so I'm afraid he can't stay."

"Thank you for your hospitality!" Takeno-senpai shouts. "I will be leaving now!"

Then, he takes off for the door like he was shot out of a cannon.

"Aww..." Mom sighs as he leaves. "He didn't even stay for dinner. I had enough for him and Aya-chan, too."

You're lucky he didn't. If he had gotten a mouth full of Pretty Lyrical Miracle Curry he would have taken it out on me tomorrow.

Pope Evaristus
Steward McOy