Chapter 4:

Best Friends Forever

Annika Says No!

[You: Um, bro? Sorry, but I’m not going to be heading to the bar anymore.]

[Max: Huh? Why not? Don’t tell me….are you with another girl again?]

[You: Well, I guess you could say that.]

I looked over towards Annika as I was typing on my phone. She was humming happily next to me, with her arm locked towards my arm. And this wasn’t because she was trying to be clingy, but rather, to keep me from escaping. Not like I have any plans of running anyway.

Annika was rather sweaty though, so she made my shirt a little wet, but I’m not complaining. I find that thing pretty hot-No! Shut up! I cannot think of such perverted thoughts any longer! Begone!

“Did you tell him that you aren’t going?”

I shuddered. “Y-Yeah. I did.”

I tried to show her my phone, but she stopped me.

“There’s no need for that. I trust you, Kwan. I still believe that goodie little Kwan is still in there,” Annika smiled.

With an innocent smile like hers, there was no way I could betray her trust anymore. I absolutely cannot let her down.

I grasped my fist and looked up to the sky.

If only things didn’t end up the way they did…..


“What is it?”

“How about we go ahead and eat some ice cream?” she said, pointing towards a street market closeby.

The only ice cream I want right now is an ice-cream flavored vape….ugh.

“Sure,” I blurted out.

“Hmm….you don’t look like you want ice cream,” she said, inspecting my face.


She still hasn’t lost her touch with her observational skills. Lying to her eyes is a guaranteed loss. If I slip up, she’ll know instantly.

“You don’t have to say yes to everything I say, Kwan,” she rolled her eyes. “Except for the oath, obviously.”


Annika stopped in place and thought for a moment. Then, she raised her finger with a sparkle in her eyes.

“You know what? You can go buy whatever you want here, it’s my treat!”

“You don’t have to,” I scratched my head.

“I insist!”

“Then I’d like a drink. Ah, I mean milk tea! Matcha milk tea!”

Annika tipped her toes to pat my forehead. “Still a cutie!”

“Please stop it….”

It was still pretty early in the evening, yet the street market was already bustling with people! This made me realize something. Hanging orange lights, smells of newly grilled foods, stalls with cheaply-priced clothing and accessories, colorful neon signs above the buildings in the surrounding area and the yells of persistent promoters….This wasn’t just any street market, this is the Fireflies Night Market, one of UniverCity’s biggest wonders!


“Kwan, where are you going? Wait up!”

My stomach churned as I took in the flavors of the streets. Takoyaki balls, pork dumplings, mozzarella rice croquettes, meaty gorditas, wrapped chimichangas, spit-roasted shawarmas, chocolate gaufres, skewered satay…..and even turon?

Woah….there’s so much food here that I only used to dream of tasting…

And check out those toys!

I struggled my way through the crowd and looked at some stalls selling shiny-looking keychains, graphic design t-shirts and character figurines. One figure in particular, caught my eye. It had the form of a cat-girl in a hooded coat with patterns of black and white.

Isn’t this the girl from Blades of Gra-

I felt something tug my shirt.

“Stick with me, I almost lost you!” Annika pouted her lips.

“S-Sorry, I didn’t mean to leave you,” I scratched my head. “I just can’t get myself to stay still!”

Annika chuckled. “You say you’ve changed, but there’s still parts of you that remind me of the adventurous little Kwan.”

“H-Hey, you shouldn’t joke about my medical condition. You could get canceled for that sort of thing, you know.”

“I’m not mocking you for it,” Annika twiddled her fingers. “It’s just….I missed these moments you know. Always wandering around on your own and being distracted by even the simplest of things…..then I would always hold your hand to keep you from getting lost…..”

Annika sighed.


“But the past is the past, right?” Annika let out a pained smile. “Things won’t ever be the same again.”

I looked away and curved my lips down.

“But I still believe in you,” Annika said. “Even if we can’t be together anymore, I still won’t give up on trying to help you get over your addictions. After all, we’re still best friends, right?”

Ouch. That last part cut deep. But that’s nothing compared to how much I hurt her. Obviously, she hasn’t forgiven me for what I had done, yet she still cared about me despite all the trouble I caused. To think that I fumbled such a girl...what a fool I must be.

“Right,” I nodded.

“Ok,” Annika grinned. “Now let’s get that matcha milk tea, shall we?”

On our way to get matcha milk tea, it wasn’t exactly smooth-sailing. Annika insisted that we stop whenever she caught me with my mouth watering on a food stall. She would then proceed to buy said food, which was embarrassing considering how much I ended up eating. Looking at me munching on my snacks seemed to make her happy, so I just decided to play along. And it’s free food too!

By the time we made it to the milk tea stall, my stomach was already bloated.

“Forget it, Annika,” I rubbed my belly. “The matcha milk tea can wait some other time.”

“That’s too bad,” Annika looked down. “Oh, well! If you’re plenty satisfied, then that’s all that matters!”

We both decided to leave the Fireflies Night Market, and walked towards the nearby station. It was quite awkward at this point. We’ve pretty much exhausted ourselves from all the crowd surfing earlier, and we ran out of stuff to talk about. All Annika could do was smile whenever we locked eyes with each other.

Honestly, I felt uneasy about this whole situation. There was no reason for her to treat me so well anymore. I betrayed her, yet she responded with kindness. It was something I didn’t understand, knowing full well I didn’t deserve it. Maybe it wasn’t that I was feeling uneasy, but rather, I felt guilty.

“Thanks,” I said, rubbing my forearm.

“For what?” Annika tilted her head.

“Still treating me the same way despite everything.”

“It’s no biggie. Just like I told you earlier, we’re best friends. You can count on me, always.”

I wish I could say the same for you, Annika.

I stopped in place and grasped my fist. Annika looked back in confusion.

“I’ll make it up to you someday! I won’t let you down ever again!” I said.

“I sure do hope you will,” she said and turned back.

However, I still didn’t move away from my spot.


“What is it?”

A long gasp of air.



Everyone in the area turned their attention towards me. I could feel my face heating up into an alarming temperature, probably enough to roast some meat back at the street market. I covered my face up and crouched in embarrassment.

Why did I say that out loud?!

Annika let out a giggle. Then she burst out laughing.

“How can you be so shameless?!”

I know, right? I am a shameless bastard!

“Ahaha, sorry,” Annika calmed herself down.

She walked towards me and gave me a head pat.

“Still a cutie,” she grinned.

After the heat in my face had cooled off, I got back up from the ground.

“If you still have feelings for me, then you should show it through your actions,” Annika extended her hand in front of me.

“Hmm? What is that for?”

“Do I really have to point it out for you?” she squinted her eyes. “Your cigarettes. Hand them over.”

Ah. Right. I still had them in my pocket.

“Sure,” I smiled.

I inserted my hand inside my pocket and wrapped it around the familiar box shape. But for some reason, I couldn’t pull it out.

“H-Huh? What’s going on? It’s stuck!”

I tried to pull my hand out with my other arm, but it still refused to budge from its spot. It wasn’t like the pocket was too tight or anything. What’s going on?

“I can’t get it out, Annika!”

Annika struck her head with her palm.

“This isn’t going to be easy.”

She placed her hand inside my pocket and pulled the cigarette box out with absolutely zero effort whatsoever.

“How did you-”

“You still aren’t willing to let go of the cigarettes,” Annika dumped the box inside a nearby trash can.

She came in front of me and placed her hands on my shoulders.

“Your resolve….is lukewarm.”

My eyes bulged.

“You’re only allowed to tell me that again when you truly mean it, Kwan.”

Her frigid tone sent shivers through my skin. It was only a second, but she glared at me after giving me those words.

“Anyways, I better get going,” she shifted back to a smile. “There’s some business I have to attend to. It was nice hanging out with you!”

“Um…alright. See you soon, then.”

I waved awkwardly as I watched her leave my sight.

Ugh….I blew it.

Mario Nakano 64
F.C Fondness