Chapter 5:


VISUAL SHOCK - sometimes you have to promise not to fall in love~

“Are you sure you’re not a creep?”

“What do you mean?”

I seriously have no idea what he’s on about.

“First you’re following me around Takeshita-dori, next you accost me at LOAF, then you stalk me on campus, and now… That’s my door! How do you know where I live?”

Kaoru really appears to be angry. He’s almost shaking.

“I… uh…”

I fumble with my keys to double-check the number on the fob. My room is a single, I know that for sure - pretty sure all of them are - and this is definitely the right floor, so… did I make a mistake?

“No, see! Look, this one's mine.”

He huffs disbelievingly, taking the proffered bunch to inspect.



I bend over to pick up my keys while he stares into middle distance, hand wavering in the air before him.

“It can’t be. How… how did you do it?”

“What? What’s wrong?”

“H-how… how did you get the room next door?”


We’re neighbours.

Our doors are right next to each other, mirror rooms along a dividing wall.

“It’s fate…”

“Are you teasing me?”

The words slip from my mouth without meaning to, and Kaoru leaps on them instantl-


I almost jump out of my boots, their weight the only thing to keep me anchored to the ground.

The utterance had come from nowhere, so I hadn’t been focusing on speaking Japanese. It came out in my native language, and he responded in near perfect English. Like, only a hint of an accent. Better than most actors who have made it big in the West, like Kenny Watanobu.

“Of course. I’m doing Communications. It would be pointless if I only spoke Japanese. Besides English, I can also speak Russian and Mandarin. I’m currently studying Korean and, although I have been told I have an ear for it, my tongue struggles.”

Kaoru delivers all this with neither pride nor humility. It is just a matter of fact to him that he can speak five languages, like it’s the norm for everyone or something.

“What?!. That’s seriously impressive! I can only remember a little of the Spanish we did in high-school, and I’m only just at JLPT N2 as of this year. You really do have a head for languages, Kaoru!”

“Th… thanks.”

As soon as I compliment him, his chin sinks into the high collar of his outfit, shimmying it all the way up to the bottom of his nose… did I make him blush?!.

I don’t push it any further, not wanting to actually embarrass my new friend.

“What I mean is… it must all be coincidence. I don’t remember seeing you in Harajuku. I was actually the first person at the venue, and only noticed you halfway through that band’s performance. And today… I was just sat there as you happened by. I’m not even sure I’ve seen you around the dorms, either. I didn’t plan any of it, it was all random chance. But…”

I unlock the door.

“…I’m glad I get to live next door to someone as cool as you!”

After such a good line, I thought I could nail the follow through by transitioning us smoothly into my room, unfortunately…

I left things in a bit of state this morning.

Last minute outfit change, hair and make up products all over the place, and bits of debris from rushing out the door to get to the introduction seminar on time. I mean, I’m sure Kaoru won’t mind too much, he’s probably been in the same position, but still. First impressions. He already thought I might be a creep. Now he’ll think I’m a slob.

“Hah! I forgot about all this. Err… If you sit on my desk chair, I’ll quickly tidy up, then I can show you my stuff.”

He doesn’t move from the entrance.

“You ok? It’s just a little mess. I’m sorry, I didn’t expect to bump into you, or be bringing anyone back here today, ever, I mean, maybe at some point, but, well… I’m on a budget, so couldn’t think of anywhere else to go.”

I realise he isn’t looking at the floor, or the strewn items across my bed, his gaze is fixed on the IDEA rails I put all along our shared wall.

“Ohhh… yeah, they’re some of my prized possessions!”

He slowly, carefully, makes his away across my room. I open the curtains to let a little more light in, and the window to get rid of the trapped hairspray smell. A mild breeze wafts through, causing the clothes to flitter.

“How did you get these?”

His question, slow and serious, but full of emotion.

Tension and awe.

“Err… none of them are the real thing. I just found the closest items I could at Hot Subject or yard sales, then made what alterations I could until they looked close enough to the originals. All I had were low resolution images online and old magazine articles to go off.”

Kauru's outstretched hands freeze in mid-air. His delicate fingers, apprehensive to make contact with the fabric.

“You… made these?”

“Yeah. It’s not like you can easily import this kinda stuff, the delivery fees and taxes basically double their cost, so it’s cheaper to modify what you have. I’ve only made a few things from scratch, mostly cut-sews and accessories. The patterns came free in things like Gothic Girl Testament and Snail Skin. My brother bought them originally, but gave them to me later on.”

His eyes haven’t moved from my face since I admitted to making these. It’s starting to get unnerving. His expression is so intense.

Did I commit some kind of major sin to the VK gods?!.

I thought I was meant to use the patter- oh no… I realise the issue too late!

“You’ve ruined those magazines by removing and USING the patterns! You’re meant to keep them whole. Where’s the value otherwise…”

Kaoru has gone grey. He was already wearing white face paint, but now the colour has completely drained from his pale skin underneath. He's almost translucent.

“Ah, yeah… that’s what my brother said too, but I’m not a collector. I don’t intend to resell them. They’re a guide, the only links I had to all this from the other side of the planet. I had to make use of what was available to me.”

“I… I… I…"

His jaw working up and down, but not really getting very far.

"Pffffffffffffffffff... I get that.”

His expression relaxes a little, but there is still turmoil behind his eyes.

“I’m sorry. You’re right. It’s not the same situation for you. They were made to be used like that. People used them like that when they were in print. We only have copies still available because of collectors who didn’t use them as intended. There’s a different mindset at behind the preservation of something and an active passion for it.”

He heaves a sigh and passes a glance back across my finest pieces.

“You really captured them perfectly. She’d be…”

Kaoru stops mid-sentence, clears his throat, and turns back to me with a subdued smile.

“Was that it?”

“Was what, what?”

“Was this all you wanted to show me?”

I’m taken aback by the bluntness of his comment.

“I mean, I guess…”

Have I offended him or something? He seemed impressed.

Did I do something wrong? I thought he understood why I made these.

Am I missing something?

“I really do have to go do some work in the library. I’m in my final year, so I really do need to go get all my books before everyone else rents them out.”


That’s right!

He was going to the library. He’s not rejecting me. He’s just busy.

“If you want to keep chatting, feel free to accompany me. I’d like to know more about how you made those pieces. They’re truly amazing. I actually thought they were the real thing when I walked in.”

He likes my work. He wants to hang out more.

“Of course! Let’s go!”

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