The Longing Of Shiina Ryo:Bonus Disc Valentine Hunter Kizuna Jun 1st date: Shiina Ryo

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I approached her table without a good idea on how I would do it, but what little I knew about cold reading gave me an idea. That, or the fact the papers she was trying to organize had words such as ‘outline’, ‘plot’, ‘character ability sheet’ and stuff written on them.

She was probably younger than me but to some extent it was hard to tell due to her, erm, mature proportions. I guess kids really develop faster these days, there must be some truth in that whole ‘hormones in the water’ gossip going all around the world.

“So you write?”
“Not really, because I’m a writer.” She just looked at me for a moment as if I was meant to react to that. “It was a joke. Fiction writers hardly write, you know: they plot and devise day and night, but writing? Funny as it might sound, the only situation a writer really writes on a regular basis is when adapting the query letters he or she sends to hundreds of publishers so the e-mail system won’t tag it as spam. Which is ironic, since most of them will send you automated answers back when rejecting your work. And be sure they will do it again and again one at a time, like the companies work as a tag team against you.”

Well, great date already. I sure knew how to pick females. No wonder I was single.

Could be worse.

“Oh, I see. I work in a factory. Carrying weight and cutting stuff, pretty much.”
“Sounds interesting. What is it like?"

That wasn’t the kind of reaction I was used to, so before I told her more about the wonderful world of building banners I had to confirm she really wanted to know about it.

”Why do you ask? Research for a story or sheer curiosity?”
“Aren’t those the same?”

Landmine checked: stepped on it, and stepped on it good.

“Point taken.” I bit my cookie with hardly any interest. “It’s insanely boring, but not as depressing as outsiders think if you’re not particularly afraid of manual labor and standing up all day. Colleagues are pretty much macho jerks with no lives, but even jerks have good qualities and if you ever feel like drinking, which I shouldn’t advise because you’re underage, they can be a lot of fun. Pay is fair coming from the point no one there, and by that I mean my sector, took their studies too seriously and there’s always the chance of climbing to the top by making use of the offered scholarship programs. Considerably better than the standards of the Industrial Revolution.”
“You’re kinda cool.”

Really? I did my best there and all I got was a ‘kinda’? Girl, you should be putting me under a chocolate shower after that. No, wait, ‘chocolate shower’ doesn’t give me the best of mental images, thank you very much, Internet.

You’re welcome.

W-w-what the hell was that?

Oh, sorry.
Wrong self-defeating first person narrator.
Carry on with your quest.

The girl looked at me curiously when my focus went from the mysterious voice speaking in underlined italics inside my head to her and I considered going back to therapy once this was all done.

For the moment I sighed, trying to regain composure.

“Is that so? Cool enough for chocolate?”

And then I wanted to hit myself. Getting straight to the point like that was a surefire way to end up the day with not even a faint smell of cocoa. Sure, I hadn’t been in that kind of situation in a while, but it was no excuse for my behavior. Where was my courtesy? Had I complimented the girl yet? Had I even asked her name?

“...I don’t think you need a certain degree of coolness to get chocolate, just money.” She bit her lip. “If anyone told you that, they were probably pulling your leg.”

...I seemed to have missed something here. Was she taking what I said seriously?

“Uh, it was a joke.”

It really wasn’t, and frankly, I wasn’t expecting to get away with that either. Except I did, and her reaction surprised me once more.

“Oh, I see. I don’t usually understand jokes very well as they’re happening, and I was only explaining it to you because I was considering you could be the same. It makes some situations with people hard to deal with and so I figured it would be for the best to share intel on this because there is no point in not taking part in something you want if you can, right? You want chocolate and you can get it, so why shouldn't you just because of a joke? It would be a whole other thing if it could harm your health, but...”

And then I understood her reasoning: this was because I didn’t get her first joke either.

Out of concern for a potential fellow in different sense of, or rather, mild ignorance of humor, she didn’t mind going out of her way to offer input even if it wasn’t really needed. Even in a small town like this, it wasn’t as easy to find people willing to help others they didn’t know because everyone seems to be always too scared of being made a fool of, not without reason. Hell, even I was just talking to her to get myself some cocoa goods, so it was a very close-to-home thing. That was very sweet. Not so sweet I didn’t want her chocolate anymore, no sweetness from a girl could ever compare, but it was very heartwarming.

“That’s good information right there. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. It’s kind of a superpower, really.”

And then I saw my opening. Brushing aside pride and the compassion, I turned myself into the conqueror once more to achieve my final goal.

“Thing is, I do have a superpower too.”

Her eyes started shining and I knew I hit jackpot with that line. That chocolate, I mean, that girl, was mine!

“Oh. Explain it to me.”

That girl was one of a kind. She didn’t even question the existence of it, the probability of me just being joking again. She just had curiosity on how.

I saw an opportunity so I came and...

“Wouldn’t you rather go somewhere and have me show it to you?”

...failed to conquer. The look on her face blatantly showed me I was once again too forward.

“No thanks, I’m waiting for someone here. Besides, looks can be deceiving and I have very little interest in the execution of things in comparison to their concepts. Hearing it out should give me a better understanding as long as you do a proper job of explaining it.”

So I explained it to her in detail. It was hard telling where did the caring person ended and the insensitive one began.

“So spikes. Like that one Mutant guy.” She seemed utterly disappointed. “How original.”

She gazed to the side very dramatically, as if hoping for the person she was waiting for to just come and take her away from me. Author or not, you can always be sure a girl knows how to hurt your pride with a single gesture.

“No, horns. Heavy ones, very strong.”
“Oh.”

She stood still like the news shocked her deeply.

“Is there anything wro-”
“Wait. You’re telling me your superpower is to materialize horns out of your body.”
“Yeah.”
“Give me a second, maybe I’m just going full ‘split-thinking’ here.”

She grabbed her phone and spent around two minutes typing and scrolling so fast I couldn’t believe she was actually doing anything other than punch buttons to release stress, which left me very unsettled, until she stopped with a cat-like smile on her face.

“What were you doi-”
“Research. Sorry about that, I just had to ensure you didn’t just tell me something really silly there.”

At that point I wasn’t even sure if I should feel offended or not.

“What?”
“I was thinking they were just regular horns coming out of your body, which would be very bad in battle especially if they’re heavy like you said. But they’re actually projectiles, right? You shoot ‘em like arrows and can take down even strong wood doors, right?”
“Uh, no?”

She seemed confused.

“OK, so are they poisoned?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Extendable?”
“Not very far, no.”

Her left hand angrily touched her forehead like she was trying to dig something she missed out of it.

“Can you at least plant them on stuff?”
“Nope, they’re gone once they lose contact with my body.”

At which point she clearly lost it.

“...are you serious?”
“Why, is that bad?”
“Of all possible powers, your main way to fight is ridiculously close ranged and by that I mean running and tackling people or things.”
“It looks a lot cooler than it sounds though...”

Only then I realized my mistake: someone so focused on the conceptual parts would not give a damn about whether it looked cool or not. Worse than that, if we were to look deep into it, I basically just told a writer that special effects make up for the lack of well-thought plot devices. The look on her face told me I wasn’t over analyzing it, not a little bit more than her anyway. Primal fear started taking over and I felt my legs getting restless.

A storm was coming.

“OH MY SCIENCE, YOUR ABILITY IS GO ‘HORNY’ ON COMMAND.”
“I appreciate the pun and all but...”
“ARE YOU EVEN TRYING HERE? CAN YOU EVEN CALL THAT A SPECIAL ABILITY?”
“Uh, I think this date is over...”

Because the situation clearly couldn't get any worse, I had to run my mouth.

“WHAT DATE? YOU JUST CAME HERE AND ASKED IF I WROTE OUT OF NOWHERE! I WAS BEING POLITE. WERE YOU TRYING TO PICK ME UP, AND BY TALKING TO ME ABOUT SUPERPOWERS WHILE AT THAT? WHY, BECAUSE ANY GIRL SITTING ALONE ON A CAFE IS JUST WAITING FOR A MAGICAL MALE TO COME AND SWEEP HER OFF HER FEET? HOW MUCH OF A DESPERATE CREEPER CAN YOU BE?”

Everyone in the cafe was looking at me.

“I’ll just go and...”
“DON’T IGNORE ME!”

I dropped money for my drink on the table and ran away from the cafe and made a point of never trying to hit on someone on a maid cafe again.