The Longing Of Shiina Ryo:Volume1 metamonogatari
“This is outrageous!”
All of us were completely surprised by Ryo’s sudden words and that surprise only was part of a much bigger one; I’d be lying if I said we were fully aware of what was going on. Our location was unknown, except for the fact any of us could see we were inside a Victorian-style decorated office room with no windows. For reasons that break the fourth wall of something I suspected being a work of fiction for a while, we’re finally able to analyze the tales of this unusual first week as a whole.
“What?” I said in reply to her statement, rising from the antique chair I was sitting on.
“This… hideous piece of document!” She waved the semi-book made of pages and pages of home printed A4 sheets of paper. “It’s so deceiving and weird! I don’t talk like this at all!”
“As a matter of fact, you do.” Kouma Yon scanned the contents of her copy with the eyes of a hunting Maltese falcon and did not take her eyes off the book to talk to her best friend. “What I don’t get is why Shin-tsu keeps contradicting himself by stating I’m emotionless while describing the nuances in every facial expression I make. He almost sounds obsessive.”
“But that’s the whole point of having a first-person narrator telling a story: the unreliability. He might be unaware of things or even hiding them from the reader intentionally, although his motivations are easy to guess because the reader gets an inner glimpse of what his mind looks like.” Shiina Ryo was a fiction writer herself and a true born genre-savvy even to our dreadfully twisted standards. “Also, no, I don’t talk like that, thank you for your support.”
“You do.” Reikoku-sensei barged in, holding her cup of steaming hot tea with both hands and no touch of feminine grace. “Personally, I only talked to you directly once and I’m thankful it happened off-screen. It wouldn’t surprise me if we all find out Shin-tsu moved here just to check if you actually talked like that.”
Hearing that, my dearest friend turned to me with enormous and irresistible puppy eyes all of a sudden.
“Is she telling the truth?”
“O-obviously not! Who would do such a thing?” To be entirely honest, the way she wrote motivated me to keep talking to her when we just met on that chat room. Even on the Internet she talks to people as if she was overflowing with knowledge, not unusually unrelated to the main topic but still an interesting feature. It’s amusing because you feel like you’re talking to a robot whose only source of data is an encyclopedia. No, on a second thought it’s not that interesting not at all; I probably was just that lonely. “Anyway, I don’t feel very comfortable with you all reading my private thoughts like they were just a story.”
“And you certainly shouldn’t, considering you’re not the kindest person on Earth when it comes to making mental remarks about people.” Kouma crossed a page with her long fingers as if trying to touch the words. “You keep calling me a ‘fashionista’ like it is some kind of bad name or disease. There’s nothing bad about dressing unreasonably well and you certainly could definitely use a decent haircut yourself.”
“What’s wrong with my current haircut?”
“Oh, are you having trouble with the Japanese language? It’s safe to assume you meant ‘lack thereof’; I could say your hair is too long and irregular to be called boyish but the truth is that you don’t actually have a haircut at this point.”
“That was uncalled for…”
Then Ryo proceeded talking, completely ignoring my dismay. A moment later I realized she probably agreed with the unpleasant point-of-view of Kouma Yon on that matter but didn’t want the conversation to keep on that topic.
“Forget that, what about the lousy Shakespeare reference? I’m pretty sure you aren’t familiar with his works, and while I’m not a huge fan myself I do appreciate the foundation they gave to the next generations. It’s like what early rock did for modern metal, for example.”
“But then again, we don’t thank the cavemen for the background they provided for the invention of computers or the early organisms for taiyaki.” Kouma spoke as if her mind wasn’t entirely on the subject of the conversation but focused on something else, although that could easily be justified considering our situation at that moment was not quite what I could call ‘common’ even by our twisted standards. Knowing her a little bit, I could tell there was something bugging her and she was doing her best to analyze it. Wait, did she just imply taiyaki can be considered an excellent example of mankind’s evolution, perhaps comparing it to computers? “Still, I see your point.”
"And then there is his dread of Physics.” My teacher was probably just expecting the right moment to bring this up. “We should all be grateful for Gravity and while I don’t know if any previous instructors assigned to take care of you allowed this, I know I certainly won’t: from now on you’re getting extra Physics classes until you learn enough to properly defy them.”
There is a limit to what a man, woman or person of ambiguous gender can take and without doubt that was mine.
“Everyone, stop it right now. Why should I take all the blame when there is someone’s name on the cover? If you’re not happy with the content of a piece of fiction, you should contact the author.” Sighing and clenching my teeth felt like something almost necessary to compliment my point; not uncommonly, your ideas will only be accepted if presented in a certain manner and you might have to put an act for your ideas to be perceived by others as the ‘correct’ one. Lawyers know, politicians too, even motivational coaches do: it’s not about the concept, but the execution. “By the way, he is not present.”
Then it was silent, but it was just too good to last.
“But that would be completely silly! What good is telling something like that to a writer? It’s the same mistake publishers do when they decide to reject a query because of flaws they mention on the rejection letter yet won’t close the deal when the manuscript is edited to work out those specific flaws.” The way Ryo said it made me realize that subject might have hit her a little bit too close to home. “Even if the author changes stuff, people will still find something to complain about because they are, well, people. Anyway, if the author decided to show up in this after-party it would instantly turn this into a self-insert fanfic and by consequence, utter garbage. I’m not saying that books written in first-person are by rule genius material but I’m sure it could be worse than this. Perhaps.”
“I assume you’re an atheist.” Reikoku-sensei put down her now empty cup and after sighing touched her chin with a bored face. “With a fondness for Nietzsche, I must add.”
“Back to the topic, there is something here that bothers me.” Kouma Yon sounded even more serious than usual. “The way the author puts it, it’s almost as if my fighting and medicinal skills were all because of my Chinese ascendancy.”
That ruined my hopes of her finding a solution for this wicked puzzle we found ourselves in so suddenly; the battle fashionista was using her sharp (although odd) mind to pursue things that were less than useful to us.
Ryo gazed down with visible uncertainty.
“Well Yon-chan, you don’t see many fifteen years old girls and boys running around with those abilities. That makes me wonder, is it still a prejudice if the quality assigned to a particular group is a good one? People shouldn’t feel offended by being called ‘awesome’.” My cute best friend started absentmindedly chewing on her fingernails and then all of a sudden raised her head and stared at Reikoku-sensei, clearly remembering something. “And what’s wrong with liking Nietzsche?”
My teacher laughed so hard it was almost maniacal and I felt the anger levels in the room rising quickly along with the pitch of her voice.
“Oh nothing, really. Especially if you’re one of those hipster kids who have Kafka on their top three author lists and say Metamorphosis is one of the best pieces of fiction ever.”
“Seriously, what is wrong with Kafka?” my friend said after taking a deep breath.
The teacher muffled another laugh regaining control of herself.
“I’m pretty sure you’re not the first one to ask that.”
At that moment Shiina Ryo seemed just like a furious trekkie having a discussion in a Science Fiction convention, and we all know nothing good could come out of such a scenario.
“Well, I’m not going to stay here and take advice on literature from someone who watches B-rated horror movies!”
“Just wait a second, missy; movies are not all about the plot.”
“Well yeah, because it’s not like they all have predictable and boring camera work, music, clothing and half-hearted make-up jobs even for the standards of their own time.”
“Oh, no you didn’t! You little…”
A clearly solid noise was heard, probably everywhere and by everyone. When looking around to find its source like a confused rodent, I saw Kouma Yon piercing what once had been a desk with her left fist. The two that were previously having a heated discussion a moment ago now went silent. Way to stop an argument, sister.
“What the…” said the furniture-slayer, grabbing a white envelope from inside its fallen wooden prey; even from my distance I could read to whom the letter was addressed, the words on it being in large font yet awful childish calligraphy. Kouma raised her hand that held the envelope to her eye level and then looked at me. “Shin-tsu, apparently this letter is for Morimoto Ayaka.”
“Aah, that’s good; then I’ll take it.”
We all turned around in synchrony to see the girl’s sudden entrance in scene and the shock was so evident you might as well say there was no point even for Kouma to try to keep her cool facade, and yet she did. The rest of us couldn’t keep our poker faces on.
“Oh dear.” Ryo seemed to be the most surprised of the three persons who were initially in the mysterious room. “She is…”
Ayaka smiled, her face gleaming with pride and a touch of madness.
“Aah, the best girl in the first novel? A walking plot twist? The sanest person in the cast? The one who will get the majority of the votes on popularity polls and the best fanfics? Another martyr of a world where injustice reigns and amazingly deep and well-made characters don’t get enough screen time, perhaps?”
“Arrogant and self-conscious as a peacock with feathers made of rainbows?” Reikoku-sensei joined Ayaka’s game with her usual cute and cuddly way of saying good things to people. I wonder if I’ll ever see her talking in a truly cute way; although it would be out of character, here is an idea for the author.
“Unaware of the fact verbal tics are obnoxious and even outdated in fiction?” Kouma followed right behind her as one of those race cars that run in the vacuum created by the front runner.
“Crazy?” Keeping it simple is better, that’s my life philosophy. I just wish everyone else in this universe believed that; my life would be a lot easier.
“…alive!” When Ryo finally finished her comment I was completely taken by surprise (what a surprise, eh? I have been surprised a lot lately, so I’m not surprised at being surprised anymore). She then stared at our teacher with unusually sharp eyes. “I assumed you murdered her!”
“What? Why would you think that, especially when I said I was going to take her to her parents? No, why would you think that at all?”
“You come out of nowhere, literally whip a translucent monster out of that crazy girl, make Shin-tsu take us out of the scene and then the girl and her family magically disappear. Sounds like a legit modus operandi for a teacher and nothing like a stalking killer, alright.”
“What about her strange, inappropriate relationship with one of her students? That must count as evidence of her suspicious behaviour.” I knew it was only a question of time before Kouma said something, but I don’t think that could have come in a worse moment. “By the way, the ‘teacher’s pet’ can be found amongst us.”
My best friend scanned the room and I tried not to panic when Reikoku-sensei’s eyes narrowed.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Shiina Ryo covered her mouth with her soft hands as if she just solved a mystery that haunted humanity for centuries. “Was she going out with Ayaka before she killed her?”
The sound died so quickly I felt like my ears would get that piercing buzz you get from getting closer to the sea or something like that. For some reason, disappointment was showing in everyone’s faces; I wonder, are all aspiring novelists so naïve?
Probably, otherwise they wouldn’t be trying to become novelists.
“That sounds… wrong, and on so many levels…” I found myself uttering those words without knowing why, especially because if Ryo decided to believe that the possibility I am that student becomes nil. “I don’t even…”
“Impossible.” Said the desk-annihilating fashionista.
“As a teacher, I feel deeply offended by those allegations.”
“Aah, her skin is absolutely gorgeous but I am sure she would look much more attractive if she let her hair down.” At that point all I could do was look at the daughter of the Morimoto family and only then did I understand why she was ‘canceled’ after her arc was over; allowing the presence on the main cast and development of a character who speaks openly like that would greatly diminish the chances of getting this book series published. On the other hand, it’s not like this ever had a chance. “Women with long hair are hot; that’s just common sense.”
This time the silence came along with Kouma Yon crossing arms and staring at Ayaka with a flame burning steadily inside her retina, probably offended by the last comment in the same way brunettes feel bad when people praise the beauty of blondes and redheads in their presence; from the girls in the first novel, the emotionless girl was the only one with short hair in the group. Not that it was too short for a girl (if there is such a thing) but her hair was even shorter than mine.
Ryo seemed particularly puzzled by that awkward moment.
“I don’t see why you guys got so upset: it’s a perfectly good pairing, although a little bit macabre. There would be a lot of tension because of the student-teacher situation and that would obviously boost the relationship’s strength. Forbidden gardens and unripe fruits would be used as analogies. It even adds the ‘tragic love’ element to the story, and people love that kind of stuff so much that Shakespeare, who we mentioned earlier, is still popular.” She scratched her chin for a moment or two and her savvy display ruined the innocent Ryo I had idealized a little bit. I’ll keep that in mind and avoid her writing works as the plague from now on, for the sake of my sanity. “Did she make a move on you then, Yon-chan?”
Silence didn’t come this time, but indignation occupied the whole room like water fills a sinking boat that was hit by a submarine missile.
“Not cool, Ryo.” Before I could notice it, my body almost instantly fell on the ground and assumed the fetal position; there was a limit to what a person could bear. “Not cool.”
“Why would you simply accept your friend’s idea that I like high school girls as a fact?” Funny thing is, Reikoku-sensei probably didn’t realize her question could easily guide Ryo towards the truth, or at least a certain value of ‘truth’. Trickier by the minute, the situation seemed to be a nightmare far from its end.
“Also, keep in mind I never said the ‘teacher’s pet’ was a ‘girl’.” As expected, Kouma used the hook she found in our teacher’s question to make Ryo face something that at this point should be obvious to anyone.
“There are more girls here than boys, so it’s a question of probability. And seriously, Shin-tsu having any kind of relationship with his teacher, who he met just a week ago? I find that very, very unlikely.” Thankfully, Shiina Ryo’s view of the world still has some ‘normal person’ reasoning and filters on it. No, that probably wasn’t the case but then again as long as I’m saved I shouldn’t complain. “And then you have a single, clearly repressed woman in her mid thirties who has issues with perfection and an urge to dominate. Teaching a classroom made of young girls whose hearts are blossoming in the spring of their lives… sounds like a plausible setting for me although not politically or socially correct in any sense considering our current standards. Anyway, the chances are bigger than many other unusual things such as Kouma walking around the town holding Shin-tsu’s arm as if they were lovers.” A small pause for laughter happened here. “I mean, what are the odds?”
The cold shade of uneasiness rose like a sunflower’s head on fast-forward. Good grief, that was most likely the worst mixed metaphor ever; still, it expresses a tad too well how I’m feeling.
“…yes, what are the odds. That is so absolutely absurd there is no way something like that can happen and even considering that as a possibility is silly and a massive waste of our precious time. Not an interesting subject at all. Ha-ha.”
“Ha-ha, indeed.” Kouma did better than I when it came to dismissing that topic. “And now for something completely different, let’s talk about that letter.”
Ayaka, who hadn’t spoken for quite a while, joined the conversation. Considering the novel as a precedent, it must mean this is going to end very soon. As you probably are expecting me to say by now, hopefully.
“Aah, way ahead of you.” She quickly took the envelope from Kouma’s hand, and I couldn’t help but wonder how.“This envelope contains a letter with two, no, three details/hints concerning the following volume of The Longing of Shiina Ryo. The reason why we’re here is to present them to the reader and make funny comments. As I was the best character in the main cast, I was chosen by the author to be the hostess of this special episode.”
“Hm.” There is a great chance Ryo’s face had never shown so much disappointment, and I never thought I would hear a sigh so poignant in my whole life. “So in the end this is just a really cheap bottle episode with blatant, mindless fanservice that indirectly encourages baseless speculation and fanfics while not adding a thing to the plot that will obviously end up with a Deus Ex Machina. My life is ruined.”
“Did you say ‘best character in the main cast’? Don’t get your hopes up, you deluded cockroach; you were nowhere near the main cast.” Kouma was being even more of a bitter person than her usual self, probably still resented because of the ‘long-haired women are better’ comment. “You are an ascended extra at best.”
“A-a-ascended extra?! I’m going to kill you!”
While the two girls I have been involved in fights with were arguing furiously and being watched by my sadist teacher (who probably wouldn’t stop a fight and would rather start placing bets on Kouma’s victory), my decision on what to do next was to try cheering up Shiina Ryo, who seemed more depressed to know that she was taking part in a poorly devised special episode than to know her whole life was a piece of fictional work. This might have something to do with her name being on the title, but then again this is just the kind of baseless speculation she hates so much.
Writers, go figure.
“C’mon Ryo, it’s not that bad.”
She seemed offended by my question and it made me question how I could have said anything wrong with such a small, universal sentence.
“How, Shin-tsu? How? You know what they’re going to do!” Ryo then lowered the volume of her sweet voice and unconsciously added raspiness to the whisper that made me shiver like I felt an electric current passing through my body. “They’re going to do gender bender slashfics, I know they will! How could I be pleased to know that there’s some devilish creature out there writing YotsuXYasuri stories as we speak?”
“…Yotsu and… Yasuri?”
“The alternate reading for Yon-chan’s name and mine; they sound so fitting for a ‘Sengoku’ story there is absolutely no way someone is going to waste the chance of making an epic samurai Brokeback Mountain out of this.” She sat on the floor and started shaking her head slowly. “Even I was attacked by the urge to write that story. We’re so, so doomed; why, oh why have you failed me, Internet?”
At that particular point, the feminist in me gave up and the girl fight seemed much more interesting. Unfortunately, by the time I turned around there was none. All I could see was Kouma Yon with what I presumed to be a lock of Ayaka’s hair on her hand while Reikoku-sensei seemed much less agitated than I assumed she would be by now, for no particular reason. My eyes were filled with pity when they met Ayaka’s; as someone who fought against the monster that is Kouma once I can tell even with her trademark pantographic knife the cheery girl never had a chance against the fashionista.
“Aah, can I proceed with this?” Said the teary eyed duel loser.
“Please do.” My intuition told me there was a chance the plot spoilers could lighten up things around here, but every piece of my brain screamed the opposite. “Three details, you said?”
“Yes, three. The first one is…” The girl did her best to recompose herself while reading the letter out loud. “Here it is: ‘new girls will be added to the main cast’. Aah, the things I put up with…”
“More girls? Yeah, because that is exactly what we need around here.” Anyone could tell just by looking at Kouma Yon that she wasn’t pleased at all with the first spoiler, but she had at least the decency to express her disappointment in a low volume. “I bet they all have hair longer than mine.”
“Aah, let’s see… the second one is ‘Shin-tsu joins an extreme metal band’. That sounds quite confusing, doesn’t it?”
“Shameless author pandering, now?” Shiina Ryo was now massaging her forehead with both her index and middle fingers by making a circular movement. “Is this guy even trying? He’d be better off writing ‘Flower Language of the Dragon’. BL seems to be selling these days.”
“What?” I said instantly, for the lack of a better way to express my thoughts.
“The first YotsuXYatsuri novel, of the ‘Fallen Roses Revolution’ faux-historical romantic series. The only volume where Nobunaga doesn’t appear. Best-seller in a famous online site because of the publisher’s viral marketing. Adapted to three manga series, one of them happening in an alternate universe, none of them good. Gets nothing more than a badly produced OVA but the figurine sales remain good for the first three years. A proof that fansubs aren’t the disease killing anime industry.”
Shocked as I was, to ask a question was like stepping onto mines.
“…you have planned that far already?”
“Why wouldn’t I? I’m already considering the doujin fighting games. By the way Kouma, I’ve got a few things to say about Kokoro-ni’s character design.”
While I was quite aware that Kokoro-ni would be my female counterpart in this twisted universe of hers, I’d rather not think about it. A violent-looking Kouma Yon was staring at me and it was fairly easy to read what her deathly eyes wanted to say. She wanted me to stop feeding Ryo ideas that will end up making the fashionista work late.
“But I thought you hated that idea!” I said, trying to fix the situation I created before Kouma Yon decided to fix me. “Yes I do, but think of the fans of the franchise!”
Kouma Yon touched my arm and I knew it meant that was the last straw for her; either I took hold of that mad bull or I would be a dead rider by the next time the rodeo public blinked.
“There are no fans! There is no franchise! You don’t even have a story yet, just a derivative concept!”
“The potential fans, I mean; they’re not here right now, but they can be around soon.”
“But what good could possibly come out of considering what a group of people who technically does not exist right now wan-”
All of a sudden Reikoku-sensei got herself in between us, her hands signaling this was the moment to stop.
“Koukishin-kun, take my advice when I tell you that you do not want to go there; next thing you know this is going to become a discussion on the ethics of abortion. Morimoto-chan, please proceed and tell us about the last spoiler.”
Shrugging while struggling with that thought, I surrendered.
“Aah, I really like the way you pronounce ‘Morimoto-chan’, sensei. If only I knew you had such a delightful accent before, I would have done things that would catch your attention and have you call me like that more times…”
When will this purgatory hallucination of sheer terror end? It’s like falling down an infinite flight of stairs; it keeps happening!
“Cut it out, appealing to a yuri relationship is not going to win you any fans.” More annoyed than myself, Kouma Yon was visibly standing on the edge and just about going berserk. “Just say the last detail so we can all go home. Make another attention-craving comment if you dare, and I assure you one of us won’t ever go anywhere again.”
“A-a-alright, just don’t attack me… You really don’t have a sense of humor.” Ayaka gazed down apparently concerned but I think anyone would be in her situation. “The last spoiler is…”
“…what?” Looking like a kid listening to a horror story, Shiina Ryo barely could contain her excitement. “What?”
Morimoto Ayaka looked up, her eyes pure void.
“One of you will have a hole drilled in your skull.”
Then I woke up drowning in cold sweat.
Thankfully the whole experience was only a nightmare that will probably be forgotten by the morning considering I do have a lifetime worth of night horrors, and any of those can surpass this omen easily. With any luck, I’ll only wake up a couple times more and only one of the nightmares will involve trees. No, perhaps that’s a little bit too optimistic of me.
That’s what I thought, but then I saw something near my bed that made me reconsider, much to my dismay.
Sorry about that, I lied; I didn’t see a thing. My bedroom was the same as always. It’s just that a Shyamalan plot twist is always so expected at times like these that if I failed to insert that, this special episode would be incomplete somehow.
I’m going back to sleep, see you in the next volume.
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