Crossover Fan Fiction ❯ My Unfortunate Whale Vision ❯ SEVEN ( Chapter 7 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Chapter 7


Summer Break started, and I took the opportunity to attend cram school daily, getting caught up on mathematics. Kawasaki joined me at the school, though attending different classes since she was heading for industrial arts college rather than engineering and technical. My classmates were sweaty fat people, all determination to escape from the lives their parents had suffered through to get them this far, desperate not to repeat their mistakes. Hoping their education would grant them a higher wage, a steadier job, a life without constant apologies of minions, without having to be ashamed of failures. That’s what education promises. Somehow, I think it will fail to deliver, just as much as youth fails to deliver fidelity to relationships based on transitory things like appearances. I am forever cursed to never be so shallow because I cannot see that world, to see the bloom of youth. It is all wrinkles and double chins and guts swollen by too many noodles and eventual stomach cancer. After classes end in late afternoon I limp home with my cane and summer bus pass, seeing women in summer dresses far too revealing of their spilling swollen flesh and do my best to avoid the bile that threatens to rise up within me. I don’t always succeed.

I swigged from my water bottle to rinse the taste of vomit from my mouth. It was the mumu, the land whale in the mumu. Shameless billowing flesh. Nobody needs to see that. That was a woman whose unfortunate husband would find reasons to work late, and drink later, insuring he would be too tired to perform any kinds of acts with such a beast. Just because it talks doesn’t make it human. This is a core lesson of Shinto faith, after all. Things can have souls, yet not be human. Our islands are full of stories of the various kinds of monsters. That probably had something to do with all the mercury bubbling out of our hot springs, but set that aside for now. Land Whales were a common monster in Japan, much like Karens were common monsters in America. People overseas believe Japanese people are ageless and thin. This is not so. We have imported foods that are ruining our health, and stomach cancer remains our leading killer. It is all the sodium in our food that does it. This did not protect me from my personal rainbow of hell. I don’t even drink alcohol to blame for this. I spat out the latest mouthful of clean water into some flowers and stood straight. I found a terrifying goblin of a woman grinning at me. I stared back, absently finding a mint to fix my breath. Best not to make any sudden movements. She looked vaguely familiar, possibly a relation of someone I knew. I stared, she stared, neither of us saying anything. She wasn’t as ugly as most of the people I’ve met. She had a certain manic energy and tension which prevented her from fattening up. Incapable to settling down into a slower pace of life.

“Okay. I’m ready to ask: who are you?” I finally said after several minutes of thinking produced nothing, but at least the bile was mostly gone from my throat. I swigged more water, swallowing it.

“Yukinoshita Haruno. Are you the fellow that turned my adorable sister into a goth girl?” she answered.

“Really? I haven’t seen her since the exams,” I admitted to the oneesan.

“She’s been listening to The Cure pretty much continually. They’re a bit dark for me,” Haruno explained. “Apparently she finds them a perfect metaphor for her life of privilege and self-imposed isolation.”

“Isn’t Yuigahama keeping her company?” I asked.

“Ah, that one is on a family vacation,” denied Haruno-san. “So my little Yukino is all alone, reading dark poetry and listening to Englishmen whine about feelings and regret.”

“Hmm. An interesting choice, to be sure. Perhaps you can drag her out for a family trip to the beach or something similar.”

“My family are quite busy with politics. Such a task might be better accomplished by a boyfriend,” Haruno answered.

“Probably. Does she have one?” I asked. Haruno just stared at me until I became confused, then uncomfortable.

“Apparently not,” Haruno finally said. Her goblin looks were piercing, and I wonder if the original folktales about them were by people like me, cursed to see ugliness. It would figure that my visions were not unique in Japan, that I was just a recent victim of this visual malady. I tried opening my eyes briefly and found her current looks were stunning, a 10 out of 10. Funny that as my lids closed again I was left with a leering goblin once more. I suppose her inner monster would eventually be revealed to the outside world. Small wonder the people around us were staring at her. Her mother must have nightmares.

“So you’re a college student,” I began. She nodded, smiling with lots of teeth.

“Yes. And you’re a high school student. I noticed you emerging from cram school. Apparently Soubu isn’t enough clout for your ambitions. So, what’s your goal?” she inquired. It was a personal question from a stranger, and a bit rude to ask. I considered.

“Nosy,” I finally answered. She pouted, face distorting from her expression.

“For someone who upturns my little sister’s world so much, you seem awfully casual about your responsibility.”

“Hey, don’t make this about me. I haven’t slept with her. We don’t have much more than shared afternoons and general contempt for each other,” I rejected. She grinned, and I could see she believed she had something on me now. She pointed to my cane.

“Contempt, eh? Shared afternoons? Time alone with two girls of marriageable age, dreamy light breeze wafting in the windows, maybe some sakura petals blow across?” she taunts.

“That happened one time. You know well that sakura only bloom a few days. It is our national metaphor. It describes well our withered present and fallen future,” I accused. Haruno-san pealed with laughter at my rebuke, drawing first attention, then shame at being caught out from the nearby staring crowd. I suppose she’s used to this, as a 10 among mere mortals.

“Only a literature student would dare impose such a metaphor in that way. And if you know language so well, why bother with cram school? So, again, what are your ambitions?” she coaxed, getting into my personal space. Would she give up without an answer? Would rejecting her hold her off? Would she lose interest when her sibling is involved? That was her angle, wasn’t it?

I found a place to sit down. I wasn’t going to hobble away from this harridan of mischief, not with my bad leg.

“My parents work all the time. They are rarely home. I’ve been left to raise my sister since around Junior High. Like you, I understand what it means to be the older sibling, and to feel responsible for the little one. She’s growing up. She’s got a little boyfriend. It looks serious. Is that what you think is happening here?”

“That music you introduced her to. It’s changed her whole personality. She’s wearing black and just stares when I try to talk to her. I don’t know what’s happened to her. Take responsibility!” Haruno demanded of me.

“It’s just a music. Perhaps she found something in music that she understood and expressed what couldn’t be said before. Something better expressed than samurai poetry. So now she’s got a new emotion. And you dislike that?” I replied. The pain in my leg is considerable. In the accident it was both the lower bones that snapped, and standing for more than a short time just makes it ache. Also, when the weather changes I can feel it. Barometric pressure is the cause.

“She’s turned into some kind of gothic darkness obsessed romantic,” Haruno explained.

“Well, that seems to be in a lot of those songs.”

“When will it end? When will she get tired of this image?” Haruno demanded of me, seizing my shoulders. Her hands were strong, wiry, even sharp would describe them well.

“They have twenty albums. They made music for four decades. It may be some time before she’s exhausted her interest,” I warned this goblin sister.

“May I be sincere with you?” Haruno asked, looking me in the eyes sternly. This implies she was lying before, so is probably still lying. A born manipulator, this woman.

“It would be a first, so may as well,” I answered. She smiled at my observation.

“Perceptive. I can see why you drive her crazy.” Her perfume wafted between her breasts to bathe my senses in her, igniting a moment of desire, conflicting with the goblin features I knew to be her future. Such things are aggravating, but I fought for control.

“I drive her crazy because I refuse to buy into her dominance games. She is used to being the authority, to being the smartest person in the room. This is not actually so.”

“Oh? And what do you do during your warm afternoons alone together with my young and impressionable sister?” Haruno demanded, an edge to her voice.

“I study. She pretends to read pretentious Samurai poetry. Lately, she has a friend who is cheerful and bubbly to keep her company with girlish things. I would have expected her to lose interest in my wall of indifference,” I said, gesturing to the seat beside me on the bench. Haruno, noting her hands still clenching me let go and sat down. Most of the onlookers pretended to go about their business again. The hot girl confronting some blank-faced boy, probably a boyfriend, accepting his explanation and the public eruption turned into a quiet conversation. Far less interesting for their gossipy minds.

“All sounding perfectly innocent, right up until she learned of this band you were listening to, this Cure?” she accused.

“There is a tendency for Japanese culture to ignore the outside world until we can’t anymore,” I answered her in English.

“Oh, a man of culture, are you then, Hachiman?” Haruno answered in English.

“We are literally sitting in the beginning of a famous piece of foreign literature. This is the port of Chiba City, and that is the sky. In a few hours it will be dark.”

“And do you remember television snow, Hachiman?” Haruno asked me, leaning in. Her question indicated familiarity with the novel.

“You’re only a few years older. Do you?” I replied.

“I found an old tv in the attic once, when I was six. I plugged it in and stared at the static. So yes, I know what it looks like.”

“I did something similar at a junk store once. Komachi and I stared at it, wondering what was wrong,” I admitted. “It says something that an entire movement was born here, while our nation continues to sleepwalk into irrelevance.”

“Oh, and why do you think that is?” Haruno asked, a leading question if ever there was one.

“Your father is good at protecting the interests of those in power, those who can pay to keep things going pretty much as they have been. Keeping things stable. The novel was about rebellion, about overturning everything people believed, replacing it with a new paradigm of technology.”

“The Singularity, yes. I am familiar. Enough men have described this to me more than enough times. I don’t owe you enough to feign interest,” Haruno dismissed the topic.

“Ah, but Yukino has discovered something that overthrows her own paradigm, hasn’t she? She found depth that Samurai poetry and appearances failed to reveal. Instead of a future as an angry trophy wife going to fat, instead she has this new idea.”

“And what idea do you think she’s found?” Haruno demanded of me.

“Grief, probably. Anger too,” I suggested. “And of course, a sense of tragic romance. The Cure seems to be all about the tragic romance. As Japanese people we should understand tragic romance better than anyone.”

“I’ve been to Spain. It is not uniquely Japanese,” replied Haruno drily.

“So why is it that you cannot speak to your sister?” I asked.

Haruno pouted again, trying to think up an obvious lie. It is not that I can stop her. She isn’t obligated to tell the truth to a stranger, after all.

“Yukino-chan lives apart from our family, in an apartment. That’s the building there,” she pointed to a twenty story tall luxury condo tower two kilometers away.

“That is a very clichéed existence. A princess in a tower, really?” I confirmed.

“You think we’re princesses?” Haruno asked me, still too close and ignoring personal boundaries. I am starting to think she does this to get people off balance.

“Would you rather be called Duchesses? Or Baronesses?” I teased.

“Saucy. I like Baroness. I sound like a supervillain that way,” Haruno asserted.

“But Yukino definitely comes off as a princess. She likes lingering in a tower, away from the peons, looking down on people. When we first met she refused to introduce herself, presumably assuming I already knew her by reputation. I decided not to introduce myself until she did, and ignored every attempt she made to demand my name for the next hour. I managed to get to the end of the school’s last bell without conversing with her.”

“That would drive her up the wall,” admitted Haruno. “That’s probably what got her attention. No one has ever dared to dismiss her.”

“I don’t fall for appearances, so whatever influence she’s used to wielding based on looks or family name offers little value to me.”

“Oh? How about me then? Don’t you find me gorgeous?” Haruno purred.


“Oh? Really? Do you go for boys then?” Haruno accused.

“Women often respond that way to disinterest. It can’t be themselves that is the cause of disinterest. That would require sufficient self-awareness,” I responded.

“You really don’t find me attractive? How interesting.”

“That’s not an invitation to flirt. My heart is not for sale, or for rent,” I answered deadpan as she leaned her right breast on me. Women always know where their boobs are. They only touch men with them when they mean to, never by accident.

“Are you sure? You might regret not renting your virtue to this oneesan?” Haruno teased, switching back to Japanese. The cutesy look was spoiled by old eyes and the goblin face that she was still clueless that I saw.

“Pass. Vanity is unappealing. Besides, why don’t you understand the music?” I responded.

“I’m the pretty one. I’m the face of the family. I can’t afford to be melancholy,” Haruno answered, serious for the first time. “Come and talk to her. She might open the door if you’re here with me.”

“Tell you what. You listen to one song without crying and I’ll do as you ask.”

“Hmph. Fine. But I’m using my own earphones. It’s unhygienic to share.” I found the song on Head On The Door, final track, number 10. I adjusted volume and hit play. Then I watched her face. The goblin features, shrank, turning back into a girl of maybe twenty. The lines of her face receded, until she was rather pretty. When the track ended I pressed play again, so she could hear it once more. I could see her anticipating the words. While his voice was high and whiny, the words were dark and troubled. And I saw the tears form. I handed her a tissue. She wiped her eyes and blew her nose by the time it ended the second time, then withdrew her headphones.

“This proves nothing,” she insisted, blowing her nose noisily.

“You know, when you’re honest you’re a lot prettier to look at. Like a completely different person,” I commented. Haruno growled at this.

“You said there are twenty albums from this band?” Haruno confirmed. I nodded.

“They started making music in 1978. This song was from 1985, deep in the Cold War.”

“So this is why Yukino is this way?” Haruno asked, clenching the used tissue in her fist.

“There’s more to hear. The first song was one I was singing while doing calculus homework.”

“Play that one for me,” she demanded. I found the album file and selected The Figurehead. Pressed play and watched her shiver despite the summer heat. Something about the music affected her appearance, probably her soul, so to speak. Something about it changed how she acted and thus how she would look in middle age. The goblin vanished, the demented grin replaced by a stern cold expression, like a statue or one of those Nagel posters you see through hair salon windows. She visibly shuddered, mouthing the words “I will never be clean again.” Haruno grasped me tightly then, for her own comfort. I could do nothing but let her, resting my hands on her back until she stopped crying. She eventually drew away and I gave her another tissue. She wiped off her tears, smearing her mascara and the light summer makeup she wore.

“What must you think of me,” Haruno apologized.

“Ah, well, the music takes people that way,” I allowed. “So, you wanted me to talk to Yukino at her apartment then?”

“If you would. I think I understand a little better now.”

We walked the two kilometers, the tower looming over us until we reached the front security doors. Haruno lead the way and approached the intercom kiosk. She pushed a short code and I listened to the phone ring over the speaker.

“Hello? Who is there?” asked Yukino’s tinny voice.

“It’s Haruno. I brought your friend,” the woman said to the microphone grille.

“Eh? Yui is already here. Who do you mean?” Yukino asked.

“It’s me,” I said.

“Who?” she asked. “Speak up.”


“Hikki?” asked Yui’s voice.

“Yes,” I sighed, not feeling like arguing with the kiosk. “Please let us up.”

“Fine. Eighteenth floor. Apartment nine.” The intercom clicked off and the elevator door opened. Haruno and I stepped inside and the 18 button lit up. We rose in silence.

The door opened. “Neesan, what happened to your face? Did Hikigaya make you cry?” accused Yukino, glaring at me.

“Yes. I made her listen to Sinking and then The Figurehead.”

“Hmm. Yes, that would do it. Come in then.” Yukino guided her sister to the bathroom to wash off the smeared makeup and presumably make herself presentable.

I wandered past the kitchen into the main living room past what is presumably a bedroom door. There was a glass wall of windows, a balcony, and a very good view out over Chiba and Tokyo Fizzyland. Beyond that were the many MANY golf courses and eventually the orchards and farm fields, growing pears and peas the prefecture was known for. Somewhere on the horizon was the Pacific. It is probably visible at dawn on a clear day. Fancy.

“Hi Hikki,” greeted a cheerful Yuigahama. She was still using that nickname, but I have grown immune and no longer bothered wasting my breath to object anymore. I suppose I will have to put up with it through high school. Others were calling me that in the classroom too. Be Stoic. Ignore the irritations. Allow them to wash over me.

“Good afternoon, Yui-san. How are you feeling today?” I asked politely.

“I’m keeping Yukino cheered up. We’ve been singing a duet of Cold together. Maybe when she comes back you can listen to us.” I noted the cellphone mounted on a tripod that looked to be recording them together.

“Are you shooting a video too?” I asked.

“Kinda, yeah. It seems fun. Other people do. I thought we could try and do it right, then share it on WePipe.” We talked a while before Haruno emerged without makeup and looking unusually sober, for her. Yukino joined Yui in front of the camera and they sang Cold together, which is a really dark song about abusive sex and drug withdrawal. So probably typical for Japan? I have no idea. I’m not a woman, and I don’t need to understand what kinks turn them on. They seemed pretty happy with it and watched the video a few times before nodding together and uploading it. Little did I know I was witnessing the birth of a WePipe channel.