Mandrake’s scribblings: Hm.. no updates on AML page yet. What’s the matter, monkeyman? You shy? >:) Enjoy the chapter!
It is late in the evening. The sun has sunk into the horizon and the sky is slowly losing its orange glow. The city of Hirosaki is slowly transitioning to its night life with lights turning on in homes, buildings, and streets. High above the city and all over the sky are the famous auroras that mesmerized the whole world. With the sun and its bright rays out leaving the stage, the auroras now have a chance to embrace the city with its beautiful glow. In a neighborhood playground, standing on top of the children’s slide, a woman tries to take a picture of the aurora sky.
Chihiro: “Hmm… Mnnn…”
She stands on the tip of her feet as she holds her phone as high as she can. She flips through various filters and squints at the phone display. Making a disappointed face, she lowers a phone and bends over to face another woman standing next to the slide.
Chihiro: “Shuu~ Chan~ I can’t get a good picture. They are still too faint!”
Shuu Ren: “Then we can wait until it gets darker! For now, get down from there!”
Chihiro sits down on the slide and extends her arms out to Shuu Ren.
Chihiro: “Shuu-chan! Catch me!”
Shuu Ren: “No. Stop being childish.”
She crosses her arms and slides down the slide. Shuu Ren sighs and holds out her hand to help her up. Chihiro beams as she takes her hand.
Shuu Ren: “You are full of energy even when it’s late in the day. Didn’t you say you were pretty full with food from company party dinner? You’re hurting yourself if you run around like that.”
Chihiro: “Muu… I’m fine. I’m a full-grown woman.”
Shuu Ren: “Hmm… But you are the one asking me to pamper you?”
Chihiro jolts in realization and pouts.
Chihiro: “Then! Then! It’s my turn to worry over you, Shuu-chan!”
Shuu Ren: “Chihiro… Stop being-“
Chihiro grabs Shuu Ren’s arms.
Chihiro: “Shuu-chan! Why did you reject the promotion?”
Shuu Ren: “Eh? Ah.”
During the dinner earlier, President Aoi had personal meetings with all the employees who played major roles in securing the Apple Ame contract. She had evaluated their skills and offered a job promotion to them. Shuu Ren was one of those selected by her but she turned the offer down.
Chihiro: “We will find a place to talk!”
She marches over to the playground swings and taps it with her hand.
Chihiro: “Over here. We will have a talk here.”
Shuu Ren: “You don’t have to make a big deal out of this…”
Chihiro runs behind Shuu Ren and nudges her repeatedly.
Chihiro: “Go! Go!”
Shuu Ren: “Wha- Chihiro!”
Shuu Ren reluctantly sits down on the swing and Chihiro sits down next to her. After giving a huff, Chihiro turns to Shuu Ren.
Chihiro: “So, why did you reject the job promotion?”
Shuu Ren withdraws reflexively before throwing a question to change the subject.
Shuu Ren: “You rejected your own job promotion too. What is your reason for doing that?”
Chihiro: “Muu… Don’t change the subject!”
She puffs her cheeks in protest. Shuu Ren makes a disgruntled look and sighs.
Shuu Ren: “Rejecting a promotion offer is no big deal for an old woman like me but you are a young woman with a bright future. Why did you throw away that opportunity?”
Chihiro puffs her cheek even more. Having to handle such a difficult situation, Shuu Ren makes a troubled face. She closes her eyes to arrange her thoughts and after a few moments, she faces Chihiro with determination.
Shuu Ren: “Alright, Chihiro, I’ll go first, but I have to hear you reason next.”
Chihiro stops pouting and listened to Shuu Ren with her eyes beaming.
Shuu Ren: “Stop it with those eyes. My reason is nothing special. I’m just too old.”
Chihiro: “Bu! That’s ridiculous! You’re pretty energetic!”
She huffs and starts swinging her seat.
Shuu Ren: “No, no. I’m in my mid forties. I can’t keep up with any of the youths these days. Besides…”
She holds up her hand and begins counting with her fingers.
Shuu Ren: “The job I’m offered requires me to be more proactive. More travelling between the company branches. More staff to handle. More meetings, now with branch executives. Having to prepare many reports from the branches to the executives. This old body cannot cope with this much work.”
One by one she lists the tasks of the job by lifting her fingers. She then closes her hand and puts it down.
Shuu Ren: “Plus, the higher I climb the corporate ladder, the more muddy the office politics become.”
Her voice turns solemn and serious. Chihiro, taken aback by the sudden change in tone, calls out to her.
Shuu Ren: “When power and salary gets big, competition can get a bit ruthless. Behaviors get unsavory and watching your back becomes a useful habit. These kinds of things are for the youth with determination and tenacity or the old with wisdom, experience, and deep pockets. No place for an old woman who has mellowed over the years.”
Chihiro sits there and swings quietly. Shuu Ren realizes that she has brought down the mood with her serious tone and quickly talks in a more light-hearted tone.
Shuu Ren: “That’s the not only reason, Chihiro. I have many things that I need to tend to. My home and more importantly, my cat, Yozora. The golden eagle, Ama-san, which is my responsibility. I’m also worried about you too, Chihiro.”
After counting them with her fingers, she looks at Chihiro. She is make a difficult face that is stuck between worry and elation.
Chihiro: “T-Then, I can help too! I can take care of Yozora when you’re out of town.”
Shuu Ren: “It’s not as simple as my trip to Tokyo. It will be very troublesome for you and I’ll be a bad, selfish person for making you do that. Plus, if I neglect taking care of Yozora, she will hate me.”
Chihiro: *Yozora would never…*
Chihiro looks away and whispered something inaudible. Shuu Ren grips the chains of her seat and arches her body backwards to check on the sky.
Shuu Ren: “Anyway, that’s not the main point. I’m old. A job like that will put my health at risk. Forgive me for saying this, but I am still not accepting that job. Because… I have my own plans for my future.”
She gently pats her stomach. Her stomach that now bears another life.
Shuu Ren: “I’m sorry, Chihiro. My mind has been made up.”
See the gentle response, Chihiro lost her vigor and returns a big smile.
Chihiro: “I see. Aah~ I forgot about about that.”
Chihiro returns to her swing and rocks back and forth.
Chihiro: “I see… In a few months, a baby will be born. Your schedule will be too much if you take the new job.”
Chihiro turns to Shuu Ren with a bright happy face.
Chihiro: “Alright. I support your decision. Rejecting the job is the right call.”
Shuu Ren: “Thank you, Chihiro. It means a lot.”
Chihiro: “Huhu~ Then make me the godmother of your child. I won’t accept anything else. I want to a godchild!”
Chihiro looks expectantly at Shuu Ren who responds with a wry smile.
Shuu Ren: “Ah- Okay. I’ll rely on you when the time comes.”
Chihiro throws her arm up in the air in celebration. Shuu Ren watches her intently and decides to continue their conversation.
Shuu Ren: “Hey, Chihiro.”
Shuu Ren: “Let’s continue the conversation from earlier.”
Knowing the direction of the conversation, she lowers her arms to her knees and straightens up.
Shuu Ren: “Chihiro, why did you reject you promotion?”
Shuu Ren looks directly at Chihiro. Chihiro’s eyes dart to one side and her head turns sideways to avoid eye contact.
Chihiro: “Why did I reject it, right? Hahahaha~”
She brushes her hair nervously.
Shuu Ren: “From the four years I have been working with you, I know that you are a very capable person. I wish for you to put that energy and enthusiam into something for your sake.”
Chihiro: “You’re exaggerating, Shuu-chan.”
Shuu Ren: “I’m not. Take the Apple Ame contract for example. When President Aoi moved the meeting into their harvest season, you manage to negotiate cooperation from them in my place while I was in Tokyo. I am truly thankful for that.”
Shuu Ren clasps her hands together and bows her head and torso. Surprised at her bowing, Chihiro anxiously raises Shuu Ren by the shoulders.
Chihiro: “Please raise your head! I am just doing my job. Don’t be so humble!”
Shuu Ren straightens her neck and continues her speech.
Shuu Ren: “It also shows how capable you are. You’ve held your position long enough. Why not strive for higher?”
Chihiro nervously scratches her cheek while looking away. She then faces Shuu Ren and closes her eyes to think.
Chihiro: “Hmm… How do I put this?”
Finally settled on an answer, Chihiro opens her eyes and answers earnestly.
Chihiro: “I rejected the promotion because I am scared of the job and the competition that comes with it.”
An unexpected answer. Shuu Ren is speechless for a moment. Chihiro returns her gaze forward and starts swinging.
Chihiro: “It’s just as you said, the higher you go up the corporate ladder, the more cutthroat the competition is.”
She stops swinging and begins tapping her legs together.
Chihiro: “I may be young and competent but I’m no different than the others that made it up there as well. What is that saying again? A prodigy at a young age…”
Chihiro struggles to remember the phrase correctly. Wanting to continue the conversation, Shuu Ren chimes in.
Shuu Ren: “A prodigy as a child, a genius as a teenager, an average person as an adult.”
Happy with her answer, Chihiro smiles brightly and makes an ‘O’ sign with one hand.
Chihiro: “That one! Yes, that’s right… I’ll be just the same as the others, waiting to be triumphed over by those who are ruthless and merciless.”
Chihiro settles down and makes a downcast look before looking at Shuu Ren.
Chihiro: “Shuu-chan, when I was a kid, I was one of those quiet girls who like to keep her head low. I had an average appearance since I started school and since I didn’t draw attention, I am alone for both my middle and high school period.”
Faced with new information about her colleague, Shuu Ren is not sure what to say.
Shuu Ren: “That is… Terrible.”
Chihiro: “Oh, it wasn’t bad. In fact, I was never lonely. I focused on my study and I also had many other things to learn.”
Shuu Ren: “Were you alienated by you classmates?”
Chihiro shakes her head.
Chihiro: “No… You probably don’t like this about me, but I was the person who watches everyone from a distance. I guess it’s more like spying. I spied on all sorts of people and draw anything I could learn from their interactions. Bullying, lying, betrayal, friendship, teamwork, puppy love. I learned all sorts of things from the people around me as they interact with one another.”
Shuu Ren: “…”
She keeps quiet and let Chihiro continue.
Chihiro: “I thought that if I learn any of these I would be well prepared for the situation if it pops up. I hate the saying, ‘Life is unexpected and you are always not prepared for it.’ I would say ‘Screw that, I can prepare for those mistakes by learning about them through watching others!'”
She shakes her fist in the air before settling down.
Chihiro: “But you know, that saying rings true and I can’t help but feel that I am not prepared at all… Those feelings truly hit me when I finished high school. There was truly nothing I can learn from the adults because they keep to themselves and I’ll just get in their way.”
She turns to Shuu Ren and smiles gently.
Chihiro: “But then, I met you. At first, you were one of those capable adults I fear, but you reached out to me and helped me. Teaching me, nurturing my growth. More than that, you became my best friend. In a way, you saved me from a path of uncertainty. I am very grateful for that.”
Shuu Ren: “… Chihiro…”
Chihiro: “So if I am to take on a better job, I’ll be leaving your care.”
Chihiro puts on a wry smile.
Chihiro: “It’s kind of scary. So let me stay like this for a bit longer.”
Shuu Ren: “… I can’t in good conscience let you waste your life like that.”
Chihiro: “It’s not a waste. I will go off on my own and find my own path. I promise you, I will ‘spread my wings’, so to say. But for now, I want to stay with you and mature a bit.”
Shuu Ren looks at Chihiro. It hurts to see her head lowered and her body hunched over. However, her face shows bright determination and it puts her heart at ease. Shuu Ren puts on a warm smile.
Shuu Ren: “Alright. Don’t take too long, Chihiro. Do your best. I’ll support you all the way.”
Chihiro smiles brightly, her eyes wet with tears.
Chihiro: “I will! Watch me!”
Shuu Ren: “Don’t cry! Here, wipe your eyes.”
She passes Chihiro some tissue paper. Chihiro gladly takes some and gently dabs the tissue paper on her eyes.
Chihiro: “So, do you need to talk to Kinoshita, Hamasaki, and Maeda about their life choices?”
Shuu Ren: “They all took their promotions on the spot. Suzuki and Tanaka also accepted theirs. I expect you to prepare a small congratulatory gift for each of them before they take their leave. I’ll present them my own as well.”
Chihiro stands up from her seat and stretches her arms.
Chihiro: “Oh? The auroras have finally come out! Look! Don’t they look amazing?”
Chihiro looks up at the sky and notices the dark sky that contrasts the bright colours of the auroras. The dark neighborhood gives off minimal background light which allowed the stars to stay visible in the night sky.
Chihiro: “Hey, take a picture of me with the auroras! I’ll stand on the slide!”
Shuu Ren: “O-Okay.”
Chihiro points towards the slide and pulls out her phone. She hands Shuu Ren her phone and runs to the slide to climb it.
Shuu Ren: “Chihiro, be careful!”
Chihiro answers as her head pokes over the top of her slide smiling.
Shuu Ren: [Goodness, she’s like a child sometimes…]
As Chihiro reaches the top of the slide, a gust if wind catches her hair and tosses it in the air.
Chihiro: “Ah! My hair!”
Distressed over her messy hair, she takes out a handheld mirror from her bag and tidies her hair with it. Shuu Ren walks to the front of the slide and prepares the phone camera. After looking at the picture displayed on the screen, she takes a few steps back to get a better shot.
Shuu Ren: “I’m ready over here. Are you ready?”
Chihiro: “Oh- I’m ready!”
Satisfied with the look of her hair, she stands up at the top of the slide. The gust of wind catches her hair once more and she places her hand on the side of her head to hold down her hair.
Shuu Ren: [Oh~]
In that instant, Shuu Ren holds her breath. The view of Chihiro with her hair dancing in the wind with the dark starry night and the soft glow of the auroras. Chihiro has always been a pretty woman, but she is even more prettier now. So much so that it moves Shuu Ren’s heart.
Chihiro: “Is the shot good?”
The wind calms down and Chihiro calls out to Shuu Ren. Shuu Ren shakes off her trance and answers.
Shuu Ren: “It’s good.” [So pretty… I’m jealous.]
Chihiro: “Don’t take the picture with the slide in it, okay?”
Shuu Ren: “Yes, yes. I won’t.”
Chihiro: “How is my look?”
Shuu Ren: “You look pretty. I’m going to take the picture, okay?”
Chihiro spreads her arms up high in the air.
Shuu Ren: “On three. One. Two. Three.”
As Shuu Ren is about the take the picture, Chihiro shouts in glee.
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