Play in the Rain and You get Wet (Pts. 1, 2, and 3)

Apr 12th, 2021 (edited)
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  1. First part of my take on the autistic onion for you fellow writefags. I just couldn't get the idea out of my head, so it was either writing it down, or taking meds - and we all know that nobody around here takes meds. Will be slow-burn / wholesome. Hope you enjoy regardless!
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  4. You absent mindedly scroll on your cellphone as you wait in line at the registry of some ordinary convenience store somewhere in Tokyo. Despite it being a rainy evening, you had decided to get off the subway a stop earlier to grab something for dinner on your way home from work.
  6. You worked an ordinary job, nothing that would get you impressed looks from anyone, but it was good enough to pay the bills and you found the tasks fulfilling enough. The company had even given you the possibility to transfer to their branch in Japan a few years ago, so you did get to live in the country that you had fawned over ever since your youth.
  8. Not a bad lot in life, you think.
  10. As some time passes and the line still does not move, you look up from your phone. There is only one woman in front of you. She is young looking and rather small in stature, wearing a navy blue basecap, dark leggings and an almost comically large grey hoodie. The thing that catches your eye the most though, is her hair; pink with light blue strands poking out from under the cap in long, curling twin-tails.
  12. You look from her to the registry and as far as you can tell, she has already paid for her goods. Somehow, she still does not move to pick the items up from the tray. Instead, the woman looks at them with a hesitant, almost troubled look. You raise your eyebrows in wonder, not really getting what keeps her from leaving.
  14. “Have a nice daaaay…” The cashier now calls out in a strained voice, trying to send a not-so-subtle signal to the girl holding up the line.
  16. She realizes her faux pas and hastily begins to move. To your surprise, she grabs the hem of her hoodie near the belly and loads her groceries into the makeshift pouch created there. You have no idea why she does not simply ask for a bag. They are even free in this store. The pink-haired woman mumbles an almost inaudible apology, awkwardly cradling the groceries in her hoodie, before hasting out of the store, leaving both you and the cashier equally bewildered.
  18. You quickly shake off your thoughts and proceed to pay for your dinner – some fried chicken, a bento box with rice and vegetables and bag of your favorite snack as dessert. You also ask for a bag, which the cashier gives to you with a knowing smirk, which you reciprocate half-heartedly.
  20. As you leave the store, you cannot keep yourself from muttering a short curse in your native tongue. The rain from before still had not let up in the slightest – it seemed worse, in fact. You reach for your umbrella and open it, before you continue on your way home.
  22. After not even a minute of walking, you spot a familiar looking woman a bit further ahead. It is the bag-less hoodie girl from the convenience store, hiding from the rain under the canopy of a small shop. From the direction she is looking, it seems like she is waiting for a nearby traffic light to turn green. You continue to observe the scene as you progress towards her.
  24. As the traffic light turns green, the pink-haired girl begins to jog, undoubtedly with the intention to escape from the ongoing downpour as fast as possible. Unfortunately, she takes about five steps before she stumbles, and you cannot help but wince as she comes crashing to the ground, unceremoniously spilling all items she was carrying over the sidewalk.
  27. You pick up your step, not fully running, but hasting towards the pink-haired girl.
  29. It takes a few moments for her to start to recover from her fall. She stirs and sits up, then pulls the basecap deeper into her face, probably to hide her embarrassment. Crawling on all fours, the girl moves to recollect her items. A bag of sweets here, a can of Red Bull there… The main course, a box of pre-packed sushi, had popped open from the impact of the fall. Most rolls where scattered along the pavement, the two pieces that remained were already soaking in the rainwater now collecting inside the plastic container. The girl hesitates, then flips the box shut and collects it in her makeshift hoodie-pouch.
  31. You finally reach her, as she is about to move towards a mandarin that had rolled off the sidewalk and onto the road. The traffic light had long since turned red at this point. For lack of a better option, you grab the hood of her hoodie and pull to keep her from actually crawling onto the road.
  33. Only a moment after, a car rushes by – turning the mandarin into juice and drenching both you and the girl with the water from a nearby puddle.
  35. “Jesus Christ!” you loosen your grip on the hood and shake your arm, trying to get some of the water off.
  37. “Are you alright, lady?” you finally ask the pink-haired woman in adequate Japanese. She stares up at you with terrified purple eyes, still on her knees and cradling her decimated diner in her hoodie. You sigh and offer her a hand to help her stand up, repeating the question.
  39. She hesitates and looks away before mumbling something akin to “Sorry… no speak… English.”
  41. You cannot help but feel slightly irritated now - the hand holding both the umbrella and your bag of groceries grows heavier with every second, while the one extended to her turns cold from the rain. From the moment you had spotted her in the convenience store, the girl had failed to do anything remotely coherent and you start to wonder if she might have escaped some sort of mental ward. Maybe you should call the police.
  43. Though, if she actually was psychotic and on the run… there would be no way that she had any money to go shopping, right? She was also dressed normally, not sporting the hospital gown an average asylum escapee wore in the movies. You decide to not involve emergency services for now and put on the best smile you can muster instead.
  45. “Good thing I’ve been talking in Japanese to you from the start then.”
  47. That makes the girls’ gaze snap back towards you, an admittedly cute expression gracing her features as she slowly, very slowly begins to connect the dots in her head.
  49. “Eh?”
  51. A minute later, the woman was back on her feet and you both cross the street, the traffic light now green again. You had been so free as to extend the protection of your umbrella to the pink-haired girl – not that it helps her much by now, seeing how she is already drenched from head to toe.
  53. “Are you living far from here?” you ask her politely and she shakes her head no, not meeting your gaze.
  55. “Do you want me to walk you home?” another shake – no. You start to wonder if her awkward demeanor actually was a character trait, or if (you) were the problem after all. “Thank you, but… I don’t… want to trouble you… any further,” she quietly adds and you are almost elated that the character trait theory seems to hold true for now.
  57. “Trust me, I’d be much more troubled if I let you off like that”, you insist. Your mother had taught you better, after all. As you reach the other side of the road, the girl seems to have accepted you offer, albeit wordlessly. You stand still for a few seconds, looking left then right. When the girl makes no move to pick either direction, you speak again.
  59. “You have to take the lead here, lady.”
  61. “A-aah! Sorry!” The pink haired woman winces and hastily turns left. After you had walked a block worth of distance in awkward silence, you cough lightly.
  63. “You never gave me your name, by the way. I’ve introduced myself a while ago, you know”, you try to keep your tone as lighthearted as possible, remembering that too much sarcasm had led you to some misunderstandings in the past – especially in this country.
  65. “Uhh…” the girl fumbles a little with the hoodie she is still holding “its… Minato. Minato Aqua.”
  67. “Huh…” you let the name sink in for a bit. Rolling it around in your head, something clicks. Aqua Minato… pink hair with blue strands… air-headedness as main character trait… was there not a streamer like that when you were lurking on YouTube during last year’s pandemic? You share your thoughts and the girl stops in her tracks, visibly panicking.
  69. “T-that’s not me!” To your surprise, she is looking you dead in the eyes now. Interesting, so she *could* do that… if she was riled up enough. It seems that your reaction is not what Aqua was hoping for, so she stutters on. “I s-swear! W-what a coincidence! Ehehe… I hear that a-all the time! H-honestly, I don’t even know what a V-Tuber is, ha-ha…!”
  71. Good lord, the acting. You always thought those girls were playing characters, but you now realize that Aqua here could not possibly play anyone but herself and hope to fool a blind, deaf man with it. Still, the girl’s day had been bad enough, so you drop the topic and simply claim that you must have been mistaken. At least your acting is somewhere around “high school drama club” level, so Aqua seems appeased enough and you continue on your way.
  73. “B-by the way…” Aqua picks up the conversation after a while, even quieter that before. It is getting harder and harder to make out her words in the still ongoing monsoon “uuuh… did you ever watch any streams of m-… this other Aqua girl?”
  75. You suppress a chuckle as you recognize her pitiful attempt of subtlety. If she really cares about her anonymity, she could have just stayed quiet for the rest of the way and be done with it… yet here she is, asking opinions of a random guy off the street. Well, you do not hesitate with your answer – too tempting is the notion to see how far you can lure her out of her shell.
  77. “Nah, not really” you answer in your best non-caring tone. It has the intended effect of making Aqua sputter. Now, to add insult to injury…
  79. “In fact, I liked the dog-girl much more… uhh Korone? I should check on her once in a while, now that you mention it.”
  81. Aqua stops once more and looks at you, now pouting.
  83. Cute.
  85. “You did not tune in for a single stream? Not even clips?”
  87. “Now that you mention it… I think I did see a clip of her getting an actual fever over trying to work out some construction in Minecraft. I think the chat had a nickname for her-“
  89. “S-shut up! The fever was completely unrelated to the project!” Aqua had turned beet red by now, her fists clenching the hem of her hoodie even tighter.
  91. “Whoa, whoa…” you playfully appease. You feel like you have an epiphany, finally understanding the psychology behind boys pulling on girls’ pigtails on the playground. It was just plain fun. “I know she coincidentally shares your name and all-“, you make sure to put this statement in physical air quotes “…but to be honest, I’m just not that into Apex. Sorry, if I insulted you-“, you fake a cough “your waifu, I mean. Or oshi… or whatever the kids call it these days.”
  93. Aqua’s mouth opens and closes a few times when she realizes that her “I’m-not-who-you-know-I-am” sham had not been bought at all. As she finds no words even on the seventh try, the girl quickly turns away and picks up the pace again - so fast that she almost outruns the umbrella.
  95. It does not take that much longer before you come to stop in front of an unobtrusive multi-story apartment building. Aqua turns to you and fidgets again.
  97. “Thanks for helping me out today!” She bows a bit more violently than necessary.
  99. “No worries” you laugh it off “I just hope that the sushi you spilled over the pavement wasn’t the only option you have on dinner tonight, haha!”
  101. Aqua visibly cringes before forcing out a “now that would be something else… ahaha-ha…” You catch her eying the items cradled in her hoodie, then the plastic bag hanging from your arm.
  103. “… you’re kidding, right?”
  105. Aqua just continues to blush, avoiding your eyes once more. You sigh and start fishing around in your grocery bag.
  107. “Take this then” you say as you offer her the bento box and your fried chicken “I have something else at home.”
  109. You cut off the usual polite shtick of “I couldn’t possibly” and “I wouldn’t dare to impose” with a glare and she quietly takes the offered items, adding them to her hoodie-pouch. Well then, you guess this is goodbye. You give her a short wave and wish her well, before turning to leave.
  111. “W-wait!” Aqua calls after you. You turn back towards her and see how she starts to rummage in the actual front pocket of the hoodie, hidden somewhere beneath all the items stacked on top of it. The pink-haired girl finally procures a 1000 Yen bill with an almost dorky expression of satisfaction and offers it to you.
  113. “At least take this as compensation for the food!”
  115. You only hesitate for a second before taking the bill. A gentleman you may be, but as they say: Ten bucks is ten bucks.
  117. “Uhh…” it seems Aqua is still not quite done with you “I heard that… the o-other Aqua girl might be streaming tonight…”
  119. “You think I should give her another chance?” you tease. Aqua nods while mumbling something unintelligible.
  121. “Hmmm… will she be playing Apex though?” you ask with faked thoughtfulness, tapping your chin with the 1000 Yen bill. Shit, it smelled like girl. You pull yourself together as to not let your realization show.
  123. “I heard she moved on from that…”
  125. You grin “might give it a shot, then”, and with another wave goodbye you finally turn to head home.
  127. Back in your apartment, you take a quick shower and then set out to make dinner for yourself. A frown settles on your face, as you find no adequate substitute for the fried chicken you had given away. No way to save this meal, so you might as well settle for quick and dirty. You turn on the electric kettle and take two cups of instant ramen out of your cupboard. At least the Japanese variants were a little more sustaining and flavorful than the ones you know from your home country. You are pretty sure they are only half as cancerous as well. Probably.
  129. After you are done with preparations, you take the cups over to the living room and settle on the couch there. You pick up the remote to your TV and open the YouTube app, curious to see what the pink haired girl has to say for herself in light of puppy-dog-eying you out of your convenience store food.
  131. It takes just a few clicks to find her channel and once you open the livestream advertised on it, you realize that the show had already started a while ago. From what you can tell, it is a “just talking” kind of stream, and sure enough, there was Aqua, animatedly talking to the audience.
  133. She had lost the basecap and had changed into something between a sailor and a maid uniform. Whatever it was, it sure was a lot more flattering to her attributes than the grey hoodie she had worn out on the street – understandable, considering the audience she catered to. Not a bad pick either. Wardrobe aside, you are quite surprised by how open and giddy she seems compared to her borderline autistic episode a few hours ago. She almost seems like a normal, cutesy girl… tough her dorkiness is still as obvious as daylight. It is endearing to watch, and she manages to talk about even the most mundane activities in an entertaining way. You begin to eat you dinner as you listen to her ramblings.
  135. “Actually, there’s another thing I wanted to talk about. Something happened to me today… on the way home from the convenience store…” You catch yourself unintentionally leaning forward – were you about to have a cameo in front of what… more than ten thousand viewers? She would not actually, would she?
  138. Three minutes later, you are dumbfounded. Apparently, you had failed to realize that you had been a little girl all your life. No, really. The story had started awfully familiar. The only difference was the bold claim that Aqua had been able to ask for a plastic bag with next to no issues. Next came the small detail of your entire character turning into a little girl. In addition, the roles were reversed. You, or rather… the little girl had been the one to slip and fall. Aqua, kind soul that she is, had picked you up and brought you home. You could not believe it.
  140. Ironically, neither could her audience.
  142. “Eh? What do you mean you don’t think I would be capable of helping a girl in need?” she reacts to messages from the chat “I’m Hololive’s number one idol-gamer-maid! Helping is my profession! Wha- you think I AM the little girl? Oi… OI! The girl was very grateful, you know. She even shared some of her fried chicken with me! In fact…” she hesitates and hisses a little – a quirk that showed quite often as filler in conversations, “I think… I think”, another hiss “ne, don’t you guys think… that little girl might have come to love me… a little too much?”
  144. The sheer audacity! However, you cannot help yourself from smiling. Was this the power of charisma? Or was it just because she was a cute girl? How could you let her get away with it? You shake your head, still grinning. Well, it seems like you have gotten todays efforts paid back in entertainment, at least.
  146. In fact…
  148. Your eyes wander to the slightly crumpled 1000 Yen bill lying on the coffee table.
  150. How about you call her out on her little embellishment of facts. Of course not in a way that would harm her, but surely there was a way… You ponder a little as you click trough the necessary steps in the superchat function. Selecting the 1000 Yen option, you settle on your message:
  152. >Dropped my sushi in the rain today but found this bill instead. Buy some rice and vegetables for your fried chicken<
  154. You hit send, and as soon as the message rushes over the screen in a yellow box, you begin to worry that it might have been a bit too cryptic for the two brain cells operating Aqua’s body to decipher.
  156. “Eh? Buy rice and vegetables for the chicken?” Aqua hisses a little “… why would you say something like that, listener-san? I understand the rice… but why ruin perfectly fine fried chicken with soggy vegetables? Ne, chat… do me a favor… don’t tell a girl to buy vegetables for herself – it will make her feel fat.”
  158. That was quite snarky coming from the girl who could not meet your eyes for more than five seconds in real life. You are a little impressed. Still, did that mean she had just tossed half of the bento box you had given her? The little…! Well, she had technically paid for it...
  160. The feedback from chat is split; half of them celebrates the roast of your message, while the other just spams “44.5” - her weight, maybe? You continue to listen to the stream for another hour or so before it ends. As the screen turns black, you see the reflection of yourself in the television screen. The realization hits you that you had not stopped smiling ever since tuning in. Huh, how about that. You spend the rest of the evening by browsing through clips, mainly - but not exclusively limited to - the ones involving Aqua.
  162. As you are about to turn in for the night, currently brushing your teeth in the bathroom, you hear the ring assigned to e-mails go off on your cellphone. Dreading that this most likely meant another late night rescheduling of deadlines at work, you leave the bathroom to go and pick up your phone from the nightstand, toothbrush still in your mouth.
  164. Huh. The name of the addressor is familiar… but not work-related.
  166. *Soo… how did you like the stream?*
  168. How on earth did she- … ah. The superchat. Your e-mail account is linked to your YouTube account, from what you remember. Was it that easy to pull this information from a donation? Was it even legal? You shrug after a second. Rather have a cute girl have your contact data than old Susan, right? You answer her honestly and praise her, but cannot help yourself from pointing out her “adventurous interpretation of today’s events”.
  170. A minute later, another *ding* reaches your ears.
  172. *Soooorry. I thought it would be funnier that way. Less… uhh pitiful too. Also the guys in chat don’t really like other guys*, there are dozens of emoticons attached, most of which you had no idea how they were typed without switching through three different keyboards to obtain all characters.
  174. You move into bed and turn off the lights, before picking up the phone again to type out another answer. Before you realize it, an actual conversation develops. It was clunky due to the medium used – a circumstance Aqua understands, too. The fifth message or so entails her contact details on a popular messenger app. You add her without a second thought. The large bags you sport under your eyes when you arrive at work the next day are a clear indicator of just how well into the night the conversation had stretched…
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