Story: Himeko and Chikane: Their Story (chapter 13)

Authors: mandygirl78

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Chapter 13

Title: A Himeko and Chikane Christmas

[Author's notes: Hi everyone, it’s me, Mandygirl78. I am posting a revised version of this Christmas chapter I did over two years ago. This is a much needed improvement over the first version. My beta-reader ryoshu did an excellent job in the revision. This chapter is personally important to me because I wrote it at a time that I thought I was going to quit writing the story and quit writing all together. I was so frustrated and angry at how the story wasn’t up to my standards and how it wasn’t going according to my version. Somehow, when I did this chapter, things were starting to fall into place. After writing the chapter, I felt that the story had gotten back on track again. Now when I read this chapter again, I smile because it made me wonder what would happen had I not wrote this chapter.

There’s one thing I would like to bring up, I wanted to add a part where Souma remembers his last Christmas with his brother. Unfortunately, the chapter became so long that I decided to drop it entirely.

I would like to think everyone who read it a big ‘thank you’ and also I would like to say Marry Christmas and Happy Holidays as well. And may you share the act of giving to others, for that’s what really what life is about. Thank you.]

It was early December and Christmas time has begun in Tokyo. Shinjuku was no exception with Christmas lights and decorations filling the urban atmosphere, especially at the Southern Terrace of Shinjuku Station, where beautiful Christmas light decorations dominate the night during the holidays. Even though only 2% of the Japanese population is Christians, shoppers and retail stores were in the yuletide spirit, as the usually fiscally responsible and thrifty-minded Japanese use this opportunity to shop to their careless delight. The retailers were setting up their stores to take advantage of this rare opportunity. The recession was still going on and the retailers were trying anything to entice the customers into buying from their store.

The shopping districts were busy with bustling crowds, and Himeko and Chikane were experiencing the holiday spirit flowing around the area. To Himeko, it was a wonderful time of the year. Like a little kid, she was awed with the wonderful decorations all over the area and amazed by the holiday aesthetic displays in the front window at various stores. As for Chikane, it was just another unnecessary distraction, nothing more than an excuse for people to spend their money. As they were walking down the busy sidewalk, holding each other’s hands, Himeko stopped to look at the Christmas decorations surrounding her.

\"Isn\'t it exciting to be out here during Christmas! With all the pretty decorations and beautiful displays to look at, plus the nice Christmas music filling the air, there\'s no better holiday than Christmas. This is better than what they have in Mahoroba, and even much better than what they had at my relative\'s mansion!\" Himeko elated with glee.

\"I guess so,\" Chikane replied without any care. They were only a few feet away from a 30-foot giant air-filled Hello Kitty dressed in cute holiday clothing.

\"What’s wrong Chikane-chan?\" Himeko asked with sincerity.

\"What\'s wrong? This whole holiday is wrong, that\'s what\'s wrong.\"

Himeko really didn\'t understand what Chikane was getting at, \"What do you mean Chikane-chan?\"

\"I mean this is ridiculous. We are not a Christian country, and yet we\'re celebrating this made-up holiday. It has to be made up because if Jesus Christ even did exist, then he could not have been born on December 25th. It would have been too cold for the animals to be outside during that time in Palestine. And even if his birthday was on the 25th, people aren\'t really celebrating it; they\'re just using it as an excuse to buy useless junk.\"

Himeko saw her point very well, and she also considered it valid, for she had heard that argument before. She remembered a group of atheists brought that up when they were protesting outside her relative\'s church during Christmas time last year. She also remembered how her aunt insisted to one of them that Jesus Christ was born on December 25th. On the other hand, she had a point to share with Chikane.

\"Yes I understand what you saying, and maybe he never existed and maybe it is not his birthday, but what\'s really important is the story of his life. His story of humility, caring, selflessness, and making a positive impact in other people\'s lives. That is what we can learn from it. Those things can apply to anybody. They\'re not reserved for Christians only. That\'s what Christmas is really about.\"

Sometimes Chikane hates it when Himeko was right, and she was on that one.

\"You\'re right, I see your point. But, would Jesus celebrate it by buying material stuff?\"

\"No he wouldn\'t. He would have done something like feed the homeless or find some way to make the day special for the kids.\"

Then Chikane sarcastically noted, \"I wish he was around to make the day special for us when I was living in that orphanage.\"

\"Why do you say that, didn\'t you celebrate Christmas?\"

\"Yeah but it was nothing special. The nuns and priests didn\'t decorate the area for Christmas decorations or get a tree, since my orphanage hardly received any money. They had one of the priests, usually Father Mukoka, since he was old and fat, dress up and become Santa. As for presents, we all got the same gift every year; it was either a small Bible or a cross. Looking back, Christmas at that place was lousy.\"

\"Aww, I feel so bad for you. I wonder if that\'s the case for all orphanages that are also reformatories,\" she said. Afterwards, she had an epiphany, \"Hey, why don\'t we go to an orphanage just like yours and have a wonderful Christmas celebration for them!\"

Chikane looked at her and said, \"Huh?\"

\"I mean we can find a neglected orphanage, and decorate it like the stores here; get a real Christmas tree, have a nice and caring Santa Clause for the little kids, and put on a show for them! You know, give them a Christmas that they will cherish forever!\"

Chikane looked at her wide eyed with amazement and said, \"Wow, that sounds really ambitious, I\'m not sure if it will work.\"

Surprisingly, the roles have changed with Himeko being confident about an idea and Chikane doubting it. But Himeko saw a great opportunity, and she wanted her partner to be a part of it.

\"I know it will work if I can get other people involve It doesn\'t hurt to try. So will you help me make this possible Chikane-chan?\" she said with her eyes gleaming with joy. Chikane didn’t see that very often with her, and Himeko\'s excitement had an effect on her. Somehow she was enticed by it and she wanted to be part of it.

\"I would love to Himeko! I want to give to kids the Christmas I\'ve never had.\"

\"Great!\" Himeko excited, \"I will bring it up to Neko-chan, Hana-chan, and a few others. This could be a wonderful Christmas!\" She gave Chikane a loving embrace.

\"Yes and you will be in charge of it,\" Chikane noted. When she heard that, Himeko immediately broke off the embrace and looked at Chikane with fear. She was frozen in her tracks and terrified from what she told her. \"M-m-me?\" she stuttered nervously.

\"Of course you! I can\'t think of anyone else better for the job. You have a very warm and sweet personality. You\'re very honest, selfless, and very caring.\"

\"But-but I never was a leader in anything, I don\'t know how to be a leader,\" she argued. The idea of being in charge terrified her so much, she had a hard time swallowing the sudden lump in her throat.

\"Well then, this is an opportunity to learn to be one. You can make a greater difference in their lives if you become a leader,\" Chikane pointed out.

\"I know, but what if I fail? What if I disappoint those children?\" Himeko whined as the corner of her eyes started to become wet, as she was running through her head a million ways how she could fail miserably.

Chikane looked at those scared amethyst eyes and did her best to reassure her, \"You just told me that it wouldn\'t hurt if we try. Himeko, basically anything you do for them will be a better improvement in their lives than what they have right now. Listen, you will not disappoint them nor will you fail, and even if you do, it\'s not the end of the world. I will support you 100% on this, no matter what.\"

That brought a smile to Himeko\'s face and then she stated, \"Okay, I\'ll take the lead on this. As leader, the first thing I will do is to find an orphanage that is just like yours. Then I\'ll meet the person in charge, and see how we can help her or him.\"

Chikane smiled and then she encouraged, \"That sounds like a great plan. When are you going to start?\"

\"I will start tomorrow. But for today I just want to take a walk around the area with the girl I adore the most!\" she gushed with her cheeks blushing red. That also made Chikane blush. Then the loving coupled embraced once again, but it wasn’t so easy. Himeko laid her head on Chikane’s wounded arm, inadvertently applying too much pressure. Her arm was still in bandage from the knife incident nearly a month earlier.

“OUCH, you’re putting too much pressure on my arm,” she grimaced.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean it. I wish it would heal before Christmas. That’s another reason why I’m grateful for this Christmas, you could have been dead!”

“Yeah, I’m very lucky that crazy man didn’t have great aim, but I really don’t want to talk about it Himeko. I want to get back to our cuddling, just lay your head on the other arm.”

HImeko giggled, \"Okay Chikane-chan,\" and they went back into their hug, oblivious to the outside world.
Her mind was on the plan for the rest of the day. When she got back to her tent, Himeko realized that she would have to make a written plan of it, just to show people that she was really serious about it. So she got out a piece of paper and wrote down some ideas that she had in her head. Then she went through them, and crossed out the stuff that she think didn\'t would fit in her project. This is what she was left with:
• Find an orphanage.
• Help get decorations and people to help put them up in the orphanage.
• Get a Santa Claus.
• Get some gifts.
• Have a show with music and plays that show or tell the true meaning of Christmas.
For the first item on the list; Himeko didn\'t know any neglected orphanages in Tokyo, but she knew someone who probably would. So on the next day she went to visit Sister Miyako and showed her the plan. She was totally enthralled and asked Himeko if she can join in. Himeko happily accepted her offer. Sister Miyako told Himeko about a run-down reformatory/orphanage that her friend runs.

\"It\'s the Ministry of Mercy, located at San\'ya.\"

\"Where is San\'ya?\" she asked.

\"It\'s at the Taito ward. My friend Father Da Costa Tadeu runs the orphanage. He just started working there four months ago. He is willing to try anything that will uplift the orphan\'s spirits over there.\"

\"That\'s great! Thank you very much!\"

\"No problem, please don\'t be afraid to ask if you need more help,\" she advised, knowing very well Himeko\'s timidity.

\"Well since you brought that up, after I have my meeting with the priest, can you arrange a meeting with some of the important people like Hana-chan and Natashi-san?\" Himeko asked.

\"I sure can, just tell me when you are ready.\"

She went back to her place, and shared her plan with Nekoko. Coincidentally, Hana and Natashi were there so they heard it as well. Nekoko was a bit reluctant, but Hana liked the idea since there are going to be plays and music involved, and so did Natashi.

\"I have no problem with it, as long as I get to be in one of your plays and sing a Christmas song solo.\" Hana stated.

\"That\'s not a problem, what songs did you have in mind?\"

\"Well, since it’s about giving and sharing, how about \'Give Love on Christmas Day\'?\" Hana asked, thinking it would be the perfect song for the event.

\"That will work, I like that song!\" Himeko exclaimed. \"As for the plays I haven\'t decided yet what they are going to be, but I will tell you when I do decide.\"

\"That\'s great Himeko-chan! I can\'t wait to see you get this off the ground.\" Hana gushed with excitement.

\"Count me in as well Hime-chan,\" Natashi added. Himeko turned around and looked at Nekoko.

\"How about you Neko-chan?\"

\"Well I don\'t know, but if you pull this off I will assist you in any way possible.\"

\"Could you at least be at the meeting?\" she politely pleaded to her. Nekoko sighed at first, but eventually she gave in.

\"Ok, I\'ll be there.\"

\"Thanks Nekoko,\" Himeko said with her sweet smile.

\"So when are you planning to have the show?\" she asked Himeko.

\"On Christmas Eve, are there any problems with that?\" The three of them shook their heads no, and then Himeko continued, \"After I have the meeting with the priest, then I\'ll have Sister Miyako arrange a meeting with all of us. Is that okay?”

\"I don\'t see any problem with that. Where is it going to be held?\" Natashi asked.

\"At Oogami-sensei\'s temple most likely, knowing her,\" she replied.

\"That sounds good to me. How about the rest of you?\" Natashi questioned.

Hana and Nekoko nodded they have no problem with it and they agree to be at the meeting.

She made arrangements with the orphanage\'s priest later that day. She told him about the project and he agreed to meet her on the next day.

After that she took a look at her list, she saw it was blank for the \'Have a show with music and plays\' section. So she gave some thought into was plays and music she wanted in the show. She wanted something that embroiders the true meaning of Christmas; her discussion with Chikane was still fresh in her mind. She knew that she had to put in Jesus\' birth since it is about his birthday, but what other play can she have? She only wanted two because she thought that two was enough, due to time issues. She then remembered what she told Chikane yesterday about humility, selflessness, and caring. When she thought of those values, the first thing that came up in her mind was \'A Christmas Carol\' by Charles Dickens. It would be a perfect story. So she got her two plays planned for the show. Now it came down to the songs. She was thinking traditional Christmas songs would work, but then she thought it would be best to bring it up in the meeting. So she left it at that.

Meanwhile Sister Miyako told Kazuki, Yukihito, Souma and Makoto about Himeko’s plan, and they agreed to help. After all, Himeko donated most of her money to help repair the temple. Sister Miyako then called Himeko and told her to hold the meeting in two days.
Afterwards Chikane did a checkup with her, \"How are things progressing with the event?\"

\"Well I found an orphanage that wants our help. It\'s the Ministry of Mercy orphanage at San\'ya.\"

Chikane\'s sapphire blue eyes jumped when she heard the location. \"San\'ya? That place!\" she spat.

\"Yes, what\'s wrong with San\'ya?\" Himeko asked innocently.

\"San\'ya is basically the ultimate ghetto of Tokyo. It\'s a dangerous place full of drunks and Yakuzas.\"


\"Yes very much so, but we can\'t let that deter our plans. I have to come with you to the orphanage tomorrow. It\'s too dangerous for you to go alone. You know I don\'t want anything happening to you,\" she said with true sincerity in her heart.

Himeko smiled lightly, knowing that Chikane cares for her deeply, replied, \"I very well know that, so yes, I do want you to come with me.\"

However Chikane brought up something to Himeko, \"I need to tell you that I can\'t come to the meeting. I\'m meeting someone to get some of the decorations for the orphanage.\"

At first Himeko was a bit disappointed, but then she remembered she can relay back the important information to Chikane, so she agreed, \"That\'s not a big problem. I\'ll tell you what happened in the meeting when we I see you later.\"

\"OK, thanks a lot sweetie,\" she said as she kissed her on the forehead. Himeko lightly blushed and gave her a soft embrace her in return.
The next day, they went to San\'ya prefecture and it was worse than what Himeko imagined. It was once an area where the burakamins were forced to live, when Tokyo was called Edo. The place is a gloomy and depressing area filled with vacant buildings and half empty streets. It\'s where people passing out on the streets are so common that there are warning signs about it for motorist. Day laborers, homeless people, foreign students, no-budget travelers, and of course the Yakuza populate the area. The prefecture is so run down, you can\'t find it on any map of Tokyo. Ask for directions and the best you will get is \'north of Asakusa.\' Ask if you are in San\'ya, and all you will get is a \'no\'. Luckily for Himeko, Chikane knew where the prefecture was located. The orphanage was only three blocks away from the edge of the prefecture, but walking through that section was enough to get an eye-sore. The place made Himeko terrified, clutching to Chikane\'s waist with her left arm.

\"This place is very scary,\" she cringed.

\"I know, I know. Don\'t worry, I wont let nothing happen to you,\" she said followed by a soft kiss to her cheek. It helped calm Himeko somewhat but she was still terrified.

When they reached the orphanage, they saw a decaying building with rusty steel gates and a patchy lawn. Several broken or taped windows populated the building. It reminded Chikane very much of the place she grew up in.

\"We\'re going to decorate THAT?\" Chikane cried despairingly. However, it made Himeko more determine to make it happen.

\"Yes, this place is in dire need for some Christmas spirit. Think about it, Chikane-chan? Wouldn\'t it be wonderful if we could make the orphanage beautiful for Christmas? Could you imagine how many spirits could be lifted up in this area, and maybe others around here would do the same. Then this place won\'t be so depressing and bleak for once. Wouldn\'t that be nice?\"

Somehow that left a small smile on Chikane\'s face. She started to see that she how much of a difference it could make.

\"Yes it would be nice.\"

When they got inside, the main lobby looked to be in as bad of shape as the outside. A broken stairwell, paint peeling off the walls, and the floor wood creaked every time someone walks on it. It was not a pretty site. There was a receptionist there, sitting at her wooden antique desk, typing out some proposals on an old and dirty computer. She was so occupied that she didn\'t know the girls were there until Chikane got her attention.

\"Excuse me miss, but do you where Father Tadeu is located?\"

The receptionist finally got her eyes off the screen and looked up at the girls.

\"Oh I\'m so sorry ma\'am, are you Kurusugawa Himeko? The one who is supposed to meet with the Father at 11:00 AM?\"

\"Actually she\'s Kurusugawa-san,\" she said while pointed to her. \"But I\'m Himemiya Chikane, and I\'m with her so I would like to see the Father as well.

\"Okay, that should not be a problem. I\'ll tell him you\'re here.\"

So she used an old-school intercom to inform the Father that the girls are here, and he told her that they could come to his office. The receptionist pointed to where his office is located, and they went straight there.

When they first saw the Father, they were surprised that he wasn\'t a Brazilian Japanese, but pure medium-built, dark-skinned Brazilian. After they gave each other greetings they went right to business.

\"So Sister Miyako told me that you want to have a play for the orphans here? Of course we talked a little bit about it on the phone.\"

\"Yes but it\'s more than that,\" replied Himeko. Chikane knew a Sister Miyako back at her orphanage, but she didn\'t think it was the same one. \"I want to decorate this building with Christmas lights, decorations, figures, etc. And I want to have music to go along with the plays.\"

The priest was surprised at her ambitious plan. He knew she couldn\'t do it alone, so he asked \"Are there any other people helping you out with this?\"

Himeko couldn\'t lie, so she told him, \"Not many right now. I do have a few people who are willing to help me, but right now I am still asking for more people to help out. I am planning to meet some of them tomorrow.\"

\"That\'s good that you\'re on top of it. Anyway, who are these people?\" He asked.

\"They are my friends back at the park. This will give them an opportunity to do something since they don\'t have much to do, especially in winter.\"

The priest smile when he heard that, seeing how serious she was in getting others involved, \"I don\'t see a problem having your homeless friends involved in this, in fact I will support them as much as I can, but maybe you should also get the orphans involved as well. The Sister told me that you\'re an artist and we got some talented artists here, so maybe they can help you with the Christmas decorations. Also we have some orphans that I know would like to participate in the songs and the plays. The more we can get them involved, the more inspired they will become.\"

Himeko looked at him directly with a grin and said, \"I totally agree with you.\"

\"Well I\'m glad that you do. You know I\'m really glad that you are doing this for them. Some of the kids are still traumatized from the last group who ran the orphanage. There was a lot of physical, verbal, and sexual abuse on both boys and girls. The things they did to these poor kids, especially the teens, make me sick to my stomach. I know they’re not the easiest to deal with, but it’s no excuse of the way they took advantage on them!” he growled, clenching his teeth. His ire was very apparent to Himeo and Chikane. Seeing how he let his anger get the best of him, he calmed himself back to normal. “Anyhow, this is a great opportunity to show Tokyo that these orphans are not juvenile delinquents, and for them to do something uplifting and positive. This will also give a bright spot to the San\'ya area. I know what it\'s like to live in a forgotten area, growing up in the favelas of Rio De Janiero.\"

Chikane responded back and told him \"I know very well myself, for I grew up in an orphanage.\"

Father Tadeu look at her and asked \"Oh yeah, what orphanage was that?\"

\"Our Lady of Sorrows in Mahoroba.\"

The Father nearly choked when he heard that. The girls saw the expression on his face, and knew it wasn\'t a good thing.

\"Oh meu Deus! That hellhole!\" he inadvertently exclaimed the first part in Portuguese. He didn\'t mean to say the last part, it was a slip. Chikane felt bad when he said that and he saw the slight sadness on her face, so he immediately apologized. \"Gomen nasai, I really didn\'t mean to say that.\"

\"It\'s okay,\" Chikane assured him. \"It really was a hellhole.\"

\"From what Sister Miyako told me, I could imagine. It made this place look quaint.\"

That statement struck Chikane like lightning. Though he didn\'t say that she was once there, it sounded like she was. The priest didn\'t notice her reaction, but Himeko did.

Then a thought came into Father Tadeu\'s mind, \"How about this, tell me when the next meeting is going to be held, and I\'ll be there.\"

Himeko grinned, knowing that it will help make the event a bigger success.

\"That\'s great, thank you so much!\" Himeko said and she bowed in gratitude.

The priest smiled and he said, \"Anything for these kids to have a wonderful, healthy and normal life.\"

Two hours after the meeting with the priest, Himeko arranged the other meeting with Sister Miyako. They planned for it to occur in two days. This gave them some time to contact as many people as they could for the meeting.

As agreed, the meeting was held in a medium-sized room at the temple. Sister Miyako was there along with Kazuki, Girochi, Souma, Makoto, and Yukihito. Nekoko, Hana, Natashi, and at least ten other interested homeless people from the park were also there. Plus Hana\'s \'girls\' and Natashi\'s men were present. Fater Tadeu got there just when the meeting got started. When Himeko got to the podium, she got very nervous. Hana saw this, went up to her and did his best to comfort her.

\"Don\'t let these people scare you, remember they\'re here to listen to you.\"

\"I know that but I\'m so afraid that I\'ll mess up or they won\'t care,\" she fretted.

Hana comforted her and reminded her \"Does this project excite you?\"

\"Of course, very much!\" she responded without any hesitation.

\"Well if you show that excitement in the meeting, then they will be interested. Trust me, when you get excited about something, you really don’t\' care what others think. That\'s how I feel when I sing in public.\"

That put a smile on Himeko\'s face and she replied, \"Thanks.\"

Before the meeting got started, Nekoko asked Himeko a question. \"Where is Chikane-san?\"

\"She had to meet someone for decorations.\"

\"Actually we got some decorations that you can use. Luckily, the black-masked gang didn\'t touch our holiday stuff.\" Kazuki inserted into the conversation.

Himeko lightly smiled and said, \"Thank you very much sensei. I\'ll tell her that when I see her.\" With that out of the way, the meeting finally began as Himeko cleared her throat. \"Hi everybody, thanks for being here. As some of you know, I\'m trying to help out the Ministry of Mercy\'s orphanage in San\'ya by decorating the place and providing a Christmas-related show. I also plan to have presents for the orphans there, so I\'m going to need some people to help wrap the gifts. Is anybody willing to help?\"

Sister Miyako just walked in, “Sorry for being late, did I miss anything?”

“No, not really. I was just asking for some help in wrapping the gifts.”

There was some murmuring going on within the audience, and then one of the guys in the room spoke up and said, \"I\'m not trying to be the Grinch here, and I have nothing against any work to benefit the orphans, but how can we help them if we can\'t help ourselves? What are we getting out of this? How will this improve our situation?\" There were a few others in the room who agreed. Deep down, Himeko couldn\'t believe the selfishness of some people in the room, but then she understood their situation, and then tried to find a way to make it enticing for them. She didn\'t have to, for Father Tadeu intervened in the argument.

\"Hi, I\'m Father Tadeu, and I run the orphanage. The fact is we have over a thousand orphans in our orphanage and it would take hours, if not days, to wrap all the gifts. I will lend you our basement to do the wrapping. I\'ll make sure to prevent any of the orphans from coming down there. For compensation, me and the staff can provide two meals a day, one for lunch and another for dinner. Is that good enough?\"

Some of the people discussed it amongst themselves. Then one of them came out of the huddle and said, \"It\'s a deal. We figured that the meal couldn\'t be any worse than what they have at the Salvation Army.\"

\"Only prison food is worse than Salvation Army\'s food,\" the priest detested.

Sister Miyako felt a bit insulted and protested, “Hey, I heard that! Those meals are very healthy and nutritional.”

“Yeah, but they could be healthy and nutritional without tasting like cardboard!” Father Tadeu shot back. Everybody in the room laughed. There was one lingering question the pastor had to ask, \"But Hime-san, what about the gifts? Where are we going to get some gifts for the kids?\"

Himeko never thought about it, although she thought that she should have. She was yet again saved by someone else. This time it was Kazuki.

\"I have worked with a few thrift stores in the past, and I bet that they’d be willing to donate some toys. I have also worked with the Art and Crafts store that\'s near the baseball stadium, and they could get us some boxes and gift wrappings for the presents.\"

\"That\'s really super! Thanks a lot! Now we can make the kids very happy!\" Himeko responded delightedly. Then she added, \"We also need someone to be Santa Claus, because kids love Santa Claus. I know when I was young I was happy to see Santa.\"

Then Nekoko shouted out, \"You still get happy when you see Santa Claus, nya!\" That got quite a bit of laughter from the room.

Himeko chuckled, \"Well that\'s true, but seriously, who wants to be Santa?\"

Girochi quickly showed interest, \"I would love to be Santa Claus.\"

\"Really?\" Himeko asked.

\"Sure! Anything to make to kids happy,\" he prattled.

His sister added, \"He doesn\'t want to admit it, but he\'s such a softie when it comes to kids.\" That got some chuckles in the room. Girochi couldn\'t deny it, and his blushing red cheeks wouldn\'t allow it either. Himeko chuckled at his blush, she thought it was really cute.

\"Don\'t be ashamed, I think it\'s great that a big strong guy like you likes kids. I wish many more were like you,\" Himeko said. That got a genuine smile on his face.

The she continued, \"Now that we have taken care of the gifts and Santa Claus, the only thing on the agenda is the show itself. What I had in plan was to have two plays with Christmas songs between them. The first play was going to be Charles Dickens\' classic, A Christmas Carol, then the second was going to be the Birth of Jesus.\"

However Makoto has another idea, \"How about adding another play?\"

Himeko looked at her and said, \"Do you want to add another play?\"

\"Absolutely! Me and Souma-kun would like to do \'The Gift of the Magi\'. It\'s a story written by the American author O. Henry. It\'s our favorite Christmas story.\"

\"I\'ve never heard of it, what is it about?\"

\"In short, it\'s about a poor couple who wanted to buy gift for each other. The husband wanted to buy a beautiful set of combs for his wife to brush her long beautiful hair, while the wife wanted to buy a chain for her husband\'s prize pocket watch. But what happened was that the husband sold his watch to get the money for the combs and the wife cut her hair off so it can become a wig and she can get some money for the chain. When they got their gifts, they were disappointed to find out that they were useless, but they were pleased with the gift they received, because it represents their love for one another. Isn\'t that a sweet story Hime-chan?\"

\"It sure is and it does tell the true meaning of Christmas. I\'ll add that to the show, even though time issue is a concern. In fact, I\'ll make it the first play of the show. Do you two want to play the husband and wife?\"

\"Of course we do!\" they said in unison as they held each other by their sides.

\"Wonderful. Well that takes care of that part. Moving right along, we need to start casting for the other two plays. I would like to begin with \'A Christmas Carol.\' Now who wants to be Scrooge Ebenezer?\" Nobody raised their hand, instead virtually everybody in the room pointed to Kazuki. He was shocked that everybody selected him.

He simply responded with, ‘Me?’

Yukihito couldn\'t help but to comment, basically he was rubbing it in, \"Of course you! You\'re stoic, grumpy, and very thrifty, bordering on cheap. That role is tailor-made for you.\" Everybody in the room nodded in agreement to Yukihito\'s statement.

Himeko then asked, \"So do you want to be Scrooge?\"

Kazuki reluctantly agreed and said, \"I guess so. I\'ll play him.\"

\"Good, now who wants to be his clerk, Cratchit Bob?\"

Yukihito couldn\'t pass the opportunity up and said, \"I don\'t mind being him.\" Kazuki looked at him coldly, knowing fully well why he volunteered. Yukihito smirked back at return.

\"Okay, I got Yukihito-san down as Crachit Bob. Now who wants to be his wife?\"

Sister Miyako raised her hand and said, \"I will. She seems to be an interesting character.\"

\"Okay, then you will be Mrs. Cratchit. As for the children, I assume that the orphans will play their six children.\" The priest nodded his head to affirm Himeko\'s assumption.

The rest of the characters for the play were selected; Hana will be the Ghost of Christmas Past, Girochi-san will be the Ghost of Christmas Present, and Himeko said she would be the Ghost of Uncertain Future, which surprised everyone else. Then came the casting for Jesus\' birth. Three men in the room were selected to be the Wise Men, Hana will play the angel, Natashi was selected to be the husband Joseph, and Himeko selected Chikane to play the virgin Many, which got a lot of snickers from people, but Himeko thought she was perfect since she was young and very familiar with the whole Virgin Mary concept. All of the small and minor roles in all three plays will be played by the orphans.

Then came picking the songs. Everybody agreed on the songs Jingle Bells, Holy Night, Deck the Halls, with the finale being \'We Wish You a Merry Christmas\' and everybody rejected \'12 Days of Christmas.\' Hana-chan will still sing \'Give Love on Christmas Day,\' right after \'The Gift of the Magi,\' since Himeko felt it was a logical follow-up to the story. Just when Himeko was about to wrap up the music part, one big-mouthed woman interrupted.

\"Hey! Don\'t I get to do a song?\"

It was none other than Corona, and Himeko was surprised to see her there and so did everyone else since nobody told her about the meeting. She found out by overhearing Natashi the other day talking about it with her friend. She knew that she couldn\'t deny her since it was meant to be a group activity, so she asked, \"If it\'s related to Christmas, sure. What song will you be singing?\"

\"I will be doing ‘Oh Christmas Tree’.\"

Himeko didn\'t see any problem with it and a told her, \"Sure, you can sing it right after A Christmas Carol.\"

Corona smiled with glee when she got her approval, but everyone else sigh with grief knowing how much of a Prima-donna she was, especially Hana.

Chikane got there just about when the meeting was wrapped up. When she was about to enter the room she got quite a surprise when she saw Sister Miyako there.

\"Oh no, it\'s her!\" And she immediately left. Himeko saw her leaving but she didn\'t do or say anything in fear of interrupting the meeting. When the meeting ended, Sister Miyako came up to her.

“Where’s Miya-san? I know that you do know about her, since my brother told me about the incident.”

Himeko was surprised how she asked about Chikane, like she was hiding from MIyako all along. Calmly she told her, “She went to get some more lights for the orphanage.”

“Oh ok. Well tell me if you see her, I want to talk to her.”

“Okay,” Himeko ended. Now she was quite confused as to what was going on.
After that, she went looking for Chikane. She couldn\'t find her so she went back to the station to see if she was there. She wasn\'t, so she figure she might be there waiting for her at the tent. When she got to her tent, she saw Chikane sitting there with a ball of Christmas lights on her lap.

\"Sorry about that Himeko, but that\'s all I can get from the guy.\"

\"Don\'t worry about that Chikane-chan. Oogami-sensei has quite a few Christmas decorations, and he\'s willing to let us use them for the orphanage, but thanks for the lights anyways.\"

\"No problem, anything for you, my sweetheart,\" Chikane chimed.

Himeko blushed easily. However, there was something important that she wanted to bring up. \"Why did you run away from the meeting? Does it has something to do with Sister Miyako?\"

Chikane was taken a bit at this, “How did Himeko know about this?” she wondered. “Yes, I saw her there, and I had to leave without her noticing me.”

Himeko couldn\'t understand why Sister Miyako made her run like that, \"What did she do to you?\"

Chikane looked back at her with certain amount of sadness in her eyes and said, \"The question you should be asking is what she didn\'t do for me. She was one of the nuns at my orphanage, but she never reported the beatings or the sexual assaults going on over there. She didn\'t stop anything from happening over there. She\'s a part of them,\" she added while tears began to swell up on the corner of her eyes. \"If she sees me, she\'ll report to them that I am here, and then she\'ll have me sent back to Our Lady of Sorrows. You know I don\'t want to go back there Himeko!\" she balled profusely over the fact of having to return to that madhouse, but there was an even greater fear that brought her more into tears. \"And if that happens than I won\'t be with you.\"

Himeko saw that fear in her eyes, and she slowly pulled Chikane to a comforting embrace; reassuring her that nothing will happen to her, and that nothing will change between them.

\"Chikane-chan, you will never go back there, and nothing will tear us apart, so please don\'t let that get to you,\" she pleaded while soothing her with her soft left hand stroking Chikane\'s head. \"I also don\'t think that Sister Miyako will send you back there. She seems to be a nice person who cares about other people.\"

Chikane, who thought that Himeko was being very naïve, responded, \"Himeko, you don\'t know Catholic nuns as well as I do. They can appear to be caring and sweet but they can also have ulterior motives,\" she said based on her own terrifying experience. \"And maybe she won\'t report me, but we can\'t take that chance, you understand.\"

Himeko wished she could talk her out of it but she felt like it would be futile. Plus, she thought that Chikane might be right, so she nodded \"I understand.\" Then something came up in her mind, \"Oh there\'s something important I need to tell you, I made you the Virgin Mary for the play.\"

Chikane was very shocked at this revelation, and she immediately jumped off of Himeko. \"What! Sister Miyako will see me. And even if she doesn\'t report me, other people within the church could spot me.\"

\"I\'m sorry Chikane-chan, I didn\'t know.\"

\"It\'s okay, I know that you didn\'t know. I could play the Ghost of Uncertain Future at the other play.\"

\"But I\'m playing that role,\" she noted.

\"Himeko, we need to switch. It is very imperative that we do.\" That made Himeko feel even more insecure, \"I know you can do it Himeko. If you can believe that you can get the show running then you can play the Virgin Mary. Besides, the role is perfect for you; you\'re sweet and innocent. Whereas the Ghost of Uncertain Future is perfect for me; dark and mysterious.\"

Himeko knew that Chikane had a valid point, but she wasn\'t sure of herself that she can play the Virgin Mary. Chikane saw her nervousness and said, \"Don\'t be afraid of disappointing them. It\'s not the first time you\'ve face a crowd. You did it before at the convention and you just did at the meeting. It\'s not that much different.\"

Himeko didn\'t see that she had much of a choice, so she reluctantly agreed, \"Okay, I\'ll do it,\" but this time she had a small protest about it. \"But why am I forced to be in these situations? Why do I have to do these things that make me feel uncomfortable?\"

Chikane was surprised to see this side of her, but then she remembered what Himeko told her a few weeks ago at that memorial night in the park. \"Because leaving your comfort zone is the only way to grow.\"

Himeko knew she was using her own words, more or less. \"But I was talking about sharing, not leaving your comfort zone.\"

\"In order to share, you have to sometimes leave your comfort zone,\" she said with a sly smile. That made Himeko smiled a bit, knowing that Chikane got her on that one.

\"You\'re right. I\'ll be the Virgin Mary, and I\'ll be the best Virgin Mary there ever was!\" she elated with a new sense of confidence. Chikane grinned and then afterwards she gave Himeko a loving hug.

A week has passed, and the project is going well. The orphans were excited to be a part of it, and they helped with the decorations. Decorating the building was a bigger task than what Himeko expected, for she found out the place needed some renovation. Realizing that, she divided the tasks among other people that included Natashi and his men. Girochi also lent a helping hand, and it was a good thing since he carried the heavy items that no one else could. Some of the orphans were not familiar with some of the Christmas music, so Himeko then assigned the job of training them to Chikane and Hana. Fortunately the priest was able to obtain more money, he didn\'t say how he did. That meant they could do more decorations and renovations for the building. What was also surprising was how well the \'delinquents\' were able to work with the homeless. They were certainly bonding with each other, and that made the priest and Himeko proud.

Then came the gifts. Himeko had Kazuki in charge of the gifts. Souma and Girochi helped him in getting the gifts. Then Kazuki had the other homeless volunteers, including Hana\'s girls wrapping the gifts. During that time Himeko assigned Sister Miyako and Makoto to promote the show. Sist1\\er Miyako told other members of the church about it and some got excited. Makoto shared it with her friends at school and on the social networks. She posted it on her blog and on Craigslist as well.
One thing they didn’t get around to was getting a new tree. That was taken care of during the week when they were decorating the building. Himeko, Chikane, and a few of the orphans were making decorations and ornaments for the Christmas tree. They were all singing Christmas tunes. They even dressed for the part, as they were wearing Santa hats. Yeah… it’s not Chikane’s thing, but somehow, Himeko was able to talk her into wearing it.

One of the young orphans came up to Himeko. “Should I put more sprinkles on the angels?” she asked.

Himeko looked at it a bit carefully, “No, this is good enough.”

“Okay,” she smiled and as she was about to hand it over to Himeko, a loud grumbling noise from outside rattled everything in the room. They ran outside to see what was causing it. As they arrived, they could see a large 16-wheeler not too far away.

The truck honked once again. BEEP, BEEP! – “MAKE WAY!” Nekoko shouted from the passenger’s window, as she was trying to clear the path. Most got up and moved, but there were still a few drunk lying on the street. Nekoko got out of the truck and dragged them out of the way.

After Nekoko tediously cleared the path, the truck finally reached the orphanage; everybody saw a huge pine tree on the truck bed. It was around 12 feet tall and the leaves were still very green. She got a new tree for the orphanage! As soon as the truck stopped, Nekoko got out and met an excited Himeko.

“Hey there Hime-chan, I hope you didn’t put all the decorations and ornaments on that old bush already.”

“Well we did, but not a lot, so we can move them. Wow! Where did you get that tree?”

“I got this one direct from Siberia, nya! I met a guy who sells Christmas trees from one of my shows. I told him about your project and he actually had a few overstocked. As you can see, the tree still has its roots, so after Christmas time, we can have it planted in the back.”

“This is great! Thank you very much Neko-chan!” Himeko hugged Nekoko.

“No problem. Anything for a good friend.”

Himeko suggested, “Hey, let’s get it inside and start decorating it!\" The orphans cheered and the driver with a few of his co-workers put the tree inside the building. Then everybody started adding the decorations and ornaments to the new tree while moving the remaining ones from the old tree, all of this while singing classic Christmas carols to fill the jovial mood.

As they were adding decorations and singing music, Chikane observed how Himeko interacted with the children. She saw how joyful Himeko was when she was with the kids, and the kids really enjoyed Himeko’s presence. In fact, it seemed that the kids saw her as one of them. All that made Chikane realized how truly wonderful she was, ‘She would make a great wife. There’s no doubt that she’s great with kids,’ she thought.
The project stretched Himeko in many ways. She had to learn time management and multitasking. She also had to learn how to manage a team. And most of all, she had to learn how to be punctual, something that she was never really good at. All of this was very demanding and tiring for her, and she had to continuously pray to God for strength. However, she was still able to make a little time to spend with Chikane, who was also quite busy herself with the music and any various errands that Himeko couldn’t attend to. While they were in the basement’s hallway entrance, they had a bit of time together.

\"So how is the music going?\" Himeko asked.

\"Fine. Hana is working them out there, but they don\'t seem to mind. I\'m amazed.\"

Himeko chuckled, \"Well that\'s good to hear.\"

\"How about you?\"

Himeko tried to hide how tired and worn she was, \"I\'m fine.\"

But Chikane could see how much it was wearing her out, so she comforted her and offered her some words of encouragement, \"Hang in there darling, it will be all over before you know it.\"

\"This is more than I thought it would be.\"

\"You\'ll survive, trust me.\"

“I hope so.” Chikane held her in her arms and started to comfort her by rubbing her back. While she was comforting her, Chikane looked up and saw a mistletoe.

\"Look up Himeko.\"

She looked up and saw the mistletoe. She then blushed and giggled, \"You know what that means, right?\"

Chikane blushed back in return, \"I sure do.\" She then gently lifted Himeko\'s chin up and looked deeply into her soul through her amethyst eyes. Himeko looked back into Chikane\'s sapphire blue eyes, seeing the yearning in her. They slowly drew closer to each other, until their lips connected. Then they slowly touched each other tongues. It started out as a soft smooch, with each other slowly sensing one another. Then a few more kisses to strengthen the connection. Gradually, it turned into full make-out session. Their tongues danced wildly as the passionate kisses grew more and more, neither wanted to stop the flame that burning within them. Their burning desire for each other was so intense that they could have kept their passion going forever, had air not become a necessity.

When they finally got some needed breath, they were surprised that they were not alone. Hana was there all that time watching them with a sly smile.

\"Al-ri-ight!\" he said excitingly.

\"Hana-chan!\" Himeko yelped.

\"Don\'t mind me girls. Pretend that I\'m not here,\" he slyly grinned.

\"So you\'re the one who put up the mistletoe?\" Himeko asked. Hana continued his Cheshire cat grin. \"You sly devil!\"

\"Hey, it\'s part of Christmas tradition, isn\'t it?\" He said mischievously.

Chikane shook her head, “Well, we needed the interruption; we have to get back upstairs.”

And they headed back upstairs. Unbeknownst to them was that Nekoko was also watching as well, and she wasn’t please one bit…
Due to the time spent on the building and on the gifts, they only had a week to rehearse the plays. The priest was able to pay for copyrighted use of the scripts. Again nobody knew, or questioned where he got the money from. The first play, The Gift of the Magi, seemed to go well without a problem.

Everybody thought the second play, A Christmas Carol, was going to be a difficult one, much to everybody\'s surprise, it went easily. Himeko told them beforehand that she was not going to play the ghost, instead someone else would. For the whole time Chikane refused to take off the costume, stating that she needs to be \'deep in her role\', much to everybody\'s chagrin. Sister Miyako was there, and she was beginning to get suspicious that it was Chikane from the orphanage where she used to work. She wasn’t sure until during the rehearsal scene when the ghost pointed to Scrooge\'s grave. The cuts on her wrist from her suicide attempt were showing. With the slit wrist, pale skin, tall height, and a small strand of blue hair sticking out of the hood, it all added up. Sister Miyako knew it had to be her. She could confront Chikane at that moment, but she figured it would be wise until after the play, to avoid potential interruptions.

Finally the third play, the Birth of Jesus Christ, was rehearsed. It went very well, even though Himeko tripped over herself a few times. Nevertheless, it was very clear to everyone that Himeko was perfect for the role of the Virgin Mary.

Now everything was set for the Christmas show.
It was Christmas day and everybody was there at 10:00 am. What amazed everyone was how clean the area of San\'ya looked. It still looked run down, but at least there was no trash lying around, nor were there any sleeping drunks on the streets. The play didn\'t start until 7pm but they were there to help give out the gifts to the orphans after they ate lunch. First they gave out the gifts. They made sure the gift was appropriate for that particular orphan; whether it was a girl or boy, young or old, etc. Then it was Santa Clause time as Girochi donned a Santa Suit and a fake beard, pretended to be Santa while Himeko and Makoto were his \'elves.\' Some of the kids knew who he was and they clearly knew who the ‘elves’ were, but they didn\'t care, they were just glad to see Santa and to sit on his lap. Everyone else was getting the place ready for the show, except for Chikane as she was not there for obvious reasons...

The show was held at the assembly hall and it was big enough to seat 2,000. Two hours before the show, they did a quick rehearsal, even though Chikane was not there. Everybody was concerned about Chikane not being there, but Himeko quickly reassured them that she will be on time for the show. In fact, she was already there, hiding in one of the rooms. Himeko had to tell Father Tadeu about the situation and he gave his oath that he won\'t let Sister Miyako know, not knowing that Sister Miyako already knew. Chikane wouldn\'t show up until 15 minutes before the show began, and only with her costume covering up her face.

It wasn\'t until 45 minutes before the show that a crowd started to gather. First it was other orphans who were not part of the play, then came what it looked to be other priests and nuns. Eventually the other crowds came, some of them were day laborer, others were other homeless people from the area, but there were those who were wearing either expensive bespoken Italian suits or expensive street clothes. When Himeko and Chikane were checking the crowd out on the stage, she didn\'t know who they were, but Chikane sure did.

\"Wow, look at some of people in the crowd. They must have lots of money to wear those types of suits. The only other people I\'ve seen wearing those types of suits were my oji-san and his friends who were also pastors.\"

\"Well I can tell you that they\'re definitely not from the church,\" Chikane said with her face hidden.

\"Really? Then where are they from?\"

\"They\'re the Yakuza,\" she said in a matter-of-fact tone. When Himeko heard that, her eyes immediately jumped as Chikane continued. \"They pretty much run this area. Now I know where Father Tadeu got the extra money. They probably donated it to him.\"

Himeko got really scared from Chikane\'s revelation. In her head she thought that the show better be entertaining and perfect, or else…

\"Oh my, we better not screw up or else...\" she said follow by a loud gulp.

Himeko couldn\'t see it but Chikane was chuckling, \"Himeko, don\'t be silly! The Yakuza are not going to hurt you or kill you. Killing you would actually make them look bad.\"


“Yes. There’s an unwritten code of honor they follow. They don’t go killing people who aren’t part of the ‘business’ so to speak. They especially won’t kill you, since you’re doing something positive. So you can relax, nothing will happen to you.” Himeko then smiled and relaxed.

By then the place was nearly full and Himeko looked at the clock on her cell phone. She saw it was five minutes before show time so she brought it to Chikane\'s attention.

\"Let\'s get ready! The show is about to start in five minutes!\"

\"Okay!\" she said and she went to the backstage area with Himeko.

The show finally began with Makoto being the host. First, some of the orphans and some of the members in the group, including Hana, sang some Christmas songs followed by Souma and Makoto\'s play, \'The Gift of the Magi.\' Their performance was so moving and endearing that it brought tears to some of the audience, even to some of the Yakuza, thought they wouldn’t admit it. Then Hana came on the stage with his girls as the backup singers, and performed \'Give Love on Christmas Day.\' They all sang it in falsetto much to everyone’s amusement. Nevertheless, the crowd was impressed and gave them a wonderful applause in return.

The next play was the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. It wasn\'t as emotionally moving as the first play but it wasn\'t any less entertaining. The audience applauded for the performance. After that was a solo performance of Oh Christmas Tree by Corona. Always the show off, she even sang a verse of it in German! Still in her costume, Chikane shook her head in disbelief. Himeko saw her expression and couldn\'t help but to quietly chuckle.

The third and final play was the Birth of Jesus Christ. The play didn\'t go out as planned at first, when Himeko nervously stuttered and stumbled on some of the lines. The audience saw how nervous she was. But eventually she got comfortable and her nervousness went away. It seemed that everything was going fine until the birth scene when she dropped the baby. Luckily it was a plastic fake baby. She was expecting some boos and jeers from the audience, in particular from the priests and nuns, but instead she got some laughs from it. Even thought the performance wasn\'t perfect, people still applauded at the performance, and at Himeko in particular. Finally the performances came to a close with a few more songs, capping it off with everybody involved in the show singing We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

But before they did the final song, Makoto had a final conclusion, \"We’d like to thank all you for coming out to watch us when you could have been doing something else this Christmas day,\" The audience applauded then she continued. \"However I would like to say that this show, along with the gifts and the decorations were made possible because of one girl’s amazing vision and tireless determination. That girl is none other than the Virgin Mary herself, Kurusugawa Himeko, giver her big round applause everybody!\" Himeko was stunned a bit at first but she didn\'t get much time to recover from her state, because Chikane pushed her to the front of the stage, and then Makoto grabbed her.

When she finally got to the center of the stage, the audience gave her an even louder praise in the form of cheers, whistles, and a standing ovation. She bowed in appreciation of their support. This was just amazing to Himeko. To her it just seemed to be just too good to be true. She couldn\'t believe the amount of praise she was getting. Himeko appreciated this much more than at the convention, because she felt this accolade had been earned. The happy feeling made her choke up in tears.

The show was a success and although it didn\'t bring any money in, since it was free, it got quite a bit of publicity. After the show was done and most of the audiences were gone, the priest wanted to thank Himeko for the show.

\"Thank you so much Kurusugawa-san, you don\'t realize the full spectrum of how much of a difference this show, and the improvements have made!\"

\"What do you mean?\" she questioned unknowingly.

\"Not only did it had an effect on the orphans but it also had an effect on the Yakuza as well. It was them who had this area cleaned and made safe because they were inspired by what you were doing. This is also the only time that day laborers volunteered to help.\"

Himeko was in total amazement now, \"Really?\"

\"Yes! And I just got word that the Japanese Catholic Review is planning to publish an article on this for next month\'s newsletter! We\'ve never been mentioned in that newsletter before. This is simply marvelous, all thanks to you! I can\'t ever recall a moment of my life something like this ever happening, not even the day I finally left the favelas!\"

Himeko was excited at first, then she remembered what the publicity could do to Chikane. “Please Father Tadeu, don’t let them print our names or show images of us, please!” He understood their situation, so he agreed to her request. “I Understand. I’ll have a talk with them before they publish anything.”

After he told her that, Himeko was smiling for the remainder of the night while helping out clean up after the show.

Chikane meanwhile, had changed from her costume. Sister Miyako thought it was the perfect time to approach her. “Miya-san, I know it’s you. Do you have a moment to spare?” Chikane was shocked to hear her voice. She turned around head and saw Sister Miyako, still in her 19th-century clothing. Miyako continued, “It’s good to see you again.”

“So that you can bring me back to that hellhole. Like hell you are!”

“No Miya-san, It’s not like that!”

“You won’t send me back there!” she panicked.

“But Miya-san, I-”

Without waiting for Sister Miyako to complete her sentence, Chikane bolted from the room like lightning, knocking her over. As soon as she got up, Miyako started to chase her, \"Miya-san, wait! Please come back, please!\" But it was useless, for Chikane was much faster and she was able to escape.

It was two in the morning when Himeko got home. She was tired but still jubilated with joy. She couldn\'t believe how much her project made a difference in people\'s lives. As she went to sleep she finally realized that it was her who made the difference and not the project. This was a new and exciting revelation to Himeko, one that will be etched in her memory for as long as she lives. What she doesn\'t realize is that there will be plenty of more to come for her.

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