Story: Himeko and Chikane: Their Story (chapter 14)

Authors: mandygirl78

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Chapter 14

Title: Auld Lang Syne

[Author's notes: Japanese Terminology and References.

Yep, I'm bringing it back again! I couldn't avoid it because there were some Japanese important words and references in this chapter.

Akemashte Omedetou - Why it means 'Happy New Year!'

Hatsumode - The first shrine visit of the year. This is where people go a make their first "wish" of the new year. Lots of praying also takes place during Hatsumode. It is considered the biggest Shinto festival of the year.

Auld Lang Syne – A song that is sang traditionally during the New Year right after the clock strikes 12. Look it up at Wikipedia]

The day after Christmas, Tokyo returned back to its normal self... for a short time, as the city was about to focus on New Year's Day. The people of Tokyo, and pretty much all of Japan, have a unique way of celebrating hatsumode. But there's a lot more going on than just praying and wishing at the shrine. In fact, it's more like a festival! There are stalls in the area that sell souvenirs, charms, toys, and food.

The Solar and Lunar Temple was no exception to the madness. It is one of the most popular shrines to visit for the hatsumode. Celebrating the New Year was the shrine's long tradition, dating way back to when Japan was still following the lunar-solar calendar. The shrine had over a million visitors in the previous year, so Sensei Kazuki Oogami knew he was going to need as much help as he can get. He was sure that he was going to get it from Souma and Makoto, but he had his doubts with Yukihito. It wouldn't have been much of an issue if Girochi wasn't leaving town with his girlfriend, and Sister Miyako didn't have a month-long job assignment in Nagasaki for her job, but now his concern was growing.

Additionally, his working relationship between him and Yukihito was even more strained than ever; since he's been showing up to work late, coming in tired, and showing a lack of appreciation for his job. It had taken a toll on Kazuki and also on the shrine, since Yukihito was irritable most of the time and left a lot of the work unfinished. He knew he needed to get more help, but where can he get reliable help, even if it's temporary? Who can he trust to help him with the necessary task of running the festival? He always had some sort of issues in the past when New Year's Day comes around, but he couldn't recall a time as stressful as this.

He didn't have to worry too much about his shrine being vandalized again, or any other trouble going on during the hatsumode, since he got the Shinjuku Police Department to assign him a few police officers. Setsuna, Girochi's co-worker and friend, was the head officer for the hatsumode.

With all that was going on around him, he never showed it to his brother or to Makoto. His stoic demeanor was always intact. After all, he's in charge of one of the most important shrines in Tokyo. Any sign of weakness he figured would make him and the shrine look bad. Regardless, deep down inside, he knew he was going to need some sort of help and soon.


Yukihito on the other hand, had his own issues. His family was going through some hard times since his father has been laid off. His mother was still working, but had to take a salary cut in order to keep her job. They had to cut down on many things because of their financial situation. The stress it caused on Yukihito was a bit too much for him to handle, so he started to stay out late, hanging out with his other friends nobody knew about, not even his close buddy Soumo or his family. Nor did they know the activities that were taken place. It was starting to take a toll not only on his work performance, but also on his school work and his relationship with his family.

It had been only an hour and a half since Yukihito came to work, late again, yet he started to yawn already. Kazuki noticed his tiredness and was peeved about it.

"Haven't you got enough sleep Yuki-san?"

"I did get enough sleep, it just that" - YAWN.

That was the last straw for Kazuki, and he let him know that. "Look, I just about had it with you and your work habits. I don't know what's going on with you, but you've been coming here late and tired, and it shows in your work. I mean, we got a huge hatsumode coming up on New Year's Eve, and I'm very shorthanded. I need all the help I can get and you're not making the situation any easier. In fact, I still haven't found any mikos who are willing to help us; all of the ones I've asked are too scared to join. Starting today, if you don't start coming here on time and alert with a better attitude, I will have to terminate your position. And I'm serious about it, understand?"

That was a complete shock to Yukihito. He didn't think it would even come down to this.

"Understand," he meekly replied.

"Good, now go make yourself a cup of tea with honey. I want you to be wide awake. We got a lot of work to do."

He went to make himself some tea, yet all that time he was thinking about what Kazuki just said. While he was making his tea, Souma came up to him.

"Hey dude, what's going on with you and Nii-san?"

"He threatened to fire me, if I don't come to work on time and fully alert."

"Oh. I'm not surprised."

Yukihito was a bit offended by Souma's response, "What's that supposed to mean?"

Souma knew he couldn't beat around the bush with him. He couldn't bear to see his best friend continuously struggling, "Dude, let me tell you straight up, things haven't gone so well with your work here lately. No offense, but it has been a bit sloppy lately. I have to clean up after you on certain occasions. Plus all the arguing between you and Nii-san are not making things better."

Yukihito was about to protest, but then he paused and started to think all the things that happened between him and Kazuki. After that, he just closed his eyes and responded, "You're right. I cant' argue with you about it. There's a lot going on, but there's not much I can do about it," he gloomed.

Souma saw the look and did his best to reassure his friend, "Look, you need to get your mind off of this. After you're done with your work here, let's go chill at your place and play some games on your Playstation, like we used to do back in the days."

"Uhh, I can't. I don't have my Playstation anymore, I sold it."

"Well no problem, bro. How about we just chill at your place."

"Uhh, I can't. Sorry, I got things to do after. Anyways, I need to head back to work."

With that he quickly drank his tea and went straight back to work. Souma had a puzzled look on his face; he couldn't understand what was going on.


The following day was a very cold day, but Himeko still had that warm feeling from the wonderful effect of yesterday's play. She still couldn't believe that the event went well. In fact, she was surprised that she actually did something that went well.

"For once, something I do in my life goes right," she said to herself in front of her finger-printed mirror.

Which is totally not true since she had always done so well in art-related activities. Her self-confidence issue makes her blind to the things she does so well.

Despite her pessimistic self-reflection, Himeko was getting herself ready to meet up with Chikane but she didn't have to. Chikane swung by to see her.

"Hey there Himeko."

"Chikane-chan!" she elated with joy. "What made you come down here?" she said as she gave her partner a lovingly hug.

"I just came to say thank you for all that you've done to make the play happen."

Himeko modestly answered, "It was really nothing. I bet you could have pulled it off too."

Chikane saw through it and knew that she wasn't giving herself credit.

"Himeko, the fact that you were able to pull it off is the only thing that really matters, not that if I or anyone else could pull it off. You're not giving yourself the credit you deserve."

"There's nothing special about me. I'm not as strong, streetwise, and strong-willed as you are. I'm just a clumsy, naïve little girl who just got lucky," she whined.

"And you're also a perceptive, talented, generous, kind-hearted young woman, and last night all of that was shown. Honestly, it was shown the entire time you started making the play happen. It wasn't luck that made the show a success, it was very much you, and all the effort you put into it. There's no need to beat yourself up."

Himeko just hid her head in shame on Chikane's tattered jacket.

"It's so hard. Even though I accomplish something great, I feel that it's not going to last and that it doesn't guarantee that I will succeed the next time. People will expect something better from me and I will disappoint them. It seems like I'm always disappointing someone, especially my relatives. They were always disappointed in me."

"You can never please everybody, that's part of life. Plus, what makes you think you will become a loser because of that? And what makes you think that you're a loser at all? I don't think so. Nor does Neko-san, Hana-chan, or any of those people we met at the tower, or the people who attended the play. And especially the children at the orphanage, they really loved what you've done for them. Haven't' you seen how happy they are when you're there? Maybe your relatives don't appreciate you, but everybody else does, especially me. Himeko, you are capable of making an impact in people's lives, you can't let those terrible times in the past control your future. The truth is, you're actually a winner, since you really went outside your shell and your comfort zone to make the play a success. I wish I could say the same about myself."

Himeko saw in Chikane's face that she was about to drown in her own sorrow, so she replied, "But you have, Chikane-chan. You trusted me enough to pretty much leave me in change of running the play. You trusted me enough to start a business with me and also to allow me to take you to a convention that you are not familiar with. You trust Hana-chan enough to allow him to put makeup on you and to be his friend. And most important of all, you trusted me enough to give your heart to me. That I think is the one thing you can't do unless you trust someone. In fact, before we became close, I still remember how cold and distant you were. You've made a lot of progress as well!"

Chikane didn't realize all this before Himeko told her. A small smile was drawn upon her face that gradually grew into a full grin.

"Thanks Himeko. That's one of the reasons why I'm so glad that you're my girlfriend."

Himeko blushed at the compliment and teased, "You're welcome, but I can't think of just one reason why I'm glad that you're my girlfriend!"

Chikane simply just chuckled and then she hugged her, "There's no need to tell me dear, you can save that for another time." After a few minutes of small talk while they embraced each other, someone came up to the tent, it was their friend Hana.

"Hey girls, how are you two darlings - Oops, sorry to interrupt you."

"No it's okay. We're fine, thank you. What brought you down here, Hana-chan?" Himeko asked.

"Well, I was at the station saying good-bye to Sister Miyako. She had to go to Nagasaki for her job. Since I was nearby, I just wanted to thank you two for the success of the play. Seeing the joy on the faces of the people and particularly the kids really made me happy."

That made Himeko blush again.

"See what I mean Himeko, they really appreciate what you've done. So there's really no need to self-doubt yourself," Chikane confirmed.

"Absolutely not," Hana added. "Plus, I was there earlier and Father Tadeu wants to have a party to celebrate the event's success. He definitely wants you two to be there, especially this little angel," he said pointing to Himeko.

"Really?" Himeko said as her face lit up. "That's great, when is it?"

"Tomorrow evening. You don't need to put on anything fancy, but you need to put on something clean. Even though we're bums, we don't need to look like it or smell like it!"

They chuckled, and then Chikane stated, "Don't worry about me, you know I always keep myself clean."

"Yes I know very well. I still remember that incident."

"What incident?"

"At the Salvation Army a few months back. While we were eating, I accidentally spilled some soy sauce on Chikane-chan's shirt. She made me wash her shirt. Boy I tell you, Chikane can be like a field general!"

"Hey, I put a lot of time making those clothes look nice!" Chikane protested.

"So do I, you know very well that I always have to look marvelous, but I don't make somebody wash my clothes if they spill something on it accidentally." Hana then asked, "What about you little darling, do you have any clean casual clothes?"

Himeko answered uneasily, "Ano… I don't have any."

Chikane intervened, "Don't worry about it, Hana-chan. She will have some by tomorrow."

"Well that's good. Hope to see you two there tomorrow. Also, do you two have plans for New Year's Eve?"

Chikane thought for a second then answered, "No, I don't think so. Why? You want me to come to that annual New Year's Eve Bash that you always go to?"

"Of course honey child, you know it's gonna be lots of fun!"

"Yes, I've heard. But you know I'm not really big on celebrations. Me and Himeko did go out for our birthday, but that was an exception."

"Yes, everybody in Shinjuku knows you're anti-social, but trust me, you and Hime-chan will have a great time there. I know me and the 'girls' will. There will be lots of partying, and lots of performances as well."

Himeko was new to all of this, so she asked, "What type of performances?"

"All kinds, girfriend. There will be singers, dancers, comedians, okamas, nyu-dandies…"

The last part took Himeko by surprise, "Nyu-dandies, what is that?"

"Nyu-dandies are women who dress up as men. There's quite a few of them at Ni-Chome, which is where it's being held. I tell you, there's no place in the world better to hold a New Year's Eve party than at Shinjuku Ni-Chome. I don't care what anybody else says. So what do you say, huh?"

Chikane looked at Himeko and asked, "Do you want to go?"

"Of course, it sounds like it's going to be lots of fun. Besides, I like to see some nyu-dandies and okamas on the stage."

Chikane chuckled, "Well okay. We'll be there."

"Great! Trust me, you won't regret it. I got to go back to my place. I'll see you ladies later."

"See you later, Hana-chan." Chikane replied.

"Take care, Hana-chan." Himeko said.

Himeko had a questioning look on her face, "Where are we going to get some clothes for me? I don't have any casual stuff."

"Don't worry about it. I know a place where we can find some."


Later on that day, Himeko and Chikane were at the back of Upstart Move, a clothing store in Shibuya, doing some 'shopping' so to speak… It was more geared towards American style, but that was fine because they were looking for casual. The girls were looking through all the clothes in the trash bags and bins. Himeko was amazed at the amount of clothes they threw away.

"Wow, there's so much stuff here. Why would they throw all this away? Isn't it very wasteful?"

"Yes it is unfortunately. If they can't sell it, they'll throw it out. It's usually not this much, it's just that Christmas season just passed and that they're getting ready for the new items coming out next year, so they're basically clearing inventory. It's unfortunate that they don't seem to know or care that there are people out there who would be glad to have these clothes, even if they're not very new."

"But it's fortunate for us!" she elated.

Chikane gave a small smile, "That's true. But I can't help feeling sorry for some woman whose working somewhere in some poor county. She's probably slaving away long hours on measly wages just to make these clothes and all that happens to them is that they get thrown out."

"Yeah, you only start to appreciate these things when you have nothing."

"Sad but true," Chikane agreed. While she was going through the clothes, she noticed something, "Dammit, dammit, dammit!"

"What is it Chikane-chan?"

"Those bastards cut up the clothes so that nobody can wear them. What a bunch of selfish and ungrateful jerks," she muttered.

Feeling a bit disappointed, Himeko said, "Oh my, then maybe we should be going somewhere else to find some new clothes?"

"Maybe, but let's still take a look. Who knows, there might be one that's not cut as badly so I can fix it. I do have a small sewing kit back at the station."

"You know how to sew?"

"Yes, I sure do. I learned it back in the orphanage."

"That's great! I know how to sew as well! So they teach you how to sew there?"

"Well yeah, because the nuns thought that all we could ever amount to is being Stepford wives for rich husbands. So pretty much all of us learned stuff like sewing, cooking, cleaning, proper etiquettes, etc."

"Oh I see. Well at least you don't have to worry about sending your clothes to a tailor."

"That's true indeed. Well, let's keep on looking. I'm pretty sure we can find something. If not, we can go to Shibuya 109 and see if they got something."

So they kept on searching until Himeko found a soft teal cardigan sweater that she liked.

"Hey, I found something!"

"What is it?"

"It a long shaker-knit cardigan that has no cuts in it. I think it would go great with my white shirt!"

"I think so too, but you need a scarf with it, and I just happened to find one."


Chikane pulled out the scarf from another trash bag and showed it to Himeko. It was a light gray scarf with various shades of long gray and black stripes. "Yes, I think it will go well. There's a cut in it, but I can sew it up and since it's in the middle, you can cover it up. Now all we need to do is to find you a nice pair of jeans and you are all set."

"Thanks, I think I'll look a lot different."

Chikane nodded in agreement, "You sure will. You'll look a lot more mature, since you wont' be wearing anything childish. Clothes really make a difference in how people perceive you. You will need to lose the bow. It doesn't match with the clothes anyways."

Himeko pouted a little bit, but she thought about it and saw Chikane's point. Cute as it was, that bright red bow would stick out like a sore thumb.

"You're right. I'll take it off. I really do hope this makes me look more mature."

"Trust me, it will," she assured.

Unintentionally, it made Himeko pause for a thought.

"Is that how people see me, just a little girl who is not capable of growing up? Someone that could never be taken seriously?" Himeko asked with a touch of sadness.

Chikane saw it and did her best to comfort her while still telling her the truth, "Yes some people do, but that's because they don't know you. And those who do, know that you're much more than just a little girl. Like I told you earlier, you are a young lady, no matter what they think of you."

Himeko still held her head down in despair; Chikane lifted her chin up and gently told her, "Look, do you know how many people would love to do what you just did?" Himeko didn't say a thing. "A lot, Himeko, a lot. No little girl could have pulled it off. You can trust me on that. Unlike a little child, you took a big risk and you didn't run away from it. Instead, you gave it everything. That's the ultimate sign of maturity to me."

At first Himeko didn't say anything, contemplating what Chikane just said, then it finally sank in. A smile lit up her face. "I see, thanks a lot Chikane-chan."

"No problem, now let's see if we can find some more clothes?"

"For me?"

"Not just for you, but for me as well. This opportunity doesn't come too often, I need some new threads myself!"


The next day was the party. They got there on time, no small thanks to Chikane's bossiness and punctuality. When they arrived, they saw Nekoko, Hana, Natashi, and all the other friends. The orphans were there as well. At the same time, everybody spotted them. They gave the two girls a rousing applause. Father Tadeu came up and ardently greeted them.

"Hello Himeko-san and Chikane-san, it's good to see you two, especially the girl who made it all possible," he gleamed.

Himeko, blushing a deep red, replied, "Thanks, but you guys had a lot to do with this as well."

Tadeu chuckled, "Don't be so modest, you truly deserve the full credit." Chikane just looked at her and grinned, giving her that 'see I told you so' look. Tadeu continued, "I'm glad you two are here, because we didn't want to eat before you got here and I'm starving, so let's eat!"

Then everybody lined up to get their food from a huge buffet table. It had many different types of foods, ranging from traditional Japanese to more 'exotic' foods like Brazilian. It further convinced Chikane where he was getting his money from.

"See, I told you he's got some of the money from the Yakuza. There's no way he could have paid for all this, and there's absolutely no way that the Church would pay for something like this, especially for such a dingy orphanage."

Himeko wasn't too surprised, so she shrugged, "True, but it's still for the good of the people who helped and for the kids as well. It looks like the kids are excited, they probably never had experienced something like this before."

After everyone had sat and started to dine on their food, Yukihito came over to join them. He greeted his friends at the table and grabbed a space at the end next to Makoto.

"I got to thank you for letting me play Bob Crachit. I really enjoyed playing that role."

"I'm glad you enjoyed it," Himeko said.

"He enjoys anything that allows him to rub it in Nii-san's face," Soumo added.

Yukihito had a menacing smirk on his face and responded, "I sure do."

Himeko knew better than to go further with it, so she just nodded in agreement. Then Yukihito talked about Souma and Makoto's play.

"Dude, that play you two did was totally awesome. Did you see how you two got the crowd on their feet?"

"We sure did. I'm glad we chose that play," Souma replied.

"I'm glad we did too, honey. But to tell you the truth, I was afraid my wig was going to fall off!"

Everybody laughed, then Yukihito added, "But I tell you, it would be more interesting if it was Hime-san and Chika-san doing the play." he smirked. That totally shocked Himeko and Chikane, but Yukihito continued, "I mean come on, it would have made the play even more interesting. Besides, lesbians are hot."

Himeko and Chikane were put off from what he just said. Surprisingly, it was Himeko that spoke up, "Yuki-san, it would be nice to have a same-sex couple playing a similar role, but just to show that they are no different from a straight couple. Not for some straight men's fan service."

Makoto rolled her eyes when she heard it, believing what he was saying was pure bullshit. "Do you really mean 'lesbians are hot', as in 'hawt lesbian sex'?"

"Well yeah, that too. I mean let's be honest, what man does not fantasize about two women making love? I'm sure Souma-san does once in a while." Souma blushed when he heard that.

"Dude, come on! Don't put me on the spot like that!"

Everybody was giggling and then Makoto responded, "Well it's going to remain a fantasy, because he knows very well that I'm very much straight." Souma was relieved.

Himeko inquired, "Really?"

"Yeah. Just because I have short hair and that I'm good at sports doesn't automatically make me a butch lesbian. I hate that stereotype. Since I was always a 'tomboy', many girls thought I was gay. I used to get love letters from them; in fact some of them still send them to me!"

"Well that's what happens when you attend the most liberal private school in Tokyo," Souma noted.

"What school is that?" Himeko asked.

"Hanayaka Secondary School. It specializes in Arts, Music, Humanities, and Athletics. It would be perfect for you two."

"Yeah, but they would have to take a test to get in and it's very tough. Only the very talented gets in," noted Makoto.

"And the very well connected as well. But really, why should we go back to school? I'd rather be here on the streets. At least I'm free and independent, and I'm making some sort of money. I don't have to worry about some teacher breathing down my neck," Chikane noted.

"But I don't mind going back to school," Himeko responded. "It sounds like a fun school and I would like to meet new friends."

"But Himeko, you got friends already."

"Yeah, but I would like to meet new friends who are into art and photography, so we can share ideals, paintings, and maybe even pictures. Also, I'd get to learn new techniques and improve on my skills. Besides, most jobs require to have a college degree and in order to get that, you have to finish high school."

"Well that's true," Chikane reluctantly admitted. "But back to what Yuki-san said, what men really fantasize are two bisexual women having 'hawt lesbian sex', since it means a 'threesome' for them. Lesbians won't have anything like that, since they don't have any sexual interest in men, like me and Himeko," Chikane said to Yukihito with her straight face, giving a clear hint to him, but inside she was laughing like hell. Yukihito felt embarrassed.

"What makes you think I want something like that between you and Himeko? It could be pure innocent love."

"Sure Yuki-san… It's the way you showed your interest about it. Also the way you implied the 'lesbian fantasies' that men have. But you need to know that what me and Himeko have is a private party of two, and you, or anybody else for that matter, are not invited," By that time she couldn't hold her laughter anymore. Himeko joined in and then everybody else.

"So it's like that, huh?" Yukihito teased.

"It sure is!" They both said while still laughing. She was holding Himeko next to her and laid her head on top of Himeko.

"Well, can you at least make a videotape of you two making out for me?"

Everyone were surprised to hear that, but Himeko jokingly slapped him lightly on his shoulders, "No silly! Like what Chikane-chan said, it's a private affair."

"Besides, we don't want it to end up on the Internet or on some Girls Gone Wild DVD," Chikane joked.

Amongst the laughter, Kazuki stepped in. "Tachibana-san, you can't stay here for too long. You need to go back and set up a few of the stands for the hatsumode."

Yukihito wasn't pleased with this. He thought that he was having a fun time, and once again Kazuki ruined it. He wasn't in the mood, so he blew him off, "Yeah, yeah..." he scoffed.

"Are you disrespecting me?"

"No I'm not, sensei. But I'm sick and tired of you barking orders to me. 'Tachibana-san do this, Tachibana-san do that'."

"You're my assistant. You're supposed to help me out with my duties."

"Yeah, and I don't get much gratitude for it, do I?"

"What have you done to deserve such gratitude? Your work has been unsatisfactory lately."

"Well for you, nothing is good enough for you. You're just grumpy and miserable all the time!"

"Grumpy and miserable all the time? You've been a good assistant for all these years, it's just these past few months that you've been careless."

Yukihito felt unjustified when he said that, so he growled back, "Careless? I got other issues going on in my life!"

"That's what it seems, but you know you have to be professional when it comes to your job."

"Professional? You know nothing about being professional! All you know how to do is to get on my nerves."

Kazuki was very pissed at this point, but somehow he managed to keep his cool demeanor, "You know what, if that's how you feel then don't help me for New Years. In fact, don't help me out at all. As of now, I'm relieving you from your duties."

"Fine!" he shouted back, and he immediately left the area. Kazuki just closed his eyes and just walked away. He didn't say a word. Everybody was very concerned, especially Souma.


Meanwhile, somewhere else in Tokyo, a middle-aged blond woman was surfing through the net. While she was surfing, another lady came up to her. She was a tall brunette with short-hair and glasses.

"Hey honey, what are you looking at?"

"I got an e-mail telling me to check out the gallery section of some website. They are pictures from a convention that was held two months ago."

The other woman took a look, "My brother sent you the email, didn't he?"

"He did. How did you guess?"

"It's on the email, genius," she told her while rolling her eyes.

Felling foolish, she responded, "Oh yeah, hee hee."

Conversely, the other woman was not in a joking mood, "Jesus Christ, you're still communicating with him?" she protested.

"Look sweetie, I know he stole your story but you need to let it go."

"I'm supposed to let it go? He and his old frat buddy are making lots of money off of it, while bastardizing and butchering it to cater to those loser fan-boy otakus, who probably never left their parent's basement? Right now, he's about to soak his body in a warm Jacuzzi while I have to take a shower in cold water since the hot water isn't working today. Yeah, that's real easy to let go..." she said in her cold monotone voice.

The other lady just chuckled, "It's not doing you any good to hold that grudge, is it? Besides, those loser fan-boy otakus who lives in their parent's basement will be the ones financing your butt when you finally become a successful mangaka."

As she turned away from the other woman and the computer, she responded, "That's true. Isn't it great that my financial future depends on a bunch of otakus?"

While navigating through the gallery pictures, the other woman said, "Come on now, it couldn't be that bad. I mean after all, you could be…" She immediately stopped speaking when she spotted one particular picture in the gallery. There was nothing really spectacular about the picture, yet it made her totally speechless.

The other woman, taken a bit surprised by the sudden interruption, turned around and asked, "Hey what's going on? Why did you suddenly stop… Oh my God." That was all she said.

The blonde just kept staring at the picture, focused on the younger blonde in the picture, who looked almost like her. Finally, the woman spoke.

"My baby…"


Himeko seemed concerned about Kazuki's situation, and privately brought it up to Chikane.

"It looks like Oogami-sensei needs some help."

"Well good luck to him finding some help."

Himeko thought otherwise, "Maybe we should help him."

"Himeko, are you kidding me? Do you know how much he owes us?"

"Yes I realize that, but maybe we can make some money off of it. I know hatsumodes are very similar to what my relatives hold on New Year's Eve."

"What do they hold?"

"Every year they hold a big New Year's Eve celebration in our annex right next to the church. They have a big dinner, tongue-speaking, faith-healing, games, everything. They charge a lot of money for it, and believe it or not, a lot of people have no problems paying for it."

"So what you're saying is that maybe he can share some of the money he makes from the hatsumode with us?"


Chikane started to like the idea, "Hmm… I'll give it a try, but I want to take a few precautions just in case."

"What do you have in mind?"

Chikane told her, and she nodded in agreement.

"Okay, sounds fair enough." So they went up to see him.

"Are you okay Oogami-sensei?" Himeko asked.

"Yes I'm fine," he said. He didn't want to admit it, but Himeko and Chikane knew otherwise.

"We can help you with the hatsumode if you want."

He lit up, "Really?"

"Sure we can, however as I discussed it with Chikane-chan, we will have to be paid for this one."

"That's not a problem. I do have a paying position in mind for you two girls?"

"Really, what is it?" Chikane asked.

"I want you two to be mikos for the Hatsumode."

That was a surprise to both girls, "Mikos? Are you sure?" Chikane wondered.

"I'm very positive. From what I've seen every day, you two have a strong work ethic. I think both of you would make great mikos."

"But we don't know anything about being a miko. We're not even Buddhists." Himeko reminded him.

Kazuki chuckled, "Yeah, I see. Mikos are a part of Shinto, not Buddhism, but don't fret on it. I know somebody who will teach you all the necessary elements of being a miko."

"That's nice and all sensei, but let's cut the chase. How much are we going to get paid for this?" asked Chikane.

"It will be about 1800 yen per hour. You could be working as much as ten hours a day, but you will be working at least six hours a day."

That got the girls' interest. "That sounds like a good deal and we accept the offer, right Himeko?" She nodded her head in agreement. "However there's one more thing."

"What is it?"

"I will need for you to sign a contract."

"A contract?" shocked Kazuki. He didn't know that they were going to go this far. "Can't you just take my word?"

"No. In my experience in dealing with shady shysters, I learned that it's always best to protect one's self. We need it in writing just in case." Kazuki couldn't blame her; he probably would have done the same thing. "So after we leave here, we are going to an internet café and type up a contract. It shouldn't take us no more than two hours just to make one. So when we're done we will come to your place with the contract and you will agree to sign it. Understood?"

He was surprised that Chikane would demand this from him like that, but he knew that it was pointless to argue, for they did have the upper hand. "I don't have much of a choice, do I?"

"Not really. We are going out our way to help you, and we have voluntarily helped you in the past. I think what we're doing is fair."

Kazuki was impressed in how Chikane was able to diplomatically state her case. It made him even more confident that they were the right people for the job.

"I see your point, and I do agree to your conditions. I will be at my temple all day long, so there's no need to rush."

"Good." Chikane spoke and all three bowed to finalize the agreement. The girls said their goodbyes and left the party.


True to their word, they went to an Internet Cafe immediately after the party and started typing up the contract. Well, it was mostly Chikane, with Himeko inputting on a few things. Two hours later they had themselves a 'genuine' contract. Not one to waste precious time, Chikane, along with Himeko, went to Kazuki's shrine. True to his word, Kazuki signed the contract, amazed at how detailed it was. Before then, he didn't realize how serious Chikane was about it.

The next day, the two girls came to the temple ready to work. Himeko was rather excited about it.

"Wow, isn't this great being mikos?"

"Himeko, mikos are nothing like what you see in anime or manga. They don't go around casting spells or fighting bad guys, or in the case of that anime you like, riding mechas. All they really do is perform traditional dances, provide fortune-telling, assist in wedding events and in our case, help out with the hatsumode. Hell, most of them are just college students working to make some pocket money."

"I know that, but still, I think it will be a great experience being mikos!"

Chikane shrugged, "Well it sure beats being a nun."

When they got there, they were surprised to see someone else standing at the entrance. Judging by her clothes, it looked like another miko. She was a long-haired, pigtailed, lavender-haired girl, probably around Chikane's height. It was clear that she was a no-nonsense type as she had her arms folded while waiting.

"Are you two Kurusugaw Himeko and Himemiya Chikane?"

"Hai" they said in unison.

"Good, sensei told me that you two are going to be mikos for the hatsumode. So I am to give you two a crash course in miko training. Since I am training you two, I want you two to refer to me as 'Senpai Hiiragi', understood!"

"Hai," Himeko simply answered.

"I too will participate in the hatsumode because two mikos will not be enough for the crowd. You can trust me on that. My sisters and I will be participating."

"Well that's a relief," Chikane sighed.

"But don't you dare think that you won't be doing anything for hatsumode, because you will bust your butts out there just like the rest of us!" she yelled.

Himeko and Chikane were taken aback at her abrasiveness. They knew they better not get on her bad side or else…

"Ok women, follow me!"

For the next four hours, they were taught the finer points of dancing, fortune-telling, Hatsumode, and of the Shinto religion itself. During the dance practices, Himeko fell a few times, and it made the elder miko shake her head in disbelief.

It was a bit overwhelming for the girls but they were both able to hang on. The remaining time was used to set things up for the hatsumode.

For the next two days, nothing special happened, as they were doing their duties for the hatsumode. Most of the time, Himeko and Chikane were basically in one of the stalls selling Good Luck charms and Bad Luck wards, but on occasions they assisted Kazuki. Kazuki was made aware of the fact that they were going to a New Year's Eve party, so he made sure they got things done before they leave.


On New Year's Eve night, while the girls were doing their work, Hana arrived at the gate to pick them up. Kazuki and the police officer Setsuna was there.

"Well hello there. I'm surprised to see you. I thought you would be at the club right now?" Kazuki said.

"Of course I will be, I just came here to pick up Hime-chan and Kane-chan."

"Oh yes! They told me about it. I say, you look quite different today. Who are you supposed to be?"

"Let me guess, you're supposed to be… Mui Anita!" Setsuna guessed.

"You're absolutely correct! No other than the late and great Mui Anita," he said while giving a diva pose. He was wearing a stylish yet sophisticated and elaborate red dress with golden knee-high boots and the scratched ruby necklace that Chikane gave him. The late Hong Kong singer/actress Anita Mui wore them in one of her concerts.

"Wow, you really do look like the late diva!"

"I better! I spent hours putting on this makeup!"

"Who is Mui Anita?" Kazuki asked. He's doesn't keep up with Asian pop-culture much.

"You don't know who she is?" Setsuna asked in amazement.

"I don't keep up with such things."

"Understandable, sensei. Mui Anita was a famous singer/actress from Hong Kong. She was one of the most popular females in Asia during her time. Unfortunately she died of cancer. She was a true diva and this is my way to celebrate the memory of her."

"Oh ok," is all he said. He still didn't have any idea who she was. "Let me get the two ladies. I'll be right back."

About two minutes later, Kazuki came back with the girls.

"Hana-chan!" Himeko elated as she hugged him.

"It's always nice to see you as usual, little darling."

"Hi Hana-chan," Chikane said. She was not the hugging type.

"Hey there Chikane-chan, how are you doing?"

"Fine as usual," she said in her typical unexcited voice.

"Come on now girl, cheer up! We're gonna have a ball!"

"I hope so," Chikane said with a hint of skepticism.

"Trust me on this one. Have I ever lied to you?"

"Well there was this time that you promised me to borrow your scarf, and there was this other time…"

"Okay, okay, I get your point! Anyways, do you girls have your dress clothes with you, or do we have to stop at your places?"

"No need, we brought them. We didn't have any costume, just some regular formal dresses."

"That will be fine, not everybody can look as fabulous as me!" Practically everybody rolled their eyes when he said that, while Himeko just giggled. "Just put them on and let's get going, I don't want to miss the performances!"

They put on their dresses and came back. The people were impressed with what they were wearing. Himeko was wearing turquoise floral appliqué knee-length cocktail dress with the embroidery around the bust and on the waist; while Chikane was wearing a glittering peacock-blue one-shoulder evening gown.

"My, my, my, you two look gorgeous!"

"Why thanks. We found these at the back of Studio 109," Himeko informed.

"Oh yeah, you'll find some great stuff back there. Well let's get going, the show might start any minute."

Without a moment to spare, they headed straight to the club.


As they got to the club, Hana pulled out the tickets to get in. When they got in, they met up with the rest of the 'girls.'

"Hey Hana-chan, we didn't think you would get here on time," Keroshi, one of Hana's 'girls' said.

"Sorry about that, I had to pick up a few people."

"No problem. So I see you brought Hime-san and Kane-san along."

"Of course! They're a part of the family."

"What does he mean by 'family'?" Himeko asked.

"It's just a slang we use for someone who is gay, since we tend to be a tight-knit community."

"Oh I see, like a family?"

"Exactly, but an even more dysfunctional family..."

"One that can dance and has lots of wonderful clothing in the closet!" Hana joked. One of the 'girls' noticed the necklace.

"Hey, nice dress! And where did you get the necklace from?"

"Oh, a good friend gave it to me," he coyly answered. Himeko heard it, and saw the necklace herself. It was the same one Chikane stole from the pawn shop. Himeko was not happy about it.

"Chikane-chan, can I speak to you privately?"

"Uh sure… What is it about?"

Himeko didn't say a word until they were in the bathroom. When they got in, Himeko showed her displeasure.

"Why did you give him that necklace? Why?" she said with concern. She was very upset, but she was not the shouting type.

"Because he's a good friend of mine, and he wanted it. He has done a lot for me when no one else even wanted me around."

"But what happens if someone recognizes it? Something might happen to him. I don't want to see Hana-chan put in jail or get hurt."

Chikane sighed, "Himeko, there's over 30 million people in this city. What are the chances of them finding out? There's a better chance of winning the All-Japan lottery than them finding out. There's no need to worry. Believe me."

Himeko wasn't sure, but eventually she gave in, "Okay."


They returned to their table. When they got back, they were listening to the girls taking, "Hey, are you going to be up on stage Hana-chan?" said another member of the 'girls.'

"Maybe, maybe not; a diva is never predictable," he said while holding his head up in the air, like a stereotypical diva.

"Tell me about it, I used to live with one…" Chikane muttered.

"Corona-san is a wanna-be diva, she could never fit in my boots!" Everybody laughed. Then the announcer came on the stage. He dressed like the early-90s version of Madonna during her Blond Ambition tour. That included the cone-shaped bra she wore.

"Welcome to the 2004 New Year's Eve Party, which of course will turn into 2005!" Everybody cheered and applauded. "We're going to have a great show tonight for all you guys, gals, and something in-between out there… drag or not!" That got a few chuckles. "There will be singers, dancers, comedians, even a magic act, believe it or not!" That got some amusement from the crowd. "And we are going to keep it going until around 11:50PM, when we get ready for the countdown! So sit back and enjoy the show!"

The performance was filled with drag kings, drag queens, dance troupes, and of course, the magic act. Hana did eventually appear on the stage and sang an Anita Mui's classic, "Bad Girl". Everybody was enjoying the entertainment. Himeko was surprised that there were so many drag queens and kings around. This was all new to her and she was enjoying the experience.

Then the time came. It was only 11:50 and everybody came to witness the upcoming fireworks and to see Tokyo Towers light up the New Year. There was a temporary clock in the middle of the street for the countdown. It was cold and slushy outside, as it had snowed and rained throughout most of the day, yet it didn't bother the crowd. When the clock stroked 11:59, the countdown started. 59...58...57... The crowd were anticipating the new coming year with enthusiasm. Himeko started to think about what she wanted to wish for the upcoming New Year. She asked Chikane, "So Chikane-chan, what do you wish for this coming year?"

"What do I wish for? Well I wish to have a nice place to stay, to have a master piano if my place is big enough, and to always be there for you."

Himeko's face flushed a deep red and gave her partner a heartfelt hug, "Thank you as always." She continued, "My wish is to bring peace, love, and harmony to everybody around me, if not, the world! I also wish to be a good friend to all my friends, and to always be there for you as well."

It was Chikane's turn to blush, but she responded, "Thanks, but do you really think you can bring peace, love, and harmony to this world?"

"Maybe not, but it sure is better to try and fail than to not try at all."

Chikane smiled, "That's very true indeed!"

Finally the clock got down to the final ten seconds. Everybody was counting down: 10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1 - Happy New Year!

The fireworks went off and the sky was covered with bursts of light. The Tokyo Tower displayed a big, lighted 2005 sign as the crowd celebrates the New Year.

" Akemashte Omedetou, Chikane-chan!"

" Akemashte Omedetou to you too, Himeko!"

They kissed to celebrate the brand new year as they watched the fireworks.

In Japanese tradition, the New Year's means a new clean slate, as everything in the past is done with. Yet, it was also a time to reflect back on the past, as many people sang "Hotaru no hikari", a Japanese version of Auld Lang Syne.

This was a new chapter in everybody's lives. For some, it was the beginning of something new, but for others, it was just the beginning of the end…

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