A week after Meg made friends with Emilia, she figured it was probably time to begin preparing her for a meeting with Yasuko. She trusted her best friend to comport herself, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t still be a little overbearing when meeting new people. Especially if those new people happened to be cute girls.
After a relatively sedate day at university on this particular Wednesday, Meg ran home, changed into something comfy, and zipped off to see her new friends at the mansion. With a cup of tea in hand and a minor knot in her stomach, she broached the subject of her visit.
“Would you like to meet Yacchan soon, Emilia?”
Sitting on the other sofa in the living room and sipping a glass of bubbling lemonade, Emilia nodded. “Sure! That’s the girl you mentioned before, right?”
“My best friend, yeah. She’s been itching to meet you ever since I told her about you.”
“This is the one I need to be careful of?”
“Ahaha, she’s not that bad, but you might find her a bit overpowering at first. I did.”
“Can’t be worse than fighting monsters,” Emilia said with a shrug.
At the mention of monsters, Meg winced. She had told her new partners of the man named Tear, but while she didn’t want to cause unnecessary friction by intentionally using the M-word around him, Emilia was considerably less willing. Having spent the last two or three years fighting the creatures, Meg could understand her reticence at least.
Draining her tea, Meg went to leave, intending to head round to see her friend to arrange matters. Unfortunately, Blue had just arrived in the room and was presently engaged in something odd.
Meg pointed. “Why is Blue eating peppercorns out of the jar…?”
Emilia glanced across. “He’s been behaving a bit out of the ordinary for a while now.”
“What constitutes ‘ordinary’ for a god?”
“An interesting question indeed,” Lifa said, nodding once or twice. “We’re still looking for the answer, alas.”
Blue sneezed, covering the wall in a fine coating of mucus-infused pepper dust. “I must say, these are delightfully spicy.” He tossed another handful into his mouth, chewing with every sign of enjoyment as he wandered back through to the kitchen, sneezing as he went.
“Well, at least he’s eating something edible this time?” Emilia murmured. She had so far caught Blue eating cardboard, plastic, and on one occasion an entire roll of toilet paper. And that was to say nothing of his drinking habits…
“In any case, I need to get going. Yacchan wanted to see me today as well,” Meg added, standing. She wished them good day and headed out.
Taking a jog from the city limits over to the seaboard, she homed in on a tall building not far from the beach. Some thirty storeys of the Kamogawa Grand Tower stood above her, its creamy white structure glittering and gleaming under the springtime sun.
Winding around several smaller side streets, she arrived at the hotel’s front entrance, neatly paved in small square stones, and the entrance to an underground car park dead ahead. Having no car herself, Meg had never been down there.
Instead, she turned to the left and made for the entrance, through the glass doors, and asked after her friend at the reception desk. The young lady confirmed that Yasuko was in, so Meg entered the lift just off this spacious reception area and pressed the button for the eighteenth floor, idly humming a tune to pass the time.
Meg’s first visit to her then-new friend’s place after arriving in Japan had been… not what she expected. Learning that Yasuko lived in a high quality apartment-style hotel had surprised this girl who had grown up largely in the British countryside. The room Yasuko used belonged to her, she paid no rent, and worked almost entirely out of her living room.
Yasuko’s parents had bought the hotel several years back when the Starlight City project had begun, quite correctly predicting that there would be an economic boom for Kamogawa. As a result, rather than mess about renting an apartment, Yasuko’s parents had simply given her a room at the hotel, and ran a permanent tab for all room service, food, drink, and other amenities, paid by Yasuko herself at the end of each month.
Meg considered herself to be fortunate, but still sometimes felt a little annoyed at her best friend’s situation. On the other hand, she got to hang out here regularly, slept over all the time, and had enjoyed free – actually paid for by Yasuko, a fact Meg was painfully aware of – meals and alcohol in the hotel’s luxury restaurant on many occasions, so she figured maybe she shouldn’t complain.
Exiting the lift, she walked the short distance down the pink-carpeted and airy hall to her friend’s room. She knocked and entered. The pink carpet in the hall continued into the room, a space roughly four times the size of Meg’s flat.
Dead ahead, two three-seat sofas in a cream colour stood facing each other, a low coffee table between them. Beyond this, French doors opened out to a balcony overlooking the ocean. Turning right here, the kitchen occupied the outer corner of the room, overlooking both the city and the ocean, boxed in with a pillar and chest high counter on the inner side of the room.
To the left on entering the room, a large alcove-like space through a wide archway contained a double bed Meg was well aware had seen much enthusiastic use, with a wardrobe and several chests of draws to the sides.
Before the Hikami family had bought the hotel, it hadn’t even had internet available for its customers. After a substantial and costly renovation, the hotel now had modern televisions and satellite in every room, up to date facilities, and ultra high speed transfibre, the latest in internet technology. Yasuko had insisted on that last one.
The girl herself currently sat on the floor in front of the right-hand sofa, a super thin laptop open on the coffee table before her, connected to a high-end graphics tablet. She waved. “A’noon, Meg! Be with you in a sec, just finishing up some shading.”
Meg wandered over the sat on the sofa opposite. “Hey. How’s it going?”
“Except for one major annoyance, pretty well, thanks.”
Yasuko used her tablet’s pen to scratch her head a few times, frowning at the laptop’s screen. “Can’t seem to get this design right.” She turned the device around so her friend could see.
“She looks cute to me,” Meg hazarded, unsure where the problem lay.
“Client wants a particular type of cute and this isn’t it. I don’t normally have this many problems, but I’m on my fifth design now and still can’t seem to nail it.”
“Would a break help?”
“It might, I just don’t have the time for one,” Yasuko said, sighing. “Already behind schedule as it is.”
“Or I could, I dunno, pose for you or something? Would that help?”
“Dammit, Meg, I’m working, stop trying to turn me on!”
Meg giggled at her friend’s usual antics. “Sorry! I wish I could help, but you know I’m more into traditional art.”
“Mm, I know, it’s okay,” Yasuko muttered. “I’m the one being paid, it’s up to me to get my act together.”
Working as a freelance 2D artist creating character designs and even the art CGs for entire visual novels, Yasuko had truly managed to land her dream job. Meg had never seen anyone – except perhaps her own parents – who enjoyed their work more than Yacchan. Being paid to draw cute 2D girls in various states of undress was a literal heaven on Earth for her.
Yasuko pushed the laptop to one side and lifted herself up to sit on the sofa facing her friend. “Maybe you’re right and I should take a break. Inspiration can hit out of nowhere, after all!”
“When I was little, I remember Dad writing a script for a movie he wanted to make. He’d got about halfway through the screenplay but couldn’t seem to work out a plot point that was causing him problems.”
Yasuko ran to the kitchen and grabbed them a bottle of beer each from her fridge. She handed one over and resumed her previous position. “I assume he worked it out?”
Meg popped the cap off the bottle. “I was playing in the garden at our house. He came out, stood and watched for a few minutes, then rushed inside and got back to work.” She laughed at the memory. “To this day I still have no idea what it was that helped him get past that block. Suppose it’s not important, I’m just happy I helped in some way!”
Raising her bottle in a toast, Yasuko nodded. “To great parents!”
Meg raised her own, then drank. “Am I ever going to meet your parents? I know they’re super busy, but…”
“Maybe if we both move to Starlight City one day. Otherwise… probably not, sorry. At least, not any time soon. They’re heavily involved with the Project so they spend most of their time over there now.”
“It’s possible Mum might meet them before I do.”
“Oh… yeah, your mum’s leaving soon, isn’t she?” Yasuko said, moving around the table to sit with her friend.
“How you feeling?”
“Okay. It’ll be weird not having her around but she’s not going that far anyway.” Meg figured that if worst came to worst, she could always transform and fly across to Starlight City—she shook her head. Best not abuse the power she had been bestowed, she knew where that led.
“You’re a big girl now, you can look after yourself, right?” Yasuko said, receiving a minor thump in response, an occurrence she was quite used to by now. She occasionally wondered if maybe she enjoyed it.
Meg leaned her head over onto her friend’s shoulder. “I guess it did take me a while to settle in here and properly learn how to fend for myself.”
“You’ve never actually told me much about when you first arrived.”
Fiddling with her beer bottle, Meg shrugged. “There’s not much to tell. Dad found this place thanks to one of his movie buddies, I flew out, moved in. Though…”
Meg giggled. “I messed up when introducing myself to Kyouko-san, said something naughty by mistake.” She spent a moment explaining in a hushed tone.
Yasuko cracked up at this. “Japanese is a grand old language, is it not?”
“Yep.” Blushing heavily, Meg gave a discrete cough.
The ‘naughty thing’ in question had involved mispronouncing something and accidentally saying something else entirely, something involving certain quite private areas of the human body most people generally don’t mention to strangers on their first meeting.
Meg yawned despite it only being late afternoon. “Mm, sleepy… this beer’s going straight to my head.” She placed the bottle on the table.
“Take a nap if you want. My shoulder’s always available.”
Tilting her head a little, Meg gave her friend a suspicious glare. “I’m not sure I dare, Yacchan.”
“Now, you know I’d never try anything,” Yasuko said in a hurt tone.
“Mm, I know,” Meg said, slurring a little and closing her eyes. For all that she teased her friend, she nonetheless felt utterly comfortable and trusting around her. “Oh, Emilia wants to meet you. I was thinking maybe Saturday?”
“Make it Sunday? Got a few things to do on Saturday, sorry.”
“Sure…” Meg murmured, drifting off.
Yasuko smiled at her sleeping companion and amused herself by browsing cute 2D girls on her phone’s Flixiv app, enjoying a break before having to get back to her current artistic frustrations…