Shoujoai ni Bouken: Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far: After an unusual confrontation with the basketball team captain, Yuriko has stopped by Hachi's workplace to see if she can talk some sense into her friend.

 

Volume 2, Issue 3

"The Nature of Truth"

 

Hachi greeted Yuriko at the entrance to his office. "So," he said after making sure they both had tea, "what's up?"

Yuriko slurped some noodles and sighed happily. "I had to stop by the production office. Had a couple of things to talk to Onda-san about."

Hachi chewed on his noodles while nodding encouragingly. "How's the show going? Sorry I haven't been around much." He shrugged and gestured at their surroundings. "Been working a lot."

Yuriko set her noodles down and pinned him with a glare. "Yes, I know. To the detriment of your lovely lady's well-being."

"Ouch." Hachi looked contrite. "Guilty as charged, but what can I do?"

Yuriko looked carefully at her friend. "You're not looking good, Hachi. You're working too hard." She sipped her tea, pretending not to see his face flush.

"Not you too, Yuri." Hachi begged. "Mariko just gave me an earful."

"Because she cares, Hachigoro. Because the last thing in the world she wants is to marry a man who works himself to death." She knew Hachi understood the rebuke.

Hachi placed his noodles on the table and stood. "I don't have a choice," he said tightly.

"Everyone has a choice," Yuriko said, as Hachi walked across the office to the window.

"Can you keep a secret?" Hachi spoke after a long pause.

"Sure."

"I can't. I'm a terrible liar." Yuriko watched her friend's back as he stood staring out of the window.

"I know." Yuriko spoke softly. "And Mari knows too." She stood and walked over to her friend, putting one hand on his shoulder. "What's eating you? Is it a work thing?"

Hachi shrugged. "I'm kind of trapped here, Yuri," he said at last.

"What?"

"They've got me over a barrel. I borrowed some money..." Hachi wouldn't look at Yuriko.

Yuriko was shocked. "Like borrowed, like embezzlement?"

Hachi spun around and stared, his face dark. "No! Nothing like that!" He subsided, and he stuck his hands into his pockets, hunching himself over. "No, just borrowed, from one of the partners. But in return, I have to be here for him, do extra work, put in extra hours." Hachi faced the window again. "He says it's just for this big project, but I'm not so sure. He's a bastard, Yuri. He'll work me until I bleed if I let him."

"Then don't let him!" Yuriko said, her hands clenched into fists. "Quit! Or...or...I'll lend you the money and you can pay him back and be free of him."

Hachi shook his head sadly. "I wish I could, but..."

"You can. Dammit, Hachi - why didn't you come to me first? I'm your friend!"

He turned, looking a little shaken. "It never occurred to me." He laughed nervously. "I guess after all this time, I still don't think of you as, well, rich and famous."

Yuriko grinned. "Well, that's understandable, I'm not usually extravagant in my tastes."

Hachi's face was pale, Yuriko noted, with unhealthy coloring. He was very stressed and as she watched him move, she realized that he was a lot more stressed than he was letting on.

"No, it's not that, really." He gave a grunt of self-deprecating laughter. "Actually, when I look at you, I always see the waif that Mariko originally introduced me to."

"I was never a waif!" Yuriko protested.

Hachi laughed at her indignation. "But you were! All big blue eyes and gangly. You looked like you needed a month of good meals and several stuffed animals."

Yuriko began to splutter her protests, and eventually gave up with a laugh. "Okay, I probably did need both. But...what does that have to do with you working yourself sick?"

Hachi shrugged. "Nothing, I guess. But when I think of you, I see the kids we were, and I forget that we're both grown-ups now." He grinned at her and for a second, Yuriko could see the Hachi she knew behind the tired eyes. "So it never occurred to me to borrow money from you. Sorry."

Yuriko smiled comfortingly. "It's okay, Hach. I understand. But don't you go doing stupid things like this and getting Mari all worked up. You know how she is about this kind of thing."

Hachi nodded. "I should probably call her and apologize."

"Yes. And make it up to her. Don't hurt her, Hachi." Yuriko's voice grew gentle. "I don't want to have to kill you."

Hachi gave her a crooked, sad smile. "I won't." He sat back down and picked up his half-eaten noodles. "Thanks for dinner, by the way."

Yuriko shrugged. "No problem. Look, I have to go - it's getting late and I still have homework to do." She grinned at her friend. "Don't forget - I'm not a waif anymore."

Hachi walked over to Yuri and buried her in a fierce hug. "I won't," he said, as he let go. "I won't forget."

Hachi closed the door after Yuriko left and sat back down to finish his dinner. He set the box aside and sighed. Looking at the door, he said quietly. "I'm so sorry, Yuri. I'm so sorry." Then he returned to his desk and continued his work.

***

Yuriko let her mind drift, her homework spread out in front of her. Swinging the pen back and forth in front of her face, she ran over the events of the day. Still waters - that would exactly describe Yamamoto Kaori. There was something about the girl...something in her eyes... and then there was Hachi. Dear, sweet, goofy Hachi, who couldn't lie to save his soul. Who had lied to her tonight.

When she had called Mariko, she had explained as much of the situation as she could, but she hadn't told her best friend that Hachi was still lying. It would have served no purpose - poor Mari didn't need to know that. Fortunately, Yuriko was an excellent liar, from years of practice. She made a face at a skill she heartily loathed. Yuriko wondered what it is that he was lying about and whether he was into something over his head and wondered how she could find out the truth without getting Mariko involved. No, Mari didn't need to worry herself sicker than she already was.

She glanced at the English assignment in front of her. "Write a short essay in English about an emotional situation. Pay attention to the use of adjectives and adverbs to set the mood."

Yuriko fiddled with the pen a little longer and with a grunt, leaned forward and began to write.

Continued