Alright, so this wasn't originally intended to be a chapter, just an extended (and extended, and extended) omake. But it's technically accurate, so...
KUJI THIS IS
============================================================Chapter 3.5 - Honesty is the Best(?) Policy
And another one goes up to face the firing squad. Oops, I mean, the judges. I'm sure I had a nervous tic somewhere on my face, but then again, perhaps not. My childhood habit of biting my nails had been superseded by a blank expression of inscrutability. Don't ask me why.
Maybe it has something to do with Mama teaching me how to play poker. As for why she started playing poker with me, let's just say it was the New Year, we were snowed in, the power was out, and the Takahashi family had nothing better to do. I was 8 at the time.
And I'll have you know I hate losing. Mama is much the same. She won't cheat to win though.
...I would. Not that I have...been caught, that is.
No, you're not telling her. Mama would be horrified. As a good child, we should spare our parents the pain of such bad news, yes?
Anyway, back to the event at hand. No one was sitting next to me. Or around me at all. I can't be that unfriendly, am I? Then again, I have been told of how...intimidating...I could come off as being, right at first. Lies, I tell you. I'm not intimidating. I'm too small to be intimidating. I got that from Mama. We're both too small to intimidate people.
Intense, though, I can understand. People who do not understand the term 'intense' are welcome to watch Mama play the latest installment of Final Fantasy. I'm amazed that the series is still ongoing actually --- Mama gave me the whole history while I was growing up. I knew as much about the various Cids, chocobos and Moogles as I did about Oda Nobunaga and Prince Shotoku. In a way, I had a very well rounded education growing up.
Honestly though, how many times can one save the world? You'd think that a Quest to Revolutionize the World would get old after the third or fourth time, but no. We get reiterations of Bringing Down the Evil Empire/Corporation/Organization coupled with Exploring Huge Maps to find the Magical Thingmajig (several of them, actually) that may or may not help to Take Down the Final Boss. Though with Mama playing, she's always aiming for a 100% completion rate, so Everything is Essential. God forbid if she misses a treasure chest. I swear she has multiple save files at different stages to make sure Nothing Goes Wrong.
I swear Mama plans for everything, even the unplannable. I'm not sure where the line crosses into paranoia, but Mama comes pretty darn close, if she isn't already there. I mean, I'm still not entirely sure how she managed to order Little Aunt to go pick up the copy of the game she pre-ordered months ago...while she was in labor
. Honestly! There she was, in the process of bringing me into the world, and she can still remember to tell her sister to Pick Up the Damn Game for her, Or Else. It has since become part of the Takahashi family lore.
Just so you know, it's also my distinct (mis)fortune to share the same birth/release date as the 20th anniversary special edition re-release of some game. I feel so flattered. Really.
But I digress. Then again, growing up with an obsessive-compulsive mother who is eerily goal-oriented might have affected my outlook on things. I like having specific goals to achieve and then figuring out the means to achieving them. And then working towards it. Yes, nothing comes without hard work. Mama taught me that.
And the multi-tasking. Let's not forget the multi-tasking. Here I am, not-scowling, listening to music, having an extended internal soliloquy about the meaning of life (not really), and waiting my turn for an audition that I'm just realizing that I'm totally not prepared for. Nerves. Right. Just nerves.
I'm the only one here who has earpieces still plugged in. Everyone else is clearly frazzled and showing it. I'm just sitting here, expressionless, the seeming picture of calm. Appearances can be deceiving. Then again, Mama was the one who told me something before the first time I ever appeared on stage for anything (I was 5 then).If you don't have confidence, fake it.
I took that advice to heart. Ran with it. It seems to work. Good genes, Aunt Konno had joked. Mama had smacked her across the back of head for that, then laughed. Strangely, too. To this day, I still don't understand what was so funny about that.
I wasn't really paying attention to the other girls in the waiting room, despite the fact that I perhaps really should. After all, these were my 'competitors'. I should at least scope out what I was against. Then again, my 5-second cursory glance after stepping in did not reveal anything particularly threatening. Though I really should remember my own 'appearances are deceiving' motto and be more careful. But what does it matter? In the end, only my own hard work and performance in front of the judges would matter. If I can impress them, nothing else and no one can get to me. It's kind of like exams. Do or die. Make or break. Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I honestly believed that.
Mama always told me that it's not how you fall, but how you pick yourself up. I believe her. Mama is the strongest person I know. She cries at the drop of a hat, gets really upset when she doesn't do things well or right, but she always gets up and tries again. She never ever lets things get her down for long. I want to be like that too.
So I wasn't very impressed by the people who leave the execution ground...I mean, the judges' room, in tears. Most of them looked like they would never again appear in such a place. They probably never would. Aunt Ogawa told me that more than half the aspiring models she had met in the course of her work usually didn't last longer than the first few months. This was not a forgiving industry, and I had no illusions about it. Mama already explained everything involved, with a lot of input from her friends. I knew (kind of) what I was getting into, and I'm not backing down. Even if I fail now, I'll just pick myself up, figure out what went wrong, and then try again after fixing things.
I refuse to lose. Not to others, but to myself. Once I've decided on something, I refuse to let anything stop me. Mama understands that, so she's been really supportive. I'm glad Mama gets it. In a way, I'm doing it for her too, so I want her approval. I don't care if no one else approves, as long as she does. Mama is the most important person in my life, after all.
A loud thud in the general direction of the door leading to Ground Zero (judges' room) draws my attention, and I stop the playback on my MD. As to why I still have an MD, it's my Mama's old one. She has an iPod, but we take turns with it. Sometimes it kind of sucks to have a mother who is tech-savvy. She hogs the computer half the time, and only lets me use it when I have to check something for school. I can't put anything past her. Drats.
I see someone sprawled on the ground next to the wall. No CPR action seems necessary. Tissue would have been useful. No one moves though. Everyone is either staring with morbid fascination, or just staring at the door, waiting their turn.
I look around discreetly. No one was helping the bawling girl. Ok, she wasn't really making a lot of sound, so bawling might not have been quite the right term. Crying her eyeballs out? That seems about right. There was also...a great deal of mucus. Ew. Can I just pass her tissue on the end of a ten-foot pole? Or just throw it at her? No, she might cry more. That would be bad.
I'm not completely heartless, ok? No matter what any of my jealous classmates say. Aloof doesn't mean I don't care. It just means that I'm not very good with the whole 'sharing is caring' thing when it comes to emotions. I don't know other people well enough to let things go so easily, but I'm open with those I'm comfortable with. That counts for something right?
Nevertheless. I happen to have tissue, I happen to be sitting near where Mucus-chan was collapsing into a puddle of tears, and I also happen to have a great deal of experience dealing with crying people. If you have a Mama like mine, you would be prepared too.
I left my coat on top of my bag before stepping over to the unfortunate wreck. Kneeling down to get to eye level with her, I offer her tissue. Wordlessly. Gingerly too. Getting germs was not my first priority. She doesn't notice me at first, so I clear my throat discreetly. She looks up, startled. I don't blame her. The whole atmosphere was generally cold in that room. It was every girl for herself, and to hell with the competition. I'm sure she hadn't expected anyone to help. As for me, I just hated seeing people cry.
"Crying makes you look ugly. That's no good for an idol, right?" I said matter-of-factly. So I might have been a bit blunt, but I seem to have inherited Mama's tact.
She stares at me disbelievingly, then bursts out in an odd combination of tears and giggles. I tilt my head slightly, confused. Did I say something funny?
She takes the tissue, and I withdraw my hand as quickly as I could without coming across as being offensive. There was a slight moment of awkward silence as she blows her nose noisily. I'm not sure what I should do here. Comfort her? I don't even know her name. Ok, I know her last name. The big tag on her chest says MOGI. Funny, wasn't there a game character called Mogu on one of Mama's games? I liked that game. There were dragons. Dragons are cool.
Again, I digress. I look at the girl again, this time with the benefit of having no mucus blocking my view. I was not particularly impressed. From her crestfallen expression to her excessive reaction after coming out from The Room, it was obvious she didn't make it, or else screwed up pretty damn badly inside. Was there something I could say? I don't even know her.
"Ah..." I'm sorry you didn't make it? Try again next time.
That sounded oh so sensitive. Really. Not even I'm that tactless.
I probably shouldn't have opened my big mouth. Trying to be nice is going to get me in trouble one of these days. She was looking at me expectantly. Crap, I'm bad at this whole talking thing! Mama, I blame you for this! You must have passed it to me!
Maybe it was the song I had been listening to. That was also Mama's fault. She has an eclectic taste, not to mention an international outlook. One look at her playlist is like looking at a mini United Nations listing. In any case, I would like to state that I was not in my right mind and meant no direct offense. I certainly didn't intend to be mean. Honestly.
Perhaps it was also the fact that the OL in glasses just called my number, and I had to say something
quick before I left for my turn. You know, to be polite. Too bad I'm not good at coming up with stuff to say on the fly, so I just blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
"I'm sorry you're so ugly, Mogi."
I was not entirely cognizant of what I just said. My body was already in motion, throwing on my coat and grabbing my bag. I had one hand on the door when my brain caught up with my mouth. Then my ears caught up. I wonder how my senses could be so...retarded sometimes. Surely I could not have failed to miss someone BAWLING for real now?
I mentally replayed my own words. Oops.
Well, too late for regrets. I turned the knob, and stepped into my fate.
I totally didn't intend to write this until....the picture.
I'll do proper comment replies for the real chapter next time!