VOLUME 2: ~Naïve~
Chapter 3 “Christmas magic”
On 1 December, the musical Onpu-chan starred in, “Blue Moon”, finally premiered at a large theatre in Hibiya, Tokyo.
All of us, including Majorika and Lala, were invited to the opening night.
We spotted Onpu-chan’s parents and the world-famous stage actress, Sakuya-san, who was an inspiration to Onpu-chan during her child idol days, seated in the VIP area. Onpu-chan must have contacted and invited her personally to the show.
There were also many politicians and famous celebrities in the crowd. And of course, the number one fan in Onpu-chan’s official fanclub was also present.
Yes, I’m referring to Oyajide.
He was all dressed up in a tuxedo, looking more regal than some of the politicians around.
And when the curtains opened to reveal Onpu-chan on stage, he called out to her in a loud voice, “Hey, I’ve been waiting for this! Onpu-chan, you’re Japan’s number one!”
His outburst triggered some awkward laughter from the audience. Our group pretended not to know him.
However, he quietened down once the show started, listening in awe to Onpu-chan’s singing. His eyes seemed to take in every aspect of Onpu-chan’s acting and dancing, missing no detail.
We were similarly captured by Onpu-chan. Portraying the protagonist named Kate, she could appear gentle and kind one minute, and then change into a passionate persona the next. Sometimes, she took on the role of joker and made the audience laugh. Whatever the role demanded, she delivered with grace and expertise.
She really shone on stage. We could already sense the aura of a true actress about her.
After two and a half hours, the first act ended and the curtains closed. At that moment, the crowd stood in unison and gave Onpu-chan a standing ovation.
Onpu-chan’s mum, who had mostly recovered, was standing in front of us. We saw her shoulders shake as she cried, while Onpu-chan’s dad patted her gently on the shoulder. The scene brought tears to our eyes.
It was a huge success.
Around midnight, I received a text from Onpu-chan. She asked for my opinion about the show, and I sent her a reply saying that it was really wonderful and we were all moved by her acting.
There was no need to sugar-coat anything, as I sincerely meant every word I typed.
The following day, all major newspapers carried rave reviews of “Blue Moon”. Amongst these, the news of “Segawa Onpu being the next great actress” brought us the greatest joy.
Onpu-chan would later tell us that the play, which had been staged for another three weeks, had sold out every single night. We were glad to see Onpu-chan’s efforts finally pay off.
Dela also informed us that the Queen had come to watch the play on the opening night as well. She had travelled incognito from the Witch World in her personal carriage, and was touched by the show.
Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back track a little to talk about Christmas.
After deciding on the designs for our Christmas cakes, MAHO-do underwent a huge transformation and settled into Christmas mode, just as the holiday season rolled around.
Onpu-chan was really awesome, but Momo-chan was wonderful too. She just seemed so energetic and powerful all the time, as if she had just fully recharged. I really wonder when she found the time to sleep.
Today, she was multitasking in the kitchen again, giving us baking instructions while trying out the Valentine’s madeleine cake recipe. Occasionally, she would come over and inspect our work. Even Majorika and Lala were not spared. I’m sure Momo-chan is the only person in the world who could criticize Majorika’s baking and get away with it.
“Momo-chan, are you alright? Don’t you feel tired?”
“I’m fine! I get enough sleep so I don’t feel tired at all.”
“Have you been dozing off in class?!”
I’ll take that as a yes, Momo-chan.
Usually, Momo-chan and I were the ones who kept the MAHO-do up and running. Ai-chan came around to help out on days when she didn’t have to train, while Hazuki-chan could only drop by late in the day after her violin lessons. Due to the musical production, Onpu-chan too had no time to come by these days.
Hazuki-chan, like us, did her best to drop by the MAHO-do whenever she could, since we went to different schools and weren’t able to see each other during the day. Even Tamaki came by occasionally to buy sweets and chat with us. The kitchen soon became our unofficial rendezvous location.
“Momo-chan’s dad will be coming back to Japan for Christmas and New Year’s, right?” Hazuki-chan asked one day.
We all knew that the MAHO-do would get really busy during Christmas, and once winter vacation started, we wouldn’t have much time to spend with our families.
Momo-chan tilted her head to one side. “Shanghai is just a three-hour flight away, so Papa often comes back to Japan. Mama flies over to see him sometimes too!” she replied nonchalantly.
“I see; that’s really great.”
Momo-chan’s family are really globetrotters.
“Oh, yes, Momo-chan’s dad is in Shanghai now. Do they celebrate Christmas in China too?” Ai-chan asked.
I had learnt in school that China was steadily progressing to become a developed country. Furthermore, with events like the Beijing Olympics and Shanghai Expo lined up, the country was in a construction rush. As an architect, Momo-chan’s dad must be really busy these days.
“China is full of big cities, just like Japan, so I think they do celebrate Christmas. And many Europeans used to live in Shanghai too,” Hazuki-chan answered.
“Oh, is that true? Hazuki-chan, you really know everything,” Ai-chan said.
Japanese culture is really so diverse, though I somehow feel that we should apologize to our traditional deities for celebrating foreign festivals like Christmas and Valentine’s.
About a week after we had that conversation, Momo-chan suddenly told us that she would be going to Shanghai.
“Mama will be the photographer for Onpu-chan’s next photobook. Oh, please keep it a secret for now,” she whispered with a finger to her lips.
We understand, Momo-chan. Onpu-chan might be our best friend, but she was also an actress. In short, we would do our part not to leak stories to the public.
Momo-chan’s mum is a professional photographer who often travelled between Japan and Shanghai. Momo-chan shared that she also sometimes went to scout for potential photoshoot locations at some of Shanghai’s scenic spots.
“Mama wanted me to come along to her favourite spot in Suzhou for Onpu-chan’s photoshoot,” Momo-chan explained.
We got her point immediately. When her three-week-long musical stint ended, Onpu-chan was the media’s darling, attending interviews and magazine photoshoots every day. As a result, she couldn’t really find the time to visit the MAHO-do. We’ve all been keeping in contact via messaging, chatting about the usual stuff, but I’d somehow sensed a little unease coming from her these days.
So, while it was natural for Momo-chan to join her parents in Shanghai, it was really thoughtful of Momo-chan’s mum to think of Onpu-chan and invite Momo-chan along to keep her company.
“Momo-chan, if Onpu-chan is really facing any troubles, please let us know,” Hazuki-chan requested anxiously.
“We’ll do our best to help, even if we’re not physically there,” Ai-chan added.
“Please talk to Onpu-chan lots, Momo-chan!” I said.
“Yep, I’ll do that. I’m looking forward to trying out China’s traditional sweets, and I hope Onpu-chan will join me. I’ll share my energy with her!” Momo-chan replied.
It was a relief that we all felt the same way.
It was a really short trip, lasting three days and two nights, but it seemed like both Momo-chan and Onpu-chan had a great time.
“But it’s not enough. I couldn’t even try all the sweets. I really wish we had more time, especially when I even made some friends in Suzhou,” Momo-chan complained.
We were on the way to school together.
I knew it; sweets were still Momo-chan’s priority. I understood that sweets were her passion, but she could really be a glutton sometimes.
“Oh, well, you can always go again,” I assured her. I wondered if she was feeling lonely because both her parents had decided to stay on in Shanghai.
Onpu-chan flew back a day later than Momo-chan, and she sent a message to our phones immediately upon touchdown. She expressly thanked Momo-chan for being there, as Momo-chan’s mum had kept that fact completely from her. As a result, seeing Momo-chan in Shanghai had been a wonderful surprise for her.
The next day, we received an e-mail from Onpu-chan.
“Ah! There’s an e-mail from Onpu-chan,” I announced, gathering Majorika and Lala around.
“Oh, this wasn’t there when I checked this morning. Doremi, open it and see,” Lala urged.
“But I’m sure the message is for everyone. The rest will be here soon, so I suggest we wait till everyone gets here,” Majorika suggested.
“Alright. I’ll get some tea ready,” Lala said. With that, she went to the kitchen to count out the cups and heat up some water in the kettle.
When we were all gathered, I opened the e-mail, and here was the message in it.
“I was really shocked when I saw Momo-chan in Shanghai. Thanks to her, I was in a good mood throughout the trip. Thank you. Anyway, I just got back to Japan today. Thanks to Momo-chan’s dad, I’ve made a new friend, Mo Li-san. Mo Li-san is a skilled seamstress, and she’s great at embroidery too. The food in Shanghai was wonderful. I wish I can visit again. However, thanks to Momo-chan, I think I’ve eaten enough sweets to last me a year, so when you see the photobook, you’ll understand why I appear chubbier in the Suzhou photos.”
“…Momo-chan, I’m so glad you went there,” I said after reading out the e-mail to everyone gathered at MAHO-do.
I was sure we were all worried after hearing Momo-chan’s recount of the trip, but it seemed like there really was no need to worry.
“Let me see the photos. Hey, she doesn’t look chubby at all, and the girl beside her is so thin too,” Ai-chan commented as she opened the image attached in the e-mail.
“She won’t grow chubby that easily, and yes, that’s Mo Li-chan. She’s so tall and thin, and so pretty-,” Momo-chan said.
“You’re right. She looks like a model,” Hazuki-chan added as she looked at the photo.
Mo Li-chan was the daughter of the housekeeper of the place where Momo-chan’s dad was currently staying. Although she was our age, she seemed much more mature and full of poise than us. Both her parents were working in Shanghai, while Mo Li-chan attended high school in her hometown in Guangzhou.
Like hungry reporters, we extracted all these information from Momo-chan.
It seemed like the education system in China was quite similar to Japan’s. While there were differences between the education system in the city and in the outskirt villages, we learnt that there were many universities in the city of Shanghai.
“I’ll try to get Mo Li-chan’s e-mail address, so we can ask her about Onpu-chan too,” Momo-chan said.
“Wow, that’s great. I want a Chinese friend too. Share her e-mail with me-,” I pestered her.
Hazuki-chan tilted her head at my request. “Please share it with me too… Oh. Momo-chan, will the e-mails have to be written in Chinese?”
“No. Mo Li-chan doesn’t speak Japanese, and Onpu-chan and I can’t speak Chinese too, so we talk mostly in English. I guess the e-mails will be in English too?”
Ahh~ I could already feel the cultural gap. Just then, Ai-chan pulled me to the side,
“Why do I feel a barrier coming up between us and them?”
I wanted to protest, but knew that it was true.
“Boo, I know. Does Ai-chan feel the same way~?” I asked.
“I’m sure we can all handle simple English. I’m not confident about my conversational skills either, but I do fine with the help of a dictionary,” Hazuki-chan assured us with a bright voice. Boo hoo hoo.
Having said that, Hazuki-chan turned back to the computer screen, “…Anyway, isn’t this the first time we’ve heard Onpu-chan talk about her friends?”
I recalled all the times we’d interacted with Onpu-chan after finding her in Hokkaido, but all I could remember was receiving lots of wise advice from her.
“Well, we talk lots about all the old friends we had since elementary school,” Ai-chan shared.
“I’m now good friends with Mukai Riko-chan, thanks to everyone. And I’ve made lots of new friends too,” Hazuki-chan added.
“Yuuna-chan and I talk lots these days! I hope I can visit her workshop again someday-” Momo-chan said.
“It seems like we’re always the ones leading the conversation with our problems, while Onpu-chan is always so sharp and wise, as if she’s been watching over us,” I mused.
While I was usually hot-headed and temperamental, Onpu-chan was always so calm.
“She’s always so calm and cool!” Momo-chan gushed.
That’s right. Even though she could not be with us physically, she was always providing suggestions and answers to our problems.
“But I’ve never heard Onpu-chan talk about any friends from high school,” Hazuki-chan said.
“Hazuki-chan’s right. And to think we were all so excited when we heard she was attending a school for celebrities. But since we didn’t ask, Onpu-chan also never offered any information,” Ai-chan concluded.
“Well, since I’ve just come over, I don’t know lots of things, but when we were at Shanghai, she did tell me that she had to brush up on her English,” Momo-chan added.
Ever since Momo-chan’s arrival, things at the MAHO-do had undergone so much change. Before that, when Onpu-chan was still failing auditions and having lessons, she came to visit at the MAHO-do frequently.
But now, she was so busy with work that we never saw her anymore.
As part of their plan to improve their English, Onpu-chan and Mo Li-chan had started to send each other e-mails. They even talked over the phone sometimes. Even though they were physically far apart, their friendship only grew stronger.
“Onpu-chan is finally talking to us about her friends, and I’m really interested to find out more about Mo Li-chan. It’s rare for anyone to become Onpu-chan’s good friend in such a short time,” Hazuki-chan said.
That’s right. I guess time isn’t a factor in forging friendship. Some people become close over time, while others only need a few moments to bond. I guess Mo Li-chan and Onpu-chan belonged to the latter group.
I wondered if the classmates at Onpu-chan’s high school saw her as a rival. Or could it be that her sudden fame made her unable to make friends that easily here in Japan, just like how it had been during her child idol days?
“I wish we could see Onpu-chan at least once a week. Now, we don’t see her except on TV,” Ai-chan complained.
“Maybe we haven’t been making enough effort to interact with her,” I said.
“That’s right. How about we organize a Christmas party, just for us MAHO-do staff? That way, we can ask Onpu-chan about things face-to-face,” Hazuki-chan suggested.
The idea got us all excited, and we started to discuss it while preparing stock for the store tomorrow.
“The period before Christmas won’t be good. It’s the busiest season of the year, after all,” Majorika and Lala also joined in the discussion.
Orders for Christmas cakes had been coming in non-stop, and, because we didn’t reject any, our profits had soared. We had also all become like savvy businessmen.
“That’s right. We can normally handle the store when you girls are in school, but we really need your help during this time…” Lala sighed.
This Christmas cake campaign was the first large-scale event planned by Momo-chan, so we all wanted to do our very best to bring happiness to our customers.
“She’s right,” Majorika said as she plopped heavily into a chair. “Onpu is a quiet girl, so we need to be the ones to draw her out.”
It was clear that Majorika and Lala were worried about Onpu-chan too, and we all felt the same way.
“Ah, I know! We call girls like Onpu-chan ‘tsundere’, right?”
She could be so tactful at times, but totally an airhead at others.
Our discussions about Onpu-chan cemented my theory that Onpu-chan was somehow signalling to us about her loneliness.
When I got home, I immediately got down to writing her an e-mail. As I had predicted that I’d be spending some time on that, I decided to use the computer instead of my mobile phone.
“Hmm… No, no!”
I had begun typing a few words, but they just felt wrong. After a few moments, I deleted the draft e-mail and shut down the computer.
Even though we couldn’t meet her, I felt that we should try to contact her personally. With that, I took out my mobile and dialled Onpu-chan’s number.
“Onpu-chan… Please pick up.”
The ringing tone carried on awhile, but soon cut to the voice recording service. I ended the call without leaving a message.
Opening up the messaging application, I typed out the following message to Onpu-chan.
“Hey, there’s nothing up, but I just wanted to talk. Please let me know when you’re free. I know you must be busy with work and unable to come to the MAHO-do, but I’d love to hear your voice, even if it’s for a short while”
I decorated the message with lots of Christmas emoticons and pressed the ‘Send’ button. However, no reply came that night.
The next day, after school, I made my way to the MAHO-do. Momo-chan was already there.
Ai-chan and Hazuki-chan had promised to drop by later in the day after their respective activities.
“Momo-chan, are you alright? You seem down today”
Momo-chan was baking cakes and sweets as per normal, but she was unusually quiet, and I noticed how she seemed to be working much more slowly.
“Well… It’s nothing important. I’ll share once everyone gets here”
I didn’t press the issue. If there was really a problem, I’d definitely prefer to have everyone gathered together to help. Besides, Momo-chan wouldn’t have to repeat her story twice.
But I was really worried that Momo-chan was not being her usual boisterous self.
“Alright, let’s both work hard until the other two arrive, so that we can get everything done early. So cheer up for now, Momo-chan. The customers looking forward to your sweets would be disappointed if they see you looking like that,” I said.
“You’re right. We want our customers to be happy when they eat our sweets,” Momo-chan agreed.
After that, it seemed as if Momo-chan had cleared her mind and regained her energy, as she started to work at twice her normal speed. Following her example, I did my best to work hard on decorating the freshly-baked cakes. Yes, Momo-chan, a smile fits you the most.
About an hour later, MAHO-do’s back door swung open.
“Doremi-chan, sorry for not replying your message.”
It was Onpu-chan.
“Onpu-chan, your walking speed really amazes this Osakan native.”
“We recognized you from the back and wanted to catch up, but you were just too fast.”
Ai-chan and a panting Hazuki-chan had rushed into the MAHO-do after Onpu-chan.
“Oh, everyone’s here today. That’s just lovely,” Lala said with a smile as she poured cups of tea for the three newcomers. Majorika also came into the room, and her gaze immediately settled on Onpu-chan.
“It’s been a while, Onpu. You must be busy.”
“It’s truly been a busy period… But it isn’t impossible to find some time to visit,” Onpu-chan mumbled as her gaze dropped to her cup to tea.
That was unusual. Onpu-chan never mumbled.
“But it must be tiring for you still,” Hazuki-chan hastened to assure Onpu-chan.
“Momo-chan’s told us about Mo Li-chan too. Are you guys still in contact?” Ai-chan asked.
“Yes… But Mo Li-chan…” Onpu-chan trailed off as she raised her eyes to look at Momo-chan.
The dismayed and troubled look on her face was plain to see.
Those of us who had no idea of the situation could only look on helplessly.
I’ve never seen Onpu-chan so perplexed over issues regarding work or school. She had always been the type to solve her problems on her own, and though open to advice, she disliked it when others offered to help her out. Therefore, it must have been a really serious affair to have left Onpu-chan so shaken this time.
“Momo-chan, what should I do?”
Yes, she had come to Momo-chan for help, but I was sure that we could offer assistance in some way too.
We got Onpu-chan to sit down and carried on with our work, giving her some time and space to calm herself. As usual, every one of Momo-chan’s cakes on display sold out in record time, and we managed to close up shop early.
“Mo Li-chan is being hounded by the media?”
Onpu-chan nodded. Momo-chan and Onpu-chan had become great friends with Mo Li-chan when she was acting as their guide during the Suzhou trip.
Onpu-chan and Mo Li-chan particularly appreciated that they had found someone to practise English with, and so hit it off immediately. Even when Onpu-chan returned to Japan, the two kept in constant contact through e-mail.
Plus, it must have been a relief to Onpu-chan that Mo Li-chan had no interest in Japan’s media industry. In fact, Mo Li-chan didn’t even know about Onpu-chan’s celebrity status until recent days.
“Though Mama often chatted with the three of us and took many photos of Onpu-chan and Mo Li-chan, she never mentioned that Onpu-chan was a celebrity,” Momo-chan assured us.
“I’m grateful for that. In fact, I was the one who made a mistake when I accidentally started talking about the photoshoot,” Onpu-chan said.
As part of her photobook, Onpu-chan had gone to Suzhou for a photoshoot; along the way, she had made a new friend. That was all Onpu-chan had told her managers. She hadn’t even supplied a name. However, her manager had noticed Mo Li-chan’s height and beauty, and had become interested in her.
“It won’t be hard to find her, since you girls were staying at her parents’ place. Just a little investigation would have turned that up,” Ai-chan said.
“Mo Li-chan has a beauty that we rarely see in Japan. They may be scouting her,” Hazuki-chan added.
I decided that now was not the time to insist that I was a bishoujo too.
In the past, we had been pestered by the reporter of a women’s magazine regarding Onpu-chan too. Maybe all the reporters had now shifted to target Mo Li-chan, after learning that we would never divulge information regarding Onpu-chan’s private life.
Onpu-chan’s e-mail correspondence with Mo Li-chan had then taken on a distant feel, and it has caused Onpu-chan to fall into a state of self-pity.
“She tells me that nothing’s wrong, but I think they’re harassing her even in school. Mo Li-san, not to mention her parents and Momo-chan’s parents, must be really troubled…”
“Papa and mama are fine! Mo Li-chan’s mum told me not to worry about them too. In fact, we’re all worried that Onpu-chan’ll be the one affected by it,” Momo-chan smiled.
With that, Onpu-chan seemed to have calm down a little. She must have been hoping for that reassurance.
“That said, Mo Li-chan may be pretty, but she’s still a normal high school student from another country. How is it possible to scout her this way? Or is it because she’s expressed interest in becoming a celebrity?” I asked.
Onpu-chan shook her head.
“Well, if she insists on carrying on with her normal life, they’ll have to give up soon,” Ai-chan said.
“I think they will, too. Onpu-chan, if you stop writing to Mo Li-chan because of this, you might be causing her more worry,” Hazuki-chan advised.
Onpu-chan remained unconvinced. “But it’s hard to tell her my true feelings through e-mail”
Just then, I slammed my hands on the table and stood up, saying, “Onpu-chan! You need to go meet her. E-mailing and talking on the phone just won’t do. She won’t understand unless you two meet face-to-face.”
Because no matter how much we say that it’s alright, sometimes it just couldn’t provide the peace of mind we hope to deliver.
“That’s right. Onpu-chan has never shared her problems with anyone, but this has left you so shaken,” Hazuki-chan added.
The painful memories of slander she’d received on the school Ura Site, and how we had helped her out must have been on Hazuki-chan’s mind. So maybe Mo Li-chan wanted to help to reassure Onpu-chan now too.
“Shall we go?” Ai-chan asked as she flashed us a thumbs-up. Majorika and Lala exchanged glances.
“You girls know that you’re not supposed to use magic for your own gain, right?” Majorika warned.
“But Mo Li-chan might be in trouble,” Momo-chan argued.
“Onpu is not a witch apprentice, anyway,” Majorika countered, staring right at Onpu-chan.
“Calm down,” Lala smiled as she winked at Majorika.
I took Onpu-chan’s hand in my own as I spoke to Majorika, “Onpu-chan must be worried about Mo Li-chan”
“Well… Of course… But—”
“We won’t think of using magic if Mo Li-chan were somewhere nearby. But she lives so far away, and it won’t do if she starts to misunderstand your intentions… Besides, if Mo Li-chan is really in trouble, we may be able to help her out,” Hazuki-chan urged.
Seeing the normally placid Hazuki-chan getting worked out, Majorika relented in the end.
“Oh, alright… As well as you girls make sure you’re helping this Mo Li girl out,” she grumbled.
“Thank you, Majorika!”
“Bring Onpu along too. Onpu, do decide if you want to become a witch apprentice yourself.”
With that, Majorika left the kitchen. Lala flashed us a victory sign before she followed Majorika out.
If anyone was a tsundere, it was definitely Majorika.
That night, Hazuki-chan, Ai-chan, Momo-chan and I returned home. We then waited for our families to go to bed before taking any action.
When we were sure that we wouldn’t be discovered, we changed into witch apprentices, flew to Onpu-chan’s home to fetch her, and then met up at the MAHO-do.
“Everyone, I’m so sorry for causing so much trouble,” Onpu-chan said as she bowed her head in apology.
“Why are you being so polite?! We’re best friends, right?” I asked.
“I’m glad to be of help to Onpu-chan,” Hazuki-chan added.
“Besides, I’ve always wanted to meet Mo Li-chan myself,” Ai-chan said.
“That’s not the point!” Momo-chan retorted.
It was the first time Momo-chan had ever played the straight-man to something Ai-chan said. Immediately following that, she asked, “Did I do that right?”
“Perfect,” Ai-chan praised.
Everyone laughed, and even Onpu-chan cracked a smile.
“Alright, let’s go”
With Onpu-chan in the middle, the four of us summoned Magical Stage.
“Magical Stage! Please send Onpu-chan and us into Mo Li-chan’s dreams!”
Magical Stage started to work, and we were all surrounded by white light.
Before we knew it, we were in Mo Li-chan’s dreams. From previous experience, we knew that Mo Li-chan wouldn’t be able to recall the dream once she’s woken the next day.
We called out to Mo Li-chan’s dream self.
“Oh, Onpu-san, and is it Momoko-san? Have you come to Shanghai to play?” Mo Li-chan smiled as she asked, showing no signs of surprise at seeing us. She must have been speaking in English too, but thankfully, the magic helped us to understand what she was saying.
“Wow, she’s really pretty,” I exclaimed.
“I know. Now I understand why she’s being scouted,” Ai-chan added.
However, it seemed like our words were not translated into English. Momo-chan then proceeded to introduce us to Mo Li-chan.
Onpu-chan rushed up to Mo Li-chan and took her hand in her own. “Mo Li-san, I’m sorry to have caused so many problems for you. Are you in trouble? Please tell me. We’ll all help to solve it together.”
Mo Li-chan squeezed Onpu-chan’s hand as she replied, “It’s not your fault, Onpu-san. The scouts have been approaching me with offers to make me into a model or actress, but I have no wish for that, so I rejected all their offers. My parents also know that that’s not what I wish to become.”
“But you’re so pretty and fashionable. Don’t you have any interest in becoming a celebrity?” Ai-chan asked.
After listening to Momo-chan’s translation of Ai-chan’s question, Mo Li-chan smiled.
“I want to become a fashion designer, because I enjoy coming up with designs featuring embroidery and lacework.”
“I thought you’d choose to become a model,” Onpu-chan said.
“Onpu-san is an actress because you love the job, right? That’s why you’re working so hard on your English and voice lessons. For me, I want to work hard at designing clothes, not on learning how to become a model.”
Mo Li-chan spoke clearly of her conviction with a smile. She must have been working hard to make her dreams come true. We now understood how she managed to remain unfazed by the scouts.
In fact, what had gotten Mo Li-chan concerned was how the arrival of the scouts had changed the attitudes of the people around her.
Shanghai, Suzhou and Guangzhou had always been famous tourist destinations, but it was only recently that they had started to really develop. With new roads and railways being constructed, the number of trains and buses running through these cities had increased, and travel had become easier over the years.
To the people who had lived there all their lives, the new train stations and roads had changed their lives considerably. I recalled Dad telling me that this was exactly how Japan itself had been about forty years ago. Following this, the financial gap between groups of people in the city started to become truly discernible.
People started to worry about their financial status, which was largely affected by how much land they owned or what kind of jobs they were working.
Mo Li-chan’s parents had always been working for a Japanese company in Shanghai, so I’d think they were a middle-class family, just like my own. Therefore, a job as a Japanese model or celebrity would surely be considered a prestigious, well-paying one to an outsider’s eyes. Of course, it was impossible for Mo Li-chan to go around explaining to everyone what she had just said to us. Therefore, it must have been tough to have not only outsiders, but her own family and friends gossiping about her.
“We always hear about ‘fair-weather friends’, and I’m guessing that’s what’s happening here,” Ai-chan said.
She was right. I knew that I often got envious of others easily, so I always made sure to watch the things I say. However, it seemed like the people around Mo Li-chan didn’t possess such tact.
“Some of my good friends had just recently moved away before the start of the school term, so I just felt a little lonely that we’re unable to spend Christmas together this year. And now, with the way my new classmates are treating me, it’s just been a little depressing,” Mo Li-chan shared.
The new school year in China began in autumn, similar to the system in Western countries. Thus, Mo Li-chan had been alone since school started back in autumn.
So it’s true what they say; autumn was really the season of separations and new meetings.
About an hour had passed since we entered Mo Li-chan’s dreams. As our magical power was diminishing, and since we didn’t want to cause Mo Li-chan to wake up late the following day, we decided to break the magic spell.
“I really didn’t know anything about your situation, and how things are in China. I’ll surely come in person to visit you soon, so is it alright if we continue to e-mail and call each other until then?” Onpu-chan asked.
Mo Li-chan smiled, “I hope we become closer friends. Onpu-san, I wish for you to become a wonderful actress.”
“That’s right! How about Mo Li-chan makes a dress for Onpu-chan whenever she has to attend a red carpet event?” I asked.
It was a random thought that Onpu-chan helped me to translate. Ai-chan and Momo-chan immediately got excited by the idea and started to gesture frantically.
“Oh, that’s a great idea. A sexy Chinese-style dress would be nice,” Ai-chan declared.
“Ah, I know! I’ve seen those in kung fu movies. It’s the one with a thigh-high slit!”
“Are you two old perverted men?” I wanted to retort.
Their exchange had rendered Onpu-chan speechless. Without a translator, Mo Li-chan couldn’t tell what was going on, but seeing Onpu-chan’s expression, she smiled and added.
“Well, I’ll surely do my best to achieve such an ambitious goal.”
Hearing that, Onpu-chan broke out into a beautiful smile.
Yes, meeting face-to-face was definitely the right choice.
After breaking the spell, we returned to our respective homes. Although we had not spent that much time away, I was exhausted. I was sure the others felt the same way too.
I hoped Mo Li-chan wouldn’t wake up late tomorrow. She was such a kind and nice girl, and I was glad that she was Onpu-chan’s friend.
And that was our Christmas. Busy, tiring and exhausting?
Yes, it was truly a busy period.
“It’s great that everyone’s working, but what shall we do for Christmas?” Lala had asked us.
None of us had any reply. For me, I’d probably bring some cake home for the family on Christmas Eve, and then hold that party together with everyone after work on Christmas Day itself.
“Doremi-chan and Hazuki-chan, you girls have your boyfriends, so don’t worry about us! Have you decided what presents to get them?” Ai-chan asked.
Until that moment, the thought of buying a gift for Kotake hadn’t even crossed my mind. It wasn’t entirely my fault. He wasn’t my boyfriend, and I don’t usually buy presents for anyone apart from my family and close friends.
“Hey, hey, Hazuki-chan, what are you gonna do? Have you bought a present? Will you two be going on a date?” I probed, hoping to learn from Hazuki-chan, my relationship senpai.
“He’s been busy practising for a concert that will be held at his workplace on Christmas Day. We’ve been thinking of performing a duet for the house party at my place when winter vacation rolls around,” Hazuki-chan said with a smile.
The house parties at Hazuki-chan’s place were annual formal events, with distinguished businessmen making up most of the guests. It’d be a great chance for Yada-kun, since he was aspiring to become a jazz trumpeter.
But I needed more information than that. I decided to approach Tamaki.
“Harukaze-san, what nonsense are you talking about? Tachibana-san is busy preparing for his university entrance exams. He won’t have time for dates.”
Although she blew me off with her usual haughty tone, she did sound a little disappointed too.
As for Christmas presents, she was intending to get accessories for their pet cat Masamune. I wondered if that was all she was planning to get, but I didn’t dare to probe any further.
Kotake was, as usual, busy with his soccer training. I’d started to watch soccer matches with Dad, and so I now understood a little more about the game. However, Kotake had not contacted me in any way, so I was hesitant to get him a present.
The following days kept me busy, and though I had lots of fun, takingmy mind off the issue, the worry always came back. Maybe Kotake would be spending Christmas with his soccer club friends? Or maybe he’d be spending it with his own family, eating nice cake?
Work at the MAHO-do got increasingly busy, as orders for Christmas cakes started to come in for the days leading up the Christmas Eve.
In the end, I decided that it was no use worrying, and I sent him a simple, generic message wishing him a Merry Christmas. I recalled how I had insisted for Onpu-chan to meet up face-to-face with Mo Li-chan, and felt slightly pathetic. However, I knew it would be near impossible for us to talk should we meet up in person. I wondered if I were overthinking things.
“How’s things with Kotake-kun, Doremi-chan?”
Even Hazuki-chan seemed worried.
“He’s going for a karaoke session with his soccer club friends. As for Christmas Eve, he’ll be going to watch the Tennoushou with his family, and then going home for a family meal.”
“Doremi-chan, Tennoushou is the horseracing event! I think you mean the Tennouhai,” Ai-chan corrected me.
“O-oh, I see…”
I thought I’d been making good progress, but it seemed like I still had a lot to learn. Well, at least I knew that Tennouhai was the national soccer event, so I wasn’t completely clueless. I was determined to work even harder to learn more about soccer.
“The Tennouhai? That’s just like Kotake. Seems like we’re not the only busy ones on Christmas Eve,” Ai-chan said happily.
Yes, now that winter vacation was here, it seemed like all the various clubs were holding parties to celebrate the holidays.
“Work is fun! I hope everyone will strive to bring happiness to everyone through MAHO-do’s sweets. It’ll be a wonderful Christmas,” Momo-chan exclaimed.
“That’s right. Momo-chan’s cakes are so cute and creative, and they’re delicious too,” Hazuki-chan said.
“This will surely be a memorable Christmas,” Ai-chan agreed.
“Yes. After our work on the 25th, let’s all party in the MAHO-do!” I declared.
“Let’s bring cake to Mo Li-chan too!” Momo-chan suggested.
If only we could cheer Mo Li-chan up with magic, to help her to forget the fact that her friends had moved away, and how her classmates and the people in town were gossiping about her.
I mean, it was Christmas, after all. No one should be unhappy on Christmas.
Merry Christmas. I wished for Mo Li-chan to be able to welcome Christmas morning with a smile.
1. Tsundere – a person who is initially cold and even hostile towards another person before gradually showing their warm side over time
2. Bishoujo – pretty girl
3. Senpai – senior