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Fellow Feeling

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Staunton Island, Liberty City, Sometime in 2000:

 

There's an American saying that Asuka was becoming more and more fond of as the days went by. "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."  It ran exactly contradictory to Kenji's favorite statement of "there are no sides. Just Yakuza, those who help you and those who don't." 

 

It seemed like babbling nonsense but now she was starting to understand as someone she defiantly shouldn't be friends with was sitting in her condo, on her couch, bleeding into a napkin packed with ice she had given her. Kenji would not approve. But then again what he didn't know wouldn't hurt him. She stirred the miso harder in the bowl she had in her hands. 

 

"You take the pain killers I gave you?" 

 

Maria nodded. "They tasted funny." 

 

Asuka rolled her eyes as she poured the mixture back into the saucepan on the stove, then used the ladel to put the soup into the two bowels she had a laid out. "I think what you mean is that they tasted natural. Not like the shit you Americans call medicine. Those evil pharmaceutical monopolies trying to keep you from the natural, healing stuff found in nature. Not things that were designed in a lab." 

 

"Well, at least somebody studied up on their American economic model history before coming to the states," Maria said sarcastically while Asuka was putting the spoons in the bowls before quickly hustling them over to the coffee table before the bowls burned her hands. 

 

"Of course. It is always good to be prepared." Asuka said, as she sat down beside Maria. "We have a saying in my country about wisdom and preparedness. 井の中の蛙大海を知らず."

 

"What?" 

 

Asuka sighed. "A frog in a well knows nothing of the sea.”

 

"And what does that mean?" 

 

"Come now. Use that brain between your ears, Maria. Tell voice in your head telling you you can't think for yourself to shut up." 

 

"I don't know Asuka. I'm just not smart like you." Maria whined, sliding down a bit on the couch. 

 

"That not true. You know it is not." Asuka shook her head in frustration. "I understand you though. Where I was raised, a woman with intelligence in her mind was seen as a dangerous thing. SO I had to be careful and play stupid, as you say here, in order to not draw too much attention to myself. But that dog Salvatore is not here now so you can tell me exactly what you think it mean." 

 

Maria thought about it for a moment. "I guess...I-I think it means...I don't know....that frogs in the sea are lost? I don't know." 

 

"Where do frogs live?" 

 

"In ponds and like...rivers and stuff." 

 

"And what kind of water is that?"

 

Maria shrugged. "Not water you can drink?" 

 

Asuka released a loud, annoyed huff from her nostrils. 

 

Maria raised her hands in frustration. "Well, I don't know. You keep sayin' misleadin' words that don't make any sense." 

 

"There is nothing misleading about what I am saying. Think. A frog in a well knows nothing of the sea. What kind of water are in wells?" 

 

"Tap water?" 

 

"Which is?" 

 

"Water you can drink?" 

 

"No! Why would it be the same thing you said earlier that was wrong?" 

 

Maria sighed. "I don't know Asuka." 

 

"Can you drink water from a pond?" 

 

"Yeah, you technically could but it wouldn't be safe." 

 

"Right. Can you drink water from a well and it be safe?" 

 

"Well, yeah. Though the radio sometimes says you can't. But I would say most of the time, yeah...it's safe." 

 

"And what kind of water is in the sea?"

 

"You also can't drink that water."

 

"Right. And what is the difference between a pond and the sea?" 

 

"Seashells?"

 

"Well yes. But what else?"

 

"The shoreline?"

 

"Yes. And what about the water in there?"

 

"There's more of it?"

 

"The composition of it?"

 

"The what?"

 

"Good God...is the water fresh water or salt water?"

 

"Salt water." 

 

"And what would the pond and the well be?"

 

"Fresh water."

 

"Exactly." 

 

Maria beamed, clearly proud of herself. "And frogs can't live in salt water because of their gills right? It's different from other salt water fish." 

 

"Not quite. It's because of their skin. Frogs don't have gills." 

 

"Oh." 

 

"So listen to the proverb carefully again. A frog in a well knows nothing of the sea."

 

"Frogs don't live in the sea...so they don't know what it's like. And they really wouldn't know if they lived in a well their whole life...kind of like being a landlocked state. Because it's dark and cut off from other water...well besides the sink." Maria sent a quick glance to Asuka. "Or you know...uh...whatever." 

 

Asuka sighed. Back into her own head...

 

"No. Don't do that. What were you going to say?" 

 

Maria sighed. "Give me a break, would yah? I just got that crap kicked out of me and you're askin' me to think philosophy." She picked up one of the Burger Shot bags and grabbed a fry out. "It was your idea anyway." 

 

"In Japan, we have another saying," Asuka grumbled as she reached over to snatch the fry out of Maria's grasp.

 

"Hey!" 

 

"Wisdom is lost in a fat man's body." 

 

"Well thanks Asuka. If I didn't feel shitty enough already." Maria said as she wiped her eyes. 

 

"What is that? What are you doing? Stop it. Stop it right now." 

 

Maria took in a breath as she reached in to grab a burger.

 

"You insult me. I make good food and you bring this processed crap into my home."

 

"It smells like burnt grass clippin's." 

 

"It's miso. It's good for you."

 

"Yeah, well maybe you should think about havin' a burger every once and a while. Might help you loosen up." 

 

Asuka reached for her pocket knife when Maria set it down on the table, undoing the wrapping and slammed the blade down into the center. Maria jumped back. 

 

"Damn it, Asuka! You almost took my damn fingers off!" 

 

Asuka held up the burger halfway, the putrid grease leaking onto the carpet. But her carpet could suffer if it was proving her point. Asuka leered closer. "This...this is disgusting. Only a dog would eat this shit." She dropped the burger with the knife down onto the coffee table with a loud plop. "Slop. For the pigs." 

 

"What is your problem?" Maria sobbed out, tears cascading down her face now. "Why are you bein' so mean?" 

 

Asuka blinked in confusion, another memory came forward. 

 

Yuka holding her bruised cheek, standing in Asuka's kitchen.  It had been an accident and Asuka hadn't even realized she had hit her until after it happened. She had just gotten so angry when Yuka told her she had skipped class to hang out with some boyfriend of hers.

 

"You're such a jerk!" 

 

"And you're wasting your potential. Do you have any idea how much money your father has spent to bring you here?"

 

"So what I'm not allowed to have any friends!"

 

"You are to be focusing on your studies. Not trancing around with boys like some disgusting whore." 

 

"I'm not a whore!" 

 

"Then why were you skipping classes?" 

 

"I just wanted to spend time with him! You don't ever let me do anything! It's always work, work, work! I am never allowed to see any of my friends, I don't go to the movies, you don't even let me watch cartoons! You keep me cooped up in this damn apartment all the time!" 

 

"You are not here to make friends or go to the movies or watch tv or to go exploring. You are here to study. That is all." 

 

"I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! YOU DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT LOVE OR FRIENDS OR RELATIONSHIPS! YOU'RE JUST COLD AND CRUEL AND A...A THING THAT LOOKS LIKE A HUMAN AND FAKES HUMAN EMOTIONS BUT YOU'RE JUST SOME-SOME PSYCHOPATH!" 

 

Yuka ran up the steps, sobbing loudly. At the time, Asuka had just been annoyed but now she felt sad. Yuka was gone...possibly forever. When Yuka had been kidnapped...well...Asuka sat in her room and cried. And she couldn't remember the last time she cried like that. Or felt guilt so intense like her skin was going to rip open. 

 

Guilt she was feeling now. 

 

"Maria...I'm...I'm sorry." She said, patting Maria on the back unsurely. Asuka jumped when Maria hugged her around the waist, squeezing her tightly, she winced a bit when the bullet wound that hadn't healed fully had been stretched a bit by the hug but she bit her tongue. Unsure of where to put her hands she just kept them in the air but Maria didn't let go. Just cried into her stomach, hugging her waist tighter and tighter. Eventually she just patted her hand as gently as she could against Maria's bun. 

 


"You were right...this mayo stuff is pretty good." Maria said giddly. 

 

"It's called miso...and see? I told you." Asuka snorted.