Chapter 5.1: Gender Bender

I woke up not in my own bed. I woke up not even in the nurse's office's bed. Instead, I woke up on a mat with a blanket over my body. I looked around and recognized that I was in a traditional Japanese home, which was why I was sleeping on the floor. Wait . . .sleeping? Not at school? Not at home? Then . . . 

I gasped out loud and lift up the blanket. Phew. I was still dressed. Hang on. Dressed in a furisode? Who undressed me first and then put clothes on me? Who looked at my naked body? I couldn't help but wonder if I had been violated in this process.

I heard someone's tongue click. My head automatically swiveled to the left, and there was Airi in a traditional kimino with her arms folded and body leaning against the door. "Oh yeah," she announced clearly. "It was fun yesterday." She even winked at me. Wink? How could she even wink at this rate? Did she have no shame? After raping me, she still had the-- "Oh my God!" Her poker face morphed into that of a clown. "You can't seriously believe that we . . . Hahahahaha!" She held onto her stomach as her face grew red from laughing too hard.

"Oi!" I barked and pushed up my glasses with my middle finger. "That's not funny! Raping someone is a crime, you know?"

"Ha!" Airi chuckled. "Like someone would rape you!"

"Hey! It's true! Like that well-known female murderer Abe Sada . . ."

"Wait!" Airi immediately shouted while sliding on her knees to my side. "You know about killers?"

I was not really sure how to answer that question. Should I have confessed and told her my interests or should I have lied and be normal? Seeing her ogle at me like I was some exotic bird made me intuitively admit, "Yeah . . . I . . . like . . . reading about them."

Airi's twinkling, large eyes almost popped out as she bursted in excitement: "Oh my God! I love reading about them too! Did you read about how Abe Sada her lover's penis?"

"Yeah. Of course. That was pretty bizarre. Makes me feel how scary women can be."

"Yeah. Like how she took his penis and testicles and then put them in her purse."
"Miss--" 

The door just so happened to slide open when Airi was demonstrating how the woman killed her lover.I knew how wrong this scene can be. It was like someone stumbling upon live porn, and to make matters worse, another woman dressed in a violet, floral kimono bursts into the scene and yelled, "Airi! Didn't I tell you--"

Oh crap, I thought. There was going to be an uproar. I could feel it. I meant, come on, in this position . . .

Instead, the woman sported a wide smile, hollering, "Darling, you brought a friend over! Oh, and carry on with what you were doing! I don't mind! I think girls should explore their sexuality!"

Eh? What . . . what is this? Explore their sexuality? Hang on . . . could it be that . . . I gave Airi a look, and she just shrugged her shoulders. I guessed relying on Airi to interpret emotions was more than unreliable. She was emotionally challenged by all means, and so I could only test out the waters by saying, "Umm . . . I'm Daigo Hayato."

"Hayato . . .  wait . . . Airi!" The woman immediately growled. "What is a boy doing in your room? Huh? Do you not understand your circumstances? What do you think--"

"Mom, Mom, look!" Ichijo-san squealed and removed my glasses from my face. "How can he be a guy? She's just called Hayato because her parents wanted her to be a male!"

My stomach was rumbling like mad. I was pretty sure this lame excuse wouldn't work. At this rate, I needed to plan my escape. I took a quick scan of the area and realized that I had walls of bamboo surrounding me. Okay. I may as well had planned for my prison sentence. Surprisingly, Ichijo-san's mother cheered, "Oh! Carry along then! Phew. I was getting worried that you forgot about your own status. We can't have you dating when you're already engaged, can we?"

Engaged? Huh? What was this? The feudal period? Edo times?

"Yes. Of course I know," Ichijo-san answered.

I heard clapping coming from Ichijo-san's mother. "Well, then carry on exploring your sexuality!" Before she left, she even winked and stuck out her tongue. "I approve, and I shall not speak a word about it!"

Once the sliding door closed, I turned to Ichijo-san and peevishly glared at her. "What . . . was that all about?" I grumbled with much frustration.

"Don't mind my mother," Ichijo-san told me indifferently. "She's just a crazy yuri fan. She wants me to have some secret girlfriend while being engaged. She thinks that'd be highly romantic and it'd actually be pure love."

"And an affair wiht a guy wouldn't do?"

"No because that wouldn't be pure love."

"So you can't even have guy friends?"

"My dad and my brothers forbid me from having any contact with guys. In fact, last time, I think this guy classmate only phoned our house to ask about homework, and the next day, I was told that he was sent to the hospital with three broken ribs and a fractured leg."

"Okay . . . and you would like to endanger me because?"

"Hey! I didn't endanger you. I told my mom you were a girl!"

Ugh . . . that wasn't very good either. What was I supposed to do now? Wear a . . .

Suddenly, Ichijo-san tossed a long, black wig onto my lap, instructing, "Wear this if you want to live around here."

"You can't be serious about--"

"Oh, I am very serious," she cut me off abruptly. "Last time my father saw this guy looking at me at a restaurant, and that guy  ended up losing his job."

"Oh . . ." 

Ichijo-san uttered, "You don't know my father. He either loves you or he hates you. I'm not even sure if he'd like the girl version of you."

"And . . . what happens if he doesn't like . . . err . . ." I aimed my finger towards the wig. "This version of me?"

Ichijo-san shrugged her shoulders, adding, "I don't know. He might kill you or something, but it's no big deal."

"No big deal?" I shouted. "What do you mean by no big--"

In a flash, Ichijo-san covered my mouth with her hands, pushing me down in the process. Her body was hovering over me, and the blanket was shielding the two of us. Suddenly, I heard the door crack open. "Airi! Time for dinner!" Her mother shouted. Instantly, her voice changed into a mischievous tone: "Still, playing around?"  

"We'll be there in just a minute!" Ichijo-san answered loudly. 

As soon as I heard the sound of the door close, I blurted, "Don't you know how wrong that sounded?"

"What? I was just telling her the truth!" Ichijo-san lifted the blanket, but now sat on top of my pelvic region. Man, she was heavy and dear Lord, this looked awfully wrong on so many levels. "What? What are you staring at me like that for?" 

In a whisper, I murmured, "L-l-l-look where . . . you are . . ."

"Oh my fuc.king God! I am so frigging sorry!" Ichijo-san quickly backed away from me, kneeling and bowing to me continuously.

"Glad you know," I sat up and responded.

"Really, I'm so sorry!" she repeated once more.

Scratching the back of my head, I pursed my lips together and uttered, "Anyhow . . . ugh . . . do you have my uniform? I . . . ugh . . . kind of want to go home."

"About your uniform . . ." Her eyes darted left to right.

"What happened?" I questioned rather harshly. 

"Look . . ."

"Yes?"

Ichijo-san slammed her head onto the tatami floor, hollering at an incredible speed, "You were bleeding really badly and then I was going to stop it by ripping a bit of your sleeve, but then that tore completely. So, I tried ripping the bottom of your pants. That tore even more, so in the end, I used my ribbon to stop it. But, but, it was too late, so then, I had to get Kyoko to bring a kimono over, but there were no kimono at home because my brothers hate wearing traditional Japanese clothing. Therefore, Kyoko brought my furisode, and so I helped you undress. I didn't look because I covered my eyes, but because of that, your clothes have been completely ripped. Really. I am sorry. Oh, and because you came home in a kimono, my brothers also believe that you're a girl."

"Wh-wh-what?" I couldn't stop rambling. "Wh-wh-wh-what . . . are you . . ." Since Ichijo-san's forehead was still glued to the floor, I stammered, "Y-y-y-you s-s-s-serious? Are you . . . fu.cking--"

"Yes, unfortunately," Ichijo-san cut me off to say. Then, she raised her head, declaring, "Don't worry! I promise I will buy you a new uniform! No, I'll buy two more for you!"

"No! That's not the point!" I yelled while kicking the blanket aside. "That's not part of our deal!"

"I know. I know," she answered, "but . . . that was the only way you could live in my household."

"But I don't want to even have anything to do with your household!" I screamed with all my might. "I don't--"

Grumble. Grumble. Grumble. Grumble.

That familiar scene that I always saw in Yuki's shojou manga was happening to me. Stupid Yuki. Making me review manga with her just because she couldn't handle the demands of her blog followers.Yuki started this manga review blog, and after a few months, she became super famous for her harsh and thorough analyses. Her followers would beg her to review other manga series, and after dealing with too many requests, she pushed me to do some of her work. Again, why did I listen? Yuki paid me in cash once more. A business transaction indeed, one that I sort of regretted.

Now, I was feeling embarrassed, and with her large eyes, Ichijo-san was gawking at me. Then, out of the blue, Ichijo-san exclaimed, "I have food! Our chef makes the best meals ever! I'll get him to pack your lunch every day!" 

Pack my lunch every day? Did that mean that I didn't have to wake up at five in the morning every day to make four sets of bento? Wait . . . she only said my lunch. If I could just negotiate in my favour, then I supposed that this dinner could go through. 

"Make that four set of bento, and I have special requirements for each."

"That's fine," Ichijo-san replied. "Just email me your requirements, and I'll make sure our chef follows them."

"And," I added smoothly, "I want them to be delivered to my place at 7 am sharp."

"Fine. Anything else?"

"Nothing I can think of . . . for now," I emphasized on the last two words.

"Okay," she agreed and then placed the wig on my head. "Time for your makeover?" She smiled rather too happily. Before I could respond, she hollered, "Kyoko!"

Within a few seconds, the door slid open, and there was Watanabe-san kneeling and bowing to Ichijo-san. "Yes, master?"

"Bring my makeup set and help Hayato get changed!"

"Hayato?" I furrowed my eyebrows at her. We were definitely not close enough to call each other by our first names. Really, I'd prefer keeping our relationship as formal as possible.

"You see, the thing is . . . I've never invited anyone to my house before, so . . ."

"So then?" I pretty much spat in her eye.

Rubbing her left eye, she casually explained, "So . . . we should be close enough to call each other by our first names?"

"Eh?" I jumped up, backing away from her. Upon seeing Watanabe-san with a clear tool box, I sputtered, "Th-th-then what about her?"

"Oh . . . Kyoko?" Ichijo-san asked in a dumb tone. I nodded, and so she continued to say, "I've known her ever since I was born. She's actually my bodyguard. Don't let her looks fool you. She's really in her third year of university."

"And she doesn't need to go to her real school?"

Ichijo-san simply lifted her shoulders, tilting her head to the side. "I don't see why you're so interested in details," she chirped. 

"That's a serious issue! I mean, think about it. She's a close friend of yours, and you don't care about her?" I shouted at her.

"How Kyoko studies is none of my business. We pay her to serve and protect me, so as long as she does her job, then--"

"How can you be so cold?" I interrupted her hastily. "Watanabe-san is--"

"Daigo-san," I turned my head immediately to find Watanabe-san still kneeling there with her head low, "I appreciate you caring about me, but I must follow my master's orders. We must prepare you for the dinner. If you could please follow me, then I would greatly appreciate it."

I was almost in disbelief. I couldn't understand how coldblooded these people were. Not allowing Watanabe-san to attend her regular classes? Sure, I had admired her for a year now and knew how proper she was, but that didn't mean that I was particularly caring. I just had more compassion, unlike Ichijo-san, that little monster.

"Just go along with Kyoko, and the next time you see me, call me Airi instead."

"Ugh . . ."

"Or maybe you'd rather get burnt by hydrochloric acid or chopped into pieces with a butcher's knife?" Airi narrowed her eye lids together, almost closing them shut. 

I could only end the conversation with: "Eh . . ."

And that was why I was trailing behind Watanabe-san down this long, wooden corridor. There was a large, traditional Japanese garden surrounding the edge of the pathway. I felt like I was in feudal Japan and at some lord's palace. When we walked to the end of the hallway, Watanabe-san instructed me to wear a pair of outdoor slippers she had already prepared for me. Then, she opened a wooden gate which lead to a set of stone stairs. The first thought that passed through my mind was that I was going to go to some temple, but that didn't seem right. Instead, Watanabe-san explained, "There are a hundred steps in total. Airi-hime typically runs up and down these stairs for her workout, but that's besides the point. What's important is that we will be going to where Airi-hime usually resides."

"Huh? Weren't we just in her bedroom?" I quizzically pondered.

"Technically yes, but she rarely stays there," Watanabe-san clarified. "You see, Airi-hime prefers a European styled room. You will understand soon enough. Now, let's quicken our pace."

By quickening our pace, I believed that she meant to sprint until we were out of breath. Needless to say, Watanabe-san didn't even break a sweat. I tried my best to keep up with her, but in the end, she decided that it'd be faster if we used the elevator. Yes, it was hard to imagine, but there was an underground elevator leading to the top of this little hill. I really didn't understand why we couldn't do it that way from the start. Hence, if this were the gag manga that Yuki sometimes reads, I'd insert a sweat drop right here.

Regardless, once we reached the top, I realized that we were in a European castle. Still, this family was keeping with the medieval style. After all, there was a huge entrance with a crystal chandelier dangling from the ceiling. Two sets of stairs warped around the area as if creating a ballroom entrance. Before I could say anything, Watanabe-san reminded me, "We must hurry, Daigo-san."

"I know, but . . . why . . . two homes?" I accidentally blurted. Not to mention, these were two very different styles. 

"Oh," Watanabe-san noted while ascending the stairs, "The head of the family has always preferred a European feeling, whereas, Airi's mother likes the traditional Japanese style. Airi is like her father since after watching the Godfather, Airi-hime became fascinated with their homes." Watanabe-san shifted her heel to give a look of approval. Then, she sighed, "Ah, Airi-hime is perfect as the successor of the family."

"Yeah," I scoffed. "I can tell."

"Really?" Watanabe-san squealed like an escatic fan girl. "You think so too? Ah! I'm so glad Airi-hime is friends with you!"

"We're not friends," I quickly reminded her. 

"But Airi-hime always talks about you!" Watanabe-san added just as we were on the last step of the stairway.

To tell you the truth, that phrase made me shudder. As a result, I questioned, "And why is that?"

"Oh," she carried on telling me, "Ever since she saw you make chocolates last year, she knew that you were the one."

"The one . . .?"
"To make her the perfect housewife, of course."

"Oh," I found myself mumbling.

"In fact, I have been documenting all of your movements in this journal Airi-hime told me to keep," Watanabe-san said. So Airi was a stalker. I guessed that every girl was the same, and there wasn't much I could do but to inform my mother to increase the number of potential rapists I had. Unexpectedly, as we were strolling down another corridor, Watanabe-san uttered, "She really just wants to be a housewife."

"Because?"

"She didn't tell you yet right?"

"Umm . . . no."

"Then," Watanabe-san now stopped in front of a set of golden doors, "I guess you'll just have to wait for her to reveal her reason to you."

"Oh. I guess that's fa-fa--"

Great. 

I believed she gave me some sort of shot. I felt a sharp pain on my neck, but it was too late. The world was getting dark again. Seriously? I was fainting again? What happened to fool me once . . .

Yeah . . .

There aren't any rubber duckies making me confused.

Yeah . . .

I must be . . . stupid.
   
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