Carpathia III: Episode 29 - Fishing

Unassumed Lands, Vayhama House

The Vayhama household was once again buzzing with activity, anticipating yet another festival. Kaoru was still awash in emotions. He was happy with the Vayhamas, and being happy made him feel guilty. Did he have a right to be happy when he didn't know where his friends were? Should he look for them? Should he stay put and hope they find him? Spending all his time between happiness and persistent doubt and guilt was becoming draining.

This day, the Vayhama household was preparing for the spear fishing festival. In many ways, it would proceed similarly to the others. There would be drink and song, with Tarja, Reuli, and others providing the song. Kaoru enjoyed filming the music with his galaphone and showing the recording to the rest of the people at the festival, who would all gawk at it in amazement.

This time, Kaoru wasn't feeling especially happy. This festival had one important difference. There was a special garment that all the participants wore and Ixon was not about to let Kaoru out of full participation. He sent Kaoru into his room to change and waited for what seemed like ages outside his door.

Ixon: Aren't you ready yet?

Kaoru: I am not going out in public like this!

Ixon: Look, I've got mine on and Reuli has his. Most of the other men are going to be wearing the same thing, so it's not like you're going to be the only one.

Reuli: I've got mine too!

Kaoru: I still don't wanna do it!

Ixon: Oh, for heaven's sake! It's hot here and it's better to wear this anyway! Come out!

Kaoru: No!

Ixon: Get out here!

This time, no sound came out of Kaoru's bedroom.

Ixon: Now!

Kaoru: Okay, okay, I'm coming.

Slowly the door opened and Kaoru emerged holding his fishing spear behind his back.

Ixon: Ha! I knew red was your color!

Reuli: It looks good on you!

Kaoru: It's a thong. No matter how you look at it, it's a thong.

Ixon: Oh, pfft. You'll get used to it.

Kaoru: Easy for you to say. I've never had my butt out in public before.

To Kaoru's horror, he suddenly heard Quilyon's voice through the doorway. She was coming towards them.

Quilyon: Dad, have you seen my...

Quilyon walked through the doorway and caught sight of Kaoru right away. She stopped suddenly and raised her eyebrows. For a few tense moments, they stared at each other as Quilyon looked down at Kaoru's mid-section and Kaoru felt the beginnings of a stirring within his thong.

Kaoru: I have to go to the bathroom!

Kaoru darted into the bathroom and shut the door.

Ixon: Seen your what?

Quilyon didn't answer for several moments and just stood where she was with a far away, dreamy look on her face.

Quilyon: Huh?

Ixon: You just came in and asked if we've seen something, but you haven't said what.

Quilyon: Did I? I don't remember that. I'm going to go this way now.

Quilyon turned and strode slowly back through the door through which she came.

Reuli: Dad, what just happened?

Ixon: Reuli, if I may make a supposition, I would hypothesize that those two are very keen to have a roll in the hay together but aren't ready to admit it yet. Your mother must never hear of what has just transpired right now, you understand me?

Reuli: I won't say anything!

The Village, Unassumed Lands

It took time for Ixon to coax Kaoru out of the bathroom, but he eventually succeeded. Kaoru rode to the village in the bed of the family truck with Ixon and Reuli while Tarja and Quilyon sat in the front. All the while, Kaoru did his best to avoid eye contact with Quilyon.

Not long after they arrived, Kaoru discovered that Ixon was right. Nearly all the men were wearing the same thing. He also mostly forgot that he was even wearing it, just as Ixon said he would.

The kick-off event was quick, as Tarja sang a few songs while Reuli played guitar. Again, Kaoru recorded the performance on his phone and was the center of attention as he played it back several times to amazed onlookers.

Gradually, everyone began streaming behind the bar to the water's edge with their fishing spears. Kaoru walked back with Ixon and Reuli.

Ixon: You're going to have fun with this, I think. The object is to get as many fish as possible. Believe me, the way they come out at night, even with us all standing around in the water, it won't be hard!

Kaoru: I'll take your word for it.

Ixon: Just don't stab your feet. That's the only real danger here. That's also the reason why we use a buddy system for this, just in case someone gets injured. Now, I'm going out with Reuli. I've taken the liberty of pairing you up with Scratches. He lost his family in an accident several years ago, so he doesn't have anyone else to pair with.

Kaoru: Oh...

Kaoru's voice trailed off as he looked down at Reuli.

Ixon: Something wrong?

Kaoru: Well, kinda expected I'd be going with you guys.

Reuli: We won't be far!

Ixon: Ah, sorry about that. I should have said something sooner. Sometimes, my head just gets so full of things, I forget the little niceties. I'm sure you and Scratches will get along fine though. Nice guy. Keeps to himself, mostly.

Kaoru: Unusual name.

Ixon: Yes, I don't believe you've met him, have you? It's a nickname, I believe. To tell the truth, I don't think I even know what his actual name is.

Ixon suddenly looked up over Kaoru's shoulder and smiled. He waved his hand jauntily at someone behind him.

Ixon: Oh, there he is! Over here, Scratches!

Kaoru turned, prepared to greet his new "buddy" in the festival.

Kaoru: Hi, nice to... Whoa!

Kaoru froze. Before him was what appeared to be a nekomi. Not a nekohuman, but a full nekomi. Moreover, Scratches was near his own age.

Scratches: What?

Ixon: Indeed, Kaoru, I must concur. What?

Kaoru did his best to quickly collect himself.

Kaoru: Oh... er... Sorry! I was just surprised, that's all. You're nekomi, aren't you?

Scratches: Yeah. What of it?

Kaoru: How old are you, if you don't mind me asking?

Scratches folded his arms across his chest and scoped out Kaoru from top to bottom.

Scratches: About the same age as you, from the looks of things.

Ixon: Kaoru, you don't have something against nekomi, do you?

Kaoru quickly turned his head to Ixon, taking a moment to process what he said.

Kaoru: What? Oh no! No, no, no, no, no! That's not what I meant at all! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to sound like that! It's just that I was surprised... Where I come from, the nekomi are dying off. There was a disease long ago and now nekomi can only have children with humans. The youngest one I know of is my friend's mother. I was just shocked is all.

Scratches: Hmmph. Whatever. I'm going out into the water. You follow whenever you want.

With that, Scratches immediately turned and waded into the water. Kaoru turned his attention back to Ixon.

Kaoru: I really screwed that up...

Ixon put his hands on Kaoru's shoulders.

Ixon: It certainly could have been better. There's still time to fix it though. Just be patient. I told you he's a good guy. Don't let the gruff exterior fool you. Now go!

Ixon gave Kaoru a hearty push towards the water. Kaoru stumbled forwards, nearly falling in, but managed to keep his balance. He glanced back at Ixon and then followed Scratches into the water.

Scratches was cold to him at first, resisting any attempts for Kaoru to be friendly with him. For awhile, in silence, they jabbed at the fish with their spears. Although there were many fish, it was much more difficult than it seemed. Each jab Kaoru took either missed entirely or simply gave the fish a little bump. One time, he nearly hit his own foot.

Scratches: Widen your stance.

It took Kaoru a moment to realize that it was Scratches speaking.

Kaoru: What?

Scratches: You keep missing because you're losing your balance when you strike. If you widen your stance, you can correct that problem.

Kaoru: Oh... Thanks, I'll try that.

Kaoru spread his feet and jabbed again with his spear. He missed again, but just barely, and standing with his feet apart made him feel more stable where he stood.

Sensing an opening, he decided to try and connect with Scratches more.

Kaoru: Ixon said that "Scratches" is a nickname. How'd you get that?

As Scratches replied to him, he kept his eyes fixed on the water, searching for a fish to skewer.

Scratches: From what I'm told, I was a hyper child. I don't remember that much about my childhood, but that's where I got the nickname.

Scratches thrust his spear into the water. He pulled it out with a large, floppy fish hanging onto the end of it.

Scratches: This'll be a good one to eat tonight. I imagine they should be getting the firepits ready soon.

As Scratches tossed the fish into a floating container, Kaoru looked to the shore to see if he could find any signs that the fires were ready. He hoped he had more time, as he did not want to return not having caught anything. While he was scanning the shore, he caught sight of Quilyon and Kaut. He couldn't hear what they were saying, but they were clearly having a spirited conversation, frequently laughing together. A sense of resentment welled up inside him as he watched. They laughed, hugged, and Quilyon even slapped Kaut's rear end once. Kaoru wanted to look away, but he couldn't force himself to do so.

Scratches: Hey, are you listening?

Startled, Kaoru shook his head and looked around for a moment before catching sight of Scratches, staring at him with a befuddled look on his face.

Kaoru: Oh... sorry, I was distracted for a minute. What were you saying?

Scratches: I was asking what you were doing. You don't want to leave without having caught any fish, right?

Kaoru: Ah, no, I don't. Yes, I'll get back to it.

Kaoru resumed scanning the water for fish, occasionally making a stab at one. He avoided looking towards the shore at all costs.

Final score, Scratches: 23 fish, Kaoru: 2.

Commissioned art in this episode from:

All city pictures from SimCity 4

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