Ep. 07 With You I Never Wonder

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[My readers know the drill hahaha. Italicized speech preceded with an asterisk denotes subtitled speech.]

It had been several months since Randy Cho left his apartment in New Innsmouth Beach. His landlady understood the reason he gave: that his family needed him to help support the household. That reason wasn’t a lie, for he knew that, since his grandfather passed away, things had been difficult for his mother and grandmother. Not to mention the fact that his younger sister Mi Na had been getting into a lot more fights since he moved away, and it seemed Randy was the only one she would listen to or open up to.

The reason which he hadn’t shared with his landlady was the odd happenings that had happened during his last month living there. Randy had always been a vault of information dealing with local legends, but he never placed too much belief in them. La’Tonya Morse changed all of that. She had shared her nightmares with him, which bore a striking resemblance to some of the stories he had heard about Innsmouth. Normally, he’d figure that she had heard about them secondhand, but he knew that wasn’t the case. She left his apartment after spending the night there, and soon after that, a freak tidal wave pounded the coast causing some heavy flooding and destroying the old lighthouse. It seemed as if the wave had aimed itself at the old section and particularly the lighthouse, because most of New Innsmouth Beach was spared the ocean’s wrath. La’Tonya hadn’t been seen since then, and Randy assumed that the waves took her away.

Moving back home proved to be what Randy had needed. His mother, a slightly plump middle-aged woman named Ji-Won, was overjoyed that her son had come back home, as was his grandmother, Hye-Ju. Mi Na was less enthusiastic, choosing to sequester herself in her bedroom, as is the wont of 15 year-old girls. Slowly, though, she began coming around to where the siblings were as inseparable as they used to be. Mi Na made no secret as to the source of her rage: her trust had been betrayed again by the same woman who betrayed her older brother. She had been promised twice by Rachel that she wouldn’t break her brother’s heart, and twice that promise was broken. She pardoned the first time, as she knew that it hadn’t been Rachel’s fault. However, she knew the second time was for real, and the resulting rage consumed her to the point where she was getting into a lot more fights. By her third school suspension, she had earned the nickname ‘Lady Vengeance’, as well as fear, from her classmates. She was almost expelled and arrested due to threats she made to Rachel; she vowed that she would “cut her up” if she ever saw her again. Fortunately for Mi Na, Rachel moved away before she could press the matter any further.

After a tearful confrontation with her brother, Mi Na’s temper calmed considerably and her starting fights in school had come to a grinding halt. However, she was still considered the alpha female in her class, and few dared to challenge her. Usually, those who did were people who knew of Randy’s awkward and brief tenure at Arkham High, and knew that she was his younger sister. However, they were soundly put into place and quickly, and they were always told to never speak of her brother with disrespect again. The irony that his sister was having a much easier time socially in school than he did was not lost on him, and he would chuckle despite himself. Still, he chided her for getting into so many fights, but told her, “Never start any fights, but if one happens despite your best efforts to prevent it, finish it and quickly.”

Since then, she gained a reputation for one not to be trifled with, as well as someone who was fiercely protective of the more oppressed students, particularly the geeks and the nerds. Despite her following, which usually consisted of either those whom she had defended or people who intended on riding her coattails, she had few friends and was considered a loner, something she never denied. Her band Snowblood disbanded, and of her former bandmates, only Lisa Sinclair and Jessica Bernier stuck by her.

Overall, things were happy in the Cho household. Mi Na’s grades went back up, the family’s Tae-Kwon-Do academy was continuing to be successful, and once Randy had a moment to collect his wits, he found that he was happy again. Still, he would look at his mother, and now and again, he’d swear that she was shaking her head, seemingly out of pity.

* * * * *

“All right, class dismissed!”

“*Ran-Jong,” his mother said through the intercom which piped into the classroom, “I need to speak with you.”

Randy shook his muscles loose and wiped the sweat from his brow with his towel. His classes were getting larger and more frequent, and as much as he loved his job, he was becoming exhausted. He hoped that this was about hiring other instructors so he could get some time off between classes. He stepped into his mother’s office, and per her şişli elit escort instruction, he closed the door behind him.

“*Yes, Mother?” he said.

“I understand that we have been short-staffed, so I found an instructor,” she said after Randy sat down. “Her references check out, and her reputation is impeccable.”

“Her?” he asked, a little surprised.

“Ran-Jong,” Ji-Won said, almost scolding him, “I would’ve thought that you of all people wouldn’t object to having a woman teaching here.”

“It’s not that at all,” he said. “It’s just that most of the applicants we’ve had were cocky assholes with a Jean-Claude Van Damme complex, so I’m a little surprised.”

“I see,” said Ji-Won with a chuckle, remembering too well the muscle-bound knuckleheads who seemed to want to tarnish the Chos’ school’s hard-earned reputation. “At any rate, her name is Nakagawa Kiyoko. She’s 25 years old, she was born in Hiroshima, but has lived in San Francisco for most of her life. She has black belts in Kung-Fu, Karate, and Tae-Kwon-Do, and has been teaching since her mid-teens. She’ll be coming tomorrow, and I expect you to make her feel welcome.”

Randy bowed and said, “Of course, Mother. Thank you.”

He turned around and left the office, and was met by Erik Lister, the other instructor and Scott Lister’s younger brother. Randy was originally Erik’s instructor. Erik had been horribly abused by his older brother, much like Randy had, and Randy took great pleasure in teaching the boy how to defend himself. As a result, the pair became fast friends. It wasn’t long after that Erik was teaching classes of his own. “So Randy,” Erik said, “is it true we’re finally getting some help around here?”

“Yes we are. Her name is Kiyoko, apparently.”

“You mean Kiyoko Nakagawa?”

“Yeah. You’ve heard of her?”

“Yes I have. She’s called ‘Godzilla’ in the tournament circles.”

“Why?”

“Wait ’til you see her,” Erik said with a chuckle.

Randy shrugged and walked away. He took a quick shower and left the school. He was looking forward to meeting the new instructor, and being a fan of old Japanese monster films, wondered about her curious moniker. His musings were brief, and thought nothing more of it when he got home.

* * * * *

The next day was his day off, but nevertheless, he came to the dojo. As he walked in, he heard Erik whistling the melody to a particular song from Blue Oyster Cult. “Godzilla’s here,” Erik said.

“Dude, be polite,” Randy said and walked into his mother’s office.

“Ahh good,” Ji-Won said in English. “Ran-Jong, come into the classroom. Ms Nakagawa is here.”

Randy nodded and walked into the classroom, and saw a very heavy-set young woman sparring with one of the advanced students, a rather cocky young man named Dan. Randy instantly figured out that the young woman was Kiyoko Nakagawa, and realized the source of her unusual nickname. However, he could also see that Dan was not having an easy time. Kiyoko dodged him easily and quickly, despite her large frame, and countered each of his blows with two or three of her own. Finally, she finished the fight with Dan on the ground nursing some bruises on his skin and his ego. She helped him up, and the two bowed. Kiyoko turned, hearing slow clapping from the doorway. “I see how you got your nickname,” Randy said with a laugh.

“I see someone else is looking for an ass-whooping,” she growled at him.

“Actually, I was referring to the way you stomped Dan,” Randy said, emphasizing the word ‘stomped’. “I can see why Mother hired you on.

“Welcome aboard,” Randy said with a bow and a smile. “I hope you didn’t take any disrespect from my comment earlier, for I meant none.”

“It’s all right,” Kiyoko said. “I get that shit all the time, and it gets a bit tiresome, even though I’ve since accepted it as my nickname.

“Actually, I’m a huge fan of those movies,” Kiyoko continued, “and unlike a lot of Americans, I actually don’t need the dubbing to understand them.”

“Same here,” Randy said. “I was first in line to see the theatrical run of Gojira when it was re-released four years ago here. Understanding the perspective of Japan back then, I actually wept a little during the monster’s attack on Tokyo. It was so horrible. Didn’t Mother say you were from Hiroshima?”

“Yes,” Kiyoko said, “but I moved with my father and grandparents when I was two, so I don’t know it well. However, my grandfather was there when the bombing took place, and while he was very lucky, he still has some of the radiation sickness from the experience. I remember him telling me stories when I was a little girl, and as a result, I feel like I’ve seen the suffering firsthand. It is why I get a bit angry when people here seem to forget about Hiroshima and Nagasaki when talking about the Pacific War, only remembering Pearl Harbor.”

“‘Those who forget şişli escort history are doomed to repeat it’,” Randy said. “Damned fools.”

Kiyoko looked in Randy’s eyes and smiled. “It’s nice to see someone gets it,” she said. “I mean, Pearl Harbor was a terrible thing, and I’m not blind to the horrors my people have caused.”

“China and Korea,” Randy said, as if in reply.

“Exactly!” Kiyoko said, her almond eyes wide. “War causes everyone to suffer, both sides.”

Randy found that he liked Kiyoko immediately. Her eyes seemed to sparkle, and Randy loved the way her smile would make them light up even more. And despite the fact that she had lived in the U.S. for most of her life, Randy could detect a slight Japanese accent creeping in. He stole a glance at her body, and wished the gii she was wearing wasn’t so baggy. Still, his mind did its best to fill in the blanks, and the mental image made a smile curl his lips slightly. “Anyways, I have to get going,” Randy said, smiling in return. “It was a pleasure meeting you, Kiyoko.”

Kiyoko bowed and said, “The pleasure was all mine.”

He turned around and heard her mumbling in her native tongue, “*Damn, that man’s fine.”

Randy turned his head and said in perfect Japanese “*Thanks. You’re not so bad yourself.”

With that, he left the classroom, but could still feel the heat of the blood rushing to Kiyoko’s face as she blushed furiously. He started for the front door when his mother called after him. “*So?” his mother asked in Korean. “What do you think?”

“*I like her,” Randy said. “I think she’ll do just fine here. How did she come to your attention?”

“I met her during a business trip to California last year,” she said. “I watched one of their state-wide tournaments and saw her fight. You’ve seen her, so you can understand that I was quite impressed with her. Then, when I found that she was an instructor, I offered her an opportunity at our school.”

“I see,” Randy said. “And obviously, she accepted your offer.”

“Not right away,” Ji-Won said, “which also impressed me. However, she confided in me that she was becoming dissatisfied with her treatment at her old dojo, and wished to join a smaller, more intimate school. We kept in touch all that time, and then she called me two days ago and wished to come to Arkham to see the area and the school, as well as meet the people she’d be working with. She came to me a few minutes ago and accepted my offer. She starts in one week when she finalizes the sale of her house.”

“Excellent,” Randy said. “I look forward to working with her!”

“I knew you would,” his mother said. With a sideways glance and a smile, she turned and walked back to her office.

‘Jeez,’ Randy thought to himself, ‘Mom seems to know me too well.’ With that, he got into his car and sped off, the smile of Kiyoko Nakagawa burned into his mind. “Yeah,” he said aloud. “I think I’m definitely gonna enjoy working with her.”

* * * * *

The week was a slow one for Randy. As hard as he tried, he could not get Kiyoko out of his head. He threw himself into the rehearsals for he and Mark’s new band, The Cho-Sin Ones, which primarily did covers of 70s and 80s rock and metal, but each song they did made him think of her even more. Their old blues band split when Jon and Krista had their second baby and realized that they just didn’t have the time. Still, the four remained close friends, and for a while, Jon filled in on drums whenever he could. The genesis of The Cho-Sin Ones was unusual, to say the least. The band formed purely by chance when Lisa, Mark’s teenaged daughter, and Mi Na began jamming with the pair. The chemistry was immediate, between their familial bond and their common love of classic rock and early metal. The name came from Mark, who combined their last names to form a tongue-in-cheek pun, and soon after that, on Mi Na’s recommendation, Jessica Bernier was recruited as the band’s keyboardist and backing vocalist.

The group had only been performing out for a little over a month, but they already developed a buzz among the cover-band circuit for their faithful yet modern interpretations of the old songs. The fact that they weren’t shy about throwing in obscure, but well-loved, songs from those classic bands didn’t hurt their reputation, either, nor did their occasional slipping in more current songs that the younger girls loved. Randy and Mark winced at first whenever Mi Na would want to sing songs like “Take It Off” by the Donnas or “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morrisette, but Mark put it in perspective partly by saying, “Dude, we were that age once, and this shit was our outlet for our frustrations. Why should it be any different for her?”

“Yeah, but she’s only 15, and I don’t want to have to kick some drunk’s ass because he got the wrong idea about my sister,” Randy said. To Mi Na, he said, “Look, kiddo, I was your age too, so I do şişli eve gelen escort get it. I just know how guys are, and I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

“Okay, fine,” Mi Na said, rolling her eyes. “Just don’t give me the ‘SVU’ speech; you know I hate that.”

Deep down, Mi Na appreciated her big brother looking out for her, and that he was still fiercely protective of her, just as she was of him. At first, she thought Randy intended to keep her a virgin. But after her first year of high school, she saw that most of the guys were either slobbering St. Bernards at best, and heartless predators at worst. As a result, she decided to stay a virgin of her own volition, at least until she got to college.

The night of their show at the Empty Belly was the night after Kiyoko’s arrival. Randy told his mother to let Kiyoko know the night of his show, and that she was on the guest-list. Ji-Won promised that she would, and this was in the back of Randy’s mind as he was setting the stage up. They had planned a special set-list for Randy’s new friend, much to the amusement of Mi Na who took great delight in ribbing her big brother about his new crush. Finally, she said, “This time, if she breaks your heart, I’m kicking your ass.”

“Bring it on, small fry,” he said, slapping the back of her head playfully.

“Jong-meister,” Mark said, getting Randy’s attention. “Would that be her?”

Mark pointed in the crowd, and Randy saw her. She had dyed strands of her curly hair a shocking shade of pink, and was wearing glitter makeup on her face. She was wearing a black and red plaid school girl skirt with fishnet stockings, and a tight black t-shirt with Godzilla emblazoned on the front with the monster’s name written in kanji across her ample bosom. Across her neck and wrists were studded leather, and her nails were painted a metallic black. After a moment of stunned silence, Randy said, “Yeah, that’s her.”

“Hey dumbass,” Mi Na said, “you’re forming a drool puddle on the stage. If I slip, I’m gonna end up an only child.”

“Don’t you mean that I’ll be an only child,” Randy said.

“No, I would be,” she said with a glare and a wicked smile.

Their playful bickering was interrupted by Jessica playing the melody of “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” by Elton John on her keyboard. The whole band started laughing. Soon after their sound check, they began their set with “Rock Me” from Great White, which got the venue dancing immediately. All while Randy sang, his eyes never left Kiyoko. He was amazed again by the fluidity of her motions while she danced, despite her hefty girth. She even threw in some geisha-like moves in, much to Randy’s delight.

The set went on, with Randy and Mi Na exchanging vocal duties and occasionally performing a duet. After they finished Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock And Roll”, Randy took the mic as Mi Na started playing softly on her guitar. “This next song is about perhaps the biggest star to come out of Japan. He’s been in several movies over the past 50 years. I think you’ll know this one,” he said with a wink.

Then Mi Na began playing the opening notes of “Godzilla” from Blue Oyster Cult on the low B string of her seven-string guitar that she inherited from Randy. Musically, it was closer to the recent cover by Racer X, which was heavier and more gut-wrenching than the original. As he sang, Randy could see Kiyoko flashing the ‘horns’ salute at the band and banging her head, showing her approval. Then, during Mark’s bass solo, she ran to the stage and began shouting in rapid Japanese into the microphone. Randy could tell the last few words was her screaming out for her mother, which made the last moments of the song more intense for him. She got off the stage just before Randy began singing the final refrains, but not without singing the word “Mosura” in an operatic soprano.

The band’s set ended a half hour later. Randy and the other four worked on taking down their equipment, while various club patrons came to them to commend their performance. Suddenly, he could hear Lisa say “Hey, isn’t that Ms Tarunen?”

Randy looked up and scanned the crowd. Sure enough, Rachel was there, wearing a black tank-top and a tight skirt that stopped just above her knees. Randy almost didn’t recognize her, for her hair had been cut shorter and she had gotten even thinner than she was when she left him. He could feel himself getting sick to his stomach. Randy turned and looked at his sister, whose eyes were narrowed to slits and brimming with hatred. Putting a hand on her shoulder, he said, “*Don’t, Mi Na. I don’t want you getting in trouble over the likes of her.”

“*Please, Ran-Jong,” Mi Na said, almost whining. “I want to hurt her so badly.”

Randy smiled. “Easy, Lady Vengeance. She’s not worth your effort. Besides, it’s my fight. Not yours.”

Mi Na looked at her brother, a tear running down her cheek. An expression of genuine concern played across her face. Randy stood and embraced his sibling, who returned his embrace ten-fold. “I love you, Brother,” Mi Na said, sobbing.

Randy pulled away, then wiped the tears from his sister’s face. “I love you too, kiddo,” he said. “Don’t worry, I’ll be okay. Now, get your stuff packed up.”

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