Previously on Saki: Achiga-hen ~episode of side-A~

Everyone’s looking at me play. My opponents, the children, the adults, the grandparents, and maybe God — they’re all watching me. I close my eyes. I feel nothing except stillness. I draw a tile and my thumb recognizes the impression.

A smile appears in my face. The opponent at the eastern side looks at me and her hair already whitening from my crazy plays feel my sinister tile. I can feel my aura expanding throughout the table and I give one last breath. Then, I smack the tile down and scream,

“Tsu –”

White noise. Then, blue screen.

“TV Tokyo will like to apologize for pushing a series that has been in a four-year hiatus to next week. Go watch something else better, like Moretsu Pirates, or read the damn manga — seriously, this adaptation is one of the worst ones on the planet.”

The TV Tokyo announcement buzzed on the television. And this pissed every Saki fan on the world last week. Every Saki fan burned riichi sticks and e-mailed the production team death threats including “Die, Manabu, die!” Everyone’s faces flushed; everyone cursed; and everyone cried.

Except for a little girl. She didn’t care.

Her family liked Saki. That’s because her stepparents were otaku lesbians. Second to Welcome to the NHK, the shoujo-ai mahjong show was Gonzo’s best work. When they were dating, they followed every single episode of Saki and owned all the current volumes.

But the couple had problems: those types of newlywed problems — you know, like “What is the better Magical Girl show: Shugo Chara or Princess Tutu?” It was rocky after they adopted the little girl and her older sister; our young protagonist felt she was the crux of the problem.

Three years ago, her parents had to split up over more complicated matters and her sister asked the little girl to follow her. But the little girl said, “No — why mommy — sis, I don’t want to –” The older sister, frustrated, left her. For good.

She stayed reclusive along with her mother. Her other mother and older sister flew to London. Nothing was heard.

So now, she’s eight. Her current mother is twenty five years old. And hopelessly drunk, listening to EXIT TRANCE. One of the many fans roaring over the hiatus, her mother went to the anime blogs and wrote nonsense. She masqueraded the internet as “SakiIsMyBitch”. While conquering the websites, she realized another user by the name of “ImPimpingNodoka” might be her ex-wife.

Thus, she called to her daughter who was watching K-ON!. She asked her, “Can you please ask your other mother and older sister for forgiveness? They may be in the riot. The fans are planning to cause an uproar in the Tokyo Tower and they may be there.”

The little girl refused and didn’t want to go.

And she pushed her mother out of the room. And locked the door.

She didn’t want to meet her older sister. Or her other mother. Or anyone for that matter. She just wanted to be left alone, rotting away in her room. Her mother tried knocking on the door, but she only heard music coming out. In the end, she cried. In despair.

The doorbell rang. The little girl’s mother wiped her tears away and opened the door. The little girl’s best friend entered and greeted, but she was surprised by the tears. She asked, “What happened?”

Halfway through the explanation, the best friend grasped what was going on and moved to her friend’s door, knocking. The little girl moaned and shouted, “Go away!” But her best friend didn’t. She kept on knocking. For an hour or two. The little girl gave in and opened the door. She gasped because she didn’t know it was her best friend and was immediately hugged by her.

Her best friend dragged her out of that depressing room to outside where no one could hear them speak.

“Idiot,” her best friend said, “why are you holed up in that room? Let’s go to Tokyo, find your sis, and go back home. Okay?”

The little girl cried and then, both of them cried at the same time.

“I’m scared.”

“That’s okay. Everyone is scared. Life is like that. But if we’re in it together, we’ll find our way through it.”

And finally, the little girl agreed.

With some money, they hitched a ride with the little girl’s mother’s companions: a loli, an insane senior, and a somewhat calculative junior high school student. Although the little girl and her best friend were young, they were not bullied and learned a lot of tricks regarding the event.

For example, the forums hosted several cosplay mahjong tables on the entrance. They also have people cosplaying as butlers and maids serving non-alcoholic champagne.

But the little girl said it didn’t really matter to her; all she wanted to meet was her older sister.

And everyone respected that. In fact, they loved her for being so brave.

They finally reached Tokyo. Tokyo was a big city, but she could see the Tokyo Tower. It was red and tall. And very expensive to ride on. Every bookstore’s Lonely Planet said it’s stupid to go up there. But her older sister and her other mother might be there playing mahjong.

What if they didn’t go to Tokyo to protest? “Nonsense” and similar variants were all the people the little girl talked to said. Her best friend said she better prepare herself. The little girl hoped she didn’t meet her big sis though.

But all that mystery and suspense ended when the TV crew got a snapshot of them. They were on the news. They beat a bunch of professionals in a series of mahjong tournaments. The little girl was frightened. She had to meet her now. And that scared her. What if her sister didn’t follow her home? What if her other mother rejected the offer? She shivered.

And she tried to hold it in, but her best friend could notice it a mile away.

“What’s wrong?” was used to verify her status. But she didn’t say a word. They were at one of Shinjuku’s McDonalds and some of the customers were playing mahjong. People ignored them because they hated the sound of tiles. They hated the ordeal. They hated how boring the game was.

But the little girl’s best friend knows she loved mahjong. Maybe, she thought, mahjong would cheer my best friend up! She led her to a mahjong table. Both played against two professionals. The guy smoked a Cuban cigar while the lady had bright red lipstick.

They first played their first round, but the little girl’s head was down. The shadow of her hair covered her eyes and no discernable emotion could be seen. It was quite frustrating for the players to find out her play. Her best friend, while an addict, was no more than an amateur on mahjong. She always looked for safe tiles. Which was not a bad idea if holding out against professionals.

But the little girl didn’t like safe tiles. She was annoyed by everything in her life. If I’m gonna have fun, she theorized, I will use crazy plays. And so she did. Yakumans, hanemans, and even rinshan kaihous. Those plays made the pros cry.

It turned out the big sis and the other mother knew about her fame and decided to walk to the McDonalds restaurant. The queue was large. Everybody wanted to play her and everyone left her not dejected but amazed. The story of her looking for her big sis became known and got into the ears of the people she’s looking for.

While the other mother was pleased, the big sis did not. She detested her for not leaving. She detested her for being the good little sister. She detested her for trying to find them.

So when the big sis and the other mother arrived at the table, the big sis looked at her little sister’s elation with disgust. She spat. She screamed, “Let’s play mahjong.”

The little girl sobbed and her best friend, despite the little girl being the dealer, helped her shuffle the tiles. The big sister spouted insults while the best friend tried her very best to protect the little girl.

Shuffle. Shuffle. Shuffle.

Now, the little girl trembled. Her plays were becoming weaker as her big sister obliterated her with her yakumans. But what can she do? Her points were too low and she had to get rinshan kaihous now. And even if she succeeded in getting them successively, so what? Would that change a thing that the relationship had been strained?

Mahjong couldn’t save the sisters’ relationship. That thought repeated in her mind over and over again. In an endless loop. Episodes of Saki fleeted past her to mock her terrible plays.

She started crying. Everyone — the audience, her other mother, and more — was startled except for her big sister, who kept on saying what a little girl she was. The best friend was also not startled. She paused the game, went to the little girl, and hugged her.

“You know what I liked about the show Saki?” her voice brimmed with tenderness sang, “if you take out the mahjong aspect, it’s about a story about a little girl just like you who wants to get her family back together again. I like that kind of story. And that’s why I watch Saki. What about you?”

Everyone listened to her words very closely. And they heard:

The little girl cried.
Her other mother sobbed.
And her big sister trembled.

Getting back her family together? The big sister wanted to laugh at that. But the truth was she couldn’t. She missed the food her other mother cooked. She missed the house. And most of all, she actually missed her little sister whom she pampered more than anything in the world. That’s why she was angry when her little sister didn’t go with her.

“Nobody wants to be alone.”

Her best friend said and respected the silence and tears. The family stood up and walked towards each other.

Everyone in the McDonalds stopped and looked not at their mahjong game, but a family hug. And they all clapped.

The best friend left them alone for some private time. When she returned, the family agreed to be together again. Everyone had fun creating chaos at Tokyo Tower.

Everyone was met with hugs and kisses back home.

The otaku lesbians were back together again, having friendlier quarrels over the best magical girl shows. Her big sister pampered her little sister more. And the best friend played mahjong together with the little girl.

Everyone loves her not for her mahjong skills, but the fact she wants her family back. Family is a fragile and delicate treasure. But it’s worth the pain because they are your bestest of best friends. There is nothing like home. It’s one of the noblest things one can protect.

And that’s why I watch Saki.

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My panache feels very hard.

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