“Okay, Nik san!” said the Doc in his usual rough tone and placed a bowl of home-made ramen in front of me.
My mouth filled with saliva at the sight of the delicious soup with noodles, slices of pork, vegetables, and a split hard-boiled egg on the top. I slurped up the noodles like there was no tomorrow.
Okay?” the doc asked. Okay was the word of our communication.
“Very okay!” I answered.
He laughed loudly and continued to watch his favourite TV show. His enthusiastic comments on a ridiculous quiz game, in which contestants’ testicles were hit by some sort of slapping machine in case of a wrong answer, were fun to listen to regardless of the fact I didn’t understand anything he said.
The doc was a strange one. His rough, patient-unfriendly personality and the fact that he only spoke Japanese made the whole situation between us quite strenuous. But feeling still unwell, physically weak, and for the most time pestered by a sickening feeling in my stomach, I had nowhere else to go. After three days of the doc’s delightful company, I prayed for Sunny or K, or anyone else to come by. The one good thing in all this was that I was getting better each day. And, the doc was a great cook.
“Sueno san – do you have any contact with Sunny? Or K? Sunny, K…here? When?” I asked after I emptied the bowl.
Sitting cross-legged by the low table, the doc stroked his chin at my question and looked up to the ceiling as if he was thinking hard. “Hmm…Sunny, eto ne,” he grunted. He then formed an okay sign with his fingers. “Sunny, OKAY! K …OKAY!”
“Yes, yes, but when? When will they come? Here…in Sueno san’s house…Can you call them, on the phone…moshi moshi…” In an attempt to make him understand my words. I began to gesticulate too.
“Okay, okay…” was his answer accompanied by several nods and then the show reclaimed his attention again. One of the contestants just gave a wrong answer and was about to get punished.
The next morning I woke up to Sunny’s smiling eyes.
“Nik san! Finally, you’re awake!” she exclaimed, clasping her hands together.
I rubbed my eyes. “Uhm….how long have you been sitting here?”
“A while. Oh, you seem to be feeling so much better! You look better too. I’m so glad!”
Sunny’s positive energy was a pleasant change to the usual doc’s grumpiness. “I am, actually, feeling better-“
“Wait, I have a surprise,” she interjected and tiptoed toward the door. As she slid them open, I saw the doc and K sitting by the table. The doc was having an emotional monologue and once he finished talking, the two of them clinked their glasses and downed whatever it was in them. Both of their faces grimaced and the doc banged his fist on the table. K emitted a loud sigh and took the bottle, filling the glasses up again.
I looked at Sunny. “Are they already drinking?”
Sunny scratched the back of her head and smiled awkwardly. “Well, eh, they are having a small drink because today it’s the anniversary of Sueno’s san daughter.”
“He has a daughter?” I asked surprised. “A happy occasion then?”
“Umm, no. It’s the anniversary of her death.”
I didn’t know what to reply to that. After they finished the second glass and dealt with the strength of the drink as it went down their throats, K turned around.
“Oh, you’re finally awake!” she called out.
“Ooo…Nik san, okay?” I heard the doc shouting. K grinned at his words.
“Okay, Sueno san…” I put my thumb up.
Sunny gestured me to come to the kitchen as she herself sat by the table and politely declined a glass from Sueno san. Still in my boxers, I got up from the bed and joined them. K’s eyes followed me as I sat down opposite her, and continued to examine my face and body for quite some time. I felt awkward receiving such obvious attention from her.
“You look like shit,” she uttered, her stare finally leaving my body.
“Thanks,” I replied. It was true I didn’t look my best - my face got thinner, dark circles persisted under my eyes, and my skin had a sickly, yellowish tint. Yet, her comment rubbed me the wrong way.
“But he feels much better, don’t you, Nik san?” Sunny said immediately, trying to ease off K’s blunt words.
I leaned slightly forward on the table and answered while looking K in the eyes: “I do, yes. All thanks to the doc’s excellent care. His patches and his home-brewed medicine worked miracles.”
“Suen san is the best doctor I know,” K said proudly and smirked. She took her glass, which was meanwhile filled by Sueno san, and offered it to me. “Do you want one too?”
Before I could refuse Sueno san spoke up in a very decisive, almost angry tone.
“Oh, I see. He says no alcohol for you,“ K translated. “For two months at least…and…and only plain food, nothing spicy or greasy…’cause your liver has to recover…You got that?”
I nodded. I had no desire for the alcohol anyway, and the smell that came from their glasses was so strong it increased the level of the usual sickness in my stomach.
“Well, I’m glad I’m not in your place,” K remarked, giving me a smug look.
“I bet you are,” I retorted.
She inhaled deeply and rose her glass towards the doc. “Sueno san, this is my last glass. To Hana chan!”
The doc reciprocated with the same gesture. I noticed a sad emotion in his drunken eyes. “To Hana chan!”
After she drank it all in one go, K slammed the glass hard on the table and took a moment for her body to come to terms with the drink. The green hue of her irises enhanced as her eyes became watery. “Nik san, I have some good news. I decided to give you a chance. I’ll take you on as a fighter.”
Sunny clapped her hands enthusiastically. “Congratulations, Nik san!”
The doc flashed a broad smile and gave me the okay sign.
“Umm…What does that mean?” I said unsurely, glancing at their faces.
“It means that from now on,” K straightened her sitting posture and made a dramatic pause; “you’ll be fighting for Yamato Damashi.”
“Yay!” Sunny clapped again, while I continued to stare at K like an idiot.
It took some time before I grasped the meaning of K’s words, and when I became aware of my surroundings again, I was faced with three pairs of questioning eyes. I was afraid to say anything, worrying that my reaction might somehow dispel those magical words or change K’s unpredictable mind.
“Thank you. I promise you won’t regret it,” I uttered with a dry voice and bowed my head, trembling inside from excitement.
“I sure hope I won’t,” said K in her cocky manner.
Sunny patted me on the shoulder. “I have faith in you, Nik san!”
“Yeah…” I heaved a sigh.
They all showed more enthusiasm than me, but I was quite certain nobody at that table was as excited as I was. I felt pressure in my eyes and made a big effort to suppress the tears.
“Now dress up, Nik san, we’re leaving.” K scrambled to her feet.
I looked up at her. “Where to?”
“Back to Tokyo.”
My suit being long lost Sunny brought for me some traditional Japanese clothes, which resembled the outfits the doc wore around the house. K‘s mischievous smile, when seeing me in them, lead me to suspect she and Sunny chose such a specific garment on purpose.
“You’re only missing a bandana and you’re good to go to a fish market,” she remarked, trying but failing to supress her laughter.
Another surprise waited outside. The quiet ninja guy was leaning against the car, eying me with the same unpleasant attitude as when we first met in the club.
K threw him the keys.
“Shin, remember this guy? He’s coming with us. Shin, this is Nik, Nik san this is Shin.” Just like the last time I saw him, he had a hood over his head and a black mask covering half of his face.
“Hi!” I greeted, but I got no reply. His narrowed eyes told me he didn’t approve of K’s choice to bring me along.
I smiled to myself and shook my head. Not the unfriendly ninja, nor the fact that I was dressed like a seller from a fish market could ruin my high spirits.
Sueno san gave me a box with patches and a few bottles of his bad-tasting medicine. He slammed his hand on my shoulder and shook me a bit “Okay, Nik san?”
I smiled and bowed. “Okay, Sueno san. A-ri-ga-tou.”
He grinned at my broken pronunciation of the Japanese word for thank you and gave me another shake before he let go of my shoulder.
As we drove off, he stayed outside the house waving goodbye until our car turned around the corner.