Story and Art by Carpdime
At full sprint, the two young women ran laps around the large equestrian statue situated in the middle of the park. Trailing only a few paces behind them was the yellow fluffy named Buttercup. His strong legs gave him the speed and endurance that allowed him to keep up with the two human mummahs.
Barely out of breath, the red haired woman in the lead looked casually at the fitness tracker on her wrist before slowing down to a gentle jog.
Gasping for air but tenaciously hanging on, the other brown haired woman breathed out in relief as she stumbled with exhaustion.
“Here, have a drink Becky.” The redhead said as she handed her bottle to her fitness partner.
Becky could barely breathe. She dropped to the ground and took a quick sip of water but couldn’t hold it in.
Buttercup walked up beside Becky and nudged her encouragingly.
“Gud wowk Becky! Becky am getting better at wunnies!”
Becky managed a weak smile and gave Buttercup a drink from the bottle, “I think I’m done for the day Scarlet. I’ve got Pilates class tomorrow so I want to be fresh for that.”
Scarlet nodded and looked again at her fitness tracker watch.
“10 out of 10 for effort today! Remember to keep up the training while we are away on holidays later this week.” Scarlet said, barely able to contain her excitement.
“Where are you going again?” Becky asked.
Buttercup jumped into the air excitedly, “Buttewcup and mummah am going to Japan!”
“Heck yeah we are!” Scarlet snatched back her water bottle just as Becky was about to take another sip.
“That sounds fun…” Becky said glumly.
“Woooo! I can’t wait!” Scarlet cheered before starting her run again, “Come on guys, let’s do some warm down sprints!”
Buttercup leapt with vigor to follow his mummah. Becky sighed helplessly and struggled back to her feet in slow pursuit of the two.
Two days later, after an 11hr flight across the Pacific, Buttercup and Scarlet found themselves shuffling through the crowded arrival hall at Tokyo Narita Airport.
Despite the jet lag, Buttercup was as sharp as ever, taking in the wonderfully strange environment of the airport. The human writing he was used to looked different in this strange new place. He remembered how his best friend Avocado had once told him about the different “wanguages” that humans spoke in different parts of the world. Maybe this was a different “wanguage”.
“Scarlet-chan!” the voice of a young Japanese man called out amongst the throng.
Scarlet turned towards the familiar voice and ran towards the young man before affectionately embracing the surprised young man who blushed a little.
“Haru! Oh my God I’m so happy to see you!”
Haru laughed. He knelt down and patted Buttercup on his spiky, green mane.
“Cute backpack.” Haru said as he pointed to the little fluffy backpack strapped to Buttercup’s back.
“Yeah, Buttercup insisted on packing his own bag for the trip. He also brought a gift for you!” Scarlet said as she unzipped Buttercup’s backpack and took out a simple hoof painting of five fluffies with different colors.
“Dis am aww Buttewcup’s bestest fwiends!” Buttercup said as he pointed his hoof to each of the rough blobs of color on the painting, “Dis am Awocado an Bwuebewwy an Pinky an Wuby an dis am Buttewcup!” The yellow fluffy giggled as he pointed to his own likeness.
Haru smiled and took the painting into his hands to take in the details, “Thanks Buttercup. I love it!”
During the long train trip from the airport to the city, the two old friends caught up on the major events of their lives during their time apart.
Haru (Haruto Hasegawa) had returned back to Japan after his 6 month high school student exchange program in the US. It was during the exchange where he had first met Scarlet who was his homestay companion.
Having had a taste of the outside world, he decided to attend university in China where he became good friends with a few students he met over in Shanghai. He would eventually start a successful business with his close friends.
As promising as his career looked at the moment, he told Scarlet that it paled in comparison to the 6 months he had spent in the US. It was what he called his “California Dreaming.”
Stepping out into the forecourt of the gargantuan transport interchange at Shibuya, Scarlet and Buttercup were introduced to the small statue of the “Hachiko Fluffy” that sat inconspicuously in a quieter corner of the forecourt. The eyes of the fluffy statue were steady and faithful, staring straight ahead, uncaring for the activity and busyness that surrounded it.
“This statue was sculpted in memory of a fluffy named Hachiko that lived many years ago.” Haru said solemnly as he placed his hands on the smooth head of the worn statue, “Hachiko’s owner was a professor at the university. Everyday, the old man would ride the train to and from work and Hachiko would wait patiently for his master’s return like clockwork.”
Buttercup approached Hachiko and looked up at the metal fluffy who sat upon his pedestal.
“Fwiend?” Buttercup greeted the fluffy.
Haru smiled and lifted Buttercup off the ground and put him on top of the pedestal for a closer look.
“One day, the professor didn’t return from his work. He had died while giving a lesson to his students. But without fail, Hachiko would go to the same spot in the station and wait faithfully for his master’s return. Such was the love and dedication that had grown between man and fluffy. Hachiko would continue to wait for his master everyday until his own death a few years later.”
Scarlet put her hand on Haru’s shoulder, “Friends to the end?”
“Yes, friends to the end…” Haru nodded and helped Buttercup off the pedestal, “Come, let’s get some dinner. You guys must be starving.” He seemed to wipe something from his eyes, “What do you want to eat?” Haru asked the two.
“Sketties!” Buttercup exclaimed loudly.
“Spaghetti?? Ohhh…” Haru repeated with amusement, “I think there is an Olive Garden nearby, I suppose we can get some pasta there.”
“No way!” Scarlet interjected, “I did not fly halfway around the world to eat at Olive Garden! Take us somewhere good! It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it has to be good and it must be local!”
Haru took her demand seriously and glanced at the fluffy that looked expectantly at him.
“Good and local huh. Spaghetti huh…I think I know just the place for that….”
“Irasshaimase!” the waitress yelled boisterously as the three entered through the red noren curtain of the tiny ramen store simply named “Koi”.
“Ramen? That’s like human kibble! I said it doesn’t need to be expensive, but it has to be good!” Scarlet chastised Haru as she bowed awkwardly back to the waitress who was firing a torrent of Japanese at her without pause.
“Just sit down!” Haru placated the fiery redhead, “This place is good, you and Buttercup are going to love this ramen.”
The three sat down at a long bench that extended the full length of the tiny shop.
Further down the bench sat a neatly dressed woman who was accompanied by a well groomed fluffy with colors that resembled that of a Shiba Inu dog. A little pink bow was tied onto the voluminous tail of the fluffy.
“Suketti!” the Shiba Inu fluffy said with delight as the waitress served her a small bowl of ramen.
Buttercup’s eyes widened and saliva began to build up inside his mouth. He tapped his hoof impatiently on Scarlet’s arm.
“Wook mummah! Sketti! Fwuffy wan sketti!”
Scarlet looked at the ramen that was placed in front of the woman. It kind of looked different to the instant ramen she had during her student days. It looked a lot more appetizing, perhaps she should give it a chance. She sniffed the air which was heavy with the aroma of chicken broth and dashi.
“All right Haru.” Scarlet said as she snapped apart a pair of wooden chopsticks, “Show us what a real ramen is like!”
The three were served their steaming hot noodles and Haru’s dinner choice was vindicated as Buttercup declared it the “Bestest sketties!” he has ever had.
With their stomachs full of delicious ramen and with Scarlet overindulging in bottomless mugs of Kirin Ichiban, Haru took the pair to the traditional ryokan where he had booked their accommodation for their week-long stay in Tokyo.
Haru carried the inebriated Scarlet into her room and she quickly fell into a loud, snoring slumber. Buttercup asked Haru if he was able to explore the confines of the beautifully decorated ryokan as his mummah got some well needed rest.
Quietly closing the door behind him, Haru led the yellow fluffy down the corridor lined with delicate paper screen doors. Through a wooden doorway, the two walked into the quiet sanctuary of the hotel’s inner zen garden. In the cool of the night, the muffled sounds of the bustling metropolis outside the hotel melted into the background as the chirp of crickets filled the air.
The symphony of crickets was only interrupted with the occasional sounds of joyful, fluffy-like speech. Buttercup was intrigued by the sounds of his own kind. He walked over to the bamboo bushes where the voices were coming from. Looking through a gap between the sticks of bamboo, he saw the most wonderful scene of fluffies and foals bathing merrily in a shallow, rock-lined hot spring.
Buttercup gasped with happiness at the playful fluffies before him. This was one of the most amazing things that has seen in his young life. His only wish was that his best friend Avocado was here with him, he could never find the right words to describe all the wonders he had seen in his first day in Japan.