My Crush Is A Nekomata- Chapter 8: . . . But Satisfaction Brought It Back

Ryoko’s POV

The scenery outside the train window whizzed by us and reflected off of Maneki’s eyes as she stared through the glass in awe. We were passing over the Seta River near where it merged with Lake Biwa. We hadn’t been on the train for long, but Maneki was already so excited that she could hardly sit still. From what I understood, this was her first time outside of Kyoto. I was still watching her when Harumi looked up from her phone.

“Is there anything that you guys want to do other than shopping?” she asked. “I’m not sure if we’ll have time to go down to the lake.”

“Is there anything cool about the boat tours?” 

“Yeah, they go through just about all of the canals so you get to see most of the town without walking. I think there’s fish in them too.”

Maneki looked at Harumi the moment she mentioned fish and clenched her hands into fists. She held them near her chest as she spoke, her eyes sparkling with determination.

“Then we have to go on a boat ride!” she stated.

“All right, we can probably catch one before we head home. We’ll figure out the rest when we get there.” Maneki nodded in agreement and looked out the window again. I resumed watching her while Harumi continued scrolling through her phone.


Maneki’s POV

Ryoko, Harumi, and I stepped off of the bus that took us from Omihachiman Station to the old town itself, and the first thing that I noticed was how loud the cicadas were. The next was all of the trees and old buildings. I was looking around at it all when my eyes drifted over to Ryoko, who was smiling at me. She then looked away, her face turning a little red. I tilted my head before Harumi clapped me on the back of my shoulder.

“I’m starving,” she groaned, now pulling in Ryoko. “Why don’t we go get an early lunch before we explore?” My arm ended up behind Harumi and brushed up against Ryoko’s pants. Neither of them seemed to notice, but I felt my face begin to burn as I pulled my arm back in toward my body.

“S-sure,” I agreed.


Ryoko’s POV

We spent the whole day wandering around Omihachiman and shopping. The town was just as I imagined it. The streets were made with stone and paths lined the wide canals. All of the buildings were old and traditional-looking with tall walls and wooden facades. The tops of some of them had white walls and I wondered if they were new additions to the buildings as we explored. When the sun was beginning to set, we made our way over to the boat rides that Maneki was looking forward to.

At the edge of one of the canals, there was a boat that was secured to a short metal pole. It was a small merchant boat with an old man perched on the back of it with a paddle. He greeted us as we walked up and I paid him for my spot and Maneki’s. Harumi was about to do the same when her phone buzzed. We watched silently as she checked it and began to panic.

“Shoot, I completely forgot!” she shrieked. She looked at Maneki and me, finding us already watching her. “I’m sorry, but I can’t go on this one,” she said, bowing her head apologetically. “I have to go grab something from one of the shops for my sister and they’ll be closed by the time we’re done. Have fun without me!”

“Wait, Harumi!” I reached out my hand toward her, but before I could say anything else, she had started running down the stone path and disappeared from my sight. I sighed and looked at Maneki. “I guess it’s just us,” I said with a smile. The nervousness that I had tried to stifle began to creep in. Maneki nodded, a small smile of her own forming on her face. We took our seats on the floor toward the front of the boat, deciding to sit beside each other.

“I guess we’re off then,” the boat driver said to himself. I looked around us, taking in our surroundings as the old man untied the boat from the pole and we drifted further into the canal.

It had grown dark around the town and now most of the old building’s lights were on, causing their windows to glow. This light reflected off the water, making it impossible to see any fish but also making Maneki visible beside me. I was now looking at her as she typed something on her phone, the screen illuminating her face even more. Then, she looked up at me and held out her phone so I could read what she wrote.

Do you have an answer for me?

My nervousness reached its peak at that moment. It was true that it had been a week since she asked me to go out with her, but for some reason, I felt like I didn’t have enough time to come to a solid decision. But even if I did make her wait longer, there was no telling when I would have a definite answer. I couldn’t expect her to wait forever. I took her phone and typed something under her message before passing it back to her.

I’m worried that I won’t be good enough. I don’t want to hurt you.

I felt my face begin to burn as her eyes scanned the message. She looked at me again and shut off her phone. She placed it in her lap.

“Why?”

“Bad experience,” I admitted, hoping she wouldn’t ask any more questions. That was when she took my hand. 

“It’s all right,” she whispered. “You won’t hurt me.”

“Maneki, I—” I was cut off by the sound of a firework screaming through the air, which then exploded in a burst of color in the sky. We both watched as it faded away, the embers fizzling out as they fell, and more fireworks burst around where the first one had been. The boat continued to drift along as we stared. I felt Maneki shift closer to me, her hip touching mine. She held my hand tighter.

When the fireworks finally disappeared, the world around us seemed darker than it had before.

“Pretty, weren’t they,” the boat driver remarked with a chuckle as he began to turn the boat around.

“Very,” I answered quietly, spotting Maneki’s blue eyes out of the corner of my vision. She was looking at me, waiting for me to say something to her. When the boat driver turned his attention back to the path ahead, I gave Maneki the attention she was waiting for.

“You have a lot of trust in me.”

“Well, of course. You’ve never broken a promise to me before.”

I realized that she was right. I had never even thought to tell anyone about her ears and I never backed out of anything else that we had planned before. I took in a deep breath and let it go in a sigh.

“Okay, I accept. Might as well give it a try, right?” At first, it looked like Maneki was going to cry when I said those words. She scooched closer to me and rested her head on my shoulder. She also squeezed my hand again.

“Thank you,” she whispered. I didn’t say anything back.

Not long after that, we made it back to the dock. Maneki straightened up and let go of my hand before we got off the boat. The old man wished us a good night as he secured the boat again and we found Harumi waiting for us at the nearest building.

“Sorry about that. Are you guys ready to head back to the station? The last train leaves soon.”

“Yeah,” Maneki answered with a smile. Harumi turned and began to lead us back to the station and Maneki and I walked closely behind her. I was almost tempted to ask Maneki for her hand again.

The Rise of The Dragon Queen- Chapter 15

Over the next few months, it became apparent to Vixia and me that we actually could stay in Tidalsong City. We began by taking on quests around town and eventually we became somewhat known by most of the people there. The kinder ones would give us food along with our payments for the quests and after helping out an innkeeper we managed to get a room for a few weeks. The only downside was how people looked at Vixia and me since we weren’t exactly human, but that would be an issue no matter where we went.

The first incident that we had was when we decided to go to a restaurant after finishing a quest with a hefty reward. Vixia and I were sitting at our table, beginning to eat our food, when a man wandered over to us.

He was tall with broad shoulders and hunting gear on. I assumed that he was probably part of a guild that specialized in monster population control because of the large bow and quiver on his back. As soon as he approached the table, he slammed his palms down on its surface, making all of our dishes clatter from the force.

“What’s a monster like you doing here?” he asked Vixia with a forceful tone. Vixia stared at him, her eyes wide with fear. She held up her hands defensively, but she was trembling.

“I’m not a monster,” she replied with a shaky voice. As soon as I saw the look on her face, I stood up.

“Leave her alone,” I snapped. “She hasn’t done anything wrong.” He looked toward me and I could tell that he noticed my ears because he immediately began laughing at me.

“What a pointy-eared freak!” My eyes narrowed as I gripped the hilt of my sword. I was about to draw it when one of the waitresses rushed over to us.

“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” The hunter turned to look at the girl, his expression shifting from amusement to shock.

“But I—”

“Sir, you are disturbing our guests. If you refuse to leave, I will go get the guards outside.” He grumbled something and left. Vixia and I tried to calm down and go back to eating, but Vixia couldn’t stop shaking. The waitress was kind enough to bring us a free dessert and assured us that people like the hunter were few and far in between, which made Vixia feel a little better.

Overall, Tidalsong City was a place where Vixia and I could not only survive, but could thrive.


A few years passed and Vixia and I found a semi-permanent place to stay at one of the local inns. The people there were kind and let us stay for a few months at a time for a lower price than what it would have cost to rent a place of our own. By this time, Vixia and I had been together for most of our lives and I finally saved up enough to buy a ring to surprise her with. I could not imagine spending my life with anyone else, but much less spending it without Vixia by my side. I had already planned the proposal out by the time I bought the ring and decided to pop the question on a warm spring afternoon.

We were at a local sightseeing spot, a cliff that overlooked the shore and the ocean. The breeze carried the sound of the waves, but also Vixia’s voice as we chatted about her magic.

“Zelora’s been teaching me all of these crazy spells recently,” Vixia explained, leaning against the railing with her arms crossed. She was facing the ocean and the wind blew her hair away from her face in flowing wisps. I was standing beside her. “But, I think they’ll be useful.”

“I have a random question,” I interjected.

“What is it?”

“What does Zelora think about me?” Vixia let out a chuckle.

“I already talked to her about that, actually,” she replied, taking my hand. “She likes you and says that I won’t have to worry about us being apart.” She squeezed my hand three times. I did it back.

“Zelora is a wise goddess then.” I smiled and I let go of Vixia’s hand. She began to turn to face me when I dropped down on one knee.

“Why do you say—” She froze mid-turn when she saw what I was doing. I could barely hide my joy as I reached for my pocket, revealing the ring box that I had concealed inside. Vixia’s hands rose up to cover her mouth and nose and her ears stood up alertly. Also, her tail started wagging.

As soon as I remembered her face, I was snapped back to reality by the sound of a scream. I sat up, finding myself still in the back of the wagon. I looked around, realizing that Puff and Vixia were gone.

“Vixia!”

The pain in my chest grew in intensity as I got up and began to run, heading for what I assumed was the deepest cavern. That was when I saw a sight that made my blood run cold.

Vixia was lying on the ground, motionless, while Puff towered over her defensively at a massive size that I didn’t even know he could grow to. Across from him, at the other end of the cavern, was another dragon with someone riding on its back. My eyes widened in horror when I heard the rider’s voice.

“I’ve been waiting for you.”


Sparrow was sitting on the back of the large dragon. It was covered in green and yellow scales and its eyes were dark and soulless, like the others. There was a triumphant grin on the rider’s face as he peered down at me. My chest ached as a thought ran through my mind.

How the hell did he get a dragon?

I didn’t have much more time to think before the opposing dragon lurched for us. I jumped backward as Puff lunged for it as well, letting out a vicious roar that shook the cavern walls. My eyes darted around the cave until they found Vixia again, just behind the fight that was taking place between Puff and Sparrow’s dragon. I rushed over to her.

“Not so fast!” Sparrow yelled as I dropped to my knees beside her. His voice almost sounded maniacal. I didn’t know what he was talking about until I saw green flames erupt from the mouth of his dragon, heading straight toward us. At that moment, I grabbed onto Vixia and pulled her limp body close, positioning my back to the approaching fire as I braced for the burn. But it never came.

I had squeezed my eyes shut, but they opened again when I heard Puff scream. I looked back to see that he had blocked the fire from reaching us. He growled and bared his teeth as he stared Sparrow and his dragon down, his tail whipping back and forth in anger. He dug his claws into the ground of the cavern and launched himself at them again. I stared in awe before I heard a voice call out to me.

“Ketsuna?” I looked down to see Vixia reaching for my hand. She was shaking and she could barely open her eyes, but she managed to squeeze my hand three times.

“It’s going to be okay,” I promised, but the truth was that I really didn’t know. Puff’s cries ripped through the cavern as he was slammed into one of the walls. Dust and rubble went flying from the impact, clouding my sight of him. “Let’s get you out of here,” I said to Vixia, lifting her up. Her head rolled over to look toward a corner of the cavern and she reached out her hand.

“My staff . . .”

“We have to get you out of here first.” I was about to begin heading back toward the wagon when I noticed that everything around us was rumbling. My eyes darted around the cavern and I finally spotted Sparrow’s other teammates, who were lying on the ground and covered in blood. I guessed that they were dead, but there was no way to really tell. Puff let out a viscous roar, which shook the cavern around us even more, and my heart started pounding to where I could hardly hear anything else.

We need to get out of here.

“Puff!” I shouted. He had just managed to push Sparrow’s dragon off of him and hurried over to us. I managed to push Vixia up onto his back and was scrambling on myself when Sparrow’s dragon turned toward us. “We need to get out of here.”

Just as I said that, a boulder fell from the ceiling. Then, like falling dominoes, more and more followed suit, one landing on one of Sparrow’s dragon’s wings. It let out a cry as I looked frantically for an opening. Sparrow was cursing loudly when I finally found one. A large enough boulder had fallen to where the sky outside was visible through a medium-sized gap in the ceiling.

“There!” I commanded Puff, pointing up at it. He nodded and flapped his wings, pushing us up off the ground.

“I’m not letting you get away,” Sparrow screamed. As he said that, more flames sputtered out of his dragon’s mouth. Puff tried his best to avoid them as he headed for the opening. When we were most of the way there, I noticed that Puff wouldn’t fit through it at his current size.

“Shrink!” I held onto Vixia as tightly as I could as I clung to Puff’s neck. I felt it become looser in my grasp as he shrunk down and I held on tighter. We were about to be burned by Sparrow’s flames when we flew through the hole, finally reaching safety. Once we were out, Puff tried to gain as much altitude as he could and leveled out. That was when I finally had a chance to look at Vixia.

She was bleeding from her forehead and several other scrapes and cuts on her body. She was covered in dirt and dust from the cave and her clothes were torn. I wondered if she managed to land any attacks before being caught off-guard by Sparrow. I turned my attention to Puff, noticing that he had also taken quite a bit of damage. Most of his scales were singed or burnt, some of them even appearing like they were going to peel off.

“Puff, I don’t care where we go, but don’t take us back to the guild.” He nodded and continued soaring through the air, heading for the horizon as the sun began its descent.

My Crush Is A Nekomata- Chapter 7: Curiosity Killed The Cat

Ryoko’s POV

The chirping of cicadas and the chattering of people reached my ears as I waited outside the station for Maneki. It was a bright Saturday afternoon and the sun was high in the sky. The streets were busy and there were crowds of people taking over the sidewalks. I leaned against the wall of the station, standing a few feet away from the entrance, as I looked down at my phone. It read 1:30 PM.

She’s running a little late . . .

“Hey, Ryoko!” I looked up to see the girl that I was just thinking about approaching me. I was immediately taken aback by how cute she looked.

Today, a pink ribbon was wrapped around her hidden ears instead of the usual blue one and her short, white dress swayed around her legs with every step she took. The hem and neckline of it were both bordered with lace and she wore a thin, pink cardigan over it. Even her hair appeared to be shinier than usual and her feet were covered by flats that matched the cardigan. At this point, I had never seen Maneki in anything other than her school uniform, so this really threw me through a loop. I was still staring at her, taking it all in, when she finally made it over to me.

“Sorry I’m late.” She played with her hair a little, a look of embarrassment on her face. Suddenly feeling self-conscious from wearing a basic short-sleeved button-up and regular pants, I scratched the back of my neck and smiled awkwardly.

“It’s all right, I haven’t been waiting long. You look really cute.”

“Oh, thank you,” Maneki replied quietly. I could see that she was blushing a little.

“So, which way is the garden?”

“Just follow me.” Maneki turned and began to lead me down the sidewalk. We began to make our way through one of the crowds when I realized that I couldn’t see her anymore. I was tall enough to where I wouldn’t get lost on my own, but Maneki was short so it was a challenge to see her when she was surrounded by other people. When I spotted her again, I reached out and grabbed her sleeve without thinking.

“There you are.” She looked back confused. Her eyes drifted down to my hand, which was still gripping her sleeve.

“Oh, did you get lost?” she asked.

“I lost you, so kinda,” I answered. “Sorry, I’ll let go now.”

“No, it’s fine,” she chimed. “If that makes it easier for us to stick together, go ahead.”

“O-okay.” I continued to hold onto her sleeve as we made our way through the crowd, my face and ears burning along the way. I hoped that she wouldn’t look back to see me as I tried my best to calm down. Before long, we made it to the entrance to the garden that Maneki had talked about. A stone path led through a large wooden gate, which was left open for the public. People strolled by and walked in as Maneki and I stopped at the edge of the road. By this point, I had let go of her sleeve. I was looking around at all of the trees surrounding us when Maneki spoke again.

“Ready to go in? It should be less crowded.”

“Sure.” We walked side-by-side as we strolled through the gate, entering the garden. I was immediately met with the sight of hundreds of hydrangea bushes, all of them blooming in blue, pink, and purple. We wandered down the path, taking in the sights and the tranquility of the garden. I was even taking a few pictures of the flowers when Maneki grabbed onto my arm.

“Hey, look over there!” I followed where her finger was pointing with my eyes and saw a little stand further down the path. “We should go get some souvenirs!”

“Okay.” I nodded in agreement and Maneki let go of my arm. We made our way over to the stand and found that everything there was hydrangea-themed. I was looking at a paper fan with a hydrangea pattern on it when something caught Maneki’s eye.

“These are really pretty,” she said quietly, picking up a small jar. It was tiny, about the size of the tip of my finger past the last knuckle, and inside it there were small flowers from the hydrangeas. The one that she picked up had pink flowers, but there were also blue and purple ones as well. “Look, it even has some straps on the cork to tie them to our school bags.”

“You’re right.” I picked up a blue one and looked at it. I then saw the sign that listed the price. I let the tiny jar rest in my palm. “Do you want one? I can buy it for you.”

“Really? Are you sure?” I nodded and she handed me the pink one that she was holding. “Thank you.” Her voice was quiet and the only other way that I could describe it was cute. She wandered over to the other side of the path as I paid for them.

“I have an idea,” she said. “Give me the blue one.”

“Why?”

“They can be charms for us,” she explained. “You get the pink one and I get the blue one so we have something from each other.”

“So, like a friendship thing?” I asked, passing her the blue one. She held it gently in her hand and smiled, seemingly to herself.

“Something like that.” I tucked the pink one into my pocket and Maneki put the blue one in the pocket of her cardigan. We were about to start walking again when something wet hit my forehead. Suddenly, rain began pouring down from the gaps in the canopy of trees above.

“But it wasn’t even cloudy earlier!” I shouted, exasperated.

“Do you have an umbrella?” I looked over to see that the lady that was running the stand was talking to us. I raised an eyebrow at her.

Does it look like we have one?

“No,” Maneki answered.

“Here, take this.” The lady held out a brand-new umbrella, which of course had a hydrangea pattern on it.

“Thank you.” I took it from her with my right hand and opened it as quickly as I could. I held it over Maneki and me. We thanked the woman again and began heading back toward the gate. I noticed from the corner of my eye that Maneki was looking down at the ground while we walked.

“Are you upset? We can go somewhere else for a bit, if you want,” I offered. She lifted her head at the sound of my voice before shaking it.

“It’s not that.” She gripped the hem of her cardigan, just like how she usually did with her skirt when she was nervous. “I wanted to tell you something.” She stopped walking and I did the same to make sure that she wouldn’t get rained on. We were about halfway to the gate and there was no one else in sight. She looked up at me with determination on her face despite her cheeks being bright red.

“Ryoko, I . . . I really like you.”

My heart skipped a beat. There was no way that this was real.

“Like friends?” I asked, dumbfounded.

“I don’t think so,” the shorter girl admitted. “I’ve never felt this way before. I think it’s more than that.”

What is it then? I tilted my head as I stared at her. She looked down again.

“So, are you asking me to be your girlfriend?” She nodded, confirming my greatest fear and my deepest desire at the same time. My mind went blank for a moment. How was this really happening? I felt my arm lower the umbrella I was holding as I shook my head.

“Maneki, I need to think about this.”

“Is it because we’re both girls?” She was looking at me again and I could almost see the hope in her eyes.

“No, that isn’t an issue. I just need to think this through.”

“Will you have an answer for me soon?”

“Yes, I promise.” I handed her the umbrella and smiled at her warmly as I got pelted with not-so-warm rain. “Will you be okay heading home alone?”

Maneki, clearly confused, nodded.

“Okay, I’m going to head home. Text me when you get back, okay?” Maneki nodded again silently and I turned and walked away, still trying to process what had just happened.


A few days passed and I avoided the topic with Maneki, but she didn’t really push it either. In all honesty, I had no clue what to do. It was true that I still liked Maneki . . . Okay, it was more than “liking,” but I never expected to get that far. I couldn’t even talk to her a few months ago and now I knew her biggest secret and somehow won her affection. My mind was boggled, to say the least. But even in my amazement, one ugly thought still managed to burrow through my brain to taunt me from the back of my mind.

She deserves better. You weren’t a good girlfriend before, what makes you think it’ll be different with her?

This thought had popped up in my head while I was eating lunch with Maneki and Harumi the following Tuesday, the last one before summer break. It was true that I had been in a relationship before, but it had ended horribly and I definitely didn’t want that sort of situation to happen to Maneki and me. I must have been thinking about it too hard because Maneki grabbed my shoulder and shook me a little.

“Ryoko, are you okay? You look mad.”

I realized that my shoulders were tense and that my brows were furrowed while I glared at the ground. I looked at Maneki and saw a look of concern spread across her face. I shook my head and tried my best to put on a smile.

“I’m all right, just lost in thought.”

“Well, listen up, ’cause we’re planning a trip!” Harumi cheered.

“A trip?” Maneki sounded just as confused as I was.

“Yeah, for us to hang out over summer break. We can go on a day trip or something.” Maneki shifted a little bit in her spot, scooching away from me slightly. She looked down at her hands, which were folded in her lap.

“I’m not sure if I can go. My family doesn’t have a lot of money for things like that.”

“I’ll pay for you,” I offered. The blonde looked at me with surprise, then her cheeks began to redden.

“Are you sure?” I nodded.

“Yeah, I have plenty saved up from work. I can cover you if we don’t go too far.”

“Great!” Harumi nearly shouted. “I was thinking that maybe we can go to Omihachiman.”

“Omihachiman?”

“Yeah, I went there last summer with my parents. It was a merchant town way back when and it was preserved. It also has a huge lake and some boat tours going through the canals. We can get there by train, if you guys would like.”

“Sounds good to me,” I replied. Maneki, who was still looking at me, nodded in agreement and smiled. It was decided that we were going to Omihachiman.


That night, Harumi decided to put Maneki and me into a group chat with her to discuss the trip. It was after dinner and I was lying in bed, reading a book that my boss let me borrow, when I got the first text.

Harumi: Hey, I wanted to get the itinerary started. Is there anything that you guys want to do?

“Harumi is never this organized,” I mumbled to myself. I slipped a bookmark between the page I was on and the next one and closed the book, setting it aside before quickly sending a text back.

Ryoko: What is there to do? You mentioned boat rides . . .

It didn’t take long for me to get a reply.

Harumi: There’s a lot more to do. We can check out Lake Biwa and probably go swimming too!

That was when my mind conjured up the image of Maneki in a swimsuit, her ears and tail exposed. I shook my head, trying to get rid of the thought when my phone pinged again. When I looked at the screen, the first thing I saw was Maneki’s name.

Maneki: Actually, I don’t really like swimming. I wouldn’t mind checking out the lake, though.

Oh, right. She’s a cat.

I let out a sigh and looked at the time displayed in the corner of my screen. It was getting late.

Ryoko: I’m heading to bed. Let’s talk about this more in the morning.

Harumi: Okay~

I plugged the charger into my phone and placed it on the headboard of my bed. I got up, shut off the light, and was about to snuggle up under the covers when my phone buzzed and the screen lit up.

Maneki: Goodnight. See you tomorrow!

I smiled and set my phone back down. I crawled into bed and began to think about Maneki as I drifted off to sleep.


The following Saturday, the day after we got out of school on summer break, I found myself waiting at the same train station that Maneki and I had met up at the weekend prior. I leaned against the wall in the same spot and everything looked just about the same as it did when Maneki and I went to the garden.

Talk about deja-vu, I thought as I turned on my phone screen. It lit up after I pressed the power button and the time was displayed as 1:30 PM on the lockscreen. Okay, that’s really weird, now I’m seriously getting deja-vu.

“Hey!” I looked up, just like I had before, but this time I saw Harumi instead of Maneki. I noticed that she was wearing a yellow off-shoulder top that tied in the front with blue shorts and black sandals. Her hair was also styled in pigtails and her makeup was done. I hadn’t seen her dressed like this since the last time we hung out outside of school.

How long ago was that again?

“Have you heard anything from Maneki yet?” she asked as she walked up to me. I gave up on trying to count the months and checked my phone again. There were no new notifications.

“No, not yet. We’re going to miss the train if she doesn’t get here soon.”

“Sorry I’m late!” We both looked over to see Maneki running toward us. This time, she was wearing a pink skirt with matching sneakers and a white shirt. She also wore the same pink bow that she had worn to the garden. Her ponytail swayed as she ran up to us and she also had her hair pinned in a way that would hide where her human ears would be, if she had any. When she got closer, Harumi whistled.

“Looking adorable, Maneki,” she teased, looking her up and down. Maneki scratched the back of her neck and laughed.

“You think so? My brother picked this out.”

“Your older one?” She nodded. I smiled.

They must have made up then. I opened my mouth to say something else, but I was cut off by the ringing of my phone’s alarm.

“That’s our cue,” I told them, silencing my phone. I tucked it into my pocket and we headed inside the station, Harumi cheering and telling us how much she couldn’t wait to show us Omihachiman.

The Rise of The Dragon Queen – Chapter 14

Late that night, the traffic in the area died down and Vixia and I slowly crept out of the crate that we were hiding in. Now it was so quiet around us that you could hear the chirping of crickets and what I suspected was the croaking of frogs, basking in the puddles from the earlier rainfall. I peered around the corner of the building, seeing that the street was completely empty. Vixia followed silently as I snuck around the wall’s edge. I stepped onto the sidewalk and looked around, searching for any nearby shops. That was when something caught my eye.

Just down the street, at the corner of one of the city blocks, there was a shop with the windows still lit. I could see the silhouette of a man behind the glowing panes of glass and guessed that he was probably preparing to close the store. I looked over to see Vixia watching him as well. I took her hand and her attention was brought back to me.

“I have an idea,” I told her. “Let’s get over there and wait for him to leave.” She nodded in agreement and we crossed the street together. We headed behind the building that stood across from where we had been, hoping to avoid any guards that might be patrolling. I looked to the sky, finding a trail of smoke that I figured was from the chimney of the shop. We followed it and found ourselves beside the shop, creeping along in the dark alleyway beside it. I edged toward the corner of the building, finding that the man we had spotted earlier was now locking the door. I ducked behind the wall and waited until I heard him walking away before I peeked out from around the corner again. He had disappeared into the night. I walked over to the door, finding a sign hanging over it.

“A blacksmith’s shop?” I whispered under my breath. I looked over at Vixia, who was peering around the corner at me. I motioned for her to join me by the door and she walked out into the light of the nearest streetlamp. She also read the sign and crossed her arms.

“What now?” she asked. I shrugged. That was when she did something that I had never seen before. Her wolf-like ears perked up as if she had heard something and she stepped closer to the door. She took the lock that was hanging off the door’s latch in both of her hands.

“Vixia, what are you—” I stopped as soon as I heard her begin mumbling a few words under her breath, but I don’t remember what they were. Her fingers glowed with an odd green light and she pulled on the lock. It clicked and when she opened her hands it fell to the ground with a clattering sound. I stared at her, amazed.

“What was that?” She turned to me and shrugged.

“I don’t know. Zelora told me to do it.”

“I still don’t know who that is.”

“I’ll explain later. Come on.” Vixia opened the door and headed inside. Now it was my turn to follow her lead. I left the door open behind us and stepped into the building, awestruck by what was inside.

The hearth at the center of the room emitted a low glow as it cooled, providing just enough light to illuminate the weapons on the walls. Swords and daggers were to my left with shields and maces to my right. My eyes scanned the room, where I found a large assortment of axes, hammers, and sets of armor either pinned to walls or locked away in glass display cases. My eyes then found Vixia as she wandered further into the shop, toward the back right corner of the room, where staffs were displayed on the wall. I followed her, finding that she was staring at them in awe.

Mage’s staffs? I had never seen one in real life before, but they looked just like the ones I had seen in books. My attention was turned back to Vixia when she grasped my hand. When I looked at her, she was pointing further up on the wall.

“I want that one.”

My eyes drifted up to where she was pointing and I instantly knew what she was talking about. There was a staff up high on the wall that appeared to be crafted from both wood and metal with a glass orb, which was about the size of the palm of my hand, secured at the top. The weapon was set high up on the wall, far out of our reach.

“How are we supposed to get it?”

“Well, how would the blacksmith get it down?” We both thought about it for a moment. We were trying to come up with an answer when we heard a shout from behind us.

“Hey!” Vixia and I both jumped and looked over to the door, finding a man standing in the doorway. I quickly realized that he wasn’t the man who had locked the door earlier, but I couldn’t tell if he was a guard or not. “What are you doing here?” he asked, stepping toward us. In a panic, I grabbed the nearest sword and held it out in front of me.

“Stay back!” I screamed, my voice cracking. “I will use this if I need to.” Looking back, there is no way that he could have believed me with how badly I was shaking. My arms and the blade trembled as I held it out.

Shit, shit, shit! I looked at Vixia, watching as she reached her hand up toward the staff. Her palm glowed again as she whispered something. The staff then shined with the same light and lifted itself from its place on the wall. She held out both of her hands and it immediately plummeted straight into her grasp. The man and I both stared at her in disbelief as a smile crossed her face.

“Let’s get out of here.” She grabbed my arm and pulled me over toward the nearest window. With a quick blow from the bottom of her staff, she broke the window and started to climb through.

“Hey, wait a minute!” the man yelled in protest. He rushed for me, but I managed to jump through the window before he could get ahold of me. Vixia and I ran off into the night, now equipped with our first weapons.


Vixia and I headed back the way that we came and found ourselves back at the gap in the city’s surrounding walls. The shorter girl shoved her staff through first and then took my sword to do the same when I finally voiced the question that I was still holding onto.

“How did you do that?” I asked.

“Do what?”

“The glowing thing with your hands,” I replied, holding out my hand in mimicry of how she lifted the staff. She shrugged and turned back to the wall.

“I don’t know, but I heard a voice. I think Zelora told me to do it.” I tilted my head as she crawled through the hole in the wall. I followed behind her.

“And Zelora is?” Vixia reached the other side and kneeled on the ground, picking up her staff again.

“She’s my friend. The one that lives at the shrine that we went to earlier.”

“Friend?” Vixia nodded as she stood up. I decided to let it go for the time being and grabbed my sword. That was when I realized that I didn’t have anywhere to put it. “Crap, I forgot to grab a sheath.”

“It’ll be fine. We’ve got to get moving, though. I’m sure there are more guards looking for us now.” She was right. We walked off, heading back into the forest.


Vixia and I spent most of our days traveling around the kingdom of Zaledrid after that. After some time, Vixia managed to explain to me that Zelora, the friend that she had referred to, was once a popular goddess but was forgotten by time. Since she had first visited the shrine, Zelora spoke to her directly and Vixia was her only follower. With the help of the magic that Zelora gave to Vixia, we managed to take up quests almost everywhere we went. As time went on, the search for the two young girls who left the orphanage died out and we were able to begin using our real names again. Even so, we never stayed in one place for too long, since I was the only one out of the two of us that was old enough to not be sent back at that time.

That is, until we came to Tidalsong City.

It was the day before Vixia’s 18th birthday and we were walking along the cliffs at the edge of the city. We were looking out at the ocean, the wind whipping our hair and blowing in our faces. I watched as the waves crashed against the shore and stared at the city sprawled out in front of us in awe. Vixia squeezed my hand.

“Pretty, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.” She tilted her head, resting her cheek on my hair. “Maybe we can find a way to stay here.”

“Sure, I don’t see anything wrong with that.”

My Crush Is A Nekomata: Chapter 6 – Like The Cat That Got The Cream

Maneki’s POV

Exams came and went as spring began its shift into summer. As soon as I made it to school on the day that the scores were released, I headed to the board in the hallway that displayed my class’s ranking. My eyes scanned it, desperately searching for my last name.

Nekomura, Nekomura, Nekomura . . .

Then I finally found it. My eyes drifted toward the ranking printed beside my name and the weight of the world fell off of my shoulders. At the edge of the board, right next to my name, was the number five.

I let out a sigh and smiled as I backed out of the forming crowd.

I did it. My chest felt warm and fuzzy when I thought about telling Ryoko and Harumi, and also getting Taro off my back. I was about to go look for the other girls when Ryoko spoke up from behind me.

“What did you score?” she asked. I jumped, startled, and turned around to see both Ryoko and Harumi standing behind me. I could barely hold in my excitement as I told them the news.

“I got number five!” I cheered, jumping with excitement as I held up the same number of fingers.

“Good job,” Ryoko replied with a smile. She then looked toward the board and her expression quickly changed. She frowned for a split second, then she went back to normal. I was wondering if it was just my imagination when Harumi spoke up, also looking at the board.

“Eh, I’m in the middle like usual.”

I wasn’t really paying attention to her and was instead watching Ryoko. She looked down at me, realizing that I was staring, and smiled again.

“You did great. Congrats.”

“Thank you,” I replied quietly. My face began to burn again.

“I’m buying you guys ice cream to celebrate!” Harumi blurted, pulling us both into a hug. “Both of my buddies made it into the top ten. I’m so proud!”

Ryoko reacted like that to being in the top ten?

Harumi began to drag us along as she and Ryoko argued about it not being a big deal. Meanwhile, my eyes were zeroing in on where Ryoko’s name was on the board. She was number six.


After school, Ryoko, Harumi, and I stopped by the konbini on the way home to celebrate our passing scores. Harumi paid for all of us as she promised and made sure that I got the biggest popsicle since I got the highest score. I never thought that she would be so supportive, especially since she was so laid-back about her own grades, but it was a pleasant surprise to me. We were walking down the street together after we finished our treats when Harumi spoke up.

“You know, summer break is coming up soon.”

I realized that she was right. It was already early in July and the temperature outside had become significantly hotter and more humid over the past month. I wiped a little bit of sweat from my forehead and I wondered where the nice days from spring went as I looked over to Harumi. She was now looking over at Ryoko and me with a wide grin.

“We should plan something.”

“Sure, sounds like fun,” Ryoko agreed. Harumi turned around and began walking backwards ahead of us.

“We’ll talk about it later, I’ve got to run home. See you guys tomorrow!”

“Bye!” She turned away from us again and ran off as Ryoko and I waved. When Harumi was out of sight, I stopped walking. When Ryoko noticed, she did the same and turned to look at me since she was a few steps ahead. I felt my face burn a little when our eyes met.

“I’m sorry that I was so distant before exams,” I said, bowing my head as I apologized.

“It’s all right,” Ryoko replied. I lifted my head and saw that she was smiling. “I mean, you want to get into a good college, right?”

“Well, that’s not the only reason why I did it,” I admitted. “You remember when I told you that I was having an issue with a family member?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, it was my older brother. He wanted me to quit school and stop being around humans if I couldn’t make it into the top five.” I waited for a second for Ryoko to say something back, but she didn’t, so I continued. “Thank you for coming and talking to me the other day. You’re right, studying isn’t everything, but I needed to try my hardest. If I didn’t, I may have lost you.”

Why did I say that?

We were both silent for a moment and the tension around us grew so thick that you could almost cut it with a knife. I wasn’t sure what to say or do after that, so I got the idea to just run away.

“Maneki, I—”

“Ah, I’ve got to get home!” I cried, pretending to look at my phone. “See you tomorrow!” And with that, I turned and ran, trying not to think about what I had said.

Because I ran so quickly, I made it home in only seven minutes. I was about to fling the front door open when Taro opened it from the inside.

“There you—”

“I did it,” I shouted, interrupting him. He stared at me with wide eyes as I slouched, breathing heavily. I didn’t realize how tiring the run was. I began to untangle the ribbon on my ears as he tilted his head.

“Did what?”

“I ranked number five . . . in my class,” I stated, still trying to catch my breath. “So you can’t be . . . a jerk to me anymore.”

“I figured.”

“Huh?” I looked up at him, trying to straighten out as best as I could.

“I saw how hard you studied over the week, so I can’t say that I’m surprised. Are you sure that this is really what you want, though?” I nodded as energetically as I could. “Okay, then I guess I can’t argue with that.” For the first time since he had left, Taro smiled at me. At that moment, I realized that the world around me had grown dark and Taro was almost completely illuminated by the light coming from the living room. He stepped aside and moved his arms in a motion to invite me in. Instead, I rushed over and hugged him, nearly knocking him over. He laughed as I buried my face into his chest. He ruffled the hair between my ears and hugged me back.

“Just be careful, okay? Not everyone is nice.”

“I will and I know.” We let go of each other and Taro gestured toward the kitchen.

“Let’s go tell Mom.” I nodded eagerly and we headed inside, racing to the kitchen like when we were kids after I finished slipping out of my shoes.


Ryoko’s POV

I entered my room with a sigh and dropped my bag on the floor. I closed the door behind me and took a few steps to my bed before I flopped down. My cheeks were still burning as I remembered what Maneki told me and I was grateful that I had managed to avoid my parents when I walked through the front door. I knew they would be asking me a million questions if they saw me like this since I was flustered, to say the least.

I had a crush on Maneki since I helped her during our first year of high school. She always seemed unapproachable and quiet, so I mostly left her alone and I figured I’d be better off not interacting with her. At least that way I wasn’t at risk of telling her how I felt. I assumed that I would just get over her, but . . .

I felt my chest tighten and I rolled onto my side. I hadn’t gotten over her at all. This stupid, useless crush that I had held onto for the past two years was still there, pulling me toward her. I remembered the look on her face when she last spoke to me as I hugged my pillow to my chest.

I wish I could have told her how I feel. I want to.

That was when I remembered my last relationship and I felt my feet begin to tingle as if they were cold. The feeling traveled upward until I was completely enveloped in what I could only describe as numbness.

I shouldn’t. Besides, she’s close to being the top of our class. She deserves better than me. If we got together, I’d only hold her back.


Maneki’s POV

The following school day, everything went as it normally did. Class ended for the day and Ryoko, Harumi, and I all stood up from our seats. Before I could say anything, Ryoko slipped the strap of her bag onto her shoulder and turned for the door.

“I have work today, so I’m going to go ahead.”

“All right, see yah!” Harumi replied with a wave. Ryoko smiled at us and turned and left. After she was gone, I looked back to Harumi.

“Actually, there’s something I’ve got to do, too. Are you okay walking home alone?” I asked. She tilted her head and pouted a little.

“Awww, you guys are no fun. Well, I guess I’ll be fine. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“See you tomorrow!” I got up and rushed for the door, leaving Harumi and our remaining classmates behind. I could almost feel some people staring at me as I went, but I didn’t care. I wanted to catch up to Ryoko.

I finally did when I made it outside. She was approaching the school’s gates when I made it out the front doors. The cicadas were practically screaming in the summer afternoon heat and I felt sweat beading on my forehead. I breathed heavily since I ran down the stairs and watched as she walked ahead of me, her short hair and the collar of her uniform shirt rustling in the breeze. I swallowed the knot in my throat and I could barely hear myself over the pounding of my heart as I yelled out to her.

“Ryoko!”

She stopped mid-step and turned to look at me, as did several other students. I hurried over to her and some people stared, but I ignored it. When I finally made it to her, I noticed that there was a concerned look on Ryoko’s face. When I looked at her, everything else seemed to disappear.

“Is something wrong?” she asked. I shook my head.

“No, I just have a question.”

“Um . . . I’m in a bit of a hurry. What is it?”

“Ah, sorry! I’ll make it quick. One of the gardens near my house is having a hydrangea-viewing event. I wanted to know if you want to go with me.”

“Hydrangeas?” The taller brunette wondered aloud, holding her chin as she seemed to consider it. “Oh yeah, I guess those are in season now. When is it?”

“This Saturday,” I answered.

“That’s perfect, actually. I’m free that day.” I could barely contain my excitement. I pumped my fists in the air and grinned from ear to ear as I cheered.

“Awesome! Should I give you my phone number so we can set up a meetup time and place?”

“Sure.” We both pulled out our phones and held them close to each other. They both pinged as we swapped contact information. I looked down at mine for a moment, then looked back at Ryoko as she tucked her own phone into her pocket. “I’ve got to go. I’ll see you later.”

“Okay!” And with that, she turned around and began walking away. I watched as she rounded the corner and disappeared from view. I looked down at her name on my phone.I swear, I’m going to tell you how I feel.

The Rise of The Dragon Queen – Chapter 13

“All right, that should be all of the supplies you need,” Nesryn determined, putting her hands on his hips as some other guild members helped us load a few crates into a wagon. “It shouldn’t take you too long to get there. The caverns are only a few hours past the forest that you guys were in.”

I wiped some sweat off of my forehead as I turned toward her. Vixia was now sitting on the back of the wagon and the others were leaving.

“Wait, then how do we know that the dragon there isn’t the same one that got away from me?” I asked.

“I wondered the same thing,” Nesryn admitted, “but Queen Evelyn was very adamant that they were two different dragons when she sent the reports to me. I guess her soldiers found them.”

Vixia and I exchanged confused glances, but she shrugged it off. I then looked toward the guildhall again. My gaze pierced through the window as I looked toward the kitchen, finding Darius standing in the doorway. This was when I saw that he was actually looking at me first. Our eyes met and I briefly remembered when Vixia and I asked if he would come with us on this quest.

“I’d rather stay back here,” he answered hesitantly when Vixia asked him the night before.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. The guildhall needs me to make everyone’s food anyway. Stay safe out there.”

That last line ran through my head as I watched him look away. I did the same, looking down at the ground.

It’s all my fault.

“Well, we better get going,” Vixia spoke up, pushing herself off of the wagon. “Let’s get this thing outside of the city so Puff can take over.”

Puff, who was hiding in my hood, trilled. I nodded at her and we both grabbed one handle to the wagon. Nesryn watched silently as we dragged it away and when I looked back, she was waving.


Vixia, Puff, and I made the long journey to the mountains where Sparrow’s party was sent. We made it by the middle of our second day away from the guild, right on schedule. We were making our way up the mountain’s winding roads when I felt my chest begin to ache. I gripped my shirt and heaved a sigh, unsure of how else I should deal with the pain. It must have caught the others’ attention, because they both stopped in their tracks and looked back at me.

“Ketsuna, are you okay?” Vixia asked.

“Yeah,” I answered, slouching. I drew in a deep breath, which then came back out shakily. “I just need a minute.”

“Climb on the wagon, Puff can pull you the rest of the way.”

The dragon, who was now about the size of a horse, looked back at me from the front of the wagon. He nodded in agreement with Vixia, his eyes showing a level of concern that I had never seen in them before. I thought for a minute.

“All right.” I did as I was told and laid down in the wagon. Vixia walked along beside it, behind my head so I couldn’t see her. I rolled onto my side and looked at the dirt road behind us, dust swirling in the breeze as the wheels kicked it up. I cushioned my head with my arm and began to doze off as I remembered the time when Vixia and I left the orphanage as kids.


Vixia and I trudged along through the brush and debris of the forest as we wandered, having no clue where to go. I was mostly following her since she seemed to recognize where we were. She stopped in a clearing and looked around with a blank expression on her face.

“This is where they left me,” she began quietly. I was confused for a moment, but that was when I realized that she was referring to her family. I walked over to her and placed a hand on her shoulder.

“It’s okay. We’ll be fine as long as we’ve got each other, right?” Vixia turned to look at me and smiled. She nodded and grabbed my hand.

“Come on, I want to show you something.” She pulled me along as she walked across the clearing. We headed through another thick patch of forest before finding another clearing, which was a bit more overgrown. You could see trails through the tall grass that were made from animals trekking through and we followed one over to a small stone structure at the center of the clearing. A gap in the canopy above us made the moonlight act as a spotlight on the stones. Vixia looked at me expectantly as I stared at it.

“What is it?” I asked.

“It’s a shrine.”

“For who?”

“Zelora.”

“Who’s that?” Vixia shrugged and kneeled down in front of the tiny shrine. She smiled at it and ran her fingers across one of the stones.

“I’m not sure, but she comforted me when I was alone. I’m glad I met her.” She clasped her hands together in front of her face and bowed her head as she closed her eyes. She fell silent and I realized that she was praying. I took a few steps back and sat down, watching her quietly. Once she was done, she lifted her head again and touched the stones.

“I may not be back for a while. Farewell.” She had a sweet smile on her face, almost as if she were talking to a family member. She stood up and turned toward me. “Let’s keep going. I think there’s a city nearby. I was brought there before the guards took me to the orphanage.”

I nodded and stood up. Vixia took my hand again and we continued on our way.


We found out that Vixia was right about the city because we found it by sunset the next day. It was Centrum City, which was the heart of Zaledrid even if it wasn’t the capital. I had never been there before, so I let Vixia take the lead. We crept out of the forest and over to one of the large stone walls that surrounded the city’s perimeter. She looked at them, her eyes glowing slightly, and let out a sigh as she slumped on the ground. I sat down beside her.

“I’m not sure where to go from here,” she admitted, staring up at the top of the wall. “These are too tall to climb, but the only other way in is through the main gates where the guards are. They’ll just send us back.” I thought about this for a moment, then stood up and held out my hand to her. She looked up at me, confused.

“Then let’s walk around the walls a bit. Maybe we’ll find something that can help us get over.” She nodded and took my hand. I helped her up and we began our walk around the walls.

The sun slowly continued on in its descent and the world around us began to grow colder as night fell. We made it all the way to what I figured was the back-side of the city and found the northern gate. We stopped just beyond the view of the guards and decided to rest for a moment. We sat down on the dewy grass and I opened the sack that we had brought with us, finding that it was nearing empty. I sighed as I took out a piece of bread and passed it to Vixia.

“We’re going to need to restock.”

“How?” she asked, taking a bite of her bread. “It’s not like we have any money.” I shrugged and closed the bag again, deciding to skip a meal to make the food last longer. I was looking around, trying to ignore my hunger, when I saw Vixia’s ears shift from the corner of my view. She quickly tapped my shoulder.

“Hey, what’s that?” She got up and wandered over to a section of the wall, one that we had passed a moment ago. I followed and noticed that some of the stones were slightly ajar. Vixia must have seen the same thing that I did because she grabbed onto one of them. She slowly moved it out of the way, trying to make as little noise as possible. It shifted, revealing a small tunnel leading through the wall. Vixia and I exchanged looks, then focused back on the wall.

“I guess that’s our way in,” she determined. “Let’s go.” She got down on her hands and knees and began to crawl through the hole. I followed behind her.

The first thing that I noticed when I emerged on the other side was the bright light coming from the nearby streetlamps. The next was that we were actually behind a tall building. The area was littered with wooden crates and the ground was covered in slabs of stone. I looked over to see Vixia dusting herself off, also taking in the sights around us. Then her gaze fell on me.

“What now?” she asked. I shrugged.

“I don’t know. I honestly didn’t expect us to get this far.” I crept over to the edge of the building, peering out at the streets. Even though it was nighttime, there were still tons of people wandering around. I was about to retreat back to the shadows and let Vixia know when something caught my eye. A piece of paper fluttered through the air, carried by a breeze. I grabbed it once it came close to me and was surprised to see Vixia’s face etched on the front of it, followed by a reward for her return to the orphanage.

“Well, this just made everything a bit more complicated,” I groaned, stepping back to show Vixia. She frowned and looked toward the street.

“I guess there’s no blending in for us now, not that we could anyway.” Her tail wrapped around her and she began to smooth out the silverish fur that covered it as her ears folded back. I tore up the flier and dropped the pieces on the ground.

“We’ll have to sneak around behind the buildings until things settle more. Follow me.” I began to walk toward an alleyway between the building we were behind and the next one. That was when Vixia rushed for me.

“Wait!” She managed to snag the back of my shirt and stop me before I could run into the street. She pulled me back and we watched silently as two guards walked by, clad in royal armor. After they disappeared from view, I looked over at Vixia to see a concerned look on her face.

“You’ve got to be more careful,” she warned. “At least, until we can disguise ourselves.” I reached up and touched my ears.

“How are we going to do that?”

“Maybe one of the stores around here has clothing or something. We’ll find a way. Let’s just lie low for now.” I nodded and we returned to where the crates were, cramming ourselves into one of them. I pressed my knees to my chest as Vixia rested her head on my shoulder. At that moment, I was tempted to pet her ears, but I resisted and drifted off to sleep.

Top 5 Tips For Learning Japanese

So, you want to learn Japanese, but you’re broke. You can’t afford all of the textbooks that everyone recommends or the fancy programs that seem to work like magic for everyone else.

That’s okay!

I was (and still am) in the same position. At the time of writing this article, I have been studying Japanese independently for about seven years now and looking into studying it formally when I transfer to a university in the fall. Over the years, I have seen a lot of tips and tricks for learning Japanese, but only a handful were actually helpful in teaching me the basics of the language and pushing me toward fluency. I would like to share these with you today.

Without further ado, here are five of the best tips that I have heard for learning a foreign language that have shaped the way that I study Japanese. (Disclaimer: Doing these things likely won’t make you fluent right away, but they should help you at least get started.)

#1: Learn To Read Hiragana and Katakana

If you don’t know what these are, Hiragana and Katakana are the basic alphabets of the Japanese language and are essential for learning proper pronunciation, grammar, and spelling. When I first started learning Japanese, I tried studying basic words by reading them as they appeared in romaji. While that isn’t the worst way to start learning, it did not work well for me, especially since I didn’t know how sounds like “ryo” and “fu” were actually pronounced. Also, learning from romaji alone can make it to where you put emphasis on the wrong part of the word. For example, when English-speakers see the word “kitsune”, which means “fox” in Japanese, they may pronounce it like “kit-sune” instead of “ki-tsu-ne”. When you learn Hiragana and Katakana, you learn what sound each symbol makes and in turn figure out how to say it yourself. Learning Hiragana and Katakana also helps set you up for learning kanji later on.

When I first studied Hiragana and Katakana, I used some videos from a YouTube channel called JapanesePod101. They have hundreds of free video lessons for learning just about everything in Japanese and even have videos for practice sessions, too. In their videos on both of the writing systems, they give you tips for remembering what sound each symbol makes by associating them with pictures (for example, the Hiragana for “ku” looks like a bird’s beak). This allowed me to memorize them very easily and writing them out while you watch the videos also helps you learn them.

#2: Learn The Most Commonly Used Words

Apparently, about 1,000 of a language’s most commonly used words show up in 80% of everyday conversations. So, it seems like learning those words is a good start to being able to understand Japanese. I just recently started writing all of these out to see if there are any words that I weren’t familiar with and it helped me fill in the gaps in my knowledge.

If you want a comprehensive list, I recommend this one. It also breaks the words up into groups so you can study them easily over extended periods of time.

#3: Listen To Songs And Watch Shows or Movies In Japanese

This one is related to another tip in this list, but we’ll get to that later. I actually began studying Japanese because I love Japanese music and I wanted to learn how to sing my favorite songs. I did this from the very beginning and I can’t tell you how many words and phrases I have unintentionally absorbed through doing this. After you learn some of the words in tip #2, try this one out.

If you are new to learning Japanese, I recommend watching shows and listening to songs that are meant for children since they will be easier to understand. When it comes to anime, I recommend Chi’s Sweet Home since it is a very cute show and the dialogue is simplistic. I also used to listen to a lot of Vocaloid music as well and a lot of the songs have their own animated music videos with Japanese subtitles, so you can practice your reading and listening at the same time!

Now that I think about it, practice with reading leads into our next tip.

#4: Keep A Journal In Japanese

This is probably one of the most daunting tasks on this list, but I promise that it will change your studying for the better. Keeping a journal in your target language helps a lot with learning to write, practicing sentence structure, and expanding your vocabulary. If you are anything like me, you may struggle with perfectionism, so it is important to let yourself make mistakes in this part. Keeping a journal will also help you keep a log of your progress and allow you to look back at previous entries and see how far you have come in your language learning journey.

When it comes to supplies, any notebook will do but if you are writing in Japanese I recommend finding a thinner pen than your average ballpoint pen. I usually use a 0.7 mm pen or lower since it makes it easier to write kanji and other complex characters. Also, here is a post where I share some of the journal prompts that I came up with to get started with my own journal. They all revolve around things that you would likely talk about in real conversations anyway, so you may find them to be useful when learning how to communicate!

#5: Expose Yourself To As Much Japanese As Possible

You may be thinking to yourself, “Wait, weren’t we technically doing that in tip #3?” Yes, yes we were, but now we are kicking it up a notch.

It has been proven time and time again that people seem to pick up on languages easier when they are surrounded by native speakers. If you do not have the opportunity to go to Japan, practicing with a native speaker can be very helpful, even if you just text online.

However, you can also do things like reading Japanese news articles and books. As I mentioned before with the TV shows and songs, it’s good to start with children’s books or manga that are made for younger audiences. You can also do smaller things like adding Katakana next to some of your phone contacts’ names. In fact, some of my favorite people have their names written in Japanese on my phone and most of the folders that I have on my home screen are labelled in Japanese instead of English.

Anyway, those are my top 5 tips for learning Japanese. I hope that this article was helpful for you and if any of these tips caught your attention, let me know with a comment. Good luck on your language learning journey!

8 Prompts To Start Your Foreign Language Journal

Hello, everyone! Recently, I started writing in a journal to help me practice my Japanese and so far it has been very helpful with making me practice writing and building up my vocabulary. So, here are eight prompts that I put together to help me start my journal. Hopefully, they will be helpful to you too.

(Also, bonus points to anyone who can translate the prompt into their target language! Feel free to skip any questions that you are not comfortable writing about.)

Prompts:

  1. Who are you? What is your name and where are you from?
  2. What are your favorite activities?
  3. What is your family like? Do you have any siblings?
  4. Do you have any pets? What are they and what are their names? If you don’t have a pet, what would you like to have as a pet?
  5. What is your biggest dream or goal?
  6. If you could live anywhere, where would you live? What would it be like?
  7. What is one thing that you hate/dislike?
  8. What is your favorite season? Why do you enjoy it?

My Crush Is A Nekomata: Chapter 5- Staying Pawsitive

Ryoko’s POV

“So, Ryoko, how have classes been going?” I lifted my gaze up from the eggs on my plate to look at my dad, who was sitting across the table from me. It was one of his rare days off from work and he decided to spend it relaxing at home. Unfortunately, that also meant that I had to see him before heading out for school. He looked at me expectantly as I chewed and I realized that it was the first time that I had seen him in casual clothes in a while.

Really, right now? I swallowed.

“They’ve been fine,” I answered. I took another bite of my breakfast as he ran his fingers through his dark hair. He looked toward the calendar on the wall and continued talking.

“Exams should be coming up soon, right?”

“Yeah, they’re next week.” He nodded and looked away from the calendar, focusing on me again.

“I can’t wait to see your scores. I bet you’ll make it into the top five in your class.”

“I don’t know about that . . .” My voice trailed off when I noticed that he was staring at me coldly. His eyes narrowed.

“You haven’t been blowing off your studies, right?”

“Of course not,” I replied, looking back down at my food, “but I wanted to tell you—” That was when his phone began to ring, cutting me off. I stopped talking  and he pulled his cell out of his pocket and looked at the screen.

“Oh, it’s a work call. I’ll be right back.” He got up from his seat as he answered it and stepped out of the room.

Of course, right when I’m about to say something. I let out an exasperated sigh and got up from my seat, pushing my chair back with my legs. I dropped the rest of my eggs in a plastic bag and sealed it after I put my plate in the sink. I took the bag with me as I headed for the front door.

I’ll just eat on the way.

I peered into the hallways to make sure that my dad wasn’t there, slipped on my shoes, and grabbed my bag. I headed out the door without saying a word.


“Hey, exams are next week, aren’t they?” I slouched my shoulders when Harumi mentioned them. I walked along with her and Maneki as I ate my leftover breakfast. I was about to gripe at Harumi for bringing it up when I saw Maneki perk up a little from the corner of my eye.

Up until now, she had been quiet like the days before, but once Harumi mentioned something academic-related she finally looked up from the pavement.

“Oh yeah, they are.” She looked up at me and smiled. Since my mouth was full, all I could do was smile back at her in response. That was when she realized that I was eating. “Ryoko, why are you eating right now? Won’t you get your uniform dirty?” I held up a finger as I motioned for her to give me a second to finish chewing. Then I was able to speak.

“I didn’t have enough time to eat at home,” I replied bluntly, “and if I don’t eat, I’ll just be hungry all day until lunch.”

“True.”

“Nah, you just love food,” Harumi teased, her mouth stretching into a grin. I nudged her shoulder with my elbow and she laughed. When I looked back over, Maneki had her hands up near her chest. They were clenched into fists and she was looking at the ground again.

“Are you okay?” I asked. She turned her gaze up toward me and smiled. It almost looked like her eyes had turned into a brighter color of blue. She nodded.

“I just hope that I do well on the tests.”

“Yeah, me too.” I turned my attention back to the road ahead as a thought popped into my mind.

Maybe my dad would get off my back if I did make it to the top five.


When we got to class, Harumi and I took our new seats again next to Maneki. Once class was in session, Maneki and Harumi buckled down to take notes, but my focus wandered elsewhere. I tried not to make it so obvious that I wasn’t paying attention and pretended to read the textbook until some movement caught my attention from the corner of my eye.

It was Maneki since she was scribbling down notes on her paper. She bit her lip a little as she wrote and I couldn’t help but stare. She was so focused that it seemed like she wouldn’t look up even if the classroom was collapsing around her. That dedication and focus were exactly what a top student would need, not that I expected any less from her since she was determined to get into a good college.

In comparison, I was the average girl who got decent grades and was spending her time staring at someone else instead of working.

Maybe I’m not cut out for this, I thought to myself as I looked away. I rested my chin on my palm as I looked back down at my textbook, my eyes pretending to follow the lines. I have work today again.

Maneki’s POV

I stared at the plastic bag in my grasp as Ryoko, Harumi, and I exited the konbini. It was after school and we had met up to walk home together again, but this time Harumi asked if we could stop at the store on the way home. I looked over to see Ryoko wearing her work clothes, which consisted of black pants and a white button-up shirt. She had the collar slightly open, more than our uniforms would allow, and for some reason it made her look cool in a way. She pulled a blue popsicle out of the bag that she was carrying and stuffed the rest of the snacks that she bought into her school bag. Harumi was already wandering over toward a seating area nearby when Ryoko looked toward us.

“Are you sure that you guys want to sit and eat?” she asked. “I won’t be able to go much further if we do. I think I’m low on time.”

“It’ll be fine,” Harumi replied, sitting down on a bench. She patted the open spots on either side of her after she set her bag down in her lap. “Might as well eat something before you go, right?”

“I guess so.” Ryoko and I sat down on either side of Harumi and Ryoko opened the wrapper to her popsicle. Harumi was munching on an onigiri when she noticed what Ryoko was doing.

“You’re going to have a popsicle before you go to work? Will that be enough?” Ryoko pulled the frozen treat out of her mouth and raised an eyebrow at her.

“What else am I supposed to do with it? If I leave it in the bag it’ll melt before I get off work.”

“Ah, I guess you’re right.”

We were all laughing at Harumi’s airheadedness when Ryoko’s alarm went off. She pulled her phone out of her pocket and dismissed the shrill ringing. She slipped it into her bag before adjusting the strap on her shoulder.

“That’s my cue,” she said with a sigh. She stood up from her seat and lifted her hand as if to wave. “I’ve got to head off to work. See you guys.”

“All right, I’m going to go ahead, too,” I replied. “If I don’t get home soon, all of my popsicles will melt.” Ryoko nodded while Harumi began to protest.

“So you’re both ditching me?” she whined.

“Don’t be sad, you’ve got snacks!” Ryoko teased. Harumi crossed her arms, but the look on her face showed us that she wasn’t being serious. We laughed again and waved to each other and split off, Ryoko walking back toward the direction of the school while I ran down the road.

I made it home in what I thought was about ten minutes. As I was walking down the street, I rummaged through my bag to check the popsicles I had bought. They were starting to melt, but they were still cold to the touch. I had bought a pink one for myself, two orange ones for Jun and Ken, and—

“What took you so long?” I looked up from the frozen treats to see Taro standing in front of the door, his arms crossed.

“I got some stuff at the konbini with my friends,” I answered. Taro let out a frustrated sigh and turned toward the door.

“You’re wasting your time,” he mumbled. I felt my gaze sharpen into a glare as he reached for the door.

“You know what? Let’s make a deal.” He stopped at my words and looked over at me again, surprised.

“A deal?”

“If I score high on my exams, then you have to leave me alone about all of this. No more talking badly about my friends or being a jerk.” He tilted his head.

“And what do I get if you don’t?”

“Then . . .” I stopped and considered it for a moment. He spoke up again before I could say anything.

“How about this? If you don’t score in the top five, then you’ll quit pretending to be a human and start helping Mom and Dad instead.”

“The top five is too much.”

“It shouldn’t be if you’re really going to get into a prestigious college. You are in your last year, after all.”

I felt my brows furrow.

“Fine, deal.”


For the rest of the week, I tried to focus and study as best as I could. I sifted through flashcards between classes and even stopped going to lunch with Ryoko and Harumi so I could study in the library instead. I reasoned that I would have plenty of time with them after exams if I passed, but I still missed it. I also stayed at school after class so that I could study longer without running the risk of dealing with Taro. So, the only time I had with Ryoko and Harumi was during our walks to school.

That is until Ryoko came into the library on Friday. I was sitting at a table, alone, with my nose buried so far into one of my textbooks that I didn’t even notice that she was there until she sat down in front of me. I lifted my head to see her smiling at me.

“Hey, what’s up?” I asked in a hushed voice.

“I came to check on you.” She looked at all of my notebooks and my stacks of textbooks. I still had a mechanical pencil in my hand and there were a few different colored highlighters scattered around the table. “I see you’ve been keeping yourself pretty busy.” I giggled and went to go back to taking notes. That was when Ryoko reached across the table and pinched the eraser of my pencil between her fingertips. I looked back up at her to see that her smile had turned into a look of concern.

“Maneki, I think you should take a break.”

“I can’t,” I whispered. Because then I won’t get to hang out with you again. I watched as Ryoko stood up again. She placed her palms on the table’s surface and leaned toward me as she stared me down.

“Just remember to take care of yourself. Studying isn’t everything and there’s no point to it if it forces you to always be alone. Academics alone can’t make you happy.” I stared at her as her words sunk in. She turned and walked away, leaving me stunned. I felt my face begin to burn.

No one ever told me to take breaks or to care for myself before. I watched in awe as she headed through the double doors and disappeared from my sight.What is . . . this feeling?

The Rise of The Dragon Queen: Chapter 12

The weekend quickly came to an end and Vixia, Puff, and I returned to the guildhall in the morning. It was just as we had left it, except the window had finally been repaired from when Vixia broke it.

“Did they wait until we left to fix that?” Vixia asked, pointing to it as we walked up the front steps. I shrugged as Puff climbed into the hood of my cloak from my shoulder. We pushed the double doors open to see many of the guild members still eating. I looked over at Vixia to see her eyes scanning the room.

“Where’s Darius?”

I began to search with her, finding no sign of the burly cook. That is, until I spotted him sauntering out of the kitchen. He was wearing his apron again.

“Over there.” I led Vixia and we headed over to where he was. While I was used to the staring from the other guild members, this time felt different. I noticed that some looked away from us after a moment, laughing and chatting amongst themselves.

Do they know?

I felt my stomach twist a little at the thought. I looked away from the others and turned my eyes back to Darius as we approached him.

“Hey.” He stopped what he was doing and looked our way. He smiled and raised a hand to wave.

“Hey, you guys are back.”

“You were put back on kitchen duty?” Vixia wondered aloud, looking him up and down. Darius rubbed the back of his neck and averted his gaze toward the kitchen.

“Yeah. I figured that I should stick with what I’m good at . . .”

Because of me?

“Wait, does that mean—”

“Quiet down everyone!” Nesryn called, cutting me off as she made her way down the staircase. “I have everyone’s quests for today, so listen up.” She stopped at the bottom of the stairs and looked over at us. She then lifted up her clipboard to conceal her face from the other guild members.

“I’ll talk to you two after I’m done with all of them.”

I nodded hesitantly, feeling uneasy. Vixia and I exchanged unsure glances and stepped aside as Darius returned to the kitchen, likely planning that night’s dinner.

Nesryn gave her regular speech and read off all of the names. As always, the rest of the guild began to get ready for their quests and most of them left. When she was done, she walked over to us.

“Welcome back,” she began. “I hope your weekend was restful.” At that moment, I remembered what Vixia and I had talked about with the dragons.

Not right now. I tried to push it from my mind as Vixia responded to her.

“Are we barred from going on quests now?”

“Not quite,” Nesryn answered with a sigh. “I can allow you guys to go out for more quests once you get another party member. Darius has requested that he be put back on kitchen duty, so that leaves you guys without a third teammate.”

Great,” I mumbled, trying to hide my bitterness and ultimately failing.

“I’ll give you two a few days to find another one, but if you can’t I have no choice but to assign you guys chores again. Good luck. If you need me, I’ll be in my chambers.” And with that, she walked away.


Over the next two days, Vixia and I talked to anyone that we could to see if they would join our party. We quickly learned that Sparrow had spread the fact that we failed our last quest around so even the newer guild members dodged our request. We began to hear the same excuses over and over again.

“I’m sorry, but I prefer staying closer to the guildhall.”

“I am already part of a different party, sorry!”

“Have you asked so-and-so? Maybe they would be willing to join.”

But in the end, it all lead to deadends. At dinner on the second day, all I did was stare at my food. Vixia sat across from me in Darius’ usual seat and tried her best to console me.

“We’ll find someone eventually. There’s got to be someone here who would be willing to join us.”

“But we’ve asked literally everyone here.” Vixia let out a sigh as I poked at my dinner with a fork.

It’s all my fault.

“Ketsuna, Vixia.” We both looked over to see Nesryn walking toward us. She also caught the attention of some of the other guild members, so a lot of them were staring. At first, I assumed that she was going to tell us that we were out of time. I almost wanted to sink into the floor, but once she got closer I could see a troubled expression on her face. She spoke again once she neared our table.

“I need to talk to you two privately,” she said in a stern yet quiet voice. “It’s urgent. Meet me in my chambers as soon as you’ve finished eating.” Before we could respond, she left again, walking briskly.

“I wonder what that was about.” I looked back at Vixia to see her tilting her head. I shrugged and looked back down at my food.

I wonder what she wants.


As soon as Vixia finished eating, we headed upstairs to Nesryn’s chambers. Once Vixia and I entered the room, we realized just how serious the situation was. Nesryn was sitting at her desk, like usual, but she wasn’t sorting through any documents. She was sitting up straight in her chair, her fingers knitted together as she rested her hands in front of her on the desk. She was staring straight at us, an intensity in her eyes that I hadn’t seen before.

“I know that I chewed you two out the other day, but I really need your help,” she began in a low voice.

“What is it?” Vixia asked. I remained silent beside her, waiting for Nesryn’s reply.

“I need you to go save Sparrow’s crew.” I raised an eyebrow.

“Why? Have they not come back?” Nesryn shook her head. I averted my eyes and sighed. “Why would you send us? I mean, we screwed up last time.”

“I know what I said before,” she snapped, “but I was wrong. I can’t send anyone else to do this.” I looked at her again.

“Why not—”

“Some members of our guild are in trouble. Isn’t that part of the reason why you started fighting off these dragons in the first place? To save people?” I froze at her comment. In a way, she was right. I looked over at Vixia, who appeared to be worried. I turned my attention back to Nesryn.

“Fine, we’ll go get them.”