#76: ごめんなさい!

Alicia shook with excitement as she stepped into J-Pop Importium. In minutes, she would stand in the physical presence of J-Pop icon and international fitness star Yumi Nakamoto. Next to her, Percy hauled a backpack filled with supplies, his camera ready, knowing the action could begin at any moment. He patted Alicia on the shoulder. "Hey, you doing okay? You need some water?"

"I'm good," Alicia said, "I'm just excited."

"I can tell," he said, taking hold of her shaking hand. "Take a few deep breaths. The last thing we need is you fainting."

"I'll be okay. Gosh, I can't remember ever being this excited about anything."

Percy laughed. "That is a ridiculously high bar for you."

"Right?" Alicia said, releasing Percy's hand as she transitioned from deep breaths to stretching and flexing. She extended her arms in front of her and rotated her wrists, causing thick cords of muscle to shift beneath her skin. "I love how well you can see my definition through this shirt," Alicia curled her arms inward, pumping her biceps. "I look awesome, right?"

"Absolutely," Percy said. "You ought to, considering you just slammed through two sets of a three-hundred-pound bench press."

"I'm about to see Yumi-freakin'-NEKO-freakin'-Nakamoto. I need to be as pumped on the outside as I am on the inside."

"I'm sure you'll make a good impression."

Alicia scowled. "'Good' is terrible. I need 'awesome.' People are going to record Yumi's reaction, and 'NEKO blown away by gorgeously buff American cosplayer Queen Alici' would make a great caption."

"That's what you're thinking of right now? Social media buzz?"

"I'm still trying to come up with a good hashtag. What do you think of  #aliciyumi?"

"I think you're too many steps ahead," Percy said, struck, yet again, by the stark difference between Alicia, who planned for what she hoped would happen, and his ex, Krysta, who planned for what she intended to make happen. He'd learned plenty from both of them. Noticing Alicia sniffing at her armpits, Percy unzipped the bag and produced a travel deodorant. "Here you go."

"Oh, Percy-Kun. You're too good to me," Alicia said, applying the deodorant. "God, I can't believe I'm nervous. I didn't forget anything, did I? Do you have my wallet?"

Percy patted the front pocket of his backpack. "Yup."

"Phone charger?"

"Yup. Fully charged."

"Sewing kit?"


"First-aid kit?"

"Bandages, ibuprofen, and dried ginger."


"Two travel-size packages."


"In the Elfen Lied pencil case."

"Change of clothes?"

"Another bra, another shirt, leggings, and two pairs of underwear."

"Okay, I'm ready." Alicia took another breath, held it in, and exhaled. She felt Percy's hand on her shoulder and she turned towards him. "What's up?"

"Alicia, I want you to have fun tonight, okay? Don't worry about me. All this is your present."

Alicia hugged him. "You're the best, Percy-Kun."

"Oh, I know," Percy said, adjusting his glasses.

She scrunched her nose at him. "You're lucky you're cute." Alicia suddenly gasped as she saw a gathering near the back of the store. "Oh my God, she's right over there! NEKO is literally like twenty feet from me right now."

"That's more like fifty, but you might want to keep your voice d—"

"Is she looking at me? I think she's looking at me! Oh my god, I think she sees me. Is she waving at me? SHE TOTALLY IS!"

"Aw, hell. Let's get this camera—"

"NEKO SENPAI!!!" Alicia shouted as she bounded across the store towards Yumi, who squeed as well, creating a sort of squee-stereo. Yumi bounced on her toes with her arms open, and Alicia leaped over a card table into them. Catching Alicia, Yumi spun her around in the first of several soon-to-be viral images from their meeting.

Still held in Yumi's strong arms, Alicia patted her on the shoulders excitedly. "Hey! Watashi HA um... wa anata no otaku ichiban desU ne! Anata no ookii chichi daisUki desU ne."


"Oh! Gomennasai! I-I meant 'ookii kinniku!'"

Yumi smiled. "おそらく英語で話すべきでしょう"

Alicia blushed, in rare embarrassment. "I even practiced too!"

"私はもっと英語を練することが必要です。" Yumi said, setting Alicia down.

"Oh, I can help you with that. Anyways, it's so cool to meet you finally, and your dress is so cute!"

"Not as cute as your shirt," Yumi said, gesturing to Alicia's midsection. "Wow, I can see your abs!"

"If you want to see my abs, just say so!" Alicia started to pull her shirt up but stopped when she—and Yumi—realized she wore only underwear beneath the thigh-length shirt. There were several gasps and a camera flash, and Alicia blushed again. "Whoops! How about I show them to you later?"

"I would like that!" Yumi said, nodding.

"So, NEKO senpai—."

"Please, call me Yumi." Yumi paused, then winked. "Or Yumi-chan."

"Ooooooh! Then how about you call me Ali-chan?"

"Ali-chan it is!" The two unleashed another simultaneous squee.

"Okay, I know this is a little forward,” Alicia said, “but your body looks amazing."

"Thank you. I work very hard. Perhaps one day I can look as good as you."

"WHATEVER. I'd kill for your shoulders. And your hair! It's so beautiful."

"The scrunchie is new," Yumi said, before leaning in and whispering, "it goes with the bra."

"I'm not wearing a bra," Alicia did not say quietly.

Yumi gasped. "あなたの大きい乳が大好きですね!"


Yumi covered her mouth. "Oh! ごめんなさい!"

"Don't apologize. I aim to please," Alicia purred, punctuating with flexes of her pecs. Yumi did the same, eliciting stereo-squee number three from the pair. Alicia grabbed Yumi's hands. "Do you want to get dinner, maybe grab drinks after?"

"Can we get Mexican food? I love burritos, and it is hard to find good ones in Japan."

"YES! I'll look a place up."

"Actually, Ali-chan, can you give about ten more minutes? I have to finish this interview."

Alicia looked up at the dozen reporters, photographers, and spectators staring in stunned silence. One of them raised their phone and snapped a picture.

"Oh yeah. Sure," Alicia said, picking up the table she'd knocked over and backing away until she was back at Percy's side. The two waited quietly as Yumi's interview continued. Alica nudged Percy with her elbow. "You got all that on video, right?"

"Me and several others."

Alicia broke into a wide grin. "#aliciyumi."