16: Learn

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             "Have you ever gone to Anime Expo, Y/n?" Aiai asked.
              "I've only been there once. Just to see you guys perform for the pre-show. I begged my parents to let me go. I was sixteen at the time."
              "That was two years ago. I sometimes forget how young you are," Arisha said.
              "Yeah, are you sure you want this old lady?" King joked.
                "I'm not that old!"
               King giggled,"I was kidding."
              "There's such a huge age difference, but we all surprisingly get along," I chuckled. "I wonder if you ever saw me at the concert though. I remember on Marugoto Rikako, you said you could see all the way to the back of the venue."
              "I probably did, but it's not like I could remember all those faces."
"That's true," I replied.
Today, they were preparing for their performance tonight. I wasn't sure about what to do at first, but eventually I was exploring the venue. I stood on the stage and looked out towards all the empty seats.
"Wow, Y/n! You have such a beautiful voice!"
                  "Yeah! You should be a singer someday!"
                  I flashed grin at my friends,"It's my dream to be a singer. I'll make it big one day!"
                 "You should put that on your name tag then Y/n," My teacher smiled warmly at me.
                  I nodded happily and wrote on my name tag. We were going on a field trip to a college, so we  wrote what we wanted to be when we grew up on the name tags they gave us.
––––––––
                 "Mom! Dad! Look at my name tag!" 
                "What does it say? Oh...you want to be a singer when you grow up?" My dad asked.
                 "You can't go down that road, honey. You'll be traveling a lot and you'll be away from us," My mom explained.
                "Yeah, she's right. It's also a harsh world out there. Who knows if they'll accept you?"
                 Later, I ripped my name tag and threw it in the trash.
                 "Y/n? Are you okay, Y/n?"
                "Huh?" I jumped in surprise.
              "You were spacing out. I was wondering if you wanted some water," Rikako offered.
             "Ah, yes please."
                She handed me a water bottle as I took a seat in one of the chairs. She took a seat next to me and silently drank her water. Then, she quietly placed her bottle on the floor as I watched her.
                   "What's wrong, Y/n?" She broke the silence.
                  "I-" I couldn't bring myself to speak.
                  "If something's wrong, you can just tell me. It's better than holding it in."
                 I nodded,"You're right."
                 It was silent for a while. I leaned on her shoulder, finding comfort in her warmth.
               "It's a bit silly, but I always dreamed of being a singer ever since I was a little kid," I started.
               I grabbed her hand and intertwined our fingers,"The thing is, my parents always rejected it. They were afraid that people weren't going to accept me and they didn't want me to go far."
                She listened silently and nodded.
               I chuckled softly,"What's funny is how they didn't accept me and I ended up going somewhere far away."
My cheeks were wet with tears as I was reminded of the day my parents kicked me out. I felt so useless. I felt like a disappointment to my family.
She wrapped her arms around me and held me close,"It's okay, Y/n. Your parents may not accept you, but we all do."
I sobbed in her shoulder, letting out all of my emotions. Negative thoughts flooded into my mind and flowed out like my tears. After a while, I finally stopped. I felt relieved as I drank some water to rehydrate.
"You should go clean up," Rikako suggested.
"Yeah. I'm sorry for wasting your time. I know you were busy."
"There's no need to apologize. I don't mind at all," she smiled.
I smiled in return as I found my way to the bathroom. I walked in and washed my face. Surprisingly, my eyes weren't red, so that's good. I wiped my face with the paper towel and walked out. I noticed Suwawa on the phone, with a smile on her face.
"Everyone's getting ready...Oh I gotta go. Don't get lost again okay?....Alright, see you soon."
"Who was that?" I asked.
"Someone~" she answered.
"I see..." I replied, deciding not to ask any further. "Shall we head to the stage?"
She nodded as we walked back. The rest of the members were practicing. Rikako noticed me. Although she had a smile on her face, there was a hint of worry in her eyes. She was soon reassured that I was alright when I nodded at her.
"Two more hours until the doors open! It's time to get ready!" The staff member called. "Where's the new girl?"
"Are you ready?"
"Yup!" Suwawa smiled.
––––––––
The show was a success and the audience seemed to love it. I watched as the members of Aqours were meeting the fans. They took pictures and talked. They also gave out autographs.
"Hey Y/n!" Rikako called. "Do you want to take a picture together?"
"Yeah. We don't have a photo of us together, do we?"
We stood close together and took the picture. Then, I took some with the other members. I couldn't be any happier and all of my worries washed away.
"Let's go eat!" Ainya exclaimed.
"Yeah, I'm hungry," Aikyan complained.
"What should we eat?" Arisha asked.
"Hmm..."
"Do you guys wanna try eating other types of food?"
They all turned towards me, waiting to hear my idea.
                  "If you want to, there's a good Vietnamese restaurant nearby. They also serve a really good Vietnamese dessert. My aunt used to take me there all the time," I suggested. "If not, we can try some Mexican food at the taqueria. There's also a good Italian place too."
                   "I think it's good to try different things every now and then," Anchan replied.
                   Eventually, we arrived at the Vietnamese restaurant that I recommended. We each took a seat as they eyed the menu. They couldn't really understand anything, so I had to translate for them. As soon as everyone ordered, we sat and talked to pass the time.
                     "Wanna share this with me, Rikako?" I pointed at the menu item. "It's really good."
                  As I was explaining, I was rudely interrupted with the sound of someone clearing their throat.
                  "I didn't expect to see you here, Y/n. Did leaving to Japan make you realize how much you've sinned?"

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