Chapter 8: Tea Ceremony on Thursday
Fan fiction inspired by Pokemon
Rating: Young Adult
I explained to my parents what happened at the gym. I was worried they would be disappointed in me, but they were surprisingly very supportive. My dad praised me for having the courage to break gender barriers.
“You’ve finally discovered the beauty of a woman! Let us know when you get your first girlfriend!”
Yeah, break the gender barrier between a boy and a man, perhaps.
Meanwhile my mother was so excited, she wanted to go shopping for a man’s kimono with me that night.
“I’m so glad you want to learn to make delicious tea! I will support you all the way so you can stir the hearts of all your future customers!”
Yeah, mom clearly does not understand the difference between a tea server and a geisha.
Needless to say, my family signed the applications right away and even took care of my first six months of training. We were not very wealthy and did not spend a lot on frivolous things, but somehow this breakthrough made them want to spend whatever savings they had for me on this activity alone.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Unfortunately, the boys at my school were not as supportive. As the news spread, my friends distanced themselves from me during class and recreational periods. At lunch time, they whispered loudly with one another.
“You think Shuichi’s gay?” I heard one of them say.
“I can’t believe he’d join the Celadon City Gym,” said another. “Maybe he isn’t a boy after all.”
“No way! He must’ve asked to join after peeping on them because he’s such a coward!” said another guy.
The rumors got more and more embarrassing when Nathan had come back from the bathroom during the break.
“Is that true? Some boy has joined the Celadon City Gym?”
I turned away from Nathan and nodded. Without another word, Nathan ran up to me in a flash and slammed his hands on my desk.
“Hey, you’re the scrawny kid that was peeping on them on Tuesday! And now you’re a member of the gym? That’s hilarious!”
The boys and girls started to spread more rumors as they saw us together.
“Hey, calm down, everyone,” said Nathan. “You guys are all just jealous because you don’t get to hang out with all the girls! This kid is probably a better man than all of you!”
My class fell silent. After being convinced by Nathan, they continued on to their normal lunch routines. I felt glad Nathan backed me up, but I still felt uneasy about him.
“You know, I have a name,” I said. “I’m Shuichi. We’ve been in the same class for three years.”
Nathan glanced at my face and down to my chest with a puzzled look in his eyes. Was he really that forgetful a person to not recognize his own classmates?
“Guess I never noticed. I have lots of friends, you know. Anyway, Shuichi, I think it’s cool you joined the Celadon City Gym. I’m a member of the fighting pokémon gym in Saffron City. It’s not the certified one from the Pokémon League, but we still train just as much as our psychic neighbors. We should hang out more often. Let’s be friends.”
Nathan extended his right hand to me. I shook it as a gesture of greeting. Then he leaned over and whispered in my ear.
“So you think you can hook me up on a date with one of those girls there?”
“I knew you had some ulterior motive,” I snapped back at him.
Nathan grinned slyly as he stood upright again and put his hands on his hips.
“So did you get a pokémon yet?”
“Well, I’m just a junior member at the gym. Only senior members get to have a pokémon. There’s some sort of examination I have to take to become a senior member.”
“Bummer. Your gym does that, too? I can’t get my first pokémon until I can hold my own against a fighting pokémon in the ring. One of these days though, I will get one.”
Just then, a girl from the class next door slipped into our classroom.
“Hey, there you are, Shuichi,” she pointed at me. “You’re gonna be late for the initiation meeting! You still have to put on your kimono, you know. Every member of the tea ceremony class wears one.”
“But I forgot mine at home!” I said. “And I still have afternoon class!”
“Then get going to the gym now. There are spares at the gym, granted they’re all for girls. And don’t worry about missing class. Lady Erika has already excused you this time.”
“Hey, cutie, are you a member of the Celadon City Gym too?” said Nathan.
“First of all, my name is Amy,” said the girl, “and you’re a jerk, Nathan! We were in the same class last year!”
Nathan backed away apologetically, raising his hands in the air awkwardly. Amy grabbed my arm and forced me out of my seat.
“Please don’t associate with this boy anymore, Shuichi. People like him are annoying, and are a bad influence on members of the Celadon City Gym. Now let’s get out of here!”
“Wait, let me pack up my stuff,” I panicked.
Arm tightened her grip and dragged me out of the classroom all the way to the gym.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The tea ceremony class started early today because some of Erika’s family members were here to evaluate potential senior members later that afternoon. Such events only happened once every three months.
I knelt down for today’s class with five other girls, each wearing their kimonos. I sat at the end of the line, embarrassed to be in a girl’s kimono. Amy, who helped me put it on, sat next to me and glared at my every movement like a Fearow eying its prey. In front of us were three other girls facing us: Lady Erika and two senior members.
“Remember everyone, the tea ceremony is an expression of art from the server to the drinker,” said Erika. “All the senses are used when one participates in the tea ceremony. The vivid sight of the server’s kimono. The sound of the whisk stirring the tea and the pouring of hot water. The feel of the tea cup as it rotates in the drinker’s hand. The smell of the aroma of the tea; and of course, its incredible taste.”
Lady Erika demonstrated a few of these gestures as she continued to lecture us. The other girls sat calmly, paying attention to all of her words with utmost devotion.
“So, are there any questions?”
“Yeah, I have a question,” I said, raising my hand. “When do I get to taste delicious green tea?”
Amy pounded the top of my head with her fist. I covered my head in pain.
“Don’t insult the gym leader, Shuichi!” she said.
“It’s alright, Amy,” said Erika. “Today, you and Yuki will be presenting the tea to your classmates.”
Amy bowed, stood up gracefully, and walked up to the ceremonial table. She gave a smile to everyone before she began, and then gave a sinister grin when she looked at me. I ignored her. Yuki, one of the senior members knelt at the other ceremonial table.
The second senior member handed each of us a piece of sugar candy. The candy was small, about the size of a pea, but it was more rough than round. There were assorted colors for these candies, but I got two pink ones.
“As a new member, you get two today,” she told me as she handed me the candies. “Suck on them before you receive the tea.”
“But why?” I asked.
“Why else? Because Amy will be serving you today. While she is one of our better junior member servers, she might make yours ‘extra special’ because of your circumstances.”
“No way! She likes me?”
Amy glared in my direction.
“As if,” said the senior member. “Just take it, okay?”
I nodded and put the two sugar candies in my mouth. They melted almost instantly and didn’t taste particularly sweet. I waited patiently for my tea cup. The other three girls were whispering something to each other and started giggling. I’m sure they were talking about me.
When the tea was finished, Amy bowed to me and served me a cup. I took it, thanked her, and put it to my lips. But before I could take a sip, Amy lightly patted the top of my head as a gesture to the pounding she gave me earlier.
“No, stupid! You’re supposed to rotate the cup in your hands, admiring the design and the art of the person who made it.”
I looked at my tea cup. It was a plain cylindrical cup that looked like one that was mass produced. It was perfectly symmetrical and there were no special symbols or blemishes on it. I spun it in my hands briskly.
“No, Shuichi,” said Amy. “Slowly. Gently.”
I rotated it slower, smelling the intoxicating aroma of the tea as it continued to steam in my cup. When I felt that I had rotated the cup completely, I put it to my lips and chugged it down.
I screamed, less from the temperature and more from the taste. The liquid itself tasted like normal tea but the aftertaste left something more bitter than I could have ever imagined! The other girls sipped their tea tranquilly, poised, and looked at me while trying to hold back their laughter. I ran to Amy’s ceremonial table, reached for a handful of candy in the tray, and popped them all in my mouth. All the junior members, including Amy, started to laugh hysterically.
“Don’t eat all those at once,” said Yuki. “You don’t want to get a stomachache or have your teeth fall out, do you?”
I gasped for a breath once the bitterness dissipated in my mouth. “What exactly was in that stuff?” I asked Amy frustratingly.
“Nothing more than the green tea powder and hot water,” she told me. “I gave the same brew to Mei Jia. If you thought mine was bad, wait until you taste hers!”
Mei Jia, the small girl in the middle seat among, was the youngest member of Celadon City Gym. She was eight years old, making her three years younger than me.
“Just you wait, Amy!” she shouted. “I will make a tea that’s far more delicious than even Lady Erika’s!”
She then leaned over to me and grabbed my hand, palm faced up.
“Here, take this,” she said in the sweetest voice as she handed me her sugar candy. “I don’t need to eat these anymore to drink the tea. Well, not hers, anyway.”
I was glad she handed it to me, and yet very disappointed in myself. This little girl drank that same tea as I did and tasted it without a single sugar! I could not be outdone by her! Still, I thanked her and popped it in my mouth, regardless of what Yuki had warned.
“That concludes today’s lesson,” said Erika. “Tomorrow is battle training for the senior members. Aspiring trainers are welcome to join us. Thank you, Shuichi for entertaining us with your presence. We hope you will come back next week and perhaps check out some of our other classes we have to offer.”
The girls bowed. I followed their lead. I got up and went back to the dressing room to take off this feminine kimono.
Flower arranging on Monday. Poetry on Tuesday. Traditional dance on Wednesday. Tea ceremony on Thursday. Battle training for senior members on Friday. Saturday was an open day where we could come to practice our technique putting on kimonos. Sunday was reserved specifically for just Erika’s training. No one ever knew what it was for.
I thought about coming to the kimono training; but I was definitely coming back next Thursday for tea ceremony.