The Livingwater Crisis - Chapter 1

Chapter 1: Hearsay, Here Now

Note: This story appears in Bite-Size, Volume 2. Support the comic and buy a copy here!

“This selection is shameful,” observed Greg, shaking his head at the racks of magazines. He and Xaviere stood in the broad U-shaped peninsula, adjacent to the Used Books section. Covers featuring models, celebrities, and bodybuilders greatly outnumbered the isolated row labeled Comics & Hobby.

“Hm,” Xaviere muttered absently, not turning her attention up from her game.

“Compared to dozens of titles they release in Japan on a weekly basis?” Greg continued. “And you know what? Even if we were in a dedicated comics shop right now, it wouldn’t be any better. Ninety-eight percent superhero junk. The same characters, thirty or fifty years old, still doing the same stuff, fighting the same enemies. How many times can the planet Earth be in danger? Or the galaxy? Or time/space?”

In spite of her sincerest effort, Xaviere couldn’t prevent all of this drivel from seeping into her ears. If Greg didn’t find amusement from the meager choices on display here in the Homeland, why didn’t he just move to Japan and marry it, since he loved it so much? She sensed a spicy riposte bubbling up from within. It was only a matter of selecting the wittiest, most poetic and ironic language to shut down her imaginary friend where he stood. Those comics are good, American stories, she could lie, in a monotonous voice to illustrate her disinterest. You got a problem with Freedom? Comrade? She snickered to herself. Would the clever taunt find purchase?

Alas, no. The flames of purification fizzled into smoke at the back of her teeth: For when she looked up at that exact moment to deliver Greg’s punishment, Xaviere recognized two far more sinister opponents only a meter away: That sophist-wannabe, Tyler, flanked as always by his straight-from-the-pages-fashionable sister, Maya. The pair sat, backs exposed, on the polished wooden benches wedged into the aisle.

“I don’t know why we bother checking new issues every month,” Greg went on, oblivious. “Over half these episodes are ten years behind the original publication date. The anime for these have already come out, too.” He flipped through some pages thoughtfully, and seemed to regard Xaviere’s silence as pensive encouragement. “Right? Like when the Frieza saga was coming out. Little did we know Goku was already fighting Majinn Boo over there. Or heck, GT might’ve already been happening. I remember hearing about Gotanks and SSJ4, thinking it was just some fan rumor. Remember that pink outfit?”

“Hah! Look at her!” Tyler quipped, extending a magazine. A handful of bystanders glanced up. What a smug little prince, Xaviere thought. It took a special type of arrogance to speak so boldly, as if every word discharged from one’s mouth was a gift to the world. During how many heated debates had Tyler practically stood up after declaring some factoid at her or Greg, looking left and right as if expecting applause?

“She’s not even that cute,” muttered Maya, at least displaying the sense to use her inside voice; not that it excused her. Maya hid, as always, behind that veil of inhumanly voluminous hair (no doubt steroids were involved,) held together on top by a delicate, expensive-looking mesh cap. That delicate posture, the calculated modesty and aloofness. Xaviere knew how to read the signs well, after years of growing up around these girls at school. Utter monsters in private, constantly judging from behind cover, like Wizards lobbing fireballs over the shoulders of boastful Tanks which soaked up attention from enemies.

What were the siblings so amused by? Such questions, Xaviere decided, were beneath her dignity. Meanwhile, Greg’s thesis was only gaining momentum. Xaviere sighed and tapped the X-button on her electronic video game machine thoughtlessly, commanding her units to attack, kill, and grind Experience Points. She began to regret ever leaving home this afternoon. Fresh air is too costly sometimes.

“Why do they barely stock Takehiko Inoue’s work here anymore?” grumbled Greg. “Commerce, that’s why. Is it right to always give consumers what they want, even if it’s unhealthy? Do we, the people, need to consume everything that’s put in front of us without judgment, like omnivorous pigs? I mean, look at our food here in America. Everything has sugar in it. Meanwhile, if you go to Japan, they don’t even put sugar in their tea. You know what I mean? Those people understand subtlety.”

“You got a problem with Liberty?” Xaviere prodded.

The effort had been wasted on Greg, who was on a roll. “I’m moved to recall a haiku I once memorized, roughly translated thus…

An ancient pond.
A frog jumps in.
The sound of water.

“It reminds me of the concept of ‘ma’, which Hayao Miyazaki once told Roger Ebert about in an interview. Those pregnant, meaningful, thoughtful, seemingly empty spaces between ‘louder’ scenes in film – or in life. The perception of nothing does not necessarily mean absence. Like my house: Just because I don’t own a lot of stuff, that doesn’t mean it isn’t full.”

“You only say that because there’s a lot of ‘ma’ in your wallet.” Xaviere interrupted, hearing enough.

“You’re not going to pop my balloon today!” Greg placed whatever he’d been reading back on the shelf.

“Besides,” probed Xaviere, “When’s the last time you’ve been to the Japanese supermarket for snacks? I get diabetes just looking at their candy.”

“Okay yeah but…” Greg’s voice warbled into nonsense. It was one of Xaviere’s secret techniques, to replace his voice in her mind with Dubstep. Wub wub wub.

“Sweet Lord!” barked Tyler, grabbing a magazine from the Fashion section, where he clearly had no business. “This is her!

Maya leafed through an Autumn catalog without looking up. “Whatever.”

“Oooooh, Olivia Livingwater… when will you be mine?!”

An unwelcome bolt of lightning went through Xaviere from head to toe, shocking her into full attention.

“Listen to this article about her,” proclaimed Tyler. “ ‘She’s traveled across the globe on humanitarian missions, from Africa to Asia… and yet she still lives at home with her family during most of the year, between photo shoots. Hobbies include cooking, collecting folk recipes, watching Hong Kong martial arts films and playing First Person Shooters online, where she is a top-ranked semi-professional gamer – though when asked, she steadfastly refuses to disclose her online handle so that she can play without unwanted distractions.’ Ugh!” Tyler clutched at his chest while reading that last line. “Can you imagine it? They say she lives around the Tri-City area, too. Every time I get good latency now, I’m going to wonder...

“ ‘Miss Livingwater has earned substantial popularity by refusing to appear in what she considers to be ‘immodest’ apparel. For this reason, it is believed, the young woman is favored by legendary designers who want to display their work on someone who is considered to be one of the world’s ‘purest’ models. Embodying both the role of the Lady and the Hot Babe, Olivia proudly and openly admits she’s never allowed anyone to even reach first base with her.’ Can you believe that?! At her age? This girl is the forbidden fruit! Literally the final frontier! Oh, God! I’m so in love…”

“You’re so barbaric,” corrected Maya. “You know you’ll never meet her, right? She’s probably one of those Photoshopped idols, not even a real person.”

“So what? All reality is perception, anyhow. Oh! OH!” Tyler pretended not to notice the several patrons who turned to look. “Oh my crap! No! Seriously! There’s an official rumor she’s going to be featured on next month’s cover of Sports Bikini Monthly! It’s virtually confirmed!”

“What?!” Xaviere erupted. Without a second thought she reached over Tyler’s shoulder and ripped the magazine out of his hands.

“What the hell!” he shouted.

Xaviere swatted her arm violently to her side, hitting nothing but air. Where was Greg, the one time she needed him?!

To be continued tomorrow, in Chapter 2!


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