Meimei (as Yoko), Risu
Date: November 7, 2010
A chat over dinner turns slightly serious as Meimei reveals that she knows Risu's secret… And offers to help her fix it.
"I Think I Can"
Meimei's Apartment - Sunagakure
Meimei and Risu are back in their apartment. Yes, 'their' apartment. As in: a shared habitation. It is no longer just Meimei's — or 'Yoko's, rather — but also Risu's as well. Or so Yoko told her when they came home after the stuff at the Academy. Now they're sitting at the table in the living room, eating dinner. "So, let's see here… First thing's first. I know this may be a sensitive subject for you, and I don't want to make you feel bad during dinner… But I have noticed your… 'Difficulty' with reading and writing.—And it's perfectly fine and understandable! No one ever taught you. I sort of had to teach myself, but it took me years and for a long time I was learning just by recognizing pictures of things. But eventually, it became a matter of survival. I had to know more than the bad people who wanted to find me. And chances were, they could read just fine."
She hmms and waits for Risu's reaction, but then adds on, "But there's no bad people looking for you, so you have plenty of time to learn how to read and write. I'll teach you myself. No rush, no bother, no stress. Is that okay?"
Risu sits across from Yoko and… was eating but she pauses as she hears what Yoko has to say. She frowns a tad, looking worried, "I… um, I…." She stammers, "No, I can't read…" She says, looking down at her plate. "Never had any books to read or nothin'…. or reason to." She admits, "Weren't many books at the orphanage and they mostly just made sure we had food and stuff. There weren't a lotta people there. Got shut down and… think it was cause they didn't have enough money or somethin'." She explains, then looks up a bit, worried like, bitting her lower lip, "It's okay? That… that I don't know how? I don't think there are any bad people looking for me. I don't think there are /any/ people looking for me. I was at the orphanage for years… and no one ever came trying to find me."
Yoko nods. "It's okay. Yeah, maybe most kids your age in a Hidden Village know how to read already. But I didn't really learn until I was almost 19. So guess what kind of dummy -I- am." She sticks out her tongue a bit and raps her knuckles on the side of her skull lightly, to show she's being silly. "So… Yeah. It's understandable, given your circumstances. It's not 'alright' that you can't read, but that's only because I feel it's wrong no one provided you with an opportunity or any education. So it's not your fault at all."
Risu eats as Yoko talks, poking at her food then she shrugs, "Well, if you can teach me… I guess I should learn. I dunno though… I mean, it's not that important I learn, is it? Will… will I need to know how to read to go to the academy?" She asks, suddenly realizing the two might be related, and sounding a tad worried, "I won't have to wait until I learn to read to go to the academy, will I? Cause I really wanna do that."
Yoko hmms as she stuffs some rice in her mouth with her chopsticks. "Well, reading is pretty important for the academy, and for most ninja, yeah. There's instructions you may need to read. Missions and secret messages can be relayed via words. Books might describe how to use a certain Jutsu, or the proper way to heal someone. It can be used for all kinds of things. If you can't read, you're of the loop. You can't read a road sign, you can't make sure someone isn't cheating you when you sign a contract, you can't do diddly."
She shrugs. "So, while I can teach you before and during your lessons at the Academy, you'll be behind everyone in terms of what you can learn and do until you know how to read."
Risu quirks her face a bit and tilts her head, "So… how hard is it to learn to read? You said you learned when you were pretty old. Is it something hard? Or…?" She asks curiously between bites of food. "And how do we start? I wanna learn to do everything I can, and… I don't wanna fall behind. So I guess I gotta study real hard to learn to read first. Just… so big a change. Only a month ago I thought I was pretty tricky when I got the food guy to look the other way so I could swipe a roll." She says with a mischievious little grin.
Yoko hmms. "Yeah, it can be tough without a teacher. I learned when I was older because I had no books to read or teachers when I was still with my family. Then I was on the run for several years. I just didn't have the time to attend school, and I felt embarassed that I didn't know how to read yet, when everyone else around me seemed to. But once I actually sat down and studied, it wasn't horrible or anything. It helps to be motivated. That's why I wanted to teach you! Because I have a great idea for how to help."
She grins a bit at Risu's relating of her skills at roll-stealing. "Yeah, well, being able to read or not isn't a sign of smarts. But it can help you to learn more. That's why there's plenty of dumb people who know a lot and use it to mistreat smart people who don't know enough to know they're being mistreated. Good thing Sunagakure isn't like my home country…" She frowns a bit as she returns to eating rice for awhile.
Risu continues to eat. She's been eating an awful lot since she moved in, her appetite growing almost daily. Now she eats… well, a darn lot for a kid her size. She looks better for it mind you, just wow. She pauses between mouth fulls, "Well, so… how did you learn? What's the great idea?" She asks curiously, "It'd be good for me to learn as fast as I can, just in case there are other students I'll need to keep up with." She points out, "Maybe I'll even learn some things you don't know, once I start. Whaddya think?" She asks, grinning a bit then returning to eat as she waits for your answer on the 'great idea'!
Yoko grins. "Okay, how I learned was via pictures. I would look at something, then look at the word associated with it. That's how they teach kids. But it was slow, because not everything has a picture. Like… 'Love'. How are you going to make a picture of love? You can put a heart, but that's a picture of a heart, not a picture of love. You can show a picture of two people hugging, but that's a HUG, not a picture of love itself. So while I got the basics down that way, I needed to challenge myself to find the others. I had to actually see the words in use on paper in order to put them together as a sentence."
She then smiles wider and reaches for something out of sight on her side of the table. "That's when I found THESE." She then lifts up a book. Nothing too special about it, except that it has a picture of a train going down a train track under a full moon, and tiny wolf-like creatures on their hindlegs roaming about on a hilltop, heading towards the train as it passes by. On the book are the words, 'Choose Your Own Adventure' and 'The Full Moon Express' under it. Yoko gives Risu a chance to try to figure out what it says, but if she can't, she'll tell her.
Risu knows what letters look like, she even knows the most common 'words' by shape, such as 'closed' and 'stop', but something like 'Choose your own adventure' is so far beyond her she's left to just stare at them a tad, "Uh…. um…. what are they?" She finally asks, as she looks at the books then back up at Yoko, "I mean, are they magic books? Like special ninja books that can help you learn to read really fast?" She asks hopefully, betraying her lack of knowledge on what the words say. She studies the strange wolf like things on the cover of one of the books, and tilts her head to one side, "What are they?" She finally asks, feeling a bit stupid and sheepish for not knowing what 'THESE' are that were presented so proudly by Yoko.
Yoko nods. "It says, 'Choose. Your. Own. Adventure.'" She indicates each word with her index finger as she says it. "It's a series of books in which you get to choose the path the story takes for the main character — that's you — when presented with one or more options. So… You could choose to open a door and check out a suspicious noise, or you could try to yell for help, or just wait where you are and try not to draw attention to yourself. Things like that."
She taps the book and says, "This book is one of dozens. There's like… Two hundred of them or so. Basically, I would have someone read them to me while I read along as well. When I got to a word I didn't recognize or didn't understand, that person would then explain it to me or sound it out so I knew the parts of the sentence. And the more I learned, the more I was able to read the books on my own, not needing anyone else in order to have an adventure."
She puts the book down next to her and the purple-haired woman says, "I'm looking for more of them in the library still, but this one is good to start with. It has a train, a murder mystery, and werewolves. It's called 'The Full Moon Express'."
"Werewolves? Oh! That's like that wolf man in the haunted house, maybe? You said I shouldn't get bit, right? Or did Itami-san say that?" Risu asks, trying to remember, "But… that… I mean, I think that'd be a good way to learn, if you'd read with me. If… you have time?" She asks, a tad unsure, but hopeful, "I'll still need to practice the other stuff too. Maybe I'll pick up on how to read real quick like. Maybe? I'm pretty smart, I think? I really wanna learn all the neat ninja stuff too. Like how to throw those funny metal things, and how to jump around on the roofs like I see some of the village ninja do. Will I get to learn to do that too?"
Yoko nods firmly. "I certainly will read them with you. I'll read them until you are ready to try on your own. That can be weeks from now or months, as long as you make progress. And yeah, it was me who warned about werewolves. There's some myth in this one country I visited about there being a half-human and half-wolf monster that can spread his condition like a disease by biting or scratching other humans. They aren't real, but there's lots of stories about them. You know, like how dragons aren't real but people like 'em anyway! And yes, from everything I've observed of you, you really are smart. But don't worry if you don't learn it fast. It took me years. It's good that you're starting way earlier than me, but it's still something you have to ease into."
At the question of ninja skills, Meimei nods again but with a slight smile. "Absolutely. Shuriken throwing practice is part of ninja teachings, as is increasing one's agility, jumping ability, being able to walk on walls…"
Risu thinks about that then giggles suddenly, "Wonder if there are were-squirrels?" She says as the thought apparently makes her burst into a rather serious case of the giggles. She smiles, "Or Were-dragons! Wouldn't that be neat? You could have wings and flap around!" She pauses, as the rest of what Yoko said sinks in, "Walk on walls? Really? Ooooh, that'd be neat. And Shurikens, that's the word, wasn't sure on that." She ponders a bit.
Risu takes a sip of her drink then says, "Yoko-san? Do you think I'll be a good ninja? Do you think I'll be able to do all the stuff I need to do? It just seems so strange… being here, learning these things… Do you think I can do it?"
Yoko hmmms. "Well, I think you can do it. Infact, I KNOW you can do it. The real question is… Do YOU? Because if you go into this with the mindset of 'I can't do it', then of course you can't! Because you won't really be trying, get it? So just think, 'I CAN do this. And I WILL do this.' And then you will! No matter how hard it might be at first, the harder you try, the better you'll do. If it was easy then it wouldn't be worth doing."
She then smiles and says, "We should finish up dinner now. Then we can do some reading, and then a little later on… I have some dessert for us both!"