Tsubaki and Anon (Pt. 2)

By quattrobajeena

The next day went the same as the day before, my morning routine consisting of hitting the snooze button at 6:30, laying in bed till 6:50, and finally getting out of bed at 6:55. Work was the same as had been the day before and the day before that. Set up the jobs for the road crews, complain when the road crews cannibalized pre-arranged orders because the truck crews were dumb as dirt, repair and clean anything that came back. The walk back was uneventful as the day before, just a bit sunnier than yesterday. As I got back to the apartment, I passed by the landing to the second floor and continued up towards the third. The third floor apartment belonged to the landlord Lahlah.

"Hey Lahlah." I said, knocking on the door. "Tsubaki said something about how your computer is dying on you?"

From somewhere on the other side of the door I heard footsteps. Faint at first, but growing louder as they got closer. Seconds passed before I heard the slide of a bolt and the click of a lock before the door opened, a wizened old orcess with a slight hunch and brownish-red skin appearing behind it.

"Oh thank you Anon." The old orcess' voice crackled. "Bless Tsubaki for carrying my message to you, she's such a sweet girl she is."

Lahlah motioned me inside, leading me to the spare bedroom that had been converted to a home office.

"It keeps freezing up on me and giving me an awful blue screen after running for a bit." She said pointing at the old yellowing computer sitting on the office desk pushed against the wall with the only window in the room

"I'll take a look." I said booting the computer.

As I was left to my own devices and as the computer ran through it's boot process, I had a look around the room. Unlike my apartment, Lahlah's was different than mine by miles. The interior was like someone had built a log cabin on top of a two story building and built a staircase up to the front door. The interior walls were made of actual log sections that criss-crossed and interlocked with one another. The entire 3rd floor had been, according to Lahlah, rebuilt by her late husband to look like the cabin they had once owned. Even with the interesting interior design choice, the room itself was no different than any other home office. Filing cabinets with labels, the computer and even an old cork board with various notes and notices pinned to it.

"Alright, here we go." I said to myself as the old windows login prompt popped up on the screen.

"Have you figured out what's wrong?" Lahlah asked, coming in to check.

"Not yet, gonna let it run for a few and see if it's a hardware problem."

Lahlah stood over me, looking at the monitor. "So what are you looking for?"

"Anything really." I say craning my neck back to look at the hulking mamono standing behind me. "Does the computer DO anything before the blue screen comes up?"

"Yes, the computer gets very loud and noisy before it shuts off."

As if on cue the fans on the computer started to spin up louder and louder.

"I think I know the problem." I said holding the computer's power button.

A reveal of the computer after it had powered down and been unplugged had confirmed my suspicion. A lack of cleaning, dust bunnies having clogged the fans on the tower and motherboard. The machine had literally been running too hot and killing itself to prevent damage.

"Can you spare an entire roll of Paper towels Lahlah?" I asked setting the tower on its side. "Plus a bowl of warm water, and maybe a bag to throw all the waste in?"

Lahlah left and came back with what I asked for, a bowl of warm water, a roll of paper towels and the trash bin from her bathroom.

"Did you figure out what's wrong?" Lahlah asked, handing me the roll of paper towels.

"Yeah." I said, "When was the last time you actually cleaned this out?"

"I'm sorry dearie. I barely understand how these machines work. Phillip never told me it was supposed to be cleaned."

"That's fine," I said, dipping a paper towel into the bowl. "Just gotta remember that these things need to breathe to keep the components from overheating. Your computer is literally shutting itself off to keep from dying of heat stroke."

I wasn't sure how much time had passed by the time I had finished, the only indicator it was done was the pile of dirty wet paper towels sitting in the trash bin, a grody looking bowl of water and a computer with significantly less dust and dirt in it than it had started with.

I closed the case of the tower. "There we go," I said. "Now... just to see if it runs."

I reconnected the tower, powering it on and waiting for issues to appear. When nothing happened and the fan screaming didn't happen I powered it right back down

"If you can, Lahlah." I said standing back up holding the collected trash. "Find a can of compressed air. they're made to just dust machines."

"Thank you dearie." Lahlah said. "You and Tsubaki have been so helpful."

My brow furrowed. "Wait, Tsubaki has been helping you?" I asked.

"Why yes dearie, she's been helping me with some of my financial record keeping you know."

"When did this start?" I asked, our conversation continuing as Lahlah led me to the kitchen.

Lahlah took the bag of dirty paper towels from me. "Oh about a week ago." She said, tossing the bag into the trash. "It's been a godsend, these old eyes aren't fit for reading that tiny print, let alone picking out a squirrel in a bush."

The kitchen was like the rest of the house, a transplanted section of log cabin. The modern looking appliances standing in contrast to the cabin's rustic feel. On the stove sat two cast iron pots.

"Here you go sweetie." Lahlah said as she handed me the smaller of the two pots. "It's Stewed thorn beast." She said, "Consider it a thanks for your help."

I thanked Lahlah, "This should save me from cooking tonight," I said, making sure to grab the pot holders so as to not burn myself on the still hot pot.

"You and Tsubaki are so kind to this old orcess." Lahlah cackled. "Such a cute young couple you two make."

"I...uhh...Tsubaki and I aren't a couple." I said, not wanting to make eye contact.

Lahlah just gave me a soft smile. "You two fooled this old orc then." She said, "The way you've been helping one another reminds me of Philip and myself when we were younger."

"Uh-huh." I nodded, doing my best to keep polite. "I'll return the pot when we're done."

Lahlah showed me the door, bidding good night. I swear she must have watched me go down the stairs as I didn't hear her door close till I was around the small bend in the staircase.

"I'm home Tsu." I said, kicking the door shut behind me. "Lahlah gave us Thornbeast stew, so that's dinner tonight."

No response.

"Tsubaki?" I asked, setting the stew on the counter.

Still no response, but there was a noise coming from the other side of the apartment.

Tapping, something was tapping on something and very quick.

The sound hadn't registered with me as I had called out for Tsubaki, but now that I had stopped I could hear it. Short and quick clicking, faint but was definitely happening.

"Oh." I said, realization hitting me. "Computer."

Through the small little view port of the wall separating the dining room from my makeshift bedroom I could see Tsubaki glued to the computer, the sight sparked an idea in my head.

I crept into the room till I stood directly behind her. "Hey Tsu." I said suddenly.

"OH FU..." Was all a startled Tsubaki could get out as she jumped out of the chair and disappeared in a puff of white magic smoke, reappearing seconds later now sporting her big fluffy tail.

"Anon!" Tsubaki said, still in surprise. "I didn't hear you."

"Sorry." I laughed. "Didn't you hear me come in?"

"No. I've been taking notes on some things." She said sitting back down, her massive fluffy tail draping over one side of the chair seat.

"We're still 2 days out from being able to actually trade so I've been making notes on current trends with stock options as well as possible buy-ins on some start-ups."

"Uh-huh" was all I could muster as I felt my eyes glazing over from Tsubaki's jargon filled explanation.

"So you were just looking at stocks?" I replied dumb founded.

Tsubaki tilted her head back to look at me. "It's a bit more than that Anon." She said, pointing to a notebook on the desk and spreadsheet that sat on the 2nd computer monitor.

"I'm looking at after hour exchanges and..."

"Tsubaki, you should take a break." I said with a concerned look forming on my face.

Tsubaki looked at her work, then back at me. "You're right." She nodded. "I'm getting too wrapped up in my work again."

"Come on," I said, leading her to the dining room. "Like I said it's Thornbeast stew tonight."

Tsubaki and I each made a bowl for ourselves before sitting down at the table to eat. The meal itself was good, big soft chunks of Thornbeast meat sat in the dark reddish-brown liquid, carrots and potatoes hiding under its surface.

"I'll have to thank Lahlah for this." Tsubaki said in between mouthfuls. "mmm...thish ish amazing."

"Yeah." I nodded. "This is pretty good."

Dinner went quick. The two of us scarfing down the meal, Tsubaki going back for seconds and even drinking the broth. Cleanup was quick, stowing away what little was left over in containers and washing out the pot with Tsubaki offering to bring it back to Lahlah in the morning. The rest of the evening was the normal wind down, with me taking over the computer to play games and Tsubaki browsing the TV channels. Neither of us bothered the other as we unwound, both of us sinking into our distractions till it was time for bed.

The TV behind me grew softer. "Good night Anon." Tsubaki said, placing the remote on the computer desk. "I'm going to bed."

"Night." I replied, taking it as a cue that I should turn in myself.

"Anon," said Tsubaki, who was now in the bedroom door frame. "Thank you for giving me a chance."

"No problem." I said with a small smile. "Night Tsubaki."

"Night Anon."

Before she had closed the bedroom door, and as she stood in the door. I could have sworn I had seen Tsubaki's massive tail Twitch and flick sporadically behind her as she thanked me. As I laid down and got comfy that image held in my head, mixing with Lahlah's words.

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gonna be a yikes for me, fagtron.