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Learning Curve

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It was not easy for Seigi to start adopting English. Granted, it was not entirely alien to him, but he was starting to regret not paying more attention in English class when he was younger. As an adult he had lost the neural plasticity that children had enjoyed, making it easy for them to gobble up whatever they wanted to learn.

He wondered if he was biting off more than he could chew when he jumped straight at the opportunity to have Richard tutor him in English. As he dived deeper, he found the composition, the vocabulary, the pronunciation to be challenging.

He sighed lengthily. Maybe he was just excited at the prospect of spending more time with Richard.

But Richard was a tough teacher as much as he was a particular employer. He had high standards, after all, and Seigi would not dream of disappointing him. He should have warned Richard to take it more slowly, all things considered. Richard would understand. He always did.

“You’re early today,” Richard greeted him in English when he stepped into the shop, his eyes registering a twinkle.

“Good day to you,” replied Seigi also in English, forcing a smile. “The train was empty.”

Richard nodded in approval. “Our last client of the day cancelled last minute, so we can close early.” He sauntered closer to the Japanese. “Would you object to our English session starting earlier than usual?”

This was spoken too rapidly for Seigi’s comprehension to follow, so he took some time to process the suggestion. He finally nodded in agreement.

Richard sensed a slight uneasiness from the younger man. He took a step back. “You can say no if you don’t feel up to it,” he said softly in Japanese.

Seigi shook his head frantically. “No, no, no, I appreciate your help, Richard. I’ll do my best. Thank you for being patient with me.”

Richard placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. “I’m just glad that you’re willing to learn. Mastering another language will open more opportunities in the future.”

“I’m not a bright student, unfortunately.”

“Don’t belittle yourself.” Richard gave him a grip. “We’ll go back to my place for dinner while we’re at it, does that sound good?”

Seigi blushed slightly at the plan.


They ordered Chinese takeout, and Richard drove them over to his apartment. Ever the gentleman, Richard unlocked his front door, stepping aside to let his companion enter first.

Seigi placed their food on the kitchen counter and started taking out the cutlery first.

Richard came up behind him, wrapping his arms around his waist as he watched him work. Seigi’s muscles relaxed at the physical contact, and let out a small chuckle when Richard’s nose brushed against his ear.

“I thought I’m here for your English class?” Seigi teased, waving a dumpling in front of Richard invitingly.

“We can multitask.” Richard bit into the offering. He chewed thoughtfully. “Let’s eat in the living room.”

“We might make a mess.”

“That’s quite all right. I’m surprisingly lenient whenever you’re involved.”

Seigi bit into the same dumpling. “Oh? Is that why you’re being so patient with me?”

Richard, by way of answering, plucked the dumpling and walked off.


Seigi found Richard in front of the television, channel surfing, as he tried to search for an English show. Seigi laid their food on the table and settled next to him, their thighs lining up side by side.

Seigi could not help thinking that Richard looked so ethereal even he was doing something so mundane.

“Oh, there’s one,” Seigi said between Richard’s incessant channel flips. “A documentary.”

Richard let a few moments pass. “That’s hardly useful for your daily use.”

In English, “But the tigers are cute.”

Without missing a beat, Richard replied, “You’re cuter.”

Seigi chuckled.

“I’m more of a dog person, to be honest,” Richard added.

“I’m okay with either.”

Richard smiled, engraving this to memory for future application.

The documentary ended and Richard moved on to another channel, this time an American movie. A romance drama, no less.

“I didn’t think you’d like sappy shows,” Seigi remarked.

“I don’t, not really. I find such programs as unrealistic, over-dramatic at best.” Richard stirred his stir-fry noodles with his chopsticks. “But I’m getting famished, and it won’t do if our food gets cold.”

Seigi sprinkled some spring onions on his noodles, then on Richard’s. His eyes were focused on the subtitles on screen as his ears trained on the characters’ conversation.

Halfway through the show, Seigi had ignored all the sap. And before he realised it, he was echoing the characters’ script.

Including the lovey dovey confessions between the main leads...

“I have always loved you, from the first time we met.”

“You’re beautiful, even now.”

...Down to their tearful admission.

“I would never hurt you.”

“I’d rather die than see you crying.”

The moment Richard recognised an incoming foreplay scene he grabbed the remote and switched to another channel, bringing an abrupt end to Seigi’s informal session. The meteorologist droned on about the weather forecast, oblivious to the two particular viewers at home.

Seigi blinked, unaware of the blush that was creeping up his cheeks.

“Your food is untouched,” Richard commented. “Were you too engrossed by the movie?”

“No, not really.” Seigi laughed nervously. “I was paying attention to their wordings. American English is different than your British English, I just realised that.”

”They have different spellings too.”

”Ah, I have much to learn.”

“It appears I need to add more variation to my teaching methods. Do you find this way of learning helpful, Seigi?”


“By the way, you really are a cruel man, Seigi,” Richard murmured. “Saying all those things with a straight face while I’m sitting right here…”

They stared at each other, Richard almost pouting while Seigi in mild horror. Of course Richard was teasing him, Seigi knew as much. But perhaps he himself was being too open than usual. Before he could defend himself, Richard had pounced on him, making Seigi fall backwards on the sofa, arrested by the Englishman’s crystal blue eyes staring down at him.

Seigi was effectively cornered by Richard, the latter propped up by his outstretched arms on Seigi’s either side.

“I’m...sorry?” Seigi whispered. He did not think he did anything wrong though.

“Shall I ask you to repeat those godforsaken cheesy lines?” Richard asked. “But this time around, meant to be addressed to me as the sole rightful recipient?”

Seigi laughed. “You know I was thinking of you during the movie.”


“My pronunciation still needs more work though. My tongue is too stiff, too...Japanese as it is.”

Richard broke into a mischievous smirk. “Shall I loosen your tongue for you?”

By now Seigi was adept at recognising Richard’s indirect cues. “Will it really work, Sensei?” He faked ignorance.

“We won’t know until we try.”

Seigi chortled at Richard’s mock serious tone, and part of Richard was reluctant to prematurely end Seigi’s laughter when Richard claimed his tongue and lips with his own.