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The Schwa Effect 2


Shanghai felt his stomach drop as the airplane descended. He gripped the armrests tightly and closed his eyes. Even though he'd been on dozens of planes, he still hated the change in pressure that he was feeling.

"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Ottawa International Airport. Local time is one in the afternoon and the temperature is seven below zero, or nineteen degrees Fahrenheit. Please remain seated until the captain turns off the Fasten Seat Belt sign. If you require..." The monotonous drone of the flight attendant's voice went on, but Shanghai had stopped listening a long time ago.

Beijing peered out the window. "Looks nice."

It did not, in fact, look nice to Shanghai. The sky was blanketed with a linty grey, and there was no sign of the sun anywhere. The grey buildings only added to the gloomy disposition of the city.

"I thought North America was sunny," he muttered. He already had to deal with pollution and smoggy skies. It felt like fifty years since he had last seen the sun.

Beijing shrugged. "At least it's slightly sunnier than my place."

That was true. Beijing's skies were getting darker and murkier because of air pollution. They were worse than Shanghai's skies. To him, this was probably as close to a clear sky as he could get.

Shanghai sighed and started gathering his stuff. "So why are we here again?"

"To mooch pancakes off of Canada."

Shanghai stopped.

"What?"

"To...mooch pancakes off of Canada."

"B-but you told-you said, the Schwa Effect-?"

"Oh, that was just to make you go along with it. It was to make it seem, you know, scholarly."

There was a long pause.

"So...we're only here to mooch pancakes off of Canada."

"And to flirt with B.C."

"You-B.C.? What?"

"B.C. British Columbia. You know, the cute girl that likes gardening?"

"I know-of course I know British Columbia-I'm not an idiot! What-"

"Sirs?"

The flight attendant was standing at their row, smiling patiently. "If you would care to leave the plane...?"

Shanghai glanced around. The plane was completely empty, other than Shanghai, Beijing and the flight attendant.

"Yes, yes, of course, thank you..." Shanghai hurriedly gathered his stuff as he glared pointedly at his brother to do the same. They scuttled out into the aisle and made their way out of the airplane, nodding to the other flight attendant standing at the exit.

The two provinces walked briskly along the terminal, Beijing calmly and Shanghai seething with a mixture of fury and confusion and maybe a bit of fear.

Had Beijing finally cracked after his three-thousand years of history? But there had been nothing to trigger such a breakdown. Maybe one of Russia's provinces had been giving him too much vodka? Maybe the vodka was laced with drugs! Maybe there was a secret conspiracy among Russia's provinces to make their way and take over China, starting with Beijing by making him insane. Shanghai's eyes widened comically and he started to hyperventilate.

Somehow, they'd gotten past all of the security checks and paperwork things without Shanghai noticing. They were at the place to hail taxis to their destination. Beijing was nonchalantly getting into a rounded yellow cab.

"What-?" The saner province decided to ask questions later and got into the taxi, hauling his heavy backpack onto his lap with a grunt. His brother was in the front seat chatting with the driver, a balding, wispy man wearing terribly outdated clothes with a rainbow tattooed on his left arm.

"So how long have you lived in Ottawa?" Beijing asked, his accent rounding his words slightly. Shanghai tried to appreciate to the classical music that was playing on his iPod but it was extremely difficult to focus with the other two talking so loud and the loud, sloppy heavy metal blasting from the radio. Shanghai was not a fan of rock.

"Oh, thirty years, maybe. I was born in Newfoundland and Labrador and I moved here when I married Andrina. That is, my wife. We have a lovely house..." The driver's voice droned on, talking about irrelevant and boring things. Shanghai closed his eyes and turned the Chopin up, trying to drown out all other noises.

"Holy iguana-eating taco!"

Shanghai's eyes flew open at this, just in time to see a flying snake soar across the sky. It was burning and writhing about as it sailed away into the nearby trees.

He was officially done.


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