full name naka riisa date of birth & age october 18, 1989 & 26 hometown tokyo, japan current residence gangnam, south korea occupation animal caretaker at seoul zoo marital status single
Riisa was only four when she lost her best friend. She and her mother were picking flowers in the garden for one of her mother's high-end clients, while her fluffy, black and white puppy weaved between their legs, barking and causing mischief. Being the young girl she was, Riisa was left with basket-holding duty while her mother snipped at roses and babies breath and pruned the hydrangeas, making sure they were kept neatly trimmed. It was a pleasant autumn evening, the sun casting a golden glow all around the three of them. It also casted a glow on the neighbor's black cat, who enjoyed messing with Riisa's pup. Wanchan was normally always well-behaved, but something about that darned cat ruffled his fur, and that evening was no exception. Except... things didn't end up the way they normally did. The black cat darted across the yard and into the street and Wanchan dashed right after. Riisa, seeing the commotion, squealed loudly like the toddler she was and quickly raced after the two, giggling and clapping, the basket of flowers long forgotten on the lawn. Mama Naka paid no mind as it was a common occurrence for her baby girl and their pet to chase after the neighbor's cat. What wasn't common were the sounds of tires screeching, high-pitched crying, and a strangled yelp followed by a soft thud. Thankfully, Riisa was only scratched up from falling to the ground in her attempt to catch Wanchan. Wanchan, on the other hand, laid in a bloody heap, his fur matted and his breathing slow until it stopped completely. The little girl crawled over to gently pick up her best friend and craddled him to her chest as she sobbed, tears and dirt mixing into his fur.
Riisa was only four when she lost her best friend. She was also only four when, after her mother finally caught up to her, screaming and yelling at the driver of the car one moment and scooping up her daughter to console her the next, she heard a soft voice calling out her name near one of the back wheels of the car, her little arms clutching the dead body of her dog. When she'd calmed down enough and blinked the tears away, her body twisted to look back at the car as her mother rushed her into the house. There, lurking just behind the back wheel, was Wanchan. I'll be okay, Riisa-chan. I promise.
Riisa was only four when she lost her best friend and then saw his spirit and heard him speak not even five minutes later.
Of course, it didn't stop there.
Even at a young age, Riisa was smart enough to know that what she saw and heard was anything but normal. The next morning, as her parents and grandfather were digging a grave for their beloved pet, the neighbor's cat jumped over the Naka's backyard fence and landed gracefully on its feet. Little Riisa was more than ready shoo the cat away, angry at it for being part of the cause of her best friend's death, until it stopped in front of her and bowed its head. I'm incredibly sorry, Ms. Riisa. Wanchan and I were friends. I'll miss him dearly. Riisa stared at the feline, eyes bugged out and rapidly darting back and forth between her parents and the cat, wondering if they'd heard the same thing. They were barely even paying attention to the two. And then that night, the birds outside her window chirped their condolences, talking about how Wanchan had been a fine dog, protecting their nests from the neighborhood squirrels. And the next day, dogs that she'd seen on nearby streets during her walks with her father stopped by to say hi. And it continued on.
But as much as she tried to hide her newfound gift, her family quickly noticed how she'd whisper to animals while they out and about, only to stop after realizing that they were listening. They treated it as though she had an imaginary friend; after all, that was commonplace for children Riisa's age. It wasn't until Riisa was nine and she and her grandfather were camping in his home country of Sweden, where she managed to coax a bear into leaving their campsite for a salmon-filled river further north, that the older Naka generations understood what was going on all along. Once back in Japan, the three sat her down and spoke to her about what they discovered, and the family vowed to keep her gift a secret.
Unfortunately, secrets were hard to keep for a growing young girl, even one that kept to herself and was as quiet as her. Try as she might, Riisa couldn't stop herself when animals approached her. In her first year of junior high, she'd befriended a transfer student from Osaka. Kaneko, her name was. Loud and infectious, Kaneko was the complete opposite of Riisa, but she somehow brought her out of her shell and they did everything together; Riisa was even with the other girl when she adopted an adult shiba inu, lovingly dubbed Daachi. Somehow, Riisa managed to keep her gift a secret from her only human friend as they grew closer and closer. However, the tipping point happened during their second year of high school. Although they maintained their friendship, Kaneko blossomed into a popular girl that other students adored while Riisa was left behind in the shadows. Riisa never minded, of course. It was when Daachi grew sickly and frail that the friendship between the two girls shattered. Riisa was with Kaneko when Daachi was put down at the vet's office, and she was also with Kaneko when the spirit of Daachi approached them later on that night, the two of them in Kaneko's bed with the other girl sleeping beside her. Please tell Kaneko-chan that I will miss her warmth and kindness, but that I'm also in a better place now. Knowing her own heartache when her best friend died when she was just a child, Riisa told Kaneko about Daachi's spirit the next morning.
Kaneko seemed appreciative to receive the message at first, but Riisa realized quickly that revealing her secret was probably the worst thing she could do. Being one of the most popular girls in school, Kaneko charmed her admirers and followers with ease. They listened to her every word and did as she commanded, and that included tormenting Riisa for being a "freak, insane, complete and utter whackjob." After all, claiming to see the ghosts of animals and being able to communicate with them was a one-way ticket to a mental hospital. They threw eggs at her, they vandalized her desk, they left dead rats and birds in her lockers, they punched and kicked and spit on her. But despite the abuse she faced, Riisa was always comforted by the animals that approached her whenever she'd come home, smiling and laughing at a cat's joke even with a black eye and a cut lip. As a child she'd longed for the companionship of other children, but could only find solace in the animals that surrounded her. Knowing they cared for her as much as she cared for them was enough to overpower the hate and anger hurled at her from her peers.
Her family was another matter. Her mother was heartbroken to see her young daughter smiling regardless of the torture she went through, while her father and grandfather were frustrated that the school did nothing to stop it. So for her last year of high school, Riisa and her family moved to a small town, hoping for a fresh start. Things were fine for the most part; Riisa was even more reclusive than she'd been before, which meant that no one bothered her. But news travelled fast and gossip travelled faster, and soon there were whispers all around them about the resident freak of the town. Riisa shut herself in completely, barely managing to finish the school year. It was on the last day of school that her world fell apart. Riisa rushed home so she could celebrate with her family, excited to finally be done with adolescent life and become an adult. But when she arrived home, instead of being met with the warm embraces of her family, all that stood before her were the charred remains of her home and three body bags being wheeled away. Arson, they said. They didn't mean to kill the Naka family; they only wanted to scare them away. The culprits were a group of boys in her grade, charged with involuntary manslaughter and up to two years of prison. Riisa didn't care. Her family was gone, so what did it matter to her what happened to the people that killed them?
After that, Riisa didn't speak to anyone. Not to her animal friends and certainly not to other human beings. It didn't help that she expected she'd see the spirits of her family, but it never happened. With a broken heart, Riisa was content with floating through life and keeping to herself. College was out of the question, so she took up odd jobs here and there, ones that required little to no interaction with other human beings, and slept in seedy hotel rooms and all-night computer cafes.
It took years for her to return to a life of normalcy, but eventually, Riisa managed to open up again, even if just the tiniest bit. She'd been accepted into a sanctuary of sorts in Kyoto that housed others like her. Requited, as they were called. They offered her a chance to train her abilities, a start at a new life. Riisa was in and out of the Kyoto facility for a few years until their Pyeongchang branch contacted them about a job opportunity at Seoul Zoo, offering it to Riisa if she agreed to continue her training with them. There was nothing left for her in Japan, so it only seemed logical that Riisa buy a one way ticket to Seoul with nothing but a tattered suitcase in tow, ready to leave her old life behind.
It was on the first night after she arrived that Riisa saw visions of her family standing at the end of her bed when she was half-asleep and in a daze. We love you so, so much, babygirl. / Forever and always. We'll be with you until the end. / Now hurry up and get back and finish your education, got it?! She chalked it up to a very delayed and much needed dream when in reality, it was anything but.
BITS AND BOBS
▶ INFP-A type.
▶with humans: quiet, reserved, polite, keeps to herself, only speaks when spoken to, rarely confrontational and will only be so if an animal is involved.
▶with animals: easily excited, always smiling, understanding, patient, kind.
▶ her mother was a florist and her father was a retired architect. he and her grandfather owned an antique shop.
▶safe havens helped her get a job at seoul zoo where she tends to the animals.
▶fluent in japanese, semi-fluent in english, conversational in and still learning korean.
▶has a permanent scar on her left shoulder blade and left hip from when bullies pushed her into a metal baker's rack in one of their classrooms.
▶ a fan of the cosmos and nature. often seen roaming the woods in the surrounding area or staring off into space on the rooftop.
▶ enjoys going out and doing things alone, whether it's eating at a restaurant, watching a movie, visiting tourist spots, or antique shopping.
▶ sleeps with a nightlight.
▶ has a habit of dozing off in public.
▶ always keeps a vase of blue jasmine flowers (her mother's favorite) on her bedside table, along with a small, framed photo of the Mona Lisa (her grandfather's favorite) on her computer desk. carries around a worn down swiss army knife her father had given her when she was still in high school.
▶ dedicated one of her bedroom walls to polaroids of animals she's befriended since she came to seoul.
ABILITIES As of right now, Riisa can mostly communicate with live animals. In the case of ones who have passed away for whatever reason, she is visited by their spirits and can communicate with them, too, although it seems to happen only once, as a means of saying good-bye to those that cared for them. She'll speak in her own tongue and they respond in theirs, whether it's barks, meows, chirps, whale calls, and so on. Some known side-effects include occasional dizziness, headaches, and lack of energy when she communicates for too long. Animal-control is out of the subject; Riisa has no plans of developing her abilities to make animals bend at her will, regardless of whether it's feasible or not. However, she has been working to see if she can be visited by animal spirits more than once, hoping that she can transition to human spirits later on to help herself and others who are grieving. In the event that both will develop, specifically communication with human spirits, she will also develop narcolepsy as a side-effect.