Tomorrow's Doom ~ Up: 04/02/14 ~ Reactivated

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Tomorrow's Doom ~ Up: 04/02/14 ~ Reactivated

Postby Helbereth » Tue Jul 03, 2012 7:50 am

Updates:
April 02, 2014: Story Reactivated
April 01, 2014: Story Abandoned
February 27, 2014:
    - Split the final chapter from act 4 (Departure) into two chapters. Nothing changed in the writing, but the first chapter of the two is now "A Cure For Insomnia", while the second half retains the title "Departure". This resulted in my changing all the following chapter numbers, such that "Sojourn" is now chapter 45. This change is also reflected on Fan-Fiction.net.
    - Pulled the trigger on restructuring the acts, so there are now 4 instead of 5 - act 1 and 2 are now combined.
    - Each act now has a brief foreword, two paragraphs in length.
February 21, 2014 - posted updated versions of chapter 4 and 5 (now 5, 6 and 7) on FanFiction.net**.
February 21, 2014 - Chapter 44 posted
January 29, 2014 - added all 43 chapters to FanFiction.net.
January 28, 2014 - Chapter 43 Posted
November 06, 2013 - Chapter 42 Posted
April 1, 2013 - "Monday For Won" gag-ending posted (April Fools).
October 12, 2012 - Added the "Little Swimmer" One-shot story.
October 6, 2012 - Moved Chapter 1 off the OP.
July 3, 2012 - Original Chapter 1 posted.

**Chapter 1-5 as posted here now exist as 7 chapters on FanFiction.net. There's a bit more detail included, along with some things I wanted to include but decided against because I hadn't completely committed to the peripheral characters yet.

One-Shot tales:
Little Swimmer
Exploring a memory from Aiko's past through her father's eyes.
Monday For Won
It's April first, fuckers... figure it out!

Tomorrow's Doom
Rather face down FanFiction.net? You can find it all uninterrupted there.
Prefer perusing pastebin? You can find it all (among other things) there.
Author Notes (removed, will be added again later)
Character Biographies (also removed (why do I keep this link here?))

My cover art.
Image
It's over a year old (as of Feb 2014), so if anyone feels like making something better, please feel free.

Act 1 - Resonance
Chapter 1 - Curiosity
Introduction to Aiko, her friends, and the mysterious new guy.
Chapter 2 - In Your Dreams
A day filled with bad dreams and real nightmares.
Chapter 3 - Flash Of Brilliance
A city trip and some deep conversation.
Chapter 4 - Subterfuge
The Festival begins--and the game's afoot.
Chapter 5 - Near-Miss
Or, How I Learned To Stop Stuttering And Fall On Someone.
Chapter 6 - Reciprocity
Time to live, time to cry, time to dish, time to fight over the new guy.
Chapter 7 - Rainy Daze
A rainy afternoon brings clarity.
Chapter 8 - Rhythmic Breathing
It's a swimming term, not an innuendo.
Chapter 9 - Tactical Studies
A set up, and a take-down, but who's counting?
Chapter 10 - Making Waves
No fate but what we make for ourselves.
Chapter 11 - Soliloquy
Preparation, predication, and perspiration.
Chapter 12 - Morning Tribulations
Sometimes the past catches up with you.
Chapter 13 - Our Long-Expected Date
It will be a party of special magnificence!

Act 2 - Dissonance
Chapter 14 - Yesterday's Pain
Life sometimes gives you onions instead of lemons, and asks for bacon.
Chapter 15 - Nightmares
It's what's inside that makes us fear, and what we reveal that makes us true.
Chapter 16 - The Maudlin Zone
Sometimes having friends sucks.
Chapter 17 - In Synch
It's not another shed joke, honest!
Chapter 18 - Out of the Loop
When everyone else knows your plans except you.
Chapter 19 - Blindfolded
It'll be fun, honest.
Chapter 20 - Sunny Haze
An afternoon to reflect.
Chapter 21 - Swooners and Crooners
War without consequences would just be a game.
Chapter 22 - Unruly Slaves
Do what you're told, or expect to be flogged.
Chapter 23 - Nocturnum Vinosum
Latin for "Let's get drunk because... reasons."
Chapter 24 - Shenanigans
The problem with having a hangover is your sober friends.
Chapter 25 - Ups and Downs
No, that's not a bed joke, how many times do I have to tell you?
Chapter 26 - Fireworks
Again, not a sexual innuendo--you people are killing me.

Act 3 - Melody
Chapter 27 - A July Hisao
As opposed to A June Hisao... get it?
Chapter 28 - Secrets
They permeate your being, and make you say things you wouldn't.
Chapter 29 - Transparency
Everyone needs a good stiff slap across the face once in a while.
Chapter 30 - Mummer's Dance
Beware of handsome suitors and their friends.
Chapter 31 - Best Laid Plans (EXPLICIT!)
Well, this had to happen eventually.
Chapter 32 - Endorphins
Feeling this good should be criminal.
Chapter 33 - Misconceptions
This is what happens when you assume.
Chapter 34 - Mom's the Word
She's seen you act real stupid, she knows when you just lied, she knows your friends are bad or good, so respect her authori-tai!
Chapter 35 - That's Amore (EXPLICIT!)
When the moon hits your eye, and... I'm just not going to repeat those lyrics.
Chapter 36 - Morning Delight (adult themes and situations)
There always has to be a morning after...
Chapter 37 - For Better or Worse
Sometimes the most obvious thing is the hardest to see.
Chapter 38 - A Cure For Insomnia
We all need one sometimes.
Chapter 39 - Departure
Abstinence... er... absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?

Act 4 - Cadence
Chapter 40 - The Loneliest Number
The party size shrinks as the anxiety grows.
Chapter 41 - Summer Lull
It's hot and we're bored, but there's intrigue afoot.
Chapter 42 - Phone Tag
Technology is sometimes a cruel mistress.
Chapter 43 - Unexpected Layover
Guess who's coming to dinner!
Chapter 44 - Mental Block
Once the memory goes, forget it.
Chapter 45 - Sojourn
Town Cars, Bullet Trains and Range Rovers, oh my!
Last edited by Helbereth on Wed Apr 02, 2014 12:48 am, edited 166 times in total.
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Aiko Kurai (OC)

Postby Mirage_GSM » Tue Jul 03, 2012 9:08 am

Nice start. Only a few typos, but you misspelled Mutou twice.
A few other things:
Hisao wouldn't wear sweaterwests to classes. Yamaku has uniforms for that. So Emi wouldn't have seen him in one at that point either.
Heterochromia is okay, but does she really need another disability in addition to her partial deafness? Two disabilities that have nothing to do with each other are extremely uncommon... Like two bombs on the same plane or first cousins being blind and deaf respectively... Uh... Whatever...
There was something else I wanted to mention, but I forgot...
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.

Sore wa himitsu desu.
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Aiko Kurai (OC)

Postby Catgirl Kleptocracy » Tue Jul 03, 2012 9:52 am

Looks like a great start. I didn't see any problems with consistency of tense. You looked clear there.

Usually I'd agree about two disabilities being unlikely, but as the deaf in one ear deal is an injury related disability, and the other disability - as of yet unmentioned - sounds like it's going to be genetic, I don't see an issue in this case. I have two friends who are deaf in one ear, and neither were born with it (one through meningitis, the other through NIHL from his time in the military). It happens, and while it isn't exactly common, it's not ultra-rare, and I can believe that a person with another disability can acquire partial deafness or complete hearing loss in one ear. If she was born with both disabilities then it would be another story, but if the methods of acquiring the disabilities are different (injury v. genetic), then I don't think a lack of relation kills it. The heterochromia on top of it is actually what has me questioning the odds a bit more, but I guess if there are odds to be had, it's possible (unless the heterochromia is related to the unmentioned disorder, in which case the odds would have to be higher).

Speaking of her eyes, the one thing I found a little lacking here was Aiko's physical description. We're given her heterochromia, that she wears glasses, and that her toenails are painted (loved that detail, by the way), and her white stripe (is it a stripe of white hair, or an earpatch? I'm assuming hair), but I'm not getting much of a picture of what she looks like. Since she's an OC, we don't have a source material to fall back on. She mentions her hair a few times, but I didn't catch length, style, or even color (other than the white stripe, if that was hair), or moving off of hair, her height and build. Same with Amaya. I know you can get good physical descriptions out - the one of Hisao's emaciation was excellent.

This was a great first chapter, though. I love how it's an OC story that follows the game and has Hisao as the love interest, but from the perspective of the woman. Looking forward to seeing how more of this turns out.

EDIT: Meant to mention this the first time I wrote it out - so far you're doing a very good job with relating the deafness in one ear. There were a few lines I was thinking, "Yeah, that's familiar."
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Aiko Kurai (OC)

Postby semy32 » Tue Jul 03, 2012 10:12 am

Yep. Very nice job, enjoyed every bit.

Mirage_GSM wrote:Nice start.
Heterochromia is okay, but does she really need another disability in addition to her partial deafness? Two disabilities that have nothing to do with each other are extremely uncommon... Like two bombs on the same plane or first cousins being blind and deaf respectively... Uh... Whatever...


Well, the partial deafness was caused by an accident if I understood correctly.

And since heterochromia doesn't cause reduced vision/anything else it's okay from my point.
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Chapter 1 - Curiosity

Postby Helbereth » Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:07 pm

Moved the first chapter down to this post 10/06/12.

Title Post|Next Chapter
_______________________________________________
Act 1 - Resonance

When plucked, the strings of one instrument can effect not only the harmony, but the overall synchronicity of a musical ensemble. Each time a chord is played, a voice is raised, or a note is struck, it effects the disposition of the surrounding instruments, altering the pitch for good or ill. The reaction is often minute, and as one sits in the audience they may not even hear the difference. However, for the players it is a whole different kind of experience, for they sit at the epicenter and the resonance is all around them.

In life, the orchestra is all around you, and any time another living body – or even an inanimate one – interacts with, or is acted upon by you, that meeting resonates with all those nearby. That resonance can sweep across the globe, the galaxy, or even the universe itself, and forever change fate. Be mindful of the world around you and keep a close eye on things happening in your vicinity, for one never knows when such a pivotal event is about to happen, nor can they know what effect it will have



Chapter 1 - Curiosity

The Yamaku Festival looms; I can't help but feel dread at the thought. Lying in bed is my only refuge for now. In a few short minutes, I'll have to get up, get dressed, and put on a smile as I'm bombarded with questions about -well- festival stuff. Being my class' representative may have been a bad idea; I regret it, but I also enjoy it. The idea that I have the final say on what we do with our booth is empowering – if a little empty.

Sighing, I lift my head off the pillow, but not to get up; I'm not nearly awake enough to be standing up yet. Instead, I look down at my feet sticking out of the covers and smile. Painting my toes late last night on a whim was probably not my best idea, but they look to have dried right. One less thing to worry about for the festival. Of course, I had some extra time considering that I couldn't fall asleep. Still three days out from the festival and I'm already worked up. Insomnia on top of extra work and late nights? Murphy's Law in practice. It might just be bitter irony, though.

Maybe I'll resign after this. I could use the rest.

Amaya wouldn't let me, though. After all I put her through helping me get the position, she has just as much stake in my continued representation as myself. Lying back, I try closing my eyes even though it's futile. My alarm will start going off in less than a minute, I'm sure. Still, as the morning light filters in through the curtains, I can't help but feel a little excited. As hectic as this week has been -will be- I'm ready for the challenge. As I'm planning to become a CPA, all this grunt work juggling budgets and dealing with my subordinates clerical errors will probably be good practice.

Just as I thought, the alarm starts playing a jarring pop song I don't recognize; nor do I want to recognize. It's officially time for me to get out of bed and start another day of boring classes and paper work. Having already been awake for the last half hour, I'm already alert enough to leap out of bed and grab my glasses from the dresser. Sitting down on my desk chair to check myself over in the mirror, I grin at the narrow, white stripe running from my temple and down to the tip of my wavy hair.

Mom yelled at me initially, saying it was unbecoming of a lady, but when I explained my logical reason, she calmed down. Being deaf in one ear, I can still hear pretty well -clearly, even- from the other side. However, when people try talking to me on my left side, I barely hear them most of the time. The stripe helps them realize why I'm ignoring them, and I don't get tapped on the shoulder quite so often.

Or have my hair pulled, or other more rude gestures.

Running a brush through my hair to get some of the tangles out, I grab my uniform and head out of my little room toward the showers. Having not gotten enough sleep last night, what with the insomnia and waking before the alarm, one might think I'd be fatigued, but I'm used to getting little sleep. Though, I'm not sure if I should be proud of that or not.

The girls dorm is usually pretty empty this early, so I'm not surprised when nobody's out in the halls. Of course, not everyone sleeps late. As I get closer to the corner leading to the showers, I hear the distinctive bouncy squeak from Emi's running spikes. Deciding to be cautious, I call ahead of me, “Morning Emi, enjoy the run?”

The bouncing slows a bit and, a few seconds later, the perky little double-amputee comes around the corner beaming a smile that could stop traffic. “Heya Aiko, gettin' an early start?” She's dressed in her track uniform as expected, girly twin-tails bouncing over her youthful features.

Nodding, I notice she looks particularly happy about something. “You seem happier than normal,” I comment, smiling faintly.

She blushes and giggles airily. “Really?” she inquires, placing a finger on her chin. Bouncing in place on her prosthetic running spikes, she shrugs and explains, “I had a good morning, I guess.”

Realizing there's something she's not telling me, but figuring she'd avoid the question, I decide to let the subject drop. Moving to walk around her, I smile cordially, but she catches my arm as I pass by and leans in, cupping her hand over my ear like a schoolgirl with a secret. “The new guy's gonna be running with me,” she whispers, smiling wistfully.

New guy? I don't remember there being any new guy in school.

The giggle she lets out as she releases her grip and leans back to continue her bouncing sounds innocent and devious at the same time. Not knowing Emi particularly well, even though we run into each other in the girl's dorm on most mornings, I don't know what to make of her giddiness. We haven't said much more than “Good Morning” to each other in the past two years; barring a few late-night conversations in the common room. Why she's deciding to open up and tell me about some boy she's crushing on is confusing at the very least.

Choosing not to go down that line of questioning -we barely know each other- I choose to ask, “new guy?”

She leans against the wall with her arms folded behind her and nods. “Hisao Nakai. He started Monday. Tall, skinny, kinda grumpy-looking,” she describes.

Unfortunately, I'm at a loss. “I haven't seen him, I guess,” I reply with a shrug.

“He's in 3-3, with Mutou,” she states.

Blinking at the new information, I still don't know who she's talking about. “Well I'm in 3-1, so no wonder,” looking away as I talk, I glance toward the bathroom, but this conversation isn't over for Emi.

“I kinda... bumped into him yesterday...” she says tentatively. Looking away to hide her guilty expression, she adds “he wasn't mad, but I got reamed by Deaf-charge.”

Hearing that nickname makes me grin. Our Class President, Shizune Hakamichi, is well-known for being a bit overbearing and zealous. Some of the students had given her that nickname, but it was never used in earshot – not that she'd hear it used. I actually disagree with the nickname, thinking it unfair, but decide not to say anything about that to Emi. “Well you were probably running in the halls again if you hit him hard enough to draw her ire,” I say, surprising myself.

Ire? Did I just say that? I should stop sitting near the literature club. Too bad they're my best friends.

Emi frowns and starts swinging her arms, staring at me with puppy-dog eyes. “Yeah, well. He forgave me,” she smiles brightly and stops waving. Instead, she makes playful fists in front of her face, grinning wickedly, “Nurse told me to keep an eye on him, too.”

That catches my attention, “Why? Is he an invalid or something?”

Emi just smiles and starts bouncing on her spikes again. “No, but he's new and kinda grumpy about it, so he wanted me to try and help get his spirits up. He suggested running,” she explains.

Or you suggested running.

Aside from where the idea may have come from, everything about that made sense, so I just nod sagely and start toward the showers. Looking back, I see Emi headed down the hall again, though much more slowly - dreamily, maybe. I consider saying something else, but Emi's too far away to really hear me, and I don't know what I'd say.

Later today I have to visit room 3-3 to coordinate with Shizune, so maybe I'll see this new guy for myself. If he's got Emi flustered, he might not be bad on the eyes – or he might be barely five feet tall. Maybe he's missing his legs like her, or he lost his arms in a train accident like that art chick, Rin, in 3-4. Well, okay, she was born without arms, but he would have been sent here sooner if he had lost his arms that early in life.

Why am I so curious?

Pushing through the door, I quickly get the water running and leap under the cold stream. It has the desired effect of both revitalizing me and pushing the inner monologue away. I have more important things to be concerned about than some new boy in school.

Meeting Amaya down in the common room, we start walking across campus to the main building. She looks a little out of it, leaning forward with her hands wrapped around the straps of her backpack, a forlorn expression on her round face. “You're quiet this-morning,” I say, trying not to yawn.

She looks at me sleepily and shrugs, “couldn't sleep.”

“Ah. Me neither,” I mention. Grinning, I continue, “got my toes painted, though.” I lift my feet as though she could magically see through my shoes.

“I was gonna do that!” she balks, but, with eyes half-closed, her frustration seems much less sincere.

“Well I had to do something to try and wear myself down so I could get some sleep,” I explain, offering a sincere shrug. Looking up at me, she shrugs and lets out a yawn.

The conversation ends at that. Neither of us has the energy to bother with something so frivolous. The walk through the school is equally quiet. Most of the students, and the teachers, are shuffling through the halls like zombies. Festival week has this effect every year.

Walking into the classroom, I take my seat by the window and Amaya sits behind me, practically falling into her chair and immediately dropping her head on the desk. The cold shower seems to have a lasting effect as I'm much more alert when Ito-sensei makes his grand entrance.

Ito flops his briefcase down on his desk and draws a towel across his sweaty brow, heaving a frustrated sigh. We don't expect him to be jovial or even friendly, but the look on his face today is somewhere between angry and constipated – maybe both. He casts a disapproving gaze across the room and I reflexively bump the desk behind me with my elbow, trying to save Amaya from being caught with her head down; hearing her shuffle just in time.

Frowning, Ito starts digging into the briefcase. Drawing out a stack of papers, yesterday's pop-quiz, he starts passing them around the room in silence. His cheap suit doesn't do a very good job hiding his ever-expanding gut, and I swear I can see the seams stretching as he walks between the desks. When he hands my quiz back, I catch the hint of a smile, but he forces it away to keep up appearances. He smells like he left without a shower this-morning.

“You're all going to have to work harder if you expect to pass the real thing,” he says flatly as he makes his way back to his desk, huffing and puffing. Looking like he might keel over, he leans against the desk and crosses his arms to wait while we flip through our tests. Hearing Amaya quietly cursing behind me, I wonder if she'll finally take me up on the offer to study with her some nights.

The test on my desk is decidedly better off than the rest of the class. Math is my best subject, though, so I'm not really surprised. I had missed a few answers, so I knew I still had room to improve, but the amount of red marking I can see on my classmates papers is staggering. Calculus is something people either understand or don't. Apparently I do. Hearing Amaya groan behind me, I can't help but grin.

Amaya's pleading tone comes in a whisper, “you have to help me with this stuff.”

Leaning back, I whisper, “all you had to do was ask.”

A few minutes pass as Ito waits for everyone to start looking his way. Once most of the class has turned back toward him, he offers some consolation, “I know you can all learn this material, I have faith.” Standing, he steps over to the board, his suit-coat wrinkled and matted to his backside, and starts writing out equations.

The rest of the class consists of lecturing and more equations. Ito is a bit of a mess, but he genuinely wants his students to understand the material, or at least retain enough to pass the necessary tests. He usually avoids calling me to the board because he doesn't want to hold anyone on a pedestal, and he knows I already understand the material. Taking that advantage, I let my mind wander. Strangely, I find myself thinking about Emi's new boy-toy.

It's a curious thing for someone to start at Yamaku as a third-year, and already a few months into the school year. Whatever sent him here, it probably happened recently. Trying to recall newspaper articles or TV news stories I've seen recently, I wonder if he might have been in a car wreck, a building collapse, or a fire. Though, it could have been in a totally different part of Japan.

Perhaps he lost a hand like the new girl, Miura, or he was diagnosed with some life-threatening disease, or maybe he just developed mutant powers. My mind whirls with possibilities as I consider how this new guy, Hisao Nakai -what kind of name is that, anyway?- found himself here at Yamaku Academy.

That could happen, right?

Ito continues to carefully relate the material, while I carefully consider just how far my curiosity goes. Far enough, it seems, that my wandering eyes have turned me away from the front of the class.

“Kurai. Can you come help Miss Yamada solve this equation?” Ito's asks, breaking me out of my reverie.

Spurned by my inattentiveness, I leap out of my chair faster than I should. Wobbling a little with a slight dizzy spell, I make my way toward the board, trying to maintain my balance and read the equation, and ignoring a few murmuring laughs from the back row. In front of the board, shuffling on her feet and holding the chalk out to me like a gift, Naoko watches me with a sheepish grin. [Thanks,] I sign to her as I approach.

Sidling out of the way, Naoko continues shuffling back and forth and bearing that sheepish grin. Sixteen pairs of eyes seem to be burning a hole in the back of my blouse as I lift the chalk and scrawl the answer in place. Glancing at Ito, I offer a nod and then hand the chalk back to Naoko.

Leaning to the side, Ito checks my answer and then nods. “Thank you, Miss Kurai," he says with a half-smile, "Miss Yamada, you may both sit back down.”

Naoko offers a slight bow and I smile in response. As we both head for our respective desks, I can't help but feel a little like the teacher's pet. My classmates eyes are still on the board, though, so they don't seem to be having that same thought. Except Jun, who's watching me intently with a disdainful expression as I take my seat.

No big surprise, there.

As I sit back down, I remember I need to see Shizune about the financial reports. I could even get two birds with one stone if Nakai is still there. If he were horribly burned, lost any limbs or something obvious, it would quickly sate my curiosity and I could stop being so distracted. Then again, if it's something less obvious, I might be making myself even more distracted by finding out.

Amaya pokes my shoulder and whispers, “where's your head at, Aiko? Ito had to call you twice.”

Twice? Was I that lost in thought?

I resist turning to answer, instead waving over my shoulder as if to say, “don't bother.”

She seems to accept the answer. Knowing I already have a lot on my mind with the festival preparations, she probably figures it's just that; It wouldn't really be far off, either. This business about the new guy is just a curiosity. A distraction I need to deal with so I can focus on the preparations for Sunday. Shizune will have me in a noose if I don't get those reports finished.

I might need help, though.

Glancing over my shoulder, I peek at Amaya and ponder whether I should ask her. With her eyes locked on the board, she furiously writes down the equations Ito keeps writing and erasing. They're all the same ones that were on the test, I realize, but Amaya doesn't seem to see the similarities. Watching her being studious is a bit rare, and she looks like she's actually starting to understand, so I'd feel bad asking her to help. Looking to her right, I consider asking Tadao for help, but he's supposed to be working on constructing our class' booth later.

Maybe I can ask Shizune for help? 

Worst case scenario, I get a mouthful from Misha courtesy of her puppeteer about setting time aside before the deadline looms; though I can conveniently turn and avoid the brunt of Misha's audio assault. Shizune has a lot going on, though, and would probably have to rope someone else into helping. I wouldn't wish that on anyone, but it might be my only option. She needs those inventory reports by tomorrow morning so she can make the orders, and I just don't have enough time.

In a lot of ways, I feel like I haven't actually decided anything. As though the idea of asking Shizune for help and getting some poor sap involved were the inevitable result of my procrastination.

Lunchtime comes and goes, Amaya and I staying in the class with Tadao to eat and go over some of the equations they're still having trouble understanding. I'm actually surprised there aren't a million festival questions being levied at me, but Ito's morning lecture probably had something to do with that.

Later, in English class, Amaya and Tadao flex their literary minds for a group assignment that leaves my head spinning. It's humbling to get a top score in one class and then be completely baffled by the next – I just don't get English, I guess. After that, the day crawls by and everyone starts looking restless. Staring at the clock, looking out the windows, or examining the wood grain of their desks seem to be the most common activities.

Finally the bell rings, and we start shuffling out into the halls. Amaya walks with me, but isn't expecting me to veer off toward 3-3. Sounding frustrated, she calls after me, “where are you going?”

“I have some class rep stuff to discuss with Shizune,” I answer, drawing a groan from my skinny friend.

Spinning around to regard her, I see she's dragging her feet. “I dunno how you get along with her,” she comments, sighing heavily. Placing her hands on her hips mockingly, she complains, “she's so bossy.”

Turning back toward 3-3, I mention, “I'll probably be back late, so don't wait up.”

Amaya takes the hint, realizing I'm saying she doesn't need to come along, and walks in the other direction. She's a little too scattered to hold up in a conversation with Shizune, and I'm letting her avoid the ordeal.

As I near the classroom, I see Mutou-sensei walking toward me. He offers a nod as I pass by, not being much for words. He's used to seeing me headed for his classroom after school to talk with Shizune.

Arriving at the door, I suddenly stop myself from pushing through. Realizing there's probably something different waiting on the other side -the new guy - I want to be alert. Assuming he hasn't left yet, he's likely still in there, and my imagination gets a little carried away. His face is probably torn and battered, and he's missing both feet. Maybe he's drooling on himself and talks with a lisp, or he's in a robotic wheelchair and talks through a computer.

Pushing the images out of my head, I lean against the door and it slowly gives way. Stopping again when I've fully entered the room, I can't help but send my curious gaze scouting for the horrible, broken mass of-

Oh. That must be him.

Trying not to stare, I notice he's looking at his notes pretty intently with his eyes narrowed. His hair is light brown and his eyes seem to be green – it's hard to tell with him looking down. He's very thin, almost emaciated, but that has to do with time spent in a hospital, I assume. Sitting down with his school blazer draped across the back of his chair, it's hard to tell how tall he is, but he's wiry.

He's wearing a dorky sweater-vest like Takashi, but it seems to suit him better. His tie is crooked and loose, and his pants are a little wrinkled, but he looks cleaner than most of the guys. There are no visible scars, no missing limbs, and no apparent super powers. I really have no idea what could have happened to him, but, If not for the glum expression on his face, he'd be approaching cute – handsome, even.

He looks normal. How disappointing.

By now Shizune has noticed me, and she waves me over, an expectant look on her face. Frowning, I realize she might think I already have the reports finished. This is not going to be a fun conversation.

Misha starts talking almost immediately, even though she knows I can understand Shizune's signing perfectly, “Shicchan was expecting to see you today, Aiko-chan~!” Her explosive, lilting voice nearly causes me to stagger backward.

Deciding not to fill the room with any more unnecessary noise, I sign my response, [I've hit a bit of a snag, and I need a bit more time.]

Shizune narrows her eyes and starts signing furiously. Misha continues translating verbally, unabated, “You've had a week to figure out all the inventory needs, Aiko-chan~! You know I need to place those orders by tomorrow or it will be too late~!”

[I know. I tried. More stuff got piled on, and I’ve been missing sleep to try and get it done.] That was at least mostly true. I left out the part about having waited until Monday to even look over the reports. [I was hoping you might be able to help,] I request, offering a remorseful pout.

Shizune mulls this over for a moment before continuing to sign, which is dutifully translated by Misha, “we don't have enough people to spare.” She stops as Shizune snaps her fingers like a thunderbolt. Misha continues translating, her eyes lighting up as she looks over my shoulder. “But~! We might be able to get someone to help you out. He's new, but he's been helpful so far,” she says with a bright smile. My eyes widen a bit and I reflexively glance over at the new guy.

They couldn't mean him, could they?

Thinking about it for a few seconds, though, I can imagine Shizune has probably been trying to draw him into her little circle. I doubt he's taken to her blunt approach very well - unless he likes being dominated.

Where did that thought come from?

Shizune assumes a devious look with an equally dubious smile as she and Misha walk over to the new guy's desk; Misha gives him a tap on the shoulder, “Hicchan.” Her tone and the nickname make me think this isn't their first meeting; as I had thought.

Nakai looks up from his notes grimly and breathes an expressionless reply, “Yes, Misha?” I'm not sure if he heard our conversation -how could he not hear Misha?- but the dour look he's giving her says he expects what she's about to ask.

Shizune signs and Misha translates. From his tendency to watch Misha rather than Shizune, I assume he isn't deaf, and he hasn't gotten used to these kinds of peripheral conversations. He doesn't look completely disinterested, though, which might be a good sign. “You said earlier that you weren't useless, Hicchan, and now you have a chance to prove it~!” Misha's lilt fills the room, but her beaming smile seems to fill him with dread.

He groans, apparently recalling some earlier altercation. Holding back a laugh, I observe him rolling his eyes, assuming a defensive posture with his arms folded. “I did say that, didn't I? I didn't think you'd be collecting so soon,” he remarks.

Misha lets out her trademark laugh, “Wahaha~!” She continues translating for Shizune, “well, if you're going to join the Student Council,” Nakai lifts a finger as if to protest, but she ignores the gesture, “you'll have to be willing to offer your assistance to other class representatives if the need should arise.”

Squirming, I realize I'm about to become part of their sales pitch.

Shizune takes a step around behind me, which draws his attention in my direction. His glassy expression wanders over me as Misha continues her translation, “this is Aiko Kurai. She's the class rep for room 3-1, and she's in a bit of a bind.” Offering a wave, I shift on my feet uncomfortably, feeling like I'm being auctioned off by a slave trader.

Or maybe I'm the one who should be inspecting their slave?

He puts on a smile and greets me in a warmer tone than he used to answer Misha, “Hi, Kurai. I'm Hisao Nakai. I just transferred in this week and these two are trying to turn me into an indentured servant.” His reaction is a bit more melancholy than I hoped.

Hoped? What exactly was I hoping for?

I smile and laugh at his flippant reference to Shizune and Misha, but Shizune scowls and signs with voracity. Misha's translation loses a bit of the emotion though, “that's quite the attitude for a prospective member of the Student Council, Hicchan~! don't you want to help your school?”

He leans back in his chair and sighs, patting the air with his hand. “Fine, calm down. What does she need me to do?” he inquires.

The room is silent for a moment before I realize he's directing the question at me. Dumbfounded, I just stand there like a deer in the headlights.

Why do I suddenly feel nervous?

Misha answers based on Shizune's signs, saving me from the inquisition, “she has to balance the inventory for the festival booths, so we can place the orders before noon tomorrow.”

Nakai shrugs. “Paperwork? I can do that,” he says, offering a nod.

I'm not sure if he's saying that because he's interested, or because he's glad it wasn't something strenuous. I smile anyway; whatever the reason, he seems willing to help. After a brief exchange with Shizune about deadlines and procrastination, a lecture I had expected, I lead Nakai out the room and up the stairs toward the math lab.

Now that he's standing, I can see he's a bit taller than most of the boys; he must tower over little Emi. Following silently, almost to the point of being detached, he keeps looking at me like he wants to ask something, but his mouth never starts to move.

When we reach the math lab, I lead him over to a seat by the window and head over to the filing cabinet to retrieve the reports. Dropping half the stack in front of him, I ask, “so, do you want a soda or something before we start?” Practically leaping out of his chair, he stares at me with a shocked expression and lets out a gasp. Leaning back with surprise, I return a quizzical look.

What kind of reaction was that?

Then I realize; I hadn't said a single word during the previous discussion. He probably thinks I’m just as deaf and mute as Shizune – or thought I was, anyway.

“Sorry,” I say, letting out a little laugh as he calms back down, “I usually don't bother to talk with Shizune since Misha usually does enough talking for a whole room full of people.”

He leans forward and laughs, “You had me convinced you were a deaf-mute.”

“Well, in that case, I'm sorry I said anything,” I say with a sly wink.

He stops laughing. Strangely, his face seems much more comfortable with the frown he offers now, a fact I find distressing. “I assume you can hear, too,” he asks.

Deciding to act a little coy, I yell, “what?” loudly.

Am I flirting?

He raises an eyebrow and offers a sideways glance. “You heard me,” he says flatly.

I laugh, and he joins in again. He looks so much more natural with a smile on his face. Like he used to smile a lot, but hasn't done so much lately. It makes me a little sad to think what he went through to end up here.

“Well you're half right,” I say, earning a furrowed brow in response before I add, “I fell off a pier when I was seven and hit the water hard on my left side.” I lift the white trail of hair on the side of my face. “It blew out my eardrum on this side.”

He leans back and breathes, “Oh.”

I shrug and start sorting out the files in front of me. “If you ever want to ask me something, try to be on my right side,” I mention.

He nods absently, his mind a little bit distracted by the information dump. When he starts thumbing through the reports, I start explaining what to do with them. It's mundane, really. All we need to do is go over all the different reports and add up all the materials they'll need, then sort them out by class, room and quantity, and add up all the costs. I probably could have done this all by evening, but the extra help is certainly appreciated.

The way he's started going through them at a relatively fast pace makes me wonder if he's doing it right, or if I'll have to spend half the night checking his work. I don't let him know that, though. He looks like he's already had a tough enough week ducking the Student Council on top of everything else that goes with starting at a new school – especially one like this.

“You shouldn't be so grumpy with Shizune and Misha,” I blurt, immediately feeling like I shouldn't have.

He lifts his gaze to meet mine, and there's a half-smile there. I see it as an opportunity to explain myself, “they're not so bad, really. Shizune's kinda sweet when you get to know her, and Misha's all kinds of fun.”

He furrows his brow, making a face like something I said doesn't make sense. After a few awkward moments, he puts his question to words, “sweet? I haven't quite gotten that vibe.”

“That's 'cause she's so intense,” I retort. He nods at hearing that. I'm not sure why I'm defending Shizune, but she's easily misunderstood, so I continue, “always barreling through like a shinkansen.” The analogy sits well, seeing his continued nods, “When she's not striving for world domination, she's like a child – kinda sweet.”

He smirks, and I'm pretty sure he's picturing Shizune acting like a child; perhaps stomping around frustrated or making silly faces. Finally he shrugs and looks back down, “I'll take your word for it.”

Smiling, I go back to browsing the reports. I'm not sure why I said any of that, but I saw what Shizune was trying to do -help out the new guy- and felt like I should try and do my part. Her methods could use some work, but her intent is honorable. I think if Nakai understood what Shizune was doing, he'd be more inclined to go along with it; he might even enjoy her company. I suddenly feel jealous at that thought, but I don't know why.

Feeling him stare at my face –or my ear at least- I look up and catch him looking away. Having seen that kind of reaction, I'm used to seeing it, but I've never thought it was malicious. People are curious about that kind of thing, I guess. After sending half the morning trying to guess what emergency medical problem sent him to Yamaku, I think he can take a few minutes to wonder what it's like to be deaf in one ear - assuming that's what he was doing.

Maybe I have something on my face?

Of course, now that I've thought about it, I begin wondering about his medical problem again. He doesn't look like there's anything wrong with him. Although a lot of the students here don't; Amaya, for instance. He's started running with Emi, so it's likely not a motor control problem. He seems mentally quick, so I don't think it's something like LeLoush's aphasia. It takes a while before I notice that I’m staring at him. Our eyes meet and we both look away.

He clears his throat and asks, “sorry, did you need something?”

I feel my cheeks getting hot before I can even think of a response. I shake my head and look down at the reports, hoping he didn't see.

Why am I blushing? I'm just curious about whatever medical drama brought him here, right?

Whatever it is, he doesn't seem like he's ready to talk about it with anyone, much less someone he just met. I could ask Emi if we bump into each other tomorrow morning. Or I could just straight-up ask him right now.

When I look up, I see he's looking at me again, but this time it looks like he has a question; one that he's embarrassed to ask. “Your eyes,” he says, the slightest tint of red wells up in his cheeks, “er, I mean. Why-”

Realizing what he's trying to ask, I save him from the awkward double entendre, “Heterochromia. I have both my parents eye colors – brown in the left and green in the right.”

“Oh,” he says simply. “I've never met anyone with two different colored eyes before.”

I nod, already having a canned answer, “It's pretty uncommon. Only about a tenth of cases actually have two different color eyes. About one percent of the world population.”

“So it makes you kinda unique,” he says, offering a serene smile. I can't help but smile in response.

I never really thought of it that way, but I don't say anything. I just nod and go back to the reports. I'm also trying to hide my flushed face. The way he reacted when he tried asking that question was... well, cute. Maybe his interest wasn't limited to the oddity. Was he saving himself from asking a more embarrassing question by opting for the readily available, completely innocuous query?

Why am I even thinking like this?

Continuing to work in silence for quite a while, I happen to look over and notice it's after 5pm. Seeing he's still engrossed in working out the math for his last file, I figure we'll be done with enough time to drop them off in the Student Council room before they lock up for the night.

Before he can see me looking up, wanting to avoid another awkward conversation, I put my head down and force my way through the last of my own files. Ten minutes later, we're done. I get up and stretch while he does the same, and we both start picking up the files – almost simultaneously.

When he sets down the files in a stack with the completed total sheet on top, I smile and take the sheet, looking it over to check the math. If there are errors on it, I might have to look through his whole stack.

He raises an eyebrow as I meticulously scan over all his figures, a smile slowly spreading on my face. “Not bad, Nakai,” I chirp, nodding with approval.

He grins and holds up a hand. “Call me Hisao,” he says, “my teachers call me Nakai.”

“Aiko,” I nod, pointing to myself with the total sheet. “Not bad at all. I thought I was the only accounting whiz here.”

He ignores the boast, instead shaking his head looking bewildered, “I'm not that great at it. The calculator did most of the work.”

One of my dad's old mantras comes to mind, “even a calculator is wrong if the operator isn't right.” He offers that a sagely nod and a grin in response.

Stacking the rest of the files together, I start heading for the door. He courteously opens it for me and starts following me toward the Student Council room. “I think I'll be all set from here if you wanna head back to your room,” I say, deciding he's helped enough for today; and trying to put some distance between us.

“You're sure?” he asks politely.

“You cut my workload in half already. Go decorate your room or something,” I suggest, stopping and turning. “You're new here, right?” I ask rhetorically.

“Yeah. Started Monday,” he replies.

“If you need someone to show you around, look me up. I'm in 3-1 with Ito,” as I say it, I'm not even sure what I'm thinking. He's got a whole classroom full of people that can help him get acclimated, and it seems Shizune already has designs on him joining the Student Council.

Why am I volunteering?

“3-3 with Mutou,” he says, ending with a shake of his head, “you knew that, though.”

Nodding, i extend an invitation, “If you wanna meet up for lunch or something, I usually spend them in the classroom.”

Maybe I'm just being courteous, it's the right thing to do. Help out the new kid; be a good Samaritan. I remember when I was the new kid and I needed someone to show me around. There seems to be more to it than simple courtesy, though. Maybe my curiosity is getting the better of me, and I won't be satisfied until I know what horrible fate befell Hisao Nakai. Maybe I'm just intrigued about how easily he took to filling out the reports. Maybe I just want to help him smile.

“Okay,” he says, waving goodbye with a small smile. “I'll think about it,” he adds.

I smile, nod and turn, continuing my trek toward the Student Council room. With my back turned, I'm less concerned about the redness spreading across my face. For whatever reason, the idea of Hisao stopping by for lunch puts a spring in my step; I'm probably just happy to have made a new friend.

Waiting outside the student council room for the redness to fade, I find Shizune inside with Misha as soon as I push through the door. Seeing the finished reports in my hand, Shizune grins happily and starts going over the total-sheets almost immediately. Deciding not to stay and chat, I mention I had a late night and an early morning. With the reports held firmly in their hands, they're happy to let me go.

Heading back to the girl's dorm, I notice Amaya in the common room watching TV. She doesn't see me walk by, and I don't make an effort to be noticed. Not wanting to think about today's curious events, or think about them, I head up the stairs swiftly. I just want to get to my room, lie down and let this day fade into unconscious bliss. As I hit my pillow, I consider that I haven't eaten anything since lunch. However, the comfort afforded by my bed seems doubly powerful, and, unlike last night, I feel myself drifting to sleep almost immediately.

Maybe I'll ask Emi what's wrong with Hisao tomorrow.
______________________________________
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Aiko Kurai (OC)

Postby Mirage_GSM » Tue Jul 03, 2012 5:09 pm

Even if Hisao isn't shown in full uniform, other characters are: White shirt, green trousers.
I doubt anyone would wear anything above that in June if they don't have to. I know I was glad whenever I couldmtake of my suit jacket in the office. Exception Kenji of course, but he also wears a scarf :-)
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.

Sore wa himitsu desu.
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Aiko Kurai (OC)

Postby Helbereth » Tue Jul 03, 2012 6:04 pm

<reserved>
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Aiko Kurai (OC)

Postby Mirage_GSM » Tue Jul 03, 2012 6:24 pm

You get to choose your topics in high school math classes in the US?
Here, calculus took up the whole of 11th grade and a good chunk of 12th and 13th as well.
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.

Sore wa himitsu desu.
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Aiko Kurai (OC)

Postby Helbereth » Tue Jul 03, 2012 6:45 pm

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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Aiko Kurai (OC)

Postby Myshina » Tue Jul 03, 2012 8:03 pm

I love this story.

Your writing style is wonderful and inspiring; but I would suggest you use more..Umm....Artistic ways of expression to add some spice to the story. Just little sentences here and there, I hope you understand what I'm saying.

Also, I think Aiko looks a little bit like a Mary-sue; but that could change as the story goes. Or perhaps I'm a little Paranoid about this whole thing; since I'm expecting a Mary-sue Invasion pretty-soon.

In general, I just love this and I would probably follow this story to the end. I would have written one of my own, but since English is my third language, It'll probably end up being terrible. =D
Xanatos wrote: Whips, of course. :P I don't do that submissive shit!

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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Aiko Kurai (OC)

Postby Helbereth » Tue Jul 03, 2012 11:16 pm

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Chapter 2 - In Your Dreams

Postby Helbereth » Wed Jul 04, 2012 3:02 am

I did not expect to be posting another scene so soon. However, inspiration waits for no man.

Spoiler alert - dream sequence incoming.

You've been warned.

Previous Chapter|Next Chapter
________________________________________

Chapter 2 – In Your Dreams

“Where are you going, Aiko?”

The question comes from far away, almost too far to hear. I feel like I should answer, but only for a moment. The sun's irradiating glow has heated the planks, and they burn my bare feet as I run. Ignoring the sensation, I realize it won't matter soon.

“Aiko, don't go!”

This time the voice is even further away. The sound barely catching in my ears, and quickly leaving my memory as the thud of feet on wood fills my ears. I can hear my heart quicken as I continue running with abandon, not even caring where I'm running to – I simply run. Overwhelmed by the rushing wind, quickened pulse and shining sun, I run free; unhindered and without cares. No more tears, no more worry. No more expressionless expressions or cold stares. It's just me, the wind in my ears, the sun's warmth and the dock under my feet.

And then it's not.

Stopping unnaturally -as though frozen in time- I turn, trying to remember why I was running. The memories rush over me, but I can't catch them; slipping through my fingers like a cold wind, all I feel is the chill. My bones grind to a halt and my teeth begin to chatter, the rest of my body rocks and shakes as the chill fills me with dread. My chest tightens and I feel my lungs screaming for air they can't catch. The world that was bright and warm has turned cold and dark, and I long for that voice calling me.

Straining my ears to hear anything, I try to ignore my screaming lungs, but I can't hear anything anymore; no wind, no patting feet, not even a whisper. This place is a vacuum, and its emptiness begins to devour me. Even as it thuds against my ribcage, terrified and erratic, I can't hear my own heartbeat. The world has left me in a soundless, airless winter, and I begin to cry. Tears rolling across my face, I sink to my knees and roll into a ball, sobbing into my hands.

Everything is nothingness.

Terror overwhelms me, intensifying the sobs and making my voice crack as I let out a guttural cry – a wail caught and silenced by the pervasive nothing creeping from below. I shudder as a freezing dampness begins to envelope me. As it rises, I can feel my body twitching weirdly, and growing numb. My stifled cries are a cursing protest, but I know it's in vain.

As the numbness ascends, my terrified heart and mind beg me to open my eyes, but I refuse. I can't open my eyes. I don't want to watch the world crushing in on itself. Crushing me. I don't want to see the suffocating waves overwhelming me, or see the emotionless faces feigning concern. I don't want to see any of it anymore. I just want it to end.

But it doesn't.

I have to open my eyes, I have to see it happen. I have to see my reflection in the waves, the reflection of a child, as I fall in slow-motion. I have to look back and see my dad trying to reach out for me as I slip away from his grasp; like a ghost recalled to the realm of the dead. I whimper and steel my gaze, trying not to feel the rush of fear and doubt as the icy water cascades over me and the world turns black. The numbness fills me completely and I'm beyond fear.

I touch madness as the world begins to go dark, and my mind fights the inevitability. I see people I've loved and people I've hated staring at me with their expressionless expressions – cold and emotionless. I try to scream again, but the wasted effort is caught in my throat as the icy water rushes in to drown me in darkness. As my eyes freeze and my heart slows to a stop, I try to think about something -anything- other than this numbing darkness. Everything I know and everything I've done escapes my lips as a final choked gasp and I drift into the eternal blackness, defeated.


-~-

Waking with a start, I feel the wetness on my cheeks and I try to forget the dream. The same dream, again. Each time I try to deny the power it holds over me, but each time I find myself curled up on my side whimpering as quietly as I can. It's a terror I have to face on my own. Nobody can do anything about it, I know. If I told Amaya, she'd just worry. If I told my parents, they'd probably put me in therapy.

I don't have time for that.

After I choke back the tears enough to open my eyes, I roll over and look at my alarm clock. Having fallen asleep so early, I'm not surprised to see it's only three in the morning. All the missing sleep over the past two weeks seemed to catch up all at once, knocking me out earlier than I'd slept in months. Wiping my eyes with the backs of my hands, I sniffle the tears away and slowly calm down. I'm not being swallowed by freezing cold water, I'm alone in my dorm room and it's the middle of the night.

It's also really dark still.

Swinging my legs off the bed, I grab my glasses, haphazardly tossed on the floor as I shuffled into bed, then leap onto my knees and turn to take a look outside. The night sky is lit by a three-quarter moon and a full field of stars. The lazy forest outside my window extends off into the darkness, but there's a mist in the air limiting the view. Leaning against the window sill, I try not to think about the cold water trying to choke me in my dream.

Trying not to think about something usually has the opposite effect, unfortunately. Having had that dream when I was little, not long after the accident, it's disturbingly familiar. Several times over the years, I awoke in my bed late at night filled with terror, the images echoing in my mind, but it was different from this new incarnation. I don't remember being nearly as frightened by it as I seem to be now. Maybe it's because I have other worries for the dream to project, but I try not to think about it too much. It's just a dream. There isn't a tsunami coming after me in the real world.

Tsunami are rare this far inland.

Realizing that I actually slept eight consecutive hours, I decide that I probably won't be getting back to sleep. Sitting cross-legged on my bed, I drop my chin against my uplifted palm, trying to think of something to do. I look back through the previous day's events and recall the morning review for calculus – something I really didn't need. There was the English assignment, but I'm pretty hopeless where that's concerned. The rest of classes were a blur; I hadn't paid much attention, but I had also been distracted.

The new guy.

He has a name, so I ought to stop calling him that. Hisao Nakai; tall, sullen and mysterious. Intrigued by his plight before I even met him, he seemed even more of a mystery now, and I can't resist a good mystery. That's probably why I practically threw myself at him.

Is that what I was doing?

Nobody was more surprised than myself when I invited him to lunch, and the little wave he offered seemed genuine. I really hope he wasn't just being polite. I mean, I'd understand if he was just waving to try and get rid of me -people do that sometimes- but I think he was expressing a real interest in...

In what? In me? Dream along with me.

All I said is that I'd help show him around. Having offered my services as a tour guide, something he probably doesn't even need, he waved, he smiled, and I'll never talk to him again.

Dammit.

Falling back on my bed, I feel a wave of dizziness as I hit the pillow. Damn my useless ear, and damn Hisao Nakai; he can act coy and mysterious all he wants. I'm not interested anymore. I'm done playing games and arguing with myself over-

I breathe a long, exasperated sigh and look at the clock. “Three-o-five?” I whisper, vocalizing my frustration. Grabbing another pillow, I slam it on my face, trying to block out the world.

All this thought and worry and it only wasted five minutes?

Rolling on my side again, I pull the covers up until they cover me completely and I try closing my eyes to force myself to sleep – like a bird with a sheet over its cage. My brain betrays me, having no intention of letting me drift the hours away in unconsciousness. Putting up quite the fight, I stay motionless under the covers with my eyes closed for an amazing ten minutes. Heaving a resigned sigh, i toss the blankets aside and stand up out of bed.

Insomnia I can deal with, but, being up this early, feeling rested and refreshed, with nobody around and nothing to do but think is pure torture. Reaching over, I snap on my desk lamp and sit down, opening my laptop and hearing its wake-up chime. For a moment, I consider reviewing some class work, but I'm not in my right mind now. I need something to distract me from school, not act as a reminder.

Looking over my desktop, I notice a program icon that I haven't checked out in a while. Amaya 'acquired' and ostentatiously recommended an as yet unreleased beta a few weeks ago, thinking it would be something I'd enjoy. Saying there was some kind of complex physics engine involved, and something about alternate dimensions or something like that, she had sparked my interest. After installing it, though, I never actually gave it a try. Glancing at the clock, I figure I have plenty of time to give Portal a try.

Nearly three hours of hopping through the pirated beta went by faster than expected. Still full of bugs and glitches, the game is rough to keep stable and crashes often, but I don't care. The strange wormhole-gun -portal gun, they call it- and how you interacted with the environment through its use, left me with a sense of wonderment. The sense that I'm playing a game I shouldn't legally have access to is also exciting.

The physics engine and the math behind it kept me intrigued for hours; even as the game continually blue-screens and crashes. Spending hours pushing the limits of the game's physics engine, I'm continually surprised by the effect using the portals has on the game universe. Wondering whether it might be possible such a thing could ever actually work, I imagine being able to walk across the room in a single step, or maybe even across the planet – or the universe.

My musings are interrupted by a sound outside my door. Metallic springing noises that I quickly recognize as Emi's prosthetic running spikes. Not even thinking, I stand and head for my door, reaching for the knob with the idea to stop her and ask about-

What, exactly?

Stopping myself, I step back, listening to the springing sounds disappear around the corner.

What was I going to ask her, exactly?

“Hey y'know that new guy you're crushing on, what's wrong with him?”

That would go over well.

If he did tell her, she takes stuff like that as seriously as a doctor. Even if I had the courage to ask, there's no way she'd give me a straight answer. At most, she'd giggle and wonder why I was so interested; and then I'd be blushing and slamming my door before she could blink. “She probably doesn't know, anyway,” I tell myself.

Sitting back down in front of the computer, I suddenly don't feel like messing with the buggy game. Noticing I'm also a lot hungrier than I thought, I decide now is a good time for breakfast. Six o'clock seems early, but I've been up for three hours, and I haven't eaten since lunchtime yesterday. With that in mind, I decide to head down to the common room.

As I approach, I notice the lights are on in the little kitchen area and I frown at seeing Amaya laying face-down on the floor. Her blue nightgown is twisted around her legs and I can see a puddle of drool under her mouth. Ignoring my hunger pains, I quickly slide down and turn her over, checking her pulse. She's just sleeping now, but I'm still worried.

Epileptic seizures are nothing to scoff at, and I've found her like this before - many times. Quietly berating myself for not taking a look around the dorms in the past three hours, I wonder how long she's been down here on the cold floor. Had Emi seen her here, she would have stopped, I'm sure. With that thought in mind, I surmise she hasn't been here terribly long and my breathing calms.

Shaking Amaya's tiny shoulders, I wince as she stirs. Her eyes flickering open, she sputters into a coughing fit. lifting her head off the floor, I rest her on my knee while she reaches for my hand, trying to find support.

“Hey there, you feel okay?” I ask, stroking her short, straight hair and trying to stay calm.

She lets out a whine as she curls up against my leg and starts to cry. As I rub her head, I make a point to check for blood – like Nurse told me. She feels what I'm doing and calms her self enough to say, “I'm f-fine,” she stutters, “I'll be fine. I just-”

I pull my hand away, not wanting to frustrate her further. “Do you want me to bring you to Nurse?” I ask, trying to keep the concern out of my voice – and probably failing.

Honestly, at this point, I'm glad I'm not panicking.

She rolls away and shakes her head, holding a frown on her little round face. The state she's in, I don't think I should leave her, so I stay beside her. After a short while, she calms down and sits up, feeling around for her glasses. Noticing they were apparently thrown into the kitchen when she fell over, I get up and retrieve them. “C'mon," I say, handing them over, "I'll walk you back to your dorm. You're sure you don't wanna see-”

She shakes her head emphatically as I pull her to her feet. Placing an arm under hers as we walk, I can feel her stumbling against me groggily. Luckily she's lighter than I am, and I have no trouble holding her upright.

As we make our way back toward her room -which is right across from mine- I consider walking her to the Nurse's office instead. She probably wouldn't even notice the change of direction, but I settle on checking in with him later.

Amaya's medications won't completely prevent her seizures, he told me, but, without them, she practically couldn't leave her room. He was surprisingly candid with me, but I think it had more to do with helping protect Amaya than it did sating my curiosity. Nurse is fond of recruiting students to help their fellow classmates – like a buddy system.

The way he recruited Emi to run with Hisao?

Pushing that question away as we reach Amaya's room, i find her door unlocked, so I open it and enter cautiously. Without any protests, I lay her down on her bed, and look over her tired form. Nothing looks injured, so I guess she got lucky this time; that wasn't always the case.

It's terrifying to think what could have happened had she gotten closer to the more dangerous parts of the kitchen, or hit something as she fell, or smacked her head as she flopped around on the ground like a fish out of water. She once told me about a gash on the back of her head that took fifteen stitches. She laughed it off, but I was attached to her hip for weeks afterward like a mother hen.

Now, sitting in the darkness of her room, stroking her arm as she drifts between sleep and wakefulness, I find myself exhausted by the whole ordeal. When I'm sure she's unconscious, I send the Nurse a text message explaining the situation. Telling him she didn't want to bother him, I offer an apology, but he doesn't seem to mind. “Don't worry about it," his reply assures, "stop by and fill me in later, okay?”

Not bothering to reply further, I know he knows I would end up down there anyway. For now, I sit, and contemplate, and wonder, and try not to be lulled to sleep by the quiet. After about thirty minutes, I feel my eyelids sinking and, letting out a yawn, I stretch and try to push away the fatigue. Nodding off for a few minutes, I snap awake and quickly stand.

With the memory of the dream still hovering around the edges of my conscious mind, I look down at Amaya sleeping peacefully. The thought of risking the return of that dream makes me shake my head in frustration. Feeling a little jealous of her restful pose, I sigh inwardly, but she's not to be blamed - she doesn't even know about them.

Instead of wallowing, I head across the hall and grab my laptop before returning to keep vigil over my friend. As the morning wears on, I notice it's nearly time to start getting ready for school. Though I hate to disturb her, I feel I should at least ask, “Amaya, you awake?” Groaning, she rolls away from me, clearly understanding the question.

I continue, inquiring, “do you want me to tell Ito you're taking a day off?” She rolls back toward me and scoffs, but the look in her eyes is pleading for me to answer for her.

“I'll tell him you're not feeling well. He doesn't have to know about-” I end the statement there, seeing her darkened expression. Ito will probably see through that lie, but that I'd at least try it makes her smile a little. “I will be telling Nurse, though,” I state; she doesn't need to know I already did.

She rolls back over and sighs with resignation, “fine.”

Amaya is childish about her condition sometimes. Sometimes, I wonder if I was ever like that after the accident, but I don't really remember. Mostly, I remember the aftermath; ice cream, balloons and being terrified of water for a whole year.

Creaking loudly as I leave, the door lets in light from the hallway which Amaya blocks out with a pillow stuffed against the exposed side of her head. It seems like her episode left her with more then just exhaustion - a light-sensitive headache, perhaps. After showering and changing, I head out of the dorm toward the main building, ready to drone through another day of boredom.

Like zombies, groaning and shuffling their way through the halls, my classmates filter in slowly; followed by Ito, who walks in sweaty and frustrated just like yesterday. Telling him about Amaya's 'illness', he nods knowingly. Taking my desk, Tadao taps my shoulder and asks for the real story.

Deciding Amaya wouldn't really mind him knowing, I relate the whole story. His face sinks as I explain how I found her, but, when I explain she was mostly fine, he looks relieved. Poor Tadao looks so bewildered by the news, I doubt he'll be able to pay attention all day. Just one more concerned message I'm stuck holding in my head, held to a promise not to deliver.

I'm a little tired of being their secret confidant.

The morning passes by like any other day; any other day when twenty people each have twenty questions to ask. Keeping a notebook for all their lodged complaints and grievances, I have it out on my desk in case anyone has a request. Only Amaya and I are privy to its contents.

Each complaint is itemized and rated based on the severity of the issue. As I sift through the pages, I find most of the complaints are perpetually the same – often from the same students. Unfortunately, there's little I can do about the vast majority of their grievances, but most of them understand - all I can do is relay their queries, really

It's frustrating.

Working individually on textbook assignments, the class is hushed by a renewed desire to understand the material – or at least they're not snoring loudly. I breeze through the calculus assignment, and beg Tadao for help with English. He complies willfully, still looking distraught, but I don't think it's possible for me to learn that backwards language. Heaving a final frustrated sigh as the bell rings signifying lunch, I turn my gaze toward the door. Staring for a few minutes at the motionless portal, I sigh again and shrug.

I didn't really expect him, anyway.

Digging my lunch out, I start nibbling at it while looking through my English book with a disdainful frown on my face that Tadao chooses to ignore. Being somewhat of a literary genius, he's never happy to see anyone look so distastefully at literature.

The headache I feel throbbing in my temples reminds me that I never did eat breakfast while keeping vigil over Amaya, so I decide to forgo the impossible and close my book, attacking my lunch like a shark. So engrossed with digging through the rice and bits of beef, I don't notice a figure looming over my desk.

Politely tapping my shoulder, i turn to see Tadao grinning up toward the looming figure. Following his eyes, I see our guest's smiling visage looming over me with a befuddled expression, one hand in his jacket pocket and a packed lunch in the other.

The new guy. The new guy!?

Nearly choking on the rice, I take a sharp breath and gag. Wiping my hands together, I absently attempt to distract him from my deplorable eating habits, smiling sheepishly and likely looking like Naoko. “N-Nakai?” I sputter.

He clears his throat, trying to choke back a laugh at my reaction. “Hisao," he corrects. "You said I should stop by for lunch,” he says, raising an eyebrow with the half-question.

My eyes widen and I suddenly feel self-conscious. “I- Uh, yeah. I did-” my mouth can't seem to form words and I feel a blush streak across my face. Trying to hide it, I duck away, but that brings the rice back, causing me to hack and cough. Feeling his eyes on me, watching me, I try not to think about what he must be thinking.

Awesome, he already knows you have the table manners of a wolverine. Snik.

“I'd have been here sooner, but I didn't actually know where room 3-1 was,” he mentions, casting his wandering gaze around the room. Observing him share a nod with Ito, I suppose they've met. Ito offers a half-smile and looks back into his book.

“Oh, sorry. I should have-” I cut myself off and start pointing to the desk behind me, “you can take Ama- er, Yamamoto's seat. She's not in today.”

He fidgets nervously as he looks at the seat. “Is she alright?” he asks, concernedly.

I didn't expect that question. I should have expected that question. He's a human being, and humans naturally feel concern, right? Why am I second-guessing natural human concern? Yoshida sees me squirming and lets out a little chuckle. Seeing my glare, he quickly stifles it and goes back to his lunch.

Looking back up at Nakai, I frown. “She's not feeling well,” I say simply.

“Oh,” he says flatly, relaxing a little. The concerned look doesn't leave his face, but he moves to sit down. As he does so, I realize how awkward it might be for us to talk if we're facing opposite directions. Clumsily, I turn my desk around and sit back down, feeling uncomfortable. He sees the discomfort on my face and asks, “are you alright?”

Pointing to the left, toward the rest of the class, I lean in and remark, “remember how I said I can't hear on the left?”

“Ah,” he leans forward and whispers, “wanna switch places?”

Trying not to blush, I look down. After a second I decide looking down is probably even more telling, so I look up and nod. As we change chairs, there are a million questions racing through my mind. I can't answer any of them, and this mysterious new guy isn't helping relieve my curiosity.

Instead of asking him anything, I just sit there and dumbly eat my lunch. I do make an effort not to make myself look like a total slob, but I'm pretty sure that first impression is gone.

Maybe he'll think it's cute and quirky... Probably not.

After i make a comment on the weather at some point, he starts talking about meteorology for a few minutes, but it leads nowhere. After untold minutes of awkward, soul-crushing silence, I look over at the clock and realize there's only five minutes left to the lunch break. Having not worked up the courage to ask him a single question -at least nothing important- I feel down, but not defeated. Finally, deciding to seize what little time I have left, I lean forward and blurt out a question, “so, what are you doing for the festival?”

Great job, Kurai. Way to ask the eye-opening questions.

His response, however, catches me by surprise, “I dunno, really.”

My face twist in confusion, and my reaction makes him frown. Just when I thought I'd asked the dumbest question possible, he gives an answer like that. “What do you mean, you don't know?” I ask, sounding more annoyed than concerned.

He blinks and looks out the window, “I've barely been here a week and I'm already feeling tired. I might just stay in and catch up on some sleep.”

Sleep? Is he kidding? Games, prizes, gloriously unhealthy food, fireworks and a few hundred -maybe a thousand- smiling, laughing faces for one day of the year and he wants to sleep through it...?

I start shaking my head emphatically, holding my hands up and repeating, “No-no-no-no-no. You can't skip the festival! Are you crazy?" I feel myself standing, but I just go with it and continue, "the whole place is lit up with lanterns, there's a dozen silly games to play, prizes to be won and fireworks to watch." I gesture wildly as I describe the event, and he raises his eyebrows, looking around the room as much as he does me.

I start becoming more animated, flailing my arms around and pointing randomly – I think he looks frightened. "It's a one-day event filled with happiness and reverie, and you're thinking about spending it alone, in your dorm, under your covers," leaning close with a snarl on my lips, I add, "in dreamland.” Keeping my gaze on him, I realize may have overplayed my hand.

Overplayed would be an understatement.

My rising voice apparently caught the attention of the class, but I don't care. Everyone is staring at the crazy lady, but I let them. This is important. Celebrating life is important. His expression is somewhere between shock, confusion and amazement, but he isn't agreeing with me, still. “You can't just stay in bed while the world passes you by," I say, "I won't let you.” Flinching as I point at him, he watches my furious finish with wide eyes.

Glancing around the room at a few of the onlookers, I kick Tadao's foot seeing him start shaking his head. Looking back over at Nakai, I'm relieved to see he's genuinely grinning; a smile I'd only seen once yesterday that makes him look natural – happy. I want to smile back, but the embarrassment hits me like a truck and I fall down into my seat, trying to salvage my dignity.

Flipping my hair back, I settle into a pensive posture, arms folded in front of me. Offering a warm smile that he returns in kind, I try to ignore the murmuring. Whatever mocking I endure for that outburst, I think it was worth seeing that smile.

I still feel like a perfect fool.

He picks up his lunch bag and whispers, a gentle crack in his voice, “okay, fine, I'll go.” He stands and heads for the door, quickly, and I watch him leave feeling fifteen pairs of eyes focused directly on my face. I can't hold back the blush spreading over me, so I turn away letting my hair hide my shame, pretending to look out the window. Behind me, a chorus of childish voices sing together with an overzealous, “Ooooooh.”

If I could turn invisible right now, I would. Wishing I had a portal gun so I could escape back to my dorm, I instead have to stare out the window, looking at nothing important, until they stop staring long enough for me to turn my desk back around. Tadao gets a pair of swift kicks to the leg for winking at me as I make my way around with the chair.

Usually, I have more control than that. I'm not sure if it was frustration, infatuation or contempt driving me to yell at Hisao, but it's nothing I feel bad about. Well, I feel a little bit bad about yelling at the new guy, but I'd feel worse if he became a shut-in.

Not going to the festival? Does he want to end up like that Setou kid?

After that disaster, the second half of the day goes by almost as lazily and uneventful as the first. The outburst isn't the topic of discussion, though, rather my blushing cheeks and his quick retreat. I catch a few more glances at me, but the novelty wears off while Mutou tries to explain particle physics. Fortunately none of them have the courage to ask their burning questions, and I'm perfectly content to let them wonder.

Speaking of wonder, albeit small ones, Amaya walks in just before last period and looking a hundred times better than this-morning. As she walks by I shoot a glare at Tadao to gain his complicity about the incident with Nakai. He looks at me with a half-interested expression and just nods, knowing better than to disagree.

“Tadao, were you sitting at my desk?” she asks, giving his foot a swift kick as she sits down.

Yanking his foot away, Tadao winces and stutters, “N-, er.” he looks at me, not knowing what to say.

I raise my eyebrows and roll my hand, as if to say, "Go on."

“Yeah, my fault. I was...” he trails off, not having a lie ready.

Thinking up a quick excuse to cover, I offer a plausible lie, “he sat there to help me with English earlier.” She turns her analytical glare toward Tadao who grins and nods, though he's just accepting the answer rather than agreeing.

Amaya doesn't look convinced, but she shrugs. “Okay, whatever," she sighs, "next time don't leave my chair half-way across the room.”

Considering the whole class saw what happened, I don't know why I want to hide it from my best friend, but I know Amaya would bring down the full weight of the inquisition. Having had enough embarrassment for today -for the month- I'd like to avoid that fate, if only for a little while. Changing the subject, I ask her, "did you go see Nurse?”

Balking, she offers an insincere, “yes, mom.” The sarcasm in her tone is hard to miss.

Rolling my eyes, I turn around to look her in the eyes and frown. “Don't you lie to me, I know you too well,” I say, shaking an indignant finger at her.

She grumbles as she opens her book to find the chapter scrawled on the board. “Fine, I'll go see him after class,” she says with a sigh and adds, “it's no big deal.”

Sometimes she forces it out of me, even though I try not to act like her second mother. “It's because I care, okay,” I remark, watching her shrug. Turning back and shaking and I turn back to listen to another exciting history lecture.

The end of classes for a Friday is usually cause for some celebration, but this is festival week. There's no celebration during festival week; until the festival, of course.

Walking with Amaya down to see Nurse –more to make sure she's alright than to make sure she goes- he's somewhat surprised to see her actually show up, offering me a nod of appreciation. After that, we head back to the classroom to help finish the signage for our booth, and get the other details finished. We might actually be finished before the end of today, and I'll be glad to be able to relax. At least until the next disaster happens.

What should I wear to the festival?
________________________________
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A little insight into Aiko, Amaya's disability revealed, and an awkward outburst. There might have been kind of a date made, too... but I wouldn't be so bold as to call it that, exactly. I jotted down the full outline, too, (for my eyes only) so I have reference material to follow.

I normally wouldn't ask, but since I've never written a dream sequence I wonder if it came out right.

Also, I feel I should mention that I originally wrote it where she had just gotten Portal... then I did my due diligence, and found it didn't actually release until October 8th 2007 (I had figured it was a summer release). I still wanted to use it as a plot device, though, so I came up with Amaya's tendency to seek out content... by underhanded means.
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Aiko Kurai (OC)

Postby nemz » Wed Jul 04, 2012 3:33 am

If my eyes don't deceive me Hisao actually kinda smooth in that scene. :shock:

...nah, thinking he goaded her into asking him to the festival on purpose is giving him entirely too much credit.
Rin > Shizune > Emi > Hanako > Lilly
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Aiko Kurai (OC)

Postby Helbereth » Wed Jul 04, 2012 3:45 am

<reserved>
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Chapter 3 - Flash of Brilliance

Postby Helbereth » Thu Jul 05, 2012 11:36 pm

Now, onto scene 3. I'm almost writing this as its own story that happens to use Yamaku as a backdrop. I'm using a whole slew of OCs to fill the cast, and peppering it with familiar characters as they come up.

This time, we'll get insight into Aiko, her two friends and a bit of their back-story.


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_______________________________________

Chapter 3 – Flash Of Brilliance


Sleeping at odd hours has strange effects on future sleep patterns. After returning to my dorm late last night, I made myself a bowl of Ramen and sat down at my desk to play digital solitaire for a few minutes. A few minutes stretched into a few hours -I don't remember how many games I played- and when I looked at my clock it had passed midnight. I immediately closed my laptop, dropped onto my bed and fell asleep.

Two hours later I awaken, groggy and muttering, glance at the clock and throw a pillow at it in disgust. Rolling over, I try going back to sleep, but my mind betrays me -like it always does- so now I lay here in bed thinking about Amaya's seizure, booth signage, clothes shopping, Tadao's wink, and screaming at the new guy. Though, I began to wonder if he'd intentionally set me up for that outburst.

He didn't seem like a smooth-talker, but...

He was so quiet and coy, and I'd assumed he was as nervous as myself. That perpetual frown as we sat in silence seemed to scream, “Cheer me up!” However, the way he wandered into the classroom without my noticing, sat through lunch with barely a word, and looked like a lost puppy the whole time, that could all have been an elaborate act. He wasn't planning to go to the Festival, so he said, but that didn't make any sense. It's a festival; it's fun by default.

Why would he even consider not going?

He's new around here, I'll give him that, but that frown on his face didn't seem like anything more than a recent addition – an anomaly. He must have had fun before whatever happened to him happened to him; he had to remember what it was like going to a party and seeing your friends.

Maybe that's it?

He just started school here, and so far the only people I've seen him talking to are Shizune, Misha and myself – he shared a nod with Ito, but that doesn't count. Unless one of them asked him to go, it would probably be a rather empty experience for him. That thought makes me feel awful, and I feel bad for doubting his sincerity, but he did say he would go, at least. Saving him from a boring day cooped up in his room sleeping while his new classmates have fun was worth the hurt feelings, I think.

Well, maybe not 'saving'.

It's not like it was a life-or-death situation. If he decides to go, I will have had something to do with it, and I can feel happy about that, but he would have been fine otherwise, right? I should still apologize for yelling at him, especially around so many people; even though most of them probably didn't hear a word of what I'd said. It's the principle of the thing.

Still, if it wasn't intentional, why the interest in me?

Shizune and Misha seemed to be taking to him, so they probably offered to show him around – it's something the Class President is supposed to ensure, really. They probably pestered him about joining the Student Council through most of the morning, and I'd basically told him to trust Shizune's intentions. So, then, why not just take the easier route and have lunch with them, assuming they asked. It took him an extra ten minutes just to find my classroom.

I should have shown him on Thursday.

Was he that interested in seeing me again that he ducked the Student Council and wandered the halls trying to find me? Did he go out of his way like that to be polite and not disappoint me after saying he would stop by? Did Shizune put him up to it? That makes no sense; why would Shizune even know about it?

Am I that special?

This is all so confusing. Now I wonder if Amaya is awake. She'd know what to tell me; or at least she'd give me a swift kick that might reboot my clouded mind. Glancing at the clock, I see it reads, “2:34 am.” Even having slept most of the morning, Amaya is probably out like a light. She made a point not to show it, but on days she had seizures, they leave her feeling like a zombie. She'll be up in a few hours, though, and once her inquisition is over I can ask her what she thinks I should do.

With that thought in mind, I roll over and suddenly feel the fatigue that had escaped me. My eyes close, and I drift back to sleep holding an image of that happy smile I wanted to see again.

Loud banging wakes me sometime later, and I sit up fast enough to make my head loll with a wave of dizziness. “What?” I yell, my voice reduced to a croak.

Through the door I hear a muffled Amaya. “You're gonna be late, Aiko. Get up!”

Hearing that, I turn my groggy head to see the clock. Now It reads, “7:47 am,” and I throw my covers away, standing up more cautiously, but with urgency. Quickly changing into my uniform, I glance at myself in the mirror and run a hand through my thick hair a few times, trying to matte it down.

Amaya calls again as I hear her try opening the locked door. “I'll leave without you, y'know,” she barks.

“I'm up, I'm up,” I call through the door, “just gimme a sec, okay?”

I hear her whistle a sigh. “Just hurry up...” she trails off into what I assume is a yawn.

A few minutes later, after rushing through getting my nylons on and straightening my uniform, I open the door and Amaya rolls her eyes at me. “Late night?” she asks with half-open eyes.

“Early morning,” I correct her.

Another eye roll and a shrug. “Whatever, let's just go. You and I have some business to discuss,” she states as a devious grin highlights the dimples in her cheeks.

Oh boy. She knows. I'm caught. Someone told. I'm doomed. Let the inquisition begin. Someone kill me now. Get it over with, please!

I barely hear her ask, “I heard Tadao was all concerned about me yesterday.”

I start blurting things out before she even finishes, “well, you see, I invited him to lunch, and didn't think he'd go, but then he did, and we sat there, and there was this long awkward silence, and then I asked about the- wait what?” I stop my rambling and cast her a bewildered glance.

She stares at me with an eyebrow raised, and I hang my head down.

I've condemned myself.

“What are you talking about?” she asks, hooking her thumbs in the straps of her backpack and narrowing her eyes.

I start sputtering, “I- I, uh. Well, you see...” My mouth seems to have spent all its ability to speak on that run-on sentence a second ago.

She raises her eyebrows and shakes her head. “I asked you about Tadao, not your boyfriend,” she says, tossing her shoulders to lift her backpack into a more comfortable position.

Oh God. This is worse!

I stutter and mumble, staring at my shoes – which I now realize aren't tied. Ignoring that, I continue babbling until I feel her hand on my shoulder. I look down at her, straight into her eyes. She looks a little bewildered, which is fine, I guess, but then she speaks, “I was just kidding.”

I'll never play poker.

She starts laughing hysterically as I squirm under her gaze, and I feel like a perfect fool.

Twice in as many days, this has been a good week.

After her hysterics calm, I manage to finally say something, “how did you-”

She interjects, “Tadao's a worse liar than you.” She looks away in contemplation, letting her laughter subside. She looks back to finish her story, “as sad as that sounds. He spilled the whole story on our walk back to the dorms.”

I nod, realizing that should have been my first guess. Tadao Yoshida may be a wordsmith, but his conversational skills are somewhat lacking. He's too direct and honest to lie convincingly.

“Besides," she adds, looking at me dismissively, "I think half the school knows about it by now, so I'd have found out eventually.” She starts walking down the hall and I remember my shoes. Ducking to tie them, I see her stop and turn to ask, “so, what's the new guy like, anyway? I haven't seen him around yet.”

I take the time tying my shoes to come up with an answer. I decide to use the word that I've found best fits since I first met him. “Mysterious,” I answer cryptically.

“Re-eally?” she says, leaning back and separating the word into distinct syllables. She unhooks one of her thumbs from the bag strap and places a finger on her chin - her thinking pose. I know it well.

“Yeah, y'know...” I stand and fall in step as she starts walking, “new and mysterious.”

When we're outside and headed across to the main building, she finally speaks again, “so what about my question?” I look at her dumbly, not remembering. She lets out a frustrated sigh and leans forward emphatically to clarify, “about Tadao, duh?”

“Oh, he's-” I stop myself and take a moment to think. She and Tadao have been dancing around each other for the past year or so – studying together, joining clubs together, reading together... bothering me together. It's almost like they're together, but not. Neither one has worked up the courage to ask the other what their relationship actually means. They're the cutest non-couple at Yamaku.

Still, I don't want to force them together, I'm not sure what would happen to our little trio if things didn't work out. I've remained neutral for this long, knowing both sides but saying nothing. “He was worried is all. Like anyone would be. Even the new guy was concerned when I told him you were out sick,” I explain.

She pales a little, looking angry. “You told the new guy about-”

“No.” I stop her, ”I told him you weren't feeling well is all.” I watch as the anger melts off her face before saying, “it's not my place to tell people about your condition,” quickly adding, “nor is it yours to tell about anyone else's.” I give her a side-long look with that. She knows what secrets I'm referencing, and I know she understands my reasons. Even though she's a bit of a gossip, I know she'd never tell anyone. It never hurts to remind her, though.

“So Tadao wasn't any more worried than the new guy?” she asks, sounding a little disappointed.

Deciding to make her smile, I mention, “he knows you better, so he was a lot more worried, I think.” Hearing that accomplishes my goal, and the disappointment leaves her expression. However, seeing her face light up at the mere mention of Tadao's concern makes me want to bring an end to their dodging. If hearing it from a third party can make her happy, hearing it from the real thing might make her sing - not that I'd want to hear her sing ever again.

I didn't know it was possible to sing 'Happy Birthday' off-key.

An idea formulates in my devious mind as I decide to drop the other shoe, “he cares about you, y'know.”

Blushing, she looks away. It's the answer she wanted, I'm sure, but I don't think she expected it from me. So far, I've been a neutral observer, she understands, and never expects me to be so emphatic when she asks questions like this. Trying to stay out of their relationships, though, has become a full-time job sometimes. With the Festival fast approaching, their asides and queries will probably increase in frequency.

Part of me -the motherly part- wants to try and protect both of them from each-other, but, the longer this goes, the worse the outcome could be for everyone involved. That thought emboldens me, so, desiring to be done with their games and give them a chance at being happy, I decide it's time I nudged them together.

The actual nudging really shouldn't be difficult. All I have to do is put them in a situation where they're together, alone, with a presumed sense of mutual understanding. They're already great together, getting along like a married couple –sometimes disturbingly so- and with the Festival inbound, I think I already have an idea how to accomplish my goal. Stepping through the doors and heading for the stairs with Amaya, the thought occurs to me that if they were out on dates some nights, they might leave me alone – and I'd have time for... other activities.

Let's not get ahead of myself.

Walking into the classroom a few minutes late, we're both surprised to find Ito hasn't arrived yet. before sitting down, I notice Tadao and decide look him over –inspecting him like a piece of meat- to ensure he's good enough for Amaya. Already knowing the answer, this is mostly perfunctory, but Amaya is my best friend - only the best for her.

Dreamily staring into his notebook, writing something, Tadao has his hearing aid switched off to reduce the chance of being disturbed. Basically, he's completely oblivious to what's going on, and I can look him over without fear of consequence; assuming I don't linger for too long.

His long, sandy-colored, messy hair hangs in his face, causing him to constantly throws his free hand across his brow to brush strands out of his eyes. Drawn, gaunt features are angled into the squint of his tired-looking hazel eyes; reflecting the serenity of his dream-like waking state. A narrow, cleft chin rests askew as his jaw shifts to one side, caught in thought. Thin, narrow shoulders are pulled forward as he hunches, the position belying his his height. Long, skinny legs extend in front of him, crossed awkwardly, as he balances on the front of his chair. He looks uncomfortable, but I've seen him sit like that for hours without complaint.

Nodding approvingly to no-one in particular, I take my seat just in time to hear Ito's heavy footsteps approach the door. Bursting through it with the subtlety of a rhinoceros, he barrels across the room in a huff and lands heavily in his chair. The class mostly ignores him; they're used to seeing him barge in late, winded and sweaty.

After his display of middle-aged bluster, I do notice a few casual glances in my direction, but I try to ignore them. The novelty of yesterday's incident hasn't completely worn itself out – unlike poor Ito-sensei; huffing and panting like he just finished a marathon. Eventually he stands and writes out a textbook assignment on the board, turning to sign, [that'll be due Monday,] before flopping back down in his chair and digging his book out to read.

He must really be out of it if he can't even speak.

It's Saturday, so it's only a half day, and I'm excited to have the time after school to do some shopping. Digging into the assignment verily, I finish well ahead of the rest of the class, then turn to help Amaya and Tadao. When English class starts, I turn to them for recompense from their adept literary minds.

About half way through the assignment, I turn to Yoshida and ask, “so what are you doing for the festival after your shift?” I keep my head down so he can't see my devious grin. Amaya gives me a cold stare, but I ignore her; this is for their benefit.

And my own, I'll admit.

Tadao squirms and lets out a chuckle as he sinks deeper into his chair. “I hadn't really thought about it,” he says finally.

“Well,” I say, ignoring Amaya's protesting eyes, “Amaya and I are going to dress up and play some games if you wanted to tag along.” Amaya lets out a relieved sigh, the look in her eyes fading to one of quiet thanks.

But, I'm not done. Mwahaha!

“Or, I could take your shift at the booth," I suggest with a cordial smile, "and you could wander around with Amaya for a while.” I end with a practiced smile, trying to hide the deviousness of my offer.

So, there it is.

My entire plan rests on Tadao taking the bait and playing hooky, basically. As I sit there with an expectant look, I glance at Amaya and have to stifle a laugh. Seeing her blush glare at me angrily at the same time is both adorable and scary. Tadao looks away at the ceiling, something he seems to do to avoid eye-contact more than think, but I can almost hear the gears turning.

While he's looking away, I feel a slap on my arm. Amaya is probably twice as uncomfortable, but this is good for them. I'm tired of being their go-between. It's time they actually sat down and talked.

Where better than at the Yamaku Festival?

After a silence that I imagine is much more uncomfortable for them than it is for me, Tadao looks back and nods, forcing a half smile and swallowing hard. Amaya smiles too, and letting the idea wash over her seems to put stars in her eyes. I lean back in my chair and offer a raised eyebrow, “you'll owe me for this.”

I'm taking his shift, after all.

tadao grins at me while Amaya shoots daggers at me with her stony expression; I laugh a little to myself knowingly. If things work out the way I think they'll work out, these two will be wanting to thank me anyway; assuming things don't go horribly wrong. Seeing the casual glances they keep levying at each-other over the rest of class, though, I don't think I made a mistake.

After the half-day ends, Amaya hangs on my arm and talks at a mile a minute; her lips seeming to move faster than the sounds. Laughing quietly to myself, I listen to her prattle on about needing a new yukata, shoes, a haircut, maybe some makeup, and a million other unnecessary things. All she really needs is to bring herself, but I let her have the fantasy.

In the middle of her babbling, I manage to mention I wanted to go into the city after class, and she agrees wholeheartedly. Running off with child-like giddiness, I follow her at a more contemplative pace back to our dorms so we can change out of our uniforms for a trip into the city.

An hour or so later, we're on the bus headed into the city, and she's still giddily babbling about what might happen at the festival between her and Tadao. Realizing the Geneva Convention might consider this audio torture, I resign myself to listen. Accepting it gladly, I almost regret playing my hand to push them together, but the results matter more than a slight headache.

Getting off the bus, we both already know where we're going, and it's certainly not to the dress shop right away. Walking side-by-side, we talk about last year's festival mostly, recalling the evening we spent trying to catch goldfish and chasing Tadao down to recruit him for some throwing games. Having found him sitting against that blank wall -the one Rin is supposed to be painting a mural on this year- reading something from the Icewind Dale series, he had groaned in protest. Wanting to finish the chapter, he tried waving us away, but Amaya snatched the book out of his hand, causing him to chase her all the way to the gaming booths.

Later, Amaya huddled against him with her eyes closed during the fireworks. Her epilepsy had been less controlled back then and she was afraid of having the bright lights trigger an episode. He just sat there, trying to read his book in the dim light of the lanterns, and that was the first time I thought they'd be perfect together. A year later, I'm following Amaya into a little cafe for a quick bite to eat before we start the long, arduous process of shopping for her date.

Is it safe to call it that, I wonder?

Last year it was the three of us wandering the booths, playing games, laughing and carrying on about whatever nothings were going on at the time. Having just come back from a particularly awful trip home, I was in no state of mind for romantic pursuits, and the both of them were too oblivious to see the writing on the wall. Tomorrow, they would be wandering the festival together.

That's like a date, right?

Even though it was my idea, I almost feel like I'm being left out. Having been listening to the two of them ramble on about each other for the last year, acting like a confidant while keeping both their secrets, not being there to see its end feels like I'm missing the end of a movie. Watching them banter indirectly over the past year has been rather entertaining, and I think I'm going to miss being their sounding board.

Maybe they can be my sounding board instead?

Now that I think about it, I realize I had a reason to go shopping today; I also, maybe, sort of, kind of, have a date with the new guy –Hisao Nakai- the mystery-man from 3-3. The context is different, but he did agree to go to the festival at my behest, and there was a silent agreement in his eyes; an expectation that I be there to show him around at least.

It's not quite a date, but it's at least a meeting, and I want to make a good impression. Having already planned on getting a new yukata for the Yamaku Festival, I'm really just doing what I would have done anyway. Knowing there will be a new person whom I might want to impress adds an extra imperative, but I'm not doing anything out of the ordinary just for him.

Or am I?

After a light lunch -which consists mainly of tea, cake and Amaya's unending babble- we make our way to our favorite little dress shop. As we enter through the glass door, the ringing bell brings a familiar voice from somewhere near the back of the store, “come in, come in~!” His timbre is light and airy with seemingly boundless energy and a warm lilt. Mister Miyoto runs the Soliloquy Dress Shop, and he is decidedly abnormal.

Amaya is already brushing through the racks headed for our destination as Miyoto leaps up in front of me, beaming a happy smile. “Welcome back, Miss Kurai, Miss Yamamoto,” as he says our names, he turns and makes a slight bow toward each of us. “You're looking lovely as always, I lo-ve that streak in your hair, it's so playful and darling~!” he clasps his hands together and wears a dreamy expression as he compliments my hairstyle; I've never had the heart to tell him it's more function than fashion.

Amaya and I exchange a knowing glance. We're both pretty sure he's gay, but we've never brought it up – don't ask don't tell. A man in his thirties with a shock of bleached-white hair, brightly striped or floral shirts, suspenders, casual slacks, and a perpetual grin on his triangular face, Miyoto is almost happier to be working in a dress shop than should be legal. He ushers me forward and I follow past him toward Amaya, who's already looking through different Yukata.

Miyoto tosses the measuring tape that perpetually hangs across his neck to the side and places a pencil behind his ear. Bringing his hand up to his chin and narrowing his eyes, but retaining that smile, he puts his questions to words, “yukata, then? Yamaku Festival, I gather?”

It's not really a big mystery, but his quick deduction is a little unnerving. Although, his next question nearly knocks Amaya on the floor; “Is your date taking as much care, I wonder, in preparing for the festival, Miss Yamamoto?”

Nearly dropping the red and black yukata she was looking over, she sputters to try and answer the obviously rhetorical question, “I- well I-”

Miyoto looks her up and down while she collects herself, his eyes bobbing up and down like a basketball. Looking slightly uncomfortable at seeing her reaction, his perpetual smile remains. Never having told anyone their secrets, but seeing how easily Miyoto picked up on Amaya's apparent excitement, and deduced the likely cause, leaves me wondering if I should have done this months ago.

Considering that, I wonder how many people other than myself already know Amaya and Tadao are potentially involved. If Miyoto read it on her face, not specifically about whom, of course, then I wonder how many other people connected the dots. Finally regaining control of herself, Amaya sets her eyes on me, and I remember I'm in the room.

Existence is a burden at times.

Miyoto turns to me as I speak, “we both need new yukata.” He nods and lets out a little sigh, giving Amaya another bow as a sort of apology. We've been coming to this dress shop almost since we started at Yamaku, and I wouldn't want him to think we were scared off by his attempted joke. “It's a new concept for Amaya," I say, getting a raised eyebrow in response. "Dating I mean,” I add sheepishly.

He places a hand over his heart and closes his eyes. “Ah, young love. An angel disguised as lust,” he slowly turns to Amaya as he speaks with dramatic fervor. After a few seconds he opens his eyes quickly and centers his gaze on her with raised eyebrows, his smile leaving for just a moment. “Use protection,” he says flatly, and the smile returns.

Stifling my laughter, I watch Amaya swallow hard and blush deeply, burying her face in the blue yukata she was perusing. the red of her cheeks is practically visible through the fabric. Still hiding, she gives a slight nod. At that, Miyoto clicks his heels together and takes a few strides toward her, his lilting sing-song tone brightening the mood immediately, “well, then. Let's make sure he never forgets tomorrow night~!”

Miyoto, for all his flamboyance, is a skilled stylist. After only an hour of trial and error, he helps each of us find a new yukata. When Amaya steps out of the dressing room, I greet her with a grin and she gives me a twirl for effect. The yukata she chose is mostly white with pink and magenta accents at the sleeves and hem. Over her shoulder there is a bold, black, bramble pattern complete with big, bright pink flowers snaking down and across her hip. Her skinny frame appears more full behind the billowing fabric – accented by the tightly-bound black obi across her waist.

She crosses her arms then lets her left arm drop down beside her as she sways back and forth, looking at me with an excited grin. “It's perfect, right?” she inquires rhetorically.

Miyoto steps in view and leans to the side, his analytical eyes scanning over Amaya like a painting. His tone is more serious than you'd expect in the situation, “I think some pink ribbons in your hair and it'll be perfect, don't you think, Miss Kurai?” He doesn't turn to look at me, still taking in Amaya's new look.

I lean against the wall and sigh contentedly, “I think Tadao will like it.”

Amaya straightens up at the mention of his name and glares at me. Miyoto lets out a little chuckle. “Oh, like it was a secret," he says flatly, almost deadpan, "you only came by with him once and I knew.” He waves his hand back and forth as he talks, as though it were incredibly old news.

Amaya visibly relaxes, looking tired. “Okay, so it probably isn't a big deal,” she comments, sounding despondent. Sitting on a nearby bench in a huff, she lets out a resigned sigh and adds,“he probably won't wanna date me anyway.”

Raising an eyebrow, and deciding my discretion came to an end when they agreed to the date, I balk, “no way. He's nuts about you, y'know.” My voice full of annoyance, I take a few steps forward and cross my arms. “He's been telling me about it for the past year,” I add, dropping all pretense, “while you were feeding me the same kind of information.”

She looks up, her face twisting into a scowl, “why didn't you say anything, then?”

Now I'm squirming. Miyoto takes that as a chance to pipe up, “she didn't want to lose the both of you.”

Nodding, I realizing he's right. Amaya gets off the bench and comes to wrap me in a hug. Sounding maudlin, she remarks, “don't think like that, Aiko. You're like the mother I never had.” Her tiny frame, wrapped in the new yukata, looks so small and childlike, gripping me tightly and sighing deeply.

Returning the hug, I try to keep the mood light. “You have a mother,” I state.

“My other mother, then. Or the sister I never had,” she says sounding more playful than depressed. Backing away from me, I notice a tear running down her cheek. Biting her lip, she looks away, embarrassed by her outpouring. “You'd never lose me, no matter what. You know that,” she says through a sniffle.

Amaya and I have gotten along for two years; and been best friends for most of that time. Digging me out of my depression, she befriended me without judgement while I was a sullen, volatile bitch. Amaya was unrelenting in her cheerful attempts to make me smile when all I wanted to do was crawl in a corner and be forgotten.

Helping me to acclimate to the school -something she was also going through- Amaya got me to open up and forget the awful time I'd had in middle-school, and try to forget the dreadful events happening at home. Somehow, I never thanked her for that directly, but I think she knows without my having to say anything.

Perhaps that's why I seem so concerned about the new guy. Even while dealing with her own tribulations, Amaya saw fit to drag me along for whatever fun she had planned. Seeing Nakai wearing a sullen frown similar to the one I once wore, I feel like I should offer him the same kind of friendship Amaya showed me - perhaps more.

Recalling all that, I place a hand on her slim shoulder and offer the only reasonable answer, “of course.”

After standing in silence for a few moments, Miyoto's sing-song voice picks up the dreary mood, “well, let's see how Miss Kurai looks in her new yukata~!”

We both giggle at hearing the slight lisp in Miyoto's voice as I pick up my orange and black yukata, heading for the changing room. Closing the curtain, I think back to all the worry I'd felt about Amaya and Tadao, and I realize it was silly. Perhaps I really was more worried about myself than them, and I regret that, but I'm making amends.

Glancing in the mirror, it's the first time I've had a chance to look myself over in a few days. Rushing off without breakfast, helping with the festival, skipping meals, losing sleep and a plethora of other problems have been wearing me down a bit lately, and the paleness of my reflection is proof. As I disrobe, I notice my shoulders are sagging lower, and my eyes appear more sunken; likely the result of fatigue. The delicate curve of my hips and the flatness of my stomach have become more -curvy- of late.

Curvy. Healthy. Rounded. Evasive adjectives. Mom taught me well.

Silently, I make a note to get down to the gym for some exercise starting Monday. Perhaps a nice swim would be therapeutic. The yukata smells like cleaning chemicals -that new-clothes smell- as I wrap it around my shoulders and find the sleeves.

When I've got it wrapped right and finish with the bright orange obi, I lean toward the mirror to see how well the colors play against my narrow, full face. The orange floral pattern plays well against the colors of my eyes, and the rounded shapes echo the gentle waving of my dark brown hair.

When I step out, the smile on Miyoto is telling enough, but he speaks anyway, “oh you fill that out nicely, Miss Kurai.” He gives a cat-like growl, making a claw-like gesture with his hand, and turns to smile at Amaya.

Amaya frowns. “Yeah she fills out all her clothes like that,” she moans, looking down at her chest dejectedly.

Miyoto lets out a brief laugh that I can't tell is real or faked. “You both look lovely,” he grins at me and adds, “maybe a little tuck to save your friend some grief?”

I blush fiercely, realizing what he means. “No, I'm sure she'll be fine,” I lie. Amaya has been jealous of my chest for years, but there's no need for it to dampen the mood.

Finally, Amaya lifts her head and smiles, “I like how it mirrors the waves of your hair. It kinda makes,” she points at my chest, ignoring the pretense, “them... blend into the background.” She ends with a half-smile. Rolling my eyes, I share a laugh with Miyoto.

After changing back into our street clothes and quickly paying for the new yukata, we rush out of the store hearing Miyoto's cheery “goodbye, and good luck,” somewhere far behind us as we run to the bus station. Arriving just in time to hop on the bus, we can't help but giggle and talk about the upcoming event, regardless of the bemused stares from the other passengers.

When we arrive back at Yamaku, it's nearly six o'clock, so we head straight for the dorms and quickly hide our new Yukata in our rooms before heading to the common room for dinner. Tomorrow is the Yamaku Festival, and I don't want to be sleeping on an empty stomach again. As I look around, I notice the other girls are having similar conversations as ours, and at least one of them is a familiar face.

“Naoko.” I say, signing at the same time, “staying here tonight? Are you excited about tomorrow?”

Naoko nods, holding up an overnight bag, then squeezes her lips with her finger and thumb, indicating she wants to discuss something without me relaying it to everyone. After I return an affirming nod, she starts signing, [I heard Amaya and Tadao are finally a thing,] she signs, knowing Amaya won't understand.

Shooting Amaya a glance I shrug she just shakes her head, looking over at the TV while I 'talk' with the deaf girl. [Yeah, it's preliminary,] I sign, making an overly-excited face to assuage Amaya's curious glances, [but they're spending tomorrow together.] Apparently, it wasn't as much of a secret as I thought, but I don't mention my musing.

Naoko grins excitedly, but keeps herself from jumping up and down, not wanting Amaya to figure out what we're discussing. Rolling her eyes she signs, [finally. Those two are like an old married couple, they might as well be together.] Shooting her a glance, Naoko grins widely, but Amaya's too engrossed in the TV to notice.

Looking pensive when I look back, Naoko takes a sharp breath and holds it as she asks, [sre you going with the new guy?] Her dark green eyes narrow and shift around uncomfortably, but she's still smiling.

And there it is.

Someone finally asking the question that had been hanging in the air since yesterday's incident, I clam up a bit for a second. However, actually being faced with the question, I find I have an easy answer, [probably. I kinda convinced him to go, so I should probably show him around – make sure he has a good time.]

Naoko looks like she wants to ask more, but the logic in my response is hard to deny. I may have overreacted to his indifference about the festival, but it doesn't have to be a big deal. If I were to just find him around the grounds and walk around showing him the sights for a while, it wouldn't be a sordid escapade. I'd just be helping a new student have some fun at a strange new school.

That's my cover-story, anyway.

There's no need to tell Naoko about the part of me desiring more than to be a tour guide. If anything, the lost-puppy look in his eyes makes me want to help him out, even if it remains completely platonic. Still, there's a part of my mind, and maybe my heart, hoping he's interested in more than the tour.

If something comes of it, then fine. He seems like a nice, stable guy when he isn't looking so sullen. After seeing him work through those reports so easily, he seems intelligent and studious, he has a nice smile and, if I can get over myself, might even look past my terrible eating habits, emotional outbursts and sardonic humor.

A girl can dream, can't she?

After finishing our meal, and Amaya finishes watching CSI, we head back up to our rooms. Whatever happens tomorrow, I'm going to have a good time. Of course, that won't start until after I cover both my shift and Tadao's. Part of me wonders if I could pawn both shifts off to other 3-1 students, but that might be considered an abuse of power. Damn my decency and integrity. Groaning, I hit the pillow feeling tired enough to sleep through both shifts.

I hope those two remember me at their wedding.
________________________________________
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I'm not sure if this sets a precedent, but I think this chapter is the first time I've seen a fan fiction piece that doesn't involve any of the original story's characters. More to come, this is a LONG way from over.
Last edited by Helbereth on Fri Nov 22, 2013 3:02 pm, edited 12 times in total.
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