Direction (post Rin neutral ending)(complete)

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Direction (post Rin neutral ending)(complete)

Postby Muphrid » Sun Dec 09, 2012 6:29 pm

Four years after Rin left, Hisao finds himself in Tokyo for graduate school, hopeful that the passage of time can help heal an old wound.

Table of Contents:
Part One - On a train to Tokyo, Hisao reflects on the four years since Rin left.
Part Two - Hisao meets his new roommates.
Part Three - Rin's degree advisor gives Hisao a tour of a new exhibition.
Part Four - Hisao's first day in graduate school.
Part Five - The night of the Geidai exhibition is here!

Part Six - Hisao starts working in a lab.
Part Seven - Rin and Hisao discuss the Schrodinger equation, entropy, and past relationships.
Part Eight - Sumi confesses to Hisao some tension between her and her husband.
Part Nine - Hisao misses Rin for lunch, and Prof. Adachi gives some insight into Rin's state of mind.
Part Ten - To bond with Rin, Hisao recounts his time at Yamaku after she left.

Part Eleven - Rin locks herself in her studio, and Prof. Adachi goes to Hisao to ask her to come out.
Part Twelve - Hisao tries to help mend Ryou and Sumi's relationship.
Part Thirteen - Hisao makes a mistake in the research lab.

Part Fourteen - Reinvigorated, Hisao visits Rin in her studio again to set things right.
Part Fifteen - Hisao talks Sumi into confronting Ryou...and into making a serious concession.
Part Sixteen - A run-in with chaos theory gives Hisao insight into his future career plans.
Part Seventeen - After a few days of deliberation, Rin visits Hisao at his apartment, trying to find guidance and comfort from him. (Explicit Content)

Part Eighteen - Hisao awakens the next morning, with Rin nowhere to be found...or is she?

Doodles
Chapter One

To this day, I still don't understand art.

Since I'm the only one in this traincar sketching in the margins of my notebook, I know that must sound strange. First term hasn't even begun, and I'm taking up space on all these clean sheets of paper, too. Talk about getting a head start on passing the time.

I get the feeling drawing isn't a popular diversion. I think most people feel they can't do it correctly, but there isn't really a right way or a wrong way. If you keep your goals modest, does it matter if you draw a person's head too large or the legs too small? Yeah, some know-it-all art major might say you don't know anything about good techniques, but for me, it's not about that. I don't pretend to be capable of the next Mona Lisa. I sketch things in my notebooks now and then—sometimes with pens way too thick to do anything precise—because it's a good distraction, because it helps me focus on something. Sometimes, I remember lectures better because I know what I was drawing while I wasn't really paying attention at the time. Weird, right?

But just because I can draw half-decent sketches and doodles doesn't mean I understand art. I don't, and I realized I don't have to. Everyone has their own interpretation of a work. Mine just happens to be abject bewilderment most of the time.

I don't draw to have my doodles understood, though. I'm not even really an artist. I studied physics in undergrad. In some ways, it's very different. There's a problem to be solved, and maybe you don't know how to solve it (or even what the problem is), but there's a clear goal in mind for every situation. As my optics professor said once, "If you're going to stand naked in front of a window in broad daylight, you'd better be sure more sunlight reflects than passes through, or else the police will quickly be at your door. Luckily, I can teach you the principles needed to figure out just that."

…he was actually one of the saner ones, too.

Believe it or not, though, art and science have a lot in common, too. In the end, nothing we find with science matters if we can't get the ideas across to others. With art, it's not necessarily idea. It could be a feeling you want to express, but the concept is the same. A mathematical equation or a painting on a canvass are both ways to communicate something that requires more than just words to express.

I knew someone once who found words all but impossible to work with.

And I'm going to see her.

I haven't spoken to her in years, not since a rainy day in the summer of my third year in high school. I've known for some time where she went after that—the art teacher, Nomiya, was all too proud of what Rin had accomplished, and he'd tell anyone who wanted to hear about her scholarship offer in Tokyo. She was his prized pupil, after all, and as sad as it was that she'd left him, he beamed with pride at even the mention of her name.

Rin wasn't like other people, though. She didn't care to stay in touch with people. She may have thought there was nothing to say. I've heard from other students from Yamaku now and then. Shizune has a business degree, but she spends a lot of time doing charity events and other good work like that. Mutou tells me Misha teaches sign language at Yamaku, and just by thinking about her, I can hear her laughter echoing through the halls. Rin's friend Emi is all over the Internet with photos of her running marathons all over the world. She's a personal trainer, and I think she must be happy drawing up dietary plans and exercise regimens for her clients.

I made a point to catch up with some friends of mine from home, too, once I graduated from Yamaku. Iwanako is married now, to a man I don't know, but I sent her my congratulations, which she accepted cordially. We've never discussed the letter she sent me after I left—or my short reply, which in hindsight I realize was altogether inadequate. To be honest, after all this time, I don't know what either of us would say.

Things are what they are, I guess. They're neither right nor wrong; there's only your willingness to change them, if you choose to.

That's part of why I'm on this train, surrounded by strangers who have no interest in my doodles. A couple pieces of luggage are all I have with me—barely more than what I brought to Yamaku. I might have to go back to my parents' house to pick up some more things later on. Yes, definitely. Home isn't where the heart is; it's where your stuff is. I've learned that well.

I say Rin is part of the reason I'm coming to Tokyo because even if she weren't there, I'd have a good reason to go. Come Monday, I'll be a student in the physics master's program at University of Tokyo. It's daunting, being at the best school in the country. Already, I've heard horror stories from former students about professors humiliating them during presentations. Even one derisive snort while you're up there, standing before a panel of professors to explain and defend your research, could be soul-shattering. I hardly want to think about it. I've got nearly two years of work to do before I reach that point.

Still, I'm proud and honored just to be facing that challenge. I realized, after Rin left, that I'd thought she was an artist who made art for the sake of it. As difficult as she always was to understand, I couldn't have misjudged her more. I thought she was a person who could just put everything else aside because she had clear talent, because there was something she knew she could do. That's not Rin at all, though. All along, she was trying to find herself, and the process nearly destroyed her. I couldn't just hang around her and hope for a magic sense of purpose to fall into my lap, especially after she left. I buckled down and focused on what I wanted to do. Mutou helped with that a lot, and lo and behold, here I am.

If I look at my reflection in the train window, I think all I'd have to do to look like him is grow some stubble and put on a world-weary stare. Heh. What's scary is that I don't think I'd mind that.

Overall, I'm not going to get my hopes up. I'd be fine just seeing Rin once, saying hello, catching up, and going our separate ways again for a few years. That's what adults do, after all, right? They maintain friendships over decades, not needing to talk to someone every day or every other day or even less than that.

I realize I don't sound very convincing when I say that. Adulthood still puzzles me sometimes.

In the train, some of the passengers are starting to wake up. The lights flicker. A young girl in the row ahead me points and calls to her father. "Look, look, Daddy, the tower!"

The orange-and-white metal tower dominates the view. I've heard it's painted that way because of air safety, but that doesn't make a lot of sense. The Eiffel Tower doesn't have to be painted. There must be an explanation; it's something I'll have to look up, I guess. Still, I can't imagine the Tokyo Tower looking any other way. I quickly try to sketch it in my notebook, but it's difficult with other buildings zipping past. Maybe I can capture that with some kind of blur….

But it all zooms by in too much of a hurry. Before long, we're pulling into the train station, and I need to pack my things. Two bags? Check. Notebook? Check. Address card? Check. There's one more thing, though, and I pat my pocket to be sure it's there. As the train rolls to a stop, I pull it out just to check it's really what I think it is. It's a flyer—well, a flyer printed out on an ordinary sheet of paper, so the texture is smooth, not glossy.

"Tokyo University of the Arts — Opening Exhibition," reads the title, and the background is a cubist rendition of a man's face, in blue instead of skin tones. Apparently it's an annual tradition at the school to have the new students meet their peers through their work.

I can't think it's great advertising to put a bunch of students' names down as featured artists if no one knows who they are, but all I need to see is Rin's name to know where I'll be Monday night.

The train stops, and I close my notebook with the sketch of the Tokyo Tower unfinished. I'm okay with that. There's plenty of time to finish something once it's started.

Even if it takes me over four years to do it.
Last edited by Muphrid on Thu Feb 07, 2013 7:24 pm, edited 20 times in total.
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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Postby nemz » Mon Dec 10, 2012 3:03 am

Hisao has no idea what Lilly is doing? Or Kenji?

In all honestly I'm not sure that particular passage adds much of anything to the story though. It's not like Hisao was at all close with any of them in Rin's route, and frankly it does seem creepy that he's keeping tabs on them.
Rin > Shizune > Emi > Hanako > Lilly
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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Postby Muphrid » Mon Dec 10, 2012 3:54 am

The goal of that passage is to point out by contrast that Hisao has been able to keep in touch with people--even some people he wasn't particularly close to--while someone like Rin can easily drop off the map. If you feel that idea is basically sound, then maybe the problem is more the execution. On balance, i think I want to cut the Hanako remark compeletely. The others can probably stand, but that one line seems the most like it makes Hisao into more of a stalker and not someone who politely maintains contact with people.

As for Kenji, I'm sure he is purposefully staying below the radar, lest the feminist conspiracy get wind of his knowledge and take him out.
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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Postby griffon8 » Mon Dec 10, 2012 2:18 pm

Solid writing, good grammar, and an interesting idea. I look forward to more.

Muphrid wrote:Iwanako is married now, to a man I don't know, but I sent her my congratulations, which she accepted cordially. We've never discussed the letter she sent me after I left. To be honest, after all this time, I don't know what either of us would say.

What about the response Hisao sent back? Rin's route was the only one in which that occurred.
I found out about Katawa Shoujo through the forums of Misfile. There, I am the editor of Misfiled Dreams.

Completed: 100%, including bonus picture. Shizune>Emi>Lilly>Hanako>Rin

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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Postby nemz » Mon Dec 10, 2012 6:40 pm

I'm just saying that unless they're going to be playing a role in the story it serves no purpose to even mention any of the others. It just feels like it's there as some sort of half-assed apology to all the fans of girls this fic isn't about.

And again, kinda stalkerish... and not just the Hanako line, either. The fact that he's keeping track of any of the others whom he isn't particularly close with is just downright weird. Aside from a short list of real friends (not just acquaintances) I don't have the first clue what is up with any of my former HS classmates, nor do I really care to find out. Emi and Kenji would make sense for him to keep track of from Rin's route but not any of the others, at least without some more recent interaction to justify it.
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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Postby Muphrid » Mon Dec 10, 2012 7:44 pm

griffon8 wrote:Solid writing, good grammar, and an interesting idea. I look forward to more.

Muphrid wrote:Iwanako is married now, to a man I don't know, but I sent her my congratulations, which she accepted cordially. We've never discussed the letter she sent me after I left. To be honest, after all this time, I don't know what either of us would say.

What about the response Hisao sent back? Rin's route was the only one in which that occurred.


Doh! That was one of the parts of Rin's route I'd only played through once. Sloppy on my part. I'll reference it at least, though I admit I'm not sure what could be done with it that changes things significantly. Still, better to mention it than not.

I'm just saying that unless they're going to be playing a role in the story it serves no purpose to even mention any of the others. It just feels like it's there as some sort of half-assed apology to all the fans of girls this fic isn't about.

And again, kinda stalkerish... and not just the Hanako line, either. The fact that he's keeping track of any of the others whom he isn't particularly close with is just downright weird. Aside from a short list of real friends (not just acquaintances) I don't have the first clue what is up with any of my former HS classmates, nor do I really care to find out. Emi and Kenji would make sense for him to keep track of from Rin's route but not any of the others, at least without some more recent interaction to justify it.


Well, it explicitly says in the text that he has learned these things largely through some level of contact. Let's not forget Hisao had 2/3 of a schoolyear to finish before going to college. That's plenty of time to make other connections (though, if they were too significant, they wouldn't be treated as briefly as I've treated them). I don't think it's stalkerish when you find things out by asking someone in the course of conversation. I'd be interested in how other people feel about this passage, though.
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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Postby Muphrid » Mon Dec 10, 2012 7:58 pm

It seems like everywhere you go, the buses are the same. Some people can't stop checking their watches or their phones, wondering about the time or how late they might be. Others have music blaring in their ears, which would be fine except that everyone on the bus can hear them despite their headphones. It's like a tribe of monkeys all chattering away, or a group of angry percussionists banging on drums to no rhythm at all.

Or a tribe of monkeys banging on drums.

Is tribe the right word for a group of monkeys, anyway? For some reason, I want to say barrel….

The bus ride is short, though, and a five minute walk from the stop brings me to a white apartment building with green, tinted windows. I double check the address on my card with the one by the door. Yep, this is the right place. This is home.

I feel lucky to be staying here. It's close to campus, and I notice right away how clean the carpets and the walls are. I actually feel a bit guilty. A friend of mine from undergrad heard I'd be going to Tokyo and offered to set me up with her little brother, who's just starting his first year there. Everything just fell into place without me really having to worry about it. On the way into town, I wondered if I should've been more diligent—if I should've looked at other places or come to town before the term started just to check things out—but so far, everything seems to be all right.

My apartment is on the eighth floor, and after getting the wheels on my luggage stuck at the elevator's threshold, I knock twice, just to be polite. I don't even have a key yet, so I hope someone's home.

Luckily, the lock clicks right away, and a kid with light brown hair—almost into his eyes—and a Yomiuri Giants baseball cap nods at me approvingly. "You're Nakai, right? Come on in."

He takes one of my bags in hand, struggling a bit. He's shorter than me, but not by much. I realize that he's not just wearing a baseball cap; he has a jersey on, too, though I don't recognize the name or number. What's most striking, though, are his two blue eyes—light in color, like the sky. I think it must run in the family.

Speaking of family…"I'm sorry, your name is Hayashi?" I ask. "I know Sumi got married, so I'm just trying to remember."

"Just Mitsuru is fine," he says, fumbling for the keys to one of the bedrooms. "You're older than me, after all, right?"

I should hope so. "I'm Hisao, then."

"Cool. You know Sis from Kyoto, yeah?"

"Yeah, we studied physics together. To be honest, I was surprised she tracked me down. I hadn't seen her in a couple years. I know she was living on Okinawa for a while, but she's around here now? In Tokyo?"

He nods. "We came out here about a week ago. We couldn't get an apartment big enough for the three of us, though, so she and Ryou have their own place."

Too bad they couldn't stay together. I'll have to ask where she is and visit, but right now, I'd rather get settled in. Mitsuru helps me unpack my bags, and I quickly start laying out my desk with notebooks, pens, pencils, the works. My endtable is for meds, and while the array of pills I have to take has shrunk in the last few years, it's still an intimidating regimen. The way Mitsuru stares at the line of bottles tells me that question is coming up sooner rather than later.

"I have a heart condition," I explain.

"A heart condition? But you're only what, twenty-two?"

"That's why it's a big deal," I say. I try to sound nonchalant about it, but it's clear he's still surprised. Still, he has the tact not to say anything else about it, which is a relief, but in the silence, I try to steer the conversation elsewhere. "So, you like baseball?"

"Yeah, you?"

I wince. "Can't say I've followed it. I guess I was more into soccer when I was younger, but even then, I only played occasionally."

"Soccer's cool; I don't have a problem with it, but baseball is an ancient and storied game, man, with wisdom for the ages. There's just nothing else like it."

I somehow doubt the Egyptians were playing baseball while on breaks from pyramid building. Anything more recent than that doesn't strike me as ancient, but I let it pass. "What exactly is this wisdom for the ages that baseball is supposed to teach us about?"

The way Mitsuru's eyes light up, I know I've gotten into more than I asked for. "Everything, man, everything. I mean, let's take you as an example. You're going to Toudai—the best university in country—for your master's degree, right?"

"Yeah…"

"Are you nervous about it?"

"A little. I mean, I know there's a lot of coursework and research and probably the publishing of a few papers…."

He starts grinning, and I can only imagine I'm already making a worried face. Mitsuru doesn't mind, though. He gets right to the point.

"So it's like undergrad was your minor leagues, and now you're ready to break into the majors. You're like, hm—maybe Matt Anderson? Yeah, Matt Anderson in the '97 draft. That guy could break 160 on the radar gun easy!"

Let's stop right here. I know almost nothing about baseball, let alone American baseball, let alone what radar guns have to do with anything. Ask me about the Doppler effect, sure, but this is all beyond me.

"Is that a good number—160, I mean?" I ask. "I guess for a car that would be pretty fast."

"It is. He tore through the minors and made it to the big leagues, striking out 44 men in 44 innings."

That sounds impressive, but don't they usually face at least three batters in an inning? What happened to the other two?

I get the feeling that's all irrelevant to the point. "So, this Anderson guy had a good career in the major leagues after doing well in the—the…"

"The minors?"

"Yeah, the minors. So you're saying that because I did well in undergrad, I'll do well in grad school, too. That's what you're saying, right? Because this Anderson guy did so well in the majors after proving himself in the lower levels of baseball?"

"Well, yeah, until he tore a muscle in his arm."

"He what?"

Mitsuru shrugs. "Anderson tore a muscle in his armpit after four years and never succeeded in professional baseball after that again. Too bad. He was the number one pick, too."

Whatever encouragement this story was supposed to give me is seeping away like the air from a punctured tire. And I'm not convinced baseball was really needed to tell me I could fail miserably at my degree, either.

Mercifully, there's a knock on the door, and Mitsuru goes to answer before he can crush my spirit with any other depressing anecdotes. I thought sports were supposed to be uplifting.

"Need something?" asks Mitsuru, which strikes me as a bit casual to say to a guest.

"Nah, just seeing if your roommate's arrived." The voice sounds slightly hoarse, but it's definitely a girl's voice. "Is he in?"

"Yeah."

"Did you tell him a silly baseball story yet?"

"No! …maybe."

I peer out from my bedroom. Mitsuru and the girl are still talking at the doorway; he hasn't even let her inside. She's shorter than he is, with dark hair tied up in a ponytail. Having her hair up accentuates her forehead, but only a little. Like Mitsuru's, her eyes are a distinct shade of blue, but she wears a pair of glasses with black rims and sharp corners. She's thin and, well, rather flat. Not that this is the first thing I look for in a woman. Really.

"Hey, stranger," she says to me, waving. "Liking your new digs?"

That's Sumi for you—very casual. "Haven't really had a chance to settle in," I answer. "What brings you here? Checking on your little brother?"

"On you, of course. And on Mitchan, a little."

Mitsuru scowls at the nickname. I'm glad she doesn't call me Hicchan.

"And also to steal a little soy sauce," Sumi goes on, rummaging through the kitchen cupboards for a bottle.

"You need to go shopping," says Mitsuru.

"Shut up!" She says this with a sing-songy lilt; she's not being serious. "Anyway, if I keep running out of condiments, I may pop back in, so keep your door unlocked, okay?"

"Yeah, yeah." Mitsuru rolls his eyes.

Sumi puts her slippers back on as she's headed out the door. "Good to see you, Hisao. You don't have any plans for lunch, right?"

"Ah, no?" I say.

"Awesome. Get back to settling in then; I won't be too long."

She ducks out, and I'm left a bit crosseyed. I turn to Mitsuru, who's closing the cupboards Sumi left open. "Something wrong?" he asks.

"Yeah. Where is she going with that bottle of soy sauce?"

"Her place."

"Which is where?"

"Across the hall?"

I feel like I opened a jigsaw puzzle and only realized that, after staring at it for several hours, I'd yet to actually scramble the pieces. "She lives across the hall?"

"Yeah. Didn't you know? All week, she's been so excited about having a friend from her old school to go to classes with and study and stuff."

Now I think my eyes are about to roll back into my head. Maybe I'm just not one for surprises. At any rate, it's enough for me to go through the door and knock at the apartment across the hall. I hear a pot clanking on a stove, and Sumi answers right away with a dishrag between her hands.

"Forget something, Hisao? I don't have a lot of extra supplies, but if you left something at home, I can take a look around."

That's hardly what this is about. I've been brought here under false pretenses! If Sumi had told me she lived just next door, I would've…I would've…well, I would've felt different about things! Because then they would be different. Different from now.

Thankfully, Mitsuru has the presence of mind to break the silence that's gripped Sumi and me. "Sis, you didn't tell him you were going to school together," he explains.

"What?" She puts her hands on her hips, indignant. "Yes, I did! I totally fucking did." A look of worry comes over her face, though, and she glances at me. "Didn't I?"

I shake my head feebly.

"Oh. Well, surprise?"

Another voice calls from inside the apartment. "Sumi, I think you're about to burn something."

Panicking, Sumi races from the door. She's cute when she's flustered; she does this motion with her hands like you'd expect a bad actor to do in a stage play when he's supposed to be horrified, except for her it's genuine. I peer in, and I see a man in a muscle shirt sitting in front of the television in the corner of the main room. He's hammering away at the buttons of a video game controller while colorful explosions and harsh sounds come from the set.

"You're Nakai, right?" he says, glancing at me from the corner of his eye. "I'm Ryou, Sumi's husband."

Yes, it's hard to forget. Sumi got married before she left—for Okinawa, I guess. Even while she's cooking, she wears the ring proudly on her finger. I'd never met her husband, but I'd seen some photos. They're high school sweethearts or something like that. I think glumly I could've had a high school sweetheart, too, but that's not really true. Maybe it would've been possible with Iwanako. As for Rin, I dare say she wasn't the type for such an neat and convenient label. Rin was always more complicated, more unique.

Sumi's husband Ryou is a tall, muscular man. I can tell even while he's sitting; he's that impressive. With Ryou playing games and Sumi fretting over the stove, the door is left open, and I'm a little lost over what to do. Misuru solves the dilemma, though. He wanders in and motions for me to follow. He even picks up another game controller and sits down with Ryou.

"Maybe we can do a deathmatch," he suggests to Ryou gently. "Three-way free-for-all?"

Ryou blinks at this, puzzled, but as I take a seat beside him he seems to understand. "Oh, yeah. Why not? Let me get the spare controllers. Guess it's a good thing we got four after all, right, Sumi?"

"If we hadn't, nothing would've stopped us from getting a fourth while Hisao was coming into town," Sumi counters. I get the feeling there's more to this argument than meets the eye.

Ryou right away makes himself known as a man of few words. While we shoot rockets and throw grenades at each other, Mitsuru raucously cheers and hollers whenever he scores a kill. Ryou, on the other hand, fights with a level of intensity that seems unnatural, even counterproductive for enjoyment.

As for me, I'm not too hot on video games in the first place; I still prefer to read and be engaged in something I can remember instead of dozens of matches that are forgotten as soon as we move on to the next. Still, it's fun being around other people, and I don't know why I was so uneasy that Sumi and Ryou would be close by. I've been in Tokyo for just a few hours, and the four of us are already hanging out like we've known each other all our lives. It's a good feeling.

Almost as good as running toward your attacker after he sticks you with a plasma grenade and getting him killed in the same explosion that kills you.

"You've got to be kidding!" cries Mitsuru, banging a hand on his controller. "You learn fast, Hisao."

"Not surprised," says Sumi. "His test marks always fucked with grading scales in our classes."

I'm forced to snort a little; Sumi's casual swearing takes some getting used to again, and she's already dropped two bombs in the span of a couple hours. She doesn't seem to think anything of it, though.

After about an hour and a half of gaming, Sumi orders us to put the controllers away and eat. Sumi is, I'm learning, an excellent chef, and very self-sufficient, too. Mitsuru and I only left the game a handful of times to help watch the food while she hunted down more tableware or other missing items.

When it's time to eat, it's a little after one in the afternoon—not an unreasonable time to eat at all. While I'm trying to decide what to taste first—the grilled salmon smells delicious, but I've always had a soft spot for shrimp—Sumi fills me in on the two years of her life I've missed.

"Ryou enlisted in the Self-Defense Force shortly after we married," she explains. "His duty took him to Okinawa, so we packed up and moved there until he completed his assignment. I got into a good program over there; there's actually a ton of high-energy physics on the island. It was almost all that they did."

"Really?" I ask. "Is that what you're going to do here?"

She shakes her head vehemently. "Hell no. If I have to deal with fucking spectroscopic notation again, I will die. Seriously. There was no variety down there. They don't have any particle accelerators or anything; it's all just analyzing data from other labs and schools. That's just not my thing. But I still love doing physics. I'm sure I'll find something to do."

She says it so casually. I have to wonder how she had the wherewithal to go through a program she clearly didn't like. I guess she must've had an eye to the future, knowing that she wouldn't be there forever.

"Otherwise," she goes on, "there were a lot of Americans, as you'd expect. It's pretty educational, and you really get a broader sense of things from talking to them. One of my professors was an American, and he pointed this out to me: we tend to think of Japan as a small country, right?"

Everyone around the table nods.

"But you'd say Germany is a big country, right? Well, Japan is actually bigger than Germany. I'm not shitting you with this; it's not just all the tiny little islands that no one's living on, either. And if you say, what, that Japan is just more densely populated than a lot of countries? It's really not. Belgium, India, the Netherlands—they're all at least as crowded as we are. It's just our mindset, you know? It's like cultural identity. It's really awesome to realize just how much of that is ingrained in what we think. That, and…" She stifles a laugh. "And Ryou asked one of the American soldiers if they had McDonald's in the States!"

"It's not obvious," Ryou insists.

"It's meant to sound Scottish or something. Like that movie Sean Connery was in—"

"Sean Connery's been in a lot of movies," says Mitsuru.

"And he is Scottish," I add.

"Not the point! It's that movie where there can only be one, and Sean Connery plays a Spanish guy, even though he's Scottish, and a French guy plays a Scotsman. His name was Connor MacLeod."

That phrase is familiar—"there can only be one"—but it elicits only a vague feeling that I've blotted something from my own memories. And that someone owes me a few hundred yen, plus interest.

"How do you write that in English?" asks Mitsuru, and when Sumi writes it, he scoffs. "There's an extra a. It's not the same."

"It totally is," says Sumi.

"Is not!"

At this point, I pull back from the argument. With Sumi and Mitsuru's good-natured banter in the background, it's just nice to be here. In just the span of a few hours, this already feels something like home.
Last edited by Muphrid on Tue Dec 11, 2012 1:02 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Postby nemz » Tue Dec 11, 2012 12:49 am

Okay, I see you've changed it and it doesn't bug me as much anymore. This latest chapter, however, does a much better job making the infodump immediately relevant.
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Re: Direction (post Rin bad ending)

Postby Mirage_GSM » Tue Dec 11, 2012 12:00 pm

I don't see what's so unusual about staying in touch with schoolmates from high school.
I'm not particularly close with many of my former friends today, but I follow many of them on facebook and we meet up every few years, and i could probably at least tell the marital status and general career path of many of them.
Not sure what the stalking part with Hanako was about since I only read this story after you cut it out.
Nice start. I think Bad Ends can be particularly interesting to see the aftermath of - if done well. So far this looks promising.
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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Postby Muphrid » Tue Dec 11, 2012 6:13 pm

I go back across the hall after lunch is over. Mitsuru and Ryou are still going at it with the video games, but half of my stuff is still packed up, and I want to get that taken care of before tomorrow. It doesn't take long, though. Having gone from home to Yamaku, then to undergrad in Kyoto, and now here, I realize the benefit of traveling light. Each new home is a chance for a fresh start.

When all my clothes and books are squared away, all I have on my desk is the flyer to the exhibition. The last thing I want to do is run late tomorrow, and walking around sounds like a good way to keep from thinking about things too much.

Rin's school actually isn't very far from Toudai—in theory, just a fifteen-minute walk northeast, but it's Sunday afternoon in Tokyo. The streets are packed, and I find myself taking cautious strides at each intersection. Luckily, the route is mostly a straight shot along a single street, so it's not too hard to follow. I'm glad for that. I think even just the better part of a year at Yamaku changed me a bit. I'm no longer fond of the hustle and bustle of the city. There are good parts to it—the ease of access, the sense of being at the heart of humanity—but ultimately, I think I'd like to go back to some place outside of the big city to settle down at. Kyoto was good about that, too, with the mountainous scenery ever-present on the horizon.

That's not to say Tokyo's all that bad. It's not, and I like that as I get closer to Rin's school, more and more of the cityscape is intermingled with trees. Come to think of it, I've seen a few signs for a park around here, but I admit I haven't the slightest clue where it could be.

When I reach the corner across from the school grounds, I rest for a bit by a directory and close my eyes. The walk hasn't been too stressful, but it never hurts to check myself and listen. For now, the time bomb in my chest is behaving, and I'm not too winded or worn out, but I'm not afraid to admit that the condition of my heart weighs on me from time to time.

Or that, knowing I may die sooner rather than later has played a part in me wanting to resolve the mistakes I've made. I think if I'd been stronger and more resolute about it, I would've made a point to come here even sooner, instead of waiting for a time where avoiding her would've proved painful. But that's all in the past. I can't fix that. I'm here now, and I've had a lot of time to think about what I did and how I acted.

All along, I thought Rin was soaring high above the plane of ordinary men, dealing with concepts and thoughts totally alien to the rest of us mere mortals. The passage of time hasn't really changed that view. She could make connections between things that I never understood, and that made a lot of her behavior incomprehensible to me. My mistake was in letting that bother me, in believing she wanted to sit on that plane of inspiration in isolation, but that's not true at all. Rin was a person just like anyone else, and as much as her unique thought processes gave her insight, they also distanced her from people.

And that's why Rin painted—to try to break down that barrier, to open up a line of communication with people where words so often failed her.

To think I never even looked at her paintings that way. I always thought I should get an impression of something from her works, but insight into her? Where could I even begin?

So in my despair and frustration, I told her the truth as I saw it—that people can't really expect to understand each other. And to this day, I still think that's true. For someone whose mind works so differently from the rest of—for someone like Rin—real understanding may be all but impossible.

But in the years since we parted in the rain, I've come to add a corollary to that postulate of life: as difficult as it may be to find understanding, even minuscule, incomplete comprehension of another soul is worth pursuing, and it is its own reward. It's like Plato's theory of forms. If all we can truly understand about another person is the influence she exerts on the world around her, we can still infer something about who she is, however vague and general those observations might be.

It seems like a small comfort. It may be something I thought of just to argue with Rin's stubbornness—no, her dejectedness—at the time, but for now, I'm sticking to it. For that, my heart is steady, and I can press on.

When the signals change, I cross and head toward a building with a two-tone exterior—reddish near the ground level and metallic gray on the upper floor. I want to say this is the state of modern art, but I think it has to do more with making a hasty addition to an older structure. The flyers plastered around the exterior tell me I'm in the right place—in fact, they tell me this every three or four steps.

I circle around to the front door of the building, finding a couple more flyers taped to the glass of the doors, as well as a sign with a red arrow saying, "Exhibition hall." Mission accomplished, I guess. If I get lost on the inside of the building, I'm pretty sure I deserve to miss Rin.

"Excuse me!"

A woman's voice calls to me. She's a bit short, mostly hidden behind a large, rectangular canvass and frame that she's carrying.

"Young man, could you open that door, please? I promise you'll have an old woman's gratitude for the next ten minutes. After that, I can't promise I'll remember you, but it's the thought that counts, right?"

I obligingly hold the door open, and as the old woman passes, I see more of her. Her hair is all gray, but it's still long and flowing. Despite her claimed age, the woman's eyes are wide, alert, and sharp as she guides the canvass through the door. She wears a pair of overalls, which are stained with a rainbow of paint splotches.

"Thank you, young man, but we're holding an exhibition here tomorrow," she says, clearing the doorway. "The building is closed to the public, so I must ask you to—"

Her eyes flicker to me, and she abruptly cuts herself off. She turns a shade paler than when she walked in, I think. I can't help but wonder if there's something on my face.

"I'm sorry, I was just looking around," I say, trying to break the sudden silence. "I was planning on visiting tomorrow. I'm new in town, so I wanted to find my way."

"New in town?" she echoes, letting the painting lean against the doorframe, but her eyes never leave mine. "Is that right?"

"It is. I'm not a student here; I go to Toudai." I shift my weight, feeling uncomfortable. Something about this old woman's gaze is boring through me. She studies me head to toe, nodding, like I'm a subject she's about to paint.

"I see. New in town. Graduate school?"

How could she possibly—

"It's a small talent I have, to tell people's ages at a glance. It's not difficult. It just takes practice. Go ahead, young man. Guess how old I am. I promise not to get mad."

I stare at her, slackjawed. A promise not to get angry seems like little more than a trap!

"Oh-ho-ho, I see you're a careful one! Well, such wisdom is a fair talent of its own these days. Please, young man, come inside. If you're interested in art, it would be a shame to turn you away."

I frown. "Is that really all right?"

"Of course it is. Why do you think I'm carrying this painting? Because I happen to run this exhibition. Professor Haruka Adachi, at your service." She does a slight bow—very slight, since it's all she can manage without dragging the painting on the floor. "Who might you be?"

"Ah, my name is Nakai. Hisao Nakai."

She nods knowingly. "Of course it is."

"Pardon?"

"Ah, nothing, nothing. I was just thinking you look like a Hisao."

I can't say I've ever had that said to me before….

As strange as she is, I follow Professor Adachi without question up the stairs to the exhibition hall. The lights are bright and hot, and I can't help but think the black walls intensify the effect. A handful of students are helping hang paintings. I halfway hope Rin might be there, but I realize that hanging paintings would be a challenge for her.

"So you're interested in art, Hi—er, pardon me, Nakai?" asks Professor Adachi.

"Ah, I, uh, don't know if I could say that. I doodle from time to time. I can't say I'm serious about it."

"Who can?" she remarks. "Art is a form of expression. The people you'll meet here—myself included—are serious about expression. Sure there's something therapeutic, even enjoyable, about the mechanical process of putting pigment to canvass, of molding clay with one's hands, but that's more a matter of the choice of medium, of the process. When you sketch or doodle or whatever you choose to call it, do you have an idea or a feeling in mind?"

I wince. "Not really?"

To my relief, Professor Adachi only smiles. "Such honesty. You might be surprised how refreshing that is to me. For a school of people so obsessed with expressing themselves, honesty can be hard to come by around here, and the person an artist is likely to lie to the most is herself. Keep that in mind when you come by tomorrow, Nakai. The girls here can promise you much, but in the end, they are all artists at heart."

I must be missing something. "Professor?"

"Well, if you're not really interested in art and you're new in town, I can only take that to mean you're looking to meet girls," she says matter-of-factly. "You don't need to feel ashamed about it. I met my late husband at an exhibition like this."

"No, it's not—" I shut up. There's no fighting the color in my cheeks. Professor Adachi isn't quite right, but she's uncomfortably close to the mark.

"Ah, I see. There's already a special girl for you, hm? Well, that's good. Try to keep up, then, Nakai. I'm going to give you a tour of this exhibition. That way, when you come by and meet her tomorrow, you'll be in a position to impress her with all that you know."

I kind of doubt a fifteen-minute primer on the pieces of the exhibition will really help me impress Rin. To be honest, I haven't the slightest idea what would impress her, or if I even should try to. I'm just here to be me, not to win her back or do anything else.

But Professor Adachi seems oblivious to my hesitation. She points out a nearby landscape. "Have you been to the park? It's just behind the school. It's quite lively. Ninomiya, one of my colleague's students, likes to use a thick brush. She's quite capable of exacting precision, but the thicker strokes give it a softer feel that I quite like. What do you think of it?"

It's true, the tree trunks and walkways in the piece are hardly straight or narrow. Still, the combination of strokes gives the right impression. The work is like something formed in the mind's eye. It makes sense as a whole, even when the individual details are puzzling.

"I think it's soothing?" I offer.

"No need to make it a question. What you feel is what you feel. Let's keep moving, shall we?"

Obediently I follow, not entirely sure why I should. Professor Adachi leads me around like the Pied Piper, and I only know to stop when she circles around a pedestal, guiding my eye with her hands. The piece is a white, unpainted sculpture. It's rigid and geometric—a series of pyramids built on top of each other. I hardly understand how it holds together.

"Another of my colleagues is advisor to this boy. His name is Kimura. Geometry captures people's attention, for it's something most of us think we understand intuitively. There are things that are possible and things that are not, yet art allows us to create impossible-seeming constructs and images. Tell me, Nakai, what do you feel when you look at this sculpture?"

"It makes me think there's something I don't know about that must keep it standing," I answer. "I want to find out what that is."

"And that, in turn, tells me you have an inquisitive mind. I'm curious—what do you study?"

"I'm a physicist."

"Ah, science. Is that what brings you here? The compulsion to solve a puzzle, no matter how difficult it may prove? That drive isn't unlike an artist's drive, you know. It's natural to want to understand something that goes against our everyday human experiences, but I think there's much to be said for making the most of something seemingly ordinary. Come. I want you to look at something from one of my students."

She leads me to a corner of the exhibition hall, where there's a painting of a bowl of fruit. I don't know much about art, but this seems like a rite of passage. Any artist needs to be able to paint (or sketch) a bowl of fruit. What strikes me about this painting is how incredibly lifelike it is. It's almost photographic in detail. In the bowl, there's an apple, which reflects the light from the window with a noticeable sheen. There are a pear, a banana, a pineapple, and more, but a few inches from the bowl rests another fruit on the bare surface of the table. It's white and molding, to the point it's unrecognizable.

"What is that?" I ask Adachi, trying to point it out discreetly.

"I asked that same question myself of the artist. She tells me it's an orange. Examined in isolation, the color does show hints of it, but it's hard to tell given the lighting implied in the piece. It is, indeed, decayed to the point that only the barest bits of it can be recognized as belonging to an orange at all. Yet still, the fruit retains its shape. To someone who doesn't see color, would it look like an orange, just given the context? I can't say. Perhaps she should've painted it in black and white for effect, but far be it for me to question the intentions of my students, let alone one as gifted as Tezuka."

I can hardly keep from blurting out my surprise. "Rin did this?"

Adachi raises an eyebrow. "Yes. She's quite skilled. Rin came to me as an unpolished and mercurial creature, very set in her ways, but in the past few years, she's driven herself toward mastering a wide array of styles and techniques. I dare say she is the most well-rounded of any student in the school, despite her, ah, unusual demeanor."

That's an understatement, as would be me saying that Rin's work here is a surprise. A whole corner of the exhibition hall is dedicated to Rin, and each painting seems to represent a different artistic style. There's a beach or shore of some kind, rendered strictly in circular dollops of paint. The cubist face on the front of the brochure is here—it's Rin's, too. They even have a sketch of the street outside the school, rendered primitively like a five-year-old drew it in crayon.

On some level, I'm relieved. Rin's abstract stuff was always so obtuse to me. That she can paint and express herself in all these different ways gives me hope we can find a connection after all.

At the same time, it also tells me that Rin has changed quite a bit since I last saw her. She must've. How else could she bring herself to embrace this wide array of styles?

She's grown a lot, perhaps in ways I can't hope to understand, and I wonder if, come tomorrow, I will recognize her at all.
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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Postby nemz » Tue Dec 11, 2012 7:42 pm

I've never before found the word 'orange' so sad. :( I have suspicions about the other works, but I'll save them for now. Pretty sure the teacher's recognition was because she's seen his face before...

So yeah, you've still got my attention. :mrgreen:
Rin > Shizune > Emi > Hanako > Lilly
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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Postby Muphrid » Wed Dec 12, 2012 3:12 am

I don't see what's so unusual about staying in touch with schoolmates from high school.
I'm not particularly close with many of my former friends today, but I follow many of them on facebook and we meet up every few years, and i could probably at least tell the marital status and general career path of many of them.
Not sure what the stalking part with Hanako was about since I only read this story after you cut it out.
Nice start. I think Bad Ends can be particularly interesting to see the aftermath of - if done well. So far this looks promising.


Yeah, I guess it just varies from person to person. I think we're in an age now where it's a lot easier to keep in touch with people in a casual way, but that be based more on my personal experience than anything.

It's interesting you term this a bad end; in a lot of ways, I agree with the sentiment. The ending this is based off of felt much more gut-wrenching than the "Shards of Ire" ending (which I wandered into on accident and greatly struck me for its suddenness).

nemz wrote:I've never before found the word 'orange' so sad. :( I have suspicions about the other works, but I'll save them for now. Pretty sure the teacher's recognition was because she's seen his face before...

So yeah, you've still got my attention. :mrgreen:


That's the thing about Adachi--she always knows a bit more than she will voluntarily let on. At least, for right now.

Thank you both for your comments.
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Re: Direction (post Rin bad ending)

Postby Mirage_GSM » Wed Dec 12, 2012 3:37 am

Muphrid wrote:It's interesting you term this a bad end; in a lot of ways, I agree with the sentiment. The ending this is based off of felt much more gut-wrenching than the "Shards of Ire" ending (which I wandered into on accident and greatly struck me for its suddenness).

I term this a bad end because it is supposed to be one.
People call this a neutral end, because someone somewhen started to do so, and it stuck. At no point before did any of the devs call it a neutral end, in fact I recall a dev post somewhere (I think it was Aura, but it might have been Suriko) listing all the endings and stating that Rin's path has two bad ends and one good end.
Personally, I think Rin's "Rain End" is the saddest Ending in the whole VN, maybe together with Emi's bad end. Both characters are heartbroken, and there's no chance at reconciliation, because Rin is leaving.
I think calling that "neutral" cheapens this effect and Aura's efforts.
By contrast I hardly consider the first "bad" end - the fight in the atelier - a bad end at all. In my mind I call it a "dead" end or a "trap" end. "Trap" because there's little to no indication at the previous choice which option will lead to the bad end. Also, they have exactly the same fight later on the good ending path, so I don't feel like that situation is beyond repair - the path just "dead ends" before the story continues towards one of the other two ends in my headcanon.

Sorry for ranting... Pet peeve of mine.
Last edited by Mirage_GSM on Thu Dec 13, 2012 4:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Postby YourFavAnon » Wed Dec 12, 2012 7:47 am

This is definitely very well written. Will have to keep tabs on this one.
I write things occasionally.

Dumps of my 35+ fics can be found here and here (including some non-KS stuff).
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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Postby Muphrid » Thu Dec 13, 2012 2:59 am

Mirage_GSM wrote:I term this a bad end because it is supposed to be one.
People call this a neutral end, because someone somewhen started to do so, and it stuck. At no point before did any of the devs call it a neutral end, in fact I recall a dev post somewhere (I think it was Aura, but it might have been Suriko) listing all the endings and stating that Rin's path has two bad ends and one good end.
Personally, I think Rin's "Rain End" is the saddest Ending in the whole VN, maybe together with Emi's bad end. Both characters are heartbroken, and there's no chance at reconciliation, because Rin is leaving.
I think calling that "neutral" cheapens this effect and Aura's efforts.
By contrast I hardly consider the first "bad" end - the fight in the atelier - a bad end at all. In my mind I call it a "dead" end or a "trap" end. "Trap" because there's little to no indication at the previous choice which option will lead to the bad end. Also, they have exactly the same fight later on the good ending path, so I don't feel like that situation is beyond repair - the path just "dead ends" before the story continues towards one of the other two ends in my headcanon.

Sorry for ranting... Pet peeve of mine.


Well, I feel like I understand the logic behind the "Then explain" choice resulting in more or less an instant game over. Still, it comes so quickly that to me, it almost didn't have time to sink in. It's just, oh, surprise, let's go load the last save and fix this. The rain end and the good end are much clearer opposites of one another.

But it is what it is, I guess. It's not the first time a term stuck to something, even if it's not entirely apt.
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