This is the first part of Hideaki's arc in my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic, 'After the Dream'.
It was originally posted here, but I've moved it to this thread for structural consistency.
Completed arcs: Shizune | Lilly | Emi | Hanako | Rin | Misha — Main Index
The Main Index contains the different parts in chronological order, along with minor arcs and other fragments.
Hideaki's arc is a journey in the sense that all heroes (since Joseph Campbell) have had the same journey. It comprises the following sections:Hideaki 1
— OriginHideaki 2
— ShadowHideaki 3
— ConfusionHideaki 4
— AwarenessHideaki 5
— LearningHideaki 6
— HeroismHideaki 7
— ApotheosisHideaki 1: Origin (T -17)I am Hideaki Hakamichi. My true family name is a secret. I have a very beautiful sister. She should marry Hisao Nakai. The reason is that he is stubbornly determined to make things normal. He is so stubborn that my father will love fighting with him like a man…
That is the kind of stunted stuff I wrote when I was twelve. I also dressed like a girl because my father said Shizune, my abovementioned sister, was worth at least three-quarters of a man. Since I was then two-thirds of her age, that would have made me half a man.
No, I’m kidding. I actually have a beautiful wife, who decided one day to become a very beautiful wife, and she is not my sister. Ouch, woman, you want me to write, let me write it my own way.
My ravishingly literate soulmate has a mean fist, and is a bit of a snob, but I love her anyway. She’s infected me with the habit of making bad English jokes that don’t translate well into Japanese.
This story is going to be a bit of a shock to you people who have been reading her carefully-crafted notes and the stories of her friends. Especially those in which I am a thoughtful and romantic hero. I’m not letting her edit my chunky and ill-mannered writing. OK, no more digressions. I’ll do the formal opening thing and then cut to the first part of my own tale.
In Japan, we always begin with ancestors. My parents came from two very organized clans, of the chivalrous kind. Father was a true knight, and my mother was true evening. See, that is the kind of joke nobody gets, wife!
All I will say is that Father is about ‘justice’ and ‘duty’ and also ‘being a man’; Mother was about ‘mercy’ and ‘responsibility’ and also ‘being human’. Sometimes they clashed, but I think they were happy. When I was young, Mother faded out of my life and was gone, just like the evening disappears when night comes.
My first real memory comes from when I was about three years old. Father is being loud. And he is also waving his fingers around in an awkward way.
“You look after him then, you’re so smart. Teach him something!”
Big sister comes over. She is warm and pretty. Reminds me of mother. Then she gets out a big wooden box. I wonder what is inside. She opens it and it is full of little white and black figures, and a little book.
That is how I learnt to play chess, and I’m not too bad at it. I can even beat my wife sometimes. No, no, don’t edit that. I would never lay a hand on my wife that way. This way, maybe. Heh heh. Ouch.
But the thing is, Shizune was really the first other woman in my life. She looked after me for years without saying a single word. Sometimes she laughed or grunted at me, and we had as much fun as two siblings six years apart, and one day she went away to school. I kept her old clothes, because I missed her.
It was around this time that I learnt that not-talking was a bad thing. You had to make some words so that people thought you were ‘normal’. I tried to make her talk to me once, and it was the one time she got really mad at me, and I never tried again.
That left me at home with Father most of the time. Unfortunately, he decided to begin writing his autobiography in his spare time, and I was part of that spare time. This meant that I developed a large writing vocabulary, full of technical terms, and had no clue about how to verbally interact with other people. I’d learnt to speak like a book. I’ve heard people call me ‘shy’, ‘robotic’, ‘introverted’. It’s not that, really. It’s just that Father always tries to suck all the air out of the room when he’s in it, and then refills it with his own brand of oxygen.
One day, I felt I was dying from oxygen starvation. I just missed Sis, and apart from making me write drafts of his damn autobiography, Father ignored me. I was like his smart voice-to-text machine, or something. I thought I was becoming a robot. So I started reading robot books, that way, I thought, I could be a better robot. OK, maybe that’s another reason why I used to sound like that. I even pretended to be Shizune, because he always paid attention to her, but for some reason he just got depressed.
Then Akira Satou moved back into town. Oh gods, my cousin Akira. She was the second other woman in my life. Beautiful. Man enough to spar with Father, woman enough to be my first crush. And didn’t mind me dressing like Sis.
“Respected uncle!” she would say, with just enough politeness for him to stop and listen. “Let me get Shortie out of your hair, let me take him for a walk.”
Yeah, I was small then. You don’t believe it? Ask my wife. On second thought, no. She might make small jokes. Haha. But Akira used to bring me out after school and we’d hang out. She said it stopped people from hitting on her, and at first I used to look for bruises until I realized she was not being literal.
Occasionally, she’d bring cousin Lilly along. Lilly was a pretty girl, all curves, no sharp edges; if my life were a manga, she’d have been the designated pretty-girl love interest all the time. Father gave her the codename ‘Swordsman’ for some obscure reason that I only figured out much later. So he would say things like, “Hideaki! Aki-chan and Swordsman are here, go help them carry their stuff!”
So eventually, I get to the ripe old age of twelve, and I’ve just entered middle school, which is a gods-damned minefield of awkward social situations. And all I do is hang out with girls way too old for me, and who are my cousins to boot. Ouch! Stop that, wife! Respect! OK, both ways!
There comes a point in every man’s life when he begins to wonder about the people around him. Some dismiss it. Some keep wondering. But me, I am a man of quiet action. I need to know things, so I walk around until I learn them. Quietly, of course. It helps that I look small and cute.
And so, I begin to collect data and build information out of it. Which is why it is no surprise to me that I one day find myself trailing in Akira’s mysterious wake downtown, only to coincidentally bump into sister Lilly and… her friend. It’s not that I didn’t think it would happen; it’s just that reality sometimes beats imagination.
I make the connection quickly. “I don't believe we've met. I'm Hideaki. Pleased to meet you, Hisao.”
That was careless. Fortunately, Akira doesn’t catch the fact that I know who this guy must be. Swordsman, I’m not so sure—my cousin may be blind, but she’s far from deaf. And I think she’s as inquisitive as I am.
She asks me if I’m well, and I give some stock answer about how Akira’s taking care of me—for which I am subjected to the messing of my hair that all small boys suffer. Wife, don’t you dare! Argh!
We make small talk and I’m a bit surprised when Nakai asks me how I know about him. I make up something about Akira telling me, which covers up for my real source, and nobody is any wiser. Then I go on the offensive and decide whether his disability is his heart or his balls, either of which would make him do what he’s doing now—which is look longingly at cousin Lilly but try very hard not to think perverted thoughts.
And when he’s not doing that, he’s staring at me instead. It’s as if nobody’s seen a scrawny cross-dressing Japanese boy hanging out with two blonde girls before. So I jab at him a bit.
“May I ask why you're staring at me? Surely I'm not that unusual a specimen.”
His jaw drops, which would look like a point to me. Except that I also see his eyes narrow in the way eyes do when their owner thinks he’s also going to win a point.
“Sorry. You just remind me of someone,” he says, quietly miming the snapping of his fingers and making it quite clear just who that someone is.
I pretend I have no idea what that means and we end up in the part where we tell some awkward outsider about our little family feud, leaving out the interesting parts—some of which I would like to know about too.
Hisao Nakai. I’ve heard quite a bit about him, and now I’ve seen him myself. How to describe the man? Careless hair, cow-brown eyes. He’s no big deal, long and lean like a hound, tentative smile, looks like he wants to be everybody’s friend. He’s slow on his feet but is taking running lessons or something. And he’s willing to hang out with me while Akira and Lilly go off to discuss something secret.
Guess where I’d rather be? But the ladies have lady talk as an excuse, which leaves us doing the manly thing. Except that he… walks into an antique shop. Thank the gods there is a newsstand nearby and I have an excuse not to see what kind of stuff he’s going to buy for whichever pretty girl it is that’s on his mind.
I entertain a different idea for a while. If this is a double date, Akira’s mine and Hisao can have Lilly. Heh, the bland and the blind. Ow. Ow!
Yes, yes, I’m always being scolded for using insensitive language. But you know what? I don’t pity such people, because I’ve lived with them all my life. They’re people who are sometimes more talented than the rest of us, but with a different set of mind-and-body problems. If you’re one of my dear wife’s readers, you’re not used to saying it like it is. But if I bet you a million yen that Shizune was smarter than you, I’d collect nine times out of ten.
The irony of the whole thing is that the events of this day are full of invisible portents that I have no chance of figuring out. Hisao buys two gifts for two girls. What are the odds that both of these gifts become part of my own life?
It’s only some time later that I finally disentangle the family’s nonsense and find out that the Satous may be relocating to Scotland. I realize that if Hisao’s heart is problematic, the next few months will truly test it. And the terrible thing? I’ve come to like the guy! He has tried so hard to treat me like a normal person. Heh.
I wonder what it’ll be like if he ends up with my sister instead.