Miki: Fragments (Complete)

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Alpacalypse
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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.28 Posted 3rd September 2015)

Post by Alpacalypse » Tue Sep 08, 2015 4:59 pm

I haven't read this until now. Why haven't I? Apparently, because I'm a complete twit, because this is freakin' great! :D

If I had to describe this story in one word, it would probably be "ouch". You've really packed a lot of power in pretty much all of the scenes, which is something that I greatly appreciate. There's also very little in the way of downtime in this story - pretty much every scene has something important going on with the exception of the ghost story scene; which I freaking loved, btw and reading the whole thing up to the point it is now was a complete joy. Of the rather depressing variety, perhaps, but a joy nonetheless.

I commend you for your writing abilities, even if there are quite a few typos 'n stuff. I'll be waiting for more :wink:
I am the harbinger of your destruction... By herbivorous, mountain dwelling quadrupeds... fear me
---
I also write now, apparently. Since everyone else does it, I'm putting it here
---
I have also discovered that I'm a decent proofreader. Anybody with SPaG problems is free to PM me their work for a thorough analysis and/or evisceration. Depends on how I'm feeling.

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Gajzla
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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.28 Posted 3rd September 2015)

Post by Gajzla » Wed Sep 09, 2015 5:44 pm

Alpacalypse wrote:I haven't read this until now. Why haven't I? Apparently, because I'm a complete twit, because this is freakin' great! :D
Thanks! And welcome, always lovely to see new readers. :D
Alpacalypse wrote:You've really packed a lot of power in pretty much all of the scenes, which is something that I greatly appreciate. There's also very little in the way of downtime in this story - pretty much every scene has something important going on
Thanks again. I know some people find it upsets the pacing, but I really try and make sure each scene moves the story forward or revels more about a character. :)
Alpacalypse wrote:reading the whole thing up to the point it is now was a complete joy. Of the rather depressing variety, perhaps, but a joy nonetheless.
Hehe, well I do try and keep a balance between happy and depressing. Hopefully the story doesn’t tip to far either way.

---

One last thing, if you’ll forgive the self indulgence, today marks the 6 month anniversary of Miki: Fragments as well as reaching 7000 thread views and 10 pages of comments. I can’t thank everyone enough, never thought anything I did would reach so many people. I’m immensely grateful.

Thanks again, Gajz.

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Gajzla
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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.28 Posted 3rd September 2015)

Post by Gajzla » Sat Sep 19, 2015 7:41 pm

Hey, hey. Sorry theres not been a chapter posted in awhile, i’m afraid to say the buffer between what I have posted and what I have written has gotten smaller over time, so it’s taking me a little longer to get chapters up while still being ahead of the curve.

Anyway, enough rambling, enjoy!


A Death of Dreams…

“It’s time. Pens down and turn your papers over please.”

I start as Mutou speaks, almost headbutting the science paper just a few inches from my nose. Recovering myself I check my last answer with a groan of trepidation - luckily it looks just about right - before turning over my sheet. Well that went better than I expected.

Every fibre of my being bends and creaks as I sit up straight. I need a run. Stifling a yawn behind my stump I look around the classroom, the students of room 3-3 look in equal parts exhausted and ecstatic, this was the very last exam. Before us lies an endless summer of freedom. Or another pointless week of school, followed by six weeks of vacation before we are thrown headfirst into college exam preparations. I guess it depends how you look at it.

“How did you do?” Ikuno asks, stretching her arms above her head with a satisfying crack.

“Good, I think,” I reply with a smile, feeling the soft breeze ripple my hair - the outside world is calling to me.

“Wow, Hisao must be a good tutor! I’ve never heard you actually confident about an exam before.”

“Well, I only think I did well.” I say shyly, my cheeks warming.

Ikuno laughs, her deep eyes sparkling as the chatter in the classroom slowly picks up. Glancing in Hisao’s direction I find him deep in conversation with Shizune via Misha. Wrinkling my nose in annoyance I try and get my boyfriend's attention, but it's fruitless. To her credit Shizune seems to have accepted our relationship with good grace, or at least she's not been any more or less hostile towards me. However nothing will ever stop the president ordering about her troops. She’s probably trying to get Hisao stationed in the student council room for the entire summer.

“Are you free after class?” Ikuno asks with feigned innocence; she already knows the answer.

“Yeah,” I say slowly, elongating the word, “Why?”

“We should go to the city, have a little rest and relaxation shopping.”

I knew she was up to something.

“Shopping is neither restful nor relaxing,” I say, raising my eyebrow at her.

“But it’s fun!” Ikuno giggles as Mutou collects our papers, “Plus you need some new clothes for your date.”

“I have clothes,” I protest.

“Not to be rude Miki but your clothes are so old they are not even last year, they are like last decade.”

“Maybe I just appreciate the classics?”

“Yes, well nothing from the classic collection is suitable for your date.” She says evenly.

“Where the hell is Hisao going to take me that requires new clothes?”

“Just trust me, it will be fun,” she giggles standing up with the rest of our class.

“It will be expensive,” I grimace.

“That’s what makes it fun!”

A few moments later we are dismissed, and the class rushes for the door. Ikuno and I hang back waiting for Hisao, who gets skittish in crowds. Not that I’m a fan of being crushed by sweaty bodies either.

“How did it go?” he asks, falling into step beside me and Ikuno.

I share my optimism that I achieved at least a passing grade as the three of us walk the short distance to Ryouta’s classroom, whose students have yet to be released.

“That’s great, do you have plans for this afternoon?” He asks, a soft smile crossing his face.

“Sorry lover-boy,” Ikuno interjects, “I’m taking her to the city so she looks beautiful for your date.”

“She already looks beautiful,” Hisao says, seemingly without thinking.

Awwwww.

“Oooooohhh,” Ikuno giggles, “That’s so sweet!”

I punch her arm softly, “Shut it...”

Heat rushes to my cheeks as I meet Hisao’s eyes. He stands awkwardly, bashful embarrassment etched onto his face.

“Thank you,” I say softly, taking his warm hand in mine. A smile creeps onto my lips as I stare into his perfect copper eyes.

“Will you be okay by yourself?” I ask softly, drawing closer a touch of mischief on my mind.

Finishing exams puts you in a good mood.

A nervous smirk speeds across his face, and he looks at his feet, his blush intensifying.

“I will have to find someway to amuse myself,” he says softly, “Though, I doubt it will be as fun as spending time with you.”

I wonder how mad Ikuno would be if I bailed on her…

“Miki! You’re acting as if you were a girl, what has this boy done to you?” Ryouta announces from beside me.

Hisao and I spring apart so quickly I nearly stumble. So much for that wonderful moment.

“Ryouta!” Ikuno shouts, stamping her foot. “Don’t be so horrible, they are adorable together.”

Her scolding falls on deaf ears, as Ryouta laughs dodging my punch. Damn it, for a chunky guy he’s fast.

Shrugging at Hisao in an apologetic kind of way I hoist my bag higher onto my shoulder. Lucky he seems to be more embarrassed than upset by Ryouta’s stupidity.

Since his reaction to Kenji the other night I’ve been watching him more diligently, wondering if the meltdown that seemed so close to the surface will re-emerge. Though what good my watchful eye will do I still don’t know.

“They both do this creepy middle distance staring thing as well,” Ryouta observes conversationally to Ikuno.

“It’s called thinking,” I say, “You should try it sometime smart arse.”

“Are you ready to go Miki?” Ikuno says, eyeing the stairs with a longing I hadn’t noticed before. I guess she’s been pretty stressed this week. Regardless of what she says this city trip is as much for her as it is for me.

“Let’s go.” I grin.

Hisao and I have a whole day to ourselves on the horizon, but for now i’m duty bound to be enthusiastic about this shopping trip. And who knows, it might be fun… this one time.

— — —

“This was because of you!” Hisao roars, his eyes wide and intense. With one hard shove he pushes me backwards into the wreckage of the truck he had just pulled me from.

“No, please I didn’t…” I say desperately, throwing out my hands to stop myself from being impaled on the jagged metal. Only to squeal in horror as my left hand starts to blister and burn, tearing itself apart as if some parasite were hatching within my blackened flesh.

“Help!”

My voice is lost in the roar of an engine. I look up quickly, only to be blinded by the lights of an all too familiar grey prison bus. I think I can hear Hisao’s cruel laugh as everything goes black.


I wake up, pain flowing though my arm like molten lava. My first instinct is to scream, to try and pull away from the pain that exists purely within my own broken head. Damn it! Kicking off the covers I flip myself onto my stomach, sinking my teeth into the pillow and my stump into my stomach.

With a sound like a wounded bear I scream into a mouthful of material, tasting my own cold sweat on the threadbare martial. The phantom of my hand bends and twists, crushing and burning with cruel delight as I try desperately to take my mind off of the pain. This isn’t fair, this isn’t fucking fair.

Trying to distract myself I glance at the clock, which does nothing to improve my mood, it’s only a little after midnight. I have hours of crushing darkness before I can escape to the track. Why does this keep happening? Is my mind trying to tell me something? A grainy image, like a photo damaged by water pops into my head of the rage in Hisao’s eyes when he pushed me away, it was terrifying.

It wasn’t real.

I’m just massively overreacting to a side of Hisao I didn’t expect to see. He’s never ever raised his voice to me, in fact most of the time he’s shy and reserved, more on a level with Ikuno than Ryouta’s and my boisterousness. So why was his snarling face etched into my mind, like a brand burnt into flesh.

With my thoughts chasing each other around my head I lie in a defeated heap, until the pain in my ghost limb starts to slowly subside into nothingness. Finally with only a dull ache to remind me of the phantom’s wrath I sit up, sliding to the edge of my bed.

Pressing my toes into the soft carpet I glance at the clothes Ikuno and I picked out for my date. It was actually a surpassingly fun shopping trip, dragging Ikuno round the cheaper parts of the city shopping district to put together an ensemble that she described as ‘Thrift shop chic’. Though I have no idea what that means I managed to find an outfit I liked. A pair of black leggings mixed with torn off denim shorts and a band t-shirt for a group I had never heard of, but appreciated their cover art nonetheless.

They are clothes that remind me of home, comfortable with the tiniest hint of rebellion - I just hope Hisao likes them as well.


Climbing out of bed I make it as far as my office chair before collapsing back down with an audible complaint from the seat.

Not thinking I flick on my slightly dented desk lamp, the sudden flash of light blinding me. Gah. Blinking rapidly I open my eyes, letting them adjust to the glare reflected from the paper strewn desk. I can’t keep living like this. Robotically I pull a blank sheet of paper towards me, holding it in place with my naked stump, before grabbing a pen from the pot beside the lamp.

It would be so easy to do. I can almost picture the words forming in my head: ‘I confess to the killing of Tatsuo Takahashi…”

All I have to do is confess and all of this goes away, the nightmares and phantom pain stop forever. Hisao and the others will move on with their lives, justice is served, Tatsuo’s family gets closure, and I rot away in a forgotten cell.

I deserve whatever punishment I get.

But I can’t do it, the pen stays immobile in my sweaty hand. For a long time I simply stare at the paper, hoping beyond hope for an answer to a question I don’t want to ask. Because there’s a very real possibility that confessing will only end up with me having nightmares in prison completely alone, instead of in school surrounded by friends.

“Fuck!” I whisper harshly, throwing my pen onto the desk with a loud clatter before leaning back to rub my eyes, tears cutting fiery paths on my cheeks. I should just try and go back to sleep. But it’s a laughable idea, my mind is too full, and my body too tense, I need something to distract me.

Pulling my mismatched limbs away from my face I glance out of the window at the silvery moon, a dangerous idea forcing itself to the front of my mind. It’s risky, irresponsible and downright insane - but if Hisao’s hallmate is telling the truth - I might be able to find not only a distraction, but a cure with a late night visit to the Aura mart.

— — —
The night air stings my face as I tentatively push open the fire escape at the rear of the girls dormitories. Ikuno shared this particular exploit for getting in and out of the building while she was galavanting with Ryouta, though I doubt she was the first one to use it. Beside the doorstep lies a small rock, used by generations of miscreants to ensure safe passage back to bed. Jamming the door I flick my hood up over my head.

This is a bad idea.

My heart starts to thunder as I make my way around the quiet building. Interestingly a few of the girls still have their lights on, judging from the soft glow escaping around their curtains. Nice to know I’m not the only one unable to sleep. My breath catches in my throat as I peer around the corner at the main entrance to the dormitories, standing half illuminated by a security light two figures stand, their poses relaxed as they casually chat, the tips of their cigarettes glowing like stars in the darkness.

Oh, this was such a bad idea.

It’s fine, I can handle this - it’s hardly the first time I’ve been out of bed at unusual times.

I could try and sneak past them, but I think I make a better secret agent in my head than In real life. No, there is only really one real option. I really hope this works. Taking a few steps back, I gulp, before setting off at what I hope is a confident jog.

As expected the two men spot me at once, my footfalls easily detectable in the silent air. To my amusement both men hastily put out their cigarettes as the space between us closes.

Hidden in shadow you could mistake the night guards for the faceless henchmen of a thousand movies, but up close they lose their intimidating persona. The older of the two smiles at me softly, his green eyes sparkling from below a neat cap. The other man, younger and clean shaven throws me a contemptuous look.

“Little late for a run isn’t it?” he asks, looping his thumbs into his shiny belt.

“I couldn’t sleep,” I reply holding up my bandaged stump as way of explanation. “Running takes my mind off things.”

This time it’s the older man that responds. “You don’t have any serious medical conditions do you?”

Well I’m missing a hand, I suppose it’s subjective how serious that is.

“No,” I reply politely, shaking my head.

“Alright then, but stick to the lit paths mind and don’t stay out too long.” There's a gentleness to his voice, as if he were speaking to a grandchild rather than an errant student. I suppose Yamaku can afford to be very selective with their staff choices, valuing compassion and understanding above all else. They must have gotten the grumpy looking younger guy at a discount.

“I won’t, don’t worry,” I say, bowing low before turning on heel and jogging out onto the sporadically lit pathway. I can’t believe that worked! Then again if Kenji with his lack of sight can somehow sneak out after hours the rules can hardly have been that strictly enforced to start with.

Taking a shortcut across a patch of perfectly manicured lawn I head towards the school entrance, thankfully well out of the sight of the night guards. I half expect to find the wrought iron gates locked and barred, but they are open as always. Though the darkness makes them seem even more imposing than the first day I arrived.

Both my pace and heartbeat slow once I reach the smooth black tarmac of the hill. Street lighting is non-existent on this rural stretch of road, and I have only the moon lit crash barrier to guide me. What if I make it to the store and its closed? Or the person behind the counter calls the police. How trustworthy is Kenji really?

Despite my increasingly panicked thoughts I continue on, one foot in front of the other. I’m turning into my mother. No, I’m not like her, it’s not like I want drink to take me out for an entire day, I just want to escape my dreams. That's fair isn’t it? That’s reasonable, no one could argue that I don’t deserve even a small break from the torment of my mind.

I could ask Dr. Ueda for sleeping pills.
But then I would have to explain I was still having nightmares, which would only lead to more questions and under that circumstance I’m not convinced I could keep up the lie. If I’m going to confess it’s going to be by my own hand, not being caught out by my own stupidity.

A cruel unseasonably cold wind whips at my back, causing me to wrap my arms tightly around my chest. Damn it. My spirits are lifted however when I catch sight of a cool blue glow in the distance, the convenience store is at least illuminated at this time of night, a good sign that it’s open.

I pick up the pace, led by a hunger that burns deep inside me. Everything will be alright. I just need to do this and it will all be over, the dreams can go away, and I can focus all my attention on Hisao and my family. This is for the best.

— — —

I’m still have a nagging doubt that the store is open, until I draw close enough to activate the automatic doors, which slide open with a startling hiss. This is my last chance to turn back. I pause for a moment on the threshold, but an image of Tatsuo’s cold dead face, Ayumu’s piercing white eyes and the rage on my boyfriends face make my decision for me. I need this.

The boy behind the counter does not even look up as I take a nervous step inside, his acne-ridden face buried in a gaming magazine. Surreptitiously I drift to the back of the store, all the while trying to calm the constant battle raging inside my head. Before I know it I’m standing in front of rows of bottles, neatly organised from wines and beers, to Whisky and other hard spirits.

Hmmm, shochu was always a favourite whenever I stole a drink at home.

I grab a familiar brand, high alcohol content, low price and taste. This feels freakishly natural. That fact alone scares me. I think I emphasize with my mother more now than any other time in my life. Everyone has a tipping point. I tell myself. This is mine.

The glass bottle feels cold and heavy in my hand as I walk to the checkout, I imagine this is how a gun would feel. With a clink I place the bottle on the counter, the sound finally seeming to grab the shopkeeper's attention. I suppose there's a reason he has the night shift.

“Have any ID for this?” He asks, scanning the bottle with a loud beep.

“Umm, no, I was kinda hoping you could help me out?” I say softly, scanning the walls and ceiling for security cameras - which luckily don’t appear to be present.

“Hmmm, you're from the school right? Same as spectacles?” he eyes me up and down, apparently in search of some disability.

“Yeah, we’re friends.” I hold up my stump, letting the sleeve fall away from the bandage.

His eyes widen, and he admits a soft whistle, I half expect him to make some sarcastic comment but he simply continues to speak, “Didn’t know he had friends, especially any that were girls. Who knew?” He shrugs.

“So,” I say softly, tucking my stump back out of sight, “Can you help me?”

He seems to consider carefully for a long time, looking at me intently before finally reeling off a price.

“What? That’s like three times what it says on the shelf!” I exclaim, I know it would be costly, but I had no idea he would charge that much.

“Oh I’m sorry, feel free to find another store open at quarter to one in the morning, willing to sell an underage girl alcohol.” He smirks, leaning back in his seat and reaching for the magazine.

“Fine, fine.”

Digging through my purse I pull out the required notes. At the very least the price will stop this becoming a regular occurrence - I hope. With a disgusted feeling I hand over the money, of which I notice only about a third makes it into the till. My grandfather would kill me if he found out what his money was being spent on.

“You get caught with that, you don’t know me, and if anyone asks me, you stole it, clear?”

“Perfectly,” I almost hiss. I don’t like this boy. He’s the kind air headed crook I used to hang out with.

Without another word I snatch the bottle, stowing it unceremoniously in the tube like pocket of my hoodie before leaving the store as quickly as I can. It’s getting late, this little expedition has taken longer than I thought and I can’t let my friends down in the morning, not after everything they do for me. What’s the point of making my nights easier if I can’t enjoy my days?

— — —

Getting back into the dormitories was easier than I had expected, I saw nothing of the guards on my way back through the deserted school grounds. Now I stand in front of the bathroom mirror, staring at my reflection. Bottle in hand and heavy purple bags under my eyes, I look like my mother at her worst.

I should never have done this.

Unstopping the Shochu I angle the bottle over the sink, ready to pour the foul liquid out of my life. It would only require only a fraction more effort on my part, and I would upturn the bottle, but I can’t. It’s the same reason I can’t confess, I’m not strong enough.

“Fuck sake,” I whisper, returning the cork to the bottle.

I always thought I was better than this. Any crisis I faced could be overcome, but my normal method of anger and hasty decision works for sudden and immediate problems. I’m good at sprinting, but the dreams are a constant reminder of a problem I can neither outrun or even hope to outpace, it’s a sustained assault against my very being. And I’m buckling under the pressure.

Flicking off the bathroom lights I head back to my room, suddenly feeling very weak. I hide the bottle in the corner of my wardrobe, covering it with clothes I never wear and towels I never use. In silent darkness I strip, and lacking the inclination to put on my pyjamas, I collapse onto bed.

The alcohol isn’t an admission I’ve lost. I justify to my sleepy head, it’s just a practical way to deal with life when things get too much. And who could really blame me for wanting that?

I really hope tomorrow is a better day…

— — —

The next morning I feel like I’ve hardly slept at all, despite a mercifully dreamless sleep. Regret taints my every pore as I step into the hot shower, hoping beyond hope that it might breathe some kind of fresh life into me. I can’t let Hisao or Ikuno see how much of a mess I am.

Closing my eyes I turn my face into the stream cursing silently myself. I don’t know what the hell possessed me to do what I did last night. All I know is that it was stupid thing to do.

Massaging shampoo into my scalp I try and work through my own justifications, but it’s a minefield, my logical reasoning battles with my subconscious desire.

Hisao, just focus on Hisao.

I’ve made it this far without losing my mind, I can hold out a little longer. I have too.

— — —

A few days later my worries seem a distant memory as I peer out of the train window. Side by side with my boyfriend we tear through rural Japan's tranquil countryside, having left the city far behind.

I glanced at our destination as we transferred trains, but not really knowing the area around Yamaku it wasn’t much help. Anyway Hisao seems to know where we are going.

Smoothing my new shirt down I begin to feel like a child again, excited to spend a holiday with my parents in some far off destination, but impatient to get there and start enjoying myself. My distraction is, as it turns out, a master of his craft.

“We’re nearly there,” Hisao says.

Nodding slowly I turn my attention back to the window. Something grabs my attention, a slither of dark blue on the horizon. Is that the ocean?

“The sea?” I ask curiously, unable to drag my eyes away from the spectacle.

A sly smile spreads across Hisao’s face, causing my favourite dimples to appear.

“Are you okay with that?” he says, a touch of trepidation on his soft voice.

“Absolutely,” I grin, pulling his hand into mine.

I’ve not been to the beach for years, it’s a place reserved for the happier parts of my childhood. Now I get to return thanks to the brilliant boy beside me.

I hate surprises. But I think I might be okay with this one.


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Last edited by Gajzla on Wed Oct 07, 2015 5:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.29 Posted 20th September 2015)

Post by brythain » Sat Sep 19, 2015 7:51 pm

Very nice... but...
“Fuck sake,” I whisper, returning the cork to the bottle.
Did you mean 'FFS' or did you mean 'fuck sake'?
Heh, the perils of transliteration. :)
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.29 Posted 20th September 2015)

Post by Gajzla » Sun Sep 20, 2015 6:02 pm

brythain wrote: Did you mean 'FFS' or did you mean 'fuck sake'?
Heh, the perils of transliteration. :)
Hehe, well both kinda work, but in this case poor Miki was saying FFS, without the first F. ^_^

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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.29 Posted 20th September 2015)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Sun Sep 20, 2015 6:20 pm

Interesting... I must have read the second variant during editing - or I would have commented on the missing "for" :-)
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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.29 Posted 20th September 2015)

Post by rimvydasm » Mon Sep 21, 2015 5:20 pm

Been reading this for the last few days,and i have to say,i really enjoy reading it.Miki is really interesting character,and i'm looking forward to the next update,keep up the good work :)
Last edited by rimvydasm on Tue Sep 29, 2015 5:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.29 Posted 20th September 2015)

Post by HipsterJoe » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:57 pm

brythain wrote:Very nice... but...
“Fuck sake,” I whisper, returning the cork to the bottle.
Did you mean 'FFS' or did you mean 'fuck sake'?
Heh, the perils of transliteration. :)
I read that and wondered why she was cursing sake while drinking shochu.

Good chapter as always, Gajzla! Excited to see where this is going next with the date and Hisao's temper cropping up somewhere.

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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.29 Posted 20th September 2015)

Post by Gajzla » Tue Sep 22, 2015 7:37 pm

rimvydasm wrote:Been reading this for the last few days,and i have to say,i really enjoy reading it.Miki is really interesting character,and i'm looking forward to the next update,keep up the good work :)
Another new reader! Welcome and thank you! :D
HipsterJoe wrote:
brythain wrote:Very nice... but...
“Fuck sake,” I whisper, returning the cork to the bottle.
Did you mean 'FFS' or did you mean 'fuck sake'?
Heh, the perils of transliteration. :)
I read that and wondered why she was cursing sake while drinking shochu.

Good chapter as always, Gajzla! Excited to see where this is going next with the date and Hisao's temper cropping up somewhere.
Hehe, I never even noticed while I was writing that. Everything makes sense in my head, once it's on paper though… ^^

Thanks, glad to see you’re still around. Like I said said at the start of the chapter my buffer zone between the chapter i’m working on and what I have posted has become much smaller. Hopefully a trading off speed for quality, but it does mean a longer wait between updates i’m afraid. :?

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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.29 Posted 20th September 2015)

Post by AntonSlavik020 » Wed Sep 23, 2015 7:54 am

Well considering some stories have a month or more between updates, that's fine. I'm used to waiting a while for new chapters.
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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.29 Posted 20th September 2015)

Post by HipsterJoe » Wed Sep 23, 2015 5:16 pm

Gajzla wrote: Thanks, glad to see you’re still around. Like I said said at the start of the chapter my buffer zone between the chapter i’m working on and what I have posted has become much smaller. Hopefully a trading off speed for quality, but it does mean a longer wait between updates i’m afraid. :?
I still check for updates to the stories I had been following every couple days, but haven't started any new ones. You are far away the most consistent updater (of what I've been reading) so you should still feel accomplished! I'll take quality writing over quantity any day of the week.

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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.29 Posted 20th September 2015)

Post by Gajzla » Wed Oct 07, 2015 5:49 pm

Thanks to Mirage for his brilliant proofreading. As always feedback is very much appreciated.

Enjoy!


…And the Speechless Poet

“So,” I say slowly, eyes fixed on the distant glint of the ocean that seems to grow closer with each passing moment. “Are we going to the beach?”

I didn’t bring any swimming clothes. Should I have? Do I even want him to see me in a bikini? This is why people shouldn’t surprise me.


“Not quite,” my boyfriend grins.

“It’s been years since I’ve seen the sea,” I muse, “I’ve forgotten what it looks like.”

“You visited the beach a lot when you were younger?” Hisao asks, pulling the sleeves of his cool back sweater up his arms.

“Yeah, my gran and grandad had a summer house. We used to spend a lot of time there when I was little.”

I had almost forgotten the warm wooden structure sitting on stilts a few hundred meters from the sea front, nestled amongst the rolling sand dunes. That was before dad left and everything fell apart, now it’s just a faded sense of nostalgia, like a crumpled photograph.

“They don’t live there anymore?” he asks politely.

“No, my grandmother died when I was younger, and after that my grandad focused all of his efforts into his job, I think it helped distract him.”

He also needed to work twice as hard to support me and mum, but Hisao doesn’t need to know that part - yet.

“I’m sorry.” Hisao says, squeezing my hand gently.

I shrug, returning the simple gesture with my own hand. “I don’t remember her much really.”

“How about you?” I ask.

“I don’t see my grandparents unless there’s a celebration or a disaster.” He pauses, smiling at a joke only he gets. “My parents used to like to travel outside of Japan. But I always thought that there were things here worth seeing.” He replies reflectively.

“I’ve never been out of the country,” I admit. “Flying kind of scares me.”

“It’s not so bad, though it messes with your ears,” he frowns, “I don’t even know if I’m allowed to fly anymore, what with..” He gestures to his chest.

“I’m sure you can,” I say consolingly, “Otherwise we can use a boat.”

“We?” he asks with a sly smile.

I can feel myself blush, “Well, I like spending time with you.”

“Me too,” with a smooth motion he strokes the back of my hand, sending shivers running down my spine. He is at least now becoming more confident about physical contact, even if it is only handholding.

“Hows your father doing?”

“Oh,” I mumble, taken aback by the sudden change of subject. “Better, he’s looking forward to meeting you.” I hesitate, “If you still want to visit us that is.”

“I do, though I’m a bit nervous of meeting my girlfriend's parents.” he admits quietly.

“It’s fine, I think most of the katana’s are in storage anyway.”

His eyes grow wide before I lose it and burst out laughing.

“It will be fine, my parents respect my choices, should I be worried about yours?” I ask.

“Dad, no. Mum on the other hand…” He raises his eyebrow at my cryptically, though no hint of a smile crosses his lips. Either he’s very good at acting, or I have something to worry about.

“Well, I will just have to be extra charming.” And not let on that I’m technically a criminal.

We continue to chat back and forth about our families, though the conversation feels stilled and oddly controlled. I have the sense that his parents - who both work full time - were once much closer to him, but for the last few years he has felt isolated. He never says anything like that aloud though. For my part I manage to avoid telling him much about my own home life before Yamaku, a tinge of guilt pulling at my gut.

While we are talking the yellowing countryside blends into the pale concrete buildings of a picture postcard version of Japanese coastal life. The roofs, now faded with age form a patchwork of colour sloping down gradually to the seafront. Which I’m slightly disappointed to see is behind a large concrete sea wall, rather than the beach I had been hoping for.

Only a few moments later we are pulling into the station. It’s aged wooden awnings held aloft on delicately crafted pillars, a relic of an age when things were made with love, rather than the cold plain modernisation found in Ikuno’s fancy stores.

I almost forget I am here on a date in my haste to depart the train. All around me men and women dressed in work wear rub their hands together as they step into the cool morning air. It’s hard to imagine what coming here every day for work must be like - does the magic wear off after awhile?

Hisao follows the last of workers off of the train, keeping his normal distance from the crowd. I feel my cheeks warm as he approaches. Probably not best etiquette to abandon your partner on the first date.

“Sorry,” I say quickly, inhaling the scent of salt water carried in on the fresh breeze from the sea. I close my eyes as the smell mixed with the calling gulls overhead reawaken memories I didn’t know I still possessed.

“I take it you like it here?” Hisao asks.

The adorable dimples on his smiling face greet me as I open my eyes.

“I love it, are we going to look around?”

“We can later, but first we have an appointment on the seafront.

— — —

It’s exceptionally hard to stop myself drifting off to any one of the interesting looking stores tucked into aged buildings as we make our way down the gently sloping hill to the sea. And to think I was worried about not enjoying this surprise.

Beside me Hisao radiates the calm happiness I’ve come to expect from him, his mood a more subtle reflection of my own. It’s hard to imagine him processing the anger that frightened me so much in my dreams.

Soon the cobble street levels out and all that separates us from the stone wall holding back the sea is a quiet tarmac road. Above I had not noticed how many boats sheltered in the horseshoe harbour. Most of the vessels are small fishing or pleasure craft, each with a colourfully painted roof, I have fun imagining each belonging to a home with a matching roof somewhere up the hill.

Crossing the road Hisao leads me to the right. The sea slaps against the concrete wall beside us, I can almost feel its mist on my cheek. Inhaling deeply I catch the scent of the sea, salt mixed with fresh air which ignites my memories of darting in and out of the waves, seemingly an age ago.

I’m so distracted by my thoughts I nearly fall over when Hisao stops before a large sign, slightly faded and tied to the handrail that encompasses the seawall.

“Sightseeing cruises?” I ask, peering past the sign to a gangplank leading up to a large white ship, sitting low in the water like some alien spacecraft accidentally landed in this rustic seaside town.

“Err, yeah.” Hisao says tentatively. So this was his and Ikuno’s plan.

“That’s awesome, I’ve never been on a boat before.”

He laughs half with relief and half with amusement.

“Me neither to tell you the truth, but it’s supposed to be really good.”

It’s funny, being here makes me feel like a child again, and I seem to be able to let my guard down around Hisao. An effect very few people have ever had on me. I have no idea what he thinks of me, or even if he’s questioning his decision to bring me on a date. I’m not going to pretend to be something I’m not, I don’t have the willpower or the energy for it - I just have to hope he likes every side of me.

“Shall we?” he asks, gesturing to the gangplank.

“Sure, how much is it?” I ask, reemerging in the handbag Ikuno lent me for my purse.

“Already taken care of,” he grins, withdrawing from his wallet two gold embossed tickets.

“Heh, you really did have this all planned out didn’t you?”

“Well.” Moving to my right side he once again takes my hand, “I admit Ikuno helped with the arrangements.”

“I have good friends,” I muse, more to myself than anyone else.

A portly steward meets us as we climb the steep ramp onto the deck, his face cracking into a heartening smile.

“Welcome aboard the Musashi,” he says happily, “Do sir and Madam have their tickets or will you be in need of my services behind the till.” With a grin he gestures to an archaic ticket machine slung around his neck.

Hisao hands over the tickets with a bow.

“Excellent! The best views are to be had from the port side of the bow, if you have any questions feel free to ask. Always happy to help!”

He sounds like he means it, I wonder if I will ever find a job which I enjoy as much as this guy does his.

“Port side?” I whisper to Hisao as we turn away from the steward.

“Oh, over here,” He replies leading me to a railing on the left side of the ship, almost at the front of the boat.

“Is there anything you don’t know?”

“I read a lot while I was in hospital.” He shrugs.

Boats are strange. The entire structure rocks slowly back and forth under my feet, and I silently pray I’m not seasick. I don’t get carsick, but I’ve never had the chance to see how I do on boats before now. Had I known beforehand I could have set up a raft or something in the school pool, just to be safe.

“This feels strange,” I mumble, snuggling closer to Hisao who is leaning against the railing, peering into the rippling water below.

“You don’t get seasick do you?” He asks, mirroring my own concern.

“I don’t think so,” I say, deciding to move the conversation away from throwing up. “Were you in the hospital for long?”

“Yeah.” He doesn’t expand on his single word answer.

“It sucks, doesn’t it?”

“You’ve spent time in hospital as well?” He asks, before his eyes find my stump and guilt crumples his handsome face. “Sorry, I thought.”

“It’s okay,” I say quickly, “I was in for about three weeks when this happened.”

It’s amazing the void between how well I feel like I know him, and how well I actually do.

“I’m sorry, what…” he shakes his head quickly, as if trying to quickly erase the words he almost said.

“I was involved in a car crash.” I can hear my own voice as I speak, feel my lips form the words. But can’t believe I just said them. I suppose he was going to find out sooner or later, even if it isn’t the entire truth.

Hisao seems momentarily speechless. Glancing around quickly I notice the boat has started to fill up, mostly with older people and foreign tourists. I guess we only just beat the rush.

“I had a heart attack,” Hisao announces suddenly, causing me to turn back to him so fast I almost topple over.

“What?”

“Before I came to Yamaku, it’s how I found out about my heart condition.” he says calmly.

I guess we both had pretty brutal introductions to our disabilities.

I can’t think of anything to say, no comfort to give. Even if Hisao wants comforting, which I doubt. I simply wrap my arm around his waist, leaning my head against his shoulder. After a few moments hesitation he does the same and together we lean against the white railing. Waiting for our journey to begin.

— — —

An ethereal mist rolls over us as the ship slips through the waves undaunted. I don’t know how far we’ve traveled, but I doubt we would be able to see the town from here, even without the visibility being so limited.

I wish I had spent more time reading the sign. There were pictures but I hardly registered them in the excitement.

Slowly dark shapes start to form on the edge of the mist, no more than outlines in the grey haze. Intrigued I squint trying to make out the abstract forms on the waterline.

“So do you know who Matsuo Bashō is?” Hisao asks.

“I have no idea,” I say distractedly as we draw ever nearer to the ghostly shapes.

“He was a poet who wrote about this place.”

“Yeah?” I whisper, “What did he write about it?”

Before Hisao can answer the mist clears like a veil being pulled from across my eyes.

“Wow..” My exclamation is echoed between the passengers, followed by a rustle of clothes as everyone shifts to get a better view. Lucky for us the steward was right, we are in the best spot.

“That was pretty much what he wrote, too: wow,” Hisao adds, equally awed.

Before us sprouting from the waves like the twisted remains of some ancient sea monster lies a pale grey outcrop of rock. Rising only a few meters from the frothing surf the island gives off a supreme sense of timeless beauty, with hardy trees clinging onto its surface like survivors from a ship wreck, their weatherbeaten tips lost to the receding mist.

On one end of the island the rock curves into a natural arch that dives back into the clean white froth. Inhaling sharply I peer past the island, only to find another and another, disappearing into the infinite mists.

“It’s amazing,” I whisper, drawing if possible closer to Hisao. The warmth of his body and the sight before me causing a shiver to run up my spine.

“I was worried the mist would limit our view, but if anything it enhances it.” Hisao says, his eyes fixed on the site before us.

He’s right. Only the islands closest to us are visible. All the others are blurred, like an out of focus camera, hidden just out of reach.

“Do you ever feel like your life has changed, but not in a way you could have ever predicted?” I ask quietly, mesmerised by the view. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before, magic in a way I can’t just describe.

“Yes, all the time. I thought my life was over and then...” He pauses. “And then I came to Yamaku, and I met you.”

Apparently I’m not the only one for whom these islands seem to have an enchanting effect.

Slowly, with a care I might exercise if someone had handed me a priceless family heirloom I press my lips to his unsuspecting cheek. It’s as soft and warm as it is was my dreams. His body stiffens, and to my horror he raises a hand to his chest, rubbing his sternum methodically.

“Oh shit, are you okay? I’m so sorry!” I say, panic causing my words to chase each other as they tumble from my mouth.

“I’m fine,” he says apologetically, still rubbing his chest, “You just took me by surprise.”

“But your chest, I mean, your heart.”

“Huh?” Hisao looks suddenly confused before his eyes follow mine to the hand rubbing his chest, which halts instantly.

“It’s just a nervous habit, I’m fine really,” he pauses, “I’ve really messed this first kiss stuff up haven’t I?”

“Well a kiss on the cheek isn’t really a proper first kiss.”

“No?”

“No,” I grin half in relief and half in amusement.

“Huh, well could I get a heads up when the proper first kiss is about to happen? You know, just in case?” he mumbles dreamily, his eyes fixed on a spiral of rock erupting from the sea, its peak rounded and flattened like an angular mushroom.

“Oh, believe me you will definitely know when that's about to happen.”

— — —

Like all good and wonderful things our cruise comes to it’s inevitable end.

Seagulls scream overhead as the ship approaches the sunbaked dock we departed from. Hisao and I are the last to step off the gangplank, following a family of tourists in the most garish shirts I’ve ever seen. To each his own I suppose.

We spare the time to thank the steward, who in turn thanks us repeatedly for our patronage. I’m fairly sure the endless back and forth of thanks would have lasted all day, had the ship not needed preparing for the next batch of eager tourists.

“Thank you,” I say shyly once Hisao and I have wandered away from the mulling tourists. “I really enjoyed that.”

“Me to,” he says with a bright smile. I would like to imagine his cheeks were still red from the kiss.

“Would you like to get some lunch? I thought afterwards we could explore the seafront.”

“Sure,” I reply, my stomach giving an involuntary but non the less coincidental rumble.

“I have reservations for us this evening, if that’s okay?”

“Wow,” I grin, “You really have got this all planned out.”

Rubbing his neck he grins sheepishly. “Well, I wanted this to be special.”

Taking his hand into mine I flash him a crooked smile. “Mission accomplished. Come on, let’s go see what those charts are selling.”

Together we set off at a leisurely pace, keeping close to the seawall and enjoying the occasional light misting from a particularly energetic wave. It might be my imagination, but I’m sure that I can smell Taiyaki on the air, an image of watching the sunset while nibbling on one of the fish shaped treats flourishes in my mind. It’s nice to be remembering pleasant things for a change.

“You know, I think I want to live by the sea when I get older.” I say conversationally.

“Yeah?”

I nod, “It would be nice I think, I could run on the beach and then cool off in the ocean.”

It’s a stupid, but definitely appealing dream.

“Do you know what university you plan to attend after high school?”

“No, not really thought that far ahead.” I say as we draw ever closer to the delicious smell.

“But you’ve thought about where you want to live?” He asks, laughing softly.

“Yes, well a dream is different to a plan,” I frown, “How about you?”

“Something to do with science, I haven’t quite narrowed down which particular field yet.”

“You’re not going to spend all your time putting cats into boxes are you?” I ask in mock concern.

Shaking his head Hisao begins to laugh, his chestnut eyes sparkling and his face alive. Admiring the view for a few moments longer I let my own laughter take me, as together we stride towards a collection of street vendors and the promise of a gloriously unhealthy lunch.

— — —

Oh no, another restaurant I’m not nearly dressed up enough for - then again I think that applies to almost every location beside fast food shacks. My mouth falls open slightly as we step inside, the walls are painted a soft mix of pale cream and blue, while the tables and chairs seem to be made from reclaimed driftwood - possibly tidal stowaways from the islands we visited this morning.

“I hope you like sea food,” My date asks nervously as an ornate waitress leads us across the nearly empty dining room. Wrapped in layers of smooth silk typical for - or at least what I imagine to be typical for - high end dining, she gives off a supreme sense of delicacy, like a china doll, breakable at the slightest touch.

I know of a few girls at Yamaku like that, though I doubt it’s for the same reason.

Much like the waiter in the Italian restaurant Ayumu took me too, our waitress makes every effort to go unnoticed. Truth be told it makes me a little nervous. Placing my new straw hat - an item I simply had to have when I discovered it hidden in a microscopic seaside shop - on the empty chair beside me I wait awkwardly, as the menus are laid on the table.

Ordering an ice lemon soft drink I begin to scan the menu, which to my intense relief is in Japanese. It’s easy to find something I like. I’ve always been partial to fish and seafood, though my skills at preparing and cooking it leave something to be desired.

“It all looks so good,” I comment, not untruthfully.

“Yeah, I’ve never tried many of these dishes,” he lowers his menu long enough to smirk at me. “My mum has a phobia of fish.”

I choke a little on my laughter, “Excuse me?”

“Well, I don’t know why, but they have always freaked her out a bit, so as you can imagine she didn’t prepare seafood much.”

“Well I think I’m going to try this,” I say, pointing to my section on the menu.

“I think I will as well,” he says confidently, folding the menu in front of him.

I copy him quickly, feeling suddenly anxious. In my head I can see all the ways I might screw this up, knock over a drink, spill my food, insult my boyfriend. It’s ridiculous I’ve eaten hundreds of times before without incident - why should this time be different?

“Something on your mind?” My boyfriend asks.

“Nothing important,” I smile, though it feels forced. “So what was your school like before you came to Yamaku?”

Keeping him talking seems like a good way to distract myself from my stupid thoughts.

“I suppose it was a fairly typical school, nothing like Yamaku.”

My reply is cut off by the waitress returning with our drinks, I notice her eyes hover on my stump and I quickly tuck it out of sight under the table. Looking guilty she takes our orders, before collecting the menus and leaving with a bow.

“It must be horrible, people looking all the time,” Hisao comments apologetically.

“Huh?” His words take me off guard, “Oh, I guess - It used to bother me more than it does now, but what can you do?” I shrug.

He simply nods, frowning slightly. We don’t often open up about our disabilities or conditions or however we are supposed to label them. I know next to nothing about why he came into my life, other than he had a heart attack caused by a condition he was born with.

“Anyway,” I say, trying to lighten the mood. “You were talking about school?”

“Err, yeah - well there is not much more to say really, I had a few friends who I used to hang around with, play soccer, go to the arcade that kinda thing.”

I laugh softly, “I bet you looked cute in a soccer outfit, do you keep in contact with your friends?”

His cheeks redden slightly, but his eyes drift to the gnarled wooden tabletop, “No, we drifted apart after I went to hospital, and I’ve not heard from them since.”

“It feels like you were hanging around with them, rather than them hanging out with you huh?” I ask gently.

“That’s one way of putting it.”

“It was the same for me before I came to Yamaku, spent a lot of time with people who I thought were my friends, but not a single one visited me in the hospital.” There's a touch of unintended venom to my words.

“Well, here's to new friends huh?” Hisao smiles, raising his glass of soda.

Our drinks meet with a resenting clink.

After our toast the conversation waves and turns, as the topic shifts from home and nostalgia to half concocted dreams for the future. In many ways it’s like talking to Ayumu. But more open and honest, with the meaning of words not hidden behind some elaborate vocabulary.

Soon enough our food arrives, and our attention is taken with the task of eating the soft fish dish. The perfectly cooked fish that flakes on contact with the chopsticks is an unplanned treat for me, food always tastes better when you don’t have to fight it.

As I eat I let my mind wander. I really would enjoy living in a place like this, out of the way but still connected, all at once it seems like a brilliant and terrible dream. I’m imagining things I have no right to - a cell is where my future lies, and my repeated thoughts otherwise are an act of weakness.

“Good?”

“Huh?” Once again my boyfriend has caught me lost in my own thoughts.

“Sorry, the food do you like it?” He asks gently, a hint of concern in his perfect eyes.

“It’s delicious,” I say quickly, “Sorry I get caught up in my own head sometimes.”

“Anything you want to share?”

Yes, all of it, I want all this responsibility and guilt to be someone else’s problem to handle.

“Nah, it’s not important.”

He doesn't look convinced.

— — —

We step out into the setting sun hand in hand. That was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. And it’s all down to the smiling boy beside me, who is looking - rightly so - very proud of himself.

“I suppose we should be heading back.” he says, his eyes flickering up the hill in the direction of the train station.

“Not yet,” I reply, “I want a last look at the sea.”

The promenade is deserted, even though the sun is only just setting. It’s desperation to hold onto the day staining the sky in beautiful indigos and amber, with thin clouds that seem to go on forever.

Below the turbulent sky the sea is calm, gently reflecting the perfect colours above, it’s gentle splash the only sound in the still night. Imagine running under this every night.

“It’s beautiful,” Hisao says softly.

“Um-hmm,” I agree, turning to face him.

“Hisao?”

“Yes?”

Our eyes meet, and I can feel my heart flutter in my chest, my teeth meet my bottom lip as I work myself up for what I’m dying to ask.

“I want to kiss you,” I whisper, taking a step forward so we are closer than we have ever been.

“O… okay,” his voice shakes softly and he turns his red cheek slightly.

Silly boy.

With a restrained movement I drop his hand, moving my fingers to his cheek, before guiding his lips to mine. He stiffens for a moment, and I worry he’s had another heart attack, but a second later his arms are wrapping around me, and he’s kissing back.

Time seems to stop, as together we share our first kiss, under the perfect sunset. How will I ever be able to give this up?

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Last edited by Gajzla on Fri Oct 23, 2015 6:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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AntonSlavik020
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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.30 Posted 7th October 2015)

Post by AntonSlavik020 » Wed Oct 07, 2015 7:31 pm

That was really sweet. It being Miki's thought process there was of course some ominous parts, especially some near the end, but overall really sweet. The kiss was well done.
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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.30 Posted 7th October 2015)

Post by rimvydasm » Thu Oct 08, 2015 8:47 am

what a sweet chapter,really like this one,my favourite chapter so far,good work :)
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Re: Miki: Fragments (Ch.30 Posted 7th October 2015)

Post by swampie2 » Thu Oct 08, 2015 12:27 pm

I'm caught up!

What a fantastic fic. I look forward to the rest of it!
One Shots - My stories thread.

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