The Benefit of Hindsight (updated 4/16!)

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Mirage_GSM
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Re: The Benefit of Hindsight (updated 1/18!)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Tue Jan 19, 2016 7:57 pm

You'll be pleasantly surprised, I think.
I was - though your reassurance lessened the surprise a bit.
Thank you for refraining from resorting to worn-out clichés. :-)
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
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Re: Act 2, Chapter 5 - Drinks (Before Dinner)

Post by freddy753 » Fri Jan 22, 2016 3:27 am

Puncyclopedia wrote:And yet, this. I can almost hear her voice in my head, criticizing me. Asking me why I’m not willing to see her if I’ve forgiven her. It’s a question that is perfectly logical to her, and yet would make no sense to 95% of the population.
Interesting choice of words when talking about Shizune.

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Re: The Benefit of Hindsight (updated 1/18!)

Post by Puncyclopedia » Tue Jan 26, 2016 3:33 pm

swampie2 wrote:Once again, I can't stop thinking about what Hisao did to Shizune.

Great chapter!
Good news - you're two chapters away from finding out!
Sharp-O wrote:It seems Misha was more involved than I previously thought but apart from the serious moments, an incredibly fun encounter! I can't wait to how Hisao's (not)date goes!
Misha is fairly important to the story, as things go: the main characters of this tale are, essentially, Hisao, Lilly, Misha, and _______, with guest cameos from a few others.
Mirage_GSM wrote:
You'll be pleasantly surprised, I think.
I was - though your reassurance lessened the surprise a bit.
Thank you for refraining from resorting to worn-out clichés. :-)
I love a good cliche as much as anyone, but this isn't the time or the place. :)
freddy753 wrote:
Puncyclopedia wrote:And yet, this. I can almost hear her voice in my head, criticizing me. Asking me why I’m not willing to see her if I’ve forgiven her. It’s a question that is perfectly logical to her, and yet would make no sense to 95% of the population.
Interesting choice of words when talking about Shizune.
It is. Here's the problem:

I can either write it that way, which I would support by saying that it is (IIRC) canonically supported that Hisao assigned a voice in his head to Shizune, so that would be what he hears. Alternately, I can write something like "I can see her fingers moving, criticizing me" which is more accurate, but also lacks oomph.

The issue of Shizune's "voice" will come up again a few more times, I expect. It's also possible I should just write around the issue entirely, but that''s the why of the matter for now.

----------------------

Next chapter will come this week - I have most of a chapter written, but it's 2-7, not 2-6. I needed to write 2-7 first so I could bridge the gaps, so expect the two of them to come pretty close to one another in terms of posting.
Characters: Shizune > Lilly > Rin > Emi > Hanako
Routes: Lilly > Rin > Shizune > Hanako > Emi

Replaying now, so subject to flux. Except Shizune. Shizune is best.

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Re: The Benefit of Hindsight (updated 1/18!)

Post by Texaboose » Thu Jan 28, 2016 4:23 am

Now this is turning into an enjoyable read. Clicked on it on a whim late last night and got really into it. Hisao comes across as is a very-Shizune-route-Hisao, with a bit more logic and determination in him, with a dash of the depression that we know he's susceptible to. Was glad to see some obvious reader knowledge (ie. most of Lilly's backstory) didn't cross over to character knowledge for Hisao, and that Lilly also had some character development over the years was well conceived and written.

Hate to say it, but the only thing that's kinda irked me was Kenji's appearance. Granted, I don't really like him as a character, even for slapstick purposes, and only brythain has been able to been able to get me interested in him as a person. It feels like he's only been inserted in, and as a janitor of all things, for the lol's.
Puncyclopedia wrote: I can either write it that way, which I would support by saying that it is (IIRC) canonically supported that Hisao assigned a voice in his head to Shizune, so that would be what he hears.
I support this. I know when reading her sign, I gave her a voice, so Hisao head-canoning it is totally acceptable.

Going to hit the subscribe button now and look forward to reading more.
Currently reading (and being thoroughly depressed by): After the Dream by brythain
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The Benefit of Hindsight by Puncyclopedia
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Re: The Benefit of Hindsight (updated 1/18!)

Post by Puncyclopedia » Fri Jan 29, 2016 10:12 am

Texaboose wrote:Now this is turning into an enjoyable read. Clicked on it on a whim late last night and got really into it. Hisao comes across as is a very-Shizune-route-Hisao, with a bit more logic and determination in him, with a dash of the depression that we know he's susceptible to. Was glad to see some obvious reader knowledge (ie. most of Lilly's backstory) didn't cross over to character knowledge for Hisao, and that Lilly also had some character development over the years was well conceived and written.

Hate to say it, but the only thing that's kinda irked me was Kenji's appearance. Granted, I don't really like him as a character, even for slapstick purposes, and only brythain has been able to been able to get me interested in him as a person. It feels like he's only been inserted in, and as a janitor of all things, for the lol's.
Puncyclopedia wrote: I can either write it that way, which I would support by saying that it is (IIRC) canonically supported that Hisao assigned a voice in his head to Shizune, so that would be what he hears.
I support this. I know when reading her sign, I gave her a voice, so Hisao head-canoning it is totally acceptable.

Going to hit the subscribe button now and look forward to reading more.
Welcome aboard! Glad to have you on the ride, please keep your hands and arms inside the tram at all times. :)

I will readily admit that Kenji's insertion is to provide some lols in what is otherwise a fairly angsty and introspective Hisaocentric story. I make no apologies for Hisao being a janitor at Yamaku, though. If he's going to be a one-note joke, I'm going all the way with that one note joke and making solving the mystery of Yamaku's "feminist infilitration" his life's work.

A lot of what I want to do with this story is try and capture the feel of the original work. There are some ways in which I'm doing it okay and other ways in which I'm not, but trying to capture Hisao in moments without Main Girl is key to getting that feel.

Thanks again for the kind words! This coming week should be a rare two post week, with 2-6 on Monday or Tuesday, and 2-7 on Saturday, which will bring us to the halfway point of this journey. There are some potential one-shots and bonus scenes lurking around in my head, so some of that might come into being before I proceed to Act III. Or it might not! Who knows?
Characters: Shizune > Lilly > Rin > Emi > Hanako
Routes: Lilly > Rin > Shizune > Hanako > Emi

Replaying now, so subject to flux. Except Shizune. Shizune is best.

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Act 2, Chapter 6 - Drinks (With Dinner)

Post by Puncyclopedia » Thu Feb 04, 2016 3:32 pm

This is horribly overdue, and for that I apologize. The only good news is 2-7 is almost finished, so you won't have to wait anywhere near as long.

I found this very difficult to write, honestly - this and 2-7 have been the hardest parts of the story by far - probably because they're where the magician reveals his major secrets. It is likely less polished than other chapters because I can't bear to look at it anymore, so any grammatical errors I will correct as pointed out. Thank you, and enjoy!

--------------

Sometimes I wonder how my life must look to someone who lacks the benefit of context.

Flitting about from drinks with Misha to dinner with Lilly would seem to most like paradise. There were many Yamaku students for whom either occurrence would have made their month, and here I was, with both happening in the same day.

I can’t deny that it’s enjoyable. Especially not as I look across a small table in a casual Italian restaurant at my mentor, resplendent in a Chinese-style red dress that is utterly eyecatching. I feel horribly underdressed, just as I’d feared, though the restaurant itself isn’t making me feel that way. Just my companion.

“How was your day, Hisao,” she asks, as the waiter whisks our menus away. We have just finished ordering - I know precious little about actual, authentic Italian food, and just ordered chicken parmigiana.

“Pretty good,” I say, with a shrug of my shoulders. “Decided to make a day of it in the city.”

That...was more information than I had intended to give. Especially because I am an exceedingly poor liar, and will certainly be found out if I try to hide where I’ve been for the first half of the day.

“Oh,” she asks, taking a sip of water. Her movements are impossibly precise. Ever since the first time I met her all those years ago at Yamaku, I’ve always felt slightly out of my depth with her. “That sounds lovely. What did you do?”

Come on, Hisao. Honesty. Incomplete honesty, but honesty nonetheless. You can do it.

“Just met an old friend for a few drinks,” I reply, feeling cool and casual. “Hadn’t seen her for a few years.”

Fuck. Too much information. I’d make a terrible prisoner under interrogation. Or a good one, depending which side you’re on.

“Her,” Lilly asks, a questioning tone in her voice. She seems surprised. I don’t know if I want to know why she’s surprised that I have female friends.

“Yes,” I reply, casually. “Her. An old friend. A very old friend.”

Lilly Satou can’t see, and yet, sometimes, it feels like those two cloudy eyes can bore holes in me.

“...Misha,” I finally admit.

“Oh,” Lilly replies, a small smile tugging at the corners of her lips. “That makes more sense, now. How is she?”

I don’t answer right away - the waiter has arrived, with a bottle of wine. He reads the label to Lilly, and then shows it to me to confirm that it is accurate. I nod my head, and give my assent to having the bottle’s cork popped, and some of the contents poured into our respective wine glasses.

Only after she has taken a sip and nodded contentedly at the taste do I continue from where we left off.

“She’s pretty well. Teaching, but I think you know that much, right?” Lilly nods. That makes that easier. “It was good to see her again. We haven’t seen each other much since, well…”

Lilly’s face contorts in a painful-looking way, and I feel the need to apologize immediately.

“Sorry for bringing it up,” I say, and she shakes her head - for my benefit, I can only assume.

“Don’t apologize, Hisao. Please,” she says, and in that instant, she is shockingly vulnerable. I can’t imagine it’s because of my situation. Something has to be on her mind.

It occurs to me that I can read Lilly with an ease that escapes me when it comes to most other people. Shizune baffled me at the best of times, and even Misha could be maddeningly difficult to read, but not Lilly.

“You okay,” I ask, that time-honored question of a man who wants to help, but has no earthly idea how to do show. When she nods immediately, I wonder just what I’ve gotten myself into.

“I asked you to dinner because I wanted to talk, Hisao,” she says, hesitance in her voice, and my mind starts contorting itself in all sorts of interesting ways. “I...think I trust you enough to tell you about what happened with....”

I’m glad that she can’t see my jaw on the floor.She doesn't have to finish. I know what she means, “Are you sure,” I ask. There’s no way she can be. We haven’t really been close long enough for her to trust me that much, have we?

How long HAS it been? I can’t even remember in the moment. What I DO know is that this is meaningful. If her story is even a thimbleful as traumatic as mine, the fact that she’s willing to tell it to me is no small thing.

My glass of wine is surprisingly barely touched. Lilly’s, for contrast, is nearly empty. As she puts it down once more, she speaks, very quietly, but very firmly.

“I am positive, Hisao.” There can be no arguing with her, but she’s not finished. “There are very few people in my life that I am able to spend any amount of time with. My family is in Scotland. I live alone. Many of the teachers at Yamaku are very nice, but also considerably older than you or I.”

It all keeps coming back to that same realization - I am probably the best friend Lilly has.

Today’s visit from Misha aside, Lilly is almost certainly the best friend I have right now.

That thought...depresses me, somehow. It makes me feel like I’m a default option - as if neither of us have any choice in the matter.

“You know that I’ll listen,” is all I can make myself say. “If you’re sure, I’m here for you. You can tell me anything.”

Lilly nods

“It’s not a particularly elaborate tale,” Lilly says, folding her hands in her lap. “It will not take that long to say. It is the act of saying it that is the hard part. Admitting it to someone else. I have made my peace, and yet…”

A long pause follows. Whatever she wants to say next, she’s very unsure about. It reminds me, worryingly, of Shizune’s long pauses before signing something very serious.

“It is a part of me,” she finally manages. “It has changed me - for the better in some ways, and for the worse in others. Hanako was a part of me, in the minds of many. One would not have thought of Lilly in school without also thinking of Hanako. I don’t think you - or anyone - can really know me as I am now without knowing the story.”

What a thing to say. It’s heavy and worrying all at once. I know she’s right, though. Hanako and Lilly were linked in my mind when I was at Yamaku. I could very easily have ended up hanging out with them if not for Shizune’s pure force of will and Misha’s pouting faces.

Lilly hesitates for another moment, before speaking. I turn to face her, even though I know it’s unnecessary. Some things require formality, and I feel like this is one of them.

“Hanako has undergone many traumatic things in her life,” Lilly explains. “Yamaku was the start of a very long road to recovery that continues for her even to this day. It was also a very painful time for her. I was her best friend, and yet, at the same time, I was in many ways her worst enemy. I have a tendency to mother people. I thought it was beneficial for Hanako.”

Lilly winces. It’s as pained an expression as I’ve ever seen on a face that often looks as if it were made out of porcelain.

“It was not - not entirely, anyway.She could never have told me herself that then. It took several years for her to work up the courage to do so. I am a reminder of a very painful time in her life. One in which she lacked the ability to stand on her own two feet. It is pain that she, understandably, does not wish to revisit. We speak every so often, but we are not close.”

As promised, it’s a fairly simple story, but that only somehow makes it more real. No screaming match. No physical confrontation. Just...that.

“That...sounds kind of unfair of Hanako, really,” I say, trying to process all of this. “Are you saying that she didn’t want you to help her out back in school?”

Lilly shakes her head. “No, that’s not it. Not exactly. Today, I think Hanako herself would admit that she did need me, or someone like me, and that is what is most painful for her. The Hanako you knew and the one that exists today are very different, Hisao. She has come a long way. If that recovery means that I am not to be in her life...I can accept that, even if I don’t like it.”

She frowns. It’s very clear that she doesn’t like it, at all. I can’t say that I blame her, either. Hanako was not particularly easy to get along with, albeit for the exact opposite reasons that Shizune wasn’t considered easy to get along with. Two opposite sides of a socially difficult coin.

“It bothered me for a very long time, Hisao.” Her lip quivers, and it’s clear that she’s trying to hold back her emotions given the public setting. “I felt betrayed. Used, even - I was good enough when Hanako needed me, and cast aside when she didn’t. I blamed myself for a while, and then blamed her instead. It took me ages to come to grips with the fact that sometimes, people just grow apart.”

Those words hit me surprisingly hard, and I wasn’t quite sure why.

“Grow apart,” I ask, cocking an eyebrow at her.

“Yes,” she replies, without missing a beat. “The more I thought about it, the more that I realized Hanako and I had very little in common after Yamaku. That was so regardless of how she felt about me - I think it likely we would have drifted apart gradually no matter what.”

“That sounds extraordinarily depressing,” is the most intelligent retort in my arsenal.

It does. It really, really does. To my surprise, Lilly doesn’t seem to agree.

“It’s not, I don’t think. Life constantly changes. We constantly change. Being friends with the same people in the same exact ways for an entire lifetime would become extremely boring, don’t you think?”

It’s not a question I’ve ever really had the chance to ponder in any great detail.

Nor do I get the chance to ponder it in any detail now, because dinner is being brought to us - my chicken parm, and a fancier looking seafood-based pasta dish for my dining companion.

The conversation dies as we pick up our utensils. It occurs to me that I haven’t had anything to eat all day, and I’ve been drinking fairly constantly.

With that in mind? Maybe fried chicken with pasta sauce and spaghetti was a good choice after all.

-----

As we leave the restaurant, my mind can’t stop working. Lilly insisted on paying - which I fought until she insisted firmly enough that I lost my nerve. She considers it a fair trade for me listening to her. Honestly, I think I’ve gotten the better end of this deal. Lilly has everything figured out about her situation. All I had to do was be a sympathetic ear. I, on the other hand? I barely feel like I have a clue.

Sometimes, I wonder if meeting Shizune Hakamichi ruined me forever. Not necessarily in the “I could never do better” way, though I have had that thought more often than I care to admit.

No, my worry is that I learned and integrated so many of Shizune’s behaviors into my own life that not only do I sometimes engage in them, but I assume other people do as well.

It’s a thought as heavy as the chicken parm in my stomach. For what I thought would be a casual day out with two of my best friends, it’s been a surprisingly emotional day.

We walk in silence back towards the bus stop. It’s not an uncomfortable silence, though. It sort of feels like we’re both spoken out from the restaurant and Lilly’s story.

Deep down, I despair at the idea of a pair as close as Lilly and Hanako separating in the end. If the two of them couldn’t maintain a friendship as close as theirs was, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Lilly walks alongside me, her fingers pinching my collar. I’ve grown remarkably used to this, in spite of the odd stares from passersby. There’s something comforting about it. Familiar. It’s nice to be trusted.

Do I trust her, though? It’s the question that’s tossed itself about my brain almost since meeting Lilly again. I’m a little jealous of how she’s walking now, with a spring in her step that comes from having lightened her emotional load. She told me her story, and everything worked out fine.

Can I do this? That might not even be the right way to put it, by now. I have to do this, no matter how afraid I am. It’s eating me up from the inside.

And right now, I might just have the courage to do it. If Lilly can trust me enough to tell me her most personal secret, I can tell her mine.

“Are you busy tonight, after we get back?” I ask. Lilly’s head snaps up - I didn’t notice, but she must have been similarly lost in thought.

“I am not, Hisao,” she says. “Why do you ask?”

“I...think I’m ready.” There they are. They're very, very hesitantly said words, but they’re there nonetheless. I hear her suck in a breath, and she stops walking.

“Are you sure,” she asks, offering me one final way out of this. I can’t take it, though. I have to commit now, before I change my mind.

“Yes, I’m ready,” I hear my voice say, with a confidence I don’t entirely feel. “But it can’t be at my place. My apartment is a disaster and not at all suitable for female company.”

I flush pink as Lilly stifles a giggle. “That matters far less for me than it would for other women, Hisao.”

“Yes,” I reply, “but I don’t want you to trip on the laundry and stacked up papers that need to be graded.”

She winces, and shakes her head. “That is a more common state of things for me than I would like to admit - about the papers, anyway. But if you would rather we go to my apartment, that would be fine. I have more wine, as well..”

It’s a tempting offer, being in a clean apartment with wine. It’s one I find hard to refuse.

“If you’re suggesting that I’ll need some courage, you’re...probably right.”

“That,” Lilly says, as we turn towards the bus stop, “is something I have a fair supply of.”

She probably meant the wine, but tonight, she’d proven to me that she had an abundance of the more traditional sort of courage as well.
Last edited by Puncyclopedia on Sat Feb 06, 2016 11:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Characters: Shizune > Lilly > Rin > Emi > Hanako
Routes: Lilly > Rin > Shizune > Hanako > Emi

Replaying now, so subject to flux. Except Shizune. Shizune is best.

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Re: The Benefit of Hindsight (updated 2/4!)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Thu Feb 04, 2016 8:32 pm

Nice chapter. Lilly's story was a bit anticlimactic, but that's okay. Now let's wait for Hisao's...

Not that many errors either:
what happened with Hanako and I.”
As an English teacher, I don't think Lilly wouldmake that mistake :-)
The Hanako you knew and the one that exists day are very different
TOday?
“Are you busy tonight, after we get back?” I ask. ...
“I am, Hisao,” she says. “Why do you ask?”
Is she? Or is she not?
“I...think I’m ready.” Four little words...
Five :-)
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: Act 2, Chapter 6 - Drinks (With Dinner)

Post by Texaboose » Thu Feb 04, 2016 10:03 pm

Good, well contained chapter. Was hoping Lilly would go into a bit more detail about what had happened with Hanako for the sake of clarity, but at the same time it's understandable that she wouldn't want to go into detail, and it's not completely necessary (at least for the reader versed in Lilly's and Hanako's characters) to go into detail.

Only picked up one typo other that what Mirage caught:
Puncyclopedia wrote: “It is a part of me,” she finally manages. “It has changed me - for the better in some ways, and for the worse in others. Hanako was a part of me, in the minds of many. One would not have thought of Lilly in school without also thinking of Hanako. I don’t think you - or anyone - can really know me as I am now without knowing the story.””
So just the extra quotation mark.


The only other nitpick is:
Puncyclopedia wrote: “It’s not a particularly elaborate tale,” Lilly says, looking wistfully at a now-empty plate of tiramisu. “It will not take that long to say. It is the act of saying it that is the hard part. Admitting it to someone else. I have made my peace, and yet…”
Lilly had dessert before main course/entree? Not that I blame her, since tiramisu is delicious...
Currently reading (and being thoroughly depressed by): After the Dream by brythain
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The Benefit of Hindsight by Puncyclopedia
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Re: Act 2, Chapter 6 - Drinks (With Dinner)

Post by Oscar Wildecat » Thu Feb 04, 2016 10:42 pm

Texaboose wrote:Good, well contained chapter. Was hoping Lilly would go into a bit more detail about what had happened with Hanako for the sake of clarity, but at the same time it's understandable that she wouldn't want to go into detail, and it's not completely necessary (at least for the reader versed in Lilly's and Hanako's characters) to go into detail.

...

The only other nitpick is:
Puncyclopedia wrote: “It’s not a particularly elaborate tale,” Lilly says, looking wistfully at a now-empty plate of tiramisu. “It will not take that long to say. It is the act of saying it that is the hard part. Admitting it to someone else. I have made my peace, and yet…”
Lilly had dessert before main course/entree? Not that I blame her, since tiramisu is delicious...
One of the benefits of being a grown-up is eating dessert first! :D

I'm glad Lilly didn't go into more detail. It sounds like a bittersweet tale at best, a downer at worst. (And given that we'll probably get Hisao's tale next chapter... :? )
I like all the girls in KS, but empathize with Hanako the most.
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Re: The Benefit of Hindsight (updated 2/4!)

Post by Puncyclopedia » Sat Feb 06, 2016 11:04 pm

Thank you for the feedback, everyone! Edits are made

2-7 will likely be up Tuesday; I want to take the time to refine it and make sure it shines - it is the most important chapter so far and all. Once it's up, I'll probably take some opinions on possible bonus scenes, and when/if they should be written.

Cheers all!
Characters: Shizune > Lilly > Rin > Emi > Hanako
Routes: Lilly > Rin > Shizune > Hanako > Emi

Replaying now, so subject to flux. Except Shizune. Shizune is best.

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Re: The Benefit of Hindsight (updated 2/4!)

Post by Matigno » Mon Feb 15, 2016 2:52 pm

I am now up to date on this story ! And at the right time since it seems it is going to be updated soon. It is really refreshing to see à more mature version of our main characters (even if I still feel adding Kenji to the mix is kinda pointless). I can't wait to see what relationship is going to grow between Hisao and his students (and his coworker :] )

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Act 2, Chapter 7 - Drinks (After Dinner)

Post by Puncyclopedia » Mon Feb 22, 2016 6:11 pm

So this took a long time to write. A very long time. It clocks in at around 4000 words, and I probably wrote three times that which isn't seeing the light of day because it got edited or overwritten or scrapped out of existence. This is probably the most important chapter in the entire story, and so I apologize for its lateness but this chapter more than anything else I had to be happy with.

I think I'm finally there.

Expect a post in a couple of days with my plans going forward (including some shorter pieces to be interspersed throughout the work, most likely). I'll probably be taking a week or so off from writing until I start Act III. I need a short break.

Enjoy!
------

Lilly’s words echo in my mind throughout our entire bus ride home. Five simple words that I can’t get out of my head no matter how hard I try.

“Sometimes, people just grow apart.”

It’s a simple thought, almost elegantly so. And yet, it’s a hypothetical that society fights at every given chance. Every breakup has to be someone’s fault, right? Scores have to be kept. Blame has to be assigned.

Deep down, I know that it’s why I haven’t told anyone what happened between Shizune and I. I’m afraid. Afraid of having everyone tell me that it’s my fault. That I’m the unreasonable one.

In the end, though, does it really matter who’s reasonable or unreasonable? Why is it so important that someone be blamed? I’ve been carrying this with me for far, far too long. It’s time to get it off of my chest, once and for all.

Besides, I finally have a willing ear to listen. Said willing ear happens to be asleep next to me on the bus right now. I nudge her gently to wake her up - our stop is next, and it would be bad if we missed it.

“Lilly,” I ask, quietly, seeing her eyes slowly drift open from slumber. “It’s time to get up. Our stop is now.”

“Five more minutes,” she asks, to which I poke her again.

“No can do,” I say, apologetically. “In five more minutes, we’ll be in the next town.”

She sighs audibly, but collects herself well enough to exit the bus with me as it rolls to a stop. It takes me a moment to get my bearings, but I realize that we’re about a block from her apartment. I’m thankful she was so quick to volunteer her place for our discussion; mine is a disaster area.

As we walk alongside one another, I can’t help but notice that her step feels...lighter, somehow. Her mood is similarly lighter, as if a weight was lifted off of her shoulders. I suppose it was, given what she told me. I remain surprised - Lilly and Hanako seemed inseparable at Yamaku. It was amazing what sort of feelings and emotions people could hold onto.

I was glad, in a sad sort of way, that I didn’t really spend that much time with Hanako. I probably would have ended up in a similar place to Lilly. I know myself pretty well.

Lilly seems to know the way well, guiding me towards the front door of her building. She finds the key easily, sliding it into the door and opening it, then leading me up a staircase to her second floor apartment.

She opens the door, and escorts me in. What I see is a very functional apartment. It reminds me very much of my own, with the general lack of furnishings and frills. The living room beckons, with a soft-looking couch and a coffee table. She gestures to the couch, and nods.

“Please, sit down Hisao. I’ll get us something to drink. Would you like red or white?”

“I’ll have whatever you’re having,” I tell her. She smiles at that, and disappears into the kitchen to pour us glasses of wine. I watch her as she does so - here, she is in her domain. She must have this small apartment completely memorized, and can move about it with ease. It’s impressive.

She returns with two glasses of red wine, placing them down on the table. Before I can open my mouth, she disappears again, returning with the bottle.

“Just in case,” she says, a smile curving her mouth, and I chuckle.

“It will probably be necessary,” I admit, picking up my glass, and clinking it with hers as she does the same. “To lightening our burdens?”

She nods at that in agreement, and we each drink. I have had considerably more alcohol than Lilly today, but I’m not feeling it much. Lilly, on the other hand, seems to the tiniest bit tipsy, in spite of her impeccable speech and demeanor.

“It’s story time, Hisao,” she says, settling down on the couch, wine in hand. “Fair is fair, after all.”

She seems eager - and is trying to hide just how eager she is. I can’t blame her, though. I was the same way about her particular secret, and even now my head’s still trying to process the fact that she and Hanako aren’t much more than distant acquaintances these days. In terms of shock, it’s hard to beat.

Unfortunately, I’ve got a story that beats it, and most others that I can think of. I take another slow, satisfied swig of the wine. It’s good - much better than what I have to drink at home. Lilly’s palette is obviously more refined than mine. Or she has more money to spend on alcohol. Or both.

Before I know it, her hand is in mine, squeezing it gently. I make a startled sound and turn to face her. She is sitting close, close enough that personal space isn’t particularly existent. I’m not complaining, but I cock an eyebrow that she can’t see.

“I’m here to listen,” she says, and then I realize that she’s trying to be reassuring. And succeeding, for the most part. “I won’t judge, I promise. Well. I won’t judge you, anyway…”

As she trails off, I know what she means, and I know that it was silly of me to be afraid. Other than my parents, there might not be anyone as likely to take my side in a breakup with Shizune as Lilly Satou.

“Alright,” I say, after one more courage gathering swallow. “It’s a long, long story, but I guess I’ll start with the beginning of the end. I came home from one of my short-term teaching jobs and found Shizune on the couch making out with--”

I am amazed just how easily it pours out. I didn’t expect that.

“What?”

I also didn’t expect Lilly’s surprised interjection. Apparently, she didn’t expect me to say that, either.

“You might want to hold off on that, Lilly,” I say, a lopsided grin forming in spite of my most fervent wishes. “That sentence ends with the word ‘Misha.’”

My shoulders slump as my body melts into the couch. There. I said it. After so many months...finally...finally…

“Misha,” Lilly asks, anger in her voice. She’s sitting straight up, and as my hunched over body turns to face her, she’s practically towering over me. “That makes no sense! Shizune rejected her - practically the entire school knew that when it happened!”

“Yeah,” I agree, “I found out about that. But what no one actually knew is why Shizune rejected her. I found that out during the longest apology of all time. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone as apologetic as Misha was that day.”

I can still remember it clearly - the pink-haired girl’s face contorted and racked with sobs as she poured her heart out to me, so incongruous with practically every other memory of her that I have.

“Why did Shizune reject her during school,” Lilly asks Her glass is empty, and she starts pouring a second. Somehow, this story seems more stressful for her than it was for me. “I’d always thought…”

“If it makes you feel any better,” I reply, “to my knowledge, Misha’s the only woman Shizune’s ever been seriously attracted to. At one point, she called herself “Mishahisaosexual.” As for your question, though, you know this one.”

I pause, to take in the look of confusion on Lilly’s face. It’s not going to last much longer.

“Her father.”

Lilly’s lips part in a silent “O” before wincing. Hard. I can’t say I blamed her; it wasn’t that far off from how I’d reacted back then, too.

“As you might imagine, Jigoro is not particularly understanding of alternate sexual preferences. By his standards, *I* was too feminine for his daughter, let alone...Misha. He never found out - still hasn’t - but let’s just say he had a habit of making rather unfriendly comments in his daughter’s presence. He would have disowned her, and she would have had nowhere to go. She…couldn’t accept Misha’s request. Knowing everything I know about Shizune? It must have driven her insane. And she couldn’t tell Misha - because Misha would never have gotten over her without a hard and firm no. As it was, Misha never got over her anyway, but I suppose it was the thought that counted.”

I finished my glass of wine, and poured myself a second. Lilly all but grabbed the bottle from my hands when I was done, and poured herself a third. She looked physically uncomfortable, as if she wished she could crawl out of her own skin.

“So you have just walked in on your two best friends furiously making out on the couch,” LIlly summarizes, her face torn between amusement, sympathy, and horror. “What on Earth could Shizune have possibly said to you when she saw you?””

Ah, it’s nice to have someone in your corner. It really, truly is. It gives me the courage to go on, a wry smile on my face as I answer.

“She asked me to join them.”

Because of course she did. Because, as shocked as I was at the time, there really was no more Shizune solution to the problem she faced than that. It was as elegant and simple as it was tone-deaf and impossible.

Lilly looks mildly scandalized, but not so scandalized that she doesn’t have a follow-up question.

“Did you?” she asks, dangling the wine glass from between her fingers, as if the answer I give will determine if she needs more or not.

“Yes,” I reply. “Yes, I did.”

In my defense, Shizune nearly kissed me senseless before asking, and had Misha unbuttoning my pants at the same time. Those two always *were* good at getting me to agree to things under duress.

“How was that,” Lilly asks, her cheeks flushed red, but the eager expression on her face contrasts deeply with any possible sense of embarrassment on her part.

“I can’t complain,” is all I’m willing to say on the matter. Some memories are best left as just that. “Are you asking me for details?”

“Maybe I am,” she chuckles. “I’ll spare you that, though. For now. What happened after you three woke up from being a tangle of limbs on the couch?”

“That’s a really long story, Lilly. We’d be here until four in the morning. Suffice it to say, though, that she wanted to make the arrangement permanent. It...made sense. I mean, if I wasn’t dating Shizune, I would have been interested in dating Misha. If any of us could choose two lovers, we would have picked the other two, so in that sense…”

“It sounds logical,” Lilly finishes. “Crazy, but logical at the same time. You said yes, didn’t you?”

“You make it sound like it was a fait accompli,” I say, trying to cling to some vestige of my pride. “But yes, I did. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It turns out I’m the only guy in the world who couldn’t handle dating two beautiful women at the same time.”

Even now, there’s something bitter in my voice. Something angry, mostly at myself. How many men would have killed to be in my situation? How many would have sucked it up and dealt with almost anything to ensure it continued?

Lilly’s hands reach out, to locate me. One finds my shoulder, and she uses it as purchase to help pull herself a bit closer.

“What happened to change your mind?” The question is asked softly. Sympathetically. She knows that this is really the heart of the matter - that up until now, this is a happy story.

“...I tried, Lilly. I really did. But I was the third wheel. I knew it. They knew it. They tried really hard not to show it, but it was...kind of obvious. Before long, it was the elephant in the room and I couldn’t take it anymore.”

Only now do the tears start to flow. I’m crying, but not sobbing - I think I’ve sobbed myself out over this a long time ago.

I cry because I remember the dates they went on together - secretively, which almost made it worse, somehow. As if dating me was what they put up with to be with each other.

“I finally asked her to decide. I knew what the answer was, but I had to ask. I was miserable. I was watching the woman I loved, and the woman I was coming to love, walk off into the distance without me. If that was how my story was going to end, I didn’t want to have to sit there and watch it.”

It was like being a poker player with an awful hand who’d thrown almost all of his money into the pot. I had a losing hand, but what was I going to do with my last few dollars? Gambling them on a million to one shot was all I had left. I gambled, and I lost.

“That was the last time we spoke,” I managed, after several tries. “I haven’t been able to face her since. She’s reached out to me dozens of times, but I can’t bring myself to reply. I’m a terrible--”

“Hisao.”

I can practically hear the period at the end of the sentence.

“Yes, Lilly?”

“We are going to review everything you’ve just told me.”

“Yes, Lilly.”

Not a question. I don’t think she’s going to brook disagreement on this matter.

“You caught your girlfriend, whom you had been dating for several years, making out with one of your best friends. Rather than apologize and beg forgiveness, she convinced you to convert your relationship into something else, didn’t live up to her initial promises, and decided to leave you when you asked for things to return to the way they’d been. Do I have that correct?”

I have never seen Lilly Satou remotely this upset. Never. All I can do is nod. When she puts it that way, maybe I’m not such a terrible person after all.

“Thanks for making it sound like it’s not my fault, Lilly. I appreciate i--”

“This is not your fault, Hisao!!”

I’ve never felt smaller. By contrast, Lilly is drawn up to her full height. Her face is flushed, and she shakes her head back and forth.

“It’s not your fault that my cousin never seems to want to understand other people,” she continues. “It’s not your fault that she’s selfish enough to try and modify your relationship without even asking you. And it is certainly not your fault that you don’t want to speak to her again because of those things.”

“Actually,” I offer, weakly, “that last one kind of is my--”

“No one,” Lilly cuts me off, “but Shizune Hakamichi would ever expect her lover to want to continue to remain in contact with her after letting him walk in on her and her best friend.”

I... can’t really argue with that.

Somehow, though, that realization only makes things worse.

I thought everything would work out, somehow. Shizune was Shizune, an immutable force of nature. That was why I fell in love with her.

I was the one who changed. I was the one who compromised. And in the end?

I was the one who was left behind.

“Why are you so upset, Lilly?” I ask, in a belated, desperate attempt to get the spotlight off of me. It still strikes me as odd. I know that the two of them don’t get along, but…

“Why?” she asks, a wry smile on her face. “I’m not allowed to be upset that my cousin has treated my best friend poorly?”

She is, of course. I have no objections.

And yet, something’s not right here. Something doesn’t quite add up. Her reaction is...too strong. There are even the beginnings of what look like tears in the corners of her eyes.

I don’t know what to say. I have nothing to say.

All I can do is move closer and wrap both of my arms around Lilly, to hug her tightly. She stiffens in surprise at first, only to surprise me in turn by all but melting into the embrace. Her arms wrap around my neck, and I can feel her heart beating wildly against my chest.

This feels good. Too good. Warm and soft...and right, somehow. As if Lilly Satou in my arms just makes sense. Even the soft sounds of sobbing can’t fully distract me from this moment, as one of my hands buries itself in her hair, stroking her scalp and trying to soothe my mentor.

This feeling is nothing like what I’m used to. It’s warm and pleasant, as opposed to intense and all-compelling. I can think right now. I can reason. I can breathe.

And yet, I know what it is. How could I not? Ballads are written about moments like this, grand moments of realization. It feels silly to have not realized it before, with walks together and meals together and long talks about nothing together.

I spent so much time assuming that I was simply a default option in Lilly’s life that I didn’t realize the other possibility - that Lilly Satou could choose to do whatever she damned well pleased with her free time and had decided to spend a rather high proportion of it with me.

She was crying because I was. She was sad because I was sad. She cared for me, possibly more than I cared for myself.

As that realization hits me, it spreads over me like warm sunshine gently coming in through an early-morning window.

There are no nerves. I feel fine right now. There’s no gnawing worry in the pit of my stomach. I could be wrong, of course. I could be about to do something horribly wrong, and yet, I’m confident in my read

Only later will I realize the terrible irony, that it’s my time spent with one Shizune Hakamichi that gives me the courage I need to do this.

“Lilly?” I ask, gently tipping her chin upwards. Slowly, her head rises. It’s a bit selfish of me, really, but I want to look at her. Her lovely face is blotted with tears, and there is an inquisitive look on her face. I have her caught off guard, for certain.

“Hisao,” she asks, in a breathy little voice that I couldn’t resist if I tried. Well, Hell. Here goes nothing. Now or never.

“I’m sorry, Lilly.”

“Hmm?” There’s an adorable confusion in her voice. She really doesn’t know what I have planned. Hisao, the Always Predictable, is finally about to do something very much not.

“For not realizing sooner.”

I lean in close, capturing her lips with mine in a brief kiss. I intend to pull back, to give her a moment to ensure that this is, in fact, not a terrible mistake, but a hand on the back of my neck keeps me right where I am. Her mouth moves against mine, and soon enough I feel the gentle tug of teeth at my bottom lip. I gasp in surprise, and by that time her tongue is in my mouth, tangling with mine as I struggle valiantly to keep up.

Heh. Even with Lilly, I’m in over my head. Ah, well. At this point, I should consider it a speciality of mine.

By the time she lets me go, we’re both gasping for air in one another’s arms. ‘

I’m speechless. Lilly is, too, but she manages to come up with something to say before I can.

“Thank you, Hisao,” she whispers, a slow, happy smile spreading out over her face. “I was wondering if I was going to have to confess to you.”

“I would have enjoyed that,” I reply, a bit wistfully, and she quiets me with another kiss. This is a terrible precedent, Lilly. If you reward me for my bad behavior like that, I’ll never be good again.

“Most people would say we shouldn’t do this, Hisao,” she says, in a slurred, amused tone of voice. “We’re coworkers. And we’re drunk.”

“Tipsy,” I correct. I would be more concerned with this line of inquiry if she wasn’t clinging onto me so tightly. “I’ve never really much cared what “most people” think. We’re both professional enough to keep this private. As for the alcohol, if you’d like to postpone any important decisions until tomorrow morning, when we’ve sobered up, I’ve no problem with that.”

Lilly smiles at me. It’s the sort of smile I couldn’t resist if I tried.

“Alright, Hisao.” She’s putting considerable effort into speaking now, trying to keep as much of her proper exterior as she can. “Let’s go, then.”

“Where,” I ask, even as Lilly somehow extricates herself from my arms and stands, tugging on my hand impatiently.

“Bed,” she says, and my cheeks flash an interesting shade of red.

“But I thought you said--”

“To sleep,” Lilly says, casually, without a second thought. I stand up with her, lest my arm be pulled off. “Actual sleep. Until tomorrow, at least.”’

Given the nature of her objections, flimsy though they are, I should probably resist. I don’t have the willpower, though. She tugs me into the room and immediately closes the door. There’s no light on. This is naturally not a problem for her, even though it might be a problem for me.

“Um, Lilly,” I ask. “Where’s the bed?”

“Back-center of the room.” I hear the rustling of...something, and I swallow. Hard.

“What are you doing, Lilly?”

“Getting comfortable,” she replies. I can only imagine a smug little smile on her face. “Feel free to as well. I imagine the covers might be warm with too much clothing.”

“I don’t exactly have anything to change into, you know,” I point out. Not being able to see makes things much harder, as I try to listen for where Lilly is. I hear more rustling in the distance, and can only assume that she’s gotten into bed.

“I’m told men sleep in boxers.” I hear her stifling a giggle. Fine, then, if that’s how she wants to play… “And who said that I was changing into anything to begin with, Hisao?”

...this may not work out long term if you keep saying things that aren’t good for my heart, Lilly.

My clothes are in a neat little pile in a matter of moments. I start walking towards what I think is the bed, but run hand-first into the wall first. Turning 90 degrees, my shins finally brush up against the bed. Feeling my way around the covers, I manage to pull them back enough that I can get into the bed.

“Turn around,” Lilly insists, and who am I to refuse. As I lay down, I feel an arm slip under my neck. My head hits the pillow just as Lilly presses against me. True to her banter, she’s not wearing anything above the waist at least. The press of full, soft breasts against my back is a feeling that my body had utterly forgotten until now, and with her arms wrapped around me, I am happily, wonderfully trapped. .

“Good night, Hisao,” she murmurs, sleepily. “We’ll pick this up tomorrow.”

It takes my mentor but a few minutes to fall into a deep sleep, leaving me awake with a head full of pleasant thoughts and distant worries.

I have no idea how I’m actually going to fall asleep like this, though I think my students would refer to such a thing as a first world problem.
Characters: Shizune > Lilly > Rin > Emi > Hanako
Routes: Lilly > Rin > Shizune > Hanako > Emi

Replaying now, so subject to flux. Except Shizune. Shizune is best.

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Mirage_GSM
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Re: The Benefit of Hindsight (updated 2/22!)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Mon Feb 22, 2016 6:52 pm

what happened between Shizune and I
"Shizune and me"
I finished my glass of wine, and poured myself a second. Lilly all but grabbed the bottle from my hands when I was done, and poured herself a third. She looked physically uncomfortable, as if she wished she could crawl out of her own skin.
For some reason this paragraph is past tense.
Only later will I realize the terrible irony, that it’s my time spent with one Shizune Hakamichi that gives me the courage I need to do this.
Strange... I see this very rarely but yet I complained about it in another story just a few days ago:
You use the first person narrative voice in present tense for this story. The reader is in Hisao's head as the events happen. He can't give information about future events.

With the technical stuff out of the way:
Shizune and Mishe, eh? Rejection because of Jigoro...

That's certainly something I didn't expect. Not sure what I think about it yet; will have to think more - I don't think we've seen that variant before. What I do buy, though, is her reaction afterwards and the events leading on to Hisao leaving.
And I truly love your Lilly in this chapter. Her reactions are exactly what I would expect from a Lilly who is more mature and self-confident than her highschool self.

Overall I think you have every right to be happy with this chapter! Enjoy your break. We'll be waiting for you to return.
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.

azumeow
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Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2014 1:04 am

Re: The Benefit of Hindsight (updated 2/22!)

Post by azumeow » Mon Feb 22, 2016 7:31 pm

Damn, son. I....didn't see that coming.

Probably couldn't have with a telescope, really.
"I don’t want to be here anymore, I know there’s nothing left worth staying for.
Your paradise is something I’ve endured
See I don’t think I can fight this anymore, I’m listening with one foot out the door
And something has to die to be reborn-I don’t want to be here anymore"

freddy753
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Joined: Thu Jul 16, 2015 2:50 pm

Re: The Benefit of Hindsight (updated 2/22!)

Post by freddy753 » Mon Feb 22, 2016 8:05 pm

Like Azumeow said, I definitely couldn't see that one coming. I've even read FluffAndCrunch's collection of after-KS stories and I still didn't see it coming. Well done. With this latest chapter, I feel like a lot of the questions I've had about this story have been answered.

Edit: While I was typing this out, I thought of another question that is bugging me really badly now. At what point does a person stop being dragged along for the ride and start becoming complicit in the actions of another? In KS, as we all know, a big part of Shizune's route is her dragging Misha around and treating her like a lackey instead of a real friend. At first, I sort of thought the same thing was going on here, but then I realized, there has to be some point where a person realizes they're being used. It seems like Misha knew full well what she was doing with Shizune, and she just chose to ignore Hisao, but, as you've indicated in your earlier chapters, they're still on good terms. What's going on here? Sorry if I'm rambling.

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