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The Benefit of Hindsight (updated 4/16!)

Posted: Thu May 21, 2015 10:29 pm
by Puncyclopedia
(EDIT: A Painful Request (aka, Act 3, Chapter 5) is posted!)

Soooo, after years of lurking and occasionally posting in some topics and outlining things I never thought I'd actually write, I have fanfic!

This is going to be the table of contents post and all of that good stuff, to keep it all in one place. This is going to (ideally) be somewhat long, a prologue and at least three acts, if not four to give it more of that Katawa Shoujo feel.

It's an epilogue to one of the game's good ends - albeit seven years after that ending. Some characters you'll recognize. Some are new. You'll laugh (I hope)! You'll cry (I hope)! You'll have a good time (I hope most of all)! Once revealed in the story, I'll put information such as whose good end it's an epilogue to and what pairings (if any) in this post, under spoiler tags.

And thus, with no further ado, please scroll down one post below this one, and enjoy the prologue of "The Benefit of Hindsight."

Author's Notes:

[ ] is used to indicate dialogue in sign.
< > is used to indicate written dialogue (relevant primarily for one character in particular).
"[]" is used to indicate dialogue that is both signed and spoken.

EDIT (3/20): I will actually go through and try to make grammatical changes/get the Google Doc for this up after Act III. I've also added a section for short stories/epilogues/other material in this universe that will start getting made after the main story is over.


Canon: Post Shizune Good End
Pairing: Hisao x Lilly

Catching Up - Hisao discovers that life works in mysterious ways.

Of Gates & Waits - A particularly uneventful first few hours of "orientation."
Anything But Quiet - Hisao encounters an old friend in the library.
Mind Over Mentor - Hisao meets his teaching mentor for the first time.
Students, Meet Teacher - The newest teacher at Yamaku meets his students.
Extracurricular Activities - After-school life is never dull.
Night & Day - They're not quite as different as one might hope.
Sidetracked & Shanghaied - A meeting over drinks takes a surprisingly serious turn.

Point of View - Hisao gets a reminder of his past, and encouragement for his future.
Road Construction - On the road to Yamaku, another road is forged.
An Unwanted Legacy - The Student Council's iron grip, seven years later.
Dial 'H' for Help - One phone call and one note make for a busy Saturday to come.
Drinks (Before Dinner) - Two old friends catch up over rum and coke.
Drinks (With Dinner) - A secret is revealed, and a vow is made.
Drinks (After Dinner) - Hisao's greatest secret gives way to something greater.

The Morning After, Interrupted - Wherein drinks and cake are but a consolation prize.
Driven to Distraction - Goodbye, how's it going, and welcome.
Eagerly Awaited - Exploration, at and of, Hisao's apartment.
Late Night at Yamaku - Grading in peace can be difficult.
A Painful Request - In which Hisao must think very carefully.




Posted: Thu May 21, 2015 10:30 pm
by Puncyclopedia
Life never ceases to amaze me. No matter how much I try to peer into the future, I can never predict a thing. One might think that after being diagnosed with arrhythmia I'd just be content to live day to day, but that's not the case at all. Knowing what's around the corner takes on a different urgency when you're not entirely sure how many more corners you'll get to see around.

This latest twist surprises even me, though, and I've had lots of practice at being surprised over the past seven years. I walk down a familiar street, taking in familiar sights. I clutch a briefcase in one hand, a far cry from the school books I used to lug here on occasion. It's been almost seven years now, but my muscle memory hasn't forgotten the way towards the building I know as the Shanghai.

I hesitate at the door for a moment or two. I'm supposed to meet someone here – someone I haven't seen in ages. Sure, I've spoken to him on the phone a lot over the past couple of years, but that's different from seeing someone face-to-face and in person.

I walk into the old-looking teahouse, half expecting to be greeted by a falling axe of a bow, but none comes. Instead, I'm greeted by an unfamiliar waitress who smiles, hands me a menu, and jerks a thumb across the building, to the only occupied table.

Well. Maybe some things don't change.

I'm greeted as I cross the Shanghai by a tall, messy-haired man whom I know very well. A few years ago, I wouldn't have thought we'd ever be speaking as much as we do now, but getting to know Akio Mutou better has been full of surprises.

As we both sit down, the waitress returns. We each order a cup of coffee, and she dutifully heads off to go prepare our drinks. All told, I'm happy it's not the familiar face I expected to see here. Well. Assuming that the reason she's not here isn't that she was fired, anyway.

It doesn't take my old teacher long to dispense with the small talk and skip to the meat of the matter, but that's just fine with me.

“How did it go,” I hear him ask. His smile is broad, but easy. “Though I'm pretty sure I know the answer.”

Mutou, I'm fairly sure, is more confident in me than I am. That's okay, though. It's always nice to know there are people in your corner.

“Pretty well, I think,” I reply, noncommittally. I never like to get too high or too low after things like this. Besides, I'd already been turned down for a job I thought I'd interviewed really well at. Getting my hopes up is a bad idea.

“You're pretty much a shoo-in,” Mutou says. “I thought you should know that, so you don't worry too much.”

I wonder if he can see the doubts and worries in my mind. His easy confidence is either washing those doubts away, or multiplying them. I'm not sure which.

“How do you know that,” I fire back, half-heartedly. “It's not like you were there.”

“No,” he admits, with a shrug, “but I've seen your resume and paperwork. I also had you in my class, and you were one of the four or five brightest students I ever taught at Yamaku. Let's not forget about the good publicity for Yamaku if they do hire you – the academy for disabled students welcomes a former student back as a teacher? One of those heartwarming stories the news media loves.”

I sigh and slump my shoulders. He's got me there.

“When you put it that way, it does kind of seem like an inevitability,” I admit. “So if I don't get this job, I know who to blame for getting my hopes up.”

He doesn't seem overly concerned with that. He's almost too confident, really. He knows something I don't. Well – he's just been hired by the most prestigious university in the region to teach for them. I'm sure he knows a great many things I don't.

That's why I'm here, when it comes right down to it. That's why I just interviewed for a soon-to-be-vacant teaching position at Yamaku Academy. It's his position in Room 3-3, and he was kind enough to inform me that he'd be leaving and when the position would become available. My resume and materials were the first to cross the hiring committee's desks.

My train of thought stops briefly as the waitress returns. Just how long does it take to make two cups of coffee in an empty cafe? The coffee, at least, is piping hot, and I take a small, careful sip to avoid burning my mouth.

Mutou takes a long, slow sip of his coffee. He looks almost exactly the same as when he taught me. Maybe a few more bags under his eyes here and there, but he looks good. Healthy.

I wonder if I'll look the same, if all of this works out. I know better than anyone else just how big the shoes I'd have to fill are. I have doubts, but I haven't spent all this time studying to become a teacher for nothing.

“I almost forgot that you're certified in sign language,” Mutou remembers, scratching his chin thoughtfully. “You'll be the first science teacher at Yamaku who is. Means they can give you more students and need fewer aides.”

I never really thought that sign language would be useful in my professional life. I had my reasons for learning it, but they were all personal. Nice to know that it gave me a leg up in my chosen career, though. Sometimes I feel like I need all the help I can get.

I continue to look at Mutou. There's just...something off, even if everything is surprisingly familiar. He's still as scruffy as ever. His hair's unkempt, and he wears the same dark pants, dark shirt, and dark tie that make me wonder why he even bothers to wear the latter, since you can barely see it, anyway. I look and look, and it finally hits me.

There's a sparkle in his eyes that I usually only saw when he was talking about something scientific.

“You're going to make me say it, aren't you, Hisao,” he asks, amusedly. As I expected. He does know something. He doesn't have the best of poker faces, which is good for me because I'm not the best at reading poker faces.

“Yes,” I reply. “Don't leave me in suspense, here. I've had enough of that in my life.”

That, I figure, is a vast understatement, but I've always been good at those.

Mutou raises his coffee cup expectantly. I take my own and raise it as well, clinking them together gingerly.

“To the newest teacher at Yamaku Academy, then,” he says, toasting me with his broadest smile yet, before leaning closer. “I saw the letter,” he whispers. “It went out this afternoon. You should have it tomorrow or Friday.”

In that moment, time freezes. I hate cliches, but it's the only way I can really describe the sensation. I can feel my heart pounding – normally, thank goodness – and I look across the table at Mutou, who expects me to say something in response.

“You're being serious, yes,” I manage, after that seemingly infinite silence. “This isn't a joke? You're not going to start laughing at me right now?”

Mutou's look, as if on cue, goes deadly serious. It's almost a little scary how out of place it looks on him.

“Never, Hisao,” he says. “I always hoped, deep down, in that silly way that teachers do, that you would go on to become something great. Someone great. There are many notable Yamaku graduates. Many of them contribute to the school financially. Not many, though, ever return to give something more tangible than money. Not that giving money is bad, of course. It's just...”

He pauses, as if trying to work his way through a particularly difficult problem in his head, before soldiering on.

“You've been through Yamaku, even if only for a year,” he continues. “You're an example of what the school can do for someone. Many students are in your shoes, Hisao. Many of them experience personal tragedy and end up at Yamaku after years of living a “normal” life. You may not remember this, but you were extremely depressed when you arrived--”

“I've never forgotten,” I reply, immediately. “Honestly, it's why I want to teach here. If I can make one kid's life a little better, I--”

“That's good to hear, Hisao,” he says, cutting me off in return. Fair is fair, I suppose.

“Only a fraction of your job as a teacher actually involves teaching,” Mutou continues, firmly, in his best “this WILL be on the test, Hisao” voice. If he's trying to get my attention back, it works. “The rest of it is knowing everything you can about your students. Especially at Yamaku.”

I feel a smile tugging at the corner of my mouth. It's been a while since I've been subject to a lecture, and even longer since it's been one of Mutou's. I nod my head firmly. I know all of this, of course, but actually being able to carry it out will be the hard part.

“I have faith in you, Hisao,” he tells me, and it's almost a little embarrassing. “I couldn't pass up this opportunity, but in truth, I'm a little ashamed of mysef for leaving Yamaku. If I must leave, though, it is an honor to have my successor be my favorite student.”

I always knew that he liked me, but to be his favorite student, out of all of those he taught over the years at the Academy is flattering beyond words. I think I'm imagining it, but I see tears welling up in the corner of his eyes. He at least has the grace to look sheepish as he dabs them with a napkin.

“What can I even say to that but thank you,” I ask, rhetorically, at this praise that I do not deserve.

“Just promise that you'll become a better teacher in the end that I am,” he replies.

Oh. Just that. No big deal.

He can, apparently, see the dubious expression I'm favoring him with. “You're good at science. You're good at explaining it in ways people can understand, from the conversations we've had. You have something in common with the students who'll be in your classroom that I never did. Between you and me? I think you're going to be excellent. No pressure, of course.”

Of course. Deep down, though, I don't really mind the pressure. I work best when the chips are down, so to speak. It's a lot to process, but I'll have time. Surely they won't expect me to be a teaching god my first year, right?

I take another sip of my coffee. It's cool enough now that the sip turns into a longer swallow.

“Oh, I almost forgot,” he says, smacking his forehead in an overly dramatic way. “How are things with you and Miss Hakamichi? Or, is she Mrs. Hakamichi now?”

It takes almost all of my self control not to spray my mentor with a mouthful of coffee. I almost choke on it instead. Some of it goes down the wrong pipe, and it takes a few moments of coughing to get myself to something resembling coherence again. It is the last thing I expected him to ask me about, and the last question I really want to answer.

“I'd...really rather not talk about it,” I manage to get out, surprise written all over my face. “How did you know that was even...a thing, though?”

He cocks an eyebrow at me, but nods his head. His discretion has always been appreciated, but perhaps never moreso than right now.

“It's like I told you earlier, Hisao,” he says, smiling at me, and waving over the waitress. Somehow, he's finished his coffee already and is ordering another. I chime in, too, ordering a piece of cake. Assuming I have this job, this is a celebratory occasion, and such occasions should be celebrated with sweet things. Or fried food.

“Keeping tabs on your students is a very important part of the job. Knowing when someone's happy, when they're upset, when they might need someone to talk to...”

His voice trails off as he smiles again. Something tells me I might not like the reason for this particular smile.

“There weren't many people who willingly associated themselves with the student council president of your year. Let alone any who learned sign language to be able to communicate with her more easily.”

Decent evidence, I have to admit. Circumstantial at best, though. I'm just about to launch into some nonsense about how Misha taught me, and clearly I could have been involved with her when he decides to let the cat out of the bag.

“I'm also on the endowment committee,” he explains. “Recieving gifts for four years from “Shizune Hakamichi & Hisao Nakai” might also have tipped me off that something was going on between the two of you.”

Thank God. He's not actually a psychic.

As the waitress brings over coffee and cake, I decide that it's for the best for me to change the subject to something else, lest we remain on an ultimately depressing topic for too long.

Anything else.

Thankfully for me, like a good mentor, Mutou is more than happy to oblige.

Re: The Benefit of Hindsight

Posted: Thu May 21, 2015 11:14 pm
by brythain
Bravo. A lovely read, simple, no flourishes, could of course be polished but is shiny enough already. Waiting to learn how S becomes 'Mrs Hakamichi' at all...

Re: The Benefit of Hindsight

Posted: Fri May 22, 2015 7:32 am
by Alpacalypse
A Shizune epilogue... I am intrigued. We don't see too many of these around here.

Well, it looks like it'll be good. Solid writing, slight cliché with Hisao coming back to Yamaku, but I don't have a problem with it. Good work overall, really.
I liked it :D


Re: The Benefit of Hindsight

Posted: Fri May 22, 2015 7:45 am
by Mirage_GSM
half expecting to be greetinged by a falling axe of a bow
Considering the quality of the rest of your grammar this is probably just an editing error.
He rises from the booth to embrace me in a light hug. A few years ago, I wouldn't have thought him the type,
Hugs are not really common among the Japanese in general...
We each order a cup of coffee,...
Mutou raises his coffee mug expectantly. I take my teacup and raise it as well, clinking cup to mug gingerly.
The conversation stops briefly as the waitress returns. Just how long does it take to make two cups of coffee in an empty cafe?
Small continuity mistake here. Not only do they toast before their orders arrive, Hisao toasts with something he hasn't even ordered :-)

Interesting. While there have been a few stories before that had Hisao return to Yamaku as a teacher, all of them were short pieces or one-shots - so in a way I'm looking forward to seeing a Hisao actually teaching pupils more than the romance part with Shizune - if there even is such a thing... Maybe this is about some pretty co-teacher of his? Who knows...

Re: The Benefit of Hindsight

Posted: Fri May 22, 2015 10:47 am
by brythain
Mirage_GSM wrote:Interesting. While there have been a few stories before that had Hisao return to Yamaku as a teacher, all of them were short pieces or one-shots - so in a way I'm looking forward to seeing a Hisao actually teaching pupils more than the romance part with Shizune - if there even is such a thing... Maybe this is about some pretty co-teacher of his? Who knows...
Wait wait wait, one of them is actually pretty long, although it's not mainly about Hisao as a teacher... :)

Re: The Benefit of Hindsight

Posted: Fri May 22, 2015 11:06 am
by Blank Mage
Ooh, a Shizune fic! And here I felt like the only Shizune writer on the forums. It's an excellent start! Your writing is wonderfully paced, and I guess, balanced? I can't point to any one trait that stands out, but you have quality in every category. I can't wait to see how you take things from here.

Hopefully, we'll get some scenes from Shizune's PoV.

Re: The Benefit of Hindsight

Posted: Fri May 22, 2015 12:17 pm
by Mirage_GSM
Blank Mage wrote:Ooh, a Shizune fic! And here I felt like the only Shizune writer on the forums. It's an excellent start! Your writing is wonderfully paced, and I guess, balanced? I can't point to any one trait that stands out, but you have quality in every category. I can't wait to see how you take things from here.

Hopefully, we'll get some scenes from Shizune's PoV.
You know, he never said it is a Shizune fic - only that it is set after one of the good ends (and given what we learn in this chapter that is probably Shizune's).
For all we know she might not even make an appearance in this story at all...

Re: The Benefit of Hindsight

Posted: Fri May 22, 2015 12:33 pm
by Blank Mage
Mirage_GSM wrote:You know, he never said it is a Shizune fic - only that it is set after one of the good ends (and given what we learn in this chapter that is probably Shizune's).
For all we know she might not even make an appearance in this story at all...
Taking his avatar and signature into account...

Re: The Benefit of Hindsight

Posted: Fri May 22, 2015 3:54 pm
by Puncyclopedia
First off, thanks for all of the feedback and comments so far! I'm extremely flattered! Work on the first chapter of Act 1 is going well, and I should have it up by the end of the Memorial Day weekend here in the States.

Now, to reply to all of you fine people!

@brythain: Thank you! I was a little worried it's TOO devoid of flourishes - but things should pick up from here. I wanted the Prologue to make people start asking questions, and from discussion so far, that seems to be happening, so I'm quite happy.

@Alpacalypse: Yes, I know it's a bit of a cliche, and thank you for your patience with it. I'm hoping to put my own spin on the scenario (and, well, a lot of things), so ideally it'll come off as fresh.

As for whose epilogue it is, I admit nothing! Yet, anyway...

@Mirage_GSM: First off, thank you for the editing feedback, I'm going to go make some changes after I finish this post. I've gained a whole new appreciation for the writers of the game, as I'm finding writing in first person present to be a surprisingly difficult (but worthwhile!) challenge.

You'll be getting a good amount of Hisao teaching and related issues in this - it's one of the primary reasons I wanted to write this fic to begin with. Most of Hisao's statements on the matter in the various arcs strike me as very poignant, so giving him the chance to do it and see if it's all he thought and hoped it would be is going to be fun, I think.

As for Shizune, you'll just have to wait and see, hmm?

@Blank Mage: Whether or not Shizune will appear in this fic, there won't be anything from her PoV. I do have a couple of things in mind to write from her PoV, however, so do keep an eye out going forward.

Thank you all again, very much!

Act 1, Chapter 1 - Of Gates and Waits

Posted: Mon May 25, 2015 5:02 pm
by Puncyclopedia
Brief chapter - what I wrote as Chapter 1 has been stretched into Chapters 1 and 2. 2 will be longer, but I had to draw the line between the chapters somewhere, and I chose here.

Enjoy~! More is to come.


The front gate of Yamaku Academy hasn't changed in seven years.

I have, though, in ways both great and small. I was a ball of nerves standing before this gate for the first time as a student; standing before it now, as a teacher, has me borderline terrified.

This is more personal to me than I feel comfortable with. It is too easy to remember how I felt back then. I was, to put it charitably, a miserable and hopeless person who nonetheless clung on to some tiny hope that my life at Yamaku could become something I'd enjoy. I didn't believe it was possible until it happened.

I became a teacher and went to more school than I ever thought I'd have an interest in because I wanted to help someone standing in my shoes. Just as Mutou told me, being a teacher is about far more than simply teaching your chosen subject. It's about helping your students through their everyday lives when necessary too, because they bring those lives with them into their classrooms. I knew that, and was prepared for it when I decided to become a teacher.

Never in a million years did I expect that I'd be teaching at Yamaku Academy, but life works in strange ways, and I am more than happy with this particular twist of fate.

It's been two months since I got the letter in the mail that made it all official. Those two months were spent with frantic lesson planning and long talks with Mutou and convincing myself that I was ready for the greatest challenge of my life. It was a good, productive, and terrifying two months that's all going to Hell because I can't even walk through the front gate of the school to go to my orientation.

Come on, Hisao. You can do this. You just did it for the interview two months ago.

With a deep breath, I push the gate open, and begin the short, familiar walk towards the school building. As I get closer, I can see a small, paper sign attached to one of the doors. It reads “New Teacher Orientation,” with an arrow pointing into the building. Convenient. I wonder how many other new teachers there are for this orientation.

As I step into the building, I'm greeted immediately by a short, salt-and-pepper-haired woman. I recognize her from the day of my interview. She's one of the administrative staff, and she hands me a large folder full of information that appears to be, from first glance, a duplicate of one they sent me in the mail a week ago.

“You're the only new teacher this year, Mr. Nakai,” she says, sounding slightly apologetic, “so there's not going to be much in the way of a formal orientation. Besides, you're fairly familiar with the school, so we thought assigning you a faculty mentor would be of more help to you.”

I consider asking her “then why does the sign outside the building read 'New Teacher Orientation,' but I realize the sign is probably at least half as old as I am, if not more, and only comes out once a year.

Part of me wants the formal orientation I won't be getting. Part of me, though, is also grateful that I am going to be spared a lot of speeches about nothing that would take up time I can better use. Time is a precious commodity for me right now.

“That's fine with me,” I reply. “When will I be meeting this mentor?”

“Tomorrow morning, at nine AM,” comes the response, and another apologetic look. “I'm sorry, but your mentor's out of the country right now. She's coming back to Japan today, and promised that she would be here to meet you tomorrow.”

This is information that they could have given me yesterday, before telling me to come here for the first day of not-orientation. It lends credence to my old theory that the Student Council was the most organized entity in Yamaku, administration included, lack of membership be damned. There's no point in getting upset, though – I want the administrative staff to like me, and it's not her fault that they cancelled the orientation. Again, I need all the help I can get.

“It's alright. Would you mind if I walk around to get the lay of the land?”

She nods, seemingly pleased by my acceptance of the change of plans. Without another word, she leaves, leaving me in the front foyer of Yamaku Academy. The first place I want to go is obvious – my classroom. The stairs beckon, and I climb them eagerly, more eagerly than I ever did when I was a student. Seeing the building virtually empty is strange, but soon enough it will be filled with students.

Eighteen of them will be mine.

It's a sobering thought, and it slows my pace. Soon enough, though, the stairs are conquered, and I can see the placard for room 3-3 before me. The door is closed, but not locked, and as I step inside, I am hit flush in the face by a wave of nostalgia.

Everything looks the same. The room, always utilitarian in design, seems even moreso now. Which makes sense, because it's up to me to put my own personal stamp on it, even if that will likely be minimal. Desks sit in three neat, horizontal rows, with plenty of space in between.

The biggest desk of all, though, is the one that my eyes finally fall upon. There are many desks like it in Yamaku, but this one is mine. I sit down in the chair behind it, and look out over the classroom.

My first thought, sad as it is, is that the teacher's chair isn't that much more comfortable than I remember the students' seats being. It has much more responsibility than those chairs do, and I can feel that pressure building on me even as I try to take my walk down memory lane.

With nothing else to do, I open the folder I was given and look through the familiar information. The class roster jumps out at me, and I review the basics. Eighteen students. Nine of them are hearing-impaired in some form or function, with six full-fledged deaf. The others vary in disability, from a girl who lost one of her hands to a boy with no legs who is, apparently, one of the track team stars. I think of a hurt puppy from years gone by, and smile in spite of myself. Hopefully he's more amenable to following school regulations than Emi was.

In just a few short days I'll be meeting them all. I will be their science teacher. It still doesn't feel real. Sometimes I think that I could wake up at any second and the past few months will have all been a mirage, but that couldn't be further from the truth.

The truth is that I have three days to finish planning for my first full-time teaching job, in a place near and dear to my heart. As far as problems go, it's one of the better ones that I've endured in my years, but that fact doesn't stop my heart from pounding (normally, thank God) nearly out of my chest.

Restlessly, I stand up. Sitting in an empty classroom isn't calming my nerves. Getting up and about might, and that's a good enough reason for me to pick up my folder and leave Room 3-3 to continue exploring my once and current school.

Re: The Benefit of Hindsight

Posted: Tue May 26, 2015 5:34 am
by Mirage_GSM
A word about school in Japan:
This chapter makes it sound like Hisao will be teaching only one class, but that would hardly be a full time job.
This is the class that Hisao will be the homeroom-teacher of, but he would usually be teaching science in other classes (and in those classes's rooms) as well.
It makes sense that he would spend most of his time with the students in his homeroom, though.
Just something to keep in mind for later chapters

Re: The Benefit of Hindsight

Posted: Tue May 26, 2015 12:22 pm
by Puncyclopedia
Mirage_GSM wrote:A word about school in Japan:
This chapter makes it sound like Hisao will be teaching only one class, but that would hardly be a full time job.
This is the class that Hisao will be the homeroom-teacher of, but he would usually be teaching science in other classes (and in those classes's rooms) as well.
It makes sense that he would spend most of his time with the students in his homeroom, though.
Just something to keep in mind for later chapters
Thanks for this. I knew most of this (with the notable and useful exception that it's the teachers who rotate in Japan, not the students), but was focused on hyping up Hisao's nerves. I'll definitely make use of this in passing in the story, though as you might expect, things are going to focus on Hisao's homeroom (3-3).

More up later today. My beta reader is finishing up looking over Chapter 2, and I'll have that posted asap.

Act 1, Chapter 2 - Anything But Quiet

Posted: Tue May 26, 2015 7:09 pm
by Puncyclopedia
My tour of the school is brief, and focuses largely on the places that I spent most of my time during my one year there. One room in particular inspires mixed feelings, but I find that I can't stay there too long.

That leaves only one place left for me to visit, and I sigh, realizing that it's the library. More walking for me. Still, I'm in much better shape than I was at Yamaku – the nurse would be pleased. I should go visit him, now that I think about it. I wonder if he's here early, like the teachers are. For now, though, I'm content with heading up to the second floor to finish my unguided tour of a place I know well.

The library looks much the same, though it appears to be even more crammed with books than it was before. The donations I've been making seem to be going to good use. I notice more beanbag chairs strewn throughout the part of the library I can see, and some computers as well.

“Halt. State your business.”

Four words stun me out of my distraction. As I turn to face the sound of the voice, I realize that I've been too hasty in my assessment. There is a difference between then and now, and it comes in the form of the young man standing behind the library counter.

I almost don't recognize him at first because of the green janitor's uniform he's wearing. That inspires its own questions, but I ignore the uniform in favor of a few things that look more familiar. The slightly messy hair and dark glasses are much easier to recognize.

No. There's no way. And yet...

It makes both no and perfect sense that he's here right now, but for a moment, I stare, dumbfounded. My curiosity gets the better of me, and I have to call out to him.

“I'm Hisao Nakai,” I say. It seems he's tracking me by my footsteps. This is an utterly surreal feeling, and I turn to face him. I have to know for sure if this is who I think it is.

His face contorts in sheer surprise, and for a brief moment I have a smile on my face.

It lasts all of two seconds.

“Don't think you can fool me just because you sound like my friend Hisao! I know what your evil masters have done.”

Yes, I know that voice. It haunts me in my dreams. Usually the ones I try very hard to forget.

Just what he thinks I am if not Hisao is a line of thought I'd rather not entertain.

As he gets closer, though, he comes to a crashing halt about a foot away from me. He reaches out and pokes my chest once, then twice. Seemingly accepting of what he has found, he leans closer, peering into my face intently. After a moment of closeness that is far longer than I would like, he takes a step back, and his manner immediately shifts.

“Long time, no see, comrade,” Kenji says, extending a hand for a shake. I see no way to avoid this, so I extend a hand to shake his. I make a mental note to wash my hands immediately upon leaving the library. “It's good to have you back here at ground zero. Sorry about the dramatic speech. These days, one can never be too cautious at Yamaku Academy. Also, I had to make sure you weren't a robot.”

...a robot? Ground zero?

On second thought, it's better that I don't ask, anyway. I know where the discussion will head if I do. The secret to dealing with Kenji is, much like a mighty thunderstorm, to let all of his sound and fury expire. It doesn't take long, and usually, he'll go slinking off to his room afterwards.

Unfortunately for me, I can't imagine he still lives in the dorms.

“It's been a bad seven years,” Kenji continues, with a shake of his head. “Seven years alone, fighting against a force the likes of which most men can comprehend. But you're different. You know that my survival's a miracle.”

“Five years,” I ask, unable to hide my surprise. “You've been here for five years? But didn't you graduate when I did?”

“Of course I did,” he replies, looking at me as if I was the biggest idiot in the world. “After graduation, I was supposed to go make my way in the world. Go to some fancy-pants school up north. “Make a decent living,” or something like that. But I couldn't leave. After all, Yamaku is full of unsolved mysteries. Did you know, for example, that females now outnumber men here, 63% to 37%? That's a full three percent increase in just seven years!”

“Are you a janitor here,” I ask, in an attempt to cut him off from telling me any more of Yamaku's “unsolved mysteries.” Japanese public schools didn't have janitors, and I hadn't remembered seeing them when I went to school here, but a school of Yamaku's unique nature probably needed custodial staff to function, the more I thought about it.

“I prefer 'undercover operative,' but yes,” he offers, with a wry smile, “that is what my job description reads. Cleaning the school by day, discovering its secrets by night. I have learned things about the feminists' nefarious plans that would make your skin crawl.” he looks through the trash, in other words. I fervently hope against hope that they haven't let him work in the girls dorms at any point over the past seven years. I have no answer to any of this. All I can do was half-smile and nod and hope that this would be over soon. It's an oddly nostalgic feeling.

“And thus I stand before you,” he says, proudly, “the longest tenured male employee here at Yamaku Academy. Right under their noses. I am invincible.”

I shudder at that thought. If he says it, though, it has a surprisingly high probility of truth, being numbers-related and presumably not a matter of opinion. I am replacing Mutou-sensei, my mentor in all things science. If not for his recommendation, I probably wouldn't be here. Even in my time away, I'd heard that the art teacher, Nomiya, had come under fire for some incidents and negotiated a quiet retirement. The principal who'd hired me was female. The teachers I'd met in passing while wandering the school thus far were female.

...dear God. What if Kenji had been right this whole time?

No, no. I can't go down that road. It leads to charts, puppets, and no social life. I'd carefully side-stepped that fate once. I won't let myself be ensnared this time, either.

“Enough about me, though,” Kenji says, after what was, to my logic, entirely too much about him. “It's good to see you alive and in one piece after that undercover operation within the Student Council. Going under as long as you did is no joke. Tailing that dictator after her abdication of power for years on end. You're a legend now.”

It was one thing for him to know I was close to Shizune in school. That he knew it for years after is deeply unsettling and makes me wonder just how far his network of contacts extends.

“To who?”

“People,” he says, with an odd shrug. “People who know things. What brings you back here, though?”

Oh, right. Of course he'd have no idea why I was here. He's a janitor. He's not actually the librarian, thank heavens, as I'd been slightly afraid of when I saw him standing behind the desk for the first time.

“I'm a teacher here now,” I explain, steeling myself for this conversation continuing. “I got hired to replace Mutou.”

“Finally,” he says, as dramatically as he can possibly manage, “one got through the feminist agenda of this academy. It's good to know that the legacy of Mutou will be carried on.”

I briefly want to ask why Mutou's legacy being carried on is so important to him, but I can't imagine that I'll like the answer, so I stop myself.

“Keep me posted if you discover anything important,” he tells me, raising his hand in something that looks vaguely like a salute. “After four years underground, I trust your judgment.”

“I'll be around,” I say, non-commitally. “I have to be back here tomorrow to meet my--”

I cut myself off abruptly. I don't want to think of the direction this conversation would take if he knew my faculty mentor was female.

Fortunately for me, he seems to focus on the first part of my statement, rather than the last three words.

“I'll see you then, dude. Assuming that I leave my room, of course. Tomorrow is a very dangerous day.”

He doesn't elaborate, which I find perhaps more disturbing than anything else he's told me tonight.
I don't have time to ask anything else before he is off, heading in the direction of the Braille section. I can't imagine what he's looking for, and I don't really want to stick around long enough to find out. I turn on my heel and leave the library, making my way through the halls of Yamaku once more.

I can't say I'm totally unhappy to see him, though. Something about seeing a familiar face raises my spirits, even if it is Kenji, and even if every single conversation I have ever had and likely will ever have with him follows the same exact pattern.

I smile, in spite of myself, on the walk back to town.

Re: The Benefit of Hindsight (updated 5/26!)

Posted: Tue May 26, 2015 8:27 pm
by brythain
I always have a blast with Kenji. Some authors have him and blasts together too. I can't wait to find out more. Those nefarious feminists!

Good job.