'Mistaking Identify'—A Class 3.4 Story (Ch14 up 20170725)

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brythain
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'Mistaking Identify' (A Class 3.4 Fiction) (Ch8 up 20160303)

Post by brythain » Thu Mar 03, 2016 2:10 am

Kenichi: Mistaking Identify (T -17) Chapter 8—A Day Spent Hating Oneself
Monday, 30th April 2007—Shōwa Day Observation


Eventually I had to write it all down. Monday 30th April was the day that changed everything. I think it was on that day, that it all made sense in a different way.

*****

I wake up, and she is very beautiful in the morning light coming in from the one window, and it’s all very wrong. “Ah-Ah?” I inquire, my mind racing desperately as I try to figure out what comes next. The scent of her everywhere, and the musk of our intensity, the flashing colours of her moan and my release, they are everywhere in my head, like one of Rin Tezuka’s paintings.

“Yes, Mr Satou of the curly hair? I think I might be changing my mind about not wanting an attachment.”

“Err… did we?” I say lamely, temporizing further. “I mean, are we…?” My voice trails away as I smell the shadow of disappointment in her voice, like freshly plucked mint leaves suddenly gone stale.

“Oh,” she says simply, her voice suddenly defeated. “It’s like that. I’m sorry. I should not have presumed.”

She’s naked, and so am I, and the heat of the morning sun has made us throw off the sheets in what seems to be a different room, not mine. But it’s somehow cold, and she bunches the sheets up around her small breasts, and I feel sad and silly, like an actor who has just delivered his lines badly on the wrong stage.

I look around, see the slash of the sunlight’s blade across her skinny jeans thrown over a wooden chair, note how she has always been a tidy person, realize that I have been messy in more than one way. I recognize the sharp angle of her nose, so close to my own for much of the night—a night now coming back into my conscious memory. I can’t find words, and I wouldn’t know what to say even if I had them. I run my hands through my hair.

Time rolls on, like the tide of dead fish after a tsunami has left. I have my clothes on at last, alternating between looking away from the forlorn goddess on the bed and attempting inane conversation with the woman I loved for one intoxicated night. In the centre of my head is a silence, and in that silence I hear a part of me say clearly, “Kenichi, you fool.”

*****

The problem with the longest long weekend in the Japanese school calendar is this: if you’re in a boarding school, trapped with a number of others who don’t go home for that holiday period, there is nowhere to run if you commit a social crime. And there isn’t even the exquisite agony of classroom time during which you can attempt to use an imposed social environment to mend bridges in the underlying social network. I am doomed.

The first message I get on my phone is not, [Kenichi, you fool.] Instead, it’s from Hiroshi, and it says, [Satou, you bastard.]

I guess I do deserve that. I feel miserable and out of sorts and confused. I felt like a shrew dropping all the way back on the long walk from the girls’ dorm to ours; after all, I’d treated Ageha, ethereal wonky-looking happy curious mysterious warm Ah-Ah, like something trashy to be discarded.

I put down the phone, feeling lightheaded, drained. It lights up immediately with another message. [Uchida wants to see you.]

This time, I groan. Being reamed out by Uchida would be worse even than being carped at by Nomiya. And the fact that neither Uchida nor Hiroshi (well, we’re clearly not friends anymore, so ‘Mizuno’ will have to do) has paid me a personal visit shows how low their opinion of me must be. I am being summoned.

Drearily, I stand, shove my phone in a pocket, and head out into the now hostile environment of the residential corridors. Nothing has changed physically, but the smell and sound and colours of dread are everywhere, like serpents and rats in the walls.

Half a floor up, as I drag my heavy feet towards the doom that awaits, I see that doom’s schedule has been accelerated. Uchida and Mizuno are standing like two guardian deities at the entrance to Uchida’s hallway. Their faces look somber, and Mizuno’s has a touch of repressed fury in it.

“Good morning, gentlemen,” I say half-heartedly. “What can I do for you?”

“Hello, Satou,” says the cold, urbane, indigo voice of my floor supervisor. It’s almost as if he is a shell and the voice is the hermit crab living in it. “I have a little social problem that a member of the Ladies’ Residential Building has brought to my attention. We are here to attempt some form of resolution.”

I twitch. At the word ‘resolution’, Mizuno’s eye seems to burn with fire. He says nothing, but his cyclopean look says a lot, none of which bodes well for me.

“Ah,” I open, before realizing that it’s a loser’s gambit. “Sorry, please tell me about the problem and how I might help.”

Uchida continues, his voice as level as ever. “Miss Ainaka, who does not mind me identifying her as the source, saw you leave Miss Asai’s room this morning. That in itself is a breach of school rules. However, she then attempted to ascertain whether there were mitigating or ameliorating circumstances. So she asked Asai how she was. Asai’s reply was that you had left, and apparently her tone was such that Ainaka was utterly distressed.”

My head dips. I’m no longer able to keep up a positive appearance. “I am sorry.”

Remorselessly, Uchida allows the silence to swallow up my apology before replying and adding more pain. “I doubt either of us is qualified to accept an apology on her behalf. Your apology is vague and in any case misdirected. Let me establish the narrative now in circulation.”

I meet his eyes. There is no mercy in them. Mizuno stays silent, the fire of his one-eyed gaze still slowly burning a hole through my skull.

“Yesterday, you were invited on what one witness described as a ‘sort of triple date, just for fun, for making sad people less sad.’ It turned out that this was an excellent exercise of student initiative, or perhaps just friendliness with the hope of developing friendship. Everyone was cheerful, people had a good time, even Miss Yoshida, who is not one for social events.

“The eventual consequence of a day out was that it led, in one case, to a night out between a man and a woman. This happy couple? Miss Asai and yourself. Apparently, your friends thought it would be a good match, and so it was. You got along well, despite both of you suffering from unrequited love for someone else.”

This is news to me. Ah-Ah had been feeling that way while we were together? I can’t help but wonder who, but not for long. Uchida’s tone is still matter-of-fact, but the steely thread of censure is beginning to wind its cold grey thread through his midnight-blue tones.

“Ainaka now suspects that you used this happy situation to make yourself feel better, and then you failed to follow up on implied promises. This means that Asai, who was on the verge of recovery from her own situation, is now probably a lot further from that recovery. If all this is indeed to be laid at your door, then you, sir, are a cad.”

The barrage pauses. He looks as if he expects me to defend myself. Mizuno looks as if he’d like to take a sabre to my neck.

I’d really like that sabre, right now. It would be cold and clean. I feel like an old-time samurai contemplating the honourable exit. But I should at least read out my farewell poem. Or in this case, tell the truth.

“It was not my intention. I panicked when I woke up. I didn’t know what to do.”

I see Mizuno’s upper lip curl on the left as he involuntarily displays his canine on that side. It’s a sign of disgust, and I find myself agreeing with it.

“I can tell that you are trying to be honest. That is something positive in your favour. However, the instinctive behaviour displayed was that of a cornered animal presented with one simple escape route. You desired no commitment and ran, like a coward. You were not a gentleman at all.”

It hurts, to hear such an analysis of my actions. Worse, it sounds about right.

“So, what would you like to do? Mr Mizuno here has been Miss Asai’s friend since they were in First Year. They have launched many projectiles together and trained with longbow, shortbow and even footbow. They are close, and Mizuno is rather protectively affectionate towards her. If you agree, he can deliver a severe beating that will satisfy honour without endangering your life. I will share with him the few relevant medical details I am allowed to know, as your floor supervisor, before summary justice is carried out.

“On the other hand, if you would like to attempt the far more difficult task of patching things up before the Residential Committee of the Ladies’ Residential Building, we will consider it even more satisfactory. After all, direct punishment is not as difficult and personal as attempting to satisfy what our friend downstairs calls ‘the Feminist Cabal’.”

I think about it. I think a bit longer, but nothing happens. Out of the corner of my eye, I suddenly realize that Mizuno’s veins are swelling. I can see one bulge in his forehead and one throb over his right temple. He is waiting to kill me, and I feel I deserve it. What he doesn’t deserve is the pain of not being allowed to kill me.

I make up my mind. “Can I choose both?”

Uchida’s thin lips twitch a little, as if he has felt a momentary surge of amusement. “No. We appreciate your desire to do the gentlemanly thing, but nobody wants double punishments to become the norm. You have until sunset today to decide, and we will accommodate your choice some time tomorrow.”

I make up my mind again, not out of fear, but out of despair. “I’ll go over.”

Mizuno lets out a very soft sigh. It’s at this point that I realize he never really wanted to beat me up, even though he felt like it. I feel a tiny bit of comradely warmth for him.

“There is some good news,” says the implacable, ineffable Uchida. “Ibarazaki has gone home for the holiday with her friend Tezuka. Others who might give you greater difficulties are also away. The acting chair of the Ladies’ RC is Saki Enomoto, the president of the Art Club and also the current class representative of 3-3. She will be a most worthy adjudicator. I wish you all the best.”

*****

Now that the direction of my fate is apparently locked in to everyone’s satisfaction, like some deadly missile ticking over at low altitude, I have time to properly hate myself. And that is what I do after a slice of cold pizza and a quiet pot of tea. I take out my pen and some paper. Quietly, as an exercise in traditional courtesies, I begin to write my jisei—the poem that conveys the last thoughts of one’s life.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Tue Jul 25, 2017 2:20 am, edited 2 times in total.
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)

NotSoClassy
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Re: 'Mistaking Identify' (A Class 3.4 Fiction) (Ch8 up 20160

Post by NotSoClassy » Sun Mar 06, 2016 6:06 pm

This fic started cool and the main character was composed well but I really dont like how he got in love and became the standart hopeless depressed moron all of a sudden.

Also, last chapter was baffling, but im being too harsh. Hope you turn it around.

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Re: 'Mistaking Identify' (A Class 3.4 Fiction) (Ch8 up 20160

Post by brythain » Sun Mar 06, 2016 7:05 pm

NotSoClassy wrote:This fic started cool and the main character was composed well but I really dont like how he got in love and became the standart hopeless depressed moron all of a sudden.

Also, last chapter was baffling, but im being too harsh. Hope you turn it around.
I blame it on teenage hormones. Sometimes people end up doing the darnedest things because of them hormones. :)
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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'Mistaking Identify' (A Class 3.4 Fiction) (Ch9 up 20160307)

Post by brythain » Mon Mar 07, 2016 1:37 pm

Kenichi: Mistaking Identify (T -17) Chapter 9—Saki Enomoto
Tuesday, 1st May 2007


“Good day, Satou.”

There’s a strange twitch of the eyebrow as this pale and strangely pretty girl greets me. Her nod is graceful, and yet oddly strained. Her hair is dyed an appealing honey-gold hue, and her face is round, but pointed in the chin. This is Saki Enomoto, and she is, from all accounts, a very scary young woman.

I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting her close up and in person. She is the class representative of 3-3, the class next to mine, but I’ve only noticed her in passing. I can believe that she is scary to some, but I don’t at the moment see how she might be fearsome to me.

Then again, this Enomoto, as acting chairman of the feminist forces, holds my fate in the palms of her small hands. Apparently, the Ladies’ Residential Block Committee hardly ever intervenes in social affairs, but has the extracurricular clout of the Student Council, and perhaps more. I’ve heard that they can sabotage your future prospects merely by inserting some comments in the personal dossier that the school keeps.

All this material is stuff my male classmates have told me over the last month or so. I’ve never quite believed it. Now, however, I have to think about whether it’s true or not.

“Um, good day, Miss Enomoto.” It can’t hurt to be polite when your neck is on the ground, as they say.

I am favoured with a small, slightly sour smile. How on earth can such a young girl produce such an old smile? My heart sinks a little, but I persevere.

“Where is the rest of the committee?” I ask bravely.

“Here you are, Mr Kenichi Satou, standing in the little courtyard just outside the Ladies’ Residential Block. And here I am, a small girl with a tired heart, looking at you. I thought we might go for a short walk before your execution. With a bit of luck, we can settle everything before the last cherry blossom falls.”

I stare at her. It’s the first day of May, and you’d have to go as far north as Sapporo to find any cherry blossoms still on the trees.

She peers up into my face, her own pleasant face marred by that curiously cynical smile. “Ah well, I guess we won’t have any luck at all. No cherry blossoms left. Come, let us walk. And talk, and ponder the brevity of life and how stupid young men can be.”

Is she insulting me? What, am I a moron to be asking myself rhetorical questions? Yes, yes. It’s just that it’s so unexpected to be savaged so politely by a pretty face. It drains me, reduces me to a simple, weary little animal.

“I thought this would be about throwing me out of school with a bad report,” I say bluntly. I’m too fatigued to give a shit, but on some fundamental level, I feel as if I deserve it. I’ve betrayed my principles of enlightened self-interest, I’ve betrayed my recently adopted principles of romantic love, and now it seems I’ve betrayed my previously unseen principles of common human kindness.

“Oh no. I must admit that was in accordance with my first instinct, because I don’t particularly like barbaric behaviour. But then I had a chat with my colleagues up there…”—she tilts her chin slightly towards the looming residential block that’s already some distance behind us—“… and learnt a lot about you. You’re a funny man, but one who’s very angry inside, probably with some reason. You think you have an unrequited love interest, and then you’ve come to realize that love is many different things and you don’t know much about any of them. Right?”

I’m being insulted again. I don’t ask myself the rhetorical questions. I just feel angry. Who does she think she is? What right has she to say these things? These are real questions. I can’t answer the first one. But I’m thinking that she might have every right to say all this because perhaps she’s right.

“That’s not to say that what you did to Miss Asai was anywhere near civilized. But last night, in our little sit-around session, she defended you.”

She did? I look up sharply at Enomoto, who reminds me of a cheerful little female shika deer, but one metaphorically with a nasty kick and sharp fangs.

“Yes, indeed,” the Cruel Shika Lady says. “This made me very angry with you, whom I’d never spoken to before, because she blamed herself and not you. But after a long conversation with your classmates, I decided I’d take a walk with you. Look around you.”

I look around. Suddenly, I realize that besides the gentle silvery-green tones of her forest-animal voice, there are human behaviours to be observed. Students around us are unobtrusively noting our walk together, and commenting on this phenomenon. It’s as if something unusual is happening, and everyone is amazed.

“Yes,” says Saki-Ruminant. “They notice that I have granted you the privilege of what some of them think is a date. I don’t do dates. I’m dying.”

What? My gaze swings back to her. “You’re… ?” I manage, as my breath seems to stop in my throat.

“Yes,” she says, in her understated, direct way. “On some level, everyone knows I haven’t long to live. Some are in denial about it, some tell me I’ll live forever. I know better.

“In that sense,” she continues, “we are much alike. By the end of the month, you’ll be gone anyway. It’s possible, indeed likely, that I’ll be gone too. There are people I’ll be leaving behind, of course, some of whom are quite attached to me. I’m trying to make it easy by denying my friendships with them. It’s hard, but I’m quite capable of it.”

“We’re not the same at all, then!” There’s a fierceness in my voice I never knew I had. I don’t deny my friendships, do I? This is so cold-blooded!

She looks quizzically at me. Too late, I realize I’ve said the last part out aloud.

“Well, yes. I used to be warm and passionate and alive. But when you’re going to leave, you need to focus on doing what you can with what you have. You can’t afford to waste emotional energy unless spending it is somehow not wasteful. I’m not going to be getting married, I don’t think. I’m going to be gone in at most a few years, and it would be selfish of me to lead some young man on and then go ‘Poof!’ on him.”

Immediately, I think of Uchida’s lost love. Is that what happened?

“Better to have loved and lost, than…” I begin to quote.

“Ha!” she says, her perky nose swiveling in my direction to highlight her rather rude interruption. “Better for whom?”

I realize I have no answer for that.

“Mr Satou, it’s not as if all the Yamaku seniors are virgins, and a fair number of us know what it is to have carnal relations. We’re generally not promiscuous, however, and those of us who have had the pleasure prefer it safe and respectful, with people whose company we really, really enjoy. ‘No’ means ‘no’; ‘yes’ means ‘yes’. Basic rules to live by.”

Why is she telling me this?

She stops walking abruptly, and I almost lurch into her, except that I’m light on my feet, and gracefully avoid a collision. By now, we’re nearly at the gates of the school. I can see Slabface peering out from the guardhouse at us.

“Miss Asai enjoyed your company. She felt that you were kind and respectful, until you were not. She then felt she’d made a terrible mistake. I told her that she had indeed been mistaken to some extent, but I’d have to see if it was a mistake concerning your maturity or your integrity. The former is easier to rectify; the latter is a difficult problem, which is often never solved.”

The shika looks at me curiously. “You’re not as talkative as I was led to believe. Could it be that I intimidate you?”

Well, yes, but I won’t give her the satisfaction of… she reads it on my face and laughs softly, thus intimidating me further. Being attacked by a small, cute girl and then getting utterly crushed is weird and painful.

We reach the gates, and Slabfist raises a hand as if to accommodate our leaving the school grounds. I watch as he decides whether or not to electronically unlock the huge wrought-iron gate. A gentle breeze is ruffling Saki’s honeyed hair, and the sunlight is glinting off her eyes. I feel the fingers of the wind trying to rearrange my own curly top, but without much success.

“I’m intimidated because you’re right,” I say quietly. “So, what now?”

“Dying girl talks to silly boy, no romance at all, but perhaps some good advice?” Little Miss Deer’s grin is fey, mirthless, and yet tinged with something like sympathy.

“I’d appreciate that.”

“Have you been to the Shanghai?”

The gates click, and swing open.

*****

“I’m not actually the class representative of 3-3, Satou. In fact, today is the first day that I’m officially not. I’ve handed that duty over to Shizune Hakamichi, who doesn’t want it but appreciates the gesture. I did it because she needs to understand the suffering of the class reps before she becomes too great a tyrant as boss of the Student Council. Maybe it won’t work. But it’s a plan.”

She is sipping green tea infused with cherry flesh and flowers. Somehow the odour makes everything seem a pleasant brown-grey to me. I continue to listen, spellbound. My ice-cream is melting, its form dissolving into a pale purple pool.

“With effect today, the first day of May 2007, I am a member of 3-5, the ‘reserve supplementary class’. It’s where they put the students who can no longer be relied upon to regularly attend school. I’m also a member of the Art Club, but only a member, and no longer its president. Life changes. Things get better or worse, but you have to remember, Satou—sometimes you only have one chance to make a difference.”

I’m fascinated. She is so quiet, yet so intense. She seems to look through me, and into another world. Yet she’s also a deer in a forest, her freckled coat breaking up her silhouette in the sun-dappled clearings. I shake my head and let the words in me escape.

“Don’t people fall in love with you, Enomoto?”

There’s a trace of resignation in Deer-in-the-Forest’s voice. Her smile is oddly sincere and yet sad. “I’m a bitch, don’t you know?” she whispers. Then she relents. “Sometimes, and then I have to discourage them. Some won’t be discouraged. I think I might need to visit a fisherman’s son one day, if there’s time before I leave this world.”

I would fall in love with her too, I think, except that I think I’m learning why I shouldn’t. “What advice would you give me?”

This time, her response is harsh. “What, you think I’m a goddess? That I’m here to solve the stupid problems of your desires?”

I lean back. She is indeed a bitch, my pre-Yamaku self hisses triumphantly. But the rest of me is stunned. Why is she acting like this?

“What are you saying, Miss Enomoto?”

She sips her tea, the long faint light of the mid-morning sun casting odd shadows across her face. “I’m just a girl without much time left. I’m here talking to you. I must be insane to waste that time,” she says musically, softly, gently. It’s as if someone has set pain into a melody. ‘Doe, a deer, a female deer’—but trapped.

“So why? You said you might give me some advice.”

“So I did. It’s a very small piece of advice. It comes in two parts. First, do your best to forget Emi Ibarazaki. It will take time before anyone can be with her the way you think you want to be. Second, don’t forget Ageha Asai. These two things are cognitive tasks, which you can perform with your brain even if your hormones refuse to cooperate.”

She sets down her teacup. There’s silence. The air smells metallic to me, as if electricity is poised to discharge across a gap. Time stretches out, as slow-moving as the cold fluid in my sundae glass, shapeless and forlorn. I have no words for reply, so I make do with a formula response.

“Thank you for your advice. I will remember it and take it into serious consideration.”

Her lips twist very slightly, as if wondering if I am really going to do what I have said. Then she nods. And she says a few more things, and I mutter a few more words. Our time is coming to an end.

I offer to pay for our refreshments. She accepts, and then leaves for an appointment somewhere else in town. I find my own way back to school. It’s a long walk, with only myself for company. I am not to know it yet, but that is the first and last time I will ever speak to Saki Enomoto.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Tue Jul 25, 2017 2:20 am, edited 2 times in total.
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: 'Mistaking Identify' (A Class 3.4 Fiction) (Ch9 up 20160

Post by Rune » Sat May 14, 2016 5:59 am

Woah. This guy is pretty cool. Something about your writing style is very interesting to me; I think it's the way you can thoroughly meld your style to the character.

Very well done.

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brythain
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Re: 'Mistaking Identify' (A Class 3.4 Fiction) (Ch9 up 20160

Post by brythain » Sun May 15, 2016 6:48 am

Rune wrote:Woah. This guy is pretty cool. Something about your writing style is very interesting to me; I think it's the way you can thoroughly meld your style to the character.

Very well done.
Much appreciated! Hopefully, the rest of the story will continue to appeal. :)
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: 'Mistaking Identify' (A Class 3.4 Fiction) (Ch9 up 20160

Post by YutoTheOrc » Tue May 24, 2016 4:18 pm

Brythain wrote:My parents have washed my hands of me long ago(Chapter 1)
I think you mean to say they washed their hands of me
Brythain wrote:He might even worse than that(Chapter 2)
I think you're missing a word in there

Why is it that whenever I read your work, It reminds me so much of a haiku or other forms of poetry? :D Still, I'm enjoying it thus far even if Kenichi kinda irritates me with the choices he makes. Then again I can't say I was any better when I was a teenager :P

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Re: 'Mistaking Identify' (A Class 3.4 Fiction) (Ch9 up 20160

Post by brythain » Thu May 26, 2016 1:05 am

YutoTheOrc wrote:Why is it that whenever I read your work, It reminds me so much of a haiku or other forms of poetry? :D Still, I'm enjoying it thus far even if Kenichi kinda irritates me with the choices he makes. Then again I can't say I was any better when I was a teenager :P
Thank you very much! I do write poetry once in a while, and I studied haiku for a time. What's difficult right now is the way the new threads in the tapestry are coming together... :)
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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Ageha Asai and Yuki Ainaka

Post by brythain » Thu Jun 02, 2016 10:59 pm

AgehaAsai_328x525.png
Ageha Asai (Ah-Ah)
AgehaAsai_328x525.png (176.4 KiB) Viewed 6379 times
Ageha Asai (Ah-Ah) is Kenichi's romantic attachment.
YukiAinaka 344x500.png
Yuki Ainaka
YukiAinaka 344x500.png (183.07 KiB) Viewed 6381 times
Yuki Ainaka is the young lady who is in love with Takano Uchida (who, sadly, can't bring himself to love anyone right now).

Yes, I'm useless at art, so I have to cobble together stuff using commercial avatar designers. :)
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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'Mistaking Identify' (A Class 3.4 Story) (Ch10 up 20160604)

Post by brythain » Sat Jun 04, 2016 10:12 am

Kenichi: Mistaking Identify (T -17) Chapter 10—Ripples
Wednesday, 2nd May 2007


I awaken with a shock. The horror of it is that I don’t know I’m awake. I hear a female voice, and it tastes and smells like chocolate, and for a moment I forget what chocolate means, and I yell, “Emi Ibarazaki!” And then there is silence for a while.

Time passes. Then there is further chocolate in the air, with a touch of lime, and I hear: “No, I’m not her.” The voice sounds sad, like a viola in its lowest notes. “Open the door. Let’s go for a swim.”

Damn, damn, damn, holding back the waters. I’ve got it wrong. I remember dark chocolate with a touch of lime and I know it isn’t Emi, but someone else, someone… else. “Ah, no, sorry,” I prevaricate while flailing around for a name.

“Sorry that it’s not Emi?”

Oh. Now I know who it is. I’m not resisting you. I can’t resist beauty, I am quite sure of that. Even a beauty with only one arm. But I have to show some resistance, or I wouldn’t be a wise man. Right? Right, especially since this is my class representative’s girlfriend. Or not, because he doesn’t want a girlfriend.

My thoughts are all wrong, so I give up on thinking for a while and just go with the flow. “What are you doing in the guys’ dorm, Ainaka?”

“So formal? We have known each other a month already, Satou!”

I try to picture her in a swimming costume, all black and green and curvy. I try to imagine what she’s doing outside my door. I try… I have a terrible need to visit the bathroom now.

“I need to wash up first, Yuki.”

“That’s all right. I’ll wait in the visitors’ area.”

Something’s odd about her voice, but I can’t tell what it is. Maybe she’s lurking in an ambush with two burly guys who will beat me up for the asshole that I’ve been and which they think I’ll continue to be.

*****

I’ve had a nice shower, but a quick one and cold one. It’s a sunny day outside. I hear birds and smell cookies. Or perhaps, I smell birds and hear cookies. I can’t tell, but that’s just my synaesthetic life.

I towel through my messy curls. It’s like having a rug on my head. I always worry about not being Japanese, but that’s a silly thing to worry about these days. I’m about to put on a uniform when I remember it’s still Golden Week and we’re on holiday, so I go for simple—a T-shirt and jeans—and hope that Ainaka means swimming on campus. What else could she mean?

It’s taken bare minutes. I’m good at quick changes. Steeling myself for unpleasantness, in case it comes my way, I head out with a hastily assembled bag, grabbing sneakers from the cupboard outside my door.

“Took you a long time, Kenichi.” Chocolate, limes, Yuki Ainaka.

“Ah, sorry.” She’s very pretty with her black hair down. But it’s messy, unbrushed, almost shaggy.

“Yes. Sorry that I’m not Emi Ibarazaki, I got that the first time round.”

She looks up, and I realize that it’s always taken effort for her to be a happy person, and she’s not making that kind of effort now. In fact, her eyes are reddened, and I do not think it’s lack of sleep.

“Yuki?”

“Oh, I know. I look a mess. My turn to apologise. But, not here. Walk with me?”

“Are you all right?”

“Not all. But water is beautiful and washes all things away.”

She bites her lip a little, and turns away. She’s a very beautiful girl, but she’s carrying sorrow around her like a shroud.

We make our way down the steps and out into the quad. I’ve not been able to think of anything to say, and she’s stopped talking for now. The sunlight dazzles me, bright light bleaching my sight.

“Hello, Mr Satou.”

I squint into the radiance, but I already smell fire, smoke, cherry blossoms, and I know I am betrayed. Yuki is just behind me, positioned so that I couldn’t bolt even if I tried.

“Miss Asai,” I whisper. I bow to her, supplicant, penitent.

She looks through me and past me, as if the Sun has refused to shine its light upon my world. I feel a chill.

“Yuki? Did our handsome class representative not want to join us?”

“No.” Her reply is soft, a wretched note of despair, chocolate melting in the sun—a study in brown.

“What did he say?” Ageha’s voice sounds concerned, smells intensely of fruit and ash. I chance a look in her direction, and see a jaunty powder-blue jacket before I decide to look at Yuki instead.

“He very politely declined. He said he had memories to p-protect.” Her voice falls away into the black pit of silence.

I look away as bright, kind Ageha clutches sad Yuki and holds her tight. I feel alienated, a parasite who contributes nothing to the happiness of others, but just takes. I don’t know what to say, or if anything I can say will help anyone here.

“Are we still going swimming?” Oh, so lame, Kenichi.

*****

We are not swimming. My Speedos lie dry and unused in a corner of my bag, I think, but their loneliness is not my problem. My problem is that I have too many things to think about. “Don’t forget Ageha Asai,” Saki Enomoto had told me.

Right now, with a sinking heart, or maybe a sunken one, I’m sitting in a gazebo up on Mount Aoba, by a little lake. The girls are talking, quietly, seriously. I’m hanging around like a spare part of some malfunctioning machine. There’s no way I’m forgetting my Ah-Ah. My? Mine? I shake my head. I doubt she’ll have me.

What have I learnt so far? I’ve learnt that Yuki is very seriously in love with our class representative. It’s not just a crush. It was something functional, until 21st March 2007 rolled around and Uchida visited the cemetery where Mizue Sugahara was buried. It’s a thing we Japanese do, visiting the graves of loved ones.

For Uchida, it was too soon. It struck him that even going out for lunch with another young lady was the basest disloyalty to the girl he might’ve married—had she lived. On the last day of the school year, he had told Yuki that they could be nothing more than friends. It was something she accepted, for she and Sugahara had been friends too. Or rather, her mind had accepted it, but her heart had not.

So, today. Yuki plotted with Ageha to get Uchida out for a meal. Ageha confessed to Yuki that she’d rather have some other guy along. I’m surprised she picked me. But I have sharp ears, even though they ‘see’ and ‘smell’ things instead. I hear Saki’s name mentioned, and realize how I’ve been set up.

These things occupy my mind. Then, enlightenment dawns. I know what I should be doing. Surely they must be hungry by now?

“Would you like me to get you all something to eat? I can use the vending machines down at the museum.”

Ah-Ah actually smiles. “That’s a great idea, Mr Satou,” she says. My heart melts in a blaze of burning cherry-blossoms. I have the impression that Yuki is looking oddly at me, but I don’t care. I nod and head down the road, feeling happier than I’ve felt for quite a while.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Tue Jul 25, 2017 2:21 am, edited 2 times in total.
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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'Mistaking Identify'—A Class 3.4 Story (Ch11 up 20160909)

Post by brythain » Fri Sep 09, 2016 1:56 am

Kenichi: Mistaking Identify (T -17) Chapter 11—Reflex
Sunday, 6th May 2007


The sunlight wakens me, and also the ghost of a warm girl on my arm. That’s how my Sunday begins, the Sunday just before school restarts this month.

The girl herself isn’t there, of course. She was there on Wednesday, and Thursday, and Friday—and perhaps the collective spirit of the Academy heaved a sigh of relief to know that I, Kenichi, had not caused any more problems and was having a good overall effect on the student population.

Somehow, by Friday, the scent and colour and lightness and feel of young Miss Asai had crept into every part of our room. We had breakfast in the park, not in the room, for once. Ageha Asai had craftily set a portable rice-cooker and other devices on timer overnight and so a small pot of very tasty rice, and pickles with miso soup, were all ready for collection from her room in the morning.

She ran fingers over my elbow, and I trembled. The sunlight shone against her eyes, and I trembled. The grass sang. I wanted to be with her on the bright grass on the slope of Mount Aoba forever.

Instead, I asked her to tell me about our classmates, so that I could remember them when I’d left the school. There was less than a month left.

This was a mistake. Especially because, as far as I knew, only Nurse and my class representative possessed the knowledge that I’d be leaving school at the end of May.

*****

“Okay, Mr Satou, let me sketch a chart of our classroom for you. After all, you’re going to have to work with us for many more months to come!”

Oops. Haven’t I told her I’m leaving yet? Feculence! I begin to stammer out an answer, but she sticks her delicate little cat-like tongue out at me, turns back over onto her belly, and starts penciling in an array of boxes.

“This is the front row, and that’s Nomiya-sensei’s briefcase.”

Nomiya Bulldog-face is strange. He carries a battered old briefcase around everywhere; it must have been dark leather once, but now it’s more like scuffed tan and very worn at the corners. He disappears after school some days to hang out at an art gallery, abandoning his own Art Club once in a while and putting one of the senior students in charge. However, during official school hours, he parks his briefcase in the far front corner of our home-room and never seems to put anything into it nor take anything from it. Rumour has it that it was a gift from a long-dead ex-girlfriend, which seems par for the course in this school.

“There are three rows, and six columns. Would you like to do this by column, or by row?”

I stare at the sunlight on her skin. Her hair is dyed pale gold, and her earrings are of mother-of-pearl. Her friends call her ‘Ah-Ah’, but I normally pause at the first ‘Ah’.

“Mr Satou? Hello?”

“Um. Column?”

She hisses faintly in exasperation, then sighs a little and grins. Her grin fades into some more dubious and indescribable expression, though, before coming back on again. I wonder what I’ve just seen.

“Okay, starting from the window side, which is on your left as you face the front.”

I nod obediently, trying to taste the air that she exhales and see the colours of her warmth. Her voice rolls over me, soothing, like summer honeybees.

“Ms Kitagawa, Miyako. She’s often missing from class, you might’ve noticed. We always check on her in the mornings to make sure she’s survived the night.”

I vaguely remember Emi introducing a sharp-faced, intense girl. Combative attitude, pale but determined. Hurdles or something. I nod again, and Ah-Ah continues.

“Emi, Ms Ibarazaki, whom of course you know; and behind her, Ms Tezuka. Rin needs all that space so she can lean back against the wall and use her legs. They’re new to our class. Rin’s replaced Ms Takahashi, our former class representative who’s now in 3-5, the irregular class—a redhead for a redhead. Then, Emi… well.”

Emi, whom of course I know. I feel a brief pang. I haven’t known any of these people long, and yet I feel that I’ve betrayed Emi by committing myself to Ageha. Or perhaps, that I’m betraying Ageha by thinking of Emi? I shake my head, and Ah-Ah looks at me quizzically, wondering what I mean by it.

With complete misinterpretation, she continues, “Yes, I can tell you’ve heard. Our Mr Uchida’s lost love, Ms Sugahara, used to sit where Emi now sits.”

She pauses, uncertain at my lack of reply, then coughs and resumes. “Next column, from the front again. Ms Noda, Miharu-of-the-perfect-bust, as the boys always say.”

Long brown hair in a ponytail, does archery, I recall. One night in the common room, the guys told me part of Miharu’s chest was prosthetic. I laughed. Some hours later, as they kept talking and we kept snacking, I realized they meant she was born with some missing chest muscles and had taken up archery to compensate. I’d felt rather silly, after that.

“Then Ms Miyashita, Chizuru, your left-hand neighbour who’s always trying to help you out when you get stuck in class. Did you know she plays the flute?”

I nod. Uchida’s been very informative with regard to the musical talents of the class. Chizuru is tall, lean, austere; she has very dark purple hair with fine gold streaks, and long, slender fingers.

“Did you know she’s always looking pensively at you?” Ah-Ah says sweetly and mischievously.

“Ah… what?”

She laughs, all cherry blossoms and soft grass in the sound of her breath. I laugh too, after a while.

“You should count her fingers one day,” Ah-Ah purrs into my ear, somehow leaning on one elbow and looking up. My mind convulses for a moment, torn between a whole bunch of rather different concerns.

“Never mind. Behind her, at your eight o’clock, our Mr Otsuka, Shinichi Iron-Fist. He is that oddity, a student of Chinese martial arts…”

And so it goes. I learn a lot about our classmates. But behind everything is that sadness—I won’t be around long enough to get to know them better. I will have to tell Ah-Ah very soon, and decide what our future relationship will be. I feel I’ve been stupid; if we break up now, it will be as if I’ve dishonoured her.

Then, a while later, she stops.

“… behind Naoko, of course, is your elven princess.”

It takes time for me to refocus. She’s looking at me expectantly, even nervously. Oh, yes. Of course. “My elven princess!” I say a little too loudly, as if I’m saying, “My little pony!”

“Ah, yes,” Ah-Ah replies. Something is on her mind. I wonder what it is. “Your elven princess, who needs to tell you something and doesn’t quite know how to do it…”

This lack of knowledge is something which somehow translates in her mind to ‘lunge at Kenichi and give him a big kiss that sucks all the air out of his lungs and starves his brain of oxygen so that he can’t think for five minutes’. When we’re done, there’s grass all over our clothes.

Her knees are pressing gently under the sides of my ribcage as she sits on my tummy. I look up at her oddly serious face. “My beautiful princess, what is it you need to tell me?”

“If… if we only had a month to live, what would you do?”

Crapulence. She knows, doesn’t she? She’s found out from someone else that I’m going to be transferred at the end of this month. I should have told her myself, sooner. Ah, damn!

I steel myself for the end of the road. How could she still love me? I’m such a maggot. I stare up at her, her gaze locked down on mine like that of an avenging goddess: Galadriel, in martial aspect. The words come out of my mouth, truth that cannot be stopped. They betray me completely.

“I don’t know. But I would fall in love and not ever forget it.”

“With me?”

“With you.”

“Don’t forget me, Kenichi Satou,” she says, her slender, bony knees digging gently into my sides. Her long hands are braced on my shoulders as she leans forward with the scent of flowers, and the smell of light. “Please don’t.”

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Tue Jul 25, 2017 2:21 am, edited 2 times in total.
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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'Mistaking Identify'—A Class 3.4 Story (Ch12 up 20160915)

Post by brythain » Thu Sep 15, 2016 2:33 am

Kenichi: Mistaking Identify (T -17) Chapter 12—Reflection
Tuesday, 8th May 2007


I’d missed my tall elf-lass on Sunday itself, because Sunday was when she decided to disappear. On Monday, she failed to appear in class, and I went to look for her, only to find that she had gone to meet some relatives in town and would only be back in the evening. I lurk, but do not find her later in the day. Nor on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday is therefore hell for me, except for lunchtime, hosted by a much more cheerful Takano Uchida, with Emi Ibarazaki and Rin Tezuka. Yuki is nowhere to be seen, but as Uchida explains, “This is a special lunch just for the three of you who are new to this class.”

Considering that there had been various kinds of uncomfortable interactions recently between some of us, I expect lunch to be an awkward kind of thing. Already, I’m looking upon Takano with suspicion, as if he were some kind of magical serpent. Rin, of course, looks at us all with a seemingly deliberate complete lack of suspicion, and Emi just looks as if she’s sitting on a thumbtack.

Then, somewhere deep into our bento boxes, Takano casually fires a shot: “So, my friend, where are you going next month?”

My jaw must have dropped, because everyone is looking at me indulgently, as if I were the slow one in the study group, so to speak. “Um, what?” is the intelligent line that crosses my lips.

“It is quite all right,” he says, smiling mournfully like a dyspeptic vampire, “because Ibarazaki somehow knows, and I am gambling that Tezuka therefore also knows.”

“What? Uchida! How do you know I know?!” Emi splutters around her miso soup, looking a little outraged. Then she recovers slightly. “Besides, what is it that you know I know?!”

At this point, she looks like she’s confusing herself and has gone slightly cross-eyed with the effort to keep her lines straight. This is of course a cue for Rin.

“I think that he knows you know because, you know, I know you know.”

“What?!”

“Well, he asked me if I knew what you knew, and I said I pretty much knew what you knew, and he then asked what that was, and I said it must be something to do with the new boy leaving, and he said, ‘Ah, so you know.’”

I’ve got my breath back now, so I ask, “Emi, how do you know?”

“I didn’t! I don’t! I… I just… overheard something,” she whispers, a little shamefacedly.

“Overheard?”

“Hey!” Emi exclaims, turning back to face Takano. “I wasn’t eavesdropping! I was in Nurse’s outer office waiting for my daily appointment and he was talking to someone on the phone…”

Takano’s ever-so-slightly-raised eyebrow betrays his ever-so-delicate suspicions. Rin merely looks as if she’s heard it all before and, perhaps, she has.

“Does everyone know about my transfer back out, then? And since when?” I say, almost rhetorically.

“Oh no, my friend. I know because I am class representative. Nobody else is supposed to know. However, it is at your discretion to tell certain people whom you deem fit to receive such information. Far be it from me to guide you in such personal matters.”

He is hinting at Ageha, I suspect. His sleek black hair gleams in the radiance of the lunchtime sun. But I wonder how long Emi has known, so I turn my own most powerful laser glare upon her—now that I have the moral high ground.

“When did you know about my situation, Miss Ibarazaki?” Great. I’m beginning to sound like Takano Uchida.

“Erm. Two weeks?”

“Two weeks?!” I’m outraged. This is about as long as I myself have known about it.

“Erm…”

“What she’s trying to say is that she’s known long enough that we both know that trying to get to know you better won’t work, since you’ll be gone before we can actually get to know you well enough. It’s like butterflies. By the time you know them well enough, they’ve gone away. And that’s why she’s been avoiding you. I just want to collect you, but I guess it won’t work now.”

I look at Rin Tezuka with sudden, brutal disappointment in my heart. I feel as if I will leave Yamaku with less than I had before I entered it. My grilled chicken bento looks unappetizing to me now, and a little fragment of fragrant plum pickle grinds like an angry millstone in my throat.

Wordlessly, I decide to finish my bento, each crunchy bit sounding like the breaking of bones. Later, we nod and say our farewells, as if we’re strangers. Perhaps it’s better that way.

*****

It's evening again. I’m tired. I remember thinking that if I were still up on the roof, I’d be tempted to take one last glorious flight over the edge—except that my friend Slabface at the gate would probably have the unpleasant duty of scraping me off the ground. I wouldn’t wish that even on the growling misanthrope who guards the Yamaku Gate.

Wearily, I climb the stairs to the Male Residential Block or whatever they want to call it this time. I think of scaling a wall for the hell of it, then decide not to give anyone the pleasure of reporting me. I don’t really care what happens to me, but I think I’ll avoid humiliation for now. Everything looks pale purple, a kind of mauve tint. It also smells of lavender, a scent that reminds me of toilet disinfectant and little babies of detestable cuteness.

I pause at the common lounge. Nobody is here. Where is everyone? Not that it matters. I drag my feet towards my little room, not to be my room for many days more. Even that ever-lurking neighbour of mine with the bright scarf is nowhere to be seen.

And then a shadow detaches itself from where it’s been hovering in the little service space near my doorway. I look up, and am hit by a shower of a million confusing sensations.

“Miss Asai?” I ask, in an alien voice which I can just barely identify as my own, coming from many light-years of nothingness away.

“Mr Satou,” she replies, bowing to me.

Belatedly I return her gesture, absent-mindedly taking in her beautiful lines and the way she breaks up the darkness of my corridor. I want to ask her where she’s been, why she’s been avoiding me, what is going on—but all I come up with is the somewhat peculiar, “What brings you to this impoverished slum?”

“I… may I speak with you in private?” she asks nervously, looking from my room door to my face and away again.

“Uh, s-sure,” I reply. The stammer in my voice comes from the sudden tightness in my chest. She’s been in my room before. We’ve shared it, a young couple in love, and here she is, asking for permission.

I fumble for my keys and unlock the door, feeling as unromantic as a man possible might, even with the most beautiful girl in his life standing right there. Wordlessly, she waits for me to offer her entrance, then accepts shyly. I watch her slim waist and hips as she glides in before me; the only reason for my focus is that I’m too anxious to look up at her face.

I shut the door behind us, suddenly attacked by tendrils of cold fear that climb up my spine. What’s going on?

“Ageha,” I begin, trying to move towards a more informal tone, “is there perhaps something I have done wrong, yet again?”

I know what it is, of course. I’ve not told her yet that I will probably never see her again after 31st May 2007. I try to look into her eyes as I speak, but oddly, it is she who looks away. Can things be that bad between us?

“No, no, Kenichi. It isn’t something you’ve done,” she says, softly, downcast.

Again, I know why she says this. It’s something I haven’t done that is the issue.

“I’m sorry. I should have been more direct with you.” The words stumble over the steps of my lips, as if they’re drunken executives after a night out after work.

This is it then. My one bright moment is about to fizzle into the grey mists of the past.

“I… I regret that I will not… oh, Kenichi…” she whispers, her voice breaking in the gloomy quiet of my room. “It’s so difficult to…”

She regrets? She’s being Ah-Ah, preferring to be nice than to come out with it and hurt a friend.

“I am sorry,” I start, desperately trying to find words that will seem less hurtful, “that we probably won’t…”

Too harsh, I think. Too lame. I start again, and then give up and blurt something out.

“Ah-Ah, I’ve loved you, and I’m so damn sad that this is the only month we have left.”

It still doesn't sound right. It sounds like it’s coming from some visual novel.

She looks up at me, curious, confused, uncertain. “You knew?”

“Of course I… what do you mean?”

“How did you find out?”

“Nurse… Nurse told me, of course.”

“But he wouldn’t tell anyone else! He shouldn’t have! I wanted to be the one to tell you!” She clenches her fists and swings them down to her hips, then stares out of the window. Her hands are white against the darkness of her jeans. The light glows through her pale hair, like a halo.

“But why would he tell you that I’m leaving?” I ask, by now totally confused.

“Because… what?” She turns and stares at me. “You’re leaving too?”

“I’m being transferred out, back to Niigata.”

“Niigata?”

How am I to tell her that my mother has interfered, decided that her precious son is not to be labeled a ‘cripple’, and cancelled my transfer to Yamaku? It’s at this moment that I feel a life-defining disappointment towards my mother.

“Some administrative mistake. My mother is anxious to return things to the way she thinks they ought to be.”

I don’t know what I’m saying. But what did Ah-Ah mean by ‘leaving too’?

Her fists unclench. They’re like white moths fluttering in the shadows now, with the faint sunset light coming from the window behind her.

“You didn’t…”

“No, I wanted to tell you, but I didn’t know how to do it.”

She looks upset, aghast, horrified, and several other things I can’t name. The air smells of rubber and everything is turning ochre. Her jaw clenches, and I await judgment. I almost see the hammer falling.

“Me too,” she says at last, in a simple, matter-of-fact way. She looks down. “I didn’t know how to do that. I can’t blame you for not knowing either.”

“You too?” I say, knowing that if anyone were recording this conversation, I’d sound like a complete fool.

“I’m leaving at the end of this month. A special course of experimental… medical treatment… that can’t be carried out here.”

Her voice is so subdued I can hardly hear it, but the message is as blunt as my own. It’s worse, though. I won’t even know where to find her if we part now.

“Ah-Ah, what happens next?”

My question hangs in the burning air as she begins to speak.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Tue Jul 25, 2017 2:22 am, edited 2 times in total.
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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'Mistaking Identify'—A Class 3.4 Story (Ch13 up 20161206)

Post by brythain » Tue Dec 06, 2016 11:34 am

Kenichi: Mistaking Identify (T -17) Chapter 13—Retrospection
Tuesday, 8th May 2007 — Wednesday, 9th May 2007


“But…”

“That’s why I don’t know what to say, Kenichi.”

“Is it not the most wonderful thing in the world?”

“I don’t know!” she gasps, as if the whole thing is too big for words.

“Why not?” I ask, confused.

“Niigata, it’s a big place,” she begins, uncertainly. “I don’t quite live there.”

I am now even more confused. Like a worried dog, I press on anyway.

“We’ll be neighbours! We can see each other everyday! We can go to therapy together!” I am babbling, and I know it.

(For those of you who have arrived late to the game of riffling through the pages of my diary, literally or symbolically, I have just discovered that the girl I love is also leaving school, and that her family lives within the same 5000 square miles or 12500 square kilometres of land as mine. We are literally one couple in a million, almost, because our shared geography contains slightly over two million people.)

“I live on an island; I think you know which one. My ancestors were exiled to it a long, long time ago.”

“I can see Sado from my family house!”

Indeed, from the highest balcony, I can almost smell the air of that strange island as it wafts towards the coastal suburb in which my family lives. But there’s a strange edge to her voice now, and I have no idea why.

“You’ll be very close to where I live, then.”

“Isn’t that a good thing?” Isn’t it? I’m beginning to wonder what’s going on.

She looks at me. The light has gone completely now, and we’re in the dark. I switch my bedside lamp on. Wordlessly, without asking permission, she sits down at the foot of my bed. The effect is a ghostly one. The distance from me to her can be covered in a second, but it feels as if she is too far away to measure.

“I’ll be in therapy a lot. It might be good to have a friend nearby.”

“That’s settled, then. I’ll visit you everyday.”

“It might not be so good for my friend.”

“Nonsense!”

“There’s a chance…”

“I’m looking forward to it!”

“… that the treatment won’t help.”

I find myself sitting down on the bed. Our bed, my busybody mind hints. The rest of my mind isn’t so sure. Her words smell of lavender and they flash in sad pastel shades. Between us, there’s about a metre of distance, maybe a large body’s width or that of two smaller bodies. It’s too far to feel her warmth.

“I’ll still be there. I want to be there.”

“I’m not sure I have known you long enough, Kenichi, to want this to happen. I don’t want our story to be some kind of Narcissu tale.”

“Ah, that’s about two complete strangers, both going to end up dead anyway. This isn’t going to be like that.” I try to smile, but my mouth won’t let me. We’ll be so close; how can we be far apart?

“How will we know?” she whispers.

Almonds. All I can smell is something bitter, something sweet, nutty, salty. Almonds on cheese paste on rice crackers. Will it all go away from me? What can I promise? Suddenly, I realize that in a few short weeks I have become someone very different.

“How do we find out?” I whisper back.

“Can you… just hold my hands for a while?”

*****

And then, it’s Wednesday morning. I’m all alone when I wake up in bed. I can’t remember much, except the shivering, and the warmth, and the fear of what might or might not happen. What’s happening to me? I am brave Kenichi, warlord of a thousand suns. Not any more, it seems.

My head hurts. Sake? She was carrying a flask of sake? A family tradition, she said. How is it I never knew? Why does she entrust me with all this knowledge?

I shake my aching head, and it aches worse. I stand up, sit down violently, get up again. Something flutters to the floor. I bend down to pick it up, and almost throw up. I land on the floor and find the fluttery thing in my hand. It’s a folded note, on cream-tinted paper. My paper, I think. I open the little origami horse up, and find a very ornate, very brief ‘thank you’ message in it.

I find myself staring at the bedside clock. Argh! It’s bright and early. I’ll just have about enough time to get to class.

*****

“Hi Kenichi! You’re early!”

I groan at this loud, sweet, honey-flavoured voice. I walk faster, hearing the click-clack of her legs get closer, and I turn fast enough to be polite.

“Hi, Emi. You’re wet.” Inside, I flinch at the unintended double-entendre.

“After my morning run, I’m always wet!” she stage-whispers predictably, startling a flock of first-years into unbridled speculation.

“Where’s Rin?”

“In the Art Room, trying to finish a last-minute project. Nomiya always gives her permission if she needs extra time. It’s an artist thing.”

I look at Emi, the first girl in this whole damned place that I found interesting, and realize with a small touch of sadness that I’ve run out of things to say. I’m in love with someone else, Emi, and that’s good for you, I say in my head.

“Right. Well, let’s get to class before Uchida starts giving us funny looks.”

“Something on your mind?” she says, giving me a funny look herself.

“I’m going to miss you, Miss Ibarazaki.”

“Haha! Well, you’ll have to get used to it!” She grins and then adds, “We still have a few more weeks to bring you around to all the places you’ve missed, you know.”

The corridor is getting crowded as we approach the classrooms. As the elevator bank hums and disgorges another wave of students, we start greeting various people. I realize I don’t know a lot of them. In the corner, that girl with the burns; coming up the stairs with a look of grim disdain, the girl with the titanium stilts for legs; the big guy with the spaced-out, clammy look; the pink-haired demon (so I’ve heard her described) who follows our student council president everywhere… so many people, and I’ll never know them all.

“Faster feet, Kenichi!”

“Right behind you,” I mutter. At the rate she goes, she’ll probably collide with someone with disastrous outcome, if she hasn’t already.

A wheelchair whirs softly near me and I look down to my left. The cheerful girl who sits near the rear doorway of my class—thus, Ah-Ah’s right-hand neighbour—glances up as she passes by. “Eyes front, Satou-san, or you’ll collide with someone less mobile than you!”

I wish I knew more about her too. “Miso?” I say, regretting it the moment the word is out of my mouth.

“Misa!” she scowls. “I have no idea who told you to call me that. Just because I like experimenting with food doesn’t mean I’m some sort of soup stock person. Anyway, my family name is Kuranaga, if you haven’t figured it out by now.”

She trundles to a stop as her electric motor cuts off, and she swings sharply right up the shallow ramp, through the rear entrance and towards her seat. With a wave of her hand, she dismisses me. “Talk later!”

I wave back and enter through the front doorway. Uchida is already systematically marking off his class seating plan and making little notes in the margin as Naoko on his right relays the latest news from the staff room and the principal’s office.

Just another normal day, then. I look for my Ah-Ah, and when I see her slinking in gracefully through the back door, my heart feels like it might burst. I grin at her, and then suddenly realize that most of the class is watching me, some with very mischievous faces. She blushes and sits down, turning to Misa Kuranaga in an attempt to look busy and engaged.

A soft but steely voice whispers: “Sit down, dear soul. You’re obstructing my view.”

“Ah, sorry, Mr Class Representative, sir.”

Uchida gives me a careless smile for my cheap jape and returns to his scribbling. In front, Yuki waves her arm at me and hisses, “Don’t stare at Ah-Ah, but I suggest you grab her during lunch or after classes and ask her to marry you.”

I stop dead in my tracks, drawing a frown from Uchida as he senses a disruption in the flow of traffic. “What?!”

Yuki reaches out and pulls me into the aisle so that I don’t block the others moving to their seats. “Don’t tell her I said so. Just do it and see what happens. It’s probably your last chance.”

I take an extra step towards my chair and then decide to park my backside on the desk instead. “What do you mean, Yuki?”

She gazes up at me, all long black hair and dark eyes, green highlights sparkling, and speaks with her dark-chocolate voice: “You’ll regret it if you don’t.”

“All rise,” says Uchida in his officious ‘class representative’ voice. Nomiya-sensei has entered the room. Rin Tezuka’s seat is conspicuously empty. Defeated, I move behind my desk and wait for my opportunity.

It’s an opportunity that will never come.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Tue Jul 25, 2017 2:22 am, edited 2 times in total.
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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'Mistaking Identify'—A Class 3.4 Story (update 20161222)

Post by brythain » Thu Dec 22, 2016 3:38 am

This chapter takes place nearly thirty-seven years after the previous one. That's not a mistake. You can skip it if you like: it's not really important to the main story.

INTERLUDE
Kenichi: Endgame (T +20)
Friday, 29th April 2044


I haven’t seen him or spoken to him for a very long while. We’re simple salarymen now, as far as I know. I’ve normalized my filters, so I don’t smell, taste, or see anything unusual in the world around me. It’s boring, just as it should be.

And here he is, dapper as ever, in a long-sleeved white shirt and a jacket over his shoulder, my former class representative from a long-buried past, Uchida himself. He materializes himself across the room, graceful and balanced, efficient and exact.

“Good evening, Satou-san,” he whispers, his perfect projection filling my ear gently as he bows. Even his angle of tilt is precise—that of a high-ranking peer asking for a favour from someone whose relationships are largely uncertain. “Thank you for meeting me here.”

“Hello, Uchida-san,” I reply, returning his bow. “Anything for an old comrade.”

I notice that his deformed hands now appear normal. Synthetics? Great irony, should it be technology I myself helped to design.

We sit, quaff a couple of beers, just two guys entering the long weekend at a tavern which serves the best seafood in Northern Honshu. It’s also known only to a select group, to which Uchida belongs by right and I belong only by association. If you’re reading this, though, you’ve probably read my early biography and can guess what that’s all about.

We don’t get down to business quickly. This is not the place for haste, and the matter is important, but not urgent, according to Uchida’s curious communication.

“So, how is your family?” he asks, springing an early and common opening move on me. If this were chess, it would be a central pawn advance, unlocking options but not committing to a specific line of action.

“They’re fine, thank you.” I have been a little too curt, I realize from the faint traces of uncertainty in Uchida’s expression.

“Ah. I am sorry to say that I have not followed your career as much as I should have. All I know is that you are a senior engineer, married with children.”

“It is true,” I say softly, touching the plain titanium-and-gold band on my left hand. “Meanwhile, I have only heard that you are a senior executive attached to Hakamichi Industries. Congratulations. So, how is your own family?”

A faint shadow crosses his face, reminding me somehow of his appearance thirty-seven years ago, when I had first met him. “Sadly, I have no family attachments.”

Awkward seconds pass. But I’m still Kenichi Satou, not one of the famous Satous, but a background supporting actor. When in doubt, I plunge in. It’s my nature.

“Sorry to hear that. It’s been a long time, but…” I give the mandatory pause of polite consideration for old sorrows here, “… has there not been anyone since high school?”

He laughs, just loud enough to let me know he doesn’t mind. “There has been someone. I’ve seen her almost every day for the last couple of decades.”

“Oh?” I return a puzzled look, the kind that invites confidences.

A shade of regret sweeps quickly across his steady gaze. “She is gone now, and it is somewhat too late to be thinking about missed chances. It is likely my fate to love too much and be poor in my timing.”

The self-deprecating tone masks a deep grief. Suddenly, I understand.

“You’ve been working at Nagasaki Base, haven’t you?”

His look is almost comically quizzical, like that of a surprised stork. “Ha, I have underestimated you again, Satou-san. Only a certain kind of person refers to that establishment in that way. What do you know?”

“Are we talking about the late Ms Miura?”

In one long sigh, he lets out all the air in him that I hadn’t realized he was keeping. The shift in his posture tells me something else. Then he says, “You understand.”

“Yes. Why didn’t you tell her?”

“At some point, she was married. At some point, not. And I was uncertain. Perhaps, I was… shy.”

I nod. Poor Uchida: he’d never quite got over the loss of his first love. Then I begin to wonder. “Why me, of all people?”

A wry half-smile forms at the corner of his mouth. “Because you helped make her armamentarium.”

I do a double-take. This, of all things, isn’t what I’m expecting. I frantically search my past, and I come up with one name. I can sense the underlying colour of uncertainty in my voice as I hear myself reply, “Kyu-sensei?”

“Yes. He worked with you long-distance—you in Niigata and he in Nagasaki. He was Miki Miura’s mentor and friend, and he used your design when he gave her her own Fist.”

“But that’s almost ancient history.”

“The Fist, it seems, has a long memory, and a large one too.”

“Memory? Well, yes, it has its own blockchain. We made our prosthetics carry health records and update them with almost every action. It’s for user protection.”

“Did it not occur to you then that such information would be of forensic interest?”

“Yes, of course it did! And that’s what they’ve been used for ever since we started that practice.”

His face twitches. Again, that half-smile. “Miki loved to write. She had ugly writing at first, but after years of my complaints, she developed a passable hand. Her left hand learnt from her right, and so she became ambidextrous.”

“What? I had no idea.”

“You should have. Kyu-sensei and you somehow developed a very clever little AI. A few of the devices, which began learning early and then were upgraded over many years, developed unusual skills. Miki’s left hand was one of those.”

“Where is it?”

“That is the thing. When she passed on earlier this year, I was told that the hand expended energy to send a pulsed upload to a satellite location. Its blockchain is encrypted, but the key…”

“If you have Kyu-sensei’s book of dreams…”

“Yes, but it contains only half-keys.”

I know what’s coming next. A long time ago, I too wrote poetry, for the girl I loved, and married.

“You think I have the complementaries. But you don’t need such things. The medical decrypt should be more than enough to read the blockchain.”

“It turns out that some of your AIs have two blockchains each.”

“Two?”

“You did not know,” he says sorrowfully. It’s as if he was hoping I did, and has just realized otherwise.

“One must be the medchain, right? And the other?”

“One is indeed the medchain. The other one was detected and retrieved, still encrypted, by a certain Director-General.”

“You mean… ?”

“Yes, it is indeed your floor-neighbour of old. Rumour has it that he will soon become Tokyo Central. But more important, he noticed that her left hand was missing when he visited her in hospital, and he managed to assign a team to exfiltrate the device.”

“Exfiltrate… ?”

I hate sounding like the most foolish of fools, but I’m not possessed of an eye in the sky. Uchida, when I’d first known him, always had the knack of making me feel a little off-balance, somewhat silly. I’m feeling the same way now.

“Yes. The device had been captured, but escaped and eluded its captors. The DG sent in a microdrone surveillance net with sympathetic AI.”

“How do you know?”

“May I call you Kenichi? Please refer to me as Takano. We need to be friends.”

“Sure.”

He produces a little dataspike, one looking a lot like an old-fashioned collar pin. I wince at what he’s offering. I hate dataspikes.

“Please?”

“Do I get to preview any of the content?”

“I am afraid not, old friend.”

I give him a dirty look. Like an old-fashioned hero, collared and pinned, in so many action movies of the past, I feel as if I’ve no choice at all. And even though I know I do have such a choice, I’m already guessing that this is the adventure I need.

Bravely, I stretch out my arm for the DNA stripsearch and neural access. He sticks the spike into the crook of my arm. I can hear the nanites, even if I’m not supposed to do so. Then it happens, and I see purple again.

I hardly knew Miki Miura, and I never knew her at all when at Yamaku for the brief period I was there. Now, I’m learning too much. The data package assembles itself in my secondary interface. It doesn’t attempt to pass my barriers. It just unveils, and I see what Uchida wants me to know.

It’s not incremental. It’s excremental. “Shit!” I say, unable to control my visceral response.

Uchida nods. “We need your expertise, Kenichi. Her memory is what this is all about.”

It’s more than that, I know. Each of us has a different ‘her’ and a different memory. But that’s not what I say. I just nod, and unlock the filters of my mind.


=====
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Last edited by brythain on Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:06 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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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'Mistaking Identify'—A Class 3.4 Story (Ch14 up 20170725)

Post by brythain » Tue Jul 25, 2017 2:26 am

Kenichi: Mistaking Identify (T -17) Chapter 14—Necromancer
Thursday, 10th May 2007 — Friday, 11th May 2007


I can’t believe I’m doing this. I’m up on the roof of the school with a damned lunatic who believes the girls are agents of the Roman Catholic Church or something. Or the former Soviet Union, the Knights Templar, the Mafia—the list goes on.

This is my neighbour. He is also the only person with enough alcohol to drown my sorrows. What sorrows, you ask? Well, my Ah-Ah, the love of my life, has skipped town, as they say. No doubt, she has returned to Niigata.

“I tried to warn you,” he says in that nasal voice of his. “The women, they will always betray you. Even if they have sex with you. Especially if they have sex with you. It takes your life-force away and you become a zombie.”

I stare wordlessly at him. Since Ah-Ah was my universe, I stare worldlessly at him too. He stares back, but because his spectacles are so thick, he might as well be staring sightlessly. It’s all very weird.

“I try to warn everybody,” he says as a statement of fact. There’s not even a tinge of self-pity in his voice. “But nobody listens until the women take their souls away and leave them like husks with legs.”

“Is there no way to recover your soul?” I ask rhetorically. It’s obvious that he’s a madman, but I might as well get some entertainment from him. Who knows? Perhaps he will unleash one of his truth-bombs and it will be of some use.

“Hmm.” He sits up straight, looks blindly outward to the school quadrangle. “Can he be trusted?”

“Who?”

“The one on the roof with me.”

“Yeah, you can trust me.”

“Says the man on the roof with his crazy neighbour and contraband Suntory.”

“What? I never said you were crazy.” I am, however, feeling a little guilty for having thought exactly that. The whisky is good, though.

“Do you know what a libation is?”

“That’s some sacred religious offering thing, right? Like the stuff we do for our ancestors in Spring.”

“More or less.” He sighs and looks at the one-third full whisky bottle. “More, we wish, but it’s always less.”

“So what is it that you mean?”

“My other mother sends me whisky, so that I can speak to my own mother.”

“What?” I realize that I am now sounding like a broken CD, but there is a kind of madness that infects others, and I think I might be catching it.

“They’re sisters. You’d know what I meant if you were me.”

“No doubt.”

“If you drink some of it, you too can speak to missing people. And dead people.”

“But Ah-Ah isn’t dead!”

“You don’t have to be dead, just missing.” He wrinkles his nose a bit, then continues. “Better if you’re dead though, there’s less interference from the living.”

“You’re…”

“Crazy?” He laughs mirthlessly. “Yeah, that’s who I am. But I see things other people don’t see. Did you know that there is a war going on?”

“A war?” I used to be able to keep track of such conversations, but now, under stress and in despair, I am totally losing the train of thought that runs on this particular track. It is pulling out of the station, and I’m too late, I think as I run across the platform.

“Yeah. The feminists are taking over the school administration at the student level. They’ve even taken over the library and the athletics facilities.”

“How do you know?” I ask, dreading that he’ll prove it to me and I’ll be forced to believe him.

“Ohhhh,” he says, sighing deeply, “If you had seen what I have seen, you wouldn’t ask me that question. Even the legit males have been suborned.”

“Give me some names,” I ask hopelessly, knowing that I’m just enabling him.

“Ibarazaki, Shirakawa, Hakamichi, just to name a few. Of the women, that is. I’m not sure about my new class rep either. But if you need help with surviving the feminist onslaught, you should turn to Mutou-sensei. He’s a manly man.”

I cannot believe I’m hearing all this. Then again, I can. “Are there any who aren’t part of this conspiracy?”

“I’m wondering about the journalists in 3-3 and the armless person now in 3-4. Yeah, a few of them are non-feminist feminists. But I wouldn’t trust any of them without the pizza test.”

“You have a pizza test for this.” I do not bother making it a proper question. I say it as if it is a fact, because it is dawning upon me that I am in a nightmare, or at least a surreal dream, and I might as well go with the flow.

“Yes, I do. I have more than twenty-five different kinds of pizza, and a feminist would take exception to at least one. A proper human would be able to eat at least the first twenty-five kinds without flinching.”

“All at once?”

The spectacles turn back to me. “Are you crazy? Nobody can eat that much pizza and live!”

*****

Back in my room, I sit in the dark and ponder his words. Some day, that man will be either buried in an asylum or he’ll be the Prime Minister of Japan.

But right now, I have a problem. Ah-Ah is not answering her phone. Her number has been terminated. I am entertaining thoughts of escaping to Niigata, but I know I will be hunted down mercilessly by my father’s minions and dragged home. The only option is to throw myself on my mother’s mercy.

Damn. My neighbour is right. The feminists are winning.

=====
prev | next
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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