Monsters Like Us (KS x Monsters) Ch. 4: Shadows

WORDS WORDS WORDS
User avatar
strange desire
Posts: 40
Joined: Sun May 11, 2014 1:39 am

Re: Monsters Like Us (KS x Monsters) Ch. 4: Shadows

Post by strange desire » Wed Feb 08, 2017 3:01 am

04: Shadows

Students in uniform trickle down the stairway like leaves down a stream. Some are carried into the gardens, towards the school building. Some turn away, onto the path to the sports fields. Others meander and settle in some spot, talking with friends in the delight of this cool morning, or waiting for others to show up.

With all of the green at its greenest this time of year, the uniform jackets, trousers, and skirts blend into the leaves and landscape, and into one another. I could see how it would be difficult to pick out anyone if my eyesight was bad. It almost looks like a kind of camouflage. I wonder if that was intentional.

This school isn't just a secluded monk training ground, it's also a ninja academy! They must have a special student club for that. You probably have to find it first before you can join. Very sneaky, as expected of ninjas.

But my eyesight is fine, and as I look, I notice little things here and there: different lengths of hair, and different styles, and little accessories with their own sizes and shapes and colors. There are different lengths of skirts, all the same vernal green, and legs adorned with socks and leggings of all lengths or left bare in the breeze.

And, of course, there are the most obvious differences. A fellow ninja slinks around the edge of the crowd with an empty sleeve folded up and pinned to their shoulder, and for a moment, I wonder which of us is worse off. I don't like the thought. I try to get rid of it, to push it away and find something else to think about, but that doesn't really work, does it? Trying not to think about something means you're thinking about it. I can't pretend I didn't hear myself. You can't disguise thoughts like that.

The sight of a classmate catches my attention; she rolls out of the girls' dorm building, waving to other friendly faces, turning away from the stairway and me before I can get my hand up to wave. She takes the longer way around, towards the gentle wheelchair ramp, and sets off with as much pep as her wheels can carry.

It makes me wonder how I look in the crowd. My most obvious difference is hidden as long as I'm wearing trousers. Everyone says I walk normally, but I'm sure you could see it if you watched closely, or if you knew what to look for. I can certainly feel it.

I become intensely conscious of my sock and the dull pain beneath it. Kneeling and checking my shoelaces one more time, I look under the sock and find that yes, there's still a bruise, and yes, it's still sore.

It's just a bruise, I tell myself. It will clear up on its own, like it never happened, but for the time being, the evidence of this morning's near-miss is branded onto my skin. Once upon a time, I might have told myself I'd imagined it. A dream monster did it, reached right out of my pillow and grabbed me! I barely lived long enough to wake up! That excuse might have worked then; not so much now.

Now, they'd probably call in everything with claws, teeth, and tails for a nightmare lineup and ask me which monster did it.

Anyway, it doesn't really hurt when I move it, but I can't ignore the soreness wrapping around my ankle. At least I can cover it up. Has this happened to anyone else? Watching people go by now, this morning feels like it happened forever ago.

They're not here. They don't come here. There are places they won't go; familiar rumours roll through my head, but they don't make me feel better. Rather, I'm reminded of the past few mornings and their shadows behind trees, the shapes laying in grass between flowering bushes. They're there, but not here, as if the buildings of the school have become safe zones and beyond that is now a wilderness where they roam.

Has anyone else met that serpent monster, or that rabbit-thing girl? How many of us have bruises hidden under our uniforms? Or has anyone gotten that close? Why did I go onto that field after everything I've heard? I find myself rubbing at my hair again and stuff the hand into a pocket.

My eyes pick out Ken as soon as he emerges from the dormitory doors, and he's not alone. Hiro is with him, school bag slung behind his shoulders, and the other hand gripping firmly to his walking cane. They head directly towards me. Sometimes it's funny seeing Ken and Hiro next to each other. You can easily tell which of them is the active one, not that Hiro doesn't have a reason. It's actually not very funny.

"Hey man! Thought you'd be here," Ken says.

"Morning, guys," I say. "Am I that predictable?"

"Dude, you're a machine."

I've heard that one more than once.

Coming to a stop, Hiro slides his bag from around his shoulder onto the handle of his walking cane, and leans onto it wearily. His hair has been combed neatly, and his shirt has been tucked in; what the hell happened to him?

"Ken, that's not very nice," Hiro says.

"What?"

Hiro gives Ken an extended second to think about what he's done, but Ken waits patiently for an explanation. I know what Hiro's getting at because I'm familiar with the joke. I think I was the first one to make it.

"Hey, I didn't mean it that way," Ken says. "I wasn't talking about Ichirou's leg."

"That's what it sounded like," Hiro says, fighting off a yawn.

"But it's not what I meant."

"Guys, don't worry about it," I say. "It was a joke."

Hiro rubs his eye and blinks dazedly a few times. He gives a little more weight to his cane, and his school bag dangles like a heavy fruit on a wind-lilted branch.

"Okay," he says, "but just be careful saying stuff like that."

Hiro's advice almost goes unnoticed; not because I'm not listening, but because it's so obvious. He might as well had reminded us not to play in the road.

"It's really not a big deal," I say.

"Not to you, I know," Hiro says, "but the year is still new, right? There are new kids out here. First-years, and transfer students."

Ken and I turn and look around at the dorms and the growing crowd of spring ninjas. I've seen a few faces I don't recognize this morning... not that I know everyone at the school, but even the nameless faces become familiar after seeing them enough. There are clubs, cliques, and couples, but not a lot of names beyond my classmates. I remind myself that that's another thing I want to change this year. We're in our third week now, and... I haven't done very well in that regard, have I?

Sanae, the sweet serpent. Nao, the frowny rabbity-thing. Two more names find a place for themselves as they dash through my head. That's one small success, isn't it?

The sounds of chatter are gradually overtaking the conversing trees.

"The day's about to start soon," I say.

"Isn't it already started?" Ken asks, looking around.

"It's almost time for class," Hiro says, checking his watch. "And technically the day starts at sunrise."

"That's an Ichirou-day," Ken says.

"Haha. It is, isn't it?" I say.

Hiro takes the lead and we add ourselves to the current of students. Taking one side, Ken falls in behind me as I follow Hiro's gradual descent. My prosthesis straightens swiftly with every other step, prepared for the next but expecting a somewhat faster pace, and I keep one hand held firm on the stone railing. It's a good opportunity to slow down and relax for a moment before everything gets started for the day, and I try to meter my breaths to the rhythm of my steps. Soon enough, though, we reach the bottom and turn towards the gardens and the school building. Hiro yawns.

"Nice weather," he says.

"Yeah."

"So dude, how was it this morning?" Ken asks.

I knew this was coming. I knew either Ken or Hiro was going to ask me that, yet I don't have anything ready to say. I'm still trying to figure it out, I suppose. The soreness in my ankle reminds me again of what happened. The thoughts feel familiar as they roll around in my head, but it's still a weird, uncomfortable feeling.

"Meet any girls?"

"You could say that," I say.

"Any cute ones?"

"You'd love 'em. Athletic types."

"Oooh. How many limbs--"

Hiro's groan cuts through Ken's words like a revving chainsaw.

"I swear, if you finish that sentence, I will smack you in the kneecaps with my cane," Hiro avows.

"That's bad for the cane..." I say.

"The cane!? What about my knees?" Ken says.

"...so I'll kick his ass with my steel toe for you."

"He-hey now!"

"Careful," Hiro says, "Ken's ass shatters expectations."

"And girls' hearts," I add.

"Oh my god you guys," Ken whines.

We end our attack on Ken before he gets the wrong idea. I guess he's still sore about that. Heh. Hiro's cane swings with a little more pep and swagger than before; he's clearly enjoying this little victory.

"Seriously though, you guys wouldn't do that," Ken affirms.

"Of course not, Ken," I say.

This prosthesis was made for walking, not kicking.

"Why wouldn't we?" Hiro asks, his voice wafting with both honest curiosity and a little invitation.

"'Cause I know you guys," Ken says confidently.

I don't know what to say to that. Anything that'd come out of my mouth would sound awkward. Instead my thoughts are thrown back in time; I suppose Ken would have a good idea of me after we've seen each other almost every day over the past year-and-change. It's been that long, huh? I've known Hiro almost that long...

Dozens of faces flash through my thoughts, some barely remembered, some engraved for one reason or another. Most of their names have vanished, but I can recall other things... Blind, amputee, birth defect, monster. The thoughts squirm in my head.

Hiro hasn't said anything either, and the silence recaptures my attention.

"Dang dude, I should have been a poet," Ken says.

Yep, that's Ken.

"You guys have room in your club, right?"

"The soccer team wouldn't let you escape," Hiro says. "Now there's a conspiracy for you."

"Dude, you guys' club is involved in some deep stuff," Ken declares.

"The newspaper club is not as exciting as you think it is."

I think it's fun.

"Submit something, Ken. We'll find room for it," I say.

"Because room on the paper is at a premium, right?" Hiro mumbles.

The three of us settle into a familiar and comfortable rhythm, and the air is filled again with conversations pushing through the cool breeze. It really is a nice morning.

Up ahead is the bench where I saw the cat boy yesterday morning on my way to the pool. This morning, there's...

A monster with gorgeous black hair. It shines in the sunlight, as sleek and dark as a deep moonlit river. It makes quite the contrast against the clean white uniform blouse as it flows down her back and around her neck, ending in a collar of little ringlets. The same glassy jet color covers her face. Large, bulby feet clad in solid black socks peek out from beneath the longest skirt that Yamaku provides for its uniform. Her hands are also covered in black.

It's as if a living shadow is sitting amidst the gardens in uniform, but the figure isn't human. A school bag sits on the bench next to her.

Crowning the monster's head are twin black triangles flitting to and fro at the students passing by. She sweeps her head back and forth as narrow eyes scan the procession of white and green.

"That is one big cat," Ken says.

"That's, uh..." Hiro mumbles.

The monster has her attention split between the passing students and a small tablet computer in her hands. She seems to pick out someone ahead of us, following them with her eyes and ears as they pass in front of her. Then, shaking her head, she loses interest and goes back to playing on the tablet, deflating with a swift, visible sigh.

"What's she doing all the way over here?" Ken asks.

"Enjoying the gardens?" Hiro says.

As if she heard us, the monster looks down the pathway towards us.

A tinge of nostalgia hits me. The low, misleading hang of her shoulders and the funny awkwardness of her inhuman hands take me back to a memory that I can't place. Mostly, though, I think it's her eyes.

Our eyes let us see, our ears let us hear, our... something about the gods, I think. How did it go?

The monster's ears and eyes stay locked on us as we come closer and closer. I wait for her to lose interest again, but she doesn't look away.

User avatar
strange desire
Posts: 40
Joined: Sun May 11, 2014 1:39 am

Re: Monsters Like Us (KS x Monsters) Ch. 4: Shadows

Post by strange desire » Wed Feb 08, 2017 3:09 am

04. Shadows (cont'd)

I can feel Ken and Hiro move closer to me.

"You're staring, dude."

"So is she," I say.

"Okay, enough," Hiro says. "Mind your business and just keep walking, guys."

Her eyes narrow and I see only some small movements of her face. I'm not familiar with their faces. There's some tension, maybe. She's definitely not smiling. I can't say she looks happy at all.

I've seen other cat monsters like her on TV, but you don't get a chance to really look at them and watch their faces. And just when you think you're getting used to one, there's another species, or family, or whatever, that comes up next with their own faces and shapes and manners and dialects. Or they just disappear. Gone again, as if forever.

The deep black color of her fur obscures the contours of her face, revealing them only in the way light plays along the edges. Narrow-pupiled steel green eyes glow like lanterns from that soft darkness. She doesn't seem to find me very interesting, and I'm a little thankful for that. I'm not looking for any trouble.

As we come up to the bench and the sitting cat monster, the girl shakes her ears, and then there's an abrupt change. Her eyes open wide and she leans forward enough to make me think she's going to stand up. I feel Ken's shoulder brush into mine, and even Hiro seems to edge away from her side of the pathway. Her gaze dances between the three of us. We pass right in front of her, and the monster finds her focus—me.

The monster's eyes and ears jump up and down as if she can't decide what to look at, my face or my leg. She leans further forward, and her narrow pupils open like hungry mouths threatening to swallow her eyes.

What did Ken say yesterday? Predators' eyes?

A shock runs through my thigh, past my stomach, and into my head as the toe of my shoe scrapes the pavement.

My heart skips a beat as practice and reflexes stop me before I send myself tumbling down. Ken's strong hand grabs my arm.

"Ichirou! Eyes forward, buddy," Hiro says.

"Careful, man," Ken says. "Take it easy."

"I've got it, guys," I say a little too harshly. I can feel my face heating up.

"Just making sure, man," he says, lazily slacking his hand.

"We haven't seen you trip in a long time," Hiro says.

"Well, I try not to, right?" I say.

"Yeah, of course."

I shouldn't be tripping at all. I thought I'd noticed something odd about my steps earlier, but now it feels obvious. Is there something wrong with the prosthesis? Yeah, right; it's more likely there would be something wrong with my good foot before the prosthesis breaks.

The initial sense of shock evaporates with our steady steps, and Hiro's hasty admonishment is left in its place. He's right; I should watch were I'm going. I'm too busy ogling monsters to even walk straight. You'd think that the ache in my ankle would keep my mind focused on walking. I take a deep breath and start metering my breathing to my steps, trying to calm down both.

But why was that monster so interested in us? In me?

"Is it true that animals can sense injuries?" I wonder aloud.

As soon as the words leave my mouth, I regret them.

"Yeah, dude. That's why service dogs are so cool," Ken says. "Remember how I was telling you about my uncle's dog, Gappy? He's a service dog. Gappy knows when Uncle's arthritis flares up, and he comes over to keep him company."

"That's cute," I say, welcoming the tangent.

"Yeah, dude. And he's trained to get help if Uncle ever gets hurt or something. He's the sweetest dog."

"Imagine if your service dog was also a person you could talk to," Hiro says.

The idea brings funny thoughts to mind. I imagine a dog monster coming up to someone and saying, You're in pain!, and then following them around.

I'm sure it's more complicated than that, but I don't know how any of that works. Would you have to train them? Doesn't that take years? Would they have to go through regular school first, and it's like college for them?

And then you have a creature that knows how your body is doing, good or bad... maybe even better than you might realize it. That might get creepy.

"That would actually be kinda cool," Ken says. "The strong ones might even make okay nurses."

Nurse monsters; I'm not sure if that should be unnerving or intriguing, but I'm surprised to hear Ken be positive about it.

"Hey, I haven't seen that one monster today," he says.

"Who?" Hiro asks.

"That dog girl monster you talk to a lot."

"I don't talk to her a lot."

"Alright, alright."

Ken's comment makes me realize that I haven't seen her either... in fact, I haven't seen any monsters except that black cat since we left the dorms. Where did they go now?

"It's quiet this morning," I say.

"Yeah, it's odd," Hiro adds.

"Seems busy as usual," Ken says. "Not many monsters, though. Kinda weird."

It's like being tugged back and forth: surprised first to see them out, and surprised again when they're not.

"I guess we've gotten used to them already, huh?" I wonder.

"It's not too hard," Hiro says.

"It's tactics, dude," Ken says. "Like we're suddenly all comfortable with them and next thing you know, people will want them back. Just watch, guys. Pretty soon, we'll be inviting them to make the next move."

"Which is...?" I ask, only half seriously.

"The dorms."

"And one man saw it coming," Hiro says dramatically.

I can't fight off a laugh at that one. Hiro laughs too.

I see the dormitories surrounded by cat monsters, dog monsters, the armoured reptiles, and other shifting shapes in my head. At the charge is the mad rabbit girl riding a great, smiling serpent. They howl and hiss and roar. And standing at the gates, at the dormitory doors, roaring back at them in his soccer outfit and swinging a big sack of balls, is Ken.

"Easy, Ken," I say. "I don't think we're under attack quite yet."

"And that is their greatest weapon," he says.

"Okay, enough, guys," Hiro interjects. "Let's just get to class with our heads still screwed on."

Ken takes Hiro's statement literally. He reaches up, puts one hand on his chin and the other at the back of his head, and gently twists. A soft pop is followed by a relaxed sigh. He brushes his hair back out of his eyes.

"You'll hurt your neck doing that," Hiro says.

"I know. I'm gentle," Ken says.

"Ken, the gentle giant," I sing badly.

"I'm not even giant, dude," he says.

"If you were any bigger, the basketball club would have another reason to steal you."

"I like the soccer team, though."

"And they love you," Hiro says.

Ken smiles a big, victorious smile and glances around. He brushes his hair out of his eyes again.

"I think she's following us," Ken says lowly.

"Wait, what?" I say.

"That black cat's right behind us. She's got her eyes pinned to us, like she's homing in."

"She can probably hear you, you know," Hiro says.

"They hear everything," Ken says. "Depends on the ears, though. But we've got the crowd on our side. Busy places confuse them, y'know. She's on her phone, too. I think we're safe. For now."

"As if the school would put us in any danger," Hiro says, no longer caring to keep quiet.

"This school is in on it!" Ken says.

"In on what?"

"The nurse let Ichirou walk right into that pool, knowing there was a dangerous monster in there!"

"He gave me a friendly warning," I say.

"Really? That's not what you said before," Ken says.

"Well, he told me to be careful. I didn't immediately assume that he meant there was a monster in the water."

Ken goes quiet, but as he glances of into the distance while his mouth pulls to one side, it's obvious that he's having some difficulty with my statement.

"You don't believe me," I say.

"I believe you, man. But the whole thing sounds fishy to me. Why do they hide like that? Like that thing in our dorms. It's like you always have to watch your back around here now."

I'm reminded that I've yet to actually see the haunter in our dorm building. At this point, I'm starting to wonder if there's actually anything there. Only the fact that other people apparently have experienced the same presence keeps me from feeling like I'm spooking myself.

And the cat monster on our tails--have I seen her before? I've seen other cat monsters here and there, even one or two right here at Yamaku the past couple of weeks, but have I seen this one before? I got a look at her face, but I don't think I recognized her, so probably not. I think I would remember this one.

"Hiro, are there many black-haired cat monsters like that in the school?" I ask.

"No, not at all," he says. "That kind of fur is supposed to be really rare. I think there's only one of them in Yamaku."

"You know her?" Ken asks.

Hiro gives one of his quiet, extended sighs and adjusts his school bag over his shoulder.

"I haven't met her. I don't think I want to."

The school building looms above the heads of the students before us. We leave the gardens and enter the courtyard where everyone takes in their last moments of the morning before the school day begins in earnest. Here, the stream of students gets caught in eddies and little pockets where friends gather. This is more of a crowd than what Ken was talking about a moment ago. The courtyard is starting to empty into the school building now, as the first period bell of the day draws near.

Once we're inside, we're set. We'll find our classroom, take our seats, and everything will continue like normal, like any other day. Maybe by the second period, the aching in my ankle will have settled down.

We enter the school building. The crowd outside is drowned out by the activity in the lobby and halls. As the three of us head for the elevators, nagging curiosity tugs at my head, and I glance back towards the entrance doors.

The black cat monster stands at the entrance, jewel-lit eyes peering directly toward us over turning heads. I hadn't realized how large she was. As others start to notice her presence, a gentle wave of surprise spreads slowly, and her attention is stolen by this sudden fame. Her eyes and ears flick at the students, and her dark figure turns and walks back into the sunlight.

The ding of the arrived elevator returns me to reality.

User avatar
SolitudeFreak
Posts: 13
Joined: Tue Oct 06, 2015 5:30 pm

Re: Monsters Like Us (KS x Monsters) Ch. 4: Shadows

Post by SolitudeFreak » Wed Feb 08, 2017 3:13 am

So is that collab with NekoWorkS still happening or nah?

User avatar
Mirage_GSM
Posts: 5987
Joined: Mon Jun 28, 2010 2:24 am
Location: Germany

Re: Monsters Like Us (KS x Monsters) Ch. 4: Shadows

Post by Mirage_GSM » Thu Feb 09, 2017 6:51 pm

And another story returns from an extended hiatus...

The writing is still good, though the pacing of the current chapter seemed a bit slower than for the previous one.

One thing that I find disturbing is the continued use of the term "monster" for one's fellow students. In the series the girls were all mythical bests like Nagas, Harpies, or Centaurs, so it's just barely understandable.
Still the term is so negatively loaded that you'd think its use would be discouraged among students. Also you seem to have added more species that are less part of monster folklore but more anime tropes like bunny- or catgirls, which hardly anyone would think of as monsters...
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
Sore wa himitsu desu.

User avatar
strange desire
Posts: 40
Joined: Sun May 11, 2014 1:39 am

Re: Monsters Like Us (KS x Monsters) Ch. 4: Shadows

Post by strange desire » Mon Feb 13, 2017 2:52 am

Thank you for your continued interest, Mirage. :) I didn't know if anyone would still care after such a long time without a serious update.

Regarding the term 'monster,' names, labels, and stratification are at play in MLU's world. There is still a significant distance between the human students and the monster students, but without a classroom scene yet, there was only a hint of this from Ken earlier. The "monster dorms" scene in the last chapter (a geologic age ago) kind of hinted at this too. They are not quite classmates yet.

'Monster' is not the word used by faculty and staff, of course. There are other terms for the creatures, but Japan's various words for 'monster' are the vernacular outside academic, medical, and political situations. They are, superficially, myth and legend come to life.

Perhaps I should clarify MLU's relationship to Monster Musume. The series is certainly a major inspiration for MLU, and I used 'MonMusu' to describe the nature of the crossover earlier. As you've noticed, though, I have no intention of following Monster Musume's general tone. MLU borrows MonMusu's story setup with its interspecies social programs, but it does not use MonMusu's character design philosophy. Many of MLU's monsters were inspired first from anime and visual novel monsters, but their histories are based on real-world mythology.

Also, I'm just bad at this. The descriptions so far have left a lot to the imagination; maybe too much. On the one hand, I want to leave plenty to the imagination, so readers can imagine the little details in their own personal ways. On the other, I have a particular fondness for a certain kind of monster design that influences how I design their interactions. Maybe I haven't found a good middle ground yet.
SolitudeFreak wrote:So is that collab with NekoWorkS still happening or nah?
NekoWorkS has been extremely busy being actually successful. We'll keep trying. :)

User avatar
SolitudeFreak
Posts: 13
Joined: Tue Oct 06, 2015 5:30 pm

Re: Monsters Like Us (KS x Monsters) Ch. 4: Shadows

Post by SolitudeFreak » Mon Feb 20, 2017 1:47 am

Mirage_GSM wrote:One thing that I find disturbing is the continued use of the term "monster" for one's fellow students.
They r monsters tho.

User avatar
strange desire
Posts: 40
Joined: Sun May 11, 2014 1:39 am

Re: Monsters Like Us (KS x Monsters) Ch. 4: Shadows

Post by strange desire » Tue Feb 21, 2017 3:36 am

SolitudeFreak wrote:They r monsters tho.
The words echo in her ears, fresh from the mouths of the morning's crowds. The words of ignorant humans, spoken without care, without consideration... But she must not be so hasty to hate. This, too, is a test of her resolve. It is a test of her belief: in herself, in her classmates, and in this school.

What better way to start the day than by reminding yourself what you're fighting for?

It takes an age to travel down the corridor. Her footsteps, hard to hear even for herself, echo in the emptiness. At the furthest end of the otherwise unused hall of the school, she finds her classroom. She can hear the subdued activity in the room before she reaches the door, by the same gifted ears that receive stinging words from confused mouths.

The whispers inside come to a halt as soon as the door is opened, but the sudden silence is as telling as any announcement. News travels fast on ears as hungry as these. They turn like open maws towards her appearance at the door, with almost as many eyes eager to see whether she has brought her friend with her, or else if the rumours are true. The reptiles, at least, have the tact to feign apathy and glare with less enthusiasm.

But there is no one else with her at the door, and the desk at the back of the room is empty. There is one critical omission from the roster today.

She feels panic play across her face, and she turns away from the classroom, stepping back into the hall as the door closes behind her. She was promised—or at least the closest thing to a promise as she could get.

Any other day, she thinks. It's almost humorous to think that on any other day, no one would notice. No one would care, and it makes her angry. She feels the hair on her neck stand and scratch at the collar of her uniform—the uniform that proves why she's here, why they are all here.

She is angry for two reasons; her friend's seat is empty in the classroom. She wakes her phone and finds the right number. It rings too many times, and she begins to worry even more.

"God damn it, Umi. Pick up."

The call lands into the voice mail. She doesn't wait to leave a message, tapping immediately to resend the call. If this one doesn't go through, then she will start walking.

The first period class will begin soon; she will start running.

click

"Maru?"

"Umi—"

She answers simultaneously. This voice is quiet and nervous. Her own is harsh, and she regrets it. She holds her words for a moment, trying to gather her thoughts, and she shapes them into something soft and unaccusing.

"Where are you?" she asks.

"I'm in the bathroom."

This worries her even more, and she can't keep it out of her voice.

"Are you okay?"

Her friend is silent for too long. Umi has a lackadaisical relationship with phones, but that's understandable. Maru wants to be there, to be able to look and see what's trying to be said. Those silent words are not carried by the phone.

"I'm okay," Umi says quietly.

"How are you feeling? How is your breathing?"

The sound of sliding flesh comes from the phone, and soft whispers. Without thinking, Maru starts to listen and then realizes the madness of it.

"It's fine. I'm okay."

This voice is more calm, more solid. It's reassuring, but it's followed by another one, shaky and fractured.

"Hey, Maru."

She doesn't like this voice.

"Yes, Umi?"

"This isn't going to work out, is it?"

A spike of ice drives itself through Maru's spine. For the second time this morning, she is afraid. Terrified. Tendrils of fear snake their way through her mind, and for the first time in a long time, there is doubt.

She cannot speak the words she believes to be true. Something else comes out; maybe it's the truth.

"We're going to... We're going to get through this. All of us."

"Maru."

"Yes, Umi?"

"I'm so sorry. I really am a monster."

Maru bites her tongue. She feels her face and hands grow hot, and she hurts. She wants to cry—she wants to scream. Rage burns whatever remorse could be felt in this moment, and she thanks God that the phone cannot hear the agony shared between her mind and her heart.

"Don't apologize, Umi," she manages to say. "Please."

"I'm... I don't know what to do."

"I do," Maru says. Her conviction is returning, tempered by the events of this morning. "Trust me, please."

There is no response to this, or at least nothing audible. Maru realizes again how much just a smile can mean when it's needed.

"Are you coming to class?" she asks.

"...I'll make it."

Maru accepts this answer as the best possible outcome, considering the circumstances.

"See you then," she says.

" 'Kay. Do good, Maru."

click

She feels better now; not good, not yet, but not as bad now. She feels in her heart, regardless of the protests of her mind, that everything will be okay. She must continue to believe this. She doesn't have a choice.

She takes two breaths and turns towards the classroom door. She gives a final glimpse to the end of the hallway, of the seemingly infinite space between here and there, and opens the door to see the smiling face of a smug snake.

"Is there a problem, Maru?"

She is angry for two reasons.

User avatar
Mirage_GSM
Posts: 5987
Joined: Mon Jun 28, 2010 2:24 am
Location: Germany

Re: Monsters Like Us (KS x Monsters) Ch. 4: Shadows

Post by Mirage_GSM » Tue Feb 21, 2017 6:06 am

Her footsteps, hard to hear even for herself, echo in the emptiness.
So... Are her footsteps hard to hear, or do they echo through the halls? :-)

Interesting chapter... Let's see what comes of it.
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
Sore wa himitsu desu.

User avatar
brythain
Posts: 3497
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm
Location: East Asia
Contact:

Re: Monsters Like Us (KS x Monsters) Ch. 4: Shadows

Post by brythain » Tue Feb 21, 2017 8:51 am

That was a lovely mini-update. :)
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)

User avatar
strange desire
Posts: 40
Joined: Sun May 11, 2014 1:39 am

Re: Monsters Like Us (KS x Monsters) Ch. 4: Shadows

Post by strange desire » Wed Feb 22, 2017 1:50 am

Thank you both for your kind words! :D I'm glad you enjoyed it. I was hesitant about posting a scene outside of Ichirou's point-of-view, but I think this turned out okay. Now, if only the main chapters could be composed so quickly! :o And thanks to SolitudeFreak for the inspiration!

Mirage_GSM wrote:So... Are her footsteps hard to hear, or do they echo through the halls? :-)
Both. :) Even a faint sound may echo, though you're right in that the phrase typically highlights a very conspicuous sound. Maru's sense of hearing might be excited, or maybe her footsteps are heavier than usual?

Hopefully we'll be seeing Maru and Umi again soon.

User avatar
SolitudeFreak
Posts: 13
Joined: Tue Oct 06, 2015 5:30 pm

Re: Monsters Like Us (KS x Monsters) Ch. 4: Shadows

Post by SolitudeFreak » Wed Feb 22, 2017 2:54 am

I wasn't expecting that. It was an interesting way to view the story from. However, with that said, I still stand by what I said. They are monsters, though.

I understand that these words could easily be spoken from ignorance or ill will, but it doesn't change the fact that it's true. That's why it's important to know the context of how you mean something. I'm not saying it with ill will in mind.

In this world you've created, the monsters are obviously very different from humans, and the human culture they are attempting to integrate with. There is nothing wrong with recognizing differences. In fact, in this scenario, I think it would be important to identify physical, mental and cultural differences so as to ease the transition to a society they are unfamiliar with.

I think I'm really terrible at articulating what I mean exactly, but I guess my point is that pretending every difference is not important can cause problems, so recognizing them can help you work around potential issues.

I'm probably overthinking this, aren't I?

User avatar
Oddball
Posts: 2828
Joined: Wed Feb 29, 2012 2:05 pm

Re: Monsters Like Us (KS x Monsters) Ch. 4: Shadows

Post by Oddball » Sun Feb 26, 2017 10:17 pm

I can see monsters just being the typical thing to call them. Still, I do think there should be a more "politically correct term" even if nobody uses it except for the occasional throw-away reference.

I'm not sure what it would be though. Para-Natural humans? maybe just shortening it to Para-people? Cryptid-(nation goes here) for example Cryptid-Americans or Cryptid-Japanese? Or maybe the idea could be that they were simply never united enough to come up with anything they agreed on.

Still, this is wonderfully written and does a great job showing the prejudices against them without making it too "After-school special".
Not Dead Yet

User avatar
brythain
Posts: 3497
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm
Location: East Asia
Contact:

Re: Monsters Like Us (KS x Monsters) Ch. 4: Shadows

Post by brythain » Sun Feb 26, 2017 10:32 pm

Oddball wrote:I can see monsters just being the typical thing to call them. Still, I do think there should be a more "politically correct term" even if nobody uses it except for the occasional throw-away reference... I'm not sure what it would be though. Para-Natural humans? maybe just shortening it to Para-people? Cryptid-(nation goes here) for example Cryptid-Americans or Cryptid-Japanese? Or maybe the idea could be that they were simply never united enough to come up with anything they agreed on.
Good point, but 'crypt-' anything is not good because it comes from Greek krüpt- which means 'hidden, concealed', hence implies secret(ive). Perhaps something like 'People with Unusual Characteristics' (PUCs), which people pronounce 'pucks'. This is both a homage to that sly faerie-character Puck as well as a word that some people would use as an insult (since it can sound like one).
Still, this is wonderfully written and does a great job showing the prejudices against them without making it too "After-school special".
I completely agree!
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)

User avatar
strange desire
Posts: 40
Joined: Sun May 11, 2014 1:39 am

Re: Monsters Like Us (KS x Monsters) Ch. 4: Shadows

Post by strange desire » Wed Mar 01, 2017 2:37 am

All interesting ideas! I do have a short list of vocabulary used regarding the monsters. As you may imagine, though, most of them see little use outside of the specific circumstances they refer to.

One thing that intrigued me during MLU's genesis was a little lingual quirk that popped up between three of MLU's principal inspirations: Monster Musume, Wanko to Kurasou, and Nekopara. Each of the three settings had different ways of referring to their featured subjects.

In MonMusu, they call them monsters; literally the English word 'monster' rendered in Japanese. The individual species retain their real world source names, like centaurs and harpies, but as a whole, they're just monsters.

Nekopara is set in a world where catgirls are real. Don't ask me how or why, I honestly don't know, this setting makes no sense to me at all. They aren't even humans with cat tails and ears--I mean, they are, but the story insists that they are, in fact, honest-to-goodness actual cats that just look human. The interesting thing is they they're called cats (neko) but it's written funny in the text. Rather than use the usual kanji for cat, the word is written out in katakana (ネコ) to create a term that is pronounced the same (neko) but refers specifically to the catgirls. No real cats appear in the setting, as far as I'm aware, so I don't know if there is any actual difference in the setting or if the quirk is just for the audience's sake. English has no such refuge, leaving the catgirls to be called catgirls explicitly in the novel and nekos is promotion. Neko.

Wanko is a little more down-to-earth. Its subjects are dogs in the same way that Nekopara's characters are cats, but the authors went a long way to add verisimilitude to the setting. Real dogs are shown to exist exactly as they do in reality, alongside the all-but-human animals that the story features. However, despite the obvious differences, the only lingual separation between the two is a case of 'dogs' versus the more specific 'anthropomorphic dogs' when it's necessary to make the distinction. That's it. They're dogs; not doggirls or dogboys or some odd halfway-term. For all intents and purposes, they are dogs (that incidentally can talk to you, have hands, and wear cute human clothing).

There's a lot that can be said about this topic.

In MLU's world, the non-humans have a few names, whether given, taken, or carried with them. Which names get used in which context is an interesting game.

SolitudeFreak wrote:I'm probably overthinking this, aren't I?
Nah.

The interspecies education program isn't solely for the monsters' benefit. It's a learning experience in both directions.

brythain wrote:
Oddball wrote:Still, this is wonderfully written and does a great job showing the prejudices against them without making it too "After-school special".
I completely agree!
:o Wow! I'm glad you enjoy the story! Thank you.

...But I don't know what you mean by "after-school special". I'm not familiar with the phrase.

Oddball wrote:Para-Natural humans?
To bring this full-circle: but they aren't tho.

I feel like I've dropped the ball with the character descriptions. And the MonMusu crossover. And, like, everything I just said above. I've continued to reference and make comparisons to certain anime/visual novel tropes and imagery, and I realize now that it may be giving an unclear impression. Hopefully, further chapters will make that image clearer.

User avatar
Oddball
Posts: 2828
Joined: Wed Feb 29, 2012 2:05 pm

Re: Monsters Like Us (KS x Monsters) Ch. 4: Shadows

Post by Oddball » Thu Mar 02, 2017 12:46 am

...But I don't know what you mean by "after-school special". I'm not familiar with the phrase.
They're like the "very special episodes" on a TV show.

Basically they were late afternoon TV special that were designed for teenagers to address "sensitive, controversial, or socially relevant issues" usually in an overly dramatic or sappy way. Often both.
Not Dead Yet

Post Reply