Reliable Narrators

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Oddball
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Reliable Narrators

Post by Oddball » Wed Nov 25, 2015 12:31 pm

6 students
6 writers
1 story


Reliable Narrators


by Munchenhausen, Brythain, Strange Desire, Blank Mage, Umber, and of course Oddball


I fully intended to fling the door open and dramatically make my entrance, but that didn't happen. I end up fumbling with the door knob while balancing on crutches. By the time the door was open, Saeko, my bestest friend who's always happy to see me is just sitting there staring at the door waiting patiently for me.

“Can we just pretend this was a dramatic entrance?” I say in defeat.

“What brings you here this late, Orie?” she asks as she makes some adjustments to her mechanical leg.

“I was going to startle you, but that didn't work,” I tell her.

“What else brings you here this late? Did things not go well with the student council?” she asks.

“Wow, how did you know exactly what I was going to complain about?” I say with a mock chipper tone.

“That fun, huh?” she asks.

“Oh, I've got a story to tell you ...”
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The story according to Orie


I was about … oh, twenty minutes late... maybe thirty … but I was pretty sure they wouldn't hold that against me. After all, this was entirely volunteer work.

And I had to stop by my regular club to let them know I wouldn't be there.

And nobody actually told me where the student council room was.

And... you know... one eyed girl on crutches. Hey, just because I'm in the dance club doesn't mean I'm able to actually walk good.

So to pass the time it took to move from one floor to another and down the halls, I sang to myself. “You put the Boom-boom into my heart,” I started softly, with my wonderful singing voice. “Something something something something, I don't know the lyrics, you jitterbug into my brain, I really wish I new how this song goes because it's stuck in my head.”

You've got to do something to pass the time when you move as slow as I do, after all.

I had my excuses ready as I opened the door. It wasn't that I didn't want to help out. This was the first week of festival preparations after all and everyone was pretty hyped about it. My homeroom teacher made a big deal about letting us know that the student council was looking for help, so naturally I volunteered. I figured it could be fun. I just forgot that it was today until somebody reminded me. I mean, what kind of person schedules volunteer work on the start of a three day weekend anyway?

As I opened the door, everyone turned to look at me. Well, almost everyone. There was one girl sitting behind a desk separate from the others who didn't seem to notice my entrance. I guessed she was the girl in charge because she had her own little desk that all the other tables were facing. In hindsight, I probably should have met someone on the student council before agreeing. You know what they say about me and hindsight though. It's twenty. Just twenty.

... that was a joke. … You know, because I only have one eye.

Nevermind.

“Sorry I'm late,” I said to the head girl, ready to launch into an excuse at any minute. The girl didn't even look up at me. “Umm... hello? I'm here.” Nothing. She simply kept working on the stack of papers in front of her. Damn. That's cold. Ice cold. Cold hearted snake cold.

“She can't hear you, you know,” somebody in the back of the class said. I looked trying to figure out who it was, but I couldn't tell. I didn't even know anybody in the room. Well, there was the green haired girl from the track team, but we don't really talk. We just share the same bathroom and say hello when we pass each other in the hallways. I wasn't even quite sure what her name was. I just called her 'Track girl.' She always seemed okay with that.

“Hello! Reporting for duty!” I said cheerfully as I waved my hands directly in front of her face. That seemed to be the wrong response. She looked at me in a way that looked both kinda angry and kinda disappointed at the same time. I have a hard time describing it. Then she started waving her hands around.

I can recognize sign language, but I don't know a word of it. … Is word the right word? Does sign language refer to things as words? Well, whatever it was, I didn't understand it, but she probably doesn't know anything about foreign rock music, so we're even. Goo-goo gachoo and all that.

Finally, sensing my confusion, she stopped, look coldly at me, then firmly pointed at the clock on the wall.

I had no clue how to give my excuses to a girl that couldn't hear, so I gave the universal gesture of “I don't know,” shrugged shoulders, elbows at my side and palms turned upwards. That didn't work too well because I almost fell down trying to shrug and balance myself without crutches at the same time. It was another patented Orie great first impressions.

“Anybody know how to talk to her?” I asked turning back to the rest of the class.

“Why would you ever want to?” said some guy who was actually wearing a beret with his uniform. You know those little floppy French artist hats, right? One of those. It was as stupid looking as it sounds. Now that I think about it, he might have been wearing that to take attention off the bandage he had over his ear, but that's just me guessing. I sure hope he wasn't wearing it because he thought it looked cool. It didn't.

“Ignore dork face,” Track girl said. Before anybody else could come up with anything useful to tell me, I felt tapping on my shoulders. I turned and saw the deaf girl holding out a large stack of papers for me. She then pointed to an empty seat by the back. That was followed up with another flurry of hand gestures before before shaking her head in irritation.

She violently turned around and grabbed a notepad off her desk and began scribbling on it before calming down, and then just ripping the page out and throwing it away. Maybe it was for the best that I couldn't understand her.

I took the seat near the back next to the guy with the cane. “I was just a little bit late. I don't see what her problem is,” I said to him.

“It's just her way,” he replied without bothering to look at me. “I don't think we've met. I'm Akio. Are you a second year?”

“Orie. I'm first year,” I told him.

“That would explain it,” he said before going back to the stack of papers on his desk. That conversation went nowhere. I looked down at my paperwork; it actually looked like it had already been done.

“Thank you for attending last years festival, blah blah blah. Appreciate your support blah blah looking forward to blah blah blah thank you, Yamaku.” That was the gist of it.

“What am I supposed to be doing here?” I asked.

“Let's see what you've got,” he leaned over to look at the papers on my desk. “It looks like you ended up with one of the easy jobs. All you've got to do is sign your name where it says 'Yamaku representative'. When you get all that done, there's a stack of envelops up front and a list of addresses. Make sure everything goes where it should. They basically just want real live students to put their signatures on these things. It makes them look like they were written by actual people or something.” he smirked slightly as he finished, seeming to find something funny about all that. I'm not sure why.

“It adds that personal touch you don't normally get from form letters,” somebody else said, but whoever they were, they were sitting on the side I don't see out of.

Having heard that, I wanted to look over read these things and find out exactly what was on them. A further more detailed reading revealed they were just as boring and unoffensive as the original skimming. Some of them where thank you letters. Some of them were requests for donations. Some of them were simply invitations. All of them had the same dry business-like tone. That's when I noticed a problem. They were all dated 2005.

“Excuse me, “ I said holding up my hand before remembering that she couldn't hear me. Again, all the eyes in the class where on me. Here I am, up on the stage.

Turn the page.

“Is there a problem?” some unremarkable looking girl asked.

“Yeah, I think I got a bad batch of papers,” I said waving them in the air.

“Let me see that,” the girl said taking the papers from me. “This could be a problem,” she says both flatly and completely redundantly. I had already established there was a problem, didn't I? “They've got the wrong date on these,” she said so that everyone else could hear. Then she grabbed the papers from the desk of the guy in the beret and looked at it, much to his protests. “This one too.”

“Well, that's just great,” the guy in stupid French hat complained. “Nice to see all our hard work is being so productive.” Akio looked at him oddly. He then shook his head as though he realized whatever he was going to say was just going to be a wasted effort.

“Somebody should tell the president,” somebody suggested.

“Do we really have to? She'd probably just get mad at us and make us start everything over again,” Track girl said.

“One us of us should,” the plain looking girl said. I remember at some point I found out her name was Keiko. I don't remember when she said that or if somebody else told me. “Is anyone else here a member of the student council?” she asked. There were no responses. “Class representatives?” She tried again and again got nothing. It looked like everyone here was a volunteer. I guess they save the real student council for more important work.

“Does anybody have any kind of seniority here?” I asked.

“That would be me, I'm president of the art club. I just really don't feel like dealing with her attitude,” the boy in the beret said.

“Fine. I'll do it,” Akio, the boy with the cane said. He got up from his chair with some effort, grunting more than you'd expect from someone our age. About that time, the deaf girl had noticed something was going on, with none of us working and all of us talking. She looked at us curiously. When she finally noticed that I noticed her, she snapped her fingers loudly. Really loudly. I don't know how it's possible for a person to snap their fingers that loud, but she did it. I went back to signing papers, despite the fact that it wasn't going to be of any use to us. I didn't want to be yelled at.

… or you know, whatever it is deaf people do.

Having caught the attention of the others, she took a pencil in her hand and waved it in the air, mimicking the motions of signing paperwork. Nobody but me was signing anything anymore. The cane guy limped his way up to her and wrote something on a sheet of paper. I have no idea what they wrote to each other, but she seemed to sign in exasperation, looking up at the ceiling and shaking her head, as if blaming some celestial being that should have been watching over her but decided to take a coffee break instead.

Once they were finished writing to each other, she snapped her fingers again and stood up on her desk to get everyone's attention. She waved her arms around and made some motions before giving up and writing on the blackboard. “Follow Me,” was all it said. She walked over to the door and clapped her hands for emphasis.

“Ask her if it's going to be long. I can wait here if it is,” I said to Track girl. She politely refused to do so. Akio was actually the one that gave me a sound and logical reason for going along with the group. We can talk about that later, though.

Frankly, it didn't work that well. The idea of us all following her, I mean. I was on crutches, Akio used a cane, and Track girl seemed to stumble and almost collapse at one point. I don't know what that was about and she didn't explain but we really weren't the kind of people that needed to take a long trek through the school after hours. The fact that our guide couldn't talk to us either didn't help much. None of us had the slightest clue where we were going. If I wasn't so hyped up for the festival and full of school spirit and everything, I would have left, but I was so I stayed. I did discretely place one of my headphones in my ear so I could listen to music though. That made it more tolerable.

Let's face it, David Lee Roth can make anything better. Have you ever listened to him? He rocks.

We took a long winding trip through the school. I think we circled the building twice and went down halls I didn't know existed. Eventually we arrived at some door in the office section of the school. The President tried to turn the door, but it was locked. When it wouldn't open, she pointed to Keiko, made knocking motions, then pointed towards the door. The girl knocked on the door and the rest of us stood there impatiently. Mr. Roth gave way to some Bowie. I always wished I could dance when I heard that stuff. He just has a really upbeat danceable feel to him, unlike what passes for music nowadays. Let's face it, modern pop doesn't have anything on foreign classics. It almost makes me want to learn English so I can understand what they're saying without having to look it up.

Also the ability to dance on my own two feet would be nice.

And while I'm wishing for things, I'd like a billion yen and the ability to fly.

After a minute or so, the president looked down at her watch and sighed silently. After what looked like a mental debate and checking some papers in her pocket, she snapped her fingers again, made a circle motion in the air, and pointed down the hall way.

Time for follow the leader again.

We stopped occasionally at a few rooms, where she would look inside, and maybe check a desk or something. It was as though the president was looking for something but wasn't having any luck finding it. What she was looking for I couldn't tell you. I also don't get why we couldn't just wait in the class until she found it but I'm not the boss. I'm only the one-eyed girl that can't walk without crutches. I just take comfort in the fact that I was still the cutest girl in the room.

I don’t think I could have held up on that trip nearly as well if it hadn't been for Akio there with me. Knowing you're not the only one that can't walk well is some weird way of being comforting. I think. Also, neither of us complained as much as the guy in that stupid French-hat. I did find out his name was … dammit. I forgot what he name was now. Taki? Something like that. I'll just call him French-hat. Whatever his name, I didn't like the guy, neither did Track girl.

She actually told me why she didn't like the guy as we were walking. Apparently she caught him trying to peep into the girls locker room once, and he ended up getting his butt kicked by two amputees. That had to be something to see. He denied it though. He said that he was just waiting near the locker room hoping to see somebody that would make a good model for one of his projects and that they only shoved him once. He's an artist apparently, or at least he claims to be. There was something said about nude modeling, but I missed it and nobody would repeat it for me. Admittedly, I did miss some of the conversation because of my music.

Anyway, back to the story.

Eventually we headed downstairs. This is where it starts getting good.

Have you ever tried to walk downstairs on crutches? It doesn't work well. I managed though, without any incident at all. It just took a little bit of effort. So, we went down into what was basically the basement's basement. I may have been a bit up in the air about the other sections, but I'm pretty sure we weren't supposed to be here. Track girl seemed to agree with me. This really seemed like a janitors and maintenance men only level, them or spelunkers. It had that dank poorly lit stale air feel to it; basically, it was like every dark basement you've ever been into except worse.

We begrudgingly followed the president onward until we reached a large thick door. The president stopped and looked hard at us. She pointed to us and made a zipper-over-the-mouth motion. Which I'm not getting why she did. We already knew she couldn't speak. She then pulled a small keyring out and unlocked the door, propping it open and flicking on the light switch just inside. The inside of the room was packed with old signs, boxes, papers, and tons of little knickknacks and tidbits. I had a feeling this was the student council's secret stash.

I don't get why she was trusting us with the knowledge, but then again, I didn't really care that much either. It was just neat that it existed. Of course there was always the chance that she meant to hide it somewhere else after we were done, but I got the feeling that she just really trusted us. After all, I was the one that pointed out their error and saved them tons of time and embarrassment in paperwork.

“Do you need any help?” Keiko asked as the president rummaged through the boxes.

“Seriously? Are you being serious here?” French-hat asked her.

“Well, it doesn't hurt to ask,” the other girl said.

“Umm... hello, deaf? Remember?” he said slapping his hand across his face.

“I'm just being polite,” the girl said. At that point, I just stopped paying attention to them. They continued to argue and the president continued to look for something.

“Are they always like that?” I asked Akio.

“He is. I don't know her,” he said as he sat down on the stairs.

“Ooh-blah-dee ooh-blah-da life goes on,” I said to him. He just looked at me strangely. Nobody ever gets my references. It's a shame there isn't a foreign musical appreciation club in the school. People could use more culture.

Akio and I talked about … stuff. Not important stuff. I don't remember it, the important thing is about that time, track girl came back. I hadn't even noticed she was gone until then. She came back and went straight to the stash where the president was still looking for papers. I watched as she took out a small notepad and the two of them wrote back and forth for a minute before the president, looking happy with herself went to a cabinet in the back of the room and pulled out a large stack of papers. She waved the papers in the air triumphantly and then made a gesture towards two boxes of similar papers. She lifted one up and gestured towards the other. When nobody made a move for it, she sat her box back down and pointed sternly at it. After another second of no responses, she pointed to French-hat and then to the box. Then she gestured back towards the door.

Except now the door was closed. Yeah, I totally didn't see who closed it or anything.

The French guy jerked at the knob a few times, which is not a euphemism, and nothing happened. Track girl and president also took turns trying the door, but nothing. It seemed like it locked when it closed behind us.

“Well, this was fun. I so wanted to spend the night in the basement tonight,” French-hat said.

“I can't get reception in here,” Akio commented to no one in particular. I turned to look at him to see what he was talking about. Apparently, he was trying his phone.

“What are you doing? You know students are supposed to leave their phones in their rooms during school hours,” the Keiko scolded him.

“Does this look like school hours?” French-hat guy shot back.

“So? Am I supposed to believe that after class was dismissed, he went back to his room to get his phone before coming to help out?” Keiko said looking somewhat angrily.

“Chill, Keiko,” Akio said, lifting up his cane and pointing it at her. She crossed her arms and looked away angrily, only to see the class president trying her phone as well. Keiko just lowered her head and shook it in defeat.

The President pulled out a piece of paper and jotted down a short message that she held for everyone to read. “No signal. Too much metal in roof,” it said. I looked up. It looked like an ordinary roof to me.

“So, anybody seen any good movies lately?” French-hat said sitting down and making himself comfortable. He was mostly ignored by everyone.

“Somebody is going to come let us out, right?” Track girl said looking somewhat panicked.

“Don't they check this, first thing in the morning?” Keiko asked, pointing toward some pipes and machines I didn't know the purpose of.

“I think they only check that on school days,” Akio said, “and today kicks off a three day weekend.”

“Three days, nobody going to check on us, and we're locked in. I don't know whether to cry or scream,” Keiko muttered in despair.

“No offense, but this isn't the group of people I wanted to die with,” French-hat said. “On second thought, feel free to take offense. It's not going to bother me any,” he added after a moment.

The president looked at us firmly, and made a few motions, to which we responded by looking curiously at each other hoping one of us understood what she was trying to say. When nobody did, she grabbed a scrap sheet of paper and scribbled something on it, before holding it up for us all to see.

“Stay Calm. I'll think of something,” it said.

“Well, wake me up when we do,” Akio said sprawling back over the stairs.

“Hello! Is there anybody pout there? Can Anybody hear me?” I said pounding hard on the door. Thought it was worth a shot. Nothing happened, naturally.

“Even if somebody was in the school this late, and I doubt it since we had to get permission to stay and work on the papers, nobody has any reason to be this far downstairs,” Keiko said.

“In short, nobody is going to hear us,” Track girl added.

I looked over at the rest of the crew. French-hat and the president where exchanging notes back and forth, neither of them looked happy. Plain girl was exploring the room. Track girl was hidden in a corner somewhere doing who knows what.

The President snapped her fingers again. I really wished she's stop doing that. Once she had everyone's attention she began writing something on a small chalkboard.

“We will get rescued. In the meantime, we should take this opportunity to finish our assignment,” it said.

I tried to subtly get over to where French-hat was standing, since he was the one she was talking with. Sadly, subtly and one-eyed-girls-on-crutches, don't go together well.

“How does she know we're going to get rescued?” I asked him.

“She doesn't, she just wants us to feel better about it,” he told me. There was a look on his face that suggested he might not have been telling the entire truth, but I didn't know him well enough to call him on it.

So, for the next eternity or two, we sat there signing our names to papers, and putting them in envelopes. There wasn't much talking going on. Other than a few failed attempts by the president to get our spirits up we mostly just sat there wallowing in misery. It got worse once we finally finished the papers.

In effort to take my mind of things, I decided to go through one of my dance routines. You've seen those before, right? I chose a mostly empty spot on the ground, laid down on my back, closed my eyes to focus, and begin going through my motions. I figured it was better than the one I did where I'd try to stand and move around on my own before collapsing after about two seconds.

“Hey, are you alright? Are you having a seizure? Please don't die!” Keiko said shaking me. Opening my eyes back up and looking around, most of the room seemed to be staring at me. I guess the rest of the people here have never seen a person that can't stand up under their own power try to dance before. Hey, if they knew a better way for a person who's legs don't support their weight to shake what they've got, I'd like to hear it.

“I'm fine. I'm fine. This is just something I do to... nevermind,” before anybody could finish translating the explanation for her, the president put her hand on my head like she was checking my temperature. “Stop that!” I said pushing her back. Then I realized how stupid it was to try to say things to her.

“What is wrong with you?” French-hat asked. From the tone of his voice the question had less to do with medical issues and more to do with him just insulting me.

“What can I say? Girls just want to have fun,” I tell him. The paused and stared at me for a moment before turning away.

“I'm not talking to you anymore. It's not good for me,” he muttered.

“Okay, this is going to be a really stupid question, but there isn't a bathroom down here, is there?” Keiko asked. Just to be sure, she then wrote something down on a sheet of paper and showed it to the president.

“You could always take a plastic bag and go in the supply closet,” French-hat said.

“You are a disgusting person, has anyone ever told you that before?” Akio said to him.

French-hat actually took off his hat for a minute and ran his hands through his hair. “Okay, I'll admit it. That was bad even for me. I'll give you that one.” That's probably as much of an apology as we were going to get from him. All I knew is that I really didn't want to be in a locked room with the guy anymore.

“Yeah, well, we need to get out of here soon if there isn't, bathroom” Track girl said. I looked over at her and then plain girl. I was pretty sure Keiko was the first to complain. Did both of them need to go now. This was bad.

Thankfully, this is where I had a really great idea. “Anyone feel like crawling through an air conditioning duct?” I ask still laying on the floor and looking up at the ceiling. It looked just about the right size for a small person to squeeze though.

Naturally everyone loved my idea.

“So, now we just need to figure out who's crawling for help,' I said as I pointed to the vent.

“I'm out,” Akio said, even though it should have gone without saying. Naturally, I'd be out of the running myself. That just left Takashi, the only able bodied man among us to come to the rescue.

“It needs to be someone small,” Takashi then said, blowing my idea of him being our able bodied rescuer right out of the water.

“The President?” the plain looking girl asked, nodding her head slightly in the blue headed girls direction in a way designed not to catch her attention. It didn't do much good. She was still standing there with her arms crossed looking irritated that she was being left out of the conversation. I'm sorry, but if there going to have a deaf mute leading the student council, they really need to give her an interpreter or something.

“She might be a little thick in the curves for this,” Akio said.

“So, you have noticed,” French-hat grinned.

“Stop being perverts,” Keiko sighed in irritated.

“Look, I'll go. I can do this. Probably,” Track girl cut into the conversation.

So, with a little bit of effort and a pair of nail clippers used as a screw driver, we opened up a panel in the vent and track girl began to shimmy her way up it.

About a minute later, we heard her call down. “Guys? ... I think I'm stuck on something.”

That's when we froze. There was a moment of silence between us where none of us knew what to do. Appropriately enough, it was broken by the president waving a note in our faces asking what was going on. I took the paper and a pen and stopped. I wasn't exactly sure how much I should be telling her.

It was Akio that actually gave her reply. “Slight complication working on it,” he wrote back. Shizune wasn't buying it. She drew a question mark on the paper and pointed more sternly than I would have thought possible at the duct that Track girl had crawled into.

“Guys? You can hear me right? Hello?” Track girl called back. “I could really use some help here. Really really bad.”

“Are you safe?” Keiko called up.

“I'm trapped in a vent shaft. What do you think?” she yelled back.

“I meant are you hurt?”

“No. I don't think so. Cramped, stuck, scared... is it possible to develop claustrophobia out of nowhere?”

“How are you stuck?” French-hat shouted up to her.

“I can't move, that's how!” she yelled. “What kind of stupid question is that?”

“Would it help if we pushed?” Keiko asked.

“My skirt is caught and I can't reach it to get it uncaught,” Track girl said.

“See? That's what I was asking. How are you caught?” French-hat uttered. “Nobody listens to me.”

“Let me see your crutch,” Akio asked me. He had finished with his almost one sided conversation and was now standing next to me along with the president.

“Here, I'll help,” Keiko said and she provided a shoulder for me to lean on as I handed over the crutch. I took her shoulder and noticed a particularly pleasant and out of place smell. I sniffed the air a few times before figuring out exactly what it was.

“You know, you smell really nice,” I told her.

“Excuse me?” she said with a red face. “Is that supposed to mean anything?”

“Just that you smell nice. If that perfume?”

“I use a scented fabric softener,” she said. I took that as an opportunity to feel the fabric of her blouse between my fingers. It did feel really soft.

“Have we hit the part of the night --” French-Hat started.

“Hey! What the hell?” Track girl's voice came from the vents.

“I turned quickly to see Akio jerking backwards. “Sorry. Sorry. I didn't see anything,” he said blushing.

“You didn't what? I was talking about poking me in the … hiney with a … something!” she yelled back. Akio handed my crutch over to the president and gestured that maybe she should try something.

“As I was saying, have we hit the part of the night where we're already pairing off?” French-hat said drawing my attention again. Until he spoke, I hadn't noticed I was still holding onto the nice smelling girls blouse.

“No!” she said firmly. “and anything would be better than you anyway! That includes other girls or even relatives!”

“Or even animals,” I add, wanting to get my own shot in. The other girl looks at me strangely. “Too far?”

“A little bit. You made it weird,” she murmured to me softly.

“That's certainly given me some pleasant mental pictures,” French-hat said smugly.

“Okay, everybody, break it up. Calm down,” I looked over at Akio and he was trying his hardest to look authoritative. The president next to him did a far better job with her stern look and crossed arms. “I know we're all stuck here together and tempers and flaring, but we need to keep calm. Fighting won't do anything but make everyone here even more miserable. Everyone, apologize to each other.” Having said that, he shook his head in exasperation. “When did I get elected the mature one? Just a couple hours ago I was having a debate about anime characters farting. What happened?” he mumbled.

Halfhearted apologizes were exchanged and Keiko helped me take a seat. French-hat took a separate corner of the room and began drawing something. It was probably for the best. If a fight actually had started, there's nobody above the age of six that couldn't whip me in a fight.

I never did find out what kind of fabric softener she used.

There was a small bit of conversation between Akio, the president, and Keiko. I missed most of it. Music again, hey, when Bon Jovi beckons, who amongst us can say no? Not that listening would have helped much, as some a good deal of the conversation was written anyway. The next thing I knew Keiko started trying to crawl up after Track girl.

French-hat briefly looked up to him and I heard him mutter. “Great. Now she's going to get stuck. My life has officially become a bad Bugs Bunny cartoon.”

“Okay. I'm going to try to get you loose,” Keiko called. A few seconds later, she spoke again. “Okay, your skirt is caught on a piece of metal. Give me a second. … Okay let me try something else.... well that didn't work either. … One more idea.”

We all listened carefully to what she was saying, with the exception of the president who was carefully watching our expressions.

“What the hell? I am so going to kill you for this later,” Track girl yelled.

“Look, I'm sorry, but I'd rather you have you mad at me than dying here alone in the basement,” Keiko called back.

We all watched and waiting in anticipation for Keiko to crawl back out. Once she did she just looked at us sheepishly. “Don't worry, she's on her way,” she said. Sensing we wanted more input she quietly added. “We're also going to have to tell somebody that there's a skirt stuck in the airvent.”

“So, she's running around in her underpants now?” I said what everyone was thinking. There was a moment of silence. Everybody simply looked at me without knowing what else to say.

“Let's ….” Keiko started to say, but her voice just trailed off as she realized she had no clue what came next.

French-hat just smiled big. “Nope. I'm not touching this one. Feel free to make up your own snide comment. This one's too easy for me.”




“And that's pretty much what happened,” I finished.

“Seriously, that's where you're stopping the story? Get real. What happened next?” Saeko prods me on.

“Nothing interesting. The president talked us into doing some more paperwork, I sang a little bit just to annoy French-hat--”

“His name is Takashi, by the way,” she interrupts me.

“I like French-hat better.... and how do you know this?” I ask.

“Natty has a thing for him,” she says. I look at her stupefied. I'm not even going to go into that.

“Well he has ear problems, and since he was being such a douche nozzle, I sang a little bit to bother him. Don't ask what I sung. Then the president tried to get us to play some board game for a while. That sucked. Eventually, Track girl came back with a winter blazer wrapped around her waist so the back of the jacket was hanging in front. She also made every effort not to turn her back to us. And that was it. That's where I spent all evening.”

“Just one more thing,” Saeko says looking at me doubtfully. “Admit it. You made all that up,” she said.

“I did not!” I say defiantly.

“You did. I know you,” she says firmly.

“... Maybe some of it. But most of it happened!”

“Define 'most'” she says crossing her arms. She knows me too well.

“Eighty percent? Seventy five maybe... and I might be leaving some things out, but that's mostly what happened. Come on. Trust me.”
Not Dead Yet

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brythain
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Reliable Narrators

Post by brythain » Wed Nov 25, 2015 1:25 pm

6 students
6 writers
1 story


Reliable Narrators

by Blank Mage, Munchenhausen, Oddball, Strange Desire, Umber, and of course Brythain


Here’s a story about what happened on the weekend of 11th May 2007, about a month before the Cultural Festival of the Sendai-Aoba Mountain District Academy of the Yamaku Foundation. I’m writing all this down because somebody ought to know the truth, and Miss Miyagi always tells us to get the details right if we’re doing histories.

Who am I? I’m the person telling the story, that’s who I am. Sorry. That came across as rude. I tell people my family name is Noshino, so you can call me that. My personal name is Midori. It’s not Mi-chan, please.

We need some context, as pretty Miss Miyagi always says. She will then click the pink tip of her tongue against her teeth very softly so that hardly anyone can hear it, and I will blush because I know she’s talking about me. Sigh. Let me start again.


*****

The story according to Midori

I’m Midori Noshino, a second-year student at Yamaku. My class is 2-4: the fourth class is traditionally where they put people with missing or malfunctioning limbs. I’m not in the more glamorous 2-3, where people have family names like Katayama and are naturally elegant.

My legs don’t work properly. I won’t go into details, except that I wear my hair long and green so that when I have a ‘fainting fit’ that is really my legs giving way under me, people can just say, “Oh, she is one of those giddy girls who dye their hair funny colours, pay no attention to her.” That suits me just fine. No drama, only misdirection.

Why green? Well, it suits me. Also, there’s a senior lady in 3-4 who streaks her hair green-and-black, and it’s quite lovely.

I’m a member of the Track Club, and you’ll often find me breathing the fading fragrance of Emi Ibarazaki as she spring-strides into the distance while I wonder how many more steps I can take before my spine decides to rebel against my brain. With my current therapeutic regime, I actually get to complete whole races. Yay, me. I’ve taken up long-distance running as a challenge. I’m that kind of fool.

Fool? Yes, fool. Because I found myself stuck in the Student Council room at the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year, being a slave for Sauron Hakamichi and her loud Voice. The two come separately. I don’t think they’re bad people. I just don’t think it’s easy to work with their unique style of communication. It’s okay. I have something that helps me handle all that: the Zone.

******

She laughs at me, in her oh-so-naturally-elegant and rather demure way. She even raises a hand to just about cover her generous mouth, which never looks generous because she somehow manages to vanish it. I always joke that my friend is the epitome of a Japanese manga heroine, the kind with over-large eyes and a tiny mouth. She doesn’t find that funny. But she finds my story funny. Gah.

“Hmmmmph, Midori, may this one make a small suggestion?”

“Go ahead, Rika. I know I won’t have any peace until you say it.”

“Oh, this one would never dream of straining one’s friendships in such a way.”

“Oh, no, you would never ever do that,” I reply, rolling my eyes. “After all, you are a princess, and I am merely the one who washes the horses and helps you tie up your kimono.”

It is uncanny how she can release crystalline peals of mirthful laughter without making any significant noise, or indeed, even opening her mouth. It must be a skill they teach at Katayama House—the present-day one, not the ancestral dwelling near Hiroshima. I grit my teeth and wait for her to sober up.

“This one would suggest she be left out of the story, since it is already well-known that the Katayamas and Hakamichis have ancient differences. One should not deliberately expose old scars.”

“And is that all, then?” I ask, deliberately exposing some sarcasm.

“Ah, if Midori insists, perhaps one could go further to say that ‘Sauron’ is not a good Japanese name. One also hears that other accounts of the same weekend differ, um, substantially and substantively from the one presented here.”

I scowl at her threateningly. She is never perturbed. It’s another Katayama House skill, her own kind of Zone. She just smiles and vanishes her mouth again. I can only say that Rika Katayama is my friend because she’s nice to be with, lanky bones and all—she’s built like me just enough for us to model each other’s clothes. She also has firm principles and opinions, but is amazingly relaxed about everything else. Finally, she’s a relative of mine, and she takes that very seriously.

“Fine. Now can I continue?”

“If it amuses Midori, then Midori should continue. Also, it interests this humble older cousin to watch such a fine display of hand-mouth coordination. It is amazing how the writing and talking, and dictating into a voice recorder, can all occur simultaneously. Perhaps it is your own mysterious Zone? Very cool.”

“Right.”


*****

A week ago, before this occasion on which I’m attempting to construct an historical narrative of the week past… (Rika, stop chuckling!) … I have volunteered to help the Student Council out with some paperwork related to the forthcoming school festival simply because it is the easiest way to reduce the number of penalty points I have already accumulated this year. It is yet another measure of my inferiority: my senior lady Ibarazaki accumulates that many points merely by running down the corridor and bowling classmates over, and then promptly erases them by carrying art supplies up and down the stairwells for her friends in the Art Club.

I am so pathetic that I have to rely on the benign graces of Madam Dictator President-for-Life Hakamichi to avoid loss of town-visiting privileges and other unpleasantness. And so, picture me, green hair and all, sitting uncomfortably with other detainees at Her Majesty’s Pleasure in the throne-room of her dominion. (I am beginning to tell this story in a Rika-like way. Irritating!)

It was Friday afternoon, and we should all have been out having fun. But we weren’t. We were in the warm, badly-ventilated old Student Council room. Even the entertainment provided by Riri Satou’s blindly scathing facial expressions was missing, because that senior lady was not around, having had it up to her delicately beautiful throat with the President’s ways. Or perhaps, it was because Riri Satou never got detention and was always working in the library. I wondered if she had a sex life at all.

The girl named Orie was late as usual. She slouched in, looking gloomy and perky at the same time. Weird.

For some reason, I can never remember her family name, fine because she never remembers my name at all. She always acts as if her head is full of cotton candy. I’m sure that can’t be true. What class is she in? I’m horrified. Maybe she’s in my class and I just can’t remember that either. It’s as if Orie carries an aura of forgetting around with her.

Speaking of cotton candy, where was the Voice of Shizune? I looked on in horror as Orie stomped her way up to Boss Woman and waved her hands at her while giving her a sassy “Reporting for duty!” kind of greeting. Everyone knows that Her Royal Highness is deaf, and what Miss Cotton Candy Head was doing was just plain rude.

That arsehole of a Maeda sniggered. Orie No-Family-Name remained clueless, until Shizune, in exasperation, resorted to sign-language of the blatantly obvious: she pointed at the wall clock to indicate time, pointed at her wristwatch to make it more obvious, and wagged a finger at Orie. Unfortunately, Orie had turned her back to Shizune, and was miming a ‘what the hell’ look at all of us. I might not love the Boss, but I don’t like disrespect either.

“How do you talk to someone like that?” Orie asked rhetorically.

“Why under heaven would you want to?” replied Maeda, just as rhetorically.

I found myself saying in my best straight-punching voice, “Arsehole.” I really don’t like him, and I put some poison into my voice, together with a hint that perhaps Orie should avoid listening to any of the farts that come out of his mouth.

One day, I’m going to become a lawyer, I swear. I will tell the law school that I once learnt the basics of drafting long and repetitive documents full of technical clauses. They will ask me, “Where did you learn this?” and I will reply, “Doing detention at the Sendai-Aoba Mountain District Academy of the Yamaku Foundation.” With luck, they will hear the latter part and not the first part.

That was on my mind when I saw the unfairness of it all. Madam Chairman President-For-Life came over with a stack of paper for Orie Latecomer-Girl (I just then heard her whisper to herself about ‘Track-Girl-Can’t-Remember-Her-Name’, dammit) and I took a quick look. Hah! I was about to be happy at someone else’s suffering… and then I realized that all she had to do was sign a ream of form letters. Five hundred signatures, and she’d be done.

It was supremely unfair, because my stacks involved real work. Based on the room inventories of the whole damn auxiliary block, I had to determine where Shizune Hakamichi Long-May-She-Reign could put roughly sixty folding and/or collapsible festival stalls. Dimensions were given for each room, and each stall—apparently both the rooms and the stalls had individual constraints. There were asterisks next to some rooms on the master list. I squinted at the bottom of the page: damn, asterisked rooms hadn’t been inventory-checked for more than a year and required physical bloody inspection.

I looked again at the note on the top of my stack. In that clear and brutal Hakamichi handfont, it still said, “Check and sign for each room. Then report as to availability of storage space. You may choose a partner or do it yourself.”

It sounded like sex. I had no idea why the Great Shi-Khan inspired such thoughts in me. Maybe it was the voluptuous curve of her tightly-clothed bust. Or the way the back of her skirt floated gracefully from her ass. I shook my head. Damn if I was going to let Misha Mikado into my head.

Of all the girls in the squad I get along with, I get along best with Miki Miura. Which is to say, we snarl in a friendly way at times, and I always nod at her first to show respect. When I hear the click-clack of prosthetic blades, I run away at right-angles, into a side-corridor if possible, remembering that a velociraptor will always beat you on the straight. Shit, Emi Ibarazaki will beat people round the bend too. Round the bend, up the wall, over the edge.

I’d been totting up inventories and estimating space for a while. My powerful ability to do this in my head comes from imagining for years what I would do if I had a house of my own in the countryside. If I don’t make it to law school, I want to be an architect. Or an interior decorator, garden designer, whatever. Something else.

SNAP. The sound was almost like that of a starter’s pistol. Except that it was actually a Hakamichi Industries handgun, the snapping of Shizune’s fingers to get our attention. What? I must have drifted into the Zone: I seemed to have about half my estimates done already.

Our Supreme Leader looked unhappy. Her hooded eyes cast a glowering stare in all directions. Perhaps she was looking for her Voice, or even her cousin, someone who could communicate with us more loudly. I looked carefully around the room. Some of our motley crew were looking at her fingers, not at her mouth or anywhere else. Clearly, several of them knew some Japanese Sign Language.

Me? I was chilling in the Zone, completing room estimates and signing my name on them. I noticed I had signed in some of the rows for rooms I’d never seen before. It was as if I knew them just by the power of my mental interior-decoration-architectural-imagery inner sight. What a joke. Who would know if I got them wrong? Some poor detainee a few weeks from then, I guessed, who would have no idea why he had to knock down a dozen collapsible stalls and stuff them into an abandoned music room too small for even five of those things.

There was a little stir as one of the senior boys got up and limped his way to the front. I noticed he had a slender stick which looked as if it wasn’t strong enough to support him, and yet was sturdily doing the job anyway. Carbon fibre or something, perhaps. He scribbled something on the notepad in front of Her Majesty and she glared at it, before looking up to glare at him. A flurry of quick pen-and-paper moves followed. I remembered playing a game like that once.

Then it was over. Handwaving was the next phase, and I looked on with curiosity, letting my fingers assign imaginary stalls to imagined rooms. The Imperatrix finally gave up and battered a piece of chalk across the board, the sharp scratch, whine and scrape of the white stick resolving eventually into two very large words: FOLLOW ME.

What? I got up, feeling rather uncertain. I almost keeled over as my blood pressure fell before rising again. Faint, I held onto the edge of a desk, then hauled myself up by sheer force of will and muscle. Some distance away, a disembodied voice was whispering, “You mean we’ve been signing the wrong form letters? Dated last year? Shit!” Around me, others were getting up, and Japanese-style, preparing to follow the anointed leader to the promised storeroom or whatever.

Then I realized what was going to happen.

*****

“How did Midori the Clever realize what would happen?” interrupts Rika the Annoying. I look up from my laptop and toss my long green hair in frustration. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Horrors, has it taken me two years to realize I look like a ghoulish imitation of Cousin Rika? Where her hair is white, mine is green; where her skin is white, mine is positively brown. I am the half-orcish version of my vampiric cousin. Sigh.

“Where do you think the Voice and the Beauty had gone?” I counter, speaking of Shizune’s two senior councilors.

“One tries not to have salacious ideas when one is concentrating on a family member’s serious narrative.”

“Then one should not interrupt one’s family member’s serious narrative, should one?” I mutter back. Rika nods obediently, but I see her covering her mouth to hide her giggles. Bah.


*****

Somehow, it seemed clear to me at the time that Mikado and Satou had got the wrong stack of form letters because the previous year’s letters, for some reason unused—or perhaps these were drafts that hadn’t been disposed of, had been in the same place as this year’s letters. That meant a kind of storage room existed.

However, it also seemed certain that the paperwork of the Student Council was out of hand. They didn’t know where their stuff was. They had no definitive idea about where to find spare chairs, or what some rooms were currently being used for. It was a mess. It had to be driving the Queen Bee absolutely insane.

We were headed to that storage room, wherever it was. Or perhaps, even the Empress didn’t know which one it was. I watched her. She thumped a key press in frustration. Wow, missing the keys as well. Perhaps her deputies had left them in some other room.

I could sense the architecture of the school slowly take shape in my mind. It was a remarkable construct. The Academy is built in the Japanese style, to blend in with the contours of the natural site, which is the high hill called Mount Aoba. Because of that, the flatter spots host conventional-looking buildings, but as they approach steeper areas, the levels split and form sub-basements or oddly-numbered extra floors and mezzanines. I have friends in the Archery Club who tell me that they have a beautiful view into nothingness, so arrows that miss the targets arch out into the distance and land in the river.

It’s a dangerous place to get lost in. I suspect nobody really knows the whole layout. It has a non-standard geometry, you might say.

Picture this: a bunch of young people with sensory impediments, missing limbs, and other medical problems, all trooping through this maze, beyond the normal classroom areas and into the darkness. We, the crazy. We, the doomed.

Orie, aha, whose family name is Genki. In the darkness, you see things; I see data input forms in my head all the time. I also sensed that Maeda, whose personal name I couldn’t care less about, moving in on Orie. A habit of wearing a French beret doesn’t make you overwhelmingly desirable as a lover, and Orie, I could tell, was feeling uncomfortable as we passed by the section of auxiliary rooms that had a corridor leading to the school kitchens.

“Well, Orie,” I whispered fairly loudly, “Let me tell you a story about a would-be artist and the girls’ locker room at the sports complex.”

Maeda froze, alert to the chance that his prey might suddenly turn around and bite his arm off. Good. Orie had turned towards me, looking slightly puzzled.

“Once upon a time, there was an arsehole who was a bit of a coward. He was bravest when facing anything smaller than himself, but not so brave when…” As I continued my story, Maeda glared at me. I just stopped short and hissed at him, “Rin Tezuka.”

Much to Orie’s surprise, Maeda whined a bit and faded away to one side. He spluttered something about ‘looking for a good nude model’, to which I replied that Tezuka would probably want to collect him, but with a shovel, considering the kind of shithead he was. Orie just stared at us blankly as I more or less made sure Maeda’s sorry story was broadcast into the immediate area. At least he wouldn’t be attempting to be taking advantage of her in the shadows.

It wasn’t long before we came to another flight of stairs. Architecturally, we must have been heading under the kitchen and toward what used to be the old boiler room.

Boiler room? Yes, boiler room. You make steam. It fills pipes. The pipes go to rooms. In winter, the rooms are warmer. You can use them to dry clothes too. Something like that. Except that something told me we weren’t headed for the boiler room.

We went down one more level. Then we went to a level under that level, except that we didn’t go there by stairs. There was a ramp, or some walkways that sloped gradually down as if they were trying to disguise the gradient. My legs were giving way, and I had to stop to see if I was losing them. My brain, though, was working just fine. The lighting was getting dimmer, my brain said. And older.

Where did we end up, Rika? We ended up facing a big door. It said ‘Storage’. That’s all it said. If it had said ‘Demon Summoning Laboratory’ I would have felt it to be more appropriate, because it was the ugliest big door I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t like a horror movie’s big door, it was just a bad-looking door with a locking wheel like the kind you see on ship hatches. Like a vault, maybe.

“Is this a good idea?” someone said.

“Where is this place?” someone else said.

“I want my mother!” a third person said.

I might have said something too. Or one of those persons might have been me. Or maybe I’m just making it up because I thought that’s what people probably should have said.

This was when it got really strange. Our Great Lady turned round in the gloomy pale yellow light. The shadows made her look awful, but the funny thing was that in yellow light, her blue-dyed hair looked a normal black colour. It was the shadows under her face that looked wrong. She put a finger to her lips and then made a sign as if to say she’d cut our throats or tear out our tongues if we spoke.

She took an old keyring out of one of her big skirt pockets. How she fit that monstrous piece of iron in there I’ll never really know. Magic, I guess. Ha, ha. I looked at the keyring, looked at the sign ‘Storage’ above us, and I swear the sign changed somehow—as if it still said ‘Storage’ but meant something different. She was holding a key up, but I swear she didn’t use it. The door was suddenly open, and she didn’t look surprised at all when the space beyond it was brighter than the gloom we were stumbling around in.

The light sucked us in. It felt so much better to be in there than in the strange weak light behind us. To me, this was a place in a different world.

*****

“This one would like to express a difficulty of thinking,” interrupts my dear friend and distant cousin. She is coiling and uncoiling her long silver braid in her left hand, something she does when she’s feeling anxious or worried, or when a problem is nagging at her.

“Is it possible for ‘this one’ to stop you?” I ask, rhetorically. She really means that she’d like to ask a question. Rika is a great practitioner of the art of keigo, which in her case should be translated as ‘extreme politeness which might be ironic or gently mocking but which you can’t take exception to because it could just be her sense of appropriate courtesy’. She’d make an excellent tea-shop hostess.

“One’s expression of difficulty is trivial, and one humbly suggests…”

I cut her off halfway (a third of the way? less?) before she can expand any further. “What does my respected relative wish to indicate?”

She sounds demurely wounded. “There appears to be a minor discrepancy involving the description one is hearing of the nether regions of this fine institution, and what one would normally perceive to be the case.”

“Are you calling me a liar?”

“Oh! Never would this one suggest such a state of affairs! One looks forward to the resolution of the circumstances by which one’s cousin had the misfortune to be engulfed.”

“…” is all I can say, accompanied by my best absolutely filthy look.


*****

As I walked over the threshold—because damn it, that is what it felt like—something changed. On one level, this appeared to be the first room of a set of connected chambers. The one we were in, and the two I could see ahead to the left and right, had shelves filled with boxes, some open and some closed, many with stationery items and untidily tied-up packages of printed and handwritten documents in them. Although there were some pipes and odd machines with old-fashioned analogue dials and counters, the place had the sickly fragrance of a library, much more so than the greasy odour of heavy machinery or the ozone tang of power generation.

There wasn’t much dust, which was curious in itself. I was happy to see that my schoolmates seemed as uncomfortable as I felt. The discomfort in my guts wasn’t anything to do with my physical problem, but with the second level of perception. My architect-brain was telling me that the angles were all wrong, subtly off.

In the middle of the room was a small table with a sign on it. The sign said: [Please Do Not Remove ANY Stored Items From This Storage Facility Without The Authorization Of The Rightful And Honourable President Of The Student Council Of The Sendai-Aoba Mountain District Academy.] The oddly formal wording rang another warning bell in my head, but nobody else seemed to notice. Or rather, only Maeda did, muttering to himself that only the dictatorial fox-spirit woman running the Council would have made such a stupid sign.

That might have been true, but it wasn’t what made me shiver. It didn’t look like Shizune’s handwriting at all, judging from the words I’d seen her scribble on her notepads. In fact, the handwriting seemed to shift when I wasn’t looking at it. Perhaps it was just a trick of the light.

Feeling increasingly nervous, I decided to explore the other rooms, starting with the one on my left. The Rightful Honourable Mistress of Yamaku hadn’t asked anyone to do anything yet, so I felt that a quick look around might settle my nerves.

The lighting in each room was bright and yet there was a horrible sense of creeping shadows in the corner of each wall-high array of shelves. The shelves were neatly ordered, with little cards that had strange codes on them. These seemed to indicate stock numbers.

Some of the boxes contained twisty little things that seemed to grin at me. A closer look revealed them to be rubber bands, file fasteners, and clips of various kinds. There were even pipe-cleaners and a box of inkstones. There was nothing suspicious, and yet everything felt unsettling.

I explored quickly, passing through each room without lingering too much. There were only a few rooms, one after the other, each one with a little table in the middle and the same kind of sign on each table. I knew the rooms formed a closed loop when I heard familiar voices up ahead. I counted back in my head. This was the third room. What a strange configuration! I decided that the architects must have been drunk when they designed this waste of valuable space.

In a nearby cabinet that someone hadn’t properly closed, I saw a box of forms that allowed the President to delegate authority officially. One of the checkbox items on a printed list was: ‘Bearer is authorized to remove stored items from storage.’ I wondered why they’d used two-colour printing for these forms. Yet another wasteful decision.

However, that gave me an idea. The faster we got the Boss Lady to authorize us, the faster we could get whatever we were here to get, and the faster we’d be out of this spine-chilling place. Entering the next room before the room we’d entered, I found another box of the same forms. Of course, I didn’t take any of them. You never know what might happen if you touch stuff you aren’t supposed to, as my cousin Rika likes to say. But there’d likely be a similar box in the first room, the way this was working out.

Feeling a lot better, I headed into the first room. Uncharacteristically, our Great Helmswoman was dithering, as if she wasn’t sure what to do next. With a flash of insight, I understood why. Quickly, I pulled my notepad out and scribbled: [Authorization forms? Then we can all help you more easily, senior lady.]

She looked at me, as if confused about why a junior student would do such a thing. Then she scribbled back: [Yes, that’s right. I haven’t used such things for a while.]

[I think they are likely located to the left of the storage shelves behind me, in a cabinet, top drawer.]

[Good suggestion. Well done.]

And within minutes, my evening was completely ruined.

*****

“Tsk!”

“What?” I reply, nonplussed. My best friend and most irritating cousin is sometimes overly polite but never overtly impolite. To get a ‘tsk’ from her was like someone yelling ‘fuck’ during one of the Principal’s weekly assemblies—rare, and also not the best behaviour.

“This one apologises, but one senses an excess of drama creeping into the narrative that has held one spellbound—mostly—so far. Should one make some tea in order to return some stability to the proceedings?”

I sigh. Her ruby irises are twinkling as I stick my tongue out at her. “Make your tea, Rika. But the story hasn’t much longer to go, I swear!”

“Ah. Then this mathematically unadventurous person would not be wrong to estimate that the unfolding of this paragon of oral history is about three quarters of the way through?”

I point at the little tea cabinet in Rika’s room and glare. She produces one of those disgustingly elegant sub-giggles and begins to heat some water.


*****

She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed almost did a pirouette. I couldn’t tell because I don’t know a piranha from a pirouette. But she looked happy, and she went straight to the left-most cabinet and began to pull out some familiar-looking forms from the top drawer. Then she opened the bottom drawer of the cabinet and pulled out another box, and finally hauled two more boxes down from another shelf, using a step-ladder.

Staggering under the weight, she set them down on a side-table—not the one with the aggressive sign. I noticed that the two guys didn’t try to help her at all. I’d figured out Maeda, being the arsehole he was, wouldn’t. It took me a while to recall that the other guy had brittle bones, so I wasn’t sure if that was a good excuse for not lifting heavy boxes but I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Shizune probably thought the same way. She made an unmistakably disparaging gesture at Maeda and then waved at the two heaviest boxes, one of which was open and looked as if it had fairly recent paperwork in it. Then she signaled as if to say, “Now get these forms filled and get those boxes out of the door.”

Instinctively, I looked at the door. It was closed. Somehow, that frightened me. Nobody else seemed to be terrified, so I shut my mouth and walked up the short flight of steel steps leading to the door. I felt as if my legs would give way at any moment, but I grabbed the handle and gave it a tug. Nothing happened at all.

Maeda smirked at me, the bastard. He came over to the door, his greasy face glistening in the sinister light, and tugged at the knob attached to the crank-like handle. “Let me show you how a man does it,” he growled in a pathetic way.

And nothing happened again. I couldn’t believe it. Someone had locked us in! To a student at the beginning of a long weekend, this was a disaster on several levels.

*****

“So is this how one’s junior cousin found her most respectable self half-naked in a corridor outside the heat-treatment room?”

I’ll be damned if I’ll let Rika laugh at me. However, no matter what her reasons had been for being there, I have to admit that I owe her a large debt for lending me her jacket to cover up my skinny, naked backside. Yet, that one question has continued to bug me for a while, so I decide to share the discomfort.

“So, senior cousin, this one means no disrespect—there is no possibility of disrespectful thought: could senior cousin perhaps share as to the other possible reasons for wandering around the heat-treatment room at night during the weekend?”

“Ah! Of course one should share such information. Perhaps junior cousin could share the missing part of the story between being locked in and then finding herself skirtless and terrifying the senior cousin with the heart problem by crawling out of a ventilation duct?”

She grins, completely sure that she has a winning hand. She probably does.


*****

There was an air-conditioning duct with an entrance up in the shadowy ceiling three metres or more above us. Since the central ventilation had been shut down for the weekend, all was still and silent. Somehow, I’d worked out that I’d be the best candidate for the job.

The ceiling wasn’t that far away, and we had a few tables we could stack to let me climb up to the duct. Somebody produced a Swiss Army Knife with everything—nail clippers, a file, a nice thick little screwdriver head—and I managed to loosen the screws holding the duct grille.

It wasn’t a large duct. I was relatively skinny, and more important to everyone else, flat-chested. Her Imperial Majesty would never have fit without getting her nipples in a twist, I thought savagely to myself.

The worst thing about the duct was that it seemed alive. It was warm and humid, and the metal inside felt tingly with suppressed energy. The smell wasn’t so bad. There was a faint and unexpected scent of flowers. There was also a distant bluish-green light, which I thought might be coming from another duct entrance somewhere far away.

I was all the way up and rounding a corner when I heard the sound. I was at a tricky bit. When a duct makes a bend, they have to put in some reinforcement, and normally there’s a join between at least two pieces of metal. I was carefully trying not to tear a hole in my delicate skin, having already rubbed part of one knee raw by accident. I’d got stuck not long after entering the ventilation system and those so-called friends of mine had tried to stick something up my ass. That’s when I’d lost my skirt, trying to wiggle free.

Then I heard the sound of some kind of wooden flute, or voice. I’m saying that because I couldn’t quite make it out. If it was a voice, it was singing very smoothly and yet windily, at a high register. If there were words, they were something like ‘te-ke-ri, te-ke-ri, ri’. I remember thinking that this was a funny name to call anybody, but then again, as I’ve already mentioned, one of my seniors was indeed named Riri.

More important to me was that if I headed towards the sound, I would probably end up near the music rooms, which would be familiar and relatively safe. It never occurred to me that you might encounter such sounds in places other than the music rooms.

You can imagine my surprise when I heard a voice next to me saying, “We were trapped in there too: it was quite hard to get out. Would you like some help?”

I’m not a screamer, and I will say that when this happened, I did not scream. I just looked around, innocent Midori Noshino, terrified as hell. All I could see in the very faint, almost beautiful green light was my pale arms, some fungus growing in the corner of the shaft, and nobody at all.

Oh, I told myself, great. Now I’m having auditory hallucinations. The alternative, of course, was that the shaft or something in the shaft was talking to me. Then I realized it was easier than that. Someone was whispering up the shaft from somewhere else, and the sound was carrying. It was probably Maeda, damn him.

Angry and a little scared that perhaps one of those perverts would be circulating butt-pics of me around school the next week, I ground my teeth and moved on. It was getting colder, but brighter.

You know what they don’t tell you about ventilation shafts? I’ll only say that the duct entrances aren’t meant to be opened from inside. Thinking back, I think that’s a good thing: you never know what lives in a ventilation system until you go in and have a look for yourself.

And that’s what happened to me. I was damn glad to be able to force a grille open and flop out, tired and exhausted, at the feet of my senior cousin—by a few months, only—Rika Katayama.

*****

“Tsk!”

“What now?” I say wearily.

“It is not this one’s duty to direct the narrative work of a skilled creator. Hence one must remain silent despite feeling an awkwardness.”

“Rika Katayama, this can only end badly. If I assault you, you might kill me by accident, and then where will we be?”

“This one assumes that the junior cousin desires further elaboration?”

“Out with it, you maddening girl.”

“Surely Midori would like to tell the story of the frantic search for the missing students, and how her calm senior cousin directed the night security detail down to exactly the right place, and other elements of a complete narrative?”

“Too tired,” I growl at her. “But why on earth was a certain senior cousin wandering around the heat-treatment rooms at night anyway?”

“Oh! One has forgotten to exchange secrets, as is appropriate. Ten thousand apologies.” She smiles at me politely.

“Well?”

“It just so happened that one was looking for the violin rehearsal room when one heard the sound of strange music and saw a bluish-green light. So one investigated accordingly, using the skills one was taught while growing up. Of course, there was nothing, except one’s bedraggled cousin.”

I look at her speechless.

“Bedraggled, and half-naked.”

That’s when I throw caution to the wind and sling a cushion at Yamaku’s age-group kendo champion.


[THE END]
Last edited by brythain on Sat Dec 12, 2015 8:50 pm, edited 1 time 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: Reliable Narrators

Post by Mirage_GSM » Wed Nov 25, 2015 8:47 pm

The snark is strong in all of the "reliable narrators" I see :-)

Very entertaining so far, but I found the bits with Rika a bit tedious and also a bit too exaggerated - in my opinion a character with a trait as extreme as that needs more of a reason/background for it than can be given for a supporting character in a relatively short story.

I assume we can expect more perspectives shortly?
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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Re: Reliable Narrators

Post by brythain » Wed Nov 25, 2015 9:53 pm

Mirage_GSM wrote:The snark is strong in all of the "reliable narrators" I see :-)

Very entertaining so far, but I found the bits with Rika a bit tedious and also a bit too exaggerated - in my opinion a character with a trait as extreme as that needs more of a reason/background for it than can be given for a supporting character in a relatively short story.

I assume we can expect more perspectives shortly?
Ah! Perhaps descriptions of Rika are also as reliable as descriptions of the events that fateful weekend... :)

It's an interesting bunch to be working with, for sure. Writers as well as characters. :D
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: Reliable Narrators

Post by Jake Zero » Thu Nov 26, 2015 1:36 am

Oddball wrote:
KatawaShoujo2-05-Orie.PNG
Goddamn, the poor girl. :(

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Re: Reliable Narrators

Post by Munchenhausen » Thu Nov 26, 2015 4:53 am

Jake Zero wrote:
Oddball wrote:
KatawaShoujo2-05-Orie.PNG
Goddamn, the poor girl. :(
Could be worse, You could be Katawako :lol:
Mishimmie image #3621
Mirage_GSM wrote:I assume we can expect more perspectives shortly?
Yeah, man! A few others are currently writing up their own perspectives from other viewpoints. I'm just in the process of finishing mine soon :)
Like stupid, silly doodles with no point? You've come to the right place, friend :^)
I also occasionally write oneshots. Why not have a skimread?
Miki fic? Miki fic!
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Re: Reliable Narrators

Post by Oddball » Thu Nov 26, 2015 7:29 am

I assume we can expect more perspectives shortly?
I can't guarantee how shortly they'll be, but there's more coming.

And, brythain, I love how you turned around some of the stuff I'd written and twisted it on it's ear.
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Re: Reliable Narrators

Post by brythain » Thu Nov 26, 2015 12:19 pm

Oddball wrote:
I assume we can expect more perspectives shortly?
I can't guarantee how shortly they'll be, but there's more coming.

And, brythain, I love how you turned around some of the stuff I'd written and twisted it on it's ear.
Hey man, you gave us so much material to work with that it almost tempted me into writing a complete epic before I banged my head and told myself NO. :)
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: Reliable Narrators

Post by Sharp-O » Thu Nov 26, 2015 8:01 pm

This is a neat little project. I can't wait to see other people's perspectives on the incident. Naturally, I'm drawn to Akio but Orie is pretty adorable, especially her musical quirks.

Good job, lads!

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Re: Reliable Narrators

Post by Jake Zero » Fri Nov 27, 2015 12:50 am

Munchenhausen wrote:
Jake Zero wrote:
Oddball wrote:
KatawaShoujo2-05-Orie.PNG
Goddamn, the poor girl. :(
Could be worse, You could be Katawako :lol:
Mishimmie image #3621
Point taken.
So to pass the time it took to move from one floor to another and down the halls, I sang to myself. “You put the Boom-boom into my heart,” I started softly, with my wonderful singing voice. “Something something something something, I don't know the lyrics, you jitterbug into my brain, I really wish I new how this song goes because it's stuck in my head.”
Moscow, Moscow, I don't know the freakin' words, I don't know the freakin' words, ahahahaha, hey!

All jokes aside, I can't wait to see the points of view from Akio, Maeda, Shizune, and Keiko. Orie was fun and bubbly. A one-legged dancer is very interesting. It's hilarious that when she's dancing in the storage closet, everyone was thinking she was spazzing out. Again, given her condition, that makes sense. The way that Oddball wrote that was just hilarity waiting to happen. Her story is my favorite thus far. Midori, ehh. :| Her POV was very analytical, but doesn't quite deliver the same vibe that Orie's did. Well, somewhat analytical as she didn't see the dates on the papers nor did she see Orie's spastic dancing. Both do lampshade the fact that Midori now needs a new skirt. Maeda's gonna have a serious nosebleed after that, let alone remembering it. :wink: Overall, though, Having something like this every now and again seems like fun. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if scenes from the actual VN were taken place in the POV of all the female leads, including Misha. What would they be doing during the scene? That'd be cool if there were.

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Re: Reliable Narrators

Post by brythain » Wed Dec 02, 2015 12:18 am

Jake Zero wrote:All jokes aside, I can't wait to see the points of view from Akio, Maeda, Shizune, and Keiko. Orie was fun and bubbly. A one-legged dancer is very interesting. It's hilarious that when she's dancing in the storage closet, everyone was thinking she was spazzing out. Again, given her condition, that makes sense. The way that Oddball wrote that was just hilarity waiting to happen. Her story is my favorite thus far. Midori, ehh. :| Her POV was very analytical, but doesn't quite deliver the same vibe that Orie's did.
Heh, the point was indeed to construct some very different POVs. I enjoyed Orie's POV a lot too; wait till you see the rest—I can almost guarantee Midori's will have been the least fun of the lot! 8)
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: Reliable Narrators

Post by Oddball » Wed Dec 02, 2015 12:47 pm

Overall, though, Having something like this every now and again seems like fun. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if scenes from the actual VN were taken place in the POV of all the female leads, including Misha. What would they be doing during the scene? That'd be cool if there were.
I had fun. I wouldn't mind doing something like this again sometime further down the line.

As for scenes fro the actual VN... well, honestly I preferred to do it with completely original stuff. That way you don't have a "what really happened" to compare it to. It's also why I wanted to use the side characters that most people don't write for (and Shizune because she needed to be there for plot reasons.) I think this might be the first time Orie and the green haired track girl have made fanfic appearances. That also adds to the fun. From her perspective, Orie's just kind of a fun and bubble character. From "Track Girl's" perspective, she's scatterbrained and annoying. There is no right way of looking at them.
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Re: Reliable Narrators

Post by Blank Mage » Sat Dec 12, 2015 2:42 am

6 students
6 writers
1 story


Reliable Narrators

by Munchenhausen, Brythain, Strange Desire, Umber, Oddball, and of course Blank Mage
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I often wonder; was it a cruel deity that stole my voice to spite me, or a benevolent one who sought to spare my incompetent classmates my wrath? It seems far too coincidental, that the one girl most inclined towards incredible verbal beatdowns should be so conveniently disarmed.

I throw my shoulder into the door, relishing the visceral shudder of the frame as I storm into the Council room to reclaim my sword and shield from her resting place at the table. Misha jumps at the noise, making a desperate, valiant attempt to look as though she wasn't asleep moments before, despite the post-it note stubbornly adhering to her cheek.

[Shicchan, you're back! Did you, uh, finish the... er, whatever you were doing this week?]

I glare, allowing my expression to answer the question for her.

[I guess not! So~ what happened?]

I throw my hands up in exasperation before setting them into position.

[How am I supposed to know? I'm only the Student Council President! Why should I be at all informed of the actions or decisions made by the students and faculty?!]

I pull the post-it off of her, sticking it back to the sheaf of papers she had been using as a pillow. Her confused expression tells me that she hadn't heard about the incident, which is a small mercy, as I'm certain the whole thing is already the subject of wild speculation, or soon will be. At least I can clear things up a bit.

The (Correct) (and Obviously Superior) Story According to (President) Shizune Hakamichi.

[I arrived early, as is my habit, and seperated the work into piles based on importance, quantity, and complexity. Obviously, it would be ridiculous to assign tasks randomly, so I elected to delegate the work I deemed most appropriate given what I know about each students work ethic, average grades, and club activity. Since you weren't available to translate, I thought it best to give them self-explanatory work. Nothing too complicated, everything very cut-and-dry, while I handled the more intricate budgetary concerns. Are you paying attention?]

[Yep yep! You had a bunch of stuff to do, and you... did stuff to make it easy for them. That's really thoughtful, Shicchan! Usually you just throw assignments at people until they get bored.]

[Never let it be said I'm without mercy. Anyway, most of them didn't show up until fifteen minutes after they said they would, but beggars can't be choosers, so I settled for the basic scolding charade and let it pass. After about half an hour, I got about two-thirds of the people who said they'd show up, which is more than I was expecting, to be honest.]
........
Eventually they start slacking off, which I was expecting, but before I can really lay into them, Hayashi... Hayashi Akio? The one with the cane? He looks like male Tezuka with arms. Never mind. Anyway, Hayashi walks up with a copy of the annual Yamaku holiday greeting cards, and just points to the date. Because of course the faculty decided to just copy-paste last year's cards, without so much as checking literally the only thing that matters, and now I've got to fix their horrible work in addition to the work I already took from them. Because it's not enough that I'm practically doing their job for them already, no, now I have to proofread their old crap to boot! And they're the ones getting paid for this! Unbelievable. Lazy.]

[So obviously, I need to have them replaced, and now I've got a dozen kilos of useless holiday cheer to lug to an incinerator. Unfortunately, I have to get new forms from the administration, and it's not like I can use the phone to contact them. So I decide to bring someone along to act as my ears. You know I'd rather have someone nearby to alert me if some PA announcement or other audible emergency should happen.]

Misha nods in understanding and shows a little sympathy; she had remedial classes that day.

[I play charades for a while, you know, the universal sign for 'get off your ass, we're going now', and walk into the hall, only to realize that literally the entire group is now behind me, when I only meant to ask for one. Well, at that point I didn't want to spend a bunch of time specifying, and I can guarantee they weren't going to work without me in the room, so whatever, and now I'm herding a flock of Yamaku's least mobile students in a pointless hunt for literally anyone with an ounce of authority to recognize the fact that they're idiots and correct their idiotic mistake so that I can continue picking up their slack. And of course there's no one around, so of course it falls to me to do it for them.]

[Fortunately, I keep hard copies of pretty much every official document filed away for just such an occasion, and so what if I can't immediately rub the faculty's nose in it? I can always do it later, after I fix everything personally. Since I had the whole group with me, I figured I might as well get them to help me copy and transport the needed documents, so I led them down to the Bunker.]

Misha's face shifts somewhere between anger, shock, and disappointment. [You showed them the Bunker? I didn't get to see that until months after I joined up with the Council! That's so unfair!]

[Well, what was I supposed to do? You know how close this deadline is, you were out of commission, I'm clearly not getting any support from the administration, and I have a collection of classmates who look like they're about ten minutes away from up and leaving as it is. I figured the Bunker might at least be an interesting change of pace from the boring Council room.]

[At which point I notice more activity than usual, and look up to see the door closed, because someone wanted to add to the atmosphere of the room or something, I don't know. No one confessed, and it's not like I could have done it while I was combing through filing cabinets. Of course the lock is busted from the inside, so I'm stuck in a room, in a cellular deadzone, with a bunch of Yamaku's least mobile classmates, who now look like they're about ten minutes from eating their remaining limbs for sustenance. Grand.]

[How long can you go without food or water, Shicchan?]

[It varies, but the rule of thumb is three days without water, three weeks without food. It's a moot point, since you'd definitely look for me if I was radio silent for five hours or so. Even if you didn't, a half dozen students suddenly not participating in the usual three-day-weekend rituals? Someone would notice, probably before the end of the first day. So I just wrote 'Stay calm, we'll be rescued', and got to filing paperwork to kill time while we waited. If anything, this was pretty convenient; they literally had nothing else to do than help me.

[Isn't that a good thing, though? Why are you so upset?]

[Because apparently sitting still is too much to ask for. We're only about 5 minutes in before one of them starts having a seizure, just about gave me a damn heart attack!] I pause, grimacing at my exaggeration. [I probably shouldn't use that phrase, should I?]

Misha shrugs.

[Either way, everyone else was busy standing around gawking, so I started the basic aid, you know, clear the area and put something soft under their head to prevent a concussion? And it turns out she was just faking the damn thing! Or something, because no one else seemed anywhere near as upset as they should have. It certainly didn't seem like a tasteful joke to me.]

[A little while later, I realized that I was the only one working, and everyone else had busied themselves checking out the ventilation system. That's about when I realized that someone was missing, and that the vent was open.]

[Someone pulled a Die Hard?!]

[No, someone TRIED to pull a Die Hard. Those vents aren't doors! They don't open from the inside! Why would they?! Why would anyone assume that vents could be opened from the inside?! And the moment I figure this out, they all get quiet, at least I think they did, and one of them wrote that, yes, whoever they sent had gotten stuck.]

[So now here I am, stuck in a room, in a cellular deadzone, with a bunch of Yamaku's least mobile classmates, who now look like they're about ten minutes from re-enacting Battle Royale, and one of whom is now trapped in a ceiling somewhere, when one of them starts poking her, no, I have no idea why, don't bother, maybe they thought they could force her through the closed grate like some kind of flan. Pudding, Misha. Flan is fancy pudding. Focus!]

Misha pulls herself from a no-doubt delicious tangent, her signs a little faster.

[I am focusing! You're the one talking about battles and pudding in the ceiling!]

[...Okay. So maybe I got a little carried away. The point is, things were obviously not going to improve unless I personally took action.]

[So, what'd you do?]

I brush aside a lock of hair, breaking eye contact for a moment.

[I picked the lock.]

When I look back, Misha's jaw is hanging open, interesting given that she hasn't been using it this whole time anyway.

[Shicchan! You shouldn't pick locks! It's against the law!]

[What? No. Lockpicking is just a skill, there's nothing illegal about knowing how to open locks. No one is going to arrest me for breaking and exiting.]

[Still~... Wait, when did you learn to pick locks, anyway?]

[Yesterday. Although to be fair, I did break the paperclip. In the lock.]

[Did you get it open, though?]

[Not... exactly. It wasn't that bad, I don't think anyone noticed anyway, they were all busy watching what's-her-name through the vent opening. It was a problem when help arrived, since the paperclip blocked the key when they brought the spare. Still, it wasn't too difficult to remove it, and soon after, we were free to go. In the end, I got almost nothing accomplished! It was a complete waste of time, and I only just now managed to get the revised copies I need.]

[Wow! That sounds like it sucked pretty bad! I kinda wish I was there~ though...]

[Trust me, you weren't missing much. At least, I hope not. God only knows what conversations I missed...]

Misha has the decency to look sorry for me, at least. I wave it away.

[Don't worry about it. It probably wasn't important.]
And we're back.
-----------
"I wish I could convey to you just how socially inept I am, but I can't."
"I think you just did."
"No, I really, truly haven't."

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kaserkin
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Re: Reliable Narrators

Post by kaserkin » Sat Dec 12, 2015 7:02 pm

This is great! :D I really like the concept, and can't wait to see the other characters' point of view.

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Re: Reliable Narrators

Post by Sharp-O » Sat Dec 12, 2015 7:34 pm

Shizune's POV was always going to be interesting, since she'd mostly be missing out on dialogue and character clashes and this was as concise as I expected it to be. Still pretty funny though and brimming with the superior attitude Shizune should have (also liked a little bit of her father sneaking through)

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