People-Watching: A Naomi Inoue Pseudo-Route

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Oddball
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Re: People-Watching: A Naomi Inoue Pseudo-Route

Post by Oddball » Sat Apr 29, 2017 10:32 pm

(I don't think he was ever named in the VN itself, was he?)
He is mentioned once in the game by Hisao (I forget where) Apparently Hisao doesn't like the guy.
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QuietlySomething
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Act 2 - Comedy of Errors

Post by QuietlySomething » Sun Apr 30, 2017 3:54 pm

It is usually pretty easy to guess whether Shizune and Misha have shown up to class yet before I even get to the door, which is why I am surprised to find them both situated at their desks first thing in the morning despite a completely quiet classroom. Misha, uncharacteristically, seems to be preoccupied with schoolwork, leaving Shizune sitting quietly next to her with her nose in a book.

I take a moment to glance around the room as I head to my desk. Naomi apparently hasn't shown up yet even though Natsume is already here, surprising given that they usually come in as a pair. Attendance is always spottiest on Monday morning, which is clear from the four or five missing students. Granted, some of them may just not have gotten to class yet, but I am hardly early myself. Then again, class is supposed to be starting just about now, and yet there is still no sign of Mutou anywhere.

I wave briefly to Natsume before heading to my seat, and Shizune lifts her head just enough to greet me.

"Good morning," I say uncertainly.

Obviously, she can't hear me, but apparently she can tell I said hello because she gives me a smile and a small wave. Unfortunately, that is about the extent of our ability to communicate with one another.

"Misha."

"Hm?" Hearing her name called, Misha throws her head up from her desk, and the drills in her hair bob off the side of her head like yo-yos. "Oh, sorry, Hicchan! How are you this morning?"

"I'm alright." I take my seat and glance at the schoolwork on her desk, which she conspicuously covers with one arm. "Isn't it a little late to be finishing your homework?"

"Mm… Shicchan and I were pretty busy yesterday…"

"Well, did she finish it?"

Misha glances over at Shizune with a self-conscious frown. "…She's better at it than me."

"Could have asked her for help."

"I know that! We usually do our homework together." She energetically jabs a finger in the air, which slowly droops as she trails off. "It's just that yesterday we had Student Council obligations, so I couldn't work on it until late at night… and then I kind of… fell asleep…"

"Why didn't you just do it on Saturday afternoon?"

"Why are you so curious, Hicchan~?" Misha asks with a grin, turning away from her papers for the first time. "Didn't you finish yours?"

"Sure I did. But I was busy yesterday, too. I thought it was pretty easy, which is why I was curious…"

Apparently this embarrasses Misha a little bit, because she immediately becomes a little defensive and turns back to her desk. "What were you so busy doing?"

"Newspaper stuff." I shrug. "Not that it's any of your business."

"Hahaha! If you keep spending time with Inoue, you're going to make Shicchan jealous, you know! She is already a little upset that you haven't been hanging out with us lately."

"What? I thought you wanted me for work…"

"Well, maybe it's a little bit of both…!"

She giggles loudly and waves a hand at me before making another attempt at finishing her homework, which completely and immediately deadens her enthusiasm.

A few minutes pass in silence before anyone else enters the room, though to my surprise it is not Mutou but Naomi, who has apparently decided to come to class separate from Natsume for the first time in almost a week.

She spots me almost immediately and smirks, throwing her backpack over her shoulder to fish through one of the pockets and taking off toward my desk. Shizune sets down her book with irritation as she approaches.

"Morning, Hisao," Naomi murmurs absentmindedly, not looking up from her backpack.

I lean into my desk. "You do realize your desk is back there, right?"

"I don't need your lip." With a sigh, she pulls a rolled-up newspaper out of her backpack and drops it limply on my desk. "Take one of these. I have seven, and they're clogging up my backpack."

"Cool. Thanks." It's actually fortuitous that Naomi was carrying around spares, because I never got a copy yesterday afternoon. Maybe I would have if I hadn't left early to get my homework done… if only I were as dedicated to extracurricular obligations as Misha is.

Naomi stands around for a moment as she readjusts her backpack, giving Shizune just enough time to raise a hand above her head and get everyone's attention with a loud snap. Misha turns to her, distressed, and Shizune gestures to Naomi before signing something.

"How do I file a complaint with the newspaper, Inoue?"

"Oh, man." Naomi throws up her hands, unimpressed. "I don't know. Nobody has ever filed a formal complaint before. We don't have a procedure. What is the problem?"

"You're publishing libel." Misha giggles aloud as she interprets this, which prompts a harsh glare from Shizune.

"We publish school news. Is this about the food shortage during the festival? Because as far as I've heard that can all be traced back to a filing error that the Student Council made."

Shizune frowns disapprovingly but hesitates when she tries to come up with a fair retort.

"Look, I didn't write that story. Natsume did." Naomi points a finger toward the back of the room. "If you have a problem, you should be taking it up with her." She glances at me out of the corner of her eye. "Hisao's in the newspaper club, too. Why didn't you go after him?"

Gee, thanks, Naomi.

I shrug hurriedly. "Hey, I don't want any part of this!"

Shizune and Naomi both shoot me the same look, and I slide back in my seat.

"Hicchan is just an editor!" After a moment of thought, Shizune turns back to Naomi and taps Misha on the shoulder. "Besides, I thought you were supposed to be in charge, Inoue."

"Well, everyone knows I'm the boss, but only in practice. Technically, there is nobody in charge."

"If you are going to insist on being the boss then it should be your duty to speak for your newspaper. I take issue with what is being published, not just written, so that is a problem of leadership! You are making me look bad!" Misha bursts out laughing after interpreting this, which prompts a brief sign-language exchange between her and Shizune. "Oh, what Shicchan meant to say was, it makes the Student Council look bad~!"

Naomi crosses her arms smugly. "We report the truth. If you don't want the Student Council to look bad, then maybe you shouldn't do things that make you look bad."

"That's an easy way to deflect blame. The reputation of our student government reflects on the whole school. You should show some respect for authority!"

"Speak for yourself. It's the media's job to keep the people in power in check, Hakamichi." Naomi smirks condescendingly. "One day, when you're supreme dictator of the universe, we are going to be the only ones keeping you in line. Maybe you should show a little respect yourself! Personally, I am proud of what we publish."

I turn the newspaper in my hands to the second page, where Natsume's treasonous article is printed. Shizune's name does not actually appear anywhere in it, but I imagine she takes any criticism of the Student Council as a personal affront. Not hard to believe, considering she literally does half of the work for it herself, or possibly more.

"On that note," Naomi continues proudly, "I think this issue turned out really well, Hisao. You did a great job considering this was your first time."

I flip through the pages to the back cover and give a small shrug. "Thanks, but I just did what Natsume told me to. And besides, it's my job now, right?"

"Natsume is even more of a control freak than I am, so as far as I'm concerned just being able to meet her specifications is pretty impressive by itself. And technically it's Takashi's job."

"Oh. Right."

Takashi and I are listed with our photographs side-by-side at the very bottom of the page, below Naomi's giant advertisement for the newspaper club. We're both listed as "Editor", though as far as I know Takashi did not actually contribute anything to this week's paper.

"I know you don't like your picture, but you have to admit: it feels kind of good to see your name in print, doesn't it?" asks Naomi encouragingly.

…Yeah, actually, it kind of does. It surprises me, considering how little it feels like I actually contributed, but I feel a small twinge of pride at being credited here. I suppose when it's in print, it feels like I've made some kind of permanent impression on something. That's an unusual feeling.

"I dunno. I guess."

"'You guess'. Alright, whatever, tough guy. You'll get a taste for it; everyone always does."

"Maybe."

Naomi snickers at that, but gets cut off before she can speak as the classroom door bursts open and Mutou barrels in, looking exhausted.

He only glances up once from the book in his hand, gesturing toward Naomi. "Please take your seat, Inoue."

With a sigh, Naomi slumps away from my desk and starts off toward the back of the room, exchanging glances with Natsume.

"I'm sorry I'm late everyone; I just want to get right to work today." Mutou drops the book he was carrying on his desk and glances around the room briefly, still disheveled. "Okay, we'll be doing group work, so once everyone is paired up, I'll collect your homework and we can start class.

Misha glances back and forth between him and her desk. "…Uh, oh."

---

"This is the end for me…"

"No, it isn't."

"Yes, it is…"

"Why can't it be the end for you in 45 minutes, when we're actually finished?"

"You don't understand, Hicchan…" Misha sighs, sprawling her arms out on the desk with an exaggerated pout. "This doesn't come naturally to me… I don't have the motivation for it…"

Despite her imitation of fatigue, she still apparently has enough energy to jump up and sign it all to Shizune.

"Some luck I have, stuck with this group."

I say that, and yet looking around the room I am the only one who doesn't just have a single partner (save for Hanako, of course, who is working alone). But I don't think three heads are better than two unless they are all actually working together.

"It's okay, Hicchan… I'm already on thin ice with Mutou, he can just scold me for this when he stops to scold me about my homework…"

"Misha…"

I take a few moments to figure out how to coax her out of it. In the meantime, Shizune- apparently not feeling very diplomatic- comes up with a solution of her own, and smacks Misha on the back of the head with a rolled up stack of papers.

"Ow!" Misha whines sorely, though her grimace quickly morphs into a smile out of affection. Shizune, in turn, signs something that does not seem very affectionate, but Misha doesn't translate it. They have a brief conversation that I am completely excluded from.

"Are you done?" I ask curtly.

"Shicchan says I'm being a defeatist… but I don't think I can be a defeatist if I've already been defeated. You should settle it, Hicchan~!"

Misha grins, though there is a hint of guilt to it which reads to me like stalling.

"I don't think it really matters one way or the other."

Shizune glares at me for not taking her side and signs something directly at me. "That's a copout!" Misha chirps.

Even when she is supposed to be on my side, Shizune can never let me off the hook for anything. Maybe Hanako has the right idea.

I rap my pencil on my desk impatiently and briefly lock eyes with Mutou, who has apparently been solely focused on our group for the last couple of minutes. Misha's voice is easy to hear even despite all the other groups working… if we get in trouble, I will never let these two forget it for as long as we live.

Mutou narrows his eyes, clearly considering whether or not to say anything, but before he gets the opportunity, our stare-down is interrupted by a well-timed cry from the back of the room.

"-Excuse me!"

Naomi's voice cuts through the noise in the room in an instant, more of a shriek than a request. She stands and shoots a hand in the air with cold urgency, and everyone else's voice dies down near simultaneously.

"Mutou, I think I'm about to have a attack."

…Oh, God, that doesn't sound good.

Mutou seems alarmed for about half a second before collecting himself, letting out a quiet groan and putting a hand to his head uncertainly. After a moment of thought, he says, "You're sure? Are you fit to go to the nurse?"

"Err…" Naomi puts a hand to her forehead and blinks slowly, apparently considering the question. "…I don't think so. –Call the nurse, please."

"Ooe, would you please…?" Mutou says sternly, taking on a serious tone that I have only heard from him a handful of times before. "Everyone be quiet for a moment."

Anyone who was still murmuring shuts up immediately, save for Naomi and Natsume, who chatter anxiously to each other in the back of the room. The air is tense enough to cut with a knife as Mutou picks up the phone from his desk, even though Naomi herself really does not look all that worried.

Naomi slumps inelegantly onto the ground next to her chair with her arms spread out behind her, and the few people around her pull their desks away to give her more floor space. Hanako leans uneasily on the cabinet in the back of the room with her hands at her chest, looking on the verge of a panic attack.

And then Naomi has a seizure, just like that. On the ground, in the back of the classroom. Natsume rushes to try and help turn her onto her side, but Naomi's whole chest spasms as she does and she rolls right onto her back again. After that, Natsume just throws up her hands and backs away.

The room is extremely quiet and self-conscious for half a minute, like everyone is waiting in suspense for Naomi to injure herself or something. She never seems to; instead she just alternates between convulsing violently for a few seconds and lying still and rigid on the floor.

It's hard to watch- much harder to watch than I would have expected. Maybe it's just the fact that it's one of my friends, but there's something so objectifying about it- like she is completely out of control, at the mercy of her body. Thinking about it makes me sick.

Nothing like this has happened to me- or around me, I suppose- at Yamaku before, though I guess it was bound to sooner or later. I wish it weren't Naomi, not that I would ever want to wish it on anyone else, instead. But with her… it makes me feel especially helpless, just sitting around watching it happen.

Eventually she stops convulsing altogether, and her limbs slump dully to her sides. After about ten seconds of this, Natsume kneels down next to her, and Naomi finally shows some uneasy signs of consciousness.

Mutou approaches quickly and exchanges a glance with Natsume, who straightens her glasses austerely. Naomi half-rolls over and sits up, though she looks very faint.

"Naomi?" Natsume holds onto Naomi's shoulder, speaking slowly and precisely.

Naomi blinks once and tilts her head a little to the side, looking disoriented.

"Naomi?" Natsume repeats. "Are you alright?"

"Mm."

"Yes? Do you know what happened?"

Naomi closes her eyes and nods groggily. "Mhm. Had an attack. I remember."

"Did you hurt yourself?"

"I don't think." She groans quietly and presses her tongue against the inside of her cheek. "Mm. Bit my tongue."

"Is it serious?"

"Don't think so. How long…?"

"About a minute."

"Oh…"

"I'm going to take you to the nurse. Okay?"

"Mm. Yes." Naomi nods again, more firmly in order to be reassuring. "Yes. Thank you."

"Can I help you up?"

"Yeah. Thanks."

Naomi digs her hands into Natsume's shoulder and pulls herself to her feet, stumbling a little. Natsume holds tightly to her side.

"I talked to the nurse," says Mutou. "Will you two be alright on your own?"

"Yes. Thank you," Natsume replies quietly.

"Okay."

"Sorry," mutters Naomi.

"It's alright, Inoue. Just try to get some rest."

"Thanks…"

Naomi straightens herself out a little to shake Natsume off, though Natsume still holds onto her arm. The two of them walk promptly out of the classroom without giving anyone else a second glance, including me.

"Straighten the desks out, please," Mutou instructs as he walks back to the front of the classroom. "Sorry for the interruption. –Erm." Looking a little disheveled, he sorts through a few of the papers on his desk before remembering what he was talking about. "You can continue working. I'll expect your worksheets tomorrow at the beginning of class."

Everyone converges into their groups again like nothing happened. Mutou picks up the phone again, I assume to touch base with the nurse.

Misha slides her chair loudly into her desk and signs something to Shizune, then turns to me. "Are you okay, Hicchan?"

"Huh?" I look Misha uncertainly in the eye, taken a little aback by her look of concern. "Yeah. Of course…"

"You looked really worried about her."

"No, I just… I was just surprised. Has that… happened in class before?"

"Mhm, once or twice. But she's going to be okay! You don't need to be worried about her~!"

"Alright. Thanks."

Misha grins brightly and turns to the side to return to our group work, which Shizune seems more than eager to do as well.

---

The rest of the class drags on for an eternity, and I find myself much too distracted to be any use to my group, leaving poor Shizune with her hands full between Misha and me.

Natsume returns to the classroom before too long, and works on her own for the rest of the class. I can't help but notice how odd it seems to see Natsume and Hanako both working alone even though they are the only two without a partner, and they're sitting a desk apart from one another.

I do my best not to think about Naomi, which of course makes it very difficult to think about anything else. My thoughts drift back to the festival, and how forlorn she looked sitting around by herself when I went to see her. It seems unfair to me that Natsume couldn't stay there with her.

At the same time, this same exact thing happened to her just last week… does she have to get stuck by herself in the nurse's office every single time she has an attack? I feel so guilty leaving her by herself, and yet I don't know why I feel any sense of obligation in the first place…

By the time Mutou lets us out for lunch, my mind is basically made up, even while I realize how petty and counterproductive it is. I stand to leave at the earliest opportunity, but am swiftly cut off by Shizune, who smiles and signs something to my face.

"Do you want to have lunch with us, Hicchan? We could finish our homework together. That is, if you aren't too busy running off with the oh-so-important newspaper club…!" Misha says it without a hint of Shizune's obviously intended sarcasm. Sometimes I wonder if Shizune is even aware of the conspicuous disconnect between her signing and Misha's interpreting.

I raise a hand and awkwardly attempt to brush past her, though Shizune makes this difficult. "Sorry. I already have plans."

"Just because I was going to invite you doesn't mean it isn't rude to assume, Hisao." As though conjured by my attempt to escape the conversation, Natsume materializes at my side, even more expectant than Shizune, as though that's possible.

"Oh." I turn and take a step backward to face the small crowd gathered around Shizune's desk. "Uh, thanks for the offer, Natsume, but I was talking about something else. I was thinking I might… go check on Naomi, see if she's doing okay…"

"Is that so?" Natsume raises an eyebrow with intrigue. "Well, I doubt there will be much to see, to be honest. She's probably asleep right now. But if she isn't, wish her well for me."

"Do you want to come along?"

"What I want is to eat lunch. But I think Naomi would rather see you on your own anyway."

"What? Why?"

"I just think that sounds like a personal affair," Natsume replies dodgily. "But thanks for the invitation. I'll see you this afternoon."

With a flourish, Natsume excuses herself, leaving me alone with the Student Council brigade. The two of them sign briefly to each other, but Misha doesn't translate it, as though I wasn't feeling out of the loop enough as it is.

"We will excuse you this time, Hicchan, since it's not a matter of business," Misha declares loudly, getting out of her seat. "Tell Inoue we said hi, okay~?"

"Will do."

"Okey-dokey! See you later, Hicchan!"

Misha brushes past me, and Shizune follows shortly after. I always feel like they know something I don't when they starting signing in private to each other.

I realize I am setting myself up for embarrassment by going to see Naomi, of course, but I'm not going to feel comfortable until I do, so it's not much of a deterrent. Without anything else to do beforehand, I sling my bag over my shoulder and head straight outside to go to the auxiliary building. Yet another beautiful day outside, and here I am planning to squander it… again.

The halls near the nurses' offices are definitely busier than they were the night of the festival, but the building is still pretty quiet compared to the rest of the grounds. It is probably for the best that the atmosphere here puts people at ease.

Without any better idea of where to go, I head straight for the head nurse's office and knock twice on the door. It swings open almost immediately, and I am ambushed by the overly-enthusiastic face of our purple-haired nurse.

He looks me over swiftly before I even have a chance to say hello. "Well, well- Nakai! Now there's a face I haven't seen in a while."

"Er. Yeah. Hello."

"How are you feeling?" He leans against the door frame, like he knows he has me cornered here. "Do you feel like you are starting to get into the swing of things at Yamaku? I hope you aren't feeling too intimidated to stop in and see me."

I shrug. "No, not at all… I do think I am starting to get the hang of everything, thanks. I just haven't had any real issues since we last spoke."

"Is that so? Well, that's very good to hear." He raps his fingers on the wall, thinking for a moment. "Emi said you decided not to make a habit of coming down to the track in the mornings. Have you been keeping up with regular exercise?"

Figures Emi ratted me out to the nurse. It's always the ones you think are the nicest.

"Um… sort of?" I say quietly.

He seems thoroughly unimpressed, and his smile suddenly fades. "…'Sort of', or 'yes?'"

"…Sort of."

"Nakai. You told me you would get more serious about this."

"I'm sorry."

"Sorry's not going to cut it with me every time. Like it or not, this is very important. You have plenty of options available to you to get the proper amount of exercise."

I almost apologize again, but stop myself. I don't want to try to make excuses, since I know this is my own fault for not bothering to take care of myself properly.

Noticing my speechlessness, the nurse takes pity on me for a moment and diverts the subject. "You said you haven't been having any problems, right? So I'm sure there's something you came by to get my help with."

"Oh, well… I actually didn't stop by for myself… I was wondering if Naomi Inoue was around." I cringe at my own response, given that 'I'm not here for me' is probably the worst thing I could have said.

"Oh." He crosses his arms, contemplating how to respond to that. "…Well, yes, she is here, upstairs, in the office right at the end of the hall. She isn't feeling all that well, but you can check to see how she is feeling about visitors. But don't think that means you're getting off the hook with me." He straightens himself out and steps slightly into his office, uncertain. "I would really like to have the opportunity to sit down with you about this, but I suppose in-between classes is probably not the best time for that, especially when you have prior arrangements… I'll tell you what: I'll let you go today, but I want you to come in to see me tomorrow afternoon so we can come up with some kind of plan for you. Deal?"

"Okay, deal. Tomorrow, after class." Of course, there is no other way for me to get out of this.

"Alright. Thank you." With a small sigh, he leans out of his door and points down the hall to the staircase at the end. "You can speak with the nurse there about Inoue, though I don't expect her to be feeling very chatty."

"Thanks."

"Of course." He grins again, apparently just to make sure I don't leave on a sour note. "I will see you tomorrow, then. Try to take care of yourself until then."

"I will, thanks."

"Take care, Nakai."

He closes the door in my face, and I take off down the hall. Climbing the staircase, it occurs to me that this is the same office Naomi was in on the night of the festival… which means that I probably could have headed straight there and avoided getting chewed out by the nurse altogether. I kick myself for that.

The female nurse that greets me at the door is the same, as well, and she recognizes me almost immediately. "Oh, you're that boy from the newspaper club, right? Are you here to see Inoue?"

"Yes, I am; thank you. Hisao Nakai."

"Nakai. Got it. Inoue is still recovering, but I can go check on her. Just a moment, dear."

She leaves me waiting awkwardly at the door for half a minute before returning, flashing me the same unnatural smile that the head nurse uses.

"Okay, go ahead in," she says cheerfully, opening the door to allow me inside.

I step in after her, and she takes a seat at her desk, waiting for me to tread in on my own. I'm here completely of my own volition this time, and yet I feel even more awkward about it than I did last time.

When I enter the back room, Naomi is already sitting up in bed waiting for me, her legs half-under the covers. I wave uncertainly, and she flashes me a bright smile.

"Hey, Hisao. You really didn't need to come in during lunch, you know."

"Oh, uh. That's alright. I don't mind."

She leans back against her bedpost, gesturing for me to approach. I take a seat on the bed next to her, not totally sure what to say.

"Well, I appreciate you going out of your way," Naomi says with a shrug, "but Natsume was already gonna bring me the stuff from class today, so…"

"Oh, yeah, I guess that would make sense." I swing my bag onto my lap, frowning. "I… actually didn't bring you anything from class. Though that would have been a good idea, in hindsight."

Naomi half-frowns, briefly confused. "Oh, really? Then…?"

"I just, uh. I just thought it- I thought I would see how you were doing, that's all."

"Oh! Well…!" Naomi looks me over with a very intrigued expression, genuinely at a loss for a moment. "I, um… well, hey, that's a really sweet thought, but…"

God, I don't know if I could possibly be handling this any worse than I am. I wish there was some good way to explain my own irrational behavior.

I slap my hand to my forehead. "-I'm sorry, I didn't mean to assume anything, or… you just seemed kind of out of it after this morning."

"No, no, you don't need to apologize, really! Really, I mean- I'm fine. My head hurts a little bit, but I'm feeling a lot better than normal, given that it's only been… what, an hour?" She shrugs. "Bit my tongue, so I've been sucking on cotton balls every waking moment. But other than that, I'm totally fine. Thanks for looking out; that's a really nice thing to do."

"Natsume said she thought you'd be asleep."

"Yeah, I was sleeping up until maybe five minutes ago. I really feel alright though." She grins playfully, though in a fake kind of way that makes me think she's just trying to put me at ease. "Honestly, the only reason I'm still in here right now is that I can get out of afternoon classes as long as I make it through lunch."

I laugh self-consciously. "Well, I won't tell."

"You'd better believe it." She puffs her cheeks out, like she's hesitant to say something. "The head nurse is already giving me a hard time after my attack last week, 'cause I didn't take my medication. He may not even let me get away with it today."

"Damn, I know what you mean."

…Well, I instantly regret saying that.

"How so?"

"Just, the nurse. He's been on my case too."

She laughs earnestly and sits up a little more, to look me more eye-to-eye. "Ha, oh yeah? What'd you do?"

"Nothing, really. He wants me to exercise more."

Naomi tilts her head slightly. "…What for?"

Knowing how curious Naomi is, I could have seen this coming from a mile away. I hate to make the conversation about me, especially right now.

"I have a heart condition. So I'm supposed to be getting regular exercise."

"Oh, really? You've never mentioned that before. What kind of heart condition?"

"Arrhythmia. My, uh- I have an irregular heartbeat."

I shrug uselessly.

She glances away from me for a moment, frowning. "Uh, do you… not wanna talk about it, Hisao?"

"No, it's alright."

"Is it actually alright, or are you just saying it's alright to get me to shut up about it?" She looks me in the eye again.

"I don't-" I stop myself. I feel like this conversation has suddenly spiraled out of my control, but it seems so petty and stupid to lie to Naomi about this. "I don't want you to shut up. I just am not very used to talking about it. That's all. I swear it's okay."

"Thanks for saying that." Naomi slumps down onto her pillows. "Look, I'm sorry for pestering you. You said that the health stuff didn't bother you, but obviously I know it's more complicated than that. You probably got pretty freaked out in class when I had my attack today, right?"

"I- well, it just seemed…"

"I don't blame you at all, alright? I get that it's not easy to watch; I mean, God, I think it's the most embarrassing thing in the world. I think it's sweet that you were worried about me. Just take my word for it that I'm okay, okay?"

"I believe you, really. I… I'm not even really sure what I'm doing here, to be honest."

"Wasting time you should be spending on lunch, I'd say."

"I'm not that hungry."

"Sure you aren't. That's what I say when I'm lying to the nurse."

I cross my arms. "Well then that just makes us even, doesn't it?"

"Yeah, you think you're so clever." She stretches out comfortably, looking at the ceiling. "Tell you what, considering all you have at stake here is my goodwill anyway. Why don't you go down to the cafeteria while you still have time to kill, get enough food for both of us and then eat it here? You'll still get back to class in time to explain how I was totally passed out in bed and in no condition to be there."

"That just sounds like a convoluted way of telling me to do your dirty work."

"Are you seriously not used to that by now?"

She shoots me a friendly smirk, challenging me.

"What do you want to eat?" I sigh.

"I'm more interested in seeing what you think I want."

"Then don't set your expectations too high."

"The funny thing is, Hisao," Naomi hums, "my expectations are not set at all."

Naomi dismisses me hurriedly, as I'm pushing the clock as it is. The nurse smiles cheerfully at me as I slip out of her office and down the staircase.

The cafeteria is a whole building over, and it hits me after a few moments exactly what a pointless trudge I just agreed to. As I pass by the head nurse's office on my way out, I can't help but realize how much better Naomi is at motivating me than he is.

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Re: People-Watching: A Naomi Inoue Pseudo-Route

Post by azumeow » Sun Apr 30, 2017 7:44 pm

God damn, I love your Naomi. Such a cheeky little thing!
"I don’t want to be here anymore, I know there’s nothing left worth staying for.
Your paradise is something I’ve endured
See I don’t think I can fight this anymore, I’m listening with one foot out the door
And something has to die to be reborn-I don’t want to be here anymore"

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Act 2 - Inquisition

Post by QuietlySomething » Sun Apr 30, 2017 10:16 pm

Today is my fourth consecutive day on the nurse's exercise schedule, which according to him consists of "as much brisk walking as seems productive"- or until I get too tired and frustrated to exert myself, in other words. Credit where it's due, he's definitely committed to accommodating me, but this really does feel like the absolute least I could do. It makes me miss soccer a little, even if only just for the fact that I was able to do it without collapsing into a panting, tight-chested heap.

Late afternoon is the best and easiest time for me to do it- during the week, at least- which has the unfortunate side effect of leaving me busy immediately after class each day. I'm not enthusiastic about spending more time alone, but if nothing else, at least it's nice to be able to take some time to myself aside from schoolwork without feeling guilty for procrastinating.

I'm one of the first students out of the classroom at the end of the day, hoping to beat the crowd on my way to the school's gate. For the first time, I find myself actually looking forward to the new ritual- if I'm smart about it, I can stop by the store on my way back and pick up some food as part of the trip. Actually makes this regimen seem… well, pretty doable. Everything is going smoothly for once, which of course makes it is the perfect time for an absurd, theatrical interruption.

"Hisao!" cries what I can only assume is a dying animal, almost directly behind me. Somehow I am caught off-guard, and I reflexively flip around and throw up my hands in self-defense for a brief moment before relaxing into an unimpressed frown.

"Geez, Naomi, do you need to yell?" I ask irritably, half-turning and running a hand through my hair. "You scared the hell out of me."

"I wanted to catch you before you got away." Naomi flashes me an expectant look, completely unapologetic.

"You're five feet away from me. I can recognize your voice, you know."

"Doesn't mean you'll stop."

"Why wouldn't I stop?"

"Where are you going?"

"That doesn't even come close to answering my question."

"Me first. Where are you going?"

"Nowhere."

"Are you avoiding me?"

"What? No!"

"It seems like you're avoiding me. Are you trying to get out of club work? You seemed like you were in a hurry to get out of class."

"I'm not avoiding you, and I'm not trying to get out of work. I just wanted to get out here quickly."

"Did I piss you off? I can't figure out what I did."

"For God's sake, I said I'm not avoiding you. You didn't do anything, except pester me with stupid questions. Why do you even ask if you aren't going to believe me?"

"…Why did you say 'nowhere' when I asked where you're going?"

"Because it doesn't matter."

"Is that really faster than just telling me where you're going?"

"If I told you where I was going, you would just ask me a million more questions about it."

"…Yeah, maybe." She crosses her arms and leans a little to the side to look past me. "So where are you going?"

"Damn it."

"That's not an answer."

"I don't really have a destination. I'm just going for a walk."

"Why were you in a hurry if you were just taking a walk?"

"Because I wanted to be out as long as I could while the sun is still out."

"That doesn't sound very relaxing."

"It's not very relaxing."

"I thought walks were supposed to be relaxing."

"I guess."

"But not yours?"

"Not really."

"Why not?"

"Because I have to."

"Why?"

"The nurse told me to."

"Oh. Makes sense." She pouts for a moment. "Can I come?"

"…It will probably be a long walk."

"I have time to kill." She raises an eyebrow impatiently.

"Fine. Just promise you won't complain when you decide it's boring."

"Man, you have such a low opinion of me."

That comment puts me off a little bit for some reason. I watch Naomi carefully as I set off down the hill through the gate.

"No, I don't," I reply after a pause.

She shoots me an incredulous look and then throws up her hands. "…Yeah, I know. I was kidding."

"You were?"

"You couldn't tell?"

"You usually seem to be serious when you say stuff like that."

"Well." She shrugs noncommittally. "You know. Context clues."

"I don't really totally get you, to be honest."

She laughs quietly and fixes her hair, uncharacteristically bashful in a way that is as disarming as it is cute. "Mhm, well, I sympathize. I've been trying to figure you out since the day I met you."

I shake my head once, just to collect myself a little. "Any progress?"

"I wish. I keep alternating between thinking you like me and thinking you find me irritating."

"I don't find you irritating. Most of the time, at least."

Naomi smiles conspicuously at that. "So you like me?"

"Sure, I do. You know, most of the time."

"Then I guess that settles that."

"Guess so."

Strange that she had to ask. Part of me thinks that she only did to get me to admit it out loud, but I'm honestly not sure. I don't see why there would have been any question about that in the first place.

Naomi trails very slightly behind me as we wordlessly make our way down the road, and she makes no attempt to conceal her lack of patience in the interim. She slides her hands onto her legs and leaves them there for a moment as though hoping to keep her hands in her pockets, and she pouts upon remembering that she's wearing a skirt.

"…Wow, this is the most boring thing ever," she eventually sighs, staring blankly at the string of houses along the road.

I shoot her a look. "Seriously? You couldn't last, what, five minutes?"

"Don't blame me. Walking is an inherently boring activity. There really is no reason to walk without any destination unless you are with your dog or your significant other. And even then, if I were to do it, it would take me some serious dedication."

"Have you ever had a dog?"

"No, but I've had significant others, and believe me, they are much rowdier."

"What, so you need to take them for walks more often?"

"Oh, you have no idea, Hisao. I don't have anywhere near the patience for it." She smirks, amused with herself, and shoots me a wayward glance.

"Well, I don't know whether or not I'm more patient than you, but I don't really have a choice in the matter. It was either this or running track with Emi." I shrug, taking a moment to survey our surroundings. "I dunno, though. I kind of like the peace and quiet of it."

"Hang on, running track with Emi? As in Emi Ibarazaki?"

"Yeah, that's her."

"Well, no wonder you didn't want to partner with her. She'd run circles around you!"

"You know her?"

Naomi laughs dryly, as though it's a stupid question. "Um, yes, I know her. She's, like, the star of the track team. Natsume thinks she's annoying, but she is really talkative, so I get stuck interviewing her for the newspaper virtually every time we write anything about track and field."

"She's definitely got a lot of energy."

"You can say that again. Probably the only person in the school that I can't keep up with."

"What doesn't Natsume like about her?"

"If I had to guess? The fact that she puts her hair up in twin tails. She has all these little cutesy feminine quirks that make her popular with boys. I think it makes Natsume jealous." Naomi thinks on that for a moment, then grimaces and shakes her head. "I probably shouldn't have said that."

"I didn't know Natsume was unpopular."

"Well, I don't know that she's unpopular, necessarily. She just doesn't get ogled at." Naomi purses her lips, like she regrets that I got this information out of her.

"That doesn't sound like something to get jealous about."

"It just depends on what kind of person you are, I guess. You wouldn't know it from talking to her, but Natsume actually gets really nervous and shy around some of the boys in our year."

"Really? That seems so unlike her."

"Yeah, I know. That's the kind of thing you don't get to know about a person until you get really close with them. Which is why I really shouldn't be telling you this. She would disembowel me if she knew we were having this conversation."

"You? I'm more worried about me!"

"Yep. Would be a shallow grave for both of us."

She giggles at me, but glances away when I try to make eye contact. She's still trailing a little bit behind me, like she is somehow reluctant to walk directly at my side. But all that really does is draw more attention to her.

Apparently nothing can get her to take a walk save for a significant other, though she went out of her way to come along today. That sure doesn't feel like an accident to me.

Funny how I've never really gone for a proper walk with a girl before- I mean, certainly not with Iwanako, anyway. There was Mai, back in the day, I guess, but that felt a lot more… platonic, somehow. This, on the other hand, really would feel like a date, if it weren't for this nagging feeling that Naomi is here with an ulterior motive. That makes me oddly bitter, all of a sudden. But I probably owe her the benefit of the doubt…

"Speaking of ogling, though…" Naomi hums, breaking the silence after a few uncomfortable minutes. She hangs on the last word for a moment in order to watch me for a reaction.

No doubt she is not surprised by my irritation. "Oh, God, what in the hell…?"

"If I can return to the subject of Emi Ibarazaki for a second."

"I'd rather you didn't-"

"-I have to say," she interrupts with a smirk, "I am surprised, and a little impressed, that you weren't willing to tough it out on the track just for the excuse to ogle at Emi in her track uniform."

"Excuse me?"

"I mean, I'm not saying I would blame you. I'm just saying I know what I would have done in your situation."

Her expression is unreasonably salacious considering the subject of our conversation. I watch her for a few moments, and something suddenly clicks for me.

"…Hang on, are you a lesbian?" I blurt out for some reason.

I know it's probably not something you should bluntly confront someone about in polite conversation, but regardless my gut is telling me I should have asked that sooner.

After a moment's pause, Naomi skids to a stop, apparently to prevent herself from collapsing with laughter. Despite going red in the face, she actually does not seem very embarrassed, and it seems like she is laughing deliberately at me, which only makes me feel more awkward. Considering the context, I still don't think it was an unreasonable question.

She makes focused eye contact with me as she stops laughing just long enough to speak again. "No, I'm not. But I'm proud of you for just up and asking me that." She snickers again when I shrug at her.

"It didn't occur to me until just now," I say quietly, starting down the sidewalk again to break some of the self-imposed tension I'm feeling.

"I was just making fun. You don't have to be a lesbian to know whether or not a girl is an objectively attractive person. Although I know guys are all too insecure to say stuff like that out loud." Naomi looks at her fingernails absentmindedly as she treads behind me, blatantly refusing to look in my direction, and laughs to herself. "More than that, though, I never would have expected you to feel so comfortable asking me something like that. You are a very blunt person, you know that?"

Naomi makes the assessment very firmly, like a judge casting a final decision. Despite her confidence, though, that doesn't sound right to me. I don't think anyone has ever described me as 'blunt' before, though I suppose it is hard to argue with considering how I've been acting around Naomi lately. Maybe she just knows me better than I do.

"I think it's just around you," I admit. "You're a bad influence, I suppose."

"Yeah, you're not the first person to tell me that." Naomi sighs, amused with herself, and takes a few moments to look me over. "…I have a confession to make, Hisao. I'm not just here to keep you company."

It's not exactly a revelation, but it does get under my skin a little, hearing it out loud. Not that I really get the feeling Naomi dislikes being here with me, but she still could have let me have my delusions. Maybe she just doesn't want me to get the wrong idea.

"What are you here for, then?" I ask shortly.

"I wanted to talk to you about something business related. This seemed like the last chance I'd ever get to get you alone, considering you've been vanishing from the classroom in a puff of smoke every day this week."

"Business related? As in, club related?"

She nods solemnly, trying to keep a poker face.

"Fine," I reply. "I'm here. Go ahead."

She thinks on that for a moment, then shakes her head. "Not here. Let's go to the Shanghai."

"No."

She chuckles at that, and finds herself a little at a loss for words. "…Allow me to rephrase. We're going to the Shanghai."

"Maybe you are."

I tuck my hands into my pockets, proud of myself despite Naomi's loud scoff. If she's going to try and corner me about work, she can do it on my schedule. It's especially sweet considering how much she seems to enjoy hijacking other people's time.

"Come on, Hisao. I don't want to keep having a conversation with the back of your head. Let's just talk over coffee. We've been walking forever."

I glance at my watch pitilessly. "We've been walking for ten minutes."

"It feels like forever."

"That's called being relaxed. You should try it some time."

"Nothing more relaxing than a hot drink…"

"I'm not thirsty."

"Damn it, Hisao." For the first time, Naomi marches up to stand directly at my side, nearly brushing up against my arm, and places her hands on her hips, forcing me to stand still and look at her. "I am going to go with or without you."

"Fine by me. See ya."

"Seriously? You're going to make me go by myself?" shouts Naomi suddenly, dropping her hands at her sides with genuine surprise.

"I'm not making you do anything."

Naomi seems simultaneously irritated with and impressed by me, a reaction that is oddly satisfying. After a second of thought, she says, "I know you'll feel guilty thinking about me sitting around all by my lonesome."

"You're the one that wanted to talk to me. You're the only one that has any stake in this. I know a bluff when I see one, Naomi."

And apparently that is the tipping point.

Finally out of suitable retorts, Naomi alternates her glare between me and the storefronts along the sidewalk. After a long, long stretch of expectant silence, she finally snaps- and without another word, she takes a step away, turns on her heel, and marches off down the sidewalk, turning a corner to get out of my sight as quickly as possible.

I am almost certain she really was bluffing, but apparently she refuses to be one-upped. Actually, I kind of respect that.

Of course, now is the issue of what to do without her, and as much as I would truly like to finish my walk and pick up some groceries, the idea of meeting Naomi in class tomorrow morning sounds suddenly… problematic. It's hard not to think about her sitting by herself in that teahouse, stewing, though despite what Naomi said it's more anxiety than guilt I'm feeling.

Not that it makes a difference.

---

Fifteen minutes, and a number of wrong turns, later, I finally arrive at the entrance to the Shanghai, and it is as small and out-of-the-way as I remember.

The bell on the door rings as soon as I enter, and before I can get more than a few steps inside I am set upon by Yuuko, once again in her waitress's uniform.

"Hello! Good morning, and welcome to the Shanghai!" Smiling enthusiastically, Yuuko throws her whole upper body forward into a violent bow.

"Hi, Yuuko," I respond quietly, trying to spot Naomi without making it too apparent. "It's the middle of the afternoon, you know."

"Oh, it… I said good morning, didn't I…?"

I lift a hand to reassure her before she has the chance to freak out. "It's fine, really."

"Okay! Understood!" Yuuko shakes her head and takes a step back, toward the counter. "I'm sorry to get distracted! Can I take your order?"

"I'm good, thanks. Just… looking for someone."

At that moment I lock eyes with Naomi, who despite seeming surprised to see me collects herself and waves daintily to mock me, a cup in her free hand. I wave back limply, defeated. Damn her.

Yuuko observes this and quickly becomes visibly uncomfortable. "Oh, well, that's fine; I mean, you can have a seat if you like… I think I have orders to get to in the back, actually…"

"He'll have a coffee, Yuuko," Naomi calls out without taking her eyes off me.

Yuuko and I exchange a glance, and I nod uncertainly. She scurries off into the back room.

Without another word, I make my way to Naomi's table and slide into the booth across from her. Her grin is unbelievably smug, and it takes serious willpower just to look at her.

Naomi reaches one hand across the table and pulls out a few sugar packets at the end of the table, but rather than empty them into her own drink she holds them between two fingers and dangles them in front of my face.

I snatch them away quickly, suspicious. "What's this?"

"What does it look like? It's for your coffee."

I glance down at the packets in my hand. "Two sugars. How'd you know how many I-?"

"It's what you had last time we came here."

She raises an eyebrow at me provocatively. There is a brief pause, during which Yuuko appears to deliver my coffee, and I take the time to empty my sugars into it.

"You are something else," I say, stricken with disbelief.

"I know." Naomi leans on one hand and takes a sip of her own coffee. "I win, by the way."

"What did you want to talk about?"

"Oh, yeah. I almost forgot in all the commotion," she hums, rapping her fingers along the table in thought. "Here's the thing, Hisao. I get that you're new, and you're still learning the ropes, and all that, but… I think you can be doing more for the club. 'Cause right now, you're kinda… hapless."

"I can still quit whenever I want, you know," I add defensively, almost as a reflex. I almost immediately regret saying that, since I don't actually want to quit, but Naomi replies before I can elaborate.

"Yeah, I do know. And yet, something is obviously keeping you here. So I wanna figure out what that something is."

Her grin is definitely less smug than before- instead, it's now cheerful and curious. I realize that she pays attention to everyone, but I am still stricken by how interested she seems to be in my motivations in particular.

More than that, she makes a good point. I don't exactly have the passion for the newspaper that Naomi does, and now that I've been reduced to technical work that I am only just competent enough to do, it seems like it probably isn't the place for me. If anything, Naomi herself is the only thing that has really been keeping me around.

I almost say that out loud, but hesitate for some reason.

"In time, I guess," I respond after a silence.

"Sure. In time…"

Naomi reaches across the table and grabs my empty sugar packets, adding them to a pile of her own next to her cup. For an absentminded tic, it is certainly attention-grabbing. I find that kind of endearing, but I don't think she can even tell I'm paying attention to it.

"You like takeout?" Naomi asks, interrupting my thoughts.

"Sure."

"Here's what I want from you. Come to the computer lab with Natsume and me tomorrow after class, while we work on the next issue of the paper. You don't really need to be there as an editor, but I want you to see the process, you know? Plus, free food."

"You really had to pull me aside just to ask me this?"

"No. But I wanted to. And you let me get away with it." She takes a sip of her coffee and looks away from me. I snicker to myself, though I know that only makes her more proud of herself.

"Fine. I'll be there tomorrow."

"Good to hear."

Naomi drags her finger along one of the packets on the table. Her grin is plastered to her face, even more broadly than before. In the sunlight coming through the window, which is starting to dim as it gets later in the afternoon, the look is very flattering on her. I haven't thought about it much, but she is remarkably pretty, in a traditional sense. I wonder what she looks like when she's not quite so made up.

"What are you so happy about?" I ask accusingly.

"Nothing…" she replies comfortably, leaning on the back of the booth behind her. "…I just knew you would say that."

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Re: People-Watching: A Naomi Inoue Pseudo-Route

Post by Mirage_GSM » Mon May 01, 2017 3:29 pm

Okay, I'm away for a weekend and when I come back you've written half a novella's worth of new chapters... Time to catch up...
where the crowded halls are finally beginning to spread out
I think it's not the hallways spreading out... Would be strange otherwise :-)
I will also live a long and prosperous life and have a future in athletics…
Giving that fortune IS bold in a school like Yamaku...
a cheery-looking woman in a white coat.
Finally! A story with a nurse that is not THE Nurse.
It feels like the whole week has breezed right past me
It took me several more paragraphs to realize that you just skipped almost a whole week here... You might make that a bit clearer...
"I'm more interested in seeing what you think I want."
Nice one!

He is mentioned once in the game by Hisao (I forget where)
Should be somewhere on Rin's route. I can look it up in the scripts if necessary.
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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

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Re: People-Watching: A Naomi Inoue Pseudo-Route

Post by HoneyBakedHam » Mon May 01, 2017 7:38 pm

Mirage_GSM wrote:
where the crowded halls are finally beginning to spread out
I think it's not the hallways spreading out... Would be strange otherwise :-)
Takes place at Hogwarts now, didn't ya know? :roll:

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Re: People-Watching: A Naomi Inoue Pseudo-Route

Post by QuietlySomething » Mon May 01, 2017 9:09 pm

Mirage_GSM wrote:Okay, I'm away for a weekend and when I come back you've written half a novella's worth of new chapters... Time to catch up...
Hahaha, I wish I'd written all this in a weekend. Like I originally mentioned this is a fic I have been updating for some time on FF.net, right now I'm just posting chapters to get caught up here. Once Chapter 9 is posted it will be caught up and I can relax comfortably into my schedule of taking way too long to update.

Anyway thank you for taking the time to get caught up and give your thoughts! Much appreciated.
HoneyBakedHam wrote:
Mirage_GSM wrote:
where the crowded halls are finally beginning to spread out
I think it's not the hallways spreading out... Would be strange otherwise :-)
Takes place at Hogwarts now, didn't ya know? :roll:
Plot twist!

...Meh, okay, I'll fix it.
Mirage_GSM wrote:
a cheery-looking woman in a white coat.
Finally! A story with a nurse that is not THE Nurse.
Well yeah, Yamaku does have a nursing staff so it's hard for me to imagine just the one guy tending to every student all the time.
Mirage_GSM wrote:
It feels like the whole week has breezed right past me
It took me several more paragraphs to realize that you just skipped almost a whole week here... You might make that a bit clearer...
Will do; thanks for letting me know.
Mirage_GSM wrote:
Oddball wrote:He is mentioned once in the game by Hisao (I forget where)
Should be somewhere on Rin's route. I can look it up in the scripts if necessary.
If it's in Rin's route where he was named I will be ashamed of myself for forgetting; I swear I have played through Rin's route more than all the other routes combined. :P

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Re: People-Watching: A Naomi Inoue Pseudo-Route

Post by Oddball » Mon May 01, 2017 11:35 pm

Well yeah, Yamaku does have a nursing staff so it's hard for me to imagine just the one guy tending to every student all the time.
I do remember in one of the routes Hisao mentions a female nurse.
Not Dead Yet

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Re: People-Watching: A Naomi Inoue Pseudo-Route

Post by Mirage_GSM » Tue May 02, 2017 5:30 am

I just ran a search through the script, and Takashi is not referred to by name anywhere.
There is a line in Rin's second act that Oddball and I were probably thinking of:
A few other members are lounging in their seats, waiting for the teacher. Rin sits alone in a window seat, looking outside. She's the only person here that I know, although a guy I've never really gotten along with from my own class is here, too.
Since we know that Takashi is in the art club, we probably mentally added his name to our recollection of that line :-)
I do remember in one of the routes Hisao mentions a female nurse.
Yes. This is not the first fanfiction to acknowledge other medical staff either, but it happens all too rarely.
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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

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Re: People-Watching: A Naomi Inoue Pseudo-Route

Post by Oddball » Tue May 02, 2017 11:45 am

Yeah. That sounds right. That's probably what i did.

Especially since he's featured in the CG of the art club.
Yes. This is not the first fanfiction to acknowledge other medical staff either, but it happens all too rarely.
Right up there with having teachers that aren't Mutou and occasionally Miyagi.
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Re: People-Watching: A Naomi Inoue Pseudo-Route

Post by Mirage_GSM » Tue May 02, 2017 3:24 pm

Yeah, sometimes you could think they have no other subject but science :-)
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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

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Re: People-Watching: A Naomi Inoue Pseudo-Route

Post by Zerebos » Tue May 02, 2017 4:59 pm

Hey man, glad to see you're putting this on the forums! Always love your work!

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Act 2 - Two Kids Alone in a Tiny Room

Post by QuietlySomething » Tue May 02, 2017 5:46 pm

There's a quiet, electronic hum in the computer lab that can make any silence awkward.

Natsume is unexpectedly late for lunch, leaving me and Naomi here by ourselves without much to talk about. Given that Naomi is preoccupied with her lunch- slurping noodles directly out of a plastic container with no concern for manners- the only thing I have to pay attention to is the hum of the computers in the background. I'm overthinking it, but it feels unnatural anyway.

I drum my hands absentmindedly on the table, and Naomi's eyes dart up to look at me, though she doesn't lower the container from her lips.

"Are you gonna eat, or are you gonna stare at me?" she asks with a suspicious glare.

I blink once. "I'll eat."

"Is there something wrong with the food?"

"No."

"You said it was alright with you."

"It is."

"Y'know, that's something that's always bugged me. People who say they are alright with something, but then when the time comes, they're not alright with it anymore." She sets down the plastic on the table for the first time and jabs her chopsticks in my direction. "I mean, if you're gonna lie, you need to commit to it, y'know? It's not fair otherwise."

"I wasn't lying."

"Then why weren't you eating?"

"I was thinking."

"What were you thinking about?"

"Nothing."

"Were you in a coma?"

"No."

"Then you weren't thinking about nothing, were you?"

She seems so proud of herself for her wit, and I can't help snickering about it to myself. I feel like we go through this every time she starts a conversation with me. I wonder how she would react if I told her she was getting predictable.

"Naomi," I say after a pause.

"What?"

"Do you really care?" I raise a hand to stop her from cutting me off. "I mean, specifically with this question. Do you genuinely, seriously care about what I was thinking about during this one specific silence, even though I was obviously having a pointless, absentminded train of thought that wouldn't mean anything to anyone?"

She thinks for a moment, inordinately serious. "Yes. I genuinely do."

"Fine." I half-turn in my chair and point at the row of computers behind us. "…I was thinking about the hum, from the computers."

"…The hum," she repeats curiously.

"Yes. They leave the computers on, and there's a hum. I think it accentuates the silence in the room."

"That doesn't make sense. How could the computers making noise possibly accentuate the silence?"

"I mean the silence between us. The fact that we're just sitting here and not saying anything."

"Well, I was eating." She pokes plastic container in front of her.

"I know. I'm just saying, we don't spend a lot of time not talking to each other."

"Hm." Pondering that, Naomi takes the opportunity to study me, eventually softening into a light smile. "…You, know, it's probably for the best that Natsume isn't here, because I wanted to get the chance to-"

Koom.

The door to the computer lab slams open, and Natsume marches in with a notebook tucked under her arm. Without saying a word of greeting to anyone, she marches immediately up to the empty seat next to me, slaps the book on the table and plants herself in the chair.

"Someone is stealing books," Natsume says firmly, reaching an arm across the table to grab a takeout box.

Naomi, obviously frustrated by the interruption, leans into the table, shooting Natsume a harsh look. "What? What are you talking about?"

Natsume takes a relaxed pause to swallow her food. "Someone is stealing library books."

"Wha- who? Why?"

"I don't know who, or why. But I was just there talking to Yuuko about it. Apparently she finds it pretty distressing." Natsume turns her head sharply to the side suddenly, flashing me a smile. "Hello, Hisao. What are you doing here?"

"Naomi asked me to come," I reply with a shrug.

"Did she? Huh."

"-What is the deal with the library books, Natsume?" Naomi interjects quickly, grabbing Natsume's notebook off the table and cracking it open.

"What do you mean, 'what is the deal' with it? It's a good story! Don't tell me you don't agree."

Naomi flips the notebook open and skims through it briefly. "It's not that I don't agree, it's that you didn't give us much information to go on."

"I don't have much information to go on. I was hoping you might want to help me out on this, given the gigantic spider web of 'connections' you're always bragging about having."

"I don't know any thieves, and I don't like what you're implying."

Naomi returns to her food with a huff, and Natsume swipes the notebook back from her. "Well, fine, if you want to be defensive about it. I can just put Hiro on the job instead."

"What makes you think Hiro would know who to talk to about this?"

"Nothing. But unlike you, Hiro does what I tell him to. So at least he would try."

"Is this the only thing you've got to write about right now?"

"At the moment."

"So you convened a meeting with me so we could discuss one story with no leads."

"Well, if you want to get technical, I convened a meeting with you so that I could cash in on you owing me lunch." Natsume picks delicately at the bottom of a takeout box with her chopsticks, then sets it down and turns to Naomi. "But as I said, I had hoped I could count on you to help me with this. It isn't my fault you aren't as resourceful as you say you are."

Natsume shrugs innocently, moving onto another box of food with a smug grin. Naomi shoots daggers at her from her spot across the table, but it has no effect at all. I've gotten to know these two quite well by now, but I still can't tell who wears the pants in this relationship.

A few minutes of noisy eating pass. Naomi seems satisfied to see me touch the food, which is good because I do it mostly for her benefit anyway, not having much of an appetite.

"It's not that I can't help," Naomi mutters eventually, unwilling to let Natsume have the last word. "It's just that it's stupid to go in firing blind. What we really need is a good place to start. And I was thinking, Hiro, dedicated as he is… probably isn't the best place to start." I am taken completely off-guard as Naomi suddenly shoots a glare at me, smiling coyly. "If only we had someone who spent more time in the library, you know…?"

Natsume, intrigued by this, shifts in her chair to look at me and tilts her head slightly "…You have been awfully quiet, Hisao."

I sigh by instinct, prompting a giggle from Naomi, and throw up my hands. "Looks to me like you guys have this handled."

"Then you should get your eyes checked," Natsume quips. "You spend a lot of time in the library?"

"Not as much as I'd like, lately."

"More than any of the rest of us," interrupts Naomi.

I shrug at the table. "I'll look into it, I guess."

"Damn right you will. See, Hisao, I knew having you here would pay off. We'll make a journalist out of you yet."

Natsume smirks, glancing subtly between us. "What were you two talking about before I came in?"

"Nothing," replies Naomi with a grin. "We were sitting here in silence. Listening to the hum of the computers."

"Sounds awkward."

"Well, you know. We had nothing else to do."

They exchange a glance and, feeling alienated as ever, I return to eating, trying to draw as little attention to myself as possible.

Natsume finishes eating before too long. Unable to clean out another box, she instead gently folds it closed and pushes it to the center of the table, looking up at Naomi again. "In all seriousness, thank you for buying, Naomi. But you always buy too much food."

"I had a plus-one today," Naomi responds with a shrug. "If you want, you can take the leftovers with you. I bet Hiro would be happy to have them."

"I may take you up on that. I don't know if he's eaten yet, though."

"Are you going to see Hiro?" I ask suddenly, surprised to see Natsume packing up already.

"If I can find him." Natsume scratches her chin for a moment in thought. "I may bring him back here. You never know, maybe he'll have something else to add."

"Don't expect us to wait up for you," says Naomi.

"I never do. Just try not to come up with any startling revelations while I'm gone."

"Don't tempt me, Natsume. I may just have the whole article finished by the time you get back."

"Wouldn't be the first time," she replies flippantly. "Okay, I'll see you both later. It was good to see you, Hisao. Goodbye for now."

Natsume gives me a small wave and then slips through the door. It seems like she's in a hurry for some reason… strange, given that I don't exactly see Hiro as the type to get snippy or impatient with anyone.

With Natsume gone, Naomi clears out some of the space on the table in front of her to give herself room to fidget with her hands. I finish eating before too long, and Naomi and I are left once again sitting in awkward silence.

"Sorry for volunteering you," Naomi says, strangely quiet.

"That's alright. Makes sense, I guess."

"I really do think you will be a big help to us."

"I believe you."

"I'm really not irritating you?"

She pouts a little, like I hurt her feelings or something. To be frank, I'm starting to get fed up with having to explain myself to her. An unfortunate self-fulfilling prophecy, as it were.

"No. Why would you ask me that?"

She thinks for a little while, staring off to the side. "I don't know. I'm just thinking out loud."

"I'm not upset with you. I thought I made it clear yesterday. You don't need to keep asking me."

"Yeah. I know. I guess I just feel like I must be misunderstanding something."

"What? Misunderstanding what? I don't know what you're talking about."

Leaning in on her hands, Naomi takes a long sigh and stares intently at me. "Hisao."

"What?"

"Hm." She thinks for a moment, frowning slightly. "Are you… homesick, or something?"

"Huh? No."

"You don't have to, like, act tough around me, you know. I get homesick sometimes and I've been going to Yamaku for a long time now. You're brand new."

She smiles earnestly out of sympathy, but all it really does is make me feel sad on her behalf. The truth is, I haven't really missed home at all since I got here. If anything, I've been feeling guilty about how little I've thought about it. I've barely even talked to my parents over the past few weeks.

"No, I honestly haven't been homesick at all," I say flatly. "Why do you ask?"

"I ask because- well, hm. I don't know. I'm just throwing out ideas at this point." She purses her lips, pausing again. "Do I, like… remind you of your sister, or something?"

"I don't have a sister."

"Mhm. Okay. That's good to hear, I guess. I just- well, I don't know." She nods affirmatively and puts a hand to her chin, still taking long pauses in-between thoughts just to build up a sense of suspense. "…You know what? Fine. You win. What do you want me to do, hide a note in your textbook? Like we're in grade school? 'Cause at this point, I'll do it, Hisao. I really will. This is what you are reducing me to."

Her tone jumps from sympathetic to accusatory in a split-second, and it's so jarring that I barely even have time to register what she is talking about at first.

"I- what?" I respond uselessly.

"Hisao. Okay. Hisao. You are a grown man. Please use your brain for a second." She clenches her fist and releases it, like she is forcing herself to continue. "I really like you, and I think you're super cute, and I am almost positive you feel the same way about me, and I have been waiting and waiting and waiting for you to say something about it, but you have just missed so many opportunities now that I am genuinely starting to think you are never going to do it. And as much as I've tried, I cannot figure out why. So that's it. Here I am, doing your job. Saying something about it. And… I don't know. I can't believe it. Can you believe it? I can't."

She smacks her lips and watches me with a great deal of suspense, clearly forcing herself to make eye contact with me despite the embarrassment that is written plainly all over her face. The fact that she actually feels so embarrassed confessing this up to me feels like a little victory all its own, although I am sure it is written all over my face that I am just as embarrassed as she is.

As an aside, she is kind of adorable when she's blushing, but to be fair that may just be the heat of the moment talking.

"Naomi, I… I have no idea what to say," I respond, completely truthful.

"…Well, am I wrong?" She stares at my stupefied face with great suspense, and after a couple of seconds of tension, buries her face in her hands with a loud groan. "Oh, God. Oh my God. I am really sorry. This is the most embarrassing- please don't hold this over my head. Because I may never be willing to show my face-"

"-Naomi, please," I interrupt forcefully, "would you slow down? You're… not wrong, okay? At all."

"Oh?" she chirps, peering at me from over the shield she formed with her hands. "Not at all?"

"No. No, not at all. Seriously." I just blurted it out before, but it feels good to say out loud. Naomi is cute, sure, but I don't know if I ever would have mentioned it if she hadn't said anything. I'm relieved that she did- in one fell swoop she's completely shattered whatever tension I was feeling before. And I didn't even realize I was feeling it.

Back to her confident self within a fraction of a second, Naomi slaps her hands down flat on the table and looks up at me, beaming ear-to-ear with an absolutely flattering amount of excitement. "Well…! Alright! Score one for Inoue!"

My pride swells at her smile, and suddenly the pressure is on not to embarrass myself.

I pat the table uncertainly and look her in the eye, wondering whether or not I'm still blushing. "So… is that it? What do we do now?"

"That's a good question," she hums. "But I can't say I haven't thought about it."

"Oh. That's, um. That's nice."

"Have you been into the city yet?"

"Not yet. I haven't had a chance."

"Fun! Okay, here's something." She claps her hands together exuberantly. "Natsume and I were going to go hang out and do girl stuff in the city tomorrow. So that's my schedule. But if you aren't busy, how about I just ditch her and take you instead? We can make, like, an afternoon out of it. And then you can buy me dinner."

"So, like a date."

"Man, nothing gets by you, huh?"

I hesitate, glancing briefly at the table to take note of the numerous empty takeout boxes- at least one of which I know Naomi cleared out entirely on her own. "…Do I actually have to pay for your dinner?"

Naomi examines her fingernails rather than look directly at me, speaking offhandedly. "Well, only if you wanna get to second base."

…Damn.

I cannot think of any way I can possibly respond to that, which apparently amuses Naomi to no end.

After taking a few seconds to enjoy my dumbfounded silence, she takes a loud sigh and looks me in the eye again. "I don't think either of us is going to be able to focus on library books now, after that. Do you?"

"…No, I don't think so."

"Then…"

She stands suddenly and walks around the table with an odd expression, leaning against it with one hand once she gets close to me. We exchange an awkward glance.

"Then…" I repeat.

She takes a breath, stands up straight and steps past me, seeming almost disappointed. "I think maybe we should just call it a day for now."

"What about Natsume? She said she was gonna bring Hiro back here."

"She is. But there's nothing they need us to be around for…" Naomi waves her hand dismissively, but bites her lip when she turns and looks at the mess we made during lunch, all still spread over the conference table. "Well, besides… eh… okay. I should clean up. I'll call it a favor."

"You sure? I'm happy to stick around if you want some help-"

"-Nope! Not your job! But sweet of you to offer!" She clasps her hands together and flashes me a cute smile. "Can I call you tomorrow?"

"Uh, do you even have my-"

"Natsume already gave me your phone number."

"Oh. Alright."

"So…"

"So, yeah, of course. Call me. Any time you want. Of course."

I cup my hands together uncertainly, struggling to understand what Naomi could possibly see in me.

"Okay. See ya, Hisao."

"See ya."

I hesitate for a moment, feeling like I should say something else, but nothing comes to me. So I turn and walk out the door.

And, after a moment standing still outside the door to collect myself, I set off down the hall, pumping my fist like a moron. And it occurs to me again exactly how little I've missed home lately.

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Mirage_GSM
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Re: People-Watching: A Naomi Inoue Pseudo-Route

Post by Mirage_GSM » Tue May 02, 2017 6:38 pm

I really like you, and I think you're super cute, and I am almost positive you feel the same way about me,...
Well, that escalated quickly :-)
"Well, only if you wanna get to second base."
...and apparently about to escalate even more...

...

Really, this chapter felt like you were in a rush to get he relationship started rather than it developing normally.
So far the impression I got from Naomi was that she probably is mildly interested in Hisao but not that she'd be so anxious that she'd confess right there.

Hisao's reaction was... weak? I mean I understand that he isn't the most eloquent person, but "You're… not wrong" is almost insultingly underwhelming.

Also, we (the readers) are in Hisao's head. So far you've done a good job with interior monologues, and here he gets confessed to, and what we get is a description of Naomis expression and the fact that he thinks that she's cute when she's blushing...

There are several seconds of silence there. Usually his mind should be running in circles:

"Was that... Did she just confess to me? Oh shit, she did! Is she serious or is she just making fun of me? What should I say? Do I really like her like that? I never really thought about it. We've only known each other for three weeks. Damn, she's waiting for an answer, what should I do?..."

Of course that's an exaggeration, but I'd have expected something like that at least...
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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

azumeow
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Re: People-Watching: A Naomi Inoue Pseudo-Route

Post by azumeow » Tue May 02, 2017 8:27 pm

I'm gonna be honest, here, Mirage, that would be my reaction if a girl confessed to me. Wait, what? Uh...huh. Sweet.

That might just be because I'm a sarcastic git, though
"I don’t want to be here anymore, I know there’s nothing left worth staying for.
Your paradise is something I’ve endured
See I don’t think I can fight this anymore, I’m listening with one foot out the door
And something has to die to be reborn-I don’t want to be here anymore"

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