Dance Of The Delicate

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BlackDuke
Posts: 36
Joined: Sat Apr 16, 2016 10:41 am

Dance Of The Delicate

Post by BlackDuke » Fri Apr 28, 2017 10:44 am

To all those who have entered here, seeking entertainment, know this...

The wonderful story and characters of Katawa Shoujo are not mine to own and I'm not one of those extraordinary people responsible for their creation – just like the main character in this story, I am walking in the steps of people with far greater skill and dedication than myself here. I was merely inspired by a great work of art, hoping to add a small piece to it and to entertain other KS fans yearning like me for the saga to continue.

If somebody you know or even you yourself have written something similar to what I concocted, please accept my sincere apologies and have a good laugh at my expense if you did a better job than me. Great minds think alike, and we are all referencing the same source material :wink:

I am not familiar with the more intricate details of Japanese society and customs, so I did not use honorifics like “chan”, “san”, “sensei” etc. Should the characters in this story behave in any way that goes totally against Japanese cultural legacy and traditions, please accept (see above). I am also not a native English speaker, so despite many years of practice and the safeguards of modern computer programs, there are bound to be errors in this story. Should you find them, give them a good home and – well, you know the rest...

This is my second fanfic after "The Footsteps Of A Friend" and my first attempt to write in a more VN-like style - I did get some well-deserved flaming for the 'walls of text' of "TFOAF". Unlike the last time, I decided not to wait until the completion of the story to post it (which took about a year...), but to post the first part now and add the other chapters one-by-one whenever I manage to finish them. Since this is a branched story with paths for the six main girls, this will take some time - sorry!

Finally, some words about the content of my story. While it starts off like Act I in the novel, the path of Hisao and his schoolmates diverges quickly and noticably - as is to be expected from a fan fiction story. I am very aware that my central story element, a mandatory school dance at a school for the disabled and diseased, does sound hare-brained, but I needed to have all the Yamaku students facing a common problem. If one of my characters is dancing merrily although his health problem should have him break down after a minute on the dance floor, I'm sorry - I looked up some of the maladies Hisao's classmates have, but I'm not an expert on anything medical.

EDIT 2020-05-23: Alright, now it's been over three years since I started this, and I'm genuinely sorry for the delay... A lot happened in my life, and while I was determined to see this through, things kept getting in the way, and my perfectionism did not help at all - I often sat down to continue a particular story, only to instead end up correcting and improving the stuff I already wrote...

However, things did proceed... and now I finally feel confident to present the results of my work. Have fun reading this, and be assured that I intend to eventually give each of the six main girls their dance with Hisao...
Last edited by BlackDuke on Sat May 23, 2020 9:29 am, edited 2 times in total.

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BlackDuke
Posts: 36
Joined: Sat Apr 16, 2016 10:41 am

Act I, Part 1: Meeting People

Post by BlackDuke » Fri Apr 28, 2017 10:49 am

“This is, without any doubt, the stupidest idea I have ever heard coming from a grown-up person. Especially when it's from a teacher who really should know better.”

As the entire assembly recovered from their shock and looked for the person who had just uttered such a crushing verdict, I found myself smiling at the sheer audacity of the speaker. Especially since she was right on target on this one...

However, it might be better to tell this story from the beginning, instead of starting off with what was undeniably one of its high-points. So bear with me as we'll return to that later, and I'll give you the whole stuff as it should be. Here we go...


I had just started at Yamaku Academy, during the worst slump of my eighteen-year-old life. Until last winter, I was just another normal adolescent Japanese boy, worrying about my school performance, my future career options, my friends and the chance of getting my heart broken by the cute long-haired girl in the second row.

Then the cute girl confessed her feelings to me. And my heart actually did break. Hard.

When I finally woke up again, I had a nasty scar on my chest and a team of doctors told me that life as I had known it was over. Instead, my new life would involve tons of pills, a ban on most things fun or exciting, and the statistical plausibility to keel over at about forty anyway. Then they gave me really much time to think about it.

After several months in hospital, during which I had experienced the slow evanescence of all visitors except for my usually dreary-faced parents, I probably would have consented to any idea that got me out of my hospital room for good. Nevertheless, the prospect of a special school for the disabled stung. Nobody wants to be disabled.

Still, in the end, I went along with the idea. After all, it was a way out of the hospital and a perspective. I imagined it to be a place with soft walls and lots of traffic signs, a kind of retirement home for the prematurely infirm, but some of the kids there might be not that bad. And anyway, it only was for a year.


Being the 'new guy' can be a very rattling experience, wherever it happens. Being a 'new guy' in Yamaku, coping with overly-careful teachers and with classmates who sported up to eighteen years of being 'special' as well as two years of routine with the school's finer quirks, was not for the weak-hearted. Which was exactly what I was now.

This sobering fact was stressed again by the school's surprisingly young head nurse, to whom I reported on Monday. After he had established my medical needs and given me a short pep talk about my duty to adhere to them, I was sent on my way.

In retrospect, my first two weeks at Yamaku still are a mystery to me. On the one hand, they flew by so fast I later struggled to remember some of the stuff we covered during the lessons. This turned out to be rather a problem later, when the exams came around and I was unable to recall anything about the end of the Togukawa Shogunate.

On the other hand, I met and spoke with more people than I could ever have done in a 'normal' school, where everybody just sticks to their personal spaces. While there were some cliques in Yamaku too, the fact that everybody worked with or around their own physical problem somehow created a spirit of community and mutual respect.

During the first few days, I mostly stuck to my own class – especially since the two girls in nominal command of it had made it their pet project to assimilate me into the school in record time. Shizune and Misha had their faults, but a lack of determination was clearly not among them, and they really proved very helpful to me.

However, I soon started suspecting the two had an ulterior motive in befriending me, as they kept dropping hints about their need to find more supporters for their work at the student council. Since I preferred not to be put on the spot by them, I decided to get a second opinion from another classmate. That was how I met Hanako and Lilly.


One of the first questions to my self-appointed tour guides had been about the location of the school's library. Having become an avid reader during my time at the hospital, I was very eager to find out how well my new school was provided with reading materials. After they had told me, I went there on Wednesday afternoon.

As soon as I entered the library, I knew I would be spending a lot of time in that big and well-stocked room. I decided to start my experience by browsing around the shelves and leave the question of how to check books out for private use later. Walking through the long rows, I spotted a girl from my new class sitting in a corner with a book.

When I went and introduced myself, the girl seemed to be rather shy and hesitant to talk to me. I was almost ready to leave her to her book when I remembered why I had decided to approach her in the first place, so I asked her about Shizune and Misha.

To my total surprise, her partly-scarred face changed from its previous sullen look to a tiny smile as she told me that the two girls actually were the student council. According to Hanako, Shizune's perfectionism and firm resolve had driven off all the other council members, and she advised me to think twice before joining the two.

Just as I thanked Hanako for her advice and rose to leave again, I noticed that another student had approached us while we were talking. Hanako also noticed her and her face became visibly happier. The new student, a tall blond girl with a cane and sightless milky blue eyes, greeted Hanako and asked about me, so I introduced myself.

I finally left the library half an hour later with a tall stack of books under my arm and an invitation for tea with the two girls the following day. As I crossed the courtyard towards the dorms, I mused that Yamaku might actually be better than I thought.


The next day, I almost missed my teatime appointment when Misha and Shizune tried to press-gang me into helping them with the preparations of the upcoming school festival. It took me several minutes to convince them of my plans, but after I told them Hanako and Lilly had invited me, Shizune frowned and waved me off with a resigned look.

The teatime itself was a quiet and pleasurable affair, with Lilly as a gracious hostess and Hanako acting visibly more relaxed than in class. Lilly also cautioned me not to let myself be roped into Shizune's schemes too easily, but mostly we were just eating our meals and sipping tea. When I exited the room again, I felt calm and content.

Unfortunately, the soothing effect of the teatime was undone in a flash as I turned the next corner and found myself nearly colliding head-on with a smaller girl running through the hallway. I only saw her shocked face and felt her duck narrowly past my side, then she grimaced and called out a short apology as she resumed her sprint.

As she vanished down the hallway, I leant against the wall and breathed deeply. If one of us had been just half a second faster, she would have run right into me – and that might have been the end of me, as my doctors had told me repeatedly. Starting to walk again, I wondered whether to be angry at the unknown girl or to admire her quick reflexes.


The remaining school days were overshadowed by the approaching school festival. Since I had just come in straight from the hospital, I was exempted from helping with the class booth the others were preparing, but Shizune and Misha used my status to guilt-trip me until I accepted to work a shift as cashier at the booth on Sunday.

On Friday morning, I was walking to class when I noticed somebody had started to paint a large mural on the white-washed wall that ran between the main stairs to the dorms. On Tuesday, I had already seen a large number of black scrawls on the wall, but now parts of the wall were painted in blazing colours, showing abstract figures and images.

As I continued walking, I saw a slender student in the boys' summer uniform standing in front of the wall, scrutinizing it closely. I considered walking up to him and asking whether he was the artist, but then I noticed his empty sleeves and decided against it – surely, a person without arms would never be able to paint such a large picture.

Later that day, I had another teatime with Lilly and Hanako and remembered the mural on the wall. I pondered asking the girls about it, but refrained from it since I was still a bit hesitant about Lilly's blindness. However, I made a mental note to go visit the mural after doing my shift on Sunday, hoping it would be finished by then.

By Saturday, most of the students had visibly switched to festival mode: some were busy talking about their plans for Sunday while the more diligent ones (the two council girls among them, of course) only cared for the remaining preparations. I did my assignments quietly and decided to just stroll around the festival grounds on Sunday.


On Sunday morning, I got up later than during the week, ate leisurely and took a nice hot shower before starting towards the festival. Passing the only other occupied room in my hallway, I realized that I had not met its occupant yet; whoever he was, he did not seem to care much for company. Maybe he was already outside at the festival.

When I reached the candy booth my class had rigged up, Shizune and Misha were already there, telling two other students about how to operate the cotton candy machine we had borrowed from somewhere. After a short greeting, I joined them.

Two hours later, I left the booth again after a quiet shift. My fellow workers had told me that many of the guests would not arrive until the later afternoon and stay until the big fireworks display at 9 pm. With the rest of the day for myself, I walked back towards the dorms to look for the mural before finding some cheap food.

The finished mural was easily visible; now it actually covered most of the previously white wall in the blazing colours. Most people just walked by it, but as I came closer, I saw that the armless student I had already seen on Friday was back, turning his head to and fro to make out the smaller details. I smirked at his dedication and called out to him.

As the student turned, I saw to my surprise that it was actually a girl who just wore the boys' uniform with knotted sleeves to make up for her lack of discernible arms. To cover my embarrassment, I quickly uttered a compliment about the mural. The girl smiled at my save and introduced herself as Rin – and as the very person who made the mural.

I guess my astonishment showed, because Rin chuckled at my expression and then asked about my name. Before I knew it, I found myself deep in a conversation with her, totally forgetting I had only intended to take a quick look on my way for a snack.


After some time, Rin's gaze suddenly wandered past my face to someone farther away, and her expression became amused. I turned around and saw the head nurse approaching us, talking vividly with a smaller female student next to him. My eyes caught hers, and I suddenly recognized the girl who had almost careened into me some days ago.

By the time the two had reached us, the girl had also recognized me, because she smiled awkwardly as she introduced herself. Her name turned out to be Emi, and judging by the way she addressed Rin, the two were evidently good friends. The nurse just waved at us and walked on while Emi started telling Rin what she thought about the mural.

Seeing the two girls chatting, I suddenly remembered my original plans and moved a step away, but Emi stopped me while saying something to Rin. Rin just nodded shortly and Emi told me that, as a way of apology for the close shave in the hallway, she wanted to invite me and Rin to lunch at one of the booths. Feeling my stomach growl, I gladly accepted.

In the end, I spent the rest of the afternoon with the girls, telling them about my life at Tokyo and learning about Emi's dedication to track running, which – seeing as Emi walked around on two prosthetic legs – baffled me just as the armless Rin's obsession with the arts had before. As we parted ways, I felt slightly tired, but rather fulfilled.


On the way back to the dorms, I met Shizune and Misha, who had apparently just finished closing up our class booth. Misha was busy trying to clean her skirt, which showed a large irregular pattern of colourful gossamer-like candy threads, and Shizune had to nudge her to make her notice me. Finally Misha looked up and greeted me sheepishly.

As I looked at the two girls and thought about their commitment to making the festival a success, I had an idea. I deliberately did not say anything to Misha, but caught Shizune's gaze before I made a sweeping gesture at the merry scene all around us and lowered my head towards her. Shizune happily smiled at me while gesturing to Misha.

Misha now completely abandoned any attempt to clean the candy goo off her clothes and asked me whether I would like to see the fireworks with them. As I nodded emphatically, Shizune gave us a wave and we followed her to the main school building, where we went up to the fenced-in roof and secured a place with a view over the grounds.

While the attention of the girls was fixed on the first rockets going up, I looked around and noticed a familiar figure standing alone some feet away. I stepped closer and saw her hand slowly brushing the long hair from her face to see properly; as artificial stars lit the sky, they also illuminated the scarred skin normally hidden beneath the hair.

I watched Hanako's solemn face for a while as the girl stood at the fence, her face full of wonder at the fireworks shooting up from somewhere beyond the dorms and bathing the sky in colourful lights. Knowing better than to disturb the lone girl, I quietly returned to Shizune and Misha, watching the rest of the fireworks with them.


My second week at Yamaku began with a painful reminder of my still fragile state. When I was walking to class on Monday morning, I ran into the head nurse, who had apparently waited to catch me before the lessons began. After telling the passing Misha to relay my absence to Mutou, he inquired about my state of health.

Although I was irked at being waylaid by him, I truthfully told him about my activities of the preceding week, eliciting a smirk when I described my time at the festival with the girls. After I finished talking, he cocked his head and asked me whether I had also begun to take up some kind of physical exercise like he told me to.

Five minutes later I walked back to my class with a leaflet listing the physical pastimes I was permitted as a heart patient. The nurse had given me one week to start exercising on my own or be assigned to a supervised callisthenics group. Stupid slave-driver...


The predicament of having to take up some kind of sport hung over me all day and made me shirk the people I had met during the last days; in the end, I had a solitary lunch on a bench outside before I returned to my seat in the classroom. That night, when I went to bed, I asked myself whether I had just dreamed the fun time at the festival.

Luckily, next morning I met Emi in front of our classroom. After telling me how sad I had looked the day before, she invited me to spend the lunch break on the roof with her and Rin. This, along with Misha's ebullient gratitude for the help I gave her during the science lesson, did a good job of clearing away my moody feelings.

Just like at the festival, the lunch break with Emi and Rin was a strange, but very pleasant experience. Rin spent most of the time observing the clouds moving overhead, while Emi quickly devoured her meal to gain more time for talking afterwards. I sat with my back to the fence, calmly munching my bread and breathing in the fresh air.

Close to the end of our break, Emi suddenly asked about the downcast expression I had worn on Monday. When I told them about the nurse's ultimatum, Emi smirked and offered me to join her in her daily morning runs. Since the idea of running appealed to me more than water gymnastics or other things from the list, I agreed to give it a try.

Later that day, I went to the library to return some books and found Lilly there, chatting with the mousy librarian. After they had finished their chat, Lilly came over to me and I asked her about Hanako watching the fireworks on her own at the festival. She hung her head sadly, but then thanked me for not disturbing Hanako in her solace.


When my alarm clock blared early the next morning, it took me some seconds to remind myself that I was supposed to go running with Emi. I put on some clothes and tottered outside to the track, where I was greeted by a smiling Emi doing her warm-up sprints. I started imitating her and after five minutes, we started our normal running.

To my surprise, moving through the cool morning air actually felt quite good. Sure, Emi was way faster than me and my untrained muscles started aching after the first round, but apart from that it was strangely soothing to thread the ground in a quiet, continuous beat. Although I stopped after doing three laps, I promised Emi to come back soon.

After having a shower and a quick breakfast, I went to the nurse to inform him about my new routine. Since he just nodded and told me not to overexert myself, I suspected that he had known what I might do; anyway, I had done my duty. Feeling content and even a bit elated, I left the nurse's office and walked to class.


During the first break that morning, Misha and Shizune came over to my desk and asked me to help them with sorting the festival paperwork after school. Since I was still in high spirits from the exercise and had no plans for the day, I agreed at once; this easy victory seemed to genuinely baffle both girls, who had clearly expected some resistance.

Coming into the student council room and seeing over a dozen solid stacks of paper on the desks, I almost regretted my sudden outburst of school spirit. But as we started to sort out the various stacks, I settled into a nice quiet routine which was only broken by the occasional silent exchange of gestures between the girls.

Due to the calm atmosphere and the good preparation work of the girls, we progressed faster than I had thought. After about two hours, Shizune closed the last box and placed it on a cart with the other full boxes. Noticing that Misha had vanished, I gave Shizune a questioning look, but she just answered with a knowing smirk.

Misha returned some minutes later with a big paper bag and half a dozen soda cans, all of which she placed on an empty desk. After Shizune opened the bag, she offered it to me first; I chose a bread roll and a small packet of sweets while smiling to her to convey my thanks. As the girls also started eating, we all sat back and enjoyed our late meal.


Getting up on Thursday morning proved to be more strenuous than normally; my muscles were sore from yesterday's running. Luckily Emi and I had agreed I would not participate in her runs every morning, so this morning I was free to soothe my muscles with a longer hot shower before I ate breakfast and went off to class.

When I entered the classroom, Hanako rose from her seat and slowly walked over to me, drawing surprised looks from several other students. After she quietly greeted me, she asked whether I would like to have tea with Lilly and her later. Having neglected them a bit in the last days, I gladly consented, which earned me a tiny smile from her.

The kettle was already boiling when Hanako and I came to the empty classroom the two girls used for their breaks, and Lilly was busy measuring the right amount of tea leaves for three people. Hearing my voice, she turned and greeted me, then she went back to her preparation work while Hanako and I sat down and took out our food.

Once again, drinking tea with the elegant Lilly and the quiet Hanako felt like a scene from an English novel, although I endured some good-natured teasing when Lilly learned about my morning run with Emi and my work with the student council. Partly to stop her, I asked about the nearby shopping facilities, remembering my own supplies were dwindling.

Lilly smiled first, seeing right through my diversion attempt, but then she asked about my requirements. When I told her I just needed some food supplies to prepare my own meals and a few other essentials, she invited me to accompany Hanako and herself to the town on Friday, when they were taking care of their own shopping.


On Friday morning, I stumbled down to the track where Emi was waiting for me, her eyes glinting with amusement at my tired demeanour. Once again, she literally ran rings around me, but at least this time I managed to run a little longer before slowing down to a quick walk, and I willed myself to start running again for most of the last round.

As I was walking towards the cafeteria at lunch-time later, I found Rin next to the closed door of the art room, sitting on a large box. Seeing me, she got up slowly and requested my help in getting the box into the room, which I did. Apparently Rin had shoved the box all through the corridors and the elevator, but the closed door had defeated her.

Leaving the art room again, I decided against going to the cafeteria and asked Rin about her lunch plans. She suggested to go to the roof and just nodded towards her bag when I asked about food. Once up on the roof, she nimbly took out a packet of snacks, which we nibbled quietly while watching the clouds in the cerulean springtime sky.


After an uneventful school day, I joined Hanako and Lilly at the school gate and together, we started walking down the winding road to the adjacent town. With Lilly unable to tell me anything about the scenery and Hanako lost in her own thoughts most of the time, it was a quiet walk which ended in front of a small grocery store.

Once inside, I made myself useful to my companions by first locating Lilly's wishes for her and then saving Hanako from being stared at by offering to pay for her. After buying my own stuff too, we left again with our arms full of shopping bags.

The way back up the hill proved to be harder than I had expected it to be, with my hands full of shopping bags and the morning run fatigue still in my legs. I tried to keep down my panting to avoid worrying Lilly, but it was Hanako who suddenly suggested a short pause; as I sat down on a bench near the road, I gave her a grateful smile.

When we finally reached the school again, it was dark already; the grounds were empty while most of the dorm windows were lit. The girls thanked me for my help in the shop and then left towards their dorm, while I dragged my bags to my own abode. Back in my room, I laid back on my bed, wondering what Yamaku had in store for me next.


With my body still sore from the physical efforts of the preceding day, I appreciated the fact that Saturday morning's lessons gave me the chance to just sit around and relax. As the bell rang for lunch, I rose from my place with a quiet grunt, expecting my weekend to be quiet and restful. Then I felt somebody jab me in the back sharply.

Turning around, I found Shizune and Misha looking at me with expectant faces and their school bags already packed up neatly. Misha then told me that, as a reward for my help on Wednesday, they would treat me to a visit at their favourite tea house. Seeing that resistance would be futile and actually appreciating the idea, I nodded and we left.

After another walk down the hill, which was much less quiet than the first one thanks to Misha's cheerfulness, we reached our destination. The tea house was empty except for the waitress, which turned out to be the mousy school librarian Yuuko; when we came in, she made a big effort of bowing and taking our orders, which the girls took in stride.

During our meal, we mostly talked about my first days at Yamaku; the girls were eager for my impressions of the teachers and other students. I had feared that they would try to recruit me into the student council again, but apparently they were simply grateful for my help and willing to show this by treating me to a nice meal.

On our way back towards the school, we continued chatting about school stuff and other things. As we walked through the gate, another student came running up to us, wanting to speak to the girls. I took the chance and excused myself after thanking them for the invitation; as I entered the dorm, I could still hear Misha voicing Shizune's thoughts.


Despite my intention to catch up on my sleep on Sunday morning, I was wide awake at 7 am. Several failed tries to get back to blissful slumber later, I cursed my new medication and got up, deciding to make use of my insomnia and do some homework.

By 2 pm, most of my schoolwork was done and I proudly looked at the folded laundry on my bed, which I had just retrieved from the dryer in the dorm basement. Pondering what to do with the rest of my Sunday, I suddenly heard several voices outside my door, with one of them asking my name and another person answering in a haughty tone.

As I opened my door, I found Emi and Rin standing some feet away in casual clothes, and a boy wearing the full school uniform. The boy gave me a disapproving frown through his thick glasses, but the two girls' faces brightened as they saw me. While I greeted them, the boy shuffled back into his own room opposite mine and slammed the door.

Ignoring the boy's conduct, Emi told me that they wanted to have a picnic in the woods next to the school. But since Rin intended to do some nature sketches while there, they needed a third person to carry some of the goods; if I helped them, I could share in their picnic. After I fetched some fruit tarts as my picnic contribution, we left.


Half an hour later, I found myself sitting on a blanket next to Emi, chewing on a rice cake while feeling the slight wind brush across my face. Rin was lounging some distance away, sketching a large tree with quick strokes of a pencil held between the toes of her right foot.

As the shadows of the trees slowly moved across the clearing we sat in, I contemplated the girls before me. Emi sat cross-legged on the blanket, the line between her left leg stub and the prosthetic appendage distinctly visible beneath her over-knee stocking; the view might have freaked me out two weeks ago, but now I barely noticed it.

Granted, the sight of Rin in her faded green t-shirt with the sleeves sewn up below the ends of her arm stubs was still a bit unsettling – as was the spectacle of her holding a soda can between her knees, from which she drank through a straw. But here I was, out on a Sunday picnic with two girls my age. Sounded pretty good to me.


On Monday, we all tottered into our classrooms, expecting our homeroom teachers to give us the usual lecture about the upcoming week. Being familiar with Mutou's oddities by now, I settled in my seat and let my thoughts wander.

However, instead of giving one of his absent-minded speeches or calling out those who needed both hands to keep up their sleepy heads, Mutou informed us there would be a general school assembly this morning. Everybody looked up surprised – even those who had been busy fighting drowsiness just a moment ago.

Mutou
“As I said, the principal has called a general assembly starting at 9 pm. I believe she has an important announcement she wants to make to all members of the school, but I don't want to take away your surprise.”

Miki
“Maybe she wants us to elect a new student council. What do you think, Suzu?”

Misha
“I heard that, Miki! And it's not a nice thing to say when Shicchan and I are doing so much for everybody's benefit all the time!”

Mutou
“Calm down, Mikado. I don't believe the principal wants to impeach you two. Why don't you just wait for the assembly to find out? We'll all go to the auditorium at 8:45, so you can spend the time until then working or talking with each other – but do it quietly.”

Having said that, he opened his desk and drew out a book to read. Most of the students also started leafing through their bags for school materials or other items. Seeing that Shizune and Misha were already busy signalling to each other, I decided not to interrupt them and took out a novel I had gotten from the library.


When Mutou called us up again, we left our seats and marched down the hallway to the stairs, mingling with the other third graders from the adjacent rooms. I saw Hanako wait up for Lilly, who was busy guiding some of her blind classmates in the right direction; to my surprise, I recognized my ill-mannered dorm neighbour among them.

Entering the auditorium for the first time, I immediately noticed several differences to a 'normal' auditorium: there were handrails on the walls, a large screen on the far wall and the individual seats were marked by small plaques with numbers and small dots to ensure the students with sight problems would get a seat in one of the front rows.

As everybody had settled in, the principal rose from her seat on the podium and stepped up to the microphone. The gaze of the middle-aged woman veered over the assembly for a moment before she cleared her throat and started speaking. A teacher I did not know also stepped up and started translating her speech into sign language.

Principal
“Good morning everybody. I hope you all had a pleasant weekend and are now ready for a new school week. I would also like to thank each and everyone of you for your efforts in preparing our school festival which was, once again, a big success.”

Principal
“Now that the festival is over, there will be a longer time without big celebrations, which means that we all can focus on our normal work and the club activities. I believe most of you are involved in one our school clubs; if you are not, just ask one of the teachers or look for the club announcements on the message boards.”

Feeling that her speech was, after all, the same kind of drivel told by school principals all over the country, I leant back in my seat, seeing that several of my classmates around me were doing the same – but then the principal raised her voice again.

Principal
“However, our honoured music teacher has suggested something, which I believe will be a great way to raise our school spirit and strengthen the ties between the students of all ages. Starting this Saturday, we shall all prepare ourselves for the first Yamaku School Dance, which will be held in four weeks.”

Principal
“Each of you is supposed to find a partner, and there will be dance classes for everyone during the Saturday afternoons, so you can all practice and learn the necessary skills to make the dance a success. Your homeroom teachers will tell you the details later...”

The principal suddenly stopped speaking, and there was a moment of general confusion as dozens of heads turned to find out the reason. They all settled on the auburn-haired girl who had stood up from her seat, looking unusually determined.

Rin
“This is, without any doubt, the stupidest idea I have ever heard coming from a grown-up person. Especially when it's from a teacher who should really know better.”
Last edited by BlackDuke on Sat May 23, 2020 9:33 am, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
BlackDuke
Posts: 36
Joined: Sat Apr 16, 2016 10:41 am

Act I, Part 2: The Rules Of The Game

Post by BlackDuke » Fri Apr 28, 2017 11:27 am

We were still talking animatedly amongst each other when we finally arrived back in our own classroom, just as all the other classes probably did. After Rin's curt statement, the assembly had transformed into a pandemonium of voices and gestures – the latter ones by the deaf students among us, who had not caught Rin's words.

After trying to calm us down for several minutes, the principal had sent someone to ring the school bells and open the main doors; outside, the teachers had more or less sorted out the exiting crowd and told everyone to return to their classrooms.

Mutou came in five minutes later, wiping his brow in exasperation as he leant against his desk and silently counted out the students to see if everyone was present. Once done, he sighed audibly and raised his voice to address us.

Mutou
“Everyone, please calm down! I know this was an unexpected revelation, and you were all astonished at Ms. Tezuka's reaction, but let us try to talk about this in a composed and sensible way, shall we? Okay, who wants to say something? Valeth?”

The boy in front of Misha rose and said something about staging the dance lessons the principal mentioned on the semi-free Saturdays, which he considered unfair. Then a girl from the front row asked about the selection of partners. Feeling they were both missing the crucial point, I raised my hand and was called up next by Mutou.

Hisao
“I know I'm a transfer student who just came here two weeks ago, but I am also doubtful about the merits of the whole project – and while I don't agree with the exact choice of words Rin Tezuka used, I do believe she has a point in questioning it.”

Hisao
“Staging a school dance sounds like a good idea, but most of the students here suffer from health issues which'll make their participation problematic. Some simply can't see their partners, or hear the music, or cope with the activity of a full night of dancing. It could still be done, but only if our special needs are taken into account.”

As I brought forth my argument, I saw several other students nod at my words and also felt Misha directly next to me translate them for Shizune. When I finally stopped talking, Mutou held up his hand to forestall other comments and looked around the class.

Mutou
“Thank you for your contribution, Nakai. And I believe that, despite being a recent arrival, you summed up the difficulties very well. Does anybody disagree with what he said?”

As all the previously raised hands were quickly lowered, my fellow classmates seemed to consent with me. I felt a strange sense of accomplishment as Mutou turned around and wrote 'Improvement Ideas' at the top of the blackboard.

Mutou
“So let us collect some thoughts about how – apart from cancelling it completely – the dance should be realized in a way that avoids causing additional problems and makes this a good time for everyone involved. Who wants to go first?”

Several hands flew up again as I let my gaze swerve across the room. Actually, I did like the idea of a school dance, but when the principal had announced it, I had immediately thought about the girls I had befriended: blind Lilly, scarred Hanako, boisterous Misha, silent Shizune, the amputees Emi and Rin... how would they handle a dance?


At noon, the cafeteria was for once filled to the brim; it looked like every single student who had been at the assembly – and some who had not – had converged there. However, most students obviously had not come for nourishment, but for news on the principal's dance project; everywhere I listened, I heard people talk about it animatedly.

It had been a busy morning for my class; after Mutou had recorded our ideas and told us he would relay them to the principal, the discussions had continued. Some teachers had tried to make us listen to the scheduled stuff, while the others had given us the chance to contemplate the topic further, thus drawing out more ideas in turn.

Now I sat at a big table as part of a larger group which involved most of my class, sipping some miso soup while listening to the one-handed Miki Miura, who reiterated her view on the dance idea. Next to me was Misha, valiantly trying to write down some points since the general bustle made it impossible for her to give Shizune a running translation.

When I slurped the last of my soup, I felt somebody nudge me in the back; as I turned to find the source of the nudge; I saw Emi standing behind me with a big plate of beef stew in one hand and a big grin on her face.

Emi
“I see your class is also still talking about that dance thing. Strange idea, isn't it?”

Hisao
“Well, our homeroom teacher encouraged us to think about ways to make it possible, and my classmates seemed really motivated. I hope Rin knows what she was doing, giving the whole school a piece of her mind...”

Emi
“Knowing her better than most other people here, I wouldn't be surprised if she actually didn't know. But our teacher also made us find conditions to which all the students could participate. You wouldn't believe the things we came up with!”

Hisao
“Well, if all the teachers held such brainstorming sessions, the principal will be swamped with good ideas. Maybe it'll help by making this bearable – or by making it infeasible. Oh, please tell Rin that I really liked her sudden statement and her audacity.”

Emi
“Don't worry, I will. See you tomorrow – bright and early!”

I twitched involuntarily as I remembered my commitment to running with her, but Emi was already on her way to another table, where I could make out Rin's short hair among some other students' heads. Chuckling quietly, I joined my classmates' discussion again.


The next morning I arrived at my class slightly late; during my morning run with Emi, I had tried to run faster than last week and experienced a slight pain in my chest. The nurse had frowned when I had visited him about it, but after taking my pulse and telling me to return if it happened again, he had sent me on my way to my classroom.

When I finally entered the classroom through the back door, I saw Mutou leaning against his desk. He noticed my apologetic look and waved me to my chair before continuing his talk to the class.

Mutou
“As I was just saying, after the assembly yesterday, most of the classes in this school did come up with ideas about the principal's project of a school dance. After sifting through them and talking to the medical staff, the principal has modified her plan slightly, writing up a list of conditions to alleviate possible problems and difficulties.”

He took up a piece of chalk and began to write on the blackboard with it. I was still busy settling into my chair and paid no attention to him, but as he slowly filled the blackboard with text, my classmates started making surprised gasps and critical comments. When I finally looked at the finished list, I read this:

1. All students are expected to participate in the upcoming school dance and also to find a partner to attend the dance with. Exceptions may be made due to medical and personal considerations. Students deliberately wishing not to attend the dance should speak with their homeroom teacher.

2. To ensure that all students are capable of participating and enjoying the dance, there will be preparatory classes during the next three Saturdays. As a compensation for the loss of the free afternoons, the summer vacation will be extended by two extra days.

3. Both the dance itself and the preparatory classes will be closely monitored by several members of the school's medical staff to provide for any unforeseen contingency. Those students who are not permitted to participate due to their constitution or an impairment will be notified by their homeroom teacher or a member of the medical staff.

4. The dance will be organized by the faculty staff and in agreement with the members of the student council. Students with additional ideas for the dance should address either the council members or their homeroom teacher.

5. To alleviate the potential problems arising for students suffering from an impairment of sight, hearing or speech, these students are expected to find a dance partner who has no such impairment.


My classmates had started discussing the relevance of the various points to themselves, and I silently applied them to my own situation. Seeing as I had just had a chest pain that morning, the third point might disqualify me from participating – but as I thought about whether that was a good or a bad thing, I heard my name called out behind me.

Misha
“Hicchan! Haven't you heard me? I just asked if you'd like to eat with Shicchan and me in the council room later? It'll be just the three of us.”

Hisao
“Uhm... well, yes, I'd appreciate that. But don't you and Shizune have to be accessible if somebody wants to approach you with an idea about the dance? It says so in the fourth condition, doesn't it?”

Misha chuckled as she translated my answer for Shizune, who seemed to ponder this for a moment before answering with a string of curt signals, which made Misha laugh.

Misha
“Shicchan says that if anybody wants to talk to us, he knows where to find us – but most of the students here know better than to disturb our lunchtime.”

Any further conversation was foiled by Mutou, whose attempt to calm down the general chatter was slowly obeyed by our classmates. As the noise had completely settled down, he addressed the class again with a small contrite smile on his face.

Mutou
“I can see that you all feel surprised about this, but please think it over coolly and sanely for a while. I will be here after classes today, so if anybody wants to talk with me about it, please come then. However, I hope most of you will have a great time at the dance and enjoy the chance to mingle with your fellow students.”


During the rest of the morning, talking about the dance was confined to the breaks, as all the teachers were dedicated to stick to the curriculum today. As the lunch bell rang, I packed my things and followed the two girls. Despite my earlier doubts, we reached the student council room without being waylaid by people with ideas about the dance.

Only after we had all settled down at a desk and were busy with our lunches, I suddenly thought about why the girls had invited me today. If my heart condition would not be an issue, I needed to find a partner for the dance. And it was the same for both of the girls – especially Shizune, who also needed a non-deaf partner due to point five.

As I looked at Shizune and Misha conversing silently over their half-eaten food, I realized that Misha was not translating it for me. Then I remembered their attempts to interest me in the student council during my first week, but another voice in my head chided me for being too cynical about it. Maybe they had just forgotten my presence...

Hisao
“Sorry to interrupt you, Misha... but are you talking about the dance or am I witnessing the silent machinations of the student council at work? If it's about finding new members, I'm still not joining, by the way.”

Misha
“Oops, I'm sorry we shut you out, Hicchan. But we weren't talking about the council for once, only about girl stuff; you'd probably been bored if I had spelled it out for you. So is everything alright with your food?

Hisao
“Yes, it is. In fact, the pre-packaged stuff I bought when I went shopping on Friday with Hanako and Lilly is surprisingly good. Still, I do prefer to eat my own meals, and tomorrow I'll probably bring something I made myself because I won't be running with Emi.”

It might have been my imagination, but I thought I saw Shizune frown as Misha signalled my words to her. Misha waited for Shizune to formulate her answer and finish signalling before she started speaking again, now with a smirk on her face.

Misha
“Actually, Shicchan and I were really talking about the dance. I asked her if it was proper for a girl to ask out a boy – after all, this is the 21st century – but Shicchan is adamant that the correct way for a girl still is to wait patiently until the boy asks her.”

Hisao
“How very traditional of her. But what about if the boy is too shy or afraid to make the first move – or if he simply doesn't realize that the girl wants to be asked by him?”

Misha scrunched her face in thought as she communicated my objection to Shizune, who answered with a flourish of curt signals and an amused smirk, making Misha laugh out.

Misha
“Well, in that case, the girl is of course allowed to give off subtle hints to the boy, using the full array of her feminine wiles to let him see the light! It's really obvious, isn't it? But don't repeat anything of this outside this room, Hicchan – that's highly confidential information we're sharing with you here, okay?”

Hisao
“Hmm, I see. So if Shizune's right, we're in for an interesting week, with girls entrancing the boy of their choice by using 'feminine wiles' all over the school... May I ask how this is supposed to work out with the student council's non-fraternization policy? Or are you and Shizune going to do a 180° and hand out a leaflet on that topic?”

My quip and the idea of teaching other girls about how to flirt right made Misha guffaw loudly, and even Shizune smiled for a moment before shooting her friend a quick glare. As Misha calmed down again, Shizune fired off another string of signals, glancing at me this time before pointedly looking at her wristwatch.

Misha
“By the way, Hicchan. Have you ever danced with a girl before? I mean, I know that many country students learn traditional dances during middle school, but I don't know if that's the case in Tokyo too... And Shicchan just said she should find an experienced partner, since it might be hard to dance to music she can't hear, right?”

Hisao
“Hmm, I think she's right about it. But I don't know whether I'll even be allowed to take part in the dance, so I'll rather wait before making plans for it.”

Misha
“Oh, I see. But that's exactly what you said in class yesterday, Hicchan. There are just so many students here for whom the dance means an extraordinary effort. Finding someone who isn't physically impaired like that is really going to be a challenge, and the longer you wait, the harder it'll get...”

Hisao
“Yeah, exactly. So then I take it you're a good dancer, Misha? Maybe you and Shizune can help the other students with your knowledge – about dancing, not about the successful persuasion of hesitant boys, of course.”

Misha
“Well, I had some ballet lessons when I was in elementary school, but I only remember all the frilly dresses and gaudy decorations we had there... I really wonder what the teachers will do about the decorations and other things. Maybe Shicchan and I should ask Mutou about that later; he said they would do it in agreement with us, didn't he?”

Misha stopped speaking and began to discuss her last thought with Shizune, who seemed to share her friend's conviction about the student council's influence on the planning of the dance. I returned my attention to my food, satisfied that I had deflected her lure for the moment. Still, I had to be on my guard about that...


Back in the classroom, I gathered from the scattered conversations that the search for dance partners was already in full swing. In the front row, Miki Miura was talking with her neighbour, who had been asked out by a boy from class 3-A. When I passed them, I also saw the obese boy who sat behind me gaze out of the window with a sigh.

Just as I reached my chair, I noticed that Hanako had come in directly behind me and was slowly approaching me instead of proceeding to her own chair. I momentarily pondered if she came to ask me to be her dance partner, but dismissed that idea immediately as the shy girl started to speak in her usual quiet and timid tone.

Hanako
“Ehm... hello Hisao. Lilly wanted to ask... if you're not doing anything during lunch break tomorrow... maybe you would like to have tea with us again in that room?”

Hisao
“Yes, I would be delighted to. If you see Lilly, please tell her that.”

Hanako gave me a tiny smile and walked on to her chair. As my eyes followed her slender figure, I thought about Hanako's situation: neither her scars nor her timidity were what I would call 'medical reasons' to avoid the dance. But I could not easily picture her going to such a festivity, let alone dancing with a boy in clear sight of others.
Last edited by BlackDuke on Sat May 23, 2020 9:35 am, edited 3 times in total.

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BlackDuke
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Act I, Part 3: More Potential Partners

Post by BlackDuke » Fri Apr 28, 2017 11:39 am

On Wednesday, all the hallways and classrooms were still buzzing with animated talk about the dance, but after the announcement of the principal's conditions the day before, most conversations were now centred about who had asked whom to be their dance partner. In this, Yamaku obviously was just like any other high school.

However, some snippets of talk I overheard while walking towards my classroom also told me that this morning, dozens of students had received a letter from the medical staff, saying they were not permitted to take part in the dance because of their health issues. Some took this lightly, but I saw one or two girls looking crestfallen.

Reaching my classroom, I saw that the girl who normally sat next to Hanako was pleading with Misha and Shizune, frantically waving a piece of paper. I caught the words 'right of objection' and 'discrimination' from the girl as I passed Misha's desk. Shizune was sadly shaking her head, which made the girl act even more frenzied.

Misha
“We're very sorry, Naomi, but there's no way to change it. You know the rules of Yamaku; if the doctors say you can't do something, you can't. That's what we also told Natsume earlier; she's in a similar situation. And while we understand you're angry, I really don't think it's wise to face bright lights and loud music with your condition.”

I sat down in my chair as Naomi slouched back to her place with a dejected look. So at least two of my female classmates could not go to the dance; I felt sorry for them. Then I realized that, since I had not found such a letter on my floor this morning, I was allowed to participate – and eligible as a partner to Shizune or to Misha, if I wanted to.


The morning lessons flew by surprisingly fast; when the lunch bell rang, I was baffled for a moment until I saw other students rise from their seats. Shizune held up her lunch box with an inviting look on her face, but I shook my head apologetically, motioning to Hanako approaching me to indicate that I would eat my lunch with her.

When we arrived at the empty room, Lilly was not there, so Hanako quietly started boiling water for the tea while I took some plates and cups and laid the table. Expecting silence from my shy companion, I was rather surprised when she suddenly addressed me. I looked up to see her holding a slightly-worn chess board and a plastic bag with the pieces.

Hanako
“Uhm... since Lilly will probably need some more time to arrive, I wanted to ask... if you'd like to have a game of chess with me... you do play chess, don't you?”

Hisao
“Oh yeah, sure. I'm not very good at it, but I'll do my best to put up a decent fight.”

Hanako
“It's okay... normally I only play against Lilly, and... please don't tell her, but it isn't exactly challenging to play against someone who... can't see the situation on the board...”

Hisao
“Ah, I see. So how about I prepare the board and you finish making tea, okay?”


When Lilly finally came in fifteen minutes later, Hanako and I were immersed in a battle of wooden soldiers, both of us staring at the board and sipping tea from our cups. By then, I had realized that Hanako was actually a rather good player whose only weakness was her general timidity; the only way for me to win seemed to play more boldly than usual.

However, our concentration vanished when we saw Lilly's tense face; instead of her usual collected and cultivated manner, she gave off an atmosphere of stress and annoyance. As Hanako jumped up and offered Lilly a seat, I was for once glad that the blond girl was not able to see her friend's shocked face.

Lilly
“Ah, thank you Hanako. Hisao is here also, right? Hello and sorry for being late, but I was held up by my classmates. It felt like every single one of them wanted to talk to me.”

Hanako
“I already made tea for us; hopefully you'll like how I made it. But you look exasperated, Lilly. Were there... any problems you had to take care off as class representative?”

Lilly
“Not exactly. It was about the dance and the principal's rules. Having blind students find a sighted partner sounds good in theory, but it means my classmates cannot just ask out each other. Some of them actually suggested that I arrange some kind of dating service with the representatives from the other classes... are you laughing, Hisao?”

Hisao
“I'm very sorry, Lilly, but I just pictured Shizune and Misha's retort if you came to them, asking them to find suitable students to partner up with your classmates. Have you tried referring the problem to your homeroom teacher?”

Lilly
“Yes, I did – but Ms. Miyagi was not very keen on that either. The principal should have thought about this earlier; every year in the school has a class for blind students, so it actually is a serious problem. Then there are the deaf and mute students, who also need unimpaired partners, so we are talking about at least seventy to eighty students!”

Hisao
“Oh my. And since a blind student also can't pair with a deaf or mute one, the number of conflicts is augmented even more. The principal might've been better off by drawing lots for all the medically suited students – or by calling the whole thing off.”

Lilly
“Exactly – but if she did that now, it would be an awful loss of face and authority. Right now, all we have is a situation where some people suddenly become very attractive to their fellow students simply because of their health situation. By the way, have you two already thought about what you will do concerning the dance?”

Hanako
“I asked Mutou yesterday if I could just... skip attending, but he said that with the high number of medically... exempt students, he'd prefer if I... participated in it. He also said that it could actually be... a fun thing to experience, but... I don't know.”

Lilly
“Hmm... if my classmates keep bugging me, maybe I could fix you up with one of the nicer ones – but if I do that, the others will probably want me to do the same for them. How about you, Hisao? Has anyone asked you already?”

Hisao
“I ate lunch with Misha and Shizune yesterday, and Misha asked about my dance skills; it sounded like she was leading up to ask me either in Shizune's name or her own. But then we somehow changed topics, so strictly speaking, she never asked me.”

Hanako looked at the chess board in thought, apparently uncomfortable with the course the conversation took. Then her gaze fell at the clock on the all and she suddenly leapt up in panic, startling both Lilly and me.

Hanako
“Oh, I'm so sorry, Lilly. I... totally forgot that I needed to pass by the teacher's lounge before classes resume. Is... it a problem for you two if I leave now?”

I shook my head to indicate I was okay with that, and after Lilly gave her a kind smile, she grabbed her things and quickly vanished through the door.


When the door closed again, Lilly waited several seconds to wait if Hanako might return; then she sighed deeply and drank up the last of her tea. Feeling she had forgotten my presence, I coughed quietly.

Lilly
“Aah! Oh sorry, Hisao. I did not forget you were here, but my mind was still occupied with the quandary of how to find dance partners for a dozen blind students and myself – and for Hanako too, if I am honest. I do not believe she will go and find one on her own.”

Hisao
“Excuse me if I'm out of line, but wouldn't it be the best for her if you asked one of your classmates to take her to the dance? I still don't know her that well, but she could profit from going to the school dance and she might feel less timid with a blind partner – if the problem's only about her scarring, of course.”

Lilly stayed quiet for a moment and just looked at me with her sightless eyes, which made me rather uneasy. I considered apologizing to her about my prior statement, but after a while, she sighed again and gave me a tired smile.

Lilly
“It's not as easy as that, Hisao – and it's not only about her scarring. You see, the whole point of Yamaku is not to hide away with other disabled people, but to be able to return to the world outside one day. The dance project would be a stellar idea if we did it as a cooperation with a regular high school, meeting other people our age socially.”

Lilly
“Imagine how it would feel for Hanako if she actually went to the dance with a blind boy I chose for her. What she really needs is a partner who is aware of her scars, but able to look past them and see the interesting and unique girl actually hiding behind the scars. If she found such a partner, she might even enjoy the dance.”

Suddenly feeling like she had told me this character description because she wanted me to fit it, I also emptied my tea cup and started cleaning up my place. Lilly did the same and, after quickly washing the used dishes, we went our separate ways. As I walked back to class, I felt that the number of my prospective dance partners had just doubled.


On Thursday morning, the weather took a turn for the worse; when I got up and looked out of my window, I saw that the paths across the school grounds were flecked with big puddles. My warm bed looked very inviting, but I knew that Emi would be waiting outside already, so I sighed and reached for the PE clothes lying on my chair.

Half an hour later I jogged around the track in a tired beat, feeling the rainwater splash against my naked legs and my already soggy shirt. As Emi overtook me for the second time, I wondered once again if her running prosthetics had a built-in engine; certainly no creature of flesh and muscles could speed through the rain like that.

As I finished my final lap, Emi was waiting for me, walking around slowly to calm down her heated-up muscles. I raised my arms in a victory pose and waved to the invisible masses at the stands, which made Emi giggle audibly.

Hisao
“Thank you, people! And I'd like to use this opportunity to announce my retirement from running right now, while I'm still young and at the peak of my career! Today felt more like puddle-hopping anyway...”

Emi
“Aw, poor Hisao. Isn't there anything which could tempt you to reconsider your decision – like a mid-day meal with two cursed beauties at the top of the tallest tower?”

Hisao
“If that's an invitation for lunch on the roof, I'm game. I still don't know if I'll ever manage to climb the stairs, but I'll do my best. Now excuse me before I start growing gills.”

When I was back in the dorm and had a long shower to chase the rain chill from my body, I thought about Emi's invitation. It might just be wishful thinking, but considering my last two lunch breaks, I'd better be prepared for another attempt to be roped into becoming somebody's dance partner. Sooner or later, I had to choose one anyway.


Due to the bad weather outside, the morning lessons seemed to pass much slower than they had on Wednesday. During our group work in literature class, my eyes kept swerving back to the rain splashing against the windows, and it was so quiet in the room I almost believed I could hear a quiet sigh coming from Shizune's mouth.

Thankfully, the rain stopped half an hour before lunch, and when the bell rang, the first sun rays were appearing between the grey clouds. I had packed up my things early, so I was among the first students leaving the room. Climbing the stairs to the roof quickly, I opened the door with the expectation to be alone there.

Instead I found myself almost bumping into Rin, who was standing near the door, wearing a blue raincoat with her trademark knotted-up sleeves. It looked like she had been busy studying the rain clouds on the horizon, but now she turned to me and smirked.

Rin
“Oh, it's you. Emi's not here yet. I wonder if she's running around the corridors again, but she'll probably come soon. So help yourself if you can't wait.”

She nodded to a plastic box with a loop of stiff cord. As she sat down on a bench near the perimeter fence, I noticed that she was barefoot; her sandals were lying next to the box in a way that made me suspect she had just discarded them on a whim after coming to the roof. I decided against opening the box and sat down next to Rin.

Hisao
“Thank you, I'm not that hungry. But it must be awfully cold to walk barefoot around the wet roof; do you want me to get your sandals for you?”

Rin
“Nah, it's okay. I like standing in the rain against my skin while looking at the clouds, so I took them off. Normally, it's quite cold, but the puddle's warm from the building below, so it feels rather pleasant. And the clouds gave me an idea for a charcoal drawing too...”

As her voice trailed off, I found myself thinking about whether she was expecting a reply to her statement or if I had just listened in to her raw thought process. Just as I wanted to break the silence with another comment on the weather, I saw the big door open again and Emi stepped through, carrying several soda cans.

Emi
“Man, I'm hungry. Oh, hi Hisao. Can you imagine that I was just held up by the nurse? He told me to cut down my morning runs if the weather's bad, just because he fears for my health. We had fun this morning, didn't we, Hisao?”

Hisao
“Well, for once I do have to agree with the nurse. The rain really was something else this morning, and if you call today's exercise 'fun', then I'm seriously afraid of things you'd call 'no fun'. But I'll try to hold on to the morning runs – at least for now.”

Rin smirked at my retort while Emi gave me a nasty look, which vanished quickly when she saw the plastic box on the ground. Opening it, she took out three wrapped sandwiches, tossing one to me and unwrapping the sandwich for Rin. However, Rin made no attempt to receive it, looking down at her bare feet instead.

Rin
“Oops, when I decided to stand in the puddle before, I forgot I'd still need my feet for eating. Could you help me, Hisao? You can either clean my feet or feed me the sandwich in little chunks, I'm fine either way.”

Emi lowered her own sandwich and stared at Rin, who now looked at me, genuinely curious about which choice I might take. Oddly enough, I did not question the logic of her words, but just took the sandwich from Emi and ripped it into three smaller bits. As I held out the first chunk to Rin, I felt her lips brush my fingers as she took it up.

Emi
“One of these days, I swear I'm going to have the doctors examine your head, Rin – but I'm too scared of what they might find in there. At least put your sandals back on; you'll get a nasty cold if you keep your feet on the cold ground. Here they are.”

As Rin took another morsel from my hand, she obediently stretched out her legs and Emi placed the sandals back on her feet. This time, Rin managed to avoid touching my fingers when receiving the sandwich, but it still felt strangely comforting. Emi drew back, giving both of us an incredulous look as she took a bite from her own sandwich.

Emi
“Actually, I wanted to talk to both of you. Our class rep did just tell me there's a rumour going around about the dance. It says the students who don't have a partner by Saturday afternoon will be allotted in pairs by the teachers. Do you believe it's true?”

Hisao
“I'm not sure about that, but I spoke with Lilly Satou yesterday; she's beleaguered by her classmates, who seem to have a hard time finding sighted partners. In the end, assigning people to each other might be the only way to ensure the students with sight or sound impairments also get a dance partner. What do you two think?”

Emi
“If I have the choice, I'd rather find a partner for myself than get one assigned. And I'm not sure if I can even dance in my prosthetics, so I'd need a good dancer to make up for that handicap, not some poor blind boy to stumble into. See?”

She swallowed the last bit of her sandwich and held out her hands, humming quietly; then she made some bold steps and started to do a spinning motion. However, she seemed unable to pick up momentum, being inhibited by her artificial legs. After a few seconds, she broke off her attempt and looked down with a frown on her face.

Emi
“I'm going to ask the nurse about it, but it feels like I simply can't make smooth dancing motions with these guys. I won't notice if my partner accidentally steps on my toes, but that's the only advantage. And I can't imagine you're better off, Rin. Have you ever tried dancing before, by the way?”

Rin
“Can't say I have... but maybe I should try it before that practice thingy. Let's see...”

To my surprise, Rin simply rose from the bench and kicked off her sandals again; then she started turning on her toes. But unlike Emi, Rin made a perfect 360° spin, her arm stubs held out as she finished her motion gracefully. Emi and I gaped at her as she slipped back into her sandals and took the last part of the sandwich from my hand.

Hisao
“Okay, I did know that you're pretty agile from using your feet for all kinds of stuff, but I honestly didn't believe to see that. You'll put most of the other girls to shame.”

Rin's clueless expression told me that my compliment had gone completely past her. Emi started laughing, which made Rin look even more confused in turn; this exchange went on for a moment before Emi composed herself and fixed me in her gaze.

Emi
“Well, it seems that our ballerina here won't have a problem with the dancing – but what about you, Hisao? Did you ask anybody already?”

Hisao
“Ehm... no, not yet. I wanted to wait for the medical verdict before that; it would've been unfair if I had asked someone out only to retract it later. Several of my classmates were prohibited from participating due to their health issues.”

Emi
“Yes, there were some people in our class too who got a letter from the doctors. But if you didn't get one, you're supposed to go, which means you're expected to appear with a partner, right? So you should better ask a cute girl who likes you, otherwise the principal might decide that you'll have to dance with Hanako or even with Shizune.”

Her blunt statement silenced me for a moment; as I was contemplating whether I should treat it as a proposal to choose her, as an offensive remark against Shizune and Hanako or just as a light comment, I was saved by the bell. Rin rose and gave me a friendly nod, while Emi collected the litter from our lunch and stuffed it into the box.
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Act I, Part 4: Contemplating Companions

Post by BlackDuke » Fri Apr 28, 2017 11:42 am

That night, as I was lying in my bed staring at the ceiling, I thought about the last three weeks and the six girls I had befriended during this short timespan. I would have gladly continued spending time with all of them just like before, but now the dance demanded a decision. Which girl should I ask – and would she accept me?

I tried to approach the problem logically. While none of them had asked me directly, there had been clear signals from most of them. As far as I knew, none of them already had an offer by another boy, but the longer I hesitated, the less time the others would have to find an alternative – especially if the rumour of a deadline was true.

Unfortunately, the decision for one girl was even harder since they all came in pairs. Not only would I spurn the other five by asking out one, but my decision might actually cause repercussions between my choice and her best friend. I closed my eyes, contemplating the individual merits and problems of each girl as my possible dance partner.

First, there was Shizune. Her deaf-muteness was a grave disadvantage, and dancing with somebody unable to hear the music might be infeasible. But the girl who ran the student council in spite of that would know how to work around it, and she would be determined to do her best. She was also graceful and maybe the most feminine of the six.

Then again, Misha might be the safer option. True, she was boisterous and blunt, and if I took her to the dance, she might keep running off to Shizune most of the evening. But of all the girls I considered, only Misha had no physical difficulties, and her cheerful spirit might save the evening if the whole affair became awkward and formal.

Another possibility was asking Lilly. With her blindness, she needed a sighted partner, and while she seemed detached and inaccessible at times, she was a stunning beauty. Should I choose her, I would be the envy of all the other boys. She also really deserved to have a good time at the dance after suffering so much stress about it.

However, Lilly had made it clear that her greatest wish for the dance was for me to take Hanako to it. Choosing the shyest girl in our class would raise quite a few eyebrows, and it would definitely astound Hanako herself. But apart from her scars, her body was whole and rather nice-looking, and I could imagine dancing with her and making her smile.

Taking Emi to the dance had not been my preferred option until today, since I feared that my weak heart could not stand up to her energy if she danced like she ran. But she had showed me at lunch how she was inhibited by her prosthetics, and I knew that each time I had spent time with Emi, I had enjoyed the company of the cute girl.

Finally, there was Rin. The idea of taking the armless girl to a dance was strange at first, and she had voiced her opinion on the dance rather strongly before. But today had shown me she was more nimble on her feet than I had thought. Therefore, dancing would not be a problem, and Rin's unique outlook on life might lighten up the evening.

I grunted in frustration as I adjusted my position under the sheets. Here I was, agonizing about choosing a dance partner from six friendly, interesting and beautiful girls. This was not about finding my future bride, but about a school dance, after all. Tomorrow I would use the lunch break to ask one of the girls, and hope that she accepted.


Friday morning came around much too early for me; despite my resolve, I had lain awake for a long time before finally falling asleep. I was still uncertain about whom to ask when arriving at my classroom – and the fact that three of them were my classmates did not help either. At least I still had time until the lunch break to decide.

Thankfully, the morning lessons were challenging enough to divert my thoughts from too much reflection about the question at hand. When the lunch bell rang, I left the room and went off to the bathroom to wash my face and brush down my unruly hair. Knowing the girl's habits by now, I knew where to find the one of my choice. So I decided to...

---------- Shizune ---------- Misha ---------- Lilly ---------- Hanako ---------- Emi ---------- Rin ----------
Last edited by BlackDuke on Sat May 23, 2020 9:40 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Act I, Finals

Post by BlackDuke » Fri Apr 28, 2017 11:52 am

This part was deleted due to a change in the story structure (see below).
Last edited by BlackDuke on Sun Apr 30, 2017 10:34 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Dance Of The Delicate

Post by Oddball » Fri Apr 28, 2017 1:03 pm

I am not familiar with the more intricate details of Japanese society and customs, so I did not use honorifics like “chan”, “san”, “sensei” etc.
Good, because if you used them they'd be out of place. The game itself doesn't use them.
I am very aware that my central story element, a mandatory school dance at a school for the disabled and diseased, does sound hare-brained, but I needed to have all the Yamaku students facing a common problem.
I don't see why it's hare-brained at all. If "the disabled and diseased" can still run track, participate in clubs, attend festivals, and all that, why can't they dance?

If anything, the fact that Yamaku doesn't have a school dance is more surprising than them announcing one. The only oddity is that it's mandatory. Given how caught up everyone was with the festival, I'd imagine that just announcing it would be enough to make everyone feel they have to go (with maybe a few stragglers.)

As for the story itself, you really move along at a fast pace. While the sequence of events and the twists are unique, I don't feel you're actually spending enough time with any of them to get a few for the characters and their relationships.

As for your dialogue ... viewtopic.php?p=128500#p128500

After reading more of the story... I just can't get into it. It's like not only did nobody in the school realize that they had disabled students, but many of the disabled students never realized there were things they couldn't do.

I can't buy it. From what we've seen, the school puts a lot of effort into the care of it's students and many of th students have lived their whole lives with their problems. They know what they can and can't do.

Likewise, the way you write it, it seems like people never associate with anybody that has a different disability from them. We know Kenji has friends that can see (or at least people he can talk too that can see), Lilly has friends that can see, do none of the other blind students have friends that are able to see or do they just associate with other blind students and nobody else?

Then you add choices. Those never work well, especially the huge amount of them you threw in in such a short space.
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Re: Dance Of The Delicate

Post by BlackDuke » Sun Apr 30, 2017 10:27 am

To address the points you made:

1. First of all, thank you for the quick and extensive feedback :)

2. Like I said at the beginning, I'm experimenting with the usual VN-form of writing here - and I'm very aware that this works much better if you've an avatar of the person talking in front of a background or a CG showing the present location. Please bear with me and try to imagine the characters in front of the backgrounds we know so well... About the remark on my unfamiliarity with Japanese customs - this was not so much to explain the absence of honorifics, but to stress the fact that any violation of Japanese customs and 'common knowledge' have not been made deliberate or with malevolent intentions :wink:

3. The whole premise of my story banks on the assumption that, while the Yamaku students do have a school festival and participate in off-campus festivities like Tanabata etc., they never had a school dance until now - which is why Rin is so candid in her criticism. They can do it (at least most of them can), but they need to see so themselves - which is going to be one of the main themes of the individual acts... so stay tuned :D

4. This piece is intended to cover the routes of all six girls from their acceptance of Hisao's partnership proposal up to the actual dance, possibly with another Good/Bad-choice along the way. I don't intend to let my story become as long as the KS script, so I have to run through the introductory act without antagonizing any of the girls too much to have them as Hisao's possible dance partner - and without any choices to steer them there slowly. Since the basic personality traits of the main characters are known, I cut some corners - sorry for that!
Then you add choices. Those never work well, especially the huge amount of them you threw in in such a short space.
5. About this: just like another detail in my first story, the choice layout looked great in OpenOffice, but very strange and confusing here. My train of thought ran like this: the three locations offered in the first choice are a dead giveaway for anybody who played KS (and they also appear during Act I before...), and once Hisao's at the place he chose, he then asks out one of the two girls there. This might become clearer once one or more second acts are added later.

As it is, I changed the first choice towards "Ask out..." and eliminated "Finals" to avoid confusing even more readers; the paragraphs between the first and second choice points are now the beginning of the respective characters' second act.

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Re: Dance Of The Delicate

Post by Mirage_GSM » Mon May 01, 2017 10:38 am

Okay... Commenting as I read the story, so some of this might also have been covered by other commenters already...

First of all, commendations on your English. In the beginning there are some tenses I would have used differently but otherwise no complaints.

The first chapter was a bit weird to read. All of the events are from Act 1 of the VN, though the order was changed, they were spread over two weeks instead of one, and a few were altered slightly.
As you wrote it, it was a couple dozen scenes all summarized in just a few sentences - which all in all felt a bit tedious. I probably would have either summed up all of those two weeks in just a few paragraphs or fully fleshed out the paragraphs with the key differences and skipped over the rest since 99,9% of your audience will have already read the VN.

Also, you use script style in your dialogues. The only possible excuse for this would be that your grasp of English is not good enough to formulate decent sentences, but you can't use that, because we have already established that your English is too good for that. The only other reason I can think of is lazyness, but you're planning for a story (or rather six of them) that promises to be of near epic length, so I don't think that's it either. Barring any other reason I can't think of, I strongly recommend not using script style for this. You're writing a prose story, not a theatre script.

About the choices you said you want to put in there... I would advise you to avoid that if at all possible. You're probably good with the one choice you already have and just writing the different paths from there out, but adding more just doesn't work in the medium of prose writing. It just leads to confusion and repeating passages and a bunch of other problems.

Characterization... Most of the characters are okay - with one major exception: Rin. Your Rin is not Rin-like at all...

Okay, on to the contents. Ballroom dancing is not really common in Japan - "traditional dances" are probably not what this story is all about - but hey, that's what makes this story different from all... most of the others here (since recently another story featuring it has started being written).
Since you chose this as your plot I assume you have some kind of background with it?

The "rules" the students suggest for the dance are all kind of obvious, and if the faculty wasn't able to think of those themselves, that paints them in a very bad light... (Edit: as also mentioned by Oddball)

Not sure why mute students could not dance with each other...
And since a blind student also can't pair with a deaf or mute one,
Not sure why that should not be possible either...

I don't think either Naomi or Suzu would have any medical issues with the dance. I doubt Yamaku would use strobe lights, and I don't even know why narcolepsy could possibly keep Suzu from participating...
It might be too painful for Natsume, though, depending on the severity of her athritis and the affected joints. And Akio should probably abstain because of his osteoporosis.

As for the main girls... Actually most of their disabilities are really not that bad for dancing. In order of increasing difficulty:
Misha - would probably prefer to dance with Shizune and might have some concentration problems, but should otherwise be fine.
Hanako - should have no physical issues either, though her mental issues are hard to evaluate.
Lilly - is not much of a problem either. In fact her lack of sight might be an advantage since many beginners tend to always stare at their feet :-)
Shizune - not hearing the music is worse than not seeing the scenery, but once you're in the rhythm it's more or less the male partner's job to set the pace anyway.
Rin - has excellent body control and would be no problem at all to deal with for an experienced dancer... which Hisao isn't and is unlikely to become in just four afternoons :-) If he were I'd rank her above Lilly in this list, maybe even higher.
Emi - is probably the one with the most problems here. The joints in the feet are important for dancing, and she doesn't have those. It's not impossible - the current German season of Dancing with the Stars has a contender who has a prosthetic left leg, and he does pretty well - but it's going to be quite hard for her.
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.
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Re: Dance Of The Delicate

Post by Oddball » Mon May 01, 2017 1:25 pm

I doubt Yamaku would use strobe lights, and I don't even know why narcolepsy could possibly keep Suzu from participating...
Let me clarify this. Suzu has narcolepsy. Narcolepsy does not mean she randomly passes out with no warning. That's more of a fandom joke that's taken a life of it's own.
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Re: Dance Of The Delicate

Post by Mirage_GSM » Mon May 01, 2017 3:32 pm

Oddball wrote:
I doubt Yamaku would use strobe lights, and I don't even know why narcolepsy could possibly keep Suzu from participating...
Let me clarify this. Suzu has narcolepsy. Narcolepsy does not mean she randomly passes out with no warning. That's more of a fandom joke that's taken a life of it's own.
And even IF she was - I can't think of any situation that would be safer to randomly pass out than while in the arms of someone holding you up :lol:
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: Dance Of The Delicate

Post by BlackDuke » Fri May 05, 2017 4:27 pm

Thanks again for your answers :) - it feels good to see you guys are interested enough in my story to comment on it so extensively (no sarcasm, honestly). Now about those comments...

1. Writing in script form: While it might seem overly-simplistic (and I'm very capable of writing prose, you're right about that), I have decided not to rework the complete Act I and the existing drafts to the six second acts for two reasons: The first one is genuine laziness, sorry about that :wink: and the second, more important reason is my tendency to fabricate overly long and thus confusing sentences. Therefore, I am going to continue writing in script and hope you will stay with me nonetheless...

2. (Re-)writing Act I instead of following the known facts: Act I in the VN is one week of getting to know Yamaku and its inhabitants, with deciding whom to go for around halfway through it and ending up with one girl when the festival comes around. My Act I has two weeks of spending time with all the girls and another week of deciding whom to ask out to the dance. Moreover, some of the things happening during Act I will be referenced in the individual stories, so I decided to rewrite it completely instead of just alluding to the differences. To keep the Act from growing even longer, I also decided to have Hisao tell everything up to the beginning of the third week.

3. Some lessons I took from you... and things I did know but never wrote down:
You're probably good with the one choice you already have and just writing the different paths from there out, but adding more just doesn't work in the medium of prose writing. It just leads to confusion and repeating passages and a bunch of other problems.
I decided to do away with the "good/bad choice" in the second acts, which works better for me anyway (I started writing Hanako's bad end last week and it got rather depressing...).
I don't even know why narcolepsy could possibly keep Suzu from participating... It might be too painful for Natsume, though
Suzu is not prohibited from attending anymore, but Natsume is (I never said she was allowed to, since I also believe she probably would not).
Most of the characters are okay - with one major exception: Rin. Your Rin is not Rin-like at all...
Unless I am very much mistaken, this remark is aimed towards Rin's behaviour on the roof near the end of the Act - it is the only scene where Rin is actually really talking, after all... While I do believe that Rin is much more than just three seconds of focus and a string of funny non sequiturs, I agree with you that she behaved uncharacteristically - I fixed that.
The "rules" the students suggest for the dance are all kind of obvious, and if the faculty wasn't able to think of those themselves, that paints them in a very bad light...
It is entirely possible that the principal and the faculty had thought about it (they would be idiots not to, you are right about this) - but after Rin's outburst caused the assembly to descend into pandemonium, they never got to announcing their ideas there.
Not sure why mute students could not dance with each other...
I might have misphrased this one. Mute (and deaf-mute) students can dance with each other, and there is no reason why they should not. A blind student shall not dance with a (deaf-)mute, because they just cannot communicate directly with each other - as Shizune and Lilly know only too well.

And finally: I wholeheartedly agree with your estimate about the physical attributes of the girls. They will face difficulties as Hisao's partner in Act II - although not necessary physical ones...

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Re: Dance Of The Delicate

Post by Mirage_GSM » Fri May 05, 2017 6:01 pm

Suzu is not prohibited from attending anymore, but Natsume is (I never said she was allowed to, since I also believe she probably would not).
Well, prohibited is probably not necessary, but she could be excused from the competition because of her condition.
It's not dangerous after all but rather extremely painful.
Therefore, I am going to continue writing in script and hope you will stay with me nonetheless...
Well, it will lower the quality of the writing considerably, but being a dancer myself I'm too interested in what you're going to do with that premise to drop the story :-)

As for the rewriting - yes, I can see the reasons why you did it the way you did. I just pointed out the problems created by that for you to take into consideration the next time.
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: Dance Of The Delicate

Post by Oddball » Fri May 05, 2017 6:45 pm

Keep in mind, going to a dance and dancing aren't always the same thing. Some people might just use is as an excuse to dress up and socialize.
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Re: Dance Of The Delicate

Post by Mirage_GSM » Mon May 08, 2017 10:00 am

Mirage wrote:the current German season of Dancing with the Stars has a contender who has a prosthetic left leg, and he does pretty well - but it's going to be quite hard for her.
Tried finding a video of him, but could find just this one:
Some annoying ads before it starts. Sorry.
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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