Black Iris (A Rin Epilogue; Update 8/8/2018)

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Re: Black Iris (Update 11/20)

Post by Craftyatom » Tue Nov 28, 2017 2:10 pm

I haven't gotten a chance to read much over the past month, but when I got back and saw you had posted a new story I knew I couldn't just leave it untouched - and I must say, this was an excellent piece to come back to. No obgious SpaG issues, which is always a plus, but more importantly, I loved how connected I felt to Rin's character.

Each of the three chapters so far have depicted scenarios that really resonated with me, and so it almost felt like first-person narration because it was so easy to understand what Rin was thinking and feeling. You did an excellent job capturing the tone of each of these moments, especially with the three of them at the restaurant.

I'm excited to see what comes next!

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Post by QuietlySomething » Mon Feb 19, 2018 3:44 am

Annunciation

Little snowflakes, sparse in the gray sky, floated to the ground outside the giant rectangular windows of Chishiki's classroom. Every once in a while, one or two rogue flakes got swept up in a gust of wind, and they swerved to the side, right into the window pane. Rin watched as they touched the glass and melted away into little watery splotches. She thought that was a pity, and then she wondered what would make her think something like that.

Someone passed by Rin's face, drawing her attention suddenly- a boy that she didn't know very well carrying a framed painting in his arms like a baby. Chishiki took it out of his hands and placed it on an easel in the front of the room. Bleary-eyed, Rin shifted in her seat to watch them, fixating on the painting with an intense frown.

It was a picture of Paris at nighttime, full of grey and black but dotted with yellow lights. Looking at it made her a little sad for a reason she couldn't understand, and for a few moments she turned her head back to the window to look at the snow again out of frustration.

"Ueno," said Chishiki enthusiastically, addressing the student that carried the painting up. "Care to tell us what you've got for us today?"

Ueno paused for a moment before responding, drawing Rin's attention again. "I call it Still Evening."

"Excellent. Care to explain?"

"I think the thing I focused on the most while I was working on this was to capture some kind of… sense of tranquility, in the middle of what I would envision as a busy night life."

"As you would, in a stereotypical downtown setting like this."

"Yeah." Ueno scratched behind his head with an awkward little smile, staring at his own painting for a little while longer. "It- I think the main idea is that it's strictly observational. I was careful to frame it so that it wasn't directly engaged with the environment. That's why the point of view is of someone standing on a balcony above the city streets."

Chishiki paused before speaking, too, crossing his arms firmly in front of his chest. "Have you ever actually been to Paris?"

"No. But I've always wanted to go."

"So what did you use as your model for the features of this painting?"

"Um, mostly photographs. I centered it around the Eiffel Tower, which is emphasized in a lot of pictures of the city since it's so easy to identify."

"Mhm. And so, what is it that inspired you to paint Paris specifically? Because to my eye, it looks like you could simply recolor the Eiffel Tower to be red and white, and all of a sudden, the locale would seem considerably less exotic."

A few people around Rin- to her typical confusion- laughed at the remark. Ueno did not, instead just smiling uncomfortably at it and scratching the back of his head again. She watched him thoughtfully, intrigued by his reaction.

"I guess it's just picturesque," he explained eventually, though he seemed like he didn't want to say that. "I've got an image of it in my head, and since I was aiming to emphasize the quiet in a lively sort of environment, it seemed like it fit."

"Right. An environment which is foreign to us can be more completely romanticized. Someone who is not a native of Paris can, I'm sure, much more easily identify the themes of such an image without also bringing in their personal experience of traffic, light pollution, and the smell of smoke." Chishiki smiled softly, rapping his fingers along his arm. "I don't know how many of you are actually from the city, but as someone who grew up in Kita, I can tell you that it is easy to tell the residents from the tourists. There is a different mindset for someone who simply wishes to expose themselves to an environment as in a snapshot, rather than live in it." Chishiki turned to Ueno suddenly, gesturing to him with his hands. "That's why I'm so interested by your decision to emphasize stillness as an- as the- essential element of the painting. I find it fascinating how we are so interested, collectively, in cityscapes and skylines as a form of still imagery. There is something so… alluring… about this snapshot of an environment that we associate with so much life and activity. It gives a great deal of power to art as a medium that communicates and reflects reality."

Rin looked away from Chishiki, back to the painting of Paris. Why, she wondered, would someone paint a city that they had never even been to? She would never have thought to do such a thing. So many ideas seemed so completely out of her grasp. Or would seem out of her grasp, had she a grasp.

Chishiki pressed his tongue to the inside of his cheek before speaking again. "I keep using that word, 'snapshot'. Okay, this isn't a class on photography, so I don't want to diverge too much, but I will say that I think this theme is a big part of photography as an art form in general. Especially landscape or nature photography. Imagine a snapshot of a hummingbird in mid-flight. There's so much power in having that single moment captured where it would have otherwise escaped us entirely. I think that's an important takeaway. Subject is an important part of how art conveys meaning, which it can be easy to overlook when you so greatly emphasize general aesthetic and technique." Chishiki jabbed a finger at the Eiffel Tower in the background of Ueno's painting as he said that. "Take, for example, something- say, something as famous as the Mona Lisa. A layman might describe it as a very realistic painting. It would be tempting to describe it that way: a beautiful, highly-detailed Renaissance oil portrait. But consider our subject, and how she is framed. A woman who, 16th century Italian standards of beauty aside, is presented in a way that is very flattering, without blemish, in a fantastical environment. In many ways, the presentation of Mona Lisa can be seen as representing a certain ideal- that of womanhood- especially when you take it in the context of its contemporary Renaissance works. The power of an artist to convey through their choice of subject and presentation."

He paused again, looking over the class to allow time to think on his words. And Rin thought very hard, picturing the Mona Lisa in her head. She had never painted anything like that- she didn't draw portraits very often in general. When she did, they weren't smiling.

Ueno put his hands together when Chishiki stopped speaking, shuffling around in place a little. "So you're comparing my painting to the Mona Lisa?"

"Pft. Yes, in a sense, I suppose I am. But don't forget, even the most well-established works of art are open to critical interpretation… so don't expect your grade to reflect the comparison." Chishiki chuckled loudly, along with several students. "You can take your seat. Thank you very much for sharing your work with us."

Ueno returned to his desk, taking Still Evening from the easel as he stalked away from the front of the room. Most of the students clapped. Rin did not.

"You know why I like this assignment so much?" asked Chishiki, loudly and without any expectation of a response. "Because there's so much variety in an environment. It tells you a lot about an artist, just from how they choose to interpret it. You guys have come up with some surprising and nuanced stuff so far, and I really appreciate everyone's unique insights."

Rin looked at Ueno, who yawned. He seemed to have known exactly what to say about his painting of Paris, and he had never even been there…

With his arms crossed, Chishiki shot his eyes up to the far wall behind the students in the back, glancing at the clock. "Alright, I'm pushing it on time a little, so I'll be brief. But before I let you all go, I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about something extracurricular. I'm sure many of you don't need to be told, but now is usually the time I advise students to start thinking about the students' open museum exhibition in the spring. There are a lot of opportunities for you to get your work out there while you're a student, but if you want to get exposure with professionals- or media attention- this is far and away your best shot. I don't want to sound too cynical or dispassionate, especially since this class is all about art as a form of self-expression. But if I can be perfectly frank, you don't need to sit at a desk and listen to old men lecture at you in order to learn how to express yourselves. You can improve your abilities as an artist at school, certainly, but the mere fact that you all got in proves that you have talent as artists." He sighed quietly before continuing. "No, the most important thing you can do at this school to find success as an artist is to make connections. Network with people. Being an artist requires your passion and your heart, but making that a sustainable choice- that requires a little bit more. And I know that we all have a very romantic notion of being a starving artist, but you can take it from me- speaking from very personal experience here- it is a lot less enjoyable than it sounds. And a lot less appealing to women than you might imagine, too."

Several people laughed, including Ueno, who kept smiling as he scrawled in his notebook. Rin leaned over in her seat, but she couldn't make out what he was writing. Was it important…?

"I'm really out of time, and I don't want to keep you late. There are a few of you that I've already spoken to about this a bit that I'd like to stick around. So… if I call your name, stay behind. Otherwise, you're dismissed." Chishiki glanced down at a sheet of paper for a moment and cleared his throat. "Takeuchi, Hayashi… er, Hung, Tezuka, and Ueno. And anyone else who'd like to talk about the spring student exhibition, of course."

All the students that Chishiki called moved against the crowd to circle around Rin's seat in the front row. Not a single other person stayed. Even those that were called didn't seem like they wanted to be there. Rin studied Ueno's expression as he settled into the chair next to hers- but try as she might, she couldn't figure out what was going on in his head.

She narrowed her eyes. She certainly would have stayed, even if she hadn't been called on.

Chishiki approached the small cluster of students in the front of the room, coming nearly close enough to touch Rin's desk. She looked up at him from her seat, and he flashed her a little smile before looking away to address all of the students.

"So I am going to extra lengths to promote the spring exhibition this year," he declared, "because I'm one of the organizers on behalf of the school. The events coordinator of the museum specially reached out to me to ask about students that might be participating. Last year we had forty students host exhibitions. This year they're cutting it in half. And while that does mean it'll be a lot harder to get a slot, it also means you will be able to show off a lot more of your art if you're selected for the exhibition." Chishiki scanned the students sitting in front of him with a contemplative frown. "As a faculty organizer, it's my job to approve and reserve five of the twenty slots. So I'm trying to speak to the interested students ahead of time and gauge interest… as well as plug the exhibition. I really do think this is the single best opportunity you guys have to branch out to the larger art community in the city. It's certainly not common, but in the past I've actually seen students that get noticed at this exhibition end up getting funneled straight into the museum doing commissioned work after graduation."

Hayashi raised her hand to Rin's right, but Chishiki didn't immediately look at her. Instead he met Rin's uncomfortable gaze, and she slumped her shoulders in response.

"I'm sorry; is something wrong, Tezuka?"

Rin froze for a moment before replying. "You never talked to me about this before."

"No, I didn't. I'm sorry to have you stay; I just-" Chishiki finally looked over to Hayashi, gesturing to her to wait a moment. "Since we did speak before about how you've actually done a private exhibition of your work elsewhere, I thought the spring exhibition would be a really good opportunity for you. I really hope you'll consider it… I was actually hoping you could share what that experience was like, for the benefit of the others…"

Everyone was looking at Rin now, surrounding her on all sides. She widened her eyes, worrying that she might simply lose the ability to speak altogether.

"I-" -Rin took a deep breath- "S- sorry, what?"

Chishiki scratched his chin. "Er, I'm sorry. The exhibition you did at your old high school? Could you tell us a little bit about it?"

"I… I don't know…"

"Just the process. What did you do? What did you get out of it?"

Rin listened to her own breath, which was frustratingly loud. The exhibition at Yamaku was the very last thing in the world that she wanted to think about, but knew she had to answer, and not just for Chishiki's sake.

She closed her eyes for a moment, trying to think a little less. "I had to make a whole set of paintings. I couldn't think of how to name them, so I didn't. I used a lot of paint, and the colors got mixed up, more mixed up than they usually do. Or usually did. Back then. I mean- I- I spent a long time- I didn't eat or sleep much. I was-"

-Rin opened her eyes. Chishiki frowned uncomfortably at her. Looking over her shoulder, she received a strange glance from the other students surrounding her as well.

Rin took another breath."…I worked really hard on it. People asked me a lot of questions about my art. And I sold a painting. And someone from this school was there. And they told Nomiya that I should come here. They gave me a scholarship." She exhaled through her nostrils, throat dry. "Someone wrote about me in a local magazine."

Nobody spoke for a few seconds, and Chishiki scratched his chin again.

Then he smiled at her. "…Well, that's something! I- er, I was trying to illustrate the value of this sort of thing, after all. The exhibition in the spring generally gets quite a bit of attention from journalists." He scratched his nose. "Thank you very much, Tezuka."

"You're welcome," Rin said quietly.

"Um." Chishiki looked away from her, taking one step back from her desk. "And yes, it's going to mean a lot of hard work. If you choose to participate. The curators that set the whole thing up at the museum ask that every student prepare an original collection of their work for display. So that means you'll have to set aside the time to produce a unique set of paintings. –Did you have a question, Hayashi?"

The black haired girl twirled the end of her hair in her finger, shooting Rin a glance before responding. "No, sir- well, um, it's been answered."

"Right. Then… does anyone else have any questions?" Nobody spoke up, and Chishiki did not wait long to continue. "In that case, I'd like to take down names if you guys want to participate. Can you raise your hand if you are interested in a slot?"

Everyone except for Hayashi raised their hands. Rin looked around at them frantically, knotted sleeves hanging uselessly at her sides. She clenched her teeth.

After a moment, Chishiki uncertainly met Rin's gaze again, and she stared at him pleadingly.

He tilted his head a little. "Er, Tezuka…?"

Rin straightened out immediately. "I want a slot." She spoke firmly, louder than before. Almost fiercely.

"Right." Chishiki took names on a scrap of paper, nodding to the group. "Thanks for your interest, guys. I am really looking forward to the exhibition this year. I will try my damnedest to get you all in the exhibition. But either way, you can expect to hear from me about it in the next week or so. Okay?"

The people around Rin murmured in affirmation, while she remained silent.

"Okay, then you're all dismissed. Have a nice afternoon, everyone." Chishiki waved his hand as he returned to his desk, shuffling the paper he'd written names on into a stack of others.

Most of the other students simply left right away, but Ueno made his way back to his own seat first, retrieving his painting from its position leaning against his desk.

Still Evening. Rin stared at the painting as Ueno got his things. Noticing her watching him as he stepped out of the room, Ueno's eyes lingered on her for a few seconds before he made his exit.

Rin looked at Chishiki again, who seemed ignorant to the fact that she was the only one left in the room. Seeing no reason to stay longer than she needed to, she hurried out of the classroom, forcing the door handle down with her knee.

Rin stumbled out into the hallway as the door swung open against her body weight. Ueno was already most of the way down the hallway. On impulse, she scurried after him.

"Ueno," Rin said, being firm again.

He looked over his shoulder with surprise, raising an eyebrow at the sight of her. "Oh. Uh, hey. You can call me Eiji if you want."

"What do you think I should call you?"

He paused before answering, frowning suddenly. "Um, we can go by first names. But you'll have to give me yours… I'm not that great with names, sorry."

"Rin."

"Okay."

Rin stalked a little bit behind Eiji, mimicking his footsteps without ever actually catching up to him to walk side-by-side. He only looked back at her to make an odd face.

"You asked Chishiki to give you a slot for the exhibition," said Rin.

He blinked. "Uh. Yeah. I did. So did you."

"Do you think it is going to make you a better artist?" Rin heard her voice crack a little as she asked that.

"I- what? Yeah, I guess."

Eiji slowed down a little as the two of them approached a staircase, and Rin stopped altogether, staring at the painting in his arms.

Noticing her lack of footsteps, he stopped at the door and turned around, one eyebrow raised. "Uh…?"

"That painting." Rin craned her neck to gesture to Still Evening. "Why did you paint that…?"

"Uh." Eiji took it out from under his arm to look at it. "…I don't know. That was the assignment."

"No. The assignment was an environment."

"This is an environment."

"But why did you paint it?"

"I don't know. I like Paris. I don't really know how to answer that." He made a face at her and tucked his painting under his arm again. "Uh, look, I've got to get going. I'll… see you around, Rin."

He waved with one hand and turned away from her, stepping through the door. Rin's shoulders slumped, and she turned around, back leaned against the wall next to the stairwell door. Not feeling like standing, she slid down to the floor, legs outstretched directly in front of her.

She didn't want to do the exhibition in the spring. Certainly not. And there were not many things she was certain of, particularly lately.

And yet she wanted to do it more than anything in the world.

Rin's brain felt like lead.

Exhausted, she cried, just quietly enough to make sure nobody heard.
Last edited by QuietlySomething on Mon Mar 05, 2018 6:24 am, edited 6 times in total.

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Re: Black Iris (Update 2/19)

Post by Downix » Mon Feb 19, 2018 11:25 am

Very well done. I am sitting here eagerly waiting to read more.

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Re: Black Iris (Update 2/19)

Post by Craftyatom » Mon Feb 26, 2018 3:52 am

Excellent work, fits well into the story. I was surprised to see a large plot point develop - I had thought of this as very slice-of-life, based on the first three chapters, but the exhibition as a point of conflict could definitely be interesting. On one hand, it will likely be at least somewhat similar to the high school one in canon, but on the other, one of the downfalls of that arc (in my opinion) is that it was from an outsider's perspective with occasional glimpses in, whereas your perspective here is much closer to the "action", as it were.

I'll reiterate one big thing I've said before: this story immerses me really, really well. I'm the type who gets immersed easily, but here, I feel more connected to the character than usual. I'm not sure if anyone else feels the same, but the imagery and thoughts you present really resonate with me, as if I could easily have seen and thought them myself. Kudos for that.

Only SpaG issue I could see was "desk desk" near the end. That's more than made up for by "had she a grasp" earlier on, which I found pleasantly poetic.

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5

Post by QuietlySomething » Mon Mar 05, 2018 5:55 am

Dance at le Moulin de la Galette

Rin's eyes traced over the veiny lines in her ceiling from wall to wall. There wasn't any real beginning or end to them, and they snaked around and intersected too much in the center to tell each individual one apart. Like tiny threads on a giant plaster spider web. It seemed like they could hold up the whole ceiling weaved together like that, but Rin knew that was the wrong thing to think. They weren't put there for any reason; or if they were, it wasn't a reason Rin had thought of yet. It was pointless to think about.

Little fingers clacked on a keyboard on the other side of the room, almost rhythmically, and for a few moments Rin turned her head to watch. Yumi lay on her belly at the foot of her own bed, doing something mysterious on her laptop. She kicked her feet up behind her, crossing one foot over the other and then crossing her toes a moment later.

She held a paintbrush in her free hand. At the foot of the bed was a small painting on an easel. Something red like fire. Rin watched closely.

"Rin? Everything okay?" Yumi glanced over her shoulder at her roommate with a frown.

Rin laid back and looked at the ceiling again. "Yes." Her head sunk into her pillow, scraggly hair dangling in her eyes.

"What'cha doin'?" asked Yumi.

Rin traced the veins on the ceiling again. "Thinking."

"What are you thinking about?"

"Nothing," Rin lied.

"Hrm."

More clacking on the keyboard.

"What are you doing?" asked Rin, head slumping to the side. She knew it was a stupid question but felt compelled to ask it anyway, a fact that she resented.

"I… am trying to figure out how to go about painting this," said Yumi. "Practicing my watercolors still."

"Can I see?"

"Hm?" Yumi propped herself up on her elbows to allow herself to look at Rin better. "Yeah! Of course you can. Here, come take a look; tell me what you think."

Rin sat up straight and swung her legs over the side of her bed, letting out a soft breath as the soles of her feet pressed against the cold tile floor.

"What are you painting?" Rin stood and walked over to Yumi's bed, slumping down next to her just close enough for them to touch.

Yumi's computer was full of red flowers. Her canvas had just one- but a prettier one than any of the photographs on the screen. The brushstrokes were runny, like water on a piece of red glass. Or a flower petal, come to think of it.

"It's, uh." Yumi leaned in close to read something on her computer screen, cheeks puffed out. "Amaryllis."

"Oh," said Rin.

She leaned forward, craning her neck over the foot of the bed. Yumi reached past her with her brush, tracing the edge of one of the petals on the bottom with vermillion.

"It's colorful," said Rin.

"Well, amaryllis is colorful."

Rin pursed her lips, taken off guard by the remark. "So does that mean you aren't trying to make your painting colorful on purpose?"

"Hm. No, I am. I guess that's what I'm trying to emphasize." Yumi stared at her own painting, brushing a strand of hair out of her face absentmindedly. "You ask good questions, Rin. Tsuchiya told me my painting isn't focused enough. Maybe he has a point. I ought to have a better idea of what I'm trying to do before I start…" She drummed her fingers along her paintbrush as she spoke.

Rin looked back and forth between Yumi's face and the amaryllis, suddenly put-off. "I didn't mean to make you change it."

"No, no. It was a good point. I need to keep in mind the elements that draw in people's attention the most."

"…Okay."

Yumi looked at the photos of flowers on her computer screen again.

Rin looked at the painting. It was definitely the color that drew her attention the most. The gushing reds looked like a wound- a bad one, the kind you'd get from a crocodile or a man in armor on the back of a horse. Yumi wanted to emphasize that, those reds, even more, after what Rin said to her. But was that right? Would it still be Yumi's painting if she changed it because of what Rin said?

Rin didn't want to be someone that asked good questions. She wanted to be someone that gave good answers. Maybe it was all the same? But that couldn't be true, when asking questions was so easy and yet understanding them was so difficult.

She wondered if Yumi saw the amaryllis the same way she did. It seemed like she wanted to. Maybe her perspective was just more flexible than Rin's was?

"Hey, by the way, I talked to Chishiki about that big student exhibition in March. Someone changed their mind and backed out at the last second, so I got their slot." Yumi clicked her tongue, grinning with red cheeks. "How about you? You heard back from him?"

They made brief eye contact, which Rin promptly broke. "I heard back from him. I got one of the slots."

"You did? Really? Rin, that's awesome!"

Rin hesitated to respond. "Mm, maybe it is."

"It is! It is a big deal! You can never just let me celebrate something, can you?" Yumi stuck her tongue out and turned back to her laptop. "People have been tripping over each other trying to get in! Honestly! I'm really glad you told me to talk to Chishiki about it, because I seriously don't think any of the professors I have classes with would have been able to help me out." Yumi looked over her shoulder at Rin again, apparently dissatisfied with her roommate's understated frown. "I was thinking I might take the opportunity to show off some new watercolors, since I've been practicing those so much. Do you know what you're going to paint for your exhibition?"

"I don't know."

In truth, Rin didn't even know how she was going to start. She didn't have anything in her brain to paint yet, and she didn't know how she was going to come up with anything. It was supposed to come naturally- in fact, it was supposed to already be there; that was the whole point. But then, Rin knew she didn't know what the point was, which was the whole reason she had to do the exhibition.

Thinking about it made her feel sick. She wanted a cigarette.

"It's so cool that we'll both get sections there," Yumi said after a while. "We should pick out a spot in the museum and do the exhibition next to each other. We can make a little competition out of it."

"…Competition?" Rin did not like the sound of that.

"Yeah, see whose art gets more attention. See who sells more. I dunno."

"I don't know, either."

"Eh. Doesn't matter anyway; I'd lose." Yumi let out a nasally giggle.

Without dwelling on the point, Yumi glanced back once more at Rin and then returned to tracing the amaryllis petal with her brush. Rin thought for a long time before saying anything.

"Why would you lose?" she asked flatly.

"Ah." Yumi shrugged. "You paint with your feet. That automatically makes you a zillion times more interesting." After a second, Yumi clenched her teeth, though she still didn't turn around. "Uh, sorry, I mean- I didn't mean any offense, or anything. Your painting is better than mine either way. I just mean that people will probably be more intrigued at first glance by the fact that…" Yumi trailed off and shook her head, face much redder than before. "Never mind. I'm just being an idiot. Sorry."

"I don't think you're being an idiot."

Rin studied the back of Yumi's head. People often got embarrassed when they talked about Rin's lack of arms, which she had come to expect, even if she never really understood why. Lately, though, it seemed out of place, probably because people hadn't acted that way much at Yamaku. Rin wondered if Emi had gotten used to that, too.

But that was definitely the wrong thing to think about, so she closed her eyes and tried not to let it distract her. She thought about the amaryllis instead.

Yumi said she was trying to emphasize its color, at least after Rin mentioned it. But if that was true, why was her amaryllis redder than any of the ones in the photographs? Is that how she saw them? Maybe, if you took out all the sharpness, and the darkness, and the edges on the petals, the redness would be easier to see. That was something a painting could do that a photograph couldn't. Was that the purpose for Yumi's amaryllis? And if it was, why paint an amaryllis at all? Why not something even more colorful than that?

Rin slumped back a little on Yumi's bed, and the two of them pressed close together, so that Yumi's side nestled against Rin's hip. Yumi didn't seem to notice or care much. Rin let it be.

A few minutes passed in near silence, as Rin watched Yumi paint and repaint the same spot until the colors all bled from the edge of the petal into the center.

At the other end of the room, loud knocking on the door interrupted their peace, and getting no response, paused for a few seconds before returning.

Yumi rolled her eyes without looking up. "Door's open!"

The door opened immediately, and Kichiro stepped inside, looking the whole room over before settling on Rin and Yumi.

"Hello, ladies," he said slowly. "Uh. Hope I'm not interrupting anything."

"Hello," Rin said quietly, not really looking at him.

Yumi dropped her feet to the bed suddenly and propped herself up on her elbows, looking up at Kichiro with her cheeks puffed out. "I was wondering when you were gonna show up, pal."

He scratched behind his head, clearing the distance between them until he stood perched above the bed just to the side of Yumi's painting. "…What is that supposed to mean?"

"I figured you would have come to see me bright and early today of all days," Yumi replied, jabbing her paintbrush in his direction.

"Today of all- what?" Kichiro narrowed his eyes. "What's today…?"

Yumi sat up on her knees, and Rin shuffled off the bed to accommodate her. "I knew it!" she cried out, placing her hands on her knees. "I knew you would forget!"

Frantic, Kichiro opened and closed his mouth a few times before figuring out what to say. "No. No way. Your birthday is in March. I could have sworn you told me your birthday is in March!"

"It's not my birthday, dumbass!" Yumi threw up her hands, paintbrush still balanced uneasily between her fingers on her right hand. "Seriously? It's our six month anniversary! Since we started going out! In June?"

Kichiro thought about that for a long time, slowly crossing his arms and putting two fingers to his chin. "…Huh."

"Yeah." Yumi slapped one hand on her knee. "I knew you would forget!"

He tilted his head to the side, and his frown grew a bit more rigid. "I was supposed to remember six months? What is this, junior high?"

Yumi scoffed. "…What the hell is that supposed to mean?!"

"I mean, why would you celebrate six months? Six months isn't a thing."

"It's half a year!"

"You don't celebrate it. It's not a thing."

"It is so a thing! Are you serious?" Yumi turned to Rin suddenly, who took a step away from the bed with surprise. "Rin, tell him six months is a thing."

Unsure of what to say, Rin stared at Yumi with wide eyes for a few moments before turning to look at Kichiro instead. She ended up not saying anything at all, a resolution she was actually quite satisfied with.

"Oh, forget it," said Yumi. "Six months is definitely a thing, Kichiro."

"But why? Who cares?" Kichiro flailed his arms around in front of him as he spoke. "It's just another arbitrary day on the calendar! I don't know why people have to come up with all these reasons to celebrate, like every day we manage not to break up is some kind of massive accomplishment."

They exchanged a glance, and Yumi leaned forward to set her brush against her easel.

"Oh my God," she groaned. "…You are so not getting laid."

"Yeah, yeah…" He looked away from Yumi, eyes settling somewhere on the floor. "I'm just saying, you don't need to make a bigger deal out of it than it is."

"Fine! Fine! Forget I said anything, then." Yumi lay down on her back, placing both hands under her head. "God forbid I want to do something special with you!"

"Oh, geez. Come on; please don't-"

"-What?"

"Don't…" Kichiro stopped himself and threw up his hands. "Alright, alright. Fine. I'm sorry." He took a step closer to the bed, and Rin had to take a few steps back to make way for him.

Yumi raised one eyebrow at Kichiro, tilting her head up.

He shrugged, looking her in the eye. "…I didn't know it was important to you. If I had, I would have done something."

Yumi didn't say anything, and they looked at each other for another few seconds.

"…I love you?" Kichiro added, waving one hand in front of him.

"Yeah." Yumi smirked. "Alright."

Kichiro sat down next to Yumi's feet, and she stared down her legs at him. Rin slumped onto her own bed in turn.

"Can I do something for you?" Kichiro asked. "Do you want to go out for dinner or something?"

"We can do that. But it's not quite late enough for dinner yet. Still need something else to do before then."

"We could go for a walk or something."

"No way am I going for a walk in this weather."

"Well, gee, Yumi." Kichiro pressed both hands into the bed, looking at the art above the headboard. "You don't want to go for a walk. You don't want to eat. You don't want to have sex. My list of things we can do has pretty much been exhausted."

The two of them laughed, and Kichiro rested his hand on Yumi's shin, drumming his fingers against the side of her leg. Rin rested her feet on the floor.

"What are you painting?" asked Kichiro, leaning over her legs to look at the canvas behind him.

"Amaryllis," said Yumi.

"It's pretty! Very colorful."

"Thanks." Yumi glanced at Rin out of the corner of her eyes, though not long enough to notice Rin gaping at Kichiro.

"Are you going to show this at the spring student exhibition?"

"I might, when it's finished."

"You should."

"Maybe I will."

"I bet people would really like it."

"You don't have to kiss up to me."

Kichiro flashed her a tiny smile with just the corner of his mouth. "You always think I'm kissing up to you when I tell you I like your art, but I never am."

"Maybe you just like my art better than I do," Yumi laughed.

Kichiro shrugged halfheartedly. "Hell, maybe I do. You always look for the flaws in your own work, whether they're there or not."

"Well, they're always there."

"It's all a matter of perspective."

"I guess."

Neither of them said anything after that, and Yumi took the break in the conversation to pull her legs away from Kichiro and stand from her spot on the bed. He stood, too, and walked around the easel on the other side to meet her in the center of the room.

"Oh, by the way," said Yumi, "Rin got a slot for that exhibition as well. We're gonna set up our stuff next to each other at the museum. So you can check out her stuff, too."

"Is that so? Cool!" Kichiro turned to look at Rin, waving one hand. "Congrats, Rin."

Rin didn't say anything- but she did return the glance, her eyes slightly narrowed. He pursed his lips.

"What are you thinking?" he asked, turning back to Yumi. "Somewhere kind of fancy?"

Yumi shrugged. "Eh. I don't know about fancy."

"I guess it doesn't matter. It'll probably be pretty crowded wherever we go."

"You're saying we should get going."

"Well, I don't see any reason to stick around."

With a small sigh, Yumi looked back to her bed, appraising it. After a moment of thought, she closed her laptop and carried it over to her desk to charge. Kichiro hung around by the door as he waited.

"For the record," he declared, looking away from her, "if you wanted to hear from me this morning, you could have called me."

Yumi met him at the door, slinging her purse over her shoulder. "To be honest, I mostly just wanted to see if you would remember."

"Wow. My very own girlfriend doesn't even want to take the time to call me." Kichiro threw up his hands dramatically before swinging the door open. "On our six month anniversary."

"Don't push it, buddy."

The door slammed shut, and the couple disappeared into the hallways of the girls' dormitory.

Rin sat in silence on the bed for a couple of minutes.

Yumi's painting of the amaryllis was still propped up on the easel at the foot of the bed, the red brushstrokes slowly drying on the edge of the petals. Rin stood from her bed and slumped down on Yumi's instead, to get a better look. She wondered if Yumi would show it to people at the exhibition.

Critics tended to see all the flaws, that being their job and all. Maybe Yumi saw it the same way. That must be for the best, Rin thought.

She still had nothing of her own to paint for the exhibition. Nothing in her brain. Maybe the problem was that she was too focused on her own thoughts. She didn't know how to look at things the right way, anyway.

Rin looked up from the amaryllis painting, to the window. The wind blew snow all over the place in huge gusts.

The snowflakes that touched the window pane melted into watery splotches, which all bled down from the edge into the center.
Last edited by QuietlySomething on Sun Aug 05, 2018 3:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Black Iris (A Rin Epilogue; Update 3/5/2018)

Post by Path » Fri Mar 16, 2018 3:25 pm

Had to reread this story since it's been a minute and wasn't sure where I left off, but it was a good call to get familiar with your Rin and her new life. It seems like Rin might have taken an interest in Yumi's boyfriend. Probably not in this boy is cute way, but rather this boy might know me kind of way based on their interaction in chapter 3 and the little exchange in the latest chapter, though it might just be Rin being Rin. The exhibition is a nice touch as Rin wants to it but not sure why. And her story about what happen last time was neat. Yumi feels like Emi 2.0 but in a way that we get to see them interact in the way most people might think they have and it's nice to see it play out like her dressing Rin up before heading out to eat and them talking about the exhibition and Yumi being excited about them being in it together. Looking forward to see how the story goes.

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6

Post by QuietlySomething » Tue May 01, 2018 4:05 am

The Son of Man

Rin followed two girls out of her dormitory, into the freezing cold. They pressed their sides against each other as though they were conjoined twins, probably trying to keep warm. If either of them were a boy, she might have assumed they were in love, but sometimes girls would huddle up together whether they were in love or not.

The girls walked down the sidewalk and out of sight, and Rin stopped focusing on them. Her shoes pressed into the snow, which was packed tight enough to stand on. The wind blew snowflakes down at an angle, so that even people wearing glasses would get snow in their face. It was possibly the cruelest kind of wind, though she knew it wasn't that way on purpose.

Rin shivered and took a deep breath, watching her breath escape from her mouth and float in trails into the air, like smoke from an invisible cigarette. She wasn't wearing a coat, just a dark green sweater with the sleeves knotted off. The winter air slipped through the pores of the sweater and snaked all along her body, giving her goosebumps. Her bus pass, which hung from a lanyard around her neck, blew to the side and grazed her chest.

The bus stop nearest to her building sat on a lonely street corner a block down. Three people were already waiting there when she arrived, but nobody sat on the bench, which was covered in snow. Rin stood next to them and let her head hang down. Her hair was getting quite long, and the falling snow got trapped in it. It made her hair cold and wet, so that she shivered when it touched her face.

Nobody standing at the bus stop knew each other, so nobody said anything to anyone else. So the only noise came from the cars that passed by on the road.

When the bus arrived, everyone formed a line and piled on without a word. Rin followed closely behind.

The bus driver leaned back in his seat and frowned at Rin. They looked each other in the eye for a few moments.

He scratched his chin. "I'm sorry; do you…?"

He trailed off, so Rin took the opportunity to respond. "I can do it," she said quietly, shaking her head.

Leaning to one side, she craned her neck over the machine in the front of the bus, and the card dangling from the lanyard around her neck tapped against the sensor. It took a few tries before the machine accepted the card, but the bus driver didn't seem to want to say anything about it.

Rin walked down the aisle and took a seat in the middle of the bus, next to a man in a green jacket reading a magazine. The little bit of snow that rested on her shoulders melted into her sweater. The man didn't look up at her or say anything.

She rested her head back against the seat.

The bus crunched against snow that was bunched up against the curb as it started to move. The roads were clear, though, and once it pulled away from the bus stop, the traffic was the only thing making noise again.

Things weren't as crowded in Tokyo as Rin had expected them to be, she thought, even though there were a lot of people, and a lot of cars that made everything smell like smoke. People didn't get in each other's way that much.

It was the least crowded in the winter, when the snow fell and the wind was being cruel, even though it wasn't that way on purpose. Most people got less distracted in the snow. Maybe because there was less to get distracted by, since everything was all white, or maybe just because it was too cold to stop and get distracted by things. It didn't stop Rin from getting distracted, but she would have liked it to. Particularly because she found that train of thought to be very distracting.

Rin tilted her head toward the man next to her and looked at the top of his head as it peeked over his magazine. She wondered if anyone else on the bus had given any thought to who he was, or what he was doing there. And then Rin gave thought to it herself.

She looked up at him with a deep breath. "Hello."

He didn't react right away, but after a second he lowered his magazine just enough to look her in the eye.

He tapped one finger a few times before speaking up. "Uh, hi?"

"Who are you?" Rin followed up, sitting up a little.

"Um." He frowned at her. "…Who are you?"

"I'm a painter." Rin looked at the floor. "I think."

"Oh…"

"Who are you?" Rin asked again.

"I." He paused for a second. "Well, okay; if you're a painter, I'm a writer."

"What if I'm not a painter?"

He didn't answer at first. "Uh, I guess I'm still a writer?"

"Okay." Rin blinked and looked out the window. "What are you doing on the bus?"

The bus rumbled as it turned a corner, changing directions so that the wind blew snow directly onto the window.

The writer scratched his face, resting the magazine in his lap. "I am, uh… going to go eat with my fiancée during her lunch break. What about you?"

"I don't know."

"You don't know what you're doing on the bus?"

"I don't have somewhere to go."

He did a double take and adjusted his position in his seat to look at her, suddenly frowning. "I'm sorry; are you lost?"

"No."

The writer scratched the back of his head. "Um, did you need something from me?"

"I don't think so. It's just that I thought I should ask who you are, since I was wondering." She continued looking at the floor as she spoke. "If I didn't ask, I would never find out, and then it would be an unanswered question for the rest of eternity."

"You were wondering who I was? Did you think you recognized me?"

"No."

They exchanged a strange glance. The writer fixed his green jacket with one hand.

"Well, I'm not really anybody," he added. "Sorry."

"You're a writer. Doesn't that mean you're somebody?"

"Well. Yeah, I guess." He thought about it for a moment. "You said you're a painter? Are you one of the students from the art school?"

Rin just nodded.

"I've been up to the museum a few times," he continued. "They have student art sometimes; I think it's really interesting. And impressive." He waited again before speaking, and Rin looked up from the floor suddenly to make eye contact with him. "What do you paint?" he asked.

"I'm still figuring it out," Rin said, with a degree of honesty that made her uncomfortable.

"Oh. Well, that's okay." He shrugged. "You're young."

He smiled gently at her.

Rin shook her head, and wet hair got in her eyes. "Even young people have to know what they paint. At least people who are like me." She took a few seconds to think about it. "No… not people who are like me. But people who are doing the things I'm doing. People who are the way I am going to be, eventually."

"And what people are those?"

"Artists."

The bus let out a small beep, and the driver announced an upcoming stop. A couple of the people near the rear exit shuffled to get ready to leave, and Rin pulled in her feet toward her chair the same way.

The writer looked kind of surprised. "Is this your stop?" he asked quietly.

Rin looked at her feet as she prepared to stand. "I don't think I have a stop. I'm not going anywhere in particular."

He didn't seem to understand it, but that was okay, because Rin didn't really understand why she was doing this, either.

"But… you're getting off here?" he asked.

"I guess I will see whether I am when the bus stops."

"Okay." The writer cleared his throat and nodded to her, raising his magazine up again. "Well… I hope you figure things out for yourself."

"Me, too."

The bus stopped, and everyone who was going to disembark did so in a single-file line. And then Rin did, right behind them, out onto the sidewalk. She stood under a tree by the snow-covered bench. Everyone else split up and went in different directions.

A little bit of snow tumbled out of a tree branch and landed in Rin's face, and she sneezed, which shook her hair out. Looking up from the sidewalk, she stared out at the snowy landscape.

Snowflakes completely filled the air, only leaving a few intermittent gaps to see through. Like a direct line from the ground all the way up to the sky, all interconnected.

The snow was just like the rain, just… slower.

It looked like a painting. Rin thought long and hard about how she would describe it, but nothing came to her. The weight of that hit her hard, and all of a sudden she felt exhausted, and kind of sad.

Rin stepped out from under the tree, and the snow blew in her face, and piled on her shoulders, and got in her hair. Her feet sank into the snow on the ground, which wasn't as tightly packed as it was before. Maybe because it was all fresh.

There were no footprints on it, either. For a few moments, Rin thought maybe she was walking on a cloud. Maybe the bus had carried her all the way up into the sky? She closed her eyes to hang onto that thought, and all of a sudden she desperately wanted to paint the feeling. But it wasn't the right kind of thought for that.

Rin simply didn't understand what she was doing wrong- and that was the worst part. There had to be something she was missing; something special that artists had that made their brains and their words and their paintings all fit together. Like a snowstorm.

She opened her eyes, and she was on the ground, in the snow. Her breath trailed up in front of her face, which she could feel turning red from the cold. She knew she wasn't wearing enough clothes, and that made her wonder if she would freeze to death. If she stood in place there long enough, she would get buried in snow. It was the kind of weather you could just disappear into.

Rin sat down in the snow, which instantly made her pants wet. She laid back anyway, and the snow fell directly on her face, forcing her to close her eyes again. She splayed her legs out and just lay there for a minute or so, or maybe longer, or maybe much shorter.

She wondered what kind of things the writer wrote about. Maybe she had read something he had written. Now she would never know.

She sat up, and snow trickled off her back and slipped under her collar, sending chills down her spine. The ends of her ears were numb. If her mother were around, Rin thought, she would be warning about how the cold would give her frostbite, like it was out to get her.

Pulling her legs in close for support, Rin stood, wobbling a little as she struggled to find her footing in the uneven snow.

The corner closest to the bus stop contained a small playground, which would probably get more use in the summer. Nevertheless, a few groups of people hung around in the snow anyway, just to enjoy the open space. Rin decided to join them.

As she stepped away from her spot by the bus stop, she looked over her shoulder at the spot where she had been lying. A snow angel without any wings. Like a little sign saying "Rin Tezuka was here."

That made her smile, which surprised her. But she knew it would get buried before too long.

Rin walked up to a swing set that rested along the edge of the playground. It held two ordinary black swings and two smaller ones for babies, but none of them were occupied, save for piles of snow. With one foot, Rin pushed the swing at the end, shaking the snow to the ground. Then she took a seat, allowing the ends of her feet to trace little lines in the snow as she watched the other people in the playground with curiosity.

A little girl, so bundled up in bulky winter clothes that she could barely move her arms, staggered forward in the snow a few feet in front of the swing set. Tripping over her own feet, the girl threw her arms in front of her face, tumbling down and burying herself. A much larger woman helped the girl back to her feet- probably the girl's mother, judging from her height and the funny-looking frown plastered to her face. The girl clung onto her mother's hand and let out a loud, giggly screech, like a chimpanzee.

Then she noticed Rin sitting there. For a moment, Rin maintained eye contact with the girl, but she broke it to look at the mother, who didn't seem to be paying much attention.

Still struggling to walk in the snow, the girl stumbled over toward Rin with a curious expression. Rin lowered her head to look at her.

"What happened to your arms?" asked the girl, trying to fix her hat through heavy woolen mittens.

"Miu! Don't bother her!" The girl's mother grabbed her by the hand and tugged her in the other direction, looking up at Rin with a red face. "Oh, I'm so sorry."

Rin blinked. "Why?"

"I, um." The mother smacked her lips but didn't say anything else.

Rin made eye contact with the little girl- Miu- again. "My arms got cut off when I was a baby."

Miu thought about that for a second. "Who cut them off?"

"A doctor did."

"Why would they do that?"

"I couldn't use them."

"Why not?"

"Because they weren't shaped the right way when I was born. They didn't work right." Rin slumped back on the swing, looking at the knotted sleeves of her sweater. "They were just like that."

"Did it hurt when the doctor cut them off?"

"Maybe. I don't remember. I don't think I remember anything from when I was that little."

"Oh." Miu scrunched up her face and held her hands in front of her eyes, like she had forgotten that she had them. "Is it hard?"

"Is what hard?"

"I mean, is it hard not having arms?"

She lowered her hands, and she and Rin looked right at each other.

"No," Rin replied without much thought.

Miu looked puzzled. "I think it would be hard."

Miu's mother looked down at her with the same mother-like frown she'd had on her face the entire time. She looked up at Rin briefly, but Rin didn't pay her too much attention.

Rin tilted her head to the side a little, resting it against the chain holding up her swing. "…It's what I'm used to."

Miu didn't respond to that; she didn't even seem to think about it. Instead, she fixed her hat again and trotted off toward a patch of snow on the opposite end of the swing set. She left behind narrow tracks in the snow, but she dragged her feet, making them long trails instead of just tiny boot prints.

The mother rested a hand on a pole on the swing set and stayed there to watch her daughter from a short distance. But she stayed behind to talk to Rin a little.

"Thank you for being so patient with her," she said with a hushed voice. "Miu is such a sweet girl… but she isn't very concerned by strangers."

"It's okay. Neither am I." Rin looked at Miu playing in the snow. "What are you doing out here?"

"Oh, I just took her out to play. She was so excited by the snowfall this morning." The mother let out a sigh. "Such beautiful weather… don't you think?"

"Yes."

Rin closed her eyes. Snow kept beating down on her face at an angle, stinging her cheeks.

"Aren't you cold?" asked Miu's mother.

Rin took a little while to answer. "Yes…"

"Then… why aren't you wearing something heavier?"

"…I don't know."

Rin opened her eyes. The mother scratched her face, her frown a little bit softer than before.

Over the phone, Rin had told her mother she wouldn't be coming home that winter. It hadn't turned into a conflict like she had wondered if it would, but at the same time Rin couldn't help but wonder if her mother was upset and just not talking about it. It was impossible for Rin to get along with her when she was like that…

The worst part was that Rin didn't even know whether staying was the right thing for her to do or not. Part of her felt like the right kind of person would have gone home. But home didn't feel like the right kind of place.

"I really shouldn't let her wander too much…" Miu's mother said quietly, gesturing in her daughter's direction. "But I, um… well, I hope you have a nice holiday…"

"Thanks," said Rin.

Miu's mother left the swing set and met her daughter in the snow patch. They held hands, and together they walked a little further away, nearer the center of the playground.

Rin stood from the swing, wincing a little from a gust of wind. Lowering her head instinctively, she looked at the footprints that the pair had left behind. Before long the snow would bury them.

Rin paced in a semi-circle in the snow, standing in a big open white patch in-between the swing set and some more of the playground equipment. She thought about sitting down in the snow again, even though her clothes were already wet and freezing from lying down the first time.

She thought about that feeling for a little while.

Placing one leg a little in front of the other, Rin traced the edge of her shoe along the ground, carving out a little ridge in a straight line.

She wrote kanji in the snow.

snow

It was something that was exactly what it said it was. Nobody could argue that, at least. It described itself.

She stared at it for a long time without moving, not bothered by the snow in her face.

It was the right kind of thought for her. At least for now.
Last edited by QuietlySomething on Sat Aug 04, 2018 11:53 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Black Iris (A Rin Epilogue; Update 5/1/2018)

Post by Craftyatom » Tue May 01, 2018 2:32 pm

I liked it! This chapter definitely had a characterization that was most like the Rin in canon, for sure, though that doesn't necessarily mean it's the best. It's subjective, I suppose.

Your dialogue and internal monologue continue to impress me. And, of course, we all know the struggle of wanting to create art, but finding ourselves unable to, which made this chapter even more relatable. Good job!

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Re: Black Iris (A Rin Epilogue; Update 5/1/2018)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Wed May 02, 2018 4:52 am

雪 - kind of hard to write that in the snow I imagine :-)

The writing was good as always, though I'm not quite sure yet, whether this chapter will have any impact on the story...
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: Black Iris (A Rin Epilogue; Update 5/1/2018)

Post by QuietlySomething » Wed May 02, 2018 11:38 pm

Craftyatom wrote:
Tue May 01, 2018 2:32 pm
I liked it! This chapter definitely had a characterization that was most like the Rin in canon, for sure, though that doesn't necessarily mean it's the best. It's subjective, I suppose.

Your dialogue and internal monologue continue to impress me. And, of course, we all know the struggle of wanting to create art, but finding ourselves unable to, which made this chapter even more relatable. Good job!
Thanks for reading Crafty; I'm glad you have been enjoying this story so far. And I'm interested that you feel so connected to Rin here. Apparently the bar has been set :|
Mirage_GSM wrote:
Wed May 02, 2018 4:52 am
雪 - kind of hard to write that in the snow I imagine :-)
Hey man, nobody ever said art had to be easy :P
Mirage_GSM wrote:
Wed May 02, 2018 4:52 am
The writing was good as always, though I'm not quite sure yet, whether this chapter will have any impact on the story...
There is one particular way that this chapter progresses things which will most likely be clear in the next chapter. -And thanks!

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Re: Black Iris (A Rin Epilogue; Update 5/1/2018)

Post by Path » Fri May 04, 2018 11:52 pm

Finally had the chance to read the new chapter. It feels like a piece was missing and we just entered the aftermath of it. It made more sense for Rin being Rin but in an open environment instead of Yamaku or the art school. I like the interactions between the people she met along the way. Not much else to say besides looking forward to the next update :)

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Re: Black Iris (A Rin Epilogue; Update 5/1/2018)

Post by haeun6053 » Wed Jun 27, 2018 11:11 am

Loving it so far! Your characterization of Rin feels even more socially challenged than in the original work, though this might be because this follows from the neutral end. I'd love to see how you take this story forward from here. Just want you to know that you've got another fan and a follower!

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7

Post by QuietlySomething » Thu Jul 05, 2018 5:25 am

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon

world

Rin didn't understand much about the world. But she did understand that there was a lot she didn't understand.

When she didn't understand something, she was inclined to imagine an explanation for it instead. That way there would never have to be a gap in her thoughts. Things could always make sense… even if her explanations weren't always true, they could at least be a possibility, even if only to her. But that made them possible enough, since Rin's thoughts were the only ones she ever got to hear, anyway. Disappointing in its own way, but it worked for her.

That was how she used to do things. Imagining explanations. It was a comfortable way of thinking. And sometimes she still did it, when something particularly confusing would strike her. But not on purpose, and not for comfort. It wasn't comfortable anymore. Life was full of mysteries, but as she came to know how much she didn't know, it grew intimidating.

The world didn't work the way it did inside Rin's head. Oftentimes it was the complete opposite. Nobody understood things the way they worked in her head, except for her.

Rin painted falling leaves in front of a tree trunk.

leaf

The leaves spelled it out in red and orange. It took a lot of leaves, some turned in very odd and not-leaf-like positions, to form the shape of the word.

Rin was alone in an art studio, one of many available to students on campus. It was cold and dry and tucked away in a creepy basement. The windows were just thin slits of glass near the top of the ceiling. Afternoon sun squeezed through in little strips, highlighting Rin's collarbone and the sweaty edges of her shirt's neckline.

Rin didn't know that she could explain why she was painting leaves specifically, especially not in the coldest time of winter when all the leaves outside had already fallen and all the trees were already lonely. She didn't know that she even understood.

But she was most definitely painting leaves- that was what they were, that was what Rin did understand, and that was what she could have no doubt in her mind about. That was a fact that couldn't be disputed by anyone.

Rin spent so much time trying to understand how to fit her words together in order to explain her thoughts, but for nothing. In the meantime, she just tried to think things that her words could already explain.

One day, eventually, maybe, she would come around.

Eventually, she would need to.

For the time being, she dipped the end of her brush into a pool of cardinal red on her palette and traced it along the base of a falling leaf.

She did this for a very long time. Or… at least for what seemed like a very long time- so long a time that she could not remember what else she had done that day but paint. But Rin had lost touch with time lately, so it was hard to tell for sure.

By the time someone else entered the room, the little strips of sunlight had moved away from Rin's collar and across the wall to a spot near the corner.

Rin didn't even turn around to look as the door opened and shut.

"Hey, Rin!" It was Yumi's voice. "Me again." There was a slight pause as the girl walked further into the studio, her echoing footsteps breaking up the silence. "Um… would you mind if I painted in here for a little while? I'm behind on my work for the exhibition."

Rin stared at the leaves, reading the word written on it over and over as though it concealed some menacing hidden meaning that she didn't intend.

"I don't mind," she mumbled.

"Cool. Thanks." Yumi walked over to one of the tables near the wall to grab a painting of her own.

Lots of student art was stored in the studios in the academic buildings, including some of Rin's. Usually students didn't even bother to look at anyone's but their own.

Something loud and heavy hit the floor, and Rin finally turned her head to see Yumi setting up an easel. She was painting her watercolors. Still amaryllis, or so it looked like, though flowers could be hard to tell apart.

"Look at all these," said Yumi, gesturing to some of the student art lying face-up on a table. "It's kind of crazy to think about… if one of our classmates ended up super famous, any one of these could be worth an absolute fortune someday."

Rin took a breath. "You'd think that if a painting were going to be worth a fortune someday, it would be worth a fortune now. Since it's supposed the art itself that's special. But people are a lot more interested even in an ordinary painting if it comes from a person that they were already interested in to begin with."

"Kind of a shame, isn't it?"

"Yes."

That made Rin uncomfortable, so she didn't say anything more about it. Yumi gritted her teeth like she was going to say something else, but then she didn't say anything, either. At a loss, Rin continued to paint leaves.

Things were quiet for a little while, and then Yumi mumbled, "'Leaves'," reading the single word sprawled across Rin's canvas.

"That's what they are," Rin explained, without looking back.

"It certainly is." Yumi's chair creaked as she leaned over in it. "That's really interesting."

Rin went quiet. Something about the way she said that didn't seem right, but it took Rin a minute to think hard enough about it to puzzle out why.

"…Are you making fun of me?" Rin eventually asked, not inflecting.

"What? Oh my gosh, no!" Yumi seemed startled by the question. "No, I… I really meant that. It's interesting, the stuff you paint. The stuff you've been painting, I mean. Snow, too. Your whole theme. It's so neat. And… inspired. I dunno. Makes me feel kinda silly painting flowers."

Leaves. Snow. Flowers. Rin was abruptly stricken with a sense of alarm.

With wide eyes, she turned her head to the side, and the two girls exchanged an intimate glance.

Why would Rin's painting make Yumi feel silly? Any sense of competition in art always made Rin feel sick to her stomach. People would talk about it like it was something one person could beat another at, like they were playing baseball. …Which didn't even make sense, because Rin couldn't throw a ball in the first place.

"Inspired," Rin repeated, off-put.

With two fingers, Yumi brushed a strand of brown hair behind her ear, breaking her gaze with Rin. "Looking at what you create. It does… like, what it's supposed to." She spoke more softly now. "I mean, it… evokes. That's what art is supposed to do. You're supposed to look at it, and feel like it's coming from the soul." She touched her chest. "The stuff you paint feels like that. That's what I'm trying to say. I wish my paintings felt like that."

Rin didn't quite know what a soul was, even though she'd tried to imagine it before. The thought that it was reflected in her painting, though- that much seemed possible to her. If Rin had a soul, there could be no easier way to find it.

But Rin felt something when she looked at Yumi's paintings, too. There was something so Yumi-ish about them, something which Rin had already been trying for so long to take in and understand in words. Yumi's soulless paintings. Flowers.

If Rin felt something looking at them, she wondered, how could she expect anyone to understand her own art? See Rin as Rin did? It had to be possible, but for the time being, she was as lost as ever.

flower

All in one moment, it occurred to her that she really hadn't changed at all, and she was no more of a real artist than she had ever been, and that she had been avoiding having to think about it because she had known it all along.

Could it be enough to explain her art to someone else? Or would she have to understand it differently, too, like everyone else did? Rin had hoped her thinking would change naturally as she did, that thinking different things would change the thoughts that appeared in her brain on their own, but she had never managed to change at all. She had never destroyed herself- she had never even really tried.

"…How do you know what other people are feeling when they look at what I paint? Or… what you paint…?" Rin asked, gaze shifting away from Yumi's face toward the amaryllis.

"I don't. I just know what I'm feeling," Yumi explained. "It's just that my inspiration for painting is too… shallow, you know? Like I'm not digging deep enough into my psyche, or… something."

Yumi stuck out her lips like she was trying to kiss the air in front of her. Her eyes were fixed on something out of sight.

Rin looked at her with wide eyes. "Are you depressed?"

The two exchanged another glance.

"…What?" Yumi asked sharply, head snapping to the side. "Why would you ask me that?"

"I don't know," said Rin.

"Rin, I think-" Yumi cut herself off. "I was hoping I could ask you, while I was down here… have you been sleeping in here? There were a few nights where you didn't come back to our room, and you didn't tell me anything, and I-"

"I thought you came here to paint."

"I did. But I also thought it would be good to talk, while we're both here painting."

"But you're not painting now."

Yumi hesitated to respond to that, twirling the brush between her fingers and gnawing on her bottom lip. "I will. I'm just making conversation first."

Rin was exhausted by the conversation, but then she didn't feel like talking in the first place. To be fair, she rarely did.

"I did sleep in here." She turned away again.

"…Why?"

Rin frowned, a little bit confused by the question. "…Because I was tired."

"No, I mean… why did…?" groaned Yumi. "-I'm sorry. I feel like we're talking around each other. I… I guess I'm not good at this. Look…" She opened and closed her mouth, reaching a hand to her hair again just to fidget with it as she searched for the right words. "I haven't seen you around much lately. You've been coming down here a lot. Working on the exhibition a lot. I just thought I should check on you. But I'm not very good at being subtle. So I guess I'm making you feel weird."

"You are."

"Sorry," Yumi sighed. "I'm being really nosy, I know. I can't help it, I guess; it's a bad habit of mine. Kichiro told me I need to cut that shit out or I'm going to make you really upset." She raised a finger and pointed it at the ceiling "…Which would be totally understandable, by the way."

"I'm not upset. I just don't understand." Rin looked at the floor. "People act this way with me a lot. Not just you. My mother. And."

Rin decided against mentioning anyone else, after a little thought.

"Oh, man. Look, I don't want to get in the middle of anything with you and your mom." Yumi scratched behind her ear with a pout. "You don't talk about your home life very much. Or about anything you did before you came here, really. I totally get that. I know I've only known you since the beginning of the fall. If it's private, it's private. I respect your boundaries." Smacking her lips, she craned her neck a little bit and made eye contact with Rin, slowing down her speech. "…That said. If you want to know."

"I want to know." Rin was very still. Her foot lowered from her canvas, dripping cardinal red on the floor in thick droplets, like blood.

"My little sister went through… some really hard times, just a few years ago. We're really close, all my sisters. We raised each other." Yumi shrugged. "But she mostly stopped talking to us, and just started acting really different. It should have been really obvious, but nobody really gave it too much thought, not even my parents. So she felt really isolated. And because of that…" Yumi mumbled at the end, until she was too quiet to hear. She chewed on her fingernail for a second. "Uh, because of that, things were a lot harder for her than they should have been. And I guess I feel kind of guilty for that. Like… I should have been paying more attention. I mean, me and my family. We all should have. We should've been looking out for each other." She tilted her head to the side, and her long hair fell down at her side, draping over her shoulder. "Family's the most important thing, you know? And when you're away from home, your friends are like your second family. Do you know what I mean?"

Rin wasn't sure that she had any friends, but she at least knew her family well enough to consider the question. "No."

That prompted a loud sigh. "Alright, well. What I'm trying to say is this. I don't know about your mom. Or anyone else. But for me personally? You seem like you're in distress. And it's hard to see someone in distress. And when you feel like you can be doing something to help, it's even harder. That's all."

She took a breath.

"You can't help me," Rin said bluntly.

"…Sorry." Yumi hung her head low.

The two were quiet for a little while, and Rin went back to painting. Yumi didn't seem to do much of anything, though admittedly Rin paid very little attention to her.

Shifting her ankle, Rin traced a curve along the bottom of the word on her canvas. A stem gave way to a large, branching leaf that splayed in three directions. It overlapped with another, and together the two extended toward the bottom of the tree trunk.

leaf

Rin narrowed her eyes at her own painting. She was satisfied with what she had done, but uncomfortable still. Something rested uneasily in her stomach, like she had swallowed something small and heavy and made of lead.

Yumi spoke again. "I just think it's important to talk. That's at least something to think about."

Rin shook her head without even thinking. "I don't want to talk. Never want to. Not good at it."

…Which was the problem, it occurred to Rin a moment later.

Rin set her brush down and slid back in her chair, resting both her feet on the cold floor. A tiny puddle of cardinal red had formed there after dripping from the end of her brush, and she could feel it painting the bottom of her toe.

She turned in her chair to face Yumi, but found it difficult to look directly at her.

"Do you believe people can change what they are?" Rin swallowed, looking at the little strips of sunlight in the corner of the room. "I mean. Not what they are. But what they think. How they think. Really change it. Not just the words they use, but…"

"…Yeah. Yeah, I do, Rin." Yumi nodded slowly, lips curling up into a tiny smile. "It's about changing your attitude." She shifted in her seat a little to try and make eye contact with Rin, who avoided her. "…In case you were wondering, my sister is doing great."

"I wasn't wondering."

"Hmph."

Rin looked into Yumi's vibrant eyes for a fraction of a second, then turned in her seat again, legs positioned lamely underneath her easel.

"Another month," she mumbled.

"Until the exhibition, you mean?"

Rin had meant that, and she was a little surprised that Yumi had understood.

"Are you ready?" Yumi asked.

"No. But I will be. I need to be; it's-" Rin stumbled over her words. "Everything will be finished when it's finished."

"I don't know what you mean."

Rin didn't answer- she was barely listening.

"I'm not ready yet," Yumi continued. "I need to pick up the pace. But we still have plenty of time now. It's going to be big, that's for sure."

"Yes."

"You're going to do just fine."

"I hope so."

"Are you nervous?"

"Yes."

"Me, too. I guess that's to be expected. But I'm just gonna give it my best." Yumi shrugged. "I think that's the right approach. That's how you stop yourself from worrying too much. It's just another thing. When it's over, it's just. Over."

"Everything is finished."

"Hm," Yumi hummed uncomfortably. "And then what?"

Rin didn't answer.

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Craftyatom
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Re: Black Iris (A Rin Epilogue; Update 7/5/2018)

Post by Craftyatom » Fri Jul 06, 2018 2:00 am

Rather somber, but I liked it. And, as with your other chapters, Rin's behavior speaks to me on a personal level.

A lot of philosophy in this chapter too. The acknowledgement of endless holes in our knowledge, the fact that we can't know how others truly feel, and the matter of whether one can really change their nature. Almost comfortably unsettling, in that such questions are universal. I think they fit this story - they'd be out of place in many others, but they feel right at home in the settings you've portrayed.

Anyways, blathering aside, I liked it - though I had a hunch I would.

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QuietlySomething
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8

Post by QuietlySomething » Wed Aug 08, 2018 6:26 am

Great Wave off Kanagawa

Rin painted and painted and painted, and then it was the night of the spring exhibition, just like that.

world

Rin Tezuka

She had a sign, a little white one with golden edges, which guarded the entrance to her display in the corner of the first floor. The 'Rin Tezuka' exhibit. A rope partition prevented people from stepping too close to her paintings, or touching them.

At four o'clock in the afternoon, all nineteen of the other students with exhibits were bustling in throughout the first floor of the art museum, which was closed off specifically for the student exhibitions that evening.

Rin was not bustling. Since she couldn't carry her art herself, Yumi and Kichiro had already brought all her paintings to her corner, and the museum staff had already set them up on three walls.

"'World'. Have you traveled much?" someone asked.

Rin turned around to find Kichiro standing behind her with his hands on his hips. He was looking over her shoulder, at her art. The exhibition wasn't open yet- he was supposed to be there to help Yumi, who was nowhere to be seen.

Not sure what to think, Rin looked at him a long time before responding, turning away. "No. I lived in the same place for most of my life." She paused. "Tokyo is the furthest I've traveled."

The two stood side-by-side.

Kichiro nodded once. "Wish you could travel more?"

"I don't know."

"I've always wanted to go to Italy."

"Why?"

"Always thought it seemed nice. Gondola rides and old architecture and all that. I don't think I really have a good reason, since I don't know much about it." He scratched his chin after saying that, chuckling quietly. "Now that I'm thinking about it, I guess I should probably be saying that it's because of all that rich art history. Da Vinci and Botticelli and everyone." He gave a halfhearted shrug, the kind Rin was highly accustomed to making herself. "Ah… whatever."

Rin didn't say anything else; she was much too focused on her paintings. She imagined the questions she might be asked, but couldn't imagine answers to them. Her thoughts got muggier and blacker in her head the harder she tried to focus on them. She felt like passing out, and briefly wondered if her head would crack open if it hit the tile on the floor. It was sleek and black and pretty. Rin imagined a little splatter of cardinal red.

At some point she realized that Yumi was squeaking loudly behind her, having apparently crossed over to Rin's side of the dividing wall between their art displays. Rin wondered how long she had been standing there.

"How do I look?" Yumi asked, throwing her hands out to the side to allow Rin and Kichiro to look at her.

She was wearing a pale green dress with polka dots on it. She looked like a school teacher, the kind that smelled like dessert and would laugh just for no reason.

"You look cute!" Kichiro said, kissing Yumi on the cheek and resting a hand on her shoulder as he brushed past.

He wandered toward the dividing wall to move to Yumi's exhibit, and both girls followed behind him, Rin trailing in the back.

"How do you feel?" he asked, glancing at his girlfriend over his shoulder.

"I feel like I'm going to throw up. But I think that's normal." Yumi put her hands on her hips, then raised one to gesture to the watercolor paintings partitioned off at her display. "I painted eight. Eight is good, right? Eight is enough…"

"Eight is enough," Kichiro replied with a nod.

Yumi ignored him. "Rin, how many did you paint?"

"Eleven," Rin replied flatly.

"…Shit."

"It's not a competition, Yumi. Come on, now." Kichiro rubbed his forehead, gesturing to Yumi's wall of art with his other hand. "What you have is just fine."

"I don't want fine; I want something that belongs on the wall of an art museum."

"Which is what you have. Kind of what I was trying to imply."

"You're just saying that."

"I'm not. Your art is great. Don't doubt yourself now; how long have you spent working on these watercolors?"

"Long enough that I want your actual opinion."

"Oh, for- every time with this. Why do I even bother?" He let out a loud groan and put a hand in his hair, mussing it up. "Alright… can I tell you something, Yumi? In a couple hours, they are going to open those doors, and a billion people you don't know are going to walk through here with the express purpose of critiquing you. I am not one of those people. It's not my job to critique you. It's my job to support you. That is the whole reason I'm here. Alright? So, honestly." He pressed two fingers to his temple. "Honestly… does it really matter what I think?"

He took his hand out of his hair and leaned down a little bit in front of Yumi, putting him closer to eye-level with her. The two stared at each other for a very long time.

Rin stood next to the wall. Her knotted sleeves draped over the sides of her legs. She didn't say anything.

"Meh," said Yumi.

Kichiro tapped a hand to his chest. "Hey, I'm here, aren't I? That's got to count for something."

"You know what? You are here. And I appreciate it. I appreciate you." Yumi pressed her index finger to his chest and smiled at him. "…But… I am still nervous as shit."

"Everyone is nervous. It's natural. But it's like I said. You're gonna do great." He held his palms over her elbows and leaned his head in to kiss her on the lips. "You're gonna do great! You know that, c'mon. Deep breaths." He patted a hand on her forearm.

"Deep breaths," Yumi repeated with a huff, shuffling a little bit. "…You nervous, Rin?"

But Rin had already stopped paying attention to them.

Yumi had a sign, too:

Hues of Spring

Yumi Ono

Her smaller number of paintings made them easier to arrange squarely on three walls. Rin thought the display was beautiful. It was all nature- bushes, and amaryllis, and a cherry blossom, but the colors were all bright and artificial. Like a wall of neon trees, sprouting out of the ground and blooming with electric blossoms. It seemed right for the Yumi Ono exhibit.

"Earth to Rin," said Yumi.

"Hm." Rin turned to face her.

"You alright?"

"No." Rin squinted, Yumi's wide, powerful gaze boring into her. Unwilling to maintain eye contact, she turned her head to look at the display again. "I don't know."

"You see?" said Kichiro. "Everyone is nervous. It's a big deal. It's normal to be nervous. But you guys are both gonna do great."

That sounded like a lie, Rin thought. One of the lies she had been trying to get used to telling. Rin didn't understand why other people told them, but she wanted to get good at them anyway.

Yumi and Kichiro kept talking to each other, but Rin didn't listen to them.

Months of preparation had gone into her eleven paintings, just for people to look at it for one night. Rin didn't know what it would mean to do great, but she did know that it would be impossible for Rin to do it. If she did, after all, she couldn't be Rin anymore- that was exactly what she had been preparing for.

************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

At five o'clock in the afternoon, Rin found herself in front of her own art display again, lingering behind Yumi and Kichiro, who were standing side-by-side. The two were talking about their next year of classes. Rin listened to them, fascinated by their ability to distract themselves from the exhibition. But she never lost focus on it, herself- she refused to, if it were even possible, which she doubted.

Rin's professor had been going from display to display for a long time, and she had watched him with curiosity out of the corner of her eye. Eventually he approached Yumi's display, but, finding no one there, crossed over to Rin's display instead, throwing up his hands and putting a broad smile on his face.

"Hey! Ladies! You're the last two I was looking for." Chishiki lowered his hands and used them to brush out his plaid jacket, the top layer of some funny-looking formal clothes. "Congratulations on making it this far! I know you guys have put in a lot of work to get everything ready."

Yumi stepped in front of Rin with a smile. "Thank you, sir!"

"Your display looks great, Ono! Was just having a look at it before I stepped over here. I come to the spring exhibition every year, but I've never organized it before. Exciting, right? It's a blast seeing what students come up with each time. And the displays are a lot bigger this year than in exhibitions past. That's the benefit of the small number of participating students."

He held his hands together as he spoke, looking the three students in front of him up and down. Still standing right in front of Rin, Yumi scratched the back of her head, tugging on a strand of hair.

Chishiki took a step toward her, but tilted his head toward Kichiro, his eyes narrowed. "Ah! Well, if it isn't… er…" He clenched his fist fiercely, swinging it once in front of his face. "Ah… Kobayashi! Kobayashi, that's right." He smacked his lips. "I'm so sorry; you just… caught me off-guard. I didn't expect to see you here! Certainly not so early… unless one of the other organizers set you up with a display I didn't hear about?"

"No! No, no; no display. I'm just, um, here to support my girlfriend." Kichiro rubbed a hand on Yumi's arm, but flinched at his own words after a moment and cleared his throat. "-Uh, and to get an opportunity to have a look at all the other students' displays, of course."

"Oh, you don't have to pretend around me." Chishiki flashed a toothy grin. "Don't worry; not even the most passionate among us enjoys standing around in a museum all day long. I suggested they give the students chairs, but the other faculty ignored me. Though I suppose it's good training for a career in art, right?" He shrugged. "Well, I suppose love conquers all, at any rate. …At least, that's what my wife would say, but then, it's not like I could ever convince her to come to one of these."

Kichiro smiled with his teeth clenched tight, like he had something sour in his mouth. Nobody said anything for a couple of seconds.

"…You're allowed to laugh, guys," Chishiki added with a little frown.

Yumi and Kichiro both gave an awkward chuckle. Rin laughed, too, a moment later, even though she didn't understand why. It apparently wasn't the right thing to do, since everyone stared at her afterward.

"Anyway, I'm glad you came, Kobayashi," Chishiki mumbled, cupping his hands together. "The more the merrier. I'm always encouraging non-participating students to attend this exhibition. I'm expecting high attendance this year."

"I have heard a lot of people making a fuss about it," Kichiro replied, tucking his hands into his pockets. "I think you're right about high attendance."

"It's nice to hear that. It can be hard to gauge student interest from my position, since, y'know, everyone just tells me what I want to hear."

Rin took a few steps forward, and her chest brushed against one of Yumi's shoulder blades. Standing on her toes, she leaned to the side to read a big, laminated sign, which was positioned by another student's display across the room.

Student art is not for sale

She furrowed her brow.

Chishiki gave her a serious look. "Something wrong, Tezuka?"

"No," Rin replied immediately. "Why is student art not for sale?"

"We don't like to break up the displays in the middle of the night. But, more importantly, I think it's important for students to view the event as a networking opportunity, rather than a chance to sell the art pieces they made specifically for this exhibition." He crossed his arms as he explained it, like he was puzzling it out at the same time. "Does that make sense?"

"I guess so." Rin didn't understand what compelled people to sell art in the first place, but she lied to prevent him from trying to explain it any further.

"Didn't you sell art at the exhibition you did at your last school?"

"Yes. One painting."

"Yeah. I understand if it feels like a bit of a step backwards, in that case. I'm sorry for that." Chishiki shrugged. "It's all part of a 'school event', so maybe it feels a bit less… professional… than whatever you did last. But I promise, I have observed firsthand that it is consistently useful for developing artists like yourselves. Networking, like I said. It's really important. I can't overstate it."

"I understand," Rin lied again.

They looked each other sharply in the eye. Rin's were wrenched open.

Chishiki thought for a moment, then looked away. "Anyway, things will be getting started pretty soon. I just wanted to go around and make sure everyone was here that was supposed to be here, and give a little moral support."

"Doors open at six, right?" asked Yumi.

"That's right. The general exhibition-goers will be in and out for a while. But you should know: I got word that we are getting a visit from a pretty prominent gallerist later on in the evening, Mr. Genichi Fukuhara. He's an alumnus, and a donor, so… be on your best behavior." Chishiki chuckled, even though nobody else did. "Uh… but seriously. He couldn't make it last year, so it's pretty exciting to have him stop by. He's kind of a bloodhound for young talent, so it's important to try to present yourself like a real professional. Get your name out there."

"Sounds like a good opportunity," Yumi said quietly.

"No kidding! Tonight is the real deal."

Chishiki walked past her so he could stand closer to Rin's display. He put his hands to look on it, and Yumi and Kichiro took a step back at the same time to allow Rin to approach him. She did, uncertainly.

"So this is what you've been working on, eh? Really neat… not what I was expecting," he mumbled.

Rin responded quietly. "I worked really, really hard on it."

"I'm sure you did. I knew I could count on you to impress me tonight, Tezuka. This is really something. 'World'." He looked down at her, smiling. "I have my own questions, but I think you'll be getting plenty of that soon enough. Good work."

Her eyelids fluttered. "…Thank you."

"I'm going to make the rounds again. You guys seem more than ready for everything to get under way." Very gently patting Rin on the shoulder, Chishiki turned back to Yumi and Kichiro and stepped away from the display, now sporting a huge smile. "I'll be in the crowd of guests if you need my help or have any questions about anything. Break a leg, guys."

He left them standing together. Kichiro still had his hand on Yumi's arm.

Rin wriggled her toes in her tight shoes, her eyes following her teacher as he disappeared into a crowd of museum staff.

************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

At six o'clock in the evening, the doors opened to the general public. The exhibition was supposed to last for two hours. It seemed like it would go on forever from the moment it started.

Rin was already tired of standing. She had a feeling in her chest like a terrible storm was closing in, but she was indoors, so that couldn't be exactly right.

Museum staff in red uniforms let guests pour in through the entrance, which was on the opposite end of the room from Rin's display. They were mostly dressed in grey and black, all formal, and familiar, too. They were just like the sorts of people that had come to her last exhibition. But there were far more of them, and they were more interested in the displays close to the entrance than in Rin's, at least at first.

Chishiki stood among a few other teachers that Rin had never spoken to. She saw him point in her direction as he spoke to a few guests, before he waved his hand to gesture to the rest of the back row of student displays.

It took a long time before anyone made it all the way over to the back, where the Rin Tezuka exhibit sat. It was a man with product in his hair. He came alone, while two other people walked past to look at Yumi's display.

Hands on his hips, the man leaned in toward the sign to read it, and then he turned to smile at Rin.

She closed her eyes and said what she had rehearsed. "Hello. Thank you for coming. I mean. I'm Rin. Tezuka. Thank you for coming."

"I'm happy to be here. This is a fascinating exhibition. It's nice to relax and appreciate someone else's hard work for a change," he chuckled.

"Do you think art is relaxing?" Rin flinched at the sound of her own voice, painfully aware of the fact that she was supposed to be answering questions and not asking them.

The man squinted at her and then shrugged a little. "What, you don't think so?"

Rin's heart rate spiked.

"I don't- I don't know." She breathed loudly. "Maybe it is relaxing." Her eyes fluttered. "I'm sorry. I don't know."

The man touched his fingers together and didn't say anything. Rin looked away from him. The clamoring from the guests at the other displays sounded like thunder.

When she looked back to him, he was fixating on her rather than on her art.

He spoke quietly. "I'm sorry- you said you're Rin Tezuka?"

"Yes."

He nodded a few times. "…You painted this?"

"Yes."

"I, uh. Wow. Interesting." The man straightened out his jacket and looked at the paintings again, smiling like she had told him good news. "I just mean… well, that's really impressive! Do you paint with your feet?"

"Yes."

"…Wow!" He laughed. "Huh… well, thank you for sharing this with me."

She wasn't sure what to say next. "You're welcome."

The man left without saying anything else, though he did give her a little wave first.

She turned away from him. Her mouth kept opening and closing, but she couldn't figure out whether she was trying to say something or not.

Rin thought about the exhibition she did when she went to Yamaku. It smelled like dust and soap. Everyone was so close to each other.

The museum smelled like dust and soap, too, but colder and fresher, like whatever ice would smell like if it smelled like something.

More people arrived at her display while she reminisced about it, first another man in grey, then a young couple a few seconds later. They seemed more interested in talking to each other than to Rin, but she closed in on them anyway to greet them, working as hard as she possibly could.

"Hello. Thank you for coming." Rin spoke to the woman of the pair, then cleared her throat and looked over at the man at her arm. "–Thank you for coming."

"Hello," the two of them said in unison.

They passed her by, chattering to each other, and examined the display with smiles on their faces. They kept looking back to stare at Rin.

She turned to walk to the other man at the display, but as she did, she heard more people approach from behind.

A lot more people. A whole crowd of them. Men and women, all in one group and all as old as her parents. One of them pointed a finger at her. Everyone was looking now.

"Hello-!" said Rin.

Something caught in her throat, and she squeaked her words, like Yumi usually did.

She swallowed. "-Thank you for coming."

"Thank you," one of the women in the group replied.

The crowd parted in the middle and spread out around her, crowding behind the rope partitions that blocked off her paintings.

Someone loomed over her. "You painted this?"

"Yes," Rin said with dry lips.

"Where did you come up with the concept? It's unusual."

"I." She hesitated.

Someone else interrupted before she could think about it. "Interesting use of color. The paintings seem really monochromatic. Was that intentional, or was it a consequence of the subjects you chose?"

"What about the subjects? It's meant to be representative of the world? Why the emphasis on elements of nature?" someone else asked.

That one was two, maybe three questions.

Rin said something, or at least meant to, but didn't hear her own words. A few people talked to each other without looking at her. A few people talked to her. She didn't look at any one person, and before long she had accidentally drawn everyone's attention with her attempts to answer even a single question.

Everyone was staring at her. Everyone in her crowd. Nine people, or eleven people- Rin tried to count them, but her hair fell in front of her eyes, and then she couldn't keep them open, and then she couldn't look at them, and she was staring at the floor. Her shoes were too tight. She couldn't move her toes. It had been too long since her toenails had been cut.

When she had painted world, she had talked to herself. Asking questions and pretending to be different people. The questions she thought of made sense at the time, but she didn't even know whether they were the kinds of questions she would be asked.

Why did she paint what she painted? It was always on her mind, because it always seemed to be on everyone's mind. Rin thought about the snowstorm in December.

She felt like everyone in the whole room was staring at her, and then beyond that. Like the world didn't extend beyond the walls, and the earth wasn't spinning, and her words were the only ones, and even then, she still couldn't find them.

Rin thought about falling to her knees. The floor looked uncomfortable. Rin thought about going home, but she wouldn't know where to go even if she did. Everyone was looking at her, but nobody knew what to think about her, even though her brain was splattered all over the wall in green, blue, white, black, cardinal red.

Rin thought about Nomiya. Rin thought about the painting hanging over her bed. The one with all the black paint. The one Yumi said was nice. Rin thought about her beach painting.

Rin thought about Hisao.

Then she spoke.

"When I started painting," said Rin, "when I was a little girl, I painted whenever I wanted to without taking any time to think about it. I painted on the walls in my house. People yelled at me- my parents. I was just painting whatever things I thought of, whenever I thought of them. It was easy for me to understand the things I painted. I didn't think about what I was doing. I mean. I did think. But I was just painting and thinking at the same time. That's how I learned to do it. So the things I thought- they were also the things I painted. When I look at my paintings, I see my thoughts. But that isn't how it works for everyone. People only think their own thoughts, all the time. So even when they look at the same painting in front of them, they don't think the same things. That means other people don't see paintings the way I see them, even when they're the paintings that I made. So I can't know what they mean when someone else looks at them."

Rin stopped talking for a moment, her chest heaving as she caught her breath. Everyone kept looking at her, and she tried to keep her eyes on people's faces.

"This is something different," she said loudly. "I painted what I thought. But I thought what I saw. And I saw what everyone sees. This is 'world'. Everyone is from the world. So this is something to everyone. This means something to everyone. That's why I made it the way I did. World is an everyone exhibit. It's not a Rin Tezuka exhibit."

She looked at her display again. Nobody in the crowd was talking.

"It's not a Rin Tezuka exhibit," she said again.

************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

At seven o'clock in the evening, the crowds had died down a little, since the people who were most interested in the student displays had showed up as soon as the exhibition opened. Only a few people stopped by at a time, and most didn't seem interested in hearing what Rin had to say.

Rin had said a lot, anyway. More than she had ever said about anything she had ever painted, to more people. Her brain felt like fire, but she wondered if maybe it had been that way for a long time, and now her thoughts were just like the little smoke clouds the morning after a rainstorm.

When there was nobody left at her display, Rin walked over to Yumi's display, instead. Yumi was talking to a guest. Kichiro was leaning on the wall with his eyes closed, making a face he sometimes made when Yumi looked away from him.

Rin's shoes made loud footsteps, and Kichiro opened his eyes sharply when he heard them. He grinned when he saw her. Rin took a step back as he approached her.

"How are you doing, Rin?" he asked.

"I have no idea," she replied.

He laughed quietly and gestured over his shoulder to Yumi, who wasn't paying any attention to the two of them. "That's probably what Yumi would say, too. She's killing it, though. She has been running around with her hair on fire talking to everyone that shows up, and I think it's paying off, because most people have seemed really interested in her work." He sighed. "She deserves a win, you know? She has been working her ass off for this."

"How do you win?" Rin asked.

"I wish I knew."

"Me, too."

They stared at each other for a few moments.

The man Yumi was talking to laughed about something and walked away in the opposite direction from Rin's display. On second glance, Rin recognized him from earlier in the night. He hadn't seemed too interested in Rin's art.

Yumi brushed out her hands over the bottom of her dress, bending down a little bit to try and touch her toes. Then she walked up to Rin and Kichiro.

"How's it going, Yumi?" Kichiro asked with a laugh.

She rubbed her face with both hands. "I'm dying."

He pulled her close to him and held her hand, earning a little smile from her. "Better you than me."

"Wow. You always know just what to say." Yumi batted her eyelashes and looked past him. "How are things going for you, Rin?"

Rin looked at Kichiro before speaking, and hesitated to. "Fine."

Kichiro gritted his teeth, but Yumi didn't seem to notice. She was watching her display, instead, and got distracted by two more people coming to look at it- a young-looking businessman, followed by Chishiki. That in and of itself distracted Rin.

"Um, hello, sir!" Yumi exclaimed, hurrying away from Kichiro and letting her hand fall away from his. "Hello, professor!"

"Hi, guys!" Chishiki smiled, but he looked a little nervous. He ducked behind the younger man as he introduced him. "I mentioned Mr. Fukuhara; you all remember?"

Yumi's eyes opened wide. "Oh, my gosh! Thank you for coming!"

Fukuhara looked at everyone in front of him and waved, though he ultimately focused on Yumi. "Thank you! I'm happy to be here; I enjoy student art. Good evening, everyone."

Kichiro waved at him and mumbled 'hello'. Rin didn't do either.

With a forced cough, Chishiki covered his mouth with his fist and took a step backward, away from Yumi's display. "Well, I don't want to distract you, so I'll leave you to it. You'll meet with the faculty when you're finished, Mr. Fukuhara?"

"Right. Good night." Fukuhara waved a hand behind him, and Chishiki wandered away, like a dog that had been let off its leash.

The young gallerist didn't look like Rin had expected. He was tall, and handsome, and clean shaven, and probably good at math. She didn't know what to make of him, but she watched intently.

He approached Yumi's display without waiting for her, tucking his hands into his jacket and fixating on an amaryllis painting. Kichiro walked slowly backward, away from the display, until he was almost out in the open floor space outside the walls of Yumi's area. Rin didn't know where to be, so she walked with him.

Yumi walked up close to Fukuhara and cupped her hands behind her back, bouncing on her toes a little. "I'm sorry; I don't think I introduced myself, but I'm Yumi Ono."

"It says as much on the sign," Fukuhara replied seriously.

"Right, right." She separated her hands and held them in front of her. "Um, so, this is a collection of watercolors that I have been experimenting with for… um…"

Fukuhara raised one hand in the air, keeping the other coolly in his jacket pocket. Yumi trailed off as he did, stammering uncertainly.

When she stopped speaking, he finally turned to look at her, lowering his hand. "I'm sorry. Just a moment, please."

Yumi gulped. "…Right, I'm sorry…"

He turned back to stare at her paintings again. She hovered around him uncertainly for a very long time. Kichiro rubbed a hand over his arm, not looking away from them.

Rin had difficulty keeping track of time, but Fukuhara's silence seemed to go on for at least a few minutes, five or maybe more. Far longer than she had expected. He simply moved from one painting to the next, studying each one without saying anything. Yumi stared at him with the same level intensity.

After a very long time, she gave a half-frown, half-smile, and said, "Um, do you have any questions?"

He looked at her for the first time in a while. "…No, I don't think so."

"Oh. Okay."

It was another few minutes after that before he finally turned to walk away, nodding silently in response to some imaginary question.

"Ono, right?" Fukuhara asked quietly. "Very pleasant display. Have a nice evening."

"Oh?" Suddenly panicked, Yumi scurried in front of him, wiping her hands on her dress. "Is- did you- what did you think?"

He scratched his chin, studying her. "It was a very pleasant display. Fine work."

He turned to leave again, and Yumi's face sank. She followed behind him for another few steps as he walked.

"Um!" Yumi squeaked. "-Um, I'm sorry, but please, sir, could you just tell me your thoughts? I just would really like to hear…"

Fukuhara stopped dead in his tracks, opening and closing a fist in front of me as he contemplated her question.

"Okay." He turned around to face her and grimaced. "…Honestly, Ono, if you insist on an explanation, it's trite. The art is trite. I don't have much to say. I always encourage young people to explore their talents, but this collection does not impress me." He adjusted his cuffs uncomfortably, letting out a sigh. "But I don't want to discourage you. Keep searching for inspiration." He half-turned, then looked back at her. "You have a nice evening."

He walked away, and Yumi nearly stumbled forward as she moved to follow him. Kichiro touched her on the shoulder to stop her. Her bottom lip quivered a little, and she bit down on it.

Rin left them alone to follow Fukuhara.

Hands still in his pockets, he heard Rin's loud footsteps and glanced over his shoulder, pouting at her.

"I'm sorry, can I help you?" he asked sternly.

"I don't know," said Rin with a shrug.

"Why are you following me?"

"You were heading for my art display."

"Oh! You're one of the students!" He looked her up and down, then brushed a hand through his hair. "I'm so sorry, I- er, I didn't mean to presume anything. What's your name?"

"Rin Tezuka." The pair stopped in front of Rin's sign, and she gestured to it. "It's on my sign."

"So it is. Well, thank you for being forward. Sometimes I think people find me intimidating."

He laughed, and Rin laughed, too, for some reason.

Stepping past Rin, his eyes scanned the sign, and he positioned himself behind the rope partitions, focusing on the snow painting. Rin stood behind him and looked at it, too. She still couldn't figure out what to think about this man, but she liked that he didn't talk while he was looking at art. She usually didn't, either, especially lately.

Once again, Fukuhara went for a very long time without saying anything as he studied the paintings on the wall.

Unlike at Yumi's display, though, he spoke up halfway through, while he was still looking.

"How would you describe this?" he asked, taking a hand out of his pocket to gesture at the art in front of him.

Rin was quick to answer. "It's my art display."

"Ha! Fair enough." He snickered, looking at the sign again. "So…'World'. Where does that title come from?"

"It's what the paintings are about."

"Right."

They exchanged a little glance.

Rin shrugged. Something in her brain told her not to speak too much, so she held herself back. "The world is for everybody. So it's art that is for everybody. It's art that everybody can see the all the same, no matter what they think."

He frowned a little, and turned his head back to look at the paintings. He went silent again for a little while, which was fine by her.

Then he said something else. "So… it's somehow an invitation for some collective experience. The world is the subject, and the audience."

"Um, I guess so," said Rin.

She liked the word 'somehow'.

"It's unusual. I often find that student art displays can be a little…" He waved one hand around as he spoke. "…same-y. It's nice to see something that grabs my attention. So you've accomplished that much."

He gave Rin a big smile, which seemed good.

"Okay." Rin narrowed her eyes. "Thank you."

"You're welcome."

He kept looking at her art, and didn't say anything else until he got the rest of the way through it, nodding to himself periodically.

"Have you ever sold your art before, Tezuka?" Fukuhara asked suddenly, flipping around so that his back faced the wall of paintings.

"Yes."

"Really?" He raised an eyebrow, apparently surprised. "Are you planning on remaining a student this upcoming year?"

"Yes."

"What are your ambitions for after graduation?"

"I want to paint. I think," she said hoarsely.

"Are you going to stay in Tokyo?"

"Maybe. I'm not from Tokyo. I came here for school. It depends on what." She looked away suddenly, losing track of her words. "I mean, it depends on what I need to do."

"Okay… okay." Fukuhara smiled at her again. "Well, I don't want to leave you in suspense. I'm very interested in your work, Tezuka. I think you have the right attitude for the professional sphere. And you are clearly a very thoughtful artist." He looked down at her. "…And an intriguing person… I have to ask; how did you paint this? How do you paint in general? You use your feet?"

"Almost always."

"Remarkable. I mean it; that's really remarkable. I'm sure you hear it all the time."

"I do."

"I'm sorry. I don't mean to seem diminutive."

"I don't know what that means."

He laughed again, but Rin forgot to.

"Can I speak with you again? There are people I would really like to show this display to."

"Student art isn't for sale," Rin replied.

"Yes, yes, I understand. Though I admit, I do regret that about this exhibition sometimes." Fukuhara scratched behind his head. "Regardless, I would love to have another look at this later and speak with you again. Would you be open to that?"

Rin wasn't sure what to make of him.

"Yes," she said.

"Good. Good, good." He nodded to himself. "I'll tell you what; I'm going to speak with your professor about this display. But I'll meet with you again soon. Would it be alright for you to go briefly leave the campus during the school week?"

"I think so."

"I think that's what we'll do, then." He nodded once more. "Okay. I'm going to be off for now, then." He took a step closer to Rin, smiling and showing his teeth. "I want to say. It was a real pleasure to meet you, Tezuka. Sincerely. I very much enjoyed this. I am excited to keep in touch."

"Bye," said Rin.

Fukuhara seemed to be standing a little taller as he brushed past her. When Rin finally lowered her eyes from him, she saw Yumi and Kichiro standing near wall by her display, apparently having been watching her. Yumi's mascara was running a tiny bit.

Rin looked away from them.

************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

At eight o'clock at night, or maybe a little bit after, the museum staff had started to pack up the student art, and the students had begun to move it off the walls.

Rin's art was still up on her walls, but they had taken away the rope partitions, so it was open to the whole world again. That bothered her, suddenly, for some reason.

Rin walked back and forth between her own display and Yumi's, whose own paintings were also still hanging on her own walls. She couldn't move her art herself, so she simply had to wait for one of the others to help her.

Yumi kept looking at her own art like she couldn't figure it out. Rin didn't know how that could be. She wondered if Yumi had found her soul.

With a tiny wave, Kichiro looked back to Rin, but only for a second or two. He was standing very close to Yumi, so that their sides were nearly pressed together.

"I'm… really sorry," Kichiro said to her, his voice a bit more higher-pitched than usual.

"Me, too," Yumi replied.

"Is there anything I can do for you…?"

"Probably not."

"I'm not really sure what to do."

"There's nothing for you to do! Come on; it's not your fault."

"Still."

"I mean it."

"I know you do. But still."

Yumi shook out her head a little, getting hair out of her eyes. She had been crying- not much, but just enough. Rin thought it was devastating to listen to.

"Thank you, Kichiro. I know you're worried about me. But I'm okay. It just sucks. I'll get over it."

"It doesn't need to suck. You shouldn't take what he said to heart. He really had no right to say that to you."

"No, he did. But it's not really about him, exactly."

"He's just some asshole. Self-important. He's basically just Tsuchiya with a better workout routine. He doesn't know what he's talking about."

Yumi laughed in a strange way that still seemed sad. "It sucks because he does know what he's talking about. And I know what he's talking about, too. I knew I screwed up focusing on the watercolors so much. Experimenting and everything. I honestly knew that from the beginning. I just…" She mumbled the last part, working herself up.

"Hey… come on. Yumi…"

Kichiro reached out to touch her, and she swatted his hand away.

"Just- just…" she trailed off. "Don't, okay?"

"Okay. Sorry."

"Don't apologize." Yumi turned her head to the side and kissed him. "Can you give me a minute?"

"Oh! Yeah." Kichiro patted her on the back and turned away. "Sorry."

"Hey, I just said don't apologize, idiot."

"Sorry."

She laughed, and waved a hand behind her to playfully smack him. "Go!"

Kichiro smirked as he approached, raising a hand to greet Rin as he walked out of the display and back over to Rin's.

Rin followed him.

"Agh." Kichiro slowed to a stop in front of Rin's paintings and put his hands on his hips. "Mm… really hate to see her upset."

Rin looked at the floor. She didn't really want to talk, but needed to. It was easy to tell the truth to Kichiro, she thought.

"I don't understand what Fukuhara didn't see in her art," she mumbled.

"Neither do I."

"I don't understand what he saw in mine."

"Oh…" His tone surprised her, and she looked up. "You shouldn't let this put a damper on things for you," he said gently. "You really impressed him."

"I know I did."

"Be excited! Hell, I'm excited for you!" He thumped her on the shoulder, which caught her by surprise. "You must have a million things going through your head. How do you feel?"

Rin thought about it for a moment. "I feel like I have a million things going through my head."

"I guess that makes sense," he chuckled.

Rin slumped her shoulders in her usual fashion- then she noticed that he was doing it, too, and tilted her head to look at him. He caught her staring.

"Agh, I'm sorry. I'm trying to be excited." He gave a sad frown. "I've got a lot of things to juggle right now."

"I'm sorry. I can't juggle."

Caught off-guard, he paused, then he shook his head and threw out his arms in front of him.

"Sorry, Rin, I just want to go take care of something. I'm not trying to be a downer. Do you mind?"

"Do I mind what?"

"Just gonna go do something."

He started to walk away, and Rin set her foot down urgently. "What are you doing…?"

Kichiro cracked his knuckles in front of him. "My job."

Rin followed far behind, back to Yumi's display, where she was still standing in front of her art. Her shoulders were slumped, too. Rin leaned against the wall, and Kichiro approached her again.

Yumi groaned. "Hey…"

"Hey." He smacked his lips, aligning himself next to her. "So. Here's my opinion."

"What?" Yumi stopped looking at her art and took a step away.

"I think," said Kichiro, "that your watercolors are naturally evocative, because of your color choice. It's not just about subject. It's expressive because it's bold, but not quite natural. I think it feels like you are taking the most essential and beautiful elements of something natural, and molding it into something expressive and human by focusing on those elements. I think it feels transformative in the kind of way that makes you need to look at it twice. I think you're taking your subject and making it your own, artistically speaking. That's not just really appealing visually, but it's also the fundamental reason that art is compelling in the first place." He clasped his hands together. "That's what I think."

He clenched his teeth and tucked his hands into the pockets of his trousers. He and Yumi both stared at her art for a long time without saying anything, and Rin stood far behind them, not sure what to focus on or what to think. She felt delirious.

Yumi choked up again, then shook out her head and rested it against Kichiro's shoulder, which was easy to do since she was just the right amount shorter than him.

"I… you know, I feel like I want to cry harder, now," said Yumi, a little shakily. "That was really…"

"It's just true. That's all."

"…I love you," said Yumi, eventually

"I love you, too," said Kichiro.

She straightened herself out, then turned Kichiro to face her and wrapped her arms around his shoulders to hug him. They were both smiling; they seemed good at it.

Rin wasn't good at it.

She stood far away from them, leaning against the wall, looking at Yumi's art. She still couldn't figure out what to think.

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