Within a Looking Glass – A Rika pseudo-route

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ProfAllister
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Re: Within a Looking Glass – A Rika pseudo-route

Post by ProfAllister » Sat Mar 17, 2018 5:28 am

Mirage_GSM wrote:
Sat Mar 17, 2018 4:57 am
Rika ponders a moment. “Imagine if one of her sleep episodes happened at just the wrong moment. Fall out a window, don’t move out of the way of a car, that kind of thing. I don’t know what happened, I just know it was one of the funerals we had last year”
No, that's not how Narcolepsy works.
With the search function broken I can't find them on short notice, but there should be a few posts by ProfAllister or myself explaining in deatil - or you could consult wikipedia.
Here you go.
Current Project: Misha Pseudo-Route

Discord ID: ProfAllister#9754

Downix
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Re: Within a Looking Glass – A Rika pseudo-route

Post by Downix » Sat Mar 17, 2018 6:57 pm

Mirage_GSM wrote:
Sat Mar 17, 2018 4:57 am
Rika ponders a moment. “Imagine if one of her sleep episodes happened at just the wrong moment. Fall out a window, don’t move out of the way of a car, that kind of thing. I don’t know what happened, I just know it was one of the funerals we had last year”
No, that's not how Narcolepsy works.
With the search function broken I can't find them on short notice, but there should be a few posts by ProfAllister or myself explaining in deatil - or you could consult wikipedia.
Reworked the part. I did not do much research here, admittedly. Left it more open ended.

And this is why I love it when people tell me mistakes I've made. Helps me do better in the future.

Downix
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Re: Within a Looking Glass – A Rika pseudo-route

Post by Downix » Sat Mar 17, 2018 7:01 pm

ProfAllister wrote:
Sat Mar 17, 2018 5:28 am
Mirage_GSM wrote:
Sat Mar 17, 2018 4:57 am
Rika ponders a moment. “Imagine if one of her sleep episodes happened at just the wrong moment. Fall out a window, don’t move out of the way of a car, that kind of thing. I don’t know what happened, I just know it was one of the funerals we had last year”
No, that's not how Narcolepsy works.
With the search function broken I can't find them on short notice, but there should be a few posts by ProfAllister or myself explaining in deatil - or you could consult wikipedia.
Here you go.
Many thanks Professor!

Downix
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Re: Within a Looking Glass – A Rika pseudo-route

Post by Downix » Mon Mar 19, 2018 7:40 pm

Yesterday I got into reviewing, and realizing I could make the opening a lot tighter. So I'm reworking things a bit.

Downix
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Re: Within a Looking Glass – A Rika pseudo-route

Post by Downix » Tue Mar 20, 2018 8:08 pm

This one was fun. I'd actually written it one of two ways, then ultimately decided on combining the two into the final result.

Never any Jam Today

Next to me in the car, Rika and I spoke quietly between ourselves.

“I think my mother is making an assumption about you,” I tell Rika.

“Let me guess, she thinks I’m some kind of Valley Girl!”

I shrug, and we both chuckle to ourselves.

The drive surprisingly was devoid of questions. That only made the growing anxiety in the back of my mind worse.

When we reach the house, I help put Rika’s case into her room, and advise her to wait a bit before lunch, so I can talk to my mother. Then, I go to the kitchen, where I know my mother will be waiting for me.

“So, Hisao,” she says. When she uses my name, it means she is upset about something. “Is there something you need to be telling me?”

“Nothing important,” I say. “What is it you want to know?”

This seems to make her flustered. “I mean, it’s obvious, isn’t it? How she…” her voice falls off and she looks embarrassed.

“How she, what?” I ask her. “I could think of a dozen things which you could think are obvious. I mean, my hallmate is convinced that she is a vampire or ghost.”

My mother gives me a flat look. “She is one of… those girls.”

I blink, really having no idea what she’s talking about. “Those? You’ve lost me.”

She sighs, then asks, “Are you going to make me say it?”

I really am lost now.

With a deep breath, my mother says, “It’s, the porcelain skin makeup, the long gloves, the socks, and the umbrella… she’s one of those… goth girls.”

I close my eyes and start to laugh, interrupting her. “Mother, no.”

She blinks at me.

I tell her, “Rika has a condition called Albinism. It makes her skin and hair white, and leaves her very sensitive to light. So she wears those clothes and uses the parasol to protect herself from the sunlight.”

“The skin isn’t makeup?”

I shake my head, still laughing to myself. “No, that’s her natural skin color. And her hair color is all natural as well. Her eye color is due to the contacts she wears to help filter light. Don’t believe me?”

She seems a bit confused. “I suppose you would know, but… she’s so pale. Natural?”

I nod. “Come, follow me.” I take my mothers hand and lead her to the main room. “Wait here.”

I go to knock on the guest room door. “Rika, can you come out now?”

The door opens and Rika is standing there, now in a simple dress. “Was I right?”

I laugh. “Kind of. Come to the living room.”

I direct Rika to sit down next to my mother. “Tell her.”

Rika turns slightly and smiles. “You’ve never seen an Albino before?”

My mother shakes her head.

Rika takes my mothers hand, then holds it up so Rika’s fingers are in front of her face. “Please, look.”

My mother looks at Rika’s hand, and tries to rub at it. “I just…” She studies the hand for at least a minute before looking back at Rika. “I’m sorry for presuming. You must think less of me for that.”

Rika smiles at that. “How about we start over then?”

My mother considers, then nods. “Alright.”

Rika takes back her hand and folds it in her lap before bowing. “Hello Mrs. Nakai, I am Rika Katayama. I am 18, a second year at Yamaku, and care for your son very deeply. I hope I am worthy of your blessing as to our relationship.”

My mother visibly relaxes. “Please, call me Aira. After being so willing to forgive my foolishness, it would be less of me to demand such formality.” She pauses a moment. “So, Albinism? Is that inherited?”

My face turns red. Rika, for her part, takes it in stride. “You can be more direct than that. You want to know if any children I have would also be Albino. Not likely, unless their father also carries the particular gene for my form.” She pauses. “That can be tested for ahead of time, incidentally.”

My mother closes her eyes. “Am I that transparent?”

Rika smiles, and falls into her very formal, clinical mode of speech I know from when she is explaining her condition to people. “This is what I think is going on. Last winter, you find out you son has a heart defect which nearly kills him. Now you worry that your only child will die young. You want him to have a future, wife, children of his own, and that event scared you. So, you wish to verify if any girlfriend will be suitable for such a future. Verify if I am suitable.”

My mother sighs. “Can you blame me?”

Rika shakes her head. “If there is anything I can say or do to assure you that I genuinely do care for your son, just say it.”

Then my mother looks at me with a stern look on her face, “Hicchan, please stay here. I need to borrow her for a bit. Girl things.”

I look at Rika to see if she’s ok with this. She clearly is uncomfortable, but nods to tell me it’s ok.

My mother takes her hand, and leads her out the door. A few moments later, I hear the car engine. I look out the window, and see the car departing.

Once I see my mother and Rika drive off, I turn back to the main room. I find my father sitting now, obviously waiting for me.

“Dad?” I ask, to get his attention.

Without looking up at me, he says simply, “Sit down,” in a gentle tone.

I sit down and relax. I know my father well enough to know this is not bad.

“When I dropped you off at Yamaku, I feared my son was lost forever. Now, here you are,” he says with a smile.

“Sorry for worrying you,” I tell him. After a moment, I ask, “What did Mom want to talk to Rika about?”

Dad shrugs. “No clue. I think she’s mostly just happy that you’re dating someone, now that the confusion is out of the way.”

I sigh. “Is she that worried about me?”

“Son, look at it from her perspective. She nearly lost her only son. Nobody wants to outlive their children.”

“And her focus on Rika?”

He laughs. “She does want grandchildren one day… but I would appreciate it if you were out of University first.” Then a heartbeat later. “So, she’s… thin.”

I laugh, and remember a question Rin asked me once. “Don't you want to ask?”

“It’s, awkward. I mean… what do you say?”

I bend down a bit and look at my father. “Something I was told when I began at school. It is only a big issue if you make it one. I go to school with track and field stars who are missing limbs, a student council president who is deaf, one of the best painters has no arms. It all shocked me at first. But then, I stopped letting it be an issue.”

“That seems, hard I suppose.”

“It just takes time,” I tell him. “And patience. So, where did they vanish to?”

My dad shrugs. “Knowing your mother, she’s grilling Rika over tea.”

I roll my eyes.

“Her heart is in the right place,” he says. Then his eyes flick to my chest. “Oh, sorry…”

I laugh. “A smart woman once told me there's no need to change your speech on my account.”

“One of your teachers?”

“No, the class representative to 3-2, the one next to mine.”

At this point my father quirks an eyebrow. “I don’t think I’ve heard you talk about any boys at your school, save your hallmate.”

I laugh. “The school is something like 70% girls. I simply don’t have many boys to interact with. I think there are 5 in my classroom total. It is so bad that I had several girls crushing on me the first few days, I think because I was the first new male they’d seen all year. I know two of them really tried hard to rope me into spending time with them. Like, a lot.”

“And yet, you fell for someone in a different class.”

“It just happened that way,” I tell him.

We fall into silence before he breaks it again. “Heart condition, huh?”

“Yup,” I tell him while nodding.

“On top of the Albinism?”

I nod my head. “Yes. You should ask her if you have any questions about her condition.”

“I… I couldn’t… that would be too personal…”

I smile. “Mom has just about planned out our wedding already. I think we’ve gone past the personal point.”

Dad looks at me with a twinkle in his eye. “Just about? You should have heard the day you told her. It was like unleashing a storm.”

“Complaining?” I ask him.

“Nah, if she makes you happy, that’s all that matters. It does seem a bit sudden, however.”

“Much of that is Mom being… well, in helicopter mode,” I tell him, with a smile on my face.

He nods. “You’re right there.”

We both then just laugh.

I look out the window. “What do you think they’re doing?”

“Beats me. I’ve been married to your mother for 23 years, and I still can’t figure out what goes on in her head. Keeps the marriage fresh, certainly.”

---------

It’s nearly dinner when the two of them return. My father and I are not great cooks, but we have a simple meal ready for them as the car pulled back up.

Oddly, they return dressed differently than when they left. And I think my mother had a different haircut as well. And did they get their nails done? And with even more luggage it seemed. Literal, luggage. An extra suitcase that wasn’t there before, looks brand new.

I shake my head in amusement, having no idea what just happened.

My father looks at both of them sternly. “Well? I assume neither of you thought to bring me something back, did you?”

My mother leans over and gives him a kiss on the cheek. “That better?”

“Better than diamonds.” He returns the kiss, then takes one of the bags from her. “We prepared dinner. Sorry it’s nothing fancy.”

Rika grabs my arm and, rolling the new suitcase with her, drags me to the guest room while saying, “I need to borrow your son Aira.”

My mother just laughs and waves Rika off.

Once in the room, Rika gestures for me to close the door.

“Ok, so, I thought you two would sit outside and talk, maybe 5 or 6 minutes. Instead, three hours later, new clothes, that...”

Rika interrupts me by pulling me into a kiss.

“Oh, I guess things went… well?” I ask her.

“I think so,” Rika looks positively beaming. “I mean, she took me to get my nails done and everything.” To iterate she holds up her hands.

“I really don’t understand women,” I tell her.

“Your mother is a sweetheart. Relax.” Rika smiles at me. “And she did not embarrass you too much, honestly.”

“So, what did you talk about?”

Rika’s smile widens. “That’s a secret!”

“Hicchan,” comes my mother’s voice from the other room.

Rika pushes on my shoulder. “Go, talk to her.”

Leaving Rika behind, I walk to the main room, where my parents are sitting together.

My mother has a more serious look on her face as I sit down.

“I clearly owe you an apology as well, for presuming about Ricchan.”

I start to snicker.

“Oh Hicchan, come now. This is serious.”

“I’m sorry, just, the nickname…” I can’t keep a straight face. Neither can my father behind her.

She sighs and rolls her eyes at us. “You two, impossible. In any case, I just wanted to apologize for my earlier behavior.”

“All is forgiven mother. I am just glad you two could work things out.”

“Are you certain you cannot stay for more than a week?” My mother asks.

I nod. “I have to start preparing for next trimester, and Rika’s father is… very protective of her. Getting him to agree to a week was a challenge.”

“I just wish I could take more time off, but you know how work is.”

“Relax, I still get to spend time with you and Dad. Now, are we going to eat dinner before it gets cold?”

“Please, I’m starving,” my father says, rubbing his stomach for emphasis.

My mother just laughs at this before calling out, “Ricchan, please join us for dinner.”

I groan once more at my mother’s nickname for Rika.
Last edited by Downix on Thu Mar 22, 2018 7:57 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Mirage_GSM
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Re: Within a Looking Glass – A Rika pseudo-route

Post by Mirage_GSM » Wed Mar 21, 2018 6:57 pm

The door opens and Rika is standing there, now in a simple dress. “Was I right?”
Hmm... At the beginning of the chapter it feels like there are a couple of lines of dialogue missing between Hisao and Rika. Not sure what the "Was I right" is referring to...
Also... Water Girl? I have no idea what that is a reference to. Urban dictionary doesn't either.
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Re: Within a Looking Glass – A Rika pseudo-route

Post by Downix » Wed Mar 21, 2018 7:19 pm

Mirage_GSM wrote:
Wed Mar 21, 2018 6:57 pm
The door opens and Rika is standing there, now in a simple dress. “Was I right?”
Hmm... At the beginning of the chapter it feels like there are a couple of lines of dialogue missing between Hisao and Rika. Not sure what the "Was I right" is referring to...
Also... Water Girl? I have no idea what that is a reference to. Urban dictionary doesn't either.
I'll check when I get home. Might be my cut and paste missed a few lines.

I may have messed up my kanji translation when it came to Water Girl. I'll double check when I get home.

*edit*

Yup, missed 4 lines in fact. And the kanji was 水商売, which an old high school friend of mine told me meant water girl. I don't read Japanese, so I trusted his statement.

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Re: Within a Looking Glass – A Rika pseudo-route

Post by Silentcook » Thu Mar 22, 2018 1:26 am

Where did you pull the kanji from, though? This might be irrelevant, but I remember "water trade" to be an idiom for the sex industry, so...
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Re: Within a Looking Glass – A Rika pseudo-route

Post by brythain » Thu Mar 22, 2018 10:55 am

Silentcook wrote:
Thu Mar 22, 2018 1:26 am
Where did you pull the kanji from, though? This might be irrelevant, but I remember "water trade" to be an idiom for the sex industry, so...
"水商売" refers to so-called 'waterfront businesses'—smuggling, prostitution, street hawking, nightclubs etc. They're businesses that are heavy into services and entertainment, and which are hard to regulate. So you're pretty right about that! :D
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Re: Within a Looking Glass – A Rika pseudo-route

Post by Mirage_GSM » Thu Mar 22, 2018 5:58 pm

Yeah, those kinds of things happen when you try to use idioms from a language you don't speak. I recommend against doing stuff like that.
If you're not sure what the meaning is yourself, how are your readers supposed to guess?

And speaking of which - in the four lines you added you use the word "Vijuaru Kei"...
Why? This story is written in English. Why would you use a Kana-transliteration when the word "visual" is actually English in the first place?
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
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Re: Within a Looking Glass – A Rika pseudo-route

Post by Downix » Thu Mar 22, 2018 7:48 pm

Silentcook wrote:
Thu Mar 22, 2018 1:26 am
Where did you pull the kanji from, though? This might be irrelevant, but I remember "water trade" to be an idiom for the sex industry, so...
Former classmate of mine. I asked him for something his mother might call a girl wearing too much makeup.

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Re: Within a Looking Glass – A Rika pseudo-route

Post by Downix » Thu Mar 22, 2018 7:49 pm

Mirage_GSM wrote:
Thu Mar 22, 2018 5:58 pm
Yeah, those kinds of things happen when you try to use idioms from a language you don't speak. I recommend against doing stuff like that.
If you're not sure what the meaning is yourself, how are your readers supposed to guess?

And speaking of which - in the four lines you added you use the word "Vijuaru Kei"...
Why? This story is written in English. Why would you use a Kana-transliteration when the word "visual" is actually English in the first place?
Old habit I picked up.

If it were purely American, I would have used Valley Girl and Goth, respectively, in those two points. But neither concept fits in Japan cleanly. And I dislike it when American tropes are shoehorned onto another culture.

I restored the terms to what I'd originally written before I got concerned about that.
Last edited by Downix on Thu Mar 22, 2018 7:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Within a Looking Glass – A Rika pseudo-route

Post by Downix » Thu Mar 22, 2018 7:56 pm

brythain wrote:
Thu Mar 22, 2018 10:55 am
Silentcook wrote:
Thu Mar 22, 2018 1:26 am
Where did you pull the kanji from, though? This might be irrelevant, but I remember "water trade" to be an idiom for the sex industry, so...
"水商売" refers to so-called 'waterfront businesses'—smuggling, prostitution, street hawking, nightclubs etc. They're businesses that are heavy into services and entertainment, and which are hard to regulate. So you're pretty right about that! :D
Well now, I clearly cannot trust my old classmate now for terms.

I feel a bit embarrassed.

There, used the original terms now. Although it feels weird for anyone in Japan to use them, honestly.

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Re: Within a Looking Glass – A Rika pseudo-route

Post by Downix » Thu Mar 22, 2018 10:16 pm

This one I had fun with. I'd written it a dozen different ways, to hit the topics and points needed for the next pivot point in the plot. I purposefully decided not to do the stereotypical "run into Iwanako" scenario I've seen in far too many fanfics, and handled well in very few. (I still feel that Guest Poster's Sisterhood had the best one)

---------
The Wasp in a Wig:

I have lived in this city for my entire life until a few months ago. Yet, today I am seeing it with new eyes.

Sitting here in the middle of the shopping district, just watching, is a completely different experience from those of even a few months ago. Before, I was so busy going from one place to another, I never actually looked around me during the day.

It’s a completely different world. People hustling around, none of which pay the two of us any mind. Sitting on a bench, me holding up Rika’s parasol to best provide shade for her in that blue dress of hers, we certainly should stand out. But instead, we are background noise to those around us, ignored by almost all.

Almost all.

When you start to people watch, you will pickup when they watch back. I felt it long before I saw them, the pair of boys across the street. I simply nod in their direction, then turn my eyes to my lovely companion.

“Do you feel up to company my dear?” I ask her.

She turns her sunglass covered eyes to me, then past me to the two boys walking in our direction with purpose.

“Do you know them?”

I nod. “The shorter one is Shin, and his taller companion is Takumi.”

“Ah,” Rika says. “Did you tell them we would be here?”

I shake my head.

“Well then, we should be sociable. Shall we?”

I stand up, then help her up with my free hand. Then we both turn to the approaching pair.

“Hisao? Hey!” comes Takumi’s voice as he waves. They stop when they reach us and he continues. “Here Shin was pointing out the girl in the fancy dress, and look who is on her arm but none other than Hisao Nakai. Home for summer break?”

I nod. “Yes, for the rest of the week. Takumi, Shin, this is Rika Katayama, my girlfriend. Rika, here are my friends from my old school I’ve told you about.”

She bows. “An honor to meet you.”

They both now turn their full attention to her, and freeze, eyes going wide. It takes a moment before their brains re-engage.

Shin is the first to have their capability of speech restored. “Oh, um, hi. Hisao? Seriously? Dating her?”

I nod. “Why? Surprised?”

Takumi speaks up next. “Well, after your last heartbreak…”

I frown. “What?”

“Oh shit, I didn’t mean that…” Takumi looks mortified over what he said.

I laugh it off. “Relax, ok? It’s not a big deal.”

Shin relaxes. Takumi still looks pensive.

“I mean, shit man, I don’t know how to…” Takumi finally sputters out.

“Seriously, relax. Something I learned at my new school. These things are not issues unless you make them one. Now, I assume you two were going somewhere before we interrupted you.”

Shin smiles. “Grabbing lunch. Want to come?”

I look over to Rika, who just looks back, breaks into a smile and nods.

“Sounds good, where to?”

“The usual spot by the arcade. Come on,” Takumi says.

I know the route, but it takes more time than I remember in the past. I suppose taking life slower has helped me appreciate the time to reach a destination.

When did that shoe store open in that spot? Checking the establishment date… 8 years ago. How did I ever miss that walking through here before?

When we reach the place, I open the door for Rika, then wait as Shin and Takumi pile in after her. I close up her parasol and hand it back to her. She takes a slight look over her sunglasses, then satisfied with the result, takes them off.

As we sit down, Shin gestures to Rika. “So, um, what’s with the getup?”

Rika tilts her her slightly. “What do you mean?”

Shin points to her parasol. “The umbrella, the clothes, it’s all rather, odd.”

Rika slowly and deliberately takes off one of her gloves, then starts to take off the other glove. “It helps protect my eyes and skin.”

The two boys look confused.

She sets both hands down on the table, folded politely in front of her. “I have a condition which makes me very sensitive to sunlight.”

Both of them now gain some level of comprehension.

Takumi breaks the silence. “So, you two met at that… school?”

I nod. “At Yamaku academy, yes.”

“It’s a school for cripples, right?” Shin says.

I just look at him levelly.

Shin then backs up in his seat. “Oh shit dude, uh, I didn’t mean…”

I could hear Takumi mutter “Awkward” under his breath.

I shake my head. Some things truly do not change. But, I have. I look at the pair across the table, it dawns on me that despite our shared history, there’s little really in common between us anymore.

Rika lays one hand on mine and squeezes it.

I tell them, once I take a deep breath to calm myself, “Yamaku offers added health facilities for students with needs which surpass a normal boarding school. Otherwise, it’s a school like any other. Not everyone who attends has health issues.”

“But why would they?”

Rika decides on answering this. “Yamaku offers programs not found elsewhere. It is one of the few boarding schools offering Japanese Sign Language, for example. Plus some students enjoy its atmosphere and seclusion. It’s quiet, while being within easy access of a medium sized city.”

I nod. “It takes a bit of getting used to, I’ll admit. You should have seen me those first days.”

I sit back and think. “If you guys ever want to come visit, I’d love to show you around.”

Rika leans onto my shoulder as the two of them squirm a bit under my gaze.

“No obligation guys, just offering. It could be fun,” I tell them.

We order our food. It is amusing to witness the change in Rika’s ordering habits. It was not that long ago that the idea of ordering a sugary soda loaded with caffeine would have been unimaginable.

“So, how did you two meet?” Shin asks. Smalltalk topic. Easy one.

Let’s have some fun here.

I tell in in a matter of fact manner. “I was run over by Emi, the fastest thing on no legs and our schools track and field star. Rika was in the nurses office when they dragged me in to make sure Emi had not done any serious damage to me.”

“Fastest thing on… what?” Shin seems to have issues processing this.

“No legs, yes. Lost both of her legs in an accident years ago. Runs on prosthetics now.”

Rika laughs. “I wish I had a camera to share the look on your face with Emi. She would have so much fun with that.”

I join in the laughter.

“Too cruel man, too cruel,” Shin says, before he joins in the laughter.

Takumi just shakes his head. “You’ve changed Hisao, that’s for sure.”

I look up. “Oh?”

Takumi leans back. “Yeah. The old you would have been too dull to have made that joke.”

We all then break out laughing.

Takumi then seems nervous before asking, “How long are you in town for?”

“A few more days.”

“Going to see the girls?”

I raise an eyebrow at that. “Er, plural?”

“Yeah, Mai and Iwanako.”

I shrug. Strangely, hearing her name did not bother me like I feared it might. “Not really planning on anything. Just enjoying the time. If we happen to run into either, then we do.”

Shin then points while saying, “Well, glad to hear that, because…”

Behind me, the very distinctive voice boomed out, “Look what the cat dragged back. I’d recognize that hair anywhere.”

I lower my head, raise a hand and wave it. “Hi Mai.”

Rika for her part turns her head to look, and her eyes follow Mai as she walks up to the table.

“Care to join us?” Shin asks.

“I don’t know. What does Hisao and his date think?” Mai isn’t even looking at us.

Rika folds her hands politely and just looks at her.

I lift my head back up and wave to the remaining space at the table. “Feel free. Glad to see you Mai.”

Mai sits down next to Shin, making 3 pair of eyes now staring at me.

“So, is this just a chance encounter, or?” I ask, leaving the end open.

Mai sets her phone down on the table. “Shin messaged that you showed up and they were dragging you here.”

I look over at Shin and Takumi and tell them, “Figured you two would set this up.”

Mai then breaks out in a smile. “You’re looking a lot better than the last time I saw you.”

I return the smile. “Let’s be honest, the last time you saw me, I was in no shape to be seen by anyone.”

Mai nods. Mai’s eyes now lock onto Rika, who returns her gaze with equal intensity. “Who’s this?”

I make the usual introductions. “Mai, meet Rika, my girlfriend. Rika, Mai, friend of mine since primary school.”

The two of them are giving each other that once over I’ve seen girls do before. I don’t fully understand what it is that happens during those assessments, but my mental image is of generals planning out battle strategies, borders, and lines in the sand which, should the other woman cross them, could cause all out war to break out.

For their part, Takumi and Shin are too busy gorging themselves on food to pay attention to the two girls.

Once their assessment of each other is complete, both of them turn their eyes to me. I don’t like being the center of attention, but it can’t be helped. But I can steer the direction into something of more general subjects.

“How did everyone’s exams go?” I ask to the table.

A general muttering of not wanting to discuss it floated across the table.

Attempt to change topic: FAIL

I sigh, guess no getting around this. “So Takumi, when you said girls earlier, are you saying Iwanako hangs out with you guys now?”

Shin answers. “Well, after what happened, things went bad for her. Like, really bad. When you never came back from the hospital, rumors began.”

I roll my eyes. “Rumors?”

Shin sighs. “That she’d killed you, or that she was bad luck. Her friends stopped hanging out with her. She was shunned at lunch. One time, someone even…”

Mai elbows Shin to interrupt. “Anyways, what he’s trying to say is that those who didn’t see you in the hospital began to gossip. And, we felt bad for her. So, she began to hang out with us.”

I chuckle. “So you guys upgraded!”

Takumi looks a bit put off by that statement. “No, it wasn’t like…”

I can’t help but grin at that point. “Relax, I’m just messing with you. I’m glad you guys were there for her. But why didn’t any of you tell me?”

“Because you were in the hospital, spiraling. Would it have made you feel better to know that she was getting crap because of you?” Mai’s gaze was focused on me.

I think. “I guess not.”

“It’s a bit better now. Memories have faded. But the pariah status hangs over her,” Takumi says.

I nod. “I’m glad she has you guys then. The letter I received from her was very thin with detail, mostly smalltalk. I wish I’d have known.”

Mai chuckles. “According to Iwanako, you were practically bragging about the number of cute girls you’d met in the letter you sent her back.”

I laugh. “The school is something like 60 or 70% female, it’s not my fault that there are not that many boys to talk about. Hell, the wing of my dorm only has one other occupant, Kenji… and to be honest, the less I talk about him the better. He’s a bit…”

Rika interrupts, “He’s convinced I am a vampire who has made Hisao my thrall.”

This brings out some laughter from the rest of the table.

Shin then considers. “Wait, 70% girls… maybe I should visit, OW!”

I laugh as Mai punches Shin’s arm.

Shin groans. “What was that for?”

“Only way you might have a chance is if the girl is blind!” Mai exclaims.

I chuckle. “I do know a few…”

“Hey, no helping,” Mai then tells me.

Takumi interrupts their spat. “So, what are your plans for the rest of the day?”

I tell them, “Just watching.”

“Watching?”

Rika smiles and fills them in. “We sit somewhere, and watch the world around us move by. It’s relaxing, not needing to rush around somewhere.”

“Well, we’re going to the arcade. Feel up to joining us?”

I look over to Rika, who smiles and nods.

“Alright, we’re in.”

----------

Mai for her part just rolls her eyes. “You two are rotting my teeth. Raw saccharine, that’s what you are, you know that?”

I look back at her, “So? You and Shin fight like an old couple.”

This makes both of their faces turn red as they say in unison, “Do not!”

This solicits laughter from the rest of the group.

We had wandered over to the arcade and now were spending time among the various amusements. Takumi had been playing with a basketball hoop game, one with a real basketball, while Rika and I entertained ourselves with a claw machine next to it, each of us directing the other as we take turns. Mai and Shin were behind us, waiting for the three of us to finish up what we were doing.

I manage to get my chuckles under control. “Deny all you want. I’ve known you both for years. Either you’ll wind up married with kids, or kill each other.”

Mai and Shin are both rendered speechless by this, while Takumi just takes another shot before piping in, “He’s right you know.”

Both of them give him the evil eye.

Mai then looks at Rika. “How did you wind up with this loser anyways?”

Rika just beams, and says, “I won him.”

Mai just gets a confused look on her face. “Huh?”

I just smile, and we both stand there quietly, finished with the claw machine.

Mai shrugs. “You two are weird.”

It was then that fate stepped in. A call of alarm enters my awareness, and I turn to look… and see the basketball from the hoop game flying in my direction. I don’t get a chance to react when it hits me square in the chest, knocking me down into Mai and Shin behind me.

I sit dazed for a second, when that warning hits me again.

THUMP THUMP

Instinctively I close my eyes and focus on my heartbeat. I can’t panic, not now.

THUMP THUMP

It’s getting stronger, not good. Focus on my breathing.

And then I feel arms around me, and Rika’s gentle voice whispering “Breathe, one, two, calm,” in my ear.

I melt my head into her, and for a moment, the world melts away. A brief moment, certainly, but it is enough. The pounding in my ears subsides.

“Thank you,” I whisper back.

When I open my eyes, everyone is just looking at us.

Takumi looks like he’d just run over a school bus full of puppies. “Oh shit dude! It bounced, and… Do we need to call an ambulance?”

I shake my head. “No, I’m fine this time, but I’m going to suggest the two of us stand away from games with flying balls.”

Mai gets herself back on her feet. “Was that another attack?”

I shake my head. “Just a flutter, will have the nurse check me out when we get back to school. Stress, heavy physical activity, being hit in the chest, all could cause either of us to have another attack. So, we watch out for each other.”

Takumi looks at us both. “Either of you?”

I say, “She has a heart condition too.”

Rika pipes up while nodding. “Yup.”

Takumi then shakes his head. “So, you have a skin condition and a heart condition? Hisao, you had to date someone with more issues than you do, didn’t you?”

Shin finally pulls himself up. “Man, you are way too chipper about that Rika. Like, way too chipper.”

Both of us just chuckle at that.

I find myself repeating Yuuko’s words from months before. “It’s not an issue unless you make it one.”

I then shake my head. “I think this is enough excitement however. Rika, how about we start to head back?”

“It’s only 5, you can’t be tired already.”

I pat my chest. “I really can be. Sorry guys that I’m not the same Hisao you once knew.”

Mai for her part just laughs. “Well, New Hisao, I’ve enjoyed today anyways. Maybe we can hang out before you two head back.”

I nod. “I’d like that.”

Once we exit the arcade, Rika leans in and whispers to me, “That’s not just being tired, is it?”

I shake my head. “I don’t want them to worry. My feet still are on pins and needles. I need to lie down.”

“Hisao!” Rika scolds me. “Don’t put on the brave face. You know better.” She gets out her phone and dials a number, telling me, “I’m calling a taxi. You sit down here and rest. No more walking, ok?”

I nod and close my eyes as I sag onto the bench.

Not the best end to the day.

--------

At home, I just lie down on my bed and try to relax. The sluggish feeling was now in full effect. I could hear Rika in the other room on the phone, but cannot make out what she’s saying. It’s after 5, so likely just her regular check-in with her father.

The room around me feels alien. I used to spend many hours in here, and now it may as well belong to a stranger. I see my closest open, but the clothes in it look like someone elses. I can’t wear those anymore.

Folded in one chair, long forgotten, one of my old school uniforms. Dark blue with white trim. In fact, under it, my old pull over winter jacket. My clothes from that day, right there.

Of course it is. They had to collect it from the hospital when I was taken in.

I flip open my phone and take a look. Three messages.

Shizune letting me know that the student council will not be available until the week before school returns. I message back my thanks, and hope for her to have a good break.

Mai asking if we’d had dinner. Don’t want to talk to her right now, so I tell her yes.

An unknown number, simply telling me hello.

Rika’s still on the phone. Clearly not to her father, because I don’t hear the usual reports of daily food consumption or blood pressure measurements. I really do not understand that man. Maybe it's to her mother. They have been talking more, behind her father's back I've noticed.

Well, unknown number, let’s see who you are.

I message it back, “Hello to you too.”

Incoming text reads “Heard you were back home.”

I reply with, “Yes, only for a few more days.”

The next message is simply, “May I call?”

“Well, not doing anything else better, let’s get a phone call from a stranger,” I mutter to myself as I text back, “Sure.”

A minute letter, my phone rings.

“Hello,” I say into the receiver.

And the voice on the line immediately brings me back to earth. “Hello Hisao.”

“Mr. Katayama?”

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Mirage_GSM
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Re: Within a Looking Glass – A Rika pseudo-route

Post by Mirage_GSM » Sat Mar 24, 2018 9:17 am

Downix wrote:
Thu Mar 22, 2018 7:48 pm
...I asked him for something his mother might call a girl wearing too much makeup.
What you were looking for is probably Gyaru.
I don't recommend using it, though. You don't want to make your readers look up obscure slang terms. It really wrecks story immersion..
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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