Souls of Clay and Fire [Chapter 2 Added 23 July 2018]

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theazurewyvern
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Joined: Wed Apr 25, 2018 10:17 pm

Souls of Clay and Fire [Chapter 2 Added 23 July 2018]

Post by theazurewyvern » Fri Jun 01, 2018 2:42 pm

Chapter Summary

It's the day of the festival at Yamaku Academy. It's party time, and Hisao is looking for someone to spend the day with. However, his plans have to change when a student goes missing, and he gets caught up in the search.

Author's Notes

Oh boy, here we go.

This is the first writing project that has gotten anywhere near this far. As you might be able to tell, this one is going to be long. I'm looking for as much feedback as I can get on this; positive, negative, constructive, destructive, whatever you have for me. There is plenty more coming, and I will try to upload as regularly as I can, depending on how long it takes to write, how well it's received, and how life pans out for me, among other things. Just be assured that there is a plan, and I am very confidently pretending to know what I'm doing.

I've attached the story itself as a Word document instead of uploading directly to the forum because there are a few things I'll be doing with the formatting that simply don't work with the way these forums are. It won't affect this chapter, but it will be vital for the story to work going forwards. If anyone has any better suggestions as to what I can do, I'm all ears.

Chapter 1 Word Count: 9,247
Total Posted Word Count: 9,247

Edit 1: 2 June 2018

So, I think I've figured out a way for posting directly to the site to work. I'm going to look at uploading two versions, one as an attachment with my formatting and one as a direct post without it. Personally, I think that the rest of the chapters will read a bit differently, but I don't know for certain. The two chapters will be mostly similar, but the differences will be noticeable starting in Chapter 3.

Chapter 1: The Invader, Part 1

Yuna Yamada slowly walked down the dark hallway, with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and a lightweight cane in the other. She heard only two noises as she proceeded down the corridor: first, the smooth and melodic tapping of her cane, given a sharper edge by the second sound, the even baseline of her own footsteps. It had something of a musical nature to it by design; since starting at Yamaku, she found that long walks become exceptionally boring after a short time, and created a game where she would walk in some sort of rhythm. She had been following her typical morning ritual, leaving the dorm room of her boarding school to get coffee and a bite to eat before returning to get dressed, and was now making her return trip. However, the routine she had followed religiously since attending Yamaku Academy had, for the first time, been irrevocably shattered, never to be again repaired. Her fate may have been sealed the minute she awoke, and maybe even farther in advance than that. But she couldn’t help feeling as if today was the day that her life was going to change.

Today, she had awoken several hours early, well before the sun began peeking through the curtains of her window. Or at least, she assumed it was well before. It was entirely possible that the sun was already moving up above the horizon and into the sky above, and that it wasn’t really as early as she imagined it was, but it wasn’t as if she had a sighted friend nearby to confirm. She thought about it for a while, more out of a need to entertain herself with the idea of what the early morning looks like than out of any care for what time it was. Some ways through her walk, however, she heard something different about the tapping of her cane. Normally, it made a gentle clicking sound as it struck the cold tile of the school. “Click-click-click. Click-click-click.” What she had just heard was no normal “Click-click-click,” but instead a “Click-click-crunch.” Bending down carefully, so as to not spill her drink, she grabbed the source of the anomalous sound underneath her cane. She picked it up, and instantly recognized it as paper. But it was by no means a normal paper.

It was a rough and thick paper, surprisingly so for only having been folded in on itself once. She flipped the paper open and felt the inside. Sure enough, this paper was not smooth and soft, like normal paper. It was rough and hard, slightly closer to cardstock or an index card than normal paper. On the surface of the page, she felt the familiar surface of braille. Yuna moved her hand precisely and deliberately, avoiding dropping the paper as she ran her fingers across its edges through the impressive dexterity required by one who has to use their hands to see. The edges of the page were sharp and firm, as opposed to the dull softness of worn paper. She learned two things from this. Firstly, the fact that the paper had clean and defined edges told her that it was made recently. The lack of wear on the braille supported this. She could conclude that this was dropped recently, and was done shortly after being made. Had it fallen on the ground even during the day yesterday, it would surely have been crumpled and weathered as kids walked on it all day. Second, the fact that it was written in braille told her that this was left here intentionally. She considered it unlikely that someone would have a braille note fall out of their hands and be forgotten, given that braille notes are typically difficult to make, requiring one to own a brailler and have a frequent need to use it. This was supported when she considered where she was in the dorms, and she couldn’t think of any other even partially blind students who lived in this hall. If it was on the ground, Yuna concluded, and written in braille, then there’s a good chance that she specifically was meant to find it. As she continued walking, she ran her fingers over the note to read.

Yamada Yuna, my darling, it began. It has been quite some time since we were last close together. I’m waiting for when I can hold you in my arms, as close as we can possibly be, together again. I’m waiting for when I can sit down, with you in my lap, and give you feelings and sensations in the way your nerves cannot. I’m waiting for when I can… Okay, she really didn’t need to read that next part just yet. Flattering as it was, it might be better to save that for another occasion, when she was alone to herself. She moved on down to the second paragraph.

With that Hakamichi girl breathing down my neck to work on the class booth at the festival, I can barely slip away to catch my breath! I know you’re busy too, but if you have a spare moment this morning, you know where you can find me. I await your love, my darling Yamada Yuna…

Yuna smiled at the letter. It had been some time since her boyfriend had seen her, and it felt as if it were as long as since she’d seen him. On the one hand, she knew what her responsibilities were; if she didn’t show up to her classroom on time to help with the booth, she’d be disappointing her class representative and disappointing herself. But, on the other hand, there was sex. Strictly speaking, was it necessary that she meet with her lover now? Not remotely. Could she just as easily wait until later on in the festival to see him? Absolutely. It was clear to her exactly what decision she should make about this. It’s what any logical, responsible person would do in her situation. Which is precisely why she swallowed her still nearly boiling coffee as quickly as she could, spilling some on her hands and wondering if the whole “most of the nerves in your skin were made unusable by a rare virus” thing didn’t have some silver lining to it, and charged off towards the unused classroom that she had so many times met her beloved in for a romantic encounter.

As she rounded the final corner to the hallway in which the room lie, the rhythm of her feet and cane increasing its tempo in time with her heart, all she could feel was anticipation. Anticipation for what came next. Anticipation for what deeds her lover had in store for her on this early morning excursion. Anticipation… for… well…

Where ever her train of thought had been leading her, it had derailed to the point where she had no hope of interpreting its course. It had become overwhelmed by thoughts of sex, of ecstacy, of the powerful sensations she would soon feel in what few parts of her body still had working nerves. She opened the door enthusiastically, found a desk to sit on near the middle of the room, and waited.

“Oh, my love, Sora! Where are you now,” she said. Sure, she knew that speaking in this manner was completely unnecessary, and just downright silly. The thing is, she didn’t even remotely care. It’s not like anyone other than her boyfriend would be around to hear her, and even if they did, the sensual tone of her voice should lead them to realize that this was not the time or the place to ask questions about it. Yuna’s mind was overtaken by her need for her Sora’s love, and the poetic language they used only helped keep her in that state. “My Sora,” she cried, “I am here for you now! Take me as you will!”

She heard footsteps moving towards her. They were slow, carefully considered footsteps, the sort of footsteps which signified that their owner had not left a single one to chance or mishap. The sound of footsteps echoed off of the walls of the room and enclosed in on Yuna.

“Sora! I’m here for you, Sora!”

The figure moving towards Yuna halted for a moment, as if preparing a response. It cleared its throat, and spoke.

“Yes, my darling. I am here for you in return.” The voice was rather deep, as if belonging to a man whose middle age was in sight. It was a voice that was calm, concise, and all too constructed and artificial. The voice had that sense of trying just a touch too hard to sound natural, a voice which betrayed a sinister tone below its seeming refinement. To someone who had been a bit more careful than Yuna was at the moment, it would be clear that something was very wrong with it.

“Oh, Sora, my love,” she said. “I’ve waited for you for so long! Come here, my dear Sora!”

“With pleasure, my dear Yuna Yamada.”

The being began to pick up speed in its approach to Yuna. It was moving faster and faster, from a slow, menacing encirclement to a swift lunge. Had Yuna been aware of it, she might have likened it to a wolf moving to strike its prey. But, she had not been aware of it, and it took her entirely by surprise.

*******

Yuna had always been a fan of tragedy. Poetry, theater, classical art, you name it, as long as it had irony that could bring her to tears, she was all for it. It is precisely her love of irony, however, that prevented her from realizing the tragedy of her current situation.

The all-consuming love that she had cultivated in her relationship with her Sora was one born of circumstantial necessity; the virus that removed the feeling in most of her body had left her seeking intimacy in other forms. When she placed herself in this state of mind, she blinded herself to the world around her, willingly so, for the sake of feeling fulfilled by the presence of another. Her willingness to give up her entire self had made her the perfect prey for the slowly approaching predator that now shared the room with her. Her total disregard for what she might have found upon entering the room, and her choice to leave her usual careful perception at the door, kept her from realizing that she hadn’t been hearing the slow footsteps of her lover advancing towards her; she had been hearing two sets of steps. She called out once more.

“Sora? Is that you, my Sora? Please come closer, Sora! I need you near me now! I need you on me now! I need you now!”

And with that final request, she had truly and finally sealed her fate, if she had not done so earlier.

These were the things that young Yuna Yamada could not see:

She could not see that the individuals she shared the room with were both considerably larger and heavier than her sturdy yet light lover.

She could not see that her lover, who she needed so dearly and so desperately in more ways than she knew, was not in fact here, but instead sleeping peacefully in his own bed.

She could not see that the door had been closed without her touching it, that the lights had been forced off, or that there was not a single ornament or piece of furniture in the room.

And, most tragically of all, even if she could see, even if she could feel, even if she could have her lover there to give her comfort-

She would still not be able to see the being that was slicing the hole in her chest, that was slowly drawing her into slumber, that was preparing to bring her life to an end.

*******

Hisao Nakai slowly walked down the bright hallway, with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and nothing in the other. He hadn’t heard a single noise as he proceeded down the hallway, although it's not like he would have been paying enough attention to notice had there been sound. Breaking away from his usual morning ritual, he sat down on his bed and stretched out. He wasn’t terribly happy with being awake at this hour, especially not when he was waking up because he was nearly having heart attacks sporadically throughout the night. Although he knew he would simply have to live with them, something just didn’t seem right about the idea that getting an eight-hour rest on a given night was a crapshoot. He stood up and sighed, and went over to his night stand to take his medications. If nothing else, he decided that he would have to speak with his doctor about increasing his night dose.

But, in spite of all this “chronic arrhythmia” silliness, he was determined to have a good day today. Today was the day of the Yamaku Academy spring festival, and he was going to enjoy today whether his disability wants him to or not. On his way out of his room, he finished his coffee and grabbed a grape soda from the nearby vending machine for later. As he headed out the boys dormitory and onto the school grounds, he tried to decide what exactly he was going to do during the festivities. It wasn’t as if he was lacking in options; he sometimes wondered how much of his time at Yamaku hadn’t been spent making friends in as awkward of a manner as he could manage. The way he saw it, he had three options. Firstly, he could go see Lilly, and see how the Class 3-3 noodle stand was doing. Although it wasn’t his class, he had spent a bit of time with Lilly lending his hands and eyes to the class for the blind, and was curious as to how well they were keeping up with the hundreds of people now on school grounds. Secondly, he figured, he could go see Shizune and Misha, and give the overworked Student Council members a much needed hand with their work. Between Shizune’s masochistic desires for stress and responsibility, and Misha’s having to stand with her hands free to translate whatever Shizune needs to say or hear into sign language for her, there was no way those two were just taking it easy on the day they had spent two months preparing for. Thirdly, he could go see Rin and Emi, and have the two of them drag him across the festival, bouncing from attraction to attraction. He figured that those two would be the least likely to have him doing anything that could evolve into working, but in the end, he felt that he really only had one choice.

This feeling was confirmed as soon as he reached the noodle stand. Despite Lilly’s friendly and comforting voice and demeanor, it was plain to see that Class 3-3 was barely keeping it together. A single cook was putting portions half the size of what should be reasonable for the plate was moving at lightspeed, trying to get orders out as quickly as possible given her absent eyesight, while both students and teachers unloaded boxes in the back. The contrast between how urgently and efficiently they tried to move and the speed at which they actually ended up moving was a bit unnerving for Hisao. After waiting for the line to dwindle down a bit, he went up and made his order.

“Could I get a bowl of ramen, please?”

Lilly directed what would otherwise be her gaze at him, thought for a moment to place the voice, and then spoke.

“Hisao? Is that you?”

“Spot on. It looks like the breakfast rush is slowing down. How’s it going over here,” he asked.

“It is not exactly an ideal situation,” she said. “For one, barely half the class actually showed up to help. We have had to request the help of several teachers just so that we can keep running five minutes behind where we need to be.”

“Yikes. What happened?”

Lilly thought for a moment. “Well, I would have to guess it started early this morning. The person who was supposed to gather people to help unpack the boxes of food just never showed up. She is usually timely and responsible, so I assume that people figured that they would not have to show up until she did. I have no idea as to what has gotten into her.”

Hisao took a moment to think about that. One the one hand, he wanted to criticize the girl for Lilly’s sake. She seemed like she needed to vent, but was too polite to do so. On the other hand, he wasn’t sure that he was ready to speak poorly of some girl he didn’t know behind her back like this. He tried to find a solution somewhere in between what Lilly needed and what his conscience required.

“Is there any way I can help,” he asked.

“Actually, I think there is,” she said. “Do you think you could find out what happened to her, and maybe even convince her to come over here and help?” It wasn’t quite what Hisao had been hoping for, but he accepted it anyway.

“Sure, I’ll keep an eye out. What was her name?”

Lilly carefully wiped her loose blond hair out of the way, so as not to lose any or get noodle oil on her hand.

“I believe it was Yuna Yamada,” she said. “If you find her, try to send her along to me if you can.”

Yuna Yamada… Why does that name ring a bell?

“Sure enough. See you later, then, Lilly.”

“I’ll see you later, Hisao.” And with that, Hisao took his noodles and left. He looked for a seat somewhere nearby, finding a bench to sit at in the courtyard. As he ate, he realized that he still hadn’t formally made a plan for the day. Sure, he had agreed to help Lilly find that Yuna girl, but that wasn’t really a plan. More of a passive goal that he would need to try to accomplish at some point in the day. That’s not to say that he intended to just blow off Lilly’s request; it’s just that he had no idea how to even start making a plan for that. Ultimately, Hisao decided to just sit down and observe the festivities for a bit while he ate his food.

Hisao had been told that the spring festival was one of Yamaku Academy’s biggest events of the year. He could see the truth in that from where he sat on the bench. The Yamaku campus was massive, one of the largest school campuses he had ever been on. Near one end lay the school itself, and on either side were the male and female dorms. It formed almost a U-shape, with a short brick wall encasing the campus and ending in a gate on the opposite side from the school. Inside the wall was an area that could be best described as a public park, complete with street lamps, sidewalks with handrails, and benches. Despite the fact that this courtyard was reasonably large, and that it would take several minutes to move from one side to the other even at a brisk pace on a normal day, visitors were packed into the area. It seemed as if the whole park was swarming with people. Hisao could easily see someone getting lost in the crowds, even if you knew exactly where you were going. If it weren’t for the parents and grandparents holding their children’s hands as they moved, one would be encountering lost kids left and right.

After about an hour had passed, Hisao came to a realization; he was surprisingly at ease during the festival. For most people, he imagined, it would be unsettling to have vast crowds of strangers moving in and out through the place you live in, even if just for a day. He could imagine how bothered he would have been had he seen hundreds of unfamiliar people moving through his neighborhood one day, and how stressed out he would feel from it. He figured this would be especially true given that the majority of Yamaku’s students are here by necessity. They would have difficulty living in their own homes far from trained medical professionals, due to their disabilities. However, the amount of people here didn’t bother Hisao much at the moment. It felt relaxing for him, and almost comforting in its familiarity. He supposed this was due to him still being new to the private school life; he had just transferred here a week ago, and before then he had been attending a fairly typical Japanese public school. By comparison to his old school, he soon realized, Yamaku felt almost a bit too open and empty. He suspected that, after being alone in a hospital for months and transferring to this smaller school, he had begun to crave the crowds that he had once had residing in and attending school in the city. He wondered what his life would be like had he not transferred to this school. What would it be like having to manage his heart condition on his own? How would his relationships change when he was the only one different from the others? How would he-

Suddenly, he was pulled from his introspection by a sudden darkness. He could feel foreign hands covering his eyes, followed by giggling.. Startled by the interruption, he lost his train of thought.

“Guess who~?”

It didn’t take hearing her voice for Hisao to realize who the owner was. After all, there was really only one person he knew who would use such a silly game to announce their presence.

“How’s it going, Misha,” he asked. The hands pulled away from his eyes instantly, and he turned around to talk to the person behind him.

“Aww, how’d you know it was me,” Misha pouted. Hisao turned around fully to look her in the eyes.

“Because you’re the only person in the world who plays that ‘guess who’ game. And you’re not even all that good at it.”

A slightly disappointed Misha returned his glance with the faintest tinge of offense.

“I am too good at it! You’re just being mean, Hicchan!” As much as that nickname bothered Hisao, he had given up saying anything to her about using it. She wasn’t doing it intentionally; she just referred to all her friends by the -chan nickname.

“When’s the last time someone didn’t know it was you immediately,” he asked. Misha looked away.

“Shicchan saw you just sitting there for a while, so we thought we should come over,” she said, dodging his question with a level of finesse he didn’t know she was capable of. Shizune, who had been standing just to Misha’s left, said something Hisao couldn’t interpret in sign language to him. As she did so, Misha translated.

“Are you working hard or hardly working, Hicchan” she said.

“Well, at the moment, I was enjoying a peaceful day at the festival.”

“All on your own?” Hisao didn’t trust the highly suspect look Misha had in her eyes as she said that. Subtlety was not her strong suit, and it occurred to him that he should choose his next words carefully.

“Yes… actually, I was still looking for someone to talk to hang out with. Know anybody who might be interested?” He could hear the apprehension dripping from his own voice, but hoped that Misha would miss it as she usually does.

“Wahahaha~” Misha laughed. “Hicchan, are you asking me to set you up with someone?”

Shit, Hisao thought. Mission failed. He could feel his cheeks turning red, partially out of embarrassment, and partially out of concern as to what sort of person Misha would try to set him on a date with. Despite her less-than-serious tone, he was afraid that she had actually considered the idea. He began looking for a way out.

Between fits of giggling at her own joke, Misha managed to bring out a complete sentence. Meanwhile, Shizune continued to sit off to the side, impatiently waiting for her translator to finish having her fun. She clearly had something to say.

“I’m just kidding, Hicchan… but seriously though, how are you enjoying the festival~?”

“It’s good. I can see all your work paid off.”

Once Misha had finished signing his compliment back to Shizune, her mood seemed to lighten a bit. Shizune straightened her glasses pridefully, and signed something back to Misha.

“Shicchan says she’s glad you think so.”

“How’s it going on your end? Are your Student Council responsibilities keeping you from the festival much?”

Misha suddenly broke her chipper demeanor for a moment as she signed what Hisao had said, but regained it just as quickly. Shizune hesitated for a moment, and responded.

“There have been a few rough spots. A certain class representative can’t seem to keep track of all her students, so we’ve had to pick up her slack.”

Although Hisao knew exactly how biting of a tone Shizune had intended her comment to have, it lost every bit of its edge as the words left Misha’s mouth. On some level, he figured that Shizune knew about Lilly’s trouble with her class’s attendance at the festival, and he knew that she wouldn’t miss even the slightest chance to angrily comment on it. As Shizune began to start signing again, he realized that she was about to go off on the currently absent Lilly. Taking advantage of the moment before she finished signing, Hisao tried to redirect the conversation.

“Yeah I heard about that. Some Yuna girl just didn’t show up when she should have, right?”

Just as he had hoped, Misha started translating the second Hisao started speaking, interrupting Shizune’s statement. While Shizune would probably be annoyed at him under normal circumstances, he had been betting on her mistaking his slightly impolite interruption for Misha’s personal lack of tact. Shizune responded to Misha, who relayed the message.

“Yep, Yuna Yamada is absent. Apparently, nobody’s seen her since waaay early this morning. We were just looking for her when we saw you~.”

“How’s the search going,” he asked.

“Well… we’re having trouble finding her…” Misha began.

There were two things that Hisao knew the moment the words left her mouth. Firstly, he knew that the search hasn’t turned up any leads. The fact that he could hear Misha’s disappointment told him that Shizune was furious about the whole situation. She was never one for unscheduled events, unless they were to her advantage, and that was certainly not helping with her animosity towards Lilly. He started to feel bad for Misha, as she was probably having to deal with all of Shizune’s frustration. He started to feel bad, however, until Misha finished her statement.

“...we think we might have one lead, but Shicchan doesn’t really have time to look into it…”

And there it was. Shizune and Misha were about to ask for his help in finding Yuna as well. There wasn’t really any way to get out of it; while Lilly would probably have understood if he hadn’t found the time to help look, Shizune and Misha were exceptionally more persistent. Hisao wasn’t going to easily get out of anything those two asked him to do.

“What’s your lead,” he asked. Misha’s face lit up at his offer to help. Shizune started signing.

“~Well, we heard that the last person who saw her said she was going back to her room. Shicchan thinks you should check there first~” Shizune pulled a pen from behind her ear, wrote something on a slip of paper, and handed it to Hisao.

“~Here’s her room number. If anyone asks, just say we sent you to grab something from our rooms,” Misha explained.

“Can do. Hope the rest of the festival is a bit less stressful for you guys,” he said as he headed off for the girls dorms. “See you later!”

“~Bye, Hicchan~!” Misha called after him.

*******

Hisao made his way through the girls dorms, taking note of the lack of activity in them. Even in the boys dorms, there were still plenty of people milling about as the festival went on outside. By contrast, there were significantly less people around in the girls dorms. He didn’t mind too much, as it saved him a number of weird looks and odd questions about what he was doing. Sure, people would have believed that he was just running errands for Shizune and Misha, but that still wouldn’t have helped him feel any less awkward. He pulled out the note Shizune had given him, and started looking for the door.

“Let’s see… this hall is the 120s… on this side is the evens… so Room 129 should be-”

A rustling noise near the back of the hall caught his attention. Normally, he wouldn’t have thought anything of it, since it would be only natural to hear noise in a dorm room. However, he was looking for someone who’s been strangely missing; it would only make sense that they might too know that they’re being looked for. Hisao proceeded with caution.

The noise came from the opposite side of the hall, so there would be plenty of time for the source to realize that Hisao had noticed it. He walked slowly but carefully towards that end of the room, being sure to keep his voice sounding as neutral as possible.

“Here’s 221… 222… 223…”

He didn’t hear the sound again, but he also wasn’t about to let his guard down. He continued moving carefully, getting more tense with every step. His unease built up, and he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being watched.

“224… 225… 226…” He stopped for a moment and listened.

Still nothing.

Hisao took a few careful steps forwards. The hall was fairly long, and there was quite a bit of space between rooms. Just as he placed his next foot down, he heard a barely audible creak from one of the doors down the hall. He was getting close. He had a bad feeling, like something was about to happen. He could feel his heart increase in speed a touch.

“227…” He looked to his right and his left. He still didn’t see anything. But he knew that someone was close to him. Very close.

He could hear their breathing.

It was a bit heavy breathing, and just the slightest bit strained. Hisao took another step forwards.

“228…”

The breathing grew fainter as he reached the door of Room 228. He continued on to his target.

“Here’s Room 229,” Hisao said aloud. Under other circumstances, he wouldn’t have said anything. But now… he felt that he had to. As if to reassure someone. He turned to the door of the room, and gave a knock.

“Is anyone home,” he asked.

“...”

No response. He tried knocking again. He stuttered for a minute; the tension was getting to him.

“Hello? Is there a Yuna Yamada here?”

The silence continued. Hisao didn’t know what to do now. He had tried knocking, and didn’t get an answer. His gaze moved around the door as he waited. His eyes fell on the nameplate. It had two rows where paper could be slipped in and out. The top row read “Room 229” in a rather fancy font. Below it, in the same font, read “Resident: Yamada Yuna.” Or at least, that’s what it should have read. The paper itself was incredibly weathered, far more than it should be for a nametag on a door. It looked as if it had been torn out of the plate, balled up, then flattened back out and placed back in. It was as if whoever had been here last wanted to change the name out, but changed their mind and tried to put it back in as it had been. This concerned Hisao. He knocked again, a bit more hurriedly this time.

“Yuna? Are you in there?” Every second that he didn’t receive an answer only served to grow his sense of dread.

Suddenly, he felt a hand on the back of his shoulder.

In terror, he spun around to face whatever was behind him. Before his brain had fully processed what he was seeing, he heard a quiet but sharp yelp of fear, followed instantly by the sound of someone jumping and hitting the ground.

Hisao staggered for a moment, the speed of his heart still increasing. He began taking deep breaths to steady himself, and to try to slow down his heart rate. The last thing he needed right now was for his heart to have one of its episodes on him. He closed his eyes for a few seconds as he breathed, then opened them.

In front of him, he saw a thin girl with long dark hair. She was dressed in the standard school uniform, minus the bowtie and with one of the top buttons unbuttoned, as if she had just been in the middle of changing but had to quickly stop and redress. But, as much as he hated to admit it, the biggest thing he noticed was the outline of scarring on her face and hands, barely hidden by her hair. His classmate’s facial features were still a dead giveaway.

“Oh, hey Hanako,” Hisao said. “Sorry there, you just startled me.”

Hanako had positioned herself a few feet away from him, clearly taken by surprise by his sudden response. As soon as he had looked at her, she had started trying to regain her composure. He could see that she was incredibly stiff, with her arms held straight against her sides and her hands balled tightly into fists.

“H-H-Hello, Hisao…” she stuttered. “A-Am I interrupting something?”

“No, I’m just a bit on edge at the moment. How are you?”

As soon as he asked the question, he realized that it was a mistake. Hanako froze like a deer in headlights. Hisao could see the sudden worry in her eye not covered by her hair as she tried to formulate a response.

“I-I’m fine,” she said.

Well, as fine as she usually is, he added mentally. He took a moment to think, then began to speak.

“Hey Hanako, do you know anything about a student by the name of Yuna Yamada?”

Now that the conversation was directed away from her, Hanako seemed to relax slightly.

“Y-yes…” she began. “Sh-she lives a bit down the hallway. You were at her d-door just then…” Hisao nodded in response.

“Right. The thing is, nobody’s seen her since this morning, and nobody knows where she is at the moment. Do you know anything about where she might be?”

Hanako looked at him in confusion for a moment. “Yuna Yamada is missing? Lilly says she’s… usually pretty dependable...” Hanako drifted off into her own thoughts.

Hisao sighed. In hindsight, he wasn’t quite sure why he thought Hanako would be of any help. From what he’s seen of her in his one week at Yamaku, she knows very little about her classmates. Most of what he expected her to know would have been through things Lilly had told her. He began to turn around to leave.

“Well, thanks for the help anyways. See you around, Ha-”

“No! Wait!”

Hanako’s sudden outburst took him by surprise.

“What is it?”

Hanako retreated back into herself. The puzzled look on her face was half-covered by her hair.

“Th-there was something st-strange that I saw earlier this morning.”

Hisao turned back around to face Hanako. Slowly, so as to not startle her.

“What did you see?”

He could see Hanako making her best effort to speak clearly and concisely. It was almost a bit cute how much she was trying to help out.

“I saw… a strange man. He looked kind of sad, but also a bit angry. He put s-some sort of paper under Yuna’s door. Then he was touching the n-nameplate for a b-bit, and th-then he left…”

Hisao began to worry.

“A… a strange man? Do you think he may have been a relative of hers, or somebody Yuna knew? What did he look like?”

Hanako hesitated again before speaking.

“N-no… or at least, I d-don’t think so… He didn’t look much like her. H-he was tall, but he slouched a lot. He moved weirdly, like h-he wasn’t fully awake… and he kept talking to s-something, like a person that wasn’t there…”

That was certainly unsettling. But it didn’t quite answer his question.

“Hanako, can you tell me more about his physical features? Did he look like he had a good reason for being near Yuna’s door,” Hisao asked.

“He d-didn’t look anything like her… at least, I don’t think so… I tried to avoid looking at him… Since I don’t like it when people look at me like I’m weird…”

Yeah, that figures, Hisao thought. Hanako was heavily burned on her right side, and people were constantly looking at her scars. He did too, before he started getting to know her.

“But… he did look kind of foreign... A-And he was here really early in the morning. Before the s-s-sun came up.”

“What?” Hisao responded in disbelief. This was just bizarre. What exactly was a foreigner doing leaving notes around a high school for the disabled?

“What happened then?”

Hanako hesitated again before answering. Hisao realized that his tone and line of questioning might have been starting to freak her out.

“H-H… He left… and a little l-later, Y-Yuna came out… a-and then she didn’t come back…” There was almost a note of terror in her voice. Hisao continued to be increasingly worried.

“Maybe we should find a staff member or teacher. They might be able to check the security cameras and see what happened.”

“Y-yeah… tha-that’s a good idea…”

Hisao looked at her again. She had probably had more social interaction with him in the past few minutes than she had had the entire day.

“Well, I’ll go and get somebody then. I’ll be back soon. Unless you want to come with me?”

Hanako slowly slid back into her room. “A-actually… I th-think I’ll stay here for a bit…”

That was probably for the best. Not only were there plenty of strangers moving through the school at the moment, one of them might be responsible for the disappearance of a student.

“Alright then. But promise me you’ll go get somebody if you see something else.”

From behind the door, he could barely make out Hanako replying with a stuttered “S-s-sure…”

He spun around and started heading back down the hallway. He figured that there should be some sort of staff nearby the entrance to the dorms, if not in the main gathering area of the building. He had to go tell someone what Hanako had seen. They might question the two of them about it later, but so be it. As he started heading down the staircase, he began moving faster. He could feel his heart rate increasing. Man, he thought. I am really out of shape. I used to play soccer; stairs shouldn’t tire me out this much.

Hisao headed into the building lobby. His heart kept beating faster. He was starting to get short on breath. By the time he reached the main doors out of the girls dorms, he was incredibly out of breath. Even if he found somebody at this second, he’d barely be able to get the words out between his straining for air. Before he left the building, he decided to sit down for a minute beside the door to an unused room. He leaned back on the door, and started taking deep breaths.

For some reason, he started to doubt Hanako. He had no idea why; it’s just like something popped into his head, and suddenly he thought something seemed off about her description. After all, she was awfully descriptive of the man, given that she usually hid in her room all day and tried not to look at people. It really did seem out of the ordinary for her. He returned his attention to his heart. He needed to slow it down before his arrhythmia started to act up again.

Slow down Hisao, you’re doing fine. Just pushing it a little, he thought. Slow down, and start thinking. You’re getting yourself all worked up. He started going through his thoughts, trying to think of comforting things that would calm himself down.

Maybe Hanako was exaggerating a bit, he thought. Not that he believed she had been lying to him for any reason; she was just a bit socially illiterate. Maybe she misinterpreted what she saw? Maybe it was just a friend of Yuna’s who looked older. A boyfriend, possibly? That would certainly make more sense than some weird foreigner sliding her notes under her door in the early hours of the morning. Maybe that’s all Hanako saw.
As he tried to think through it, he had felt himself become a bit calmer. The more Hisao thought about it, the more he began to believe that Hanako was overreacting to something normal for most people. It simply didn’t make sense otherwise. Sure, Hanako could be right, and there could be some weird pervert or something going around and secretly giving letters to high school students, but that seemed a bit out there. After all, something like that could probably be found easier or done easier on the internet nowadays. Maybe he didn’t even need to go get a security guard? Hisao began to laugh at how apprehensive he had been. Besides-

“Hello? Is someone out there?”

Hisao froze mid-laugh. He had heard the voice of a girl about his age coming from somewhere not far off. He looked around to see where the voice had come from. He looked past the corner to his left- nobody was there. He looked up the staircase from where he had come- nobody was there. He looked out into the doorway between the girls dorm and the outside campus- again, nothing. Therefore, Hisao figured, the voice could only have come from…

“Yes. My name is Hisao Nakai. Where are you,” Hisao asked in reply. The voice came again, this time from behind him.

“I’m in this room here. Could you come on in by any chance? I think I’ve fallen, and I need some help getting up.”

“Sure, just a moment.” Hisao firmly knocked on the door he had been leaning against. “You’re in here, right?”

“Yes, I think that’s the one.”

Hisao tried to open the door, but it didn’t open. The doorknob was stuck, and would barely move.

“Hey, did you lock this door when you came in? I can’t get it open,” he said.

“No… although in hindsight, I probably should have. Is there a key nearby?”

Hisao looked around the doorframe for a moment, but found nothing. He looked on top of the frame, around the sides, under the entrance mat; and he didn’t have a single thing to show for it, other than dust.

“I’m not seeing anything out here. Are you sure you didn’t lock it,” he asked.

“Yes, I’m certain.”

For a moment, there was nothing but silence as Hisao tried to figure out a way to get in the room. The first idea he had was to just break the door down. He sized up the door to see what the likelihood of that was, but given the size of the door and his scrawny body, he dismissed that option pretty quickly. The second idea he had was to find a staff member with keys to the doors. He figured that someone should be close by, given that the festival was still in full swing.

“Hey, wait here for a moment. I’m going to go get someone with a key to open this door,” he said.

“Thank you!”

Hisao turned and left the door. He was only a few feet away from the entrance to the building when he heard the voice call back to him.

“Oh, one last thing,” the voice said. “If anyone asks, my name is Yuna Yamada!”

Hisao froze in his tracks.

“Wait,” he said. He began to walk back to the door. “You said your name was Yuna? Yuna Yamada?”

“Yes,” responded Yuna. “Why do you ask?”

“People have been looking for you for hours! Have you been in there all day?”

“Hours…” she said. “Wait, what time is it now?”

Hisao checked his watch. “It’s about seven in the afternoon. The festival’s nearly over, and your classmates are worried sick about you.”

Yuna responded with a sense of terror in her voice.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry! I had just come in here to meet So-”

Yuna paused for a moment, as if she was about to say something and thought better of it.

“I had just come in here to speak to somebody for a moment, and then… I don’t remember what happened after that. I must have fallen asleep or something!” She was trying her best to maintain an apologetic tone, but it was soon overtaken by a tone of panic.

“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god…” she said.

Hisao, now with a newfound determination to get the door open and Yuna out of the room, turned around again and prepared to run to find a staff member.

“Lilly is going to kill me…” he could hear Yuna say.

However, as Hisao got to the building exit again, he heard a noise just behind Yuna’s panicked muttering.

Click!

It had come from the door.

“What was that,” Yuna asked. Evidently, she had heard it too. She paused for a moment.

“You don’t think it might have been the door, do you,” she asked.

“It could have been. Let me check.”

Hisao moved back to the door for a second time. As he placed his hand on the doorknob, he could feel it move freely in his hand. Sure enough, the door was unlocked.

“Yeah, it was the door. I guess it’s unlocked now.”

“Great,” Yuna said. “Come on in. I’m not exactly in the best state to see people at the moment, but still come in. I think I’ll need some help getting up; for some reason, I can’t seem to move at the moment.”

Wait, what? What does she mean, she “can’t seem to move at the moment,” he thought as he opened the door.

“What do you mean you ca-”

For the third time in a handful of minutes, Hisao froze in his place. He seemed to have made a habit of that in the past hour or so. However, unlike the last few times, he froze here not out of confusion, or out of suspicion, but out of an entirely new emotion.

As the door continued to open, light from the hallway began to illuminate the room. The sliver from the doorway gradually grew across the floor and back wall, with every inch of newly visible space bringing a new wonder to Hisao’s eye. Inside the room, he saw Yuna, baring… everything.

Her pale skin glistened in the light. Her long hair, clearly dyed white, rested against the sides and front of her admittedly very pretty figure, highlighting several parts of her body that Hisao simply could not draw his attention away from. Her eyes were clouded, presumably from her being blind, but they still gave the look of a strong, confident woman, one who Hisao could have seen himself trying to date had he had enough time previously. Although her leg was lifted and bent at the knee in just the right position to keep him from seeing something lewd, he could imagine what lay beyond it in his line of sight. In one look, Hisao found himself completely infatuated with Yuna. He could feel himself blushing furiously, seeing the undressed girl before him, lying almost seductively against the back wall of the room. Impure thoughts raced through Hisao’s mind.

In his rush to process what lay before him, Hisao’s mind had skipped a number of steps and details about the situation before him. After an incredibly awkward moment of staring at Yuna’s legs, chest, and eyes, his mind caught up with his eyes, and he noticed what may have been the most important detail about Yuna; her chest, or lack thereof.

Hisao could see every inch of Yuna’s body, both outside, and inside. A large, gaping hole was present in her torso. Near the edges of the hole, skin and muscle curled outwards at impossible directions. He could see the tips of the bones of her rib, spine, and pelvis beyond that. Hisao could look directly at the inside of her back muscles from the hole; everything else between her sternum and pelvis was simply gone. Or at least, gone from where it was supposed to be.

“Wh… w… what?!”

Yuna turned her head to look Hisao in the eyes. Or at least, what she may have thought were his eyes. She had actually been looking just slightly to Hisao’s left, and a little lower than his head. More in line with his neck and breastbone.

“What is it? Is something wrong? I can’t exactly see what you’re looking at…”

She’s fucking talking, Hisao thought. The inside of her chest is gone, and she’s fucking talking.

Hisao took a moment to collect his thoughts.

“What… happened… to you?”

Yuna looked at him in mild confusion. “What do you mean?”

“What… happened… between you coming into this room… and now,” Hisao asked. “Tell… tell me absolutely everything. It’s important.”

Yuna thought on her own for a moment.

“Well, I received a note from my boyfriend telling me to come here for…” She paused for a moment, as if trying to find a way to word her thoughts. “...reasons you can guess by my current state of dress.”

“Alright… go on.”

“When I got here, I heard him in the room… Or at least, I think it was him. He didn’t say anything or respond to me when I spoke. We… enjoyed ourselves, and then I guess I fell asleep for a bit. I woke up a short while before I heard you by the door.”

“So… you have no idea what happened to you?”

Yuna was at this point a bit irritated. Hisao would normally realize that it may have something to do with the intensely personal nature of his line of questioning, but he was still mentally stuck on trying to figure out how much of the room was colored pinkish red before Yuna got here.

“If you’re asking for more detail, then I’m not indulging you, pervert.”

Hisao was taken aback. The detachment of her mind from the situation was jarring, much like the detachment of her lungs from her rib cage. It had been a few years since he had taken biology, but he was fairly certain that you needed lungs to speak.

“N-No, it’s not that… I guess… Can you move your arms at all? You might want to put a hand on your stomach…”

Yuna looked at him in slight confusion and disgust.

“What are you talking about?” Despite her annoyance, she complied. “I don’t see what this has to do with-” Her hand came to rest on the inside of the small of her back, several centimeters beyond where it should have stopped on her belly.

“Oh.”

*******

There were three times in Yuna’s life where she was truly and completely speechless. The first was when she had learned of the condition that affected her nerves. On that Saturday evening at the doctor’s office, as she had the test results read out to her, she had found herself in the company of only one other person; her father. He was the man who gave her life a beginning. The second was when her boyfriend, Sora Sato, the man of her dreams, confessed his feelings to her. There, she found herself in the company of only one other person; Sora himself. He was the man who she thought gave her life a meaning. The third was now, when she placed her hand through her own chest and felt her back from the inside. Here, she found herself in the company of only one other person; Hisao. He was the man she just met, who would give her life the greatest change in it. On all three occasions, she had been all but alone, with one other man by her side. Or so she had thought. On that last day, the day of the festival, there was another man who shared the moment with her and Hisao. He was the man she did not know. He was the man that, even if she were without her blindness, she would not be able to see.

And these are the things that young Yuna Yamada could not see:

She could not see the look of total fear on Hisao’s face; the look of total fear that likely mimicked her own, as the horror of her final moments began to set in on her.

She could not see the light from the doorway Hisao dissipating, in spite of the door not having moved a single inch to cover it.

She could not see the figure of the man who had appeared behind Hisao, the man with sunken eyes, low slouch, and blank expression; nor could she see the ethereal figure standing next to him that delivered an impossibly powerful strike to Hisao’s throat from behind him.

Had she seen the pair, maybe she would have screamed, recoiled in terror, or otherwise called out to Hisao to warn him of his impending fate. But it was fine, she would soon decide. Soon, there would no longer be anything for her to not be able to see.

Yuna could feel her life begin to drift away from her, as she released what was left of its blood. She could feel her soul begin to drift away from her body, as she released what was left of her hope. And as her soul moved slowly upwards, she could see for the first time in her life. She could see the body of Hisao, lying unconscious on the ground. She could see the man who had taken her life that morning, as he began to slip away through the doorway, unnoticed by the crowd moving through. And she could see the ethereal figure that went beside him, mimicking his movements. Or maybe she could see the ethereal figure, whose movements were mimicked by the man.

But as she felt her soul being pulled towards the afterlife, Yuna Yamada saw one last sight, one which gave her an unparalleled hope. Just as the ethereal figure followed its partner in crime out of the room, she saw a second figure, different from the first. A figure that stood beside the body of Hisao. Not a soul, like had left her body, but something else, arriving at his. She looked away from Hisao, and she turned her soul to the light.

On this day, the golden wind of fate had taken away the old life of Yuna Yamada. But in return, it brought with it the new life of Hisao Nakai.

==== To Be Continued ===>
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Bottech
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Re: Souls of Clay and Fire

Post by Bottech » Fri Jun 01, 2018 5:49 pm

Yuna Yamada slowly walked down the dark hallway
He put s-some sort of paper under Yuna’s door.
I think thats some inconsistency, at the beginning of chapter she found note while walking down the hall, yet Hanako saw that paper was put under Yuna's door.
A large, gaping hole was present in her torso. Near the edges of the hole, skin and muscle curled outwards at impossible directions. He could see the tips of the bones of her rib, spine, and pelvis beyond that. Hisao could look directly at the inside of her back muscles from the hole; everything else between her sternum and pelvis was simply gone.
Also i cant imagine how she survived for that long with such serious injury.
Other than that i quite enjoyed this story nad am looking forward for more.

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Re: Souls of Clay and Fire

Post by theazurewyvern » Fri Jun 01, 2018 7:19 pm

In regards to Yuna having been alive despite being severely injured, I'm aware of that. I did that on purpose, and there is a good reason why she lived for that amount of time.

As for the paper and the door... That's a good catch. I'll have to start keeping maps in my chapter outlines.

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Mirage_GSM
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Re: Souls of Clay and Fire

Post by Mirage_GSM » Sat Jun 02, 2018 4:32 am

Well, if you decide to post the story directly instead of as an attachment, I will certainly have a look at it.
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: Souls of Clay and Fire

Post by theazurewyvern » Sat Jun 02, 2018 7:09 am

I've updated the original post to include the full chapter. I think I have a workaround for the formatting issue, and I'm going to see how it plays out.

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Re: Souls of Clay and Fire

Post by Mirage_GSM » Sat Jun 02, 2018 2:09 pm

Okay, from the grammatical side, there are a few instances of present tense in an otherwise past tense story; otherwise everything seems fine.

Your writing style seems to tend towards the extremely flowery - and not just in the lovers' dialogue - but it gets better in the latter half.

But there are a couple of things that are really strange:
- Sora was up and about earlier than usual with her schedule normally pretty rigid. Still someone managed to leave a message in braille for her to find. (You mentioned yourself that those take a lot of time to prepare.)
- The murderer obviously had a different voice than her boyfried, yet she - as a blind girl who has to rely primarily on voices to recognize people - did not notice something amiss?
- The whole thing about Hisao looking for Sora does not make one shred of sense. First Lilly sends Hisao to look for her at all. As someone who has never met her and doesn't even know what she looks like he's literally a worse choice for the job than her blind classmates. Then she's been missing "since very early morning" and nobody has looked in her room yet? Not to mention that a student being missing a whole day should have triggered a search of the schoolgrounds long ago.
- With the injuries you describe she would have to be fucking Wolverine or Deadpool to be alive after more than twelve hours let alone regain consciousness or be able to talk. And the murderers stuck around in the same room for all this time? In a room at least her boyfriend knows about? With a festival going on outside?

I'm not quite sure if this is supposed to be a murder mystery or a horror story, but so far it seems to have enough supernatural elements to be the latter...

Minor stuff:
Lilly is in class 3-2.
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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Souls of Clay and Fire

Post by theazurewyvern » Mon Jul 23, 2018 9:55 am

Chapter Summary

Hisao awakes a few days after the festival to find that his class is getting a new student. But as soon as he shows up, strange things keep happening throughout the day.

Author's Notes

Hey guys, guess who can't keep a deadline to save their life?

So, there is a funny story about that. When I initially set the deadline for the first of July, I had planned for that to be more than enough time to get this chapter out. In fact, when I posted Chapter 1, I had Chapters 2 and 3 drafted and in the editing process. But, two weeks into the month of June, I scrapped both chapters because of some fundamental problems I saw after writing them. I then had to do rework a number of beginning chapters in order to make the story work better.

I won't be making any firm promises about when the next few chapters will be out. This will give me some time to properly figure out how long these take to make, and how long I have to account for life getting in the way. But be assured that I am still working on this story at any given time.

Just as last time, I am looking for any and all criticism I can get here. If something seems off, or doesn't work well, please say something; I don't have many beta readers, or other writer friends, so I may very well not be aware of mistakes that you guys don't catch.

Oh, and for anyone wondering about that bit at the end of the story: Surprise! Don't worry, you won't need to have done anything other than have played KS to be able to follow the story. Anything I choose to introduce that doesn't come from the final release of Katawa Shoujo will be discussed in-story. No prior knowledge required.

Chapter 2 Word Count: 6,961
Total Posted Word Count: 16,208

Chapter 2: The Invader, Part 2

No man is an island,
entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,
the world is the less,
as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friend’s
or of thine own were.

Any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind;
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls,
it tolls for thee.


These words, adapted from a 17th century essay by John Donne, were emblazoned on small signs that hung from either side of the gate to Yamaku Academy. Below the written inscription on the signs, it was transcribed a second time in braille. Should a given student still be unable to understand the sign, they only need to ask a single one of the faculty members at the school, as each and every one of them had been required to fully memorize and understand the meaning of these words before they were able to begin work. It had long been school tradition for new students to, as they entered the gates for the first time, read the inscription if they could and run their hands across the braille. The tradition was one that provided a sense of unity to its students. Ask any Yamaku student or alumni, and they would be able to recall at least some part of the inscription with absolute certainty. However, there were three individuals who had not taken part in this tradition.

Hisao Nakai never read this inscription. In his cynicism towards the changes his life had made after his heart attack, he had neglected to learn about the school or its students, and as such, he had never even heard of such a tradition. He saw his new life at Yamaku as one of isolation from “normal” able-bodied society. Even if he had known of the tradition, he would likely not have participated in it when he entered the Yamaku gates for the first time. At first, he had no desire to feel unity with the students of Yamaku. However, in his ignorance of the text of the inscription, he developed an entirely new kind of unity; a unity with the two others who did not read the inscription. Some may call it coincidence. Others may call it fate.

Hisao Nakai was a man who had lived his life ignoring the fate that lay before him.

** *** **

Coming into school the next day was an uncomfortable experience for Hisao. Ever since the day of the festival, he had been horribly sick. He was so sick that not only did he have to stay alone in his room during the festival, but he had to miss class for the past three or so days because of it. He knew that people were going to notice; maybe they wouldn’t say anything, but they’d still know. Hisao would be able to see the curious stares, averted gazes, and impulsive glances that would be sent his way. Those that knew him better might ask him about it. They’d try to be polite, but he’d still rather just try to forget it. Between the splitting headache and high fever, he’d rather have just taken another sick day. However, the Nurse had told him that he wasn’t contagious, and he was already well behind in class from having just transferred in. The bell rang to start the first class of the day.

The teacher, Mutou, wasn’t in yet. This was to be expected; more often than not, Mutou would arrive late, and have to improvise the lesson for the day. Normally, Hisao saw this as a benefit to being in his class. It was a way for him to have just a few minutes less of actual work to do, or to have just a few minutes more of socializing with friends. Granted, in his class, that was limited to Shizune and Misha, who were infrequently there and may or may not have been in a socializing mood, but regardless, he was usually thankful. Today, he saw it as a curse. Just more time for people to notice he’s there and start asking questions.

And, sure enough, two people got out of their seats and started moving towards him. Hisao wished he could have made a bet with someone on whether or not they’d decide to talk to him. He could have earned a bit of spare change on it.

“Hey there, Hicchan!” Hisao looked for a way to describe Misha’s voice. Constantly chipper? No, it had less of a positive tone to it.

“Hey there, guys. How have you been?”

As if waiting for Hisao to speak was only a courtesy, Shizune was already signing her reply to Misha. He wondered if she had even been paying attention to what he said. Shizune had been looking at him while he was speaking, and she would have barely been able to see her hands from where she was standing, so… maybe?

“~We’ve been fine. We’re super swamped with Student Council work right now!~”

Oh no. Hisao knew where this was going. Even if Shizune had been trying to use a bit more tact, Misha’s complete unawareness of subtlety told Hisao everything. He knew they were going to try to get him involved in Student Council work, or chastise him for being absent and try to get him to make up the work he was exempted from. The two of them were a bit predictable in that way.

“But I bet you already know why we’re so swamped with work, don’tcha?”

Here it comes, Hisao thought.

“Let’s see... does it have something to do with me being absent?”

“You’re right, Hicchan! It’s ‘cause we have that- wait,” Misha seemed confused, more so than she normally is. The difference between what she expected to hear and what she actually heard stopped her dead in her tracks for a moment. Even Shizune wasn’t immune from it. Her usual poker-face broke just a second after Misha finished signing Hisao’s response.

“Actually, no… It’s not that…” She worriedly looked around for a moment, as if she didn’t know how to deal with this unexpected situation. Once Misha’s gaze landed on her, Shizune gave her what Hisao assumed was a quick pep talk in sign language. After a second’s rest to collect her thoughts, she shook her head and tried to get back into things.

“~No, silly, it’s about something else entirely~!” Hisao had to admit, Misha was impressively quick with her mental recovery.

“~You wouldn’t know, since you were out the last few days, but our class is getting a new student! He just transferred in from overseas, and Shicchan and I are trying to help get it sorted~!”

Wait, a new student, Hisao thought. When did this happen?

As Hisao finished his thought, Mutou strolled in, uncharacteristically calm and collected. It was almost as if he actually had a plan for the day.

“Alright, class, everyone get back in your seats.”

Mutou stood upright and addressed the class. Usually, Mutou was the sort of teacher who would wander in and assign work for the first part of the class as he got a plan together. The aware confidence he currently spoke with was out of the ordinary for him.

“I’m sure many of you have heard rumors going around about our new classmate. Well, let’s get those dismissed right away.”

Mutou turned to the classroom door, which he had left open. “Come on in, now’s as good a time as any.” The student entered from the doorway, and all attention was on him. He moved to the center of the room and stopped, and he surveyed the students just as much as they surveyed him.

“Please introduce yourselves to our new student, Joel Kenjo.”

And that was the last thing Hisao heard before he fell asleep.


** *** **

Hisao awoke as the bell rang to let the class out for lunch. Mutou finished whatever mental tangent he had been on, assigned a few pages of reading as homework, and started sorting some papers on his desk. The class started packing up their things to leave. The first out of their desks were Shizune and Misha, who began looking around the room as if they were just as tired as everyone else.

Oh no. They’re acting natural.

It was never good when Shizune and Misha tried to act natural. For one, neither of them was very good at it. Try as she might, Shizune had little ability to conceal what she was thinking, and what ability she had flew out the window if she were intentionally plotting something. Misha was arguably much better at it, but that was more due to her really only having one disposition; overly energetic and boisterous. For two, it meant that they were going to try roping someone into helping with the Student Council work.

However, a quick nervous glance from Shizune revealed the target of her plot. Hisao followed where the gaze had been to a spot just slightly beyond him, where a dark-skinned student he didn’t recognize sat as he calmly dumped a few books into a bag hanging off of his wheelchair.

It’s got to be him.

In the handful of seconds or so before Shizune realized that Hisao had caught on, he attempted to give the new student a warning.

“Hey, I’m Hisao Nakai. I’m sorry, but I’m pretty new here and I don’t believe I caught your name.”

“The name’s Joel Kenjo. I’m the student who transferred here today. How’s it going, Nakai?”

Wait, what, Hisao thought. If he’s that new student Misha was talking about earlier, then shouldn’t Mutou have introduced him to the class? I don’t remember him saying anything.

Hisao was about to continue wondering about this before he remembered why spoke to Joel in the first place.

“I’m good. Anyway, I was the previous new student before you, so I wanted to give you a quick warning about those two over there.” Hisao gestured to Shizune and Misha, who had now noticed the two of them. “They’re the president and vice-president of the Student Council, and they’re probably about to try to rope you into the club.”

Joel gave him a smile and an easygoing laugh. “What’s so bad about that? They’re just going to talk and give me a flyer or something, right?”

Hisao shook his head. “No, actually-”

Before he even finished his sentence, he could feel Misha’s presence behind him. Damn it, Misha, he thought. Shizune peered around her shoulder.

“Hello there, Mr. Kenjo! Making new friends already, I see!”

Joel gave Misha a curious glance, then turned to Shizune. He moved from the former quickly, but lingered a touch on the latter. A frown crossed his face as he did so. He turned back to Hisao.

“I think I see what you mean. Thanks for trying,” he said.

Hisao looked on in desperation at his failed attempt to stop the Student Council.

“Let me introduce myself! ~I’m Misha, and this is Shizune! Shicchan here is the president of the Student Council, and I’m her interpreter, so it’s our job to get to know all the students in the class~.”

“You two are quick,” Joel said. A grin crept across Shizune’s face as Misha finished signing the translation. Joel raised an eyebrow in response, apparently catching on to their plot.

“Since you’re new here, and probably don’t know too many people, we thought we’d invite you to eat lunch with us!”

“Is that so,” Joel said.

Shizune gave Joel a suspicious look, then cautiously signed her answer to Misha.

“Why, of course, silly! It’s only natural that we would be friendly towards a new student; it’s our job as the Student Council!”

“Right,” Joel said. “Well, I hate to disappoint, but I’ve already made lunch plans with Nakai here. In fact, we’d better hurry to make them before we’re late. I’ll see you next class.”

And with that, Joel wheeled straight out the door before anyone else could stop him. For a man in a wheelchair, he was remarkably nimble. Seeing the exit Joel had so kindly opened for him, Hisao jumped on the opportunity.

“Y-Yeah, right, lunch plans. Shizune, Misha, I’ll see you around,” he said, as he quickly strode out the door, leaving a very confused pair behind him. In a few moments, he caught up with Joel, who was moving with purpose down the hall.

“Hey, Joel,” Hisao called. “Wait up!”

Joel stopped and turned around to look at Hisao.

“Hey, Nakai. How’s it going?”

“I wanted to say thanks for finding a way out of there,” Hisao said.

“No problem. Thanks for the warning. They do that often?”

“Yeah, they did the same thing to me on my first few days. But I have a feeling they won’t ask you about Student Council again.”

“Good,” Joel said. “Serves them right. I think I’ve seen that Shizune girl’s type before; she seems like the sort of person who’s never had her authority challenged, right?”

Hisao thought back to every interaction he’s had with Shizune. As much as she loves a challenge, she hasn’t really had to defend her authority from the Student Council before. At worst, a few students have been passive-aggressive with her, but she’s certainly never been directly blown off before.

“More or less,” Hisao confirmed. “By the way, you know the cafeteria is in the other direction, right?”

“I would have known eventually,” he said, attempting to cover his mistake. Hisao wasn’t buying it, though.

“Right. Would you like me to show you where it actually is?”

“If you could, that’d be great.” Joel gestured towards Hisao with his hand. “Lead on.”

As the two neared the cafeteria, Joel tapped Hisao on the arm to get his attention. Evidently, something that Hisao had not seen had caught his attention.

“Hey, Nakai, isn’t that girl in our class? Her name was ‘Hana’ or something, right?”

Hisao looked up, and sure enough, he saw Hanako guiding Lilly a few meters in front of them. They were carrying a few small bags of food, probably their lunches for the day.

“Yeah, that’s Hanako. The girl next to her is Lilly, from Class 3-2.”

“Any chance you could introduce us,” Joel asked.

“Sure.”

** *** **

Joel Kenjo was the second individual who did not read the inscription at the gates of Yamaku Academy. While Hisao had not done so out of reservation to accept the fate before him, Joel had not done so out of excitation to accept the fate before him.

Joel was a man who was always looking for something. Although Joel considered himself to be a through-and-through American, and introduced himself as such, he had actually only resided there for a handful of years. He spent most of his infancy in an area of northern Iraq, called Kurdistan. The village where he lived had always been very poor, being a small group of subsistence farmers that could only rarely grow enough to survive, let alone sell. As a result, he had always been looking for some way out of his poverty. When he was a young child, he found his home caught in the midst of war, after a group of rebels attempted to free themselves from the control of the government. During the conflict, Joel was injured and lost the use of his legs. As a result, he had always been looking for a way to walk again. And when he was a teenager, a Japanese-American family had taken him in and adopted him. But as fate would have it, he had come home one day from school to find his adoptive father dead and his adoptive brother missing entirely. As a result, he had always been looking for his brother, the only family he then had left in the world. It was this final search that had lead him to Yamaku Academy.

Joel Kenjo was a man who had lived his life pursuing the fate that lay before him.

** *** **

The next thing Hisao knew, he, Joel, Lilly, and Hanako were in the tea room eating lunch, and Hisao had a splitting headache.

Must have fallen asleep again, Hisao thought. It was the second time today when he had done that. What happened? Joel had asked me to introduce him to the girls, and then… I guess they must have invited us here. Maybe I’m more sick than I thought.

He looked around while clutching his head in pain. Lilly and Hanako were playing chess while they talked with Joel. Meanwhile, Joel idly drew strange marks on a piece of paper with a pencil. Hisao figured it must be some nervous habit of his or something.

Seems normal enough. Did I really just forget everything between introducing Joel and getting here? That’s… strange.

“Would you all care for some tea,” Lilly asked.

“Y-Yes please,” Hanako said.

“Sure, if you’re making some anyways,” Hisao added.

“Yes, and thank you,” Joel said.

Lilly got up and went to prepare the tea as she usually does. She filled a teapot with water, using her finger as a way to measure how full of water the pot was getting.

“Tell me, Hisao, how has your day been,” Lilly asked.

“Good,” Hisao said. He didn’t actually remember much of it, but he figured he would leave that detail out for Lilly’s sake.

“That’s good to hear,” she said. “What did you do in class today?”

Darn, Hisao thought. He had almost gotten away with his little white lie.

“I… don’t really remember much of it. I kinda slept through the whole class,” he admitted.

A playful grin crept across Lilly’s face.

“My, my, what a lousy student you are,” she said. “Whatever shall we do with you? You will set such a bad example for Joel if you keep this up.”

Hisao put his head down in embarrassment.

“How was your first day, Joel?”

“Not bad,” Joel responded.

“Some kids tried to pull me into a club or something less than an hour after meeting me, so I think I’m getting along well.”

Hanako shuddered a bit as he said that, likely having already guessed what ‘club’ Joel was referring to. Lilly took a little longer to piece it together, but her wavering smile revealed what she knew.

“It wouldn’t happen to have been the Student Council, would it,” she asked.

“Yeah, it was. A dark-haired girl who can’t talk and a pink-haired girl who talks way too much.”

Lilly sighed. “Yes, Shizune and Misha. They can certainly be… rather aggressive… in their work.”

Joel looked up at Lilly. “You sound like you have a history with them.”

Hisao looked over to Hanako, who was clearly just as unenthusiastic about this conversation as he was. Lilly and Shizune had an impossibly strong animosity for each other, to the point where they couldn’t be in the same room without starting a massive fight. At least Lilly didn’t immediately start ranting like Shizune did when the subject was brought up.

“I do. The Student Council president and I have never gotten along with each other. She is simply too aggressive and impatient for me to get any work done, and even the slightest inconvenience causes her to act like a child.”

“You two are in different classes, right? Then what work do you even do together?”

“As it so happens, I’m the class representative. I report to Shizune with whatever my class may need. As Class 3-2 consists of students with severe visual impairments, we have to ensure that the class president is taking our needs into account.”

Joel frowned as she spoke. “If your organization is full of infighting, then you aren’t going to get a damn thing done. A house divided cannot stand and all that.”

By Joel’s expression, it was clear that he was picking up on Lilly not being terribly patient with Shizune. His tone may have been fairly neutral, but it was obvious to Hisao that he wasn’t really buying that Shizune was completely to blame for the issues the two had. Hisao wondered if he should tell Joel that Shizune likes to self-proclaim herself as a tyrant. Joel continued to scribble on his paper.

“Anyways,” Joel continued. “You said you were Class 3-2, right?”

Lilly perked up at the change in topic. Although she tried to hide it, Hisao caught Hanako breathing a sigh of relief as well.

“Yes. I am the representative for the class of the blind. Why do you ask?”

“Well, there was someone I wanted to ask you about,” Joel said.

Is it just me, or did he sound really serious when he said that, Hisao thought. He began to suspect that Joel wasn’t just making small talk about Lilly’s duties. Meanwhile, Lilly’s tone was one of polite confusion and curiosity.

“I know all of my students well. Is something wrong with one of them?”

Joel frowned.

“Yes. What can you tell me of Yuna Yamada?”

Yuna Yamada? Who is that, Hisao thought.

Hanako, who had previously been nervously bouncing her gaze between the other three, immediately shot her eyes straight towards the ground. Apparently she knew something that Lilly and Hisao didn’t. Lilly took a moment to think.

“I’m sorry, you said Yuna Yamada, correct? I don’t think I know her.”

Joel raised an eyebrow at her response.

“Are you sure? Before I came here, I distinctly remember hearing something about a Yuna Yamada in Class 3-2. She’s our year, slightly above average height, has hair dyed silver, and is completely blind. Are you sure you don’t know her?”

As Joel described her, he kept on writing on his paper. The marks were something that Hisao could not make out, a series of fine curves and dots. But with his description of this Yuna girl, Lilly’s resolve hardened and she turned around to face where she remember Joel to have been sitting.

“Yes. In fact, I’m certain,” she snapped.

“There is no Yuna Yamada in Class 3-2!”

All of a sudden, a panicked expression flashed across Joel’s face. It appeared and disappeared in an instant, and it happened so quickly that Hisao wondered if he’d really even seen it. But he knew that it did happen. He could see that beads of sweat had formed on Joel’s face. Not only that, but Hisao was certain that Joel’s sitting position had changed. He was crouched over the side of his wheelchair, as if he had been moving to grab something from his bag. Hisao was feeling a bit unnerved, too.

Suddenly, the tea kettle was hissing like a train whistle.

“Oh, dear!” Lilly said. Hisao was the first to respond, and he got up to where Lilly was standing at the desk.

“The water seems to be done,” she said.

“Do you need a hand,” Hisao responded.

“Yes, thank you.” Lilly smiled sweetly at Hisao as he helped her pour the water into the four cups. As Lilly held the teapot, Hisao helped to guide it so that it didn’t spill. Although it could have been done a bit faster, Hisao discreetly took a moment to savor how soft Lilly’s hands were as he made sure she didn’t move them (and the pot) too far away from the cups.

“It is a bit funny, though,” Lilly said. “I don’t quite remember putting the pot up to boil.”

“Yeah,” Joel added. “Even after you put the pot on the burner, it should have taken a bit to actually start boiling, shouldn’t it?”

“Yes. If my memory is correct, it should take about five minutes at least.” Lilly said.

“Anyone else remember the pot going up to boil,” Joel asked.

“No, I don’t think so,” Hisao said.

“U-um, Lilly,” Hanako stuttered. “I- I think the clock is broken.” She fidgeted in her seat as she said so, and gestured over to the analog clock hanging on the wall above the window.

“I-It just skipped a minute,” she said.

Hisao and Joel looked up at it to confirm.

“Hanako, are you sure? I don’t think it did anything,” Hisao said.

Hanako looked away from them for a moment, as if trying to decide whether or not she was confident in her own observation. Now that the attention was on her, she seemed as if she regretted changing the topic of conversation.

“Y-Yes, I’m certain,” she said. “I-It said 12:23 for a bit, but when the second hand got to the 12, the minute hand jumped farther than it normally does. It- It went right from 12:23 to 12:25.”

Hisao gave Joel a curious look.

“Are you sure, Hanako,” Hisao asked.

“It might need it’s battery changed,” Joel suggested. “Lilly, is there a janitor or someone we could ask about that?”

“Yes, I can call someone once we’re done here.” Lilly wore a mystified expression. “We shouldn’t really need to, though. Someone just came to change it yesterday.”

Joel quickly turned to his paper to write something down, then looked back up.

“Anyways, we were just talking about something else a moment ago, weren’t we?” Joel looked up from his notes to shoot Hisao a snarky glance. “Yeah, we were discussing something else just before you two started flirting.”

Lilly set the teapot down and Hisao jolted back from her.

I was not flirting with herI

The room was quiet for a moment as the four tried to remember their previous conversation.

“You know what,” Joel said, as he looked down at the paper he had been scribbling on. “I think I wrote it down here in my-”

Joel took a large, deep breath. When he looked back up, his eyes were closed, but his expression was one of someone who had just seen a ghost.

“Right. Yuna,” Joel said somberly. “Do any of you remember who Yuna Yamada was?”

“No, I don’t,” Hisao said. “And I think Lilly was pretty clear in that she didn’t either. We don’t know what you’re talking about, Joel.”

As Hisao said this, he saw Hanako fidget in her seat again. It was clear she had something to say.

“What is it, Hanako,” Hisao asked.

Hanako looked around the room in a mix of fear and frustration. After finding nothing, she turned to Joel with a very intimidated look on her face.

“I-I think I thought I had something, but with the others, I’m not so sure now…”

Joel turned to face Hanako. When he addressed her, Hisao noticed that Joel’s voice almost instantly lost the rough, piercing tone it previously had.

“If there’s something you want to say, it’s okay,” he said. “It’s very important that I find every bit of information I can. Anything you can add would be helpful.”

Hanako seemed to relax the slightest bit. The tension began to fade away from her posture. She looked down at the table for a moment, as if she were mentally preparing herself to speak. Hisao was imagining her giving herself a sort of pep-talk in her own mind. It was a silly mental image, but he just couldn’t help himself.

Hanako looked up at Joel with a smile of faint determination.

“I… I re-” she began. She closed her eyes and her body tensed, like a bomb about to go off.

“I remember Yuna Yamada!”

** *** **

The third individual that had not read the inscription at the gates of Yamaku is one who has not been named yet. While Hisao had not read it out of cynicism, and Joel had not read it out of optimism, this individual was never close enough to the gates to read it. In fact, he had not even known that the inscription was there to begin with. This individual entered Yamaku by passing through the stone wall that surrounded the school. On the day of the festival, he had moved in and out through the large crowds unseen. Anyone in the courtyard would not have been able to recall his presence after the fact any more than they could recall the presence of a fly on a wall. Those that could recall would be hesitant to claim that they had done so. And when this individual had continued to be present at the school for the days since then, they would fail to notice his presence there, even if they were locked in a room with him.

This individual had a special “ability”. One which allowed him to make the impossible possible. He never had to confront the world as it was; he could flee it with impunity or prevent it from even happening. With this “ability”, there was nothing that could not be made to bow to his spirit. This individual had no need for tradition, unity, or laws, as they had all the power and influence they could ever want. As such, this individual did as his will demanded, regardless of what was morally straight, logically sound, or physically possible. It was this “ability” that demanded he take the life of Yuna Yamada, that persuaded him to stay at Yamaku, that hungered to watch their fate fail to bind them. It was the reason that this individual placed himself in a room with the others who had not read the inscription at the gates.

This individual was a man who lived his life escaping the fate that lay before him.

** *** **

The next thing Hisao knew, he was lying on the ground. The first things his mind was able to register were sharp pains in both his head and chest, followed by feelings of extreme fatigue and nausea. For a moment, he began to think of the first time he had awakened after his heart attack. He wasn’t really certain as to where he was. He felt sicker than he ever had in his life. He wanted nothing more than to be able to breathe steadily for just a second. Every individual thing that his mind was able to process seemed as if they were competing for the spot of “most important thing going on right now.” Nevertheless, he began an attempt to make sense of his surroundings. This attempt was almost immediately interrupted by the invasion of Joel’s very infuriated voice.

“So, you can make yourself invisible and silence gunshots. Any other bullshit you can do that I should know about?”

What? Gunshots? I didn’t hear any gunshots, Hisao thought.

Hisao soon realized that he was lying on his back, with his former seat at the table about a meter away from him. He tried to sit back up, only to be thrown to the ground again by Joel’s forceful hand.

“Hey! Joel, what the hell was that for?”

He looked over at his new companion, hoping for some sort of explana-

Joel has a gun.

When the sight of Joel coldly aiming a large handgun at a point outside his field of view reached Hisao’s brain, any other thoughts that had been in his mind immediately ceased to exist. He stayed on the ground for some time, just staring at the scene in front of him and trying to make some sense of it.

Did somebody get shot, Hisao thought. This question had just barely formed in his mind before being replaced by a follow-up: Where are the girls?

Hisao worriedly looked around the room for Lilly and Hanako. They were on the other side of the table, lying on the ground. Although his view was obstructed, Hisao could guess that Lilly was taking this sudden turn of events a lot better than Hanako was.

Several long moments passed before Hisao could muster up the will to speak.

“J-Joel,” Hisao asked. “What’s going on?”

Joel quickly turned his head to Hisao, keeping the gun aimed on its target.

“Hey, you’re back with us. You planning on remembering things from now on,” he asked.

You’re awfully casual for someone who just pulled a gun out in school!

“I- I think- yes?”

“Good! We won’t have to do introductions again,” Joel said. He gestured to the corner of the room. “I would like to direct your attention to the man bleeding out on the floor over there.”

Hisao looked in the direction Joel indicated, and quickly wished he hadn’t. A few meters away from him, a thin and sickly looking man lay in a steadily growing pool of blood. Pale, discolored skin was stretched over a bony hand, which peeked out from a clean and neatly-pressed white suit. The man’s hand was slowly and gently touching his face, as if he were surprised by the gaping bullet holes that were in his face. Once he saw Hisao, the man began to reach his arm out towards him.

Before the man’s hand got anywhere near Hisao, three bullets pierced his hand and landed in his jaw.

“Joelwhatthefuck!” Hisao screamed in terror. He could now feel an all-too-familiar pain rising in his chest.

“There will be none of that,” Joel said sternly.

The man had fallen back down without a sound, and merely kept touching the bullets that had lodged themselves in his head. Nobody spoke for some time.

Eventually, Hisao attempted to break the silence.

“H-hey,” he said. “Are you okay?”

The man sat back up, still clutching at his jaw. It seemed to be hanging low on one side, as if half of it had fallen out of place after Joel shot it.

“I am injured,” the man said. “These wounds are lethal.”

In horror at these words, Hisao turned to Joel.

“Joel,” Hisao shouted. “What did you do?!”

He responded with silence.

What felt like hours, but was more likely a few minutes, passed. The only sound in the room was of Joel’s heavy breathing, and small noises made by the man moving around. Once the pounding sensations in Hisao’s head and chest had died down a bit, he tried to break the silence a second time. But he couldn’t think of anything to break it with. Eventually, Joel found a few words to say.

“It’s been some time, Brother.”

Brother? What’s that supposed to mean, Hisao thought.

“Joel, what do you mean by ‘brother’? Do you know who this is,” Hisao asked.

Joel took a deep breath. “I believe some explanations are in order, aren’t they,” he said.

It agrees,” the man said, hand still on his jaw.

Joel and the man looked at each other for a moment.

“Hisao, Lilly, Hanako,” Joel began. “This is Keito Kenjo, my brother. I came to Yamaku looking for him.”

What, Hisao thought.

“Y-Your brother, Joel,” Lilly asked. Evidently, not knowing how to react to the situation, she attempted to regain her composure. She returned to a standing position and introduced herself. “It is nice to meet you. My name is Lilly Satou,” she said. “My friend here is Hanako Ikezawa,” Lilly added, gesturing to the still cowering Hanako.

“I know,” the man said.

Lilly was caught off-guard by this. “You know me?”

“I know,” the man repeated. “You were in Yuna’s class.”

Yuna again!

“Please!” Lilly pleaded. There was a noticeable fearfulness in her voice, an emotion which Hisao had for some reason never associated with her before. “I do not know this Yuna Yamada!”

“You forgot,” Keito said. “You and Hisao forgot her. Forgot meeting me. Forgot the festival night.”

“How,” Lilly said. “How could I have forgotten someone I knew!” Although Lilly was physically under control, Hisao could hear in her voice that she was practically on the verge of tears.

“My ability,” Keito said. “It made you forget. Forget that you knew her. Forget that she died. But I remember. I did it.”

“What are you talking about,” Hisao asked.

Surprisingly enough, Joel was able to respond.

“Hisao,” Joel said. “Keito used his ability to kill Yuna. He then made everyone in the school forget that she even existed.” Joel paused for a moment, then turned to face Keito. “And then you made it so that nobody could see you, and stuck around Hisao here for a while, right? You made him and everyone else forget things to stay hidden.”

“Yes,” said Keito.

“That’s impossible,” Hisao said. “There’s no way you could do that. How does an entire school full of people not just forget about a student being murdered on school grounds, but forget that she even existed too?” Hisao stopped to collect his thoughts for a moment, then continued. “And for that matter, how did I just forget a bunch of what happened today?”

“She died on grounds,” Keito said. “I didn’t say that before. It is letting you remember.”

What the hell?

“Keito, this one’s a bit slow. You should probably just show him what’s going on,” Joel said.

Keito brushed himself off, then pushed himself to a standing position. He was slouching heavily, holding some of the worst posture Hisao had ever seen. It was as if his body wasn’t supporting his own weight, and he was being held upright by some invisible entity. It looked sort of like a zombie that Hisao had seen in the old horror movies he used to watch with his friends.

“Let me guess; you’re not that hurt, right? Just shake it out and you’ll be fine,” Joel said.

“You predicted what it would say,” Keito said, staring directly at Joel. “Used your ability.”

“What are these abilities you two keep going on about,” Hisao said.

Before he got his response, Keito started thrashing about violently. He moved his upper body from side to side, like a dog shaking water off its coat. As he did so, Hisao could hear a faint squishing noise.

A popping noise preceded the sound of several bits of metal clinking against the tile floor. Keito stopped moving, and touched at his face again.

“They’re out.”

Hisao looked to the floor, and saw several slightly distorted bullets laying at Keito’s feet. Hisao barely had time to process this before Joel drew his attention away again.

“You’re not bleeding anymore either,” he said. On this count, Joel was technically correct. But it was quite the technicality.

Blood was no longer flowing away from Keito’s wounds, which were now slowly but surely decreasing in size. Instead, it was flowing towards his wounds. The puddle below Keito was running up his shoes and his suit, and presumably moving back into the blood vessels in his head. If Hisao looked hard enough, he swore he could see fibers of skin and muscle moving around in the holes in Keito’s head. They made a slight squishing noise as Keito’s face rearranged itself back into order. Once Hisao was certain of what he saw, he looked away. He could feel a warm, thick liquid rising in his throat.

“Th-that’s impossible,” Hisao said.

“Hisao, please tell me what is happening,” Lilly said.

“I have healed,” Keito answered.

“It’s his ability,” Joel said. “I have one just like he does. Mine won’t make people forget stuff, or heal my wounds, but it does other stuff. You should get familiar with them now, since that might be what keeps us alive in the next few minutes. ” Joel took a tired breath, and Hisao got the feeling that Joel had given this explanation before.

“These are the abilities known as Stands.”

“Stands,” Hisao asked. “So, they’re some sort of talent you guys have?”

“More like special powers.”

“Willpower,” Keito added. Joel turned back to him and refocused the gun on Keito.

“Which reminds me,” Joel said. “I’m guessing it wasn’t you that chose to stick around after killing Yuna?”

“Yes. It did. Wanted to see ‘fruits of its labors.’”

What exactly does that mean, Hisao thought.

“Your Stand is a goddamn psychopath,” Joel said. “It’s completely out of control. Do you really think you should be letting it make your decisions for you?”

“Why,” Keito responded. “Not involved in mankind. Why force it?”

“Keito,” Joel said. Hisao saw Joel’s arms starting to shake as he tightened his grip on the gun. He was barely containing himself.

“You are involved. Your Stand doesn’t just murder people and desecrate their corpses, it gets off on it. It killed Yuna and painted the room with her, it’s tried to kill me, and it strung your own father up by his innards. You have to control it!”

Keito merely gave Joel a dead-eyed stare. Hisao noticed a bizarre, pitch-black aura beginning to form around Keito.

“Can you control it,” Keito asked.

“Of course,” Joel said.

THEN CONTROL ME. CONTROL ME, AND TAKE MY POWER AWAY.

Hisao wasn’t certain where the voice came from. He was sure it came from Keito’s direction, but Keito hadn’t even moved his lips. It didn’t sound like him either, or like any human for that matter; it seemed to echo through the tearoom, moving from its origin outwards and landing back inside Hisao’s mind. Had it not been somewhat quiet and calming, it would have almost drowned out the sound of the teapot beginning to boil and hiss steam from its spot on the table. Slowly, so that Joel wouldn’t notice, Hisao started to sit back up in his chair. Lilly and Hanako had already done the same, and Hanako’s attention was focused firmly on the teapot that was now boiling without being on a burner.

YOU MIGHT WANT TO ACT QUICKLY. BUT YOU ALSO MIGHT WANT TO WAIT A MOMENT. I BELIEVE YOUR FRIENDS ARE ABOUT TO START ENJOYING THE TEA WE PREPARED.

A wave of realization swept over Joel’s face, one which did not hit Hisao.

“Get away from the damn teapot,” Joel shouted.

Then the teapot exploded.







==== To Be Continued ===>
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Re: Souls of Clay and Fire [Updated 23 July 2018]

Post by Mirage_GSM » Tue Jul 24, 2018 9:36 am

Sorry to say my impressions of this story do not really improve with chapter two.

You have the introduction of the OC: a foreigner, who arrives and from the start manages to put Shizune in her place. Let's leave aside for the moment the issue that you spilled his whole backstory in one info-dump... He was born in Iraq, lived in the US for a few years and then decides to go to school in Japan, because somehow he speaks perfect Japanese and can afford both the move and the tuition as an orphan?
Oh, and he gets along with Hanako from the start... He somehow managed to smuggle a firearm to Japan and has supernatural powers...
You couldn't write "Gary Stu" much more obvious if you tried.

As for those supernatural powers... I googled "stands", and I assume this is supposed to be some kind of Jojo crossover? It's not a show I've seen but just from the few trailers I can hardly think of any franchise that fits KS worse than a show about burly men beating each other to a pulp...
You introduced a villain with near godlike powers, and as such it's probably up to the OC who also has such powers to stop him, so the KS cast is not even needed, regardless of whether or not they read an inscription at the gates...
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.

theazurewyvern
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Re: Souls of Clay and Fire [Chapter 2 Added 23 July 2018]

Post by theazurewyvern » Tue Jul 24, 2018 6:55 pm

Thanks for the feedback, Mirage_GSM!

You are absolutely right; I think I might have made one of the worst first impressions I possibly could have made with this story. I'm relatively new to fanfiction, and my genre-awareness is pretty lacking. Joel's introduction was flat-out pitiful on my part. What I had tried to make happen was for Joel and Keito to appear and bring JoJo elements to the setting and characters of Katawa Shoujo, then see how the story played out from there. What I appear to have actually done was make Joel out to be hyper competent in relation to the world around him, and setting up a cliche that would drop readers like flies. That's not fair to the readers, it's not fair to my work, and it's not fair to the original works of Katawa Shoujo or JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.

I knew going into this that my first few chapters were going to be rough, given the fact that I have never been able to write a decent beginning, but I don't think I realized just how badly my own incompetence could screw a story that I am genuinely passionate about. What I intend to do with this story is to use the more extravagant storytelling and supernatural elements of JoJo to explore the fantastic characters of KS. Through my own incompetence, I managed to create the exact opposite effect. From what I can tell, the major errors I have made in the past two chapters stem from a total failure on my part to convey the intentions I have for this story.

I do take all feedback I get seriously. What can I do to improve my story going fowards?


Mirage_GSM wrote:
Tue Jul 24, 2018 9:36 am
Sorry to say my impressions of this story do not really improve with chapter two.

You have the introduction of the OC: a foreigner, who arrives and from the start manages to put Shizune in her place. Let's leave aside for the moment the issue that you spilled his whole backstory in one info-dump... He was born in Iraq, lived in the US for a few years and then decides to go to school in Japan, because somehow he speaks perfect Japanese and can afford both the move and the tuition as an orphan?
Oh, and he gets along with Hanako from the start... He somehow managed to smuggle a firearm to Japan and has supernatural powers...
You couldn't write "Gary Stu" much more obvious if you tried.

As for those supernatural powers... I googled "stands", and I assume this is supposed to be some kind of Jojo crossover? It's not a show I've seen but just from the few trailers I can hardly think of any franchise that fits KS worse than a show about burly men beating each other to a pulp...
You introduced a villain with near godlike powers, and as such it's probably up to the OC who also has such powers to stop him, so the KS cast is not even needed, regardless of whether or not they read an inscription at the gates...

Hanako Fancopter
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Re: Souls of Clay and Fire [Chapter 2 Added 23 July 2018]

Post by Hanako Fancopter » Tue Jul 24, 2018 7:02 pm

For me, I have a really hard time seeing how you are going to cross these two series over, play it totally straight and serious, and make it work. If I were to attempt such a crossover I would make it goofy, memey, tongue-in-cheek, and overall more of a comedy than a straight drama--because there is certainly a lot of potential for hilarity there, with giving characters Stands based on their disabilities (which you absolutely should do, if you insist on using the JoJo angle). The premise of crossing KS, a romance-drama, over with shounen fighting anime, is inherently absurd and as such, an audience will be much more receptive if the story is self-aware regarding that absurdity.

That is just my two cents.

Silentcook
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Re: Souls of Clay and Fire [Chapter 2 Added 23 July 2018]

Post by Silentcook » Wed Jul 25, 2018 3:23 am

We DO have a tips thread at the top of the section. It's not even all that long... :twisted:
Shattering your dreams since '94.

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Mirage_GSM
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Re: Souls of Clay and Fire [Chapter 2 Added 23 July 2018]

Post by Mirage_GSM » Wed Jul 25, 2018 8:30 am

I'm not sure I can help you much...
For one thing I haven't seen anything from the Jojo franchise. From what I know I thought it was some kind of Bleach/Naruto/HunterXHunter - style Shounen with more violence??? Maybe I have the wrong impression...
The vibes I got from your story so far are more like... supernatural horror? Like Elfenlied, Higurashi or Gokukoku no Brynhildr... Without googling Stands I would never have made the connection to JoJo.

The other major problem is that KS doesn't lend itself much to Action stories. Most of the characters are quite fragile in one way or the other - especially Hisao - so getting them in fights regularly just doesn't work all that well.
There are a few stories that mix KS with action style settings. The first that comes to mind would be The enemy within that crosses KS over with X-Men but that doesn't take itself too seriously.
There are a few stories that mix in supernatural elements like Emi in Wonderland or The Haunting with Shizune as a ghost which manages to get in some horror vibes.
There's also Katawa Kijo where the cast gains magical powers.

The best tips I can give you are:
1.) The characters are the most important thing! The best story idea is worth nothing if it doesn't fit the characters. If that is the case, you can just use different characters. If you think Hisao is not a good for for a fighting storyline use Kenji - or a brand new character altogether. The school setting lends itself to that.
2.) If you really want to bring supernatural elements to a realistic base-setting - Start out slow! Few shounen start out with an epic battle against a reality-warping demigod. This goes especially for horror stories. In fact that part was one of the better ones of your story so far: You managed to put in quite a few WTF-moments - little inconsistencies that transporte the horror vibe quite well. Where you went wrong was when the explanations for these moments were off the scale right from the start. This led to you having to introduce a character who would be able to deal with this problem by himself, because the KS cast could never realistically do so themselves.
Many shounen introduce the protagonist to supernatural powers with mentor characters who are either knowledgable but not that much more (or even less) powerful than the protagonist theirself (e.g. Rukia from Bleach, Botan from YuYu Hakusho), unwilling to fight their battles for them (Muten Roshi from DB, the teachers from Soul Eater), unable to fight thier battles for them (All Might from BnHA after he loses his powers) or they have to figure stuff out more or less by themselves (e.g. Hunter X Hunter).
3.) This overlaps a bit with 1 but is both more specific to your first chapters and a general tip for ALL kinds of stories: Always question the actions of your characters. Not just the main characters but all of them. If a character does something, ask yourself WHY they do it and if it's really something they would do. For example in your first chapter Lilly asked Hisao to look for a girl he never met before. Why would Lilly ask him of all people when there must be dozens of others around who DO know her. Making a habit out of this keeps you on your toes and avoids many inconsistencies from the beginning.
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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Oddball
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Re: Souls of Clay and Fire [Chapter 2 Added 23 July 2018]

Post by Oddball » Tue Sep 04, 2018 8:58 pm

I've attached the story itself as a Word document instead of uploading directly to the forum because there are a few things I'll be doing with the formatting that simply don't work with the way these forums are. It won't affect this chapter, but it will be vital for the story to work going forwards. If anyone has any better suggestions as to what I can do, I'm all ears.
Figure out a way to make it work on the forum. If you insist on people having to download something to read your story then you're going to loose the majority of your readers.
Chapter 1 Word Count: 9,247
Total Posted Word Count: 9,247
Nobody cares about this.
amada Yuna, my darling, it began. It has been quite some time since we were last close together. I’m waiting for when I can hold you in my arms, as close as we can possibly be, together again. I’m waiting for when I can sit down, with you in my lap, and give you feelings and sensations in the way your nerves cannot.
This almost feel like a parody of some old bodice ripper. It's way too flowery.
With that Hakamichi girl breathing down my neck to work on the class booth at the festival, I can barely slip away to catch my breath! I know you’re busy too, but if you have a spare moment this morning, you know where you can find me. I await your love, my darling Yamada Yuna…

The flower speech here makes it almost seem like two separate people have written this. The word choice does not match up at all.
To someone who had been a bit more careful than Yuna was at the moment, it would be clear that something was very wrong with it.

I understand that she's caught up in all her emotions, but she's also blind. She identifies people by the sound of their voice. She should no more mistake a middle ages man who's trying too hard to sound natural from her boyfriend than a sighted person would mistake Nomiya for Hisao.

I'm not going to quote any one line here, but it seems strange that just about everyone refers to Yuna Yamada by her full name instead of just Yuna or just Yamada.

I did love the fake out with Hanako catching Hisao by surprise. Good work on that part. Still, Hisao seems to be instantly thinking the worse of the situation for no real reason. I don't know he would be prying so much into what the stranger that visited her room looked like either. It's like he knows where this plot is going and is trying to skip ahead rather than flowing into things organically.

It's also really weird that you talk about how sexy Yuna looks before even mentioning the big hole she's got in her chest. I would think the second part would draw more attention and cancel out the first part.

I'm not getting how she survived that long either or why she waited until Hisao was knocked out to conveniently pass away ... or why the guy didn't kill Hisao as well.

Chapter 2...

How is it tradition for people to read the plaque the first time they walk through the gates? Did somebody tell them in advance before they got there to do that?
“~You wouldn’t know, since you were out the last few days, but our class is getting a new student! He just transferred in from overseas,

... and right there goes any hope I had that this story would turn out well.
And that was the last thing Hisao heard before he fell asleep.
Did I miss something or did Hisao just randomly pass out in class with no warning and nobody decided to wake him up?
Joel was a man who was always looking for something. Although Joel considered himself to be a through-and-through American, and introduced himself as such, he had actually only resided there for a handful of years. He spent most of his infancy in an area of northern Iraq, called Kurdistan. The village where he lived had always been very poor, being a small group of subsistence farmers that could only rarely grow enough to survive, let alone sell. As a result, he had always been looking for some way out of his poverty. When he was a young child, he found his home caught in the midst of war, after a group of rebels attempted to free themselves from the control of the government. During the conflict, Joel was injured and lost the use of his legs. As a result, he had always been looking for a way to walk again. And when he was a teenager, a Japanese-American family had taken him in and adopted him. But as fate would have it, he had come home one day from school to find his adoptive father dead and his adoptive brother missing entirely. As a result, he had always been looking for his brother, the only family he then had left in the world. It was this final search that had lead him to Yamaku Academy.
I really didn't need his life story.
Or want it.
Not this way anyway.

Joel is basically just to super uber important and cool. He comes into a new school (transferred from overseas!) and immedialty challenges Shizune, and makes friends with Hanako. He's got super powers. He's got a backstory more overwrought than your average JRPG hero... and he comes to school with a gun and starts playing action hero. He's just too much.
I do take all feedback I get seriously. What can I do to improve my story going fowards?
This is a tough one. You're essentially working in crossover mode here. To make that work, both casts have to be equally important to the storyline and neither can outshine the other.

And like what's been said before, the KS cast really doesn't work well with action.
Look at your characters. How useful would Hisao or Lilly be in a fight? Heck, how useful are they even trying to RUN from a fight?

Honestly, you'd have better luck trying to work the cast of Dawson's Creek into a Dragonball Z storyline.
Not Dead Yet

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