DISCLAIMER wrote:The following post was written in response to Stiles Long's writing contest. Each participant was given a list of KS character pairings and a list of locations. One of each was chosen for this fic.
There were a limited set of options available to participants in the contest and it may be that this fic resembles others. Any such resemblance is coincidental.
Well then, ladies and gentlemen, I’m back with another contest entry! Unfortunately, while I actually quite liked the overall concept here, I’m not entirely sure that my heart was in it. It worked, it just felt a little flat. Then again, I’m not always the best judge of these things, so let me know what you think of this story, based on the prompt Yuuko and Hisao on a bus
The Longest Road
Hisao had once read that 'the course of true love never did run smooth.'
Maybe that meant this was true love after all.
Originally, he had been sure that it was, thoroughly convinced by the intense and wonderful feelings that she evoked. But then... well, then he had been shown just how fragile things between them were. In the moments afterwards, he had told himself that if it didn’t work out, then it couldn’t have been true
love. In the days since, however, a much more haunting thought had manifested itself: that even true love could be squandered, left to wither.
This didn’t surprise him. Life had never pulled any punches before, even when it came to romance. Especially
when it came to romance. For a moment, he swore he could hear the wind howling through a grove of barren trees, the snow crunching beneath his feet, and his heartbeat pounding in his ears.
Hisao’s daydreaming was interrupted by the roar of a bus, its engine rather annoyed by the steep gradient bringing it up the hill to Yamaku, where he was waiting. He wasn’t alone in this respect, as plenty of students were eager to head into the city, but he kept himself separated from them, standing off to one side. He wanted to be alone right now.
The students who had been sitting on the nearby wooden benches jumped up and hurried over to the bus, while Hisao meandered along behind them, taking his place at the back of the line, and eventually boarding the bus last, beginning his search for a seat just as it pulled away from the curb.
He was presented with a problem: this bus was rather full. Not completely full, but full enough that he couldn’t see any seats that weren’t next to someone. So much for getting some time to himself.
Not particularly interested in standing up for the entire journey, he walked towards the back of the bus, hoping to find a few empty seats he had missed, or barring that, a seat next to someone who didn’t look like they’d try to talk to him.
Instead, he spotted someone he hadn’t expected to find among the students, staring out the window at the scenery rolling by. “Yuuko?”
She flinched, and snapped her head to face him, evidently surprised. “Ah! Oh, uh, Nakai. I’m sorry, you kind of - I mean, I didn’t expect, uh-”
Hisao did his best to give a disarming smile, though he had a feeling that it wasn’t a very good one. “It’s fine. Are you okay if I sit here?” Yuuko was fairly quiet, and he knew her pretty well from his time in the library, so this was probably the best seat he was going to get.
“Oh, sure, go ahead.”
Just like that, Hisao sat down, and started turning things over in his head again, staring off into space as he did so. What could he leave behind, and what would be left of him? To leave anything would run the risk of being a chance which, once taken, could not be reversed. Worse, none of the individual probabilities could be known, forcing-
“Um... Are you okay, Nakai?”
It took Hisao a moment to come back into reality. “Oh, uh, don’t worry, I-” The dark thoughts from before still hung over him. It didn’t matter, he thought, whether Yuuko knew the truth or not. But then, if it didn’t matter, why not
tell the truth? It would hurt, but then again, everything hurt right now. Maybe it was worth getting used to. He sighed. “I’ve got a lot on my mind, that’s all.”
He was locked in at this point - Yuuko was too nice to simply cut off. “Yeah. There’s a, uh... a girl. And I thought things were going well between us, but then... they didn’t. So now I’m hoping that taking a walk around the city will help me think about it, or at least calm me down.”
Yuuko seemed surprised. “Does the city really calm you down? It always seems too busy to me.”
Hisao smirked. “I grew up right by a big city, and got into the habit of walking around it whenever I had some thinking to do. I guess by now I’m just used to it.” Still, he found it easy to see why Yuuko, skittish as she was, wouldn’t enjoy it as much.
“Oh... Well, if it helps you, I guess that’s what matters.”
“Yeah, I suppose. I know it sounds weird, but... I feel like just seeing the buildings, and being lost in the crowds of people, might help me think about her. About how much she means to me, or if she’s just...” He shrugged. “You know, some stupid high school romance.”
Yuuko fidgeted a little, and Hisao noticed. “Sorry, sorry, I shouldn’t be bringing it up, I mean, you’re basically a teacher, it’s not-”
“No no, it’s okay, it’s okay!” Yuuko frantically tried to assuage Hisao's concern. "It's important to have someone to talk to about these things, even if they're..." She spent a moment looking for the right words. "Even if they're, uh, me. I can - I'll try my best to understand!"
Hisao still wasn't quite convinced - after all, school staff were generally considered to be an entirely different caste, interacting with students on a superficial, business-like level. But then, Yuuko wasn't so different from him: she was a university student, so she couldn't be that
much older, and probably shared some of the same struggles with schoolwork, exams, and deadlines. So maybe it was worth talking to her after all.
"O-Okay." Hesitantly, he started trying to put his thoughts into words. "Well, I guess...” He thought back on the past week, and the emotions came rushing back to him. “I had changed my perspective on everything, just because of her. Every single thing
was re-framed through that lens. She was that
Hisao sighed. “But then things, uh... We had a problem. And when we tried to talk about that problem, it just became more problems. And now we haven’t even spoken to each other in a few days, and- and what if that’s just the end of it? What if my entire life
gets changed back again?” He put his hands to his head in exasperation.
Yuuko thought about this for a moment. “Well, what have you tried so far?”
“If you don’t want things to go back to the way they were, you should try to stop them. Have you tried anything so far?”
Hisao couldn’t tell why the concept seemed so foreign to him. “I mean... I don’t want to just, y’know, make things worse, I guess.”
“But aren’t you afraid that things are going to get worse anyways? If you don’t do anything, then what will happen?”
“Well, maybe... maybe she’d just... come back, and say that it didn’t matter.” He sighed. “That’s a stupid thought, isn’t it.”
“It’s not stupid, just easy. It’s easy to hope for, and it’s easy to wait for. That doesn’t mean it’s right, though. Sometimes you have to make hard decisions.”
“So... you think I should do something, rather than just waiting.”
“I think so. And it might sound strange, but I don’t think you will make things worse. If you can fix things, then you will, and if you can’t, then...” She shrugged.
That thought terrified Hisao. “But if I try, and can’t do it, then-”
“Then you won’t ever have to wonder whether you could’ve done something. Sometimes things don’t work out, but at least you will have tried.”
It made sense to Hisao, but it didn’t make him happy. Life didn’t pull punches. “And... what if things never
Yuuko sighed. “Then we’ll keep trying, because we can always try again.”
Hisao remained quiet for a bit, thinking that through. Unfortunately, he didn’t have time to digest it all right now. “Oh, Yuuko, I’m getting off at this next stop.”
“Oh! Well... I hope the city helps you figure it all out.”
He smiled, and it didn’t feel quite so forced. “Thanks.” As he got up, something crossed his mind. “Say, I never asked: where in the city are you headed?”
Yuuko tensed up a bit. “O-Oh, uh, I’m just, you know, I’m just going shopping!” She laughed nervously.
Hisao knew something wasn’t quite right about her answer, but with his stop fast approaching, he had to leave regardless. “Well, thanks again, and I’ll see you around!”
After stepping off the bus and onto the sidewalk, he inhaled deeply. The air wasn’t exactly ‘fresh’ - living at Yamaku had given him a newfound appreciation for its air quality - but here, he felt right at home. He looked left, then right, and decided, on a whim, that he would go right.
He wasn’t so much worried about ending up anyplace in particular - he just wanted to arrive at a conclusion.
A cool breeze blew over Hisao as he arrived at the bus stop. Looking back the way he had come, he saw the sun setting, throwing bright reds and oranges across the surrounding sky.
But he wasn’t heading that way. Not yet. One day, perhaps, he’d take off into the sunset - but for now, he had unfinished business.
True love wasn’t a guarantee - nothing was. But it was
an indicator, a sign of importance. If he really was scared of losing it, then that meant it was worth any effort he could muster to keep it safe. And maybe it would all fall apart, and he’d have to start over again, perhaps many times more.
But at least he’d be the boy who had tried, and not the boy who had wondered.
Already, he was studying the problem, thinking about his next move. He couldn’t see the future, but he also wasn’t completely in the dark: he knew her far better than most, and replaying the past week in his mind again - painful though it had been - had taught him some important lessons. He planned to put them to use.
As the bus arrived and he embarked, he began to worry briefly about whether he’d be able to fall asleep tonight. Those thoughts were interrupted when he noticed a familiar figure sitting near the back, looking out the window. Just who he wanted to see.
He walked over. “Yuuko!”
“Huh?” She whipped her head around to face him, and he noticed that she seemed a bit different. “Oh, Nakai, it’s you.”
“Yup, me again.” He sat down next to her. “I wanted to talk to you, actually.”
“Oh?” Again, something was off. Maybe she was just tired, though - she had been out and about, after all. And she had said that she wasn’t fond of cities.
“Yeah. What you said earlier, when we talked, it - it meant a lot to me. I knew I wanted to think some things through, but you really helped me do that. So, you know... Thank you.”
“Is that right?” She smiled, a little bit of a half smile, which didn’t quite match her eyes. “Well, I’m glad I could help.”
With that, she turned away again, staring out the window as the city flew by. Her demeanor didn’t sit right with Hisao - this wasn’t the skittish, smiling Yuuko he knew. Then again, she was probably just tired; she had said she was going shopping, after all, and had probably been carrying stuff around all day. Except... she didn’t have any bags with her. She had a purse, but it was the same one she had had earlier, and wasn’t big enough to fit anything substantial. Why would she have had to come all the way out to the city if she was just going to buy something that fit in her purse - or nothing at all?
Curious enough that he couldn’t just let it slide, Hisao spoke up. “Um... Yuuko?”
“Hmm?” She didn’t even turn around this time.
“Is, uh... Is everything okay?” She finally turned around to look at him, her expression mostly blank. “I mean, I just... You seem kind of, uh... pensive.”
She took a moment to think about this, in which time she stared off into space a bit, as if daydreaming. Finally, she closed her eyes and sighed. “Can you keep a secret, Nakai?”
Could he? He wasn’t ready for that question. And yet, he knew that he wanted to know more, and that the only way that would happen is if he said yes. “I-I guess so. Yeah.”
“I, uh... I lied to you, earlier. When I said I was going shopping. I wasn’t.” Well, that explained why she didn’t have any bags with her. Still, that wasn’t much of a- “I was on a date.”
That came as a surprise. Hisao thought of her as a teacher, or as someone who gave advice, not... someone who went on dates. He could see why she might want him to keep it a secret. And yet, the more he thought about it, the more it made sense: she was an adult, and had never mentioned being in a relationship, so there wasn’t any reason she couldn’t
And yet, he gathered that it couldn’t’ve been a particularly good date, given her mood. Still, he had to ask. “How did it go?”
Another deep sigh. “Terribly.” Before Hisao could figure out a polite way to ask for clarification, Yuuko continued. “Not the worst one I’ve ever had, but... the latest in a long string of bad ones.”
That surprised Hisao too. “Really?”
“Yeah. Each time, it’s something stupid. Sometimes it’s really awkward, sometimes I make a mess of myself... and sometimes
the guy is an absolute buffoon.” She pursed her lips, clearly alluding to whatever happened earlier. “It just feels kind of pointless. Why do I even bother?”
“Because you can always try again!” Hisao smiled. “Remember? If something matters to you, then you should always try; otherwise, you’ll just end up wondering whether you could’ve done something.”
Yuuko chuckled glumly. “Using my own words against me, huh?”
“Only because they were such good ones.”
This finally got a proper smile out of Yuuko, who turned to look out the window. “Maybe you’re right. Who am I to give up this easily?” After a second, however, she looked back at Hisao, her face suddenly worried. “B-But, seriously, please
don’t tell anyone, I really don’t-”
“I won’t say a word, promise.”
That calmed her down enough for a hint of her earlier smile to return. She closed her eyes and bowed her head slightly. “Thank you, Nakai.”