Crafty's One-Shots (Jun 7th, 2020: Path of Least Resistance)

WORDS WORDS WORDS
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Re: Crafty's One-Shots (Oct 26th, 2019: Someone Part 2)

Post by Oddball » Mon Oct 28, 2019 11:57 pm

Very interesting set up.

The story itself had a very calm feeling to it almost to the point of being dreamy. I think skipping out exactly on what Emi saw was a good idea and keeping it vague even when it was mentioned really helped set the mood. Too much detail would have only served for shock value and disrupted the story.

Emi and Saki doesn't spend a lot of time together but their personalities did play well off each other. Shizune was an interesting touch to the duo as she provided yet a third strong but completely separate personality.

The only real criticism I have is the final few lines. I think having a speaking line for Emi asking where the bathroom is and having to even ask softens the last punch you're going for.
Not Dead Yet

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Re: Crafty's One-Shots (Oct 26th, 2019: Someone Part 2)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Fri Nov 01, 2019 12:55 pm

And finally I'm again caught up with all that's been posted here.
I didn't plan to save the best for last but apparently that's how it turned out. And surprisingly it's not even because this one doesn't have any dreams :-)

Also, some punches are hard enough even after softening.
Last edited by Mirage_GSM on Thu Dec 26, 2019 4:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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: Crafty's One-Shots (Oct 26th, 2019: Someone Part 2)

Post by Craftyatom » Wed Dec 25, 2019 12:11 am

It’s December 25th (in most parts of the world), and you know what that means! It’s time to publish my entry for this year’s forum secret santa, colloquially dubbed SX! My victim was Oddball, who gave me the prompt Emi and Molly have a nice pleasant time together. Just the two of them.

Now, I’ll admit, I was a bit stumped. It wasn’t a very long or detailed prompt, but it was, at least to me, surprisingly constraining (in part because I’m not very good at slice-of-life). I spent a few weeks trying to come up with some way to make things interesting, given these constraints. There was an “obvious” way to handle this prompt that jumped out at me (and would have required a mature content warning), but given who my victim was, and the whole holiday spirit thing, I decided not to go down that path. Instead, I took a bit of inspiration from a weird old one-shot that’s an extension of a different story entirely, and I think it all worked out pretty well!

So, without further ado, I hope you enjoy The Waiting Games!
Main route: COM(promise)
One-shots: Crafty's One-Shots (Dark Winter Sky, Dreamy, Path of Least Resistance, Project Blue Curtain, and more!)
Old poetry: Google Drive Collection

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The Waiting Games - Trust

Post by Craftyatom » Wed Dec 25, 2019 12:11 am

The Waiting Games
Mom wrote:I’ll be there around noon to pick you up. Can’t wait to see my favorite little girl again!
1 - Trust
Emi slowed to a halt, breathing heavily, and took in her surroundings. The sky was a brilliant orange, but it wouldn’t remain that way for long - she needed to settle in for the night.

She took off her backpack and inspected its contents: a small dog, with droopy silver fur, that she still hadn’t thought of a good name for. “How are you doing, buddy?”

The dog looked at her quizzically for a moment, then opened its mouth into a large yawn. “Tired, huh?” Emi patted it on the head, then hoisted the backpack onto her back again. “That makes two of us.”

Fortunately, there was a sizeable, luxurious-looking hotel just down the road. Unfortunately, as Emi approached it, she noticed a car parked in the adjacent alleyway, sporting a sickeningly familiar chrome finish. Emi desperately hoped it didn’t belong to who she thought it did.

Her suspicions were confirmed, however, when she stepped through the front door and saw who was behind the counter, grinning smugly and wearing a fancy suit.

Molly Kapur. Local real estate baron, and arguably, Emi’s arch-nemesis.

They were, in many ways, very similar. They were both missing the lower halves of their legs due to accidents earlier in life. They both wore prosthetics to make up for it, though Molly’s were above-the-knee, while Emi’s were below. They both hated the cold, much to the disdain of anyone who gave them control over a thermostat. And, of course, they both wanted to make a name for themselves in this godforsaken city.

Of the two of them, however, Molly had certainly made more of a name for herself, as was somewhat evidenced by her position behind the counter, as well as her holier-than-thou attitude. “Well well well, what a surprise! It’s always nice to see you around, Miss Ibarazaki.”

Emi groaned. “Just tell me how much this stay is gonna cost me.”

“Straight to the point, as always.” Molly rifled through some papers, then read off of one in particular. “20 thousand yen.”

Emi gawked. “20 thousand? For one night?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“That’s... That’s a racket! How the hell do you justify charging that much?”

Molly shrugged. “I’ve put a lot of money into this place, you know. It’s not cheap to perform these kinds of exquisite renovations. And besides...” She smirked. “You can’t exactly shop around.”

She was right. There wasn’t another place to stay for at least a mile. Realizing that she had no alternative, Emi pulled out her wallet, looked inside, and rolled her eyes. “It looks like we have a problem. I don’t have that much cash on me.”

Emi had expected Molly to look disappointed, but she grinned instead. “No more money? Well, I’m sure there are other ways you could pay me. Why don’t we make a deal? I’m sure that, with the right compromise, we could both walk away from this happy.”

Emi narrowed her eyes, certain that Molly was plotting something. “A deal? Like what?”

“Well, I happen to know that you recently picked up a few pieces of property on the cheap. And that you haven’t been able to develop them. So, how about this: you hand over a few of those deeds, so that I can gussy them up, and I’ll let you stay the night completely free of charge.”

It took Emi a moment to process that suggestion, but as she had expected, it was clearly a trap. “Of course not! I need those!”

“Do you, now?”

“Yes! If I let you have them, I won’t make any money off of them, and the next time I need to stay the night someplace, I’ll be in an even worse position!”

Molly pouted. “Hmm. You have a point. But then again,” she leaned forward, resting her elbows on the counter, “it would be terribly difficult to collect money on those properties if you slept outside tonight, caught double pneumonia, and died on the side of the road.”

This left Emi flabbergasted. “You’d kill me, just because I can’t pay?”

Molly gasped. “Kill you‽ I would never dream of such a thing! I’m not a murderer, Emi - I don’t have it in me. I’m just a businesswoman, trying to make my way in the world.”

Maybe she really was telling the truth, not just being unreasonable. Emi sighed. “Alright, look, I know you have a bunch of rooms free, this place is huge. Just let me stay in one of them, and I’ll leave it the way I found it. I’m not gonna take anything, or leave a mess, just sleep there. I promise. Otherwise, you can have those deeds.”

“I admire your optimism, Emi, but I’m afraid I can’t do that. What would happen if word got out that I give out rooms for free? I’d be swamped with people clamoring for a free room in my wonderful hotel!”

“But you know me! You don’t have to give free rooms to everyone - I’m only asking because you know who I am!”

“Emi, with all due respect, you’re not my best friend, or my coworker, or a family member...” Molly muttered something under her breath. “I just don’t know you that well. I’m sorry, but I simply can’t be giving things away.”

Furious, Emi slammed one hand on the counter. “Are you kidding me? You know all about the deeds I have, and what my property development is like, but that’s not enough! We watched this place grow from a run-down piece of dirt into an actual city, but that’s not enough! I paid a stupid amount of money to ride on your ridiculous train, which is the only reason I don’t have the cash to pay you right now, but that’s not enough!”

“It’s a very high-status train.”

“It doesn’t go anywhere! It just went in a loop and dropped me off where I started!”

Molly rubbed her chin. “Well, as a mode of transport, I’ll admit it’s not exactly perfect, but when it comes to comfort and scenery, it’s-”

“No, no, you know what, that’s it.” Emi tossed her backpack into the corner, and the small dog inside fell out, confused but luckily unharmed. It bounded back over to Emi as she turned around and began to storm off.

“Emi?” Molly called after her. “Are you...”

She turned around again to respond. “I’m done with your stupid game, alright? Thanks for... whatever.”

“Emi, wait, come on...”

“What, you want me to keep going so you can rub it in even more?”

“Emi, it’s not like that. We can play something else, okay?”

“Oh boy, I wonder which game you’ll beat me at next...”

“No, I... Look, we can play my least favorite game, okay? The one I’m no good at, and hate playing.” Emi scowled, but began to think it over. “It’s one I actually think you’d like. It’s more exciting, trust me. And there’s no business in it.” Whether Emi would enjoy it was one thing, but maybe it would be a better way of killing time - and Emi did, after all, have a lot of time to kill. Besides, Molly sounded like she really wanted Emi to give it a try. “Please?”

Emi sighed, her annoyed posture slumping into one of acceptance. “Alright, I’ll try it.”

Molly smiled - not the devious smile Emi had gotten used to over the course of the previous game, but one of joy. “Perfect! I’ll set it up, and you put this one away.”

Emi couldn’t think of anything more satisfying than stuffing that horrid game back into its stupid box.

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The Waiting Games - Fleet in Being

Post by Craftyatom » Wed Dec 25, 2019 12:11 am

Mom wrote:The weather forecast looks pretty bad, so I might be a bit late picking you up this afternoon. Just a heads up.
2 - Fleet in Being
Out in the pitch black of a moonless night, a long line of flame burned, parallel to the horizon. Its smoke billowed high into the sky, though it was difficult to see; as it rose further and further from the brilliant orange flame, it became dimmer and dimmer, eventually fading into the night sky, only noticeable where it blocked out the brighter stars.

It was a fire that meant victory - or, at least, something very close to it. Mere minutes earlier, that combusting mass had been the Carrier Illustrious, its complement of naval bombers a significant threat. But not anymore.

A crewman stepped forward on the bridge. “No signs of activity, Admiral. The Illustrious is dead in the water. We expect her to founder within the next half hour.”

Emi nodded, but couldn’t relax. Not yet. “Do we have radar back?”

“Negative. Their ECM’s still running.”

As expected. “Then we have more work to do.” Emi knew what she was up against, and this hadn’t quite been all of it. Furthermore, she knew who she was up against, and they certainly had more tricks up their sleeve. “We have yet to see Destroyer Serenity.”

“Ma’am, the Serenity is seriously outgunned, and we believe their Admiral is aboard. If I had to guess, they’re only covering their retreat, to try and-”

His sentence was cut short by an ear-splitting bang as the whole ship lurched beneath their feet.

A young woman operating one of the many consoles around the edge of the room called out. “Reports of damage to the starboard hull, with some flooding. The bulkheads will handle a few of those, but not many.”

The crewmember standing by Emi was confused. “Starboard? They should be lit up by the Illustrious - ELOINT, do you have anything?”

“Negative, sir. Nothing on that side but a burning wreck. Even the searchlights are coming up blank.”

Baffled, the crewmember turned back to Emi. “They’ve got a bead on us, we have to respond soon. Admiral?”

Emi stared out the window to her right, at the flames on the horizon - flames which, just a moment ago, had very briefly gotten brighter. She smirked. “They’re behind the Illustrious.”

“... Ma’am?”

“They’re using that wreckage as a smokescreen. Don’t arc it much - thirty, maybe forty minutes over her island.”

The bridge fell eerily quiet for a moment before everyone sprung into action, the regular din returning. Outside, the massive gun batteries of the Battleship Beluga began to adjust upwards, then hovered in one position for a moment before firing.

Time seemed to slow down as the shells arced through the air, then disappeared into the smoke from the Illustrious. And then, milliseconds later, a great ball of fire erupted, backlighting the smokescreen and sending a roaring sound out over the ocean surface, as many in the crew cheered.

Not long after, the crewman at the ELOINT console reported. “We have radar back!”

The crewman next to him, COMMS, spoke next. “Admiral, we’re receiving a transmission over VHF.”

“Hold fire, and pipe it through.”

The loudspeakers spread around the deck emitted a brief burst of static, followed by a woman’s voice. “-of Destroyer Serenity, calling Battleship Beluga.”

Emi smiled. “This is Admiral Ibarazaki, on Beluga. I read you, Kapur.”

A low chuckle. “Ibarazaki! What a shame, to be meeting under such circumstances.”

“What a shame, that we won’t meet again.”

A potent silence filled the room for a few seconds, finally being broken by the loudspeakers. “It’s been an honor, Emi.”

“Likewise, Molly.”

“Now, give me something respectable, won’t you? You know how much I hate the cold.”

“That I do.”

The loudspeakers returned to static, then silence, as the communication ended. The crewmember by Emi’s side turned to look at her once more. “Your orders, Admiral?”

Emi stared out into the distance, at the burning hulks on the horizon, then closed her eyes. “We know where they are. Give them an alpha strike. I want as many shells going downrange as we can manage.”

“Of course, ma’am.” The great machine went into motion once more, with people talking, gears turning, and the great metal barrels outside waiting, expectantly, until at last they all fired in unison. The Beluga rocked backwards from their combined recoil, but on the horizon, the Serenity fared far worse. Even from behind the waning smoke given off by the Illustrious, it was clear that nothing could have survived.

As the crew around her began to congratulate each other, Emi exhaled, and stared off into the distance. It was a strange new feeling, to have bested her arch-nemesis - especially in such a convincing manner.

It felt... fun.

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The Waiting Games - With Apologies to Conway

Post by Craftyatom » Wed Dec 25, 2019 12:12 am

Mom wrote:I might not be able to pick you up today. They just issued a blizzard warning, and said nobody should use the roads until they’re cleared, which might not be until tomorrow morning.
3 - With Apologies to Conway
This red light seemed to go on forever.

Emi had sat at it many times since learning to drive. In some ways, early on, it had helped - she had been a very nervous driver to begin with, but it was impossible to keep her adrenaline levels up when she was just sitting there, staring at an unblinking light.

While that mellowing effect had been nice the first few times, by now it was an absolute drag. Today had been a really long day at work, and she just wanted to get home, shower, eat something, and fall into bed.

And yet, despite it almost being over, her day could apparently still get worse. An aggressively-angled car with tinted windows, clearly some foreign make, pulled up next to her, then revved its engine. Emi sighed, and tried to focus on the traffic light, instead of getting angry at the driver next to her. What she heard next, however, swapped her anger for surprise.

“No way! Ibarazaki, is that you?” Emi recognized the voice, but couldn’t quite tell who it belonged to. Once she looked over, however, she recognized the source instantly.

The driver’s window had been rolled down, revealing a familiar face wearing designer sunglasses and a fancy-looking suit. Emi rolled down her own window to start a conversation. “Kapur?”

The woman laughed, then replied, having to raise her voice over the sound of her idling engine. “So it is you! How have you been?”

Emi smiled. “Oh, you know, work, work, and more work.”

Another chuckle from Molly. “Oh man, I feel you. Long nights working these court cases, trust me. I got today off, though!”

“Oh, neat!” Emi couldn’t remember the last time she got a proper day off. Actually, she could - her boss had called her up at 8 in the morning because someone had come in with an emergency and they needed people to cover the normal shifts. “Did you do anything exciting?”

“Yeah, the hubby and I went to a baby shower!” Emi could only really see Molly’s shoulders and above, but recognized the motion of her patting her midriff. “Only a few more weeks now!”

Emi’s mouth and eyes opened wide in shock, and she responded almost entirely by instinct. “Oh my goodness, congratulations!” After a brief pause, something occurred to her. “Wait, you got married?”

“You act like it’s a surprise!”

“It is! What the hell kind of man managed to pin down the fiery bitch I knew back at uni?”

Molly burst out laughing. “Well, here he is!” She motioned to the passenger’s seat, and Emi could barely make out someone waving before Molly spoke to her again. “To be honest, though, I’m the one doing the pinning.”

Emi grinned. “That’s the Molly I knew! Good on you, girl.”

“You know it. So how about you?”

Emi didn’t like the question, even before she figured out what it was. “Oh, you know, I’ve been kind of busy with work. I’m at a veterinary practice a few miles from here, and it’s pretty demanding.”

“Hey, that’s awesome, you’re living the dream! I remember hearing all about your vet classes back in the day. Besides, they must be paying you some serious dough for all that effort!”

That comment brought their ridiculous juxtaposition to Emi’s attention. She was sitting there, in her 15-year-old Honda with a bunch of animal-themed bumper stickers, wearing scrubs, next to a woman in a chrome-accented foreign sports car. A woman who had just gotten the day off from her law practice so she could go to her own baby shower, while wearing a suit. A woman who was turning left into a gated neighborhood, while Emi was going straight ahead for another mile so she could park on the side of the road by her apartment.

“Uh... You know, it’s enough. I’m comfortable.”

“That’s cool! Got a place of your own?”

“Well, I mean, I have a place. And I live there. Even if it’s not very, uh... fancy.”

“Oh.” Molly paused for a second, then sighed. “So, uh, the point of the game is to have a lot of money and a house and stuff at the end. Whoever has more-”

“I know, I know, okay? It’s not like I haven’t been trying to get more money, it’s just not happening!”

Molly grimaced, then tried to word her next sentence very carefully. “You did kind of decide early on to be a vet instead of a surgeon.”

“I like animals, okay! What’s wrong with that?”

“This isn’t a game about getting what you like, it’s a game about getting money!”

“Well then it’s stupid! Why does it have all of these life choices if it’s just another game where you try to get all the money? At least the ship game was up front about what you were supposed to do.”

Molly groaned. “Look, I know you liked that one, but I really-”

“You really don’t like it, because you lost.”

What‽ Excuse me, I don’t like it because it’s literally a 50-50 crapshoot, and there’s no skill expression! You only liked it because you won!”

The two of them sat there, pouting at each other, for a couple seconds. Neither one got up to leave, or went back to playing - they just sat there, glaring, until Molly sighed, took a deep breath, and started over.

“Alright, I’m sorry. You’re clearly not very interested in this type of game. I suppose I should’ve guessed that.”

Somewhat disarmed by Molly’s reversal, Emi spoke more softly. “Yeah. I’m sorry too. I know you didn’t like that other game.” She thought about it for a moment. “Are there any games in between? Like, a little bit of ship game, a little bit of money game?”

Molly’s face scrunched up in thought. “Not really. Well, I mean, there is one that comes to mind, but it would be kind of difficult to set up.”

“Difficult? Does it have a lot of pieces or something?”

“No, it’s- well, yes, it does have a lot of pieces, but that’s not why it’d be difficult. It’s just that I don’t have it here with me. We’d have to go get it.”

Emi stood up. “Alright, where do we need to get it from?”

Molly looked nervously out of a nearby window at the thick layer of snow on the ground, which was growing by the minute. “Well...”

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The Waiting Games - AEMILIA REGINA

Post by Craftyatom » Wed Dec 25, 2019 12:12 am

Mom wrote:I’m really sorry, Emi. I know you were excited to come home. I’ll pick you up as soon as I can tomorrow, okay?
4 - AEMILIA REGINA
Down in the valley, what remained of the First Royal Army was almost trapped. Almost.

On the east end of the valley stood the Eighth Imperial Infantry Corps, and on the west, the Fifth and Sixth Imperial Cavalry, mounted on chestnut thoroughbreds. To the north, a sheer cliff face boxed them in. But to the south, only a steep bank kept them in. A steep bank that, though not the kind of terrain one would like to fight on, could be used as an escape route.

If the Royal forces could make it up that slope, to the crest of the hill, over and out to the south, they could reach the Avacha Bay. From there, they could try and cross the Bering Strait, over into the relatively understaffed Yukon, and hopefully hold out until spring. It was a risky move, and one that wouldn’t come without a cost, but it was their only hope.

Emi, standing atop the hill, knew that. She had a hunch that the Royal Army knew that she knew that, and were just praying they were wrong, or that she didn’t have the manpower to close that gap.

Sure enough, she watched from above as the forces in the valley took on an odd formation, with curtains of cavalry on the east and west hiding the infantry amassing to the south. They were preparing to make a break for it.

A deep horn sounded, and the First Army went into motion, sprinting up the slope towards Emi. The Imperial forces on either side of the valley scrambled to follow, but they were caught off guard, and lagged behind the troops retreating up the hill.

Emi smirked as she turned to the trumpeter on her left. “Wait for it... Wait for it... Now.” His trumpet sounded a series of short notes on command, and a commotion began behind them.

There, waiting patiently on top of the hill, just out of sight of those in the valley, was the Twelfth Artillery, their cannons loaded and primed. They rolled forwards briefly, cresting the hill and aiming down into the valley, the slope in front of them now little more than a shooting gallery of Royal infantrymen.

They began to fire, the sound of each shot echoing off the cliff face on the other side of the valley, and the opposing retreat began to wither as shot after shot mowed down more and more men. Finally, after what didn’t seem like much time at all, a few more blows of the enemy horn heralded a series of white flags, rising high above the ranks. It was over.

“Cease fire!” called Emi, her trumpeter giving the appropriate signal, and the battle ground to a halt. The First Royal Army was now completely encircled, a gun to its head - and it had, quite wisely, chosen to surrender. Just like that, thought Emi, this whole conflict was over. The world, every corner of it, now belonged to the Empire.

Through the crowd of tired and defeated soldiers, a large elephant, wrapped in many layers of cloth to try and keep it warm, strode up the hill. Its riders flew long white banners, but Emi wasn’t interested in them - she was watching the familiar girl sitting behind them, who was also wearing an almost absurdly thick coat.

As they approached, with tens of cannons and hundreds of muskets pointed at them, the girl gracefully dismounted, landing near Emi before speaking in a voice that was almost too confident to have just lost a battle: “General Ibarazaki! A pleasure, as always.”

“You’re a bold one, Kapur. You had one hell of a retreat planned.”

She chuckled. “I was taking lessons from your campaign in Iberia.”

The soldiers surrounding them, though doing their best to keep straight faces, were confused. Iberia had never been a contested area - it was directly adjacent to the Imperial capital, which had remained untouched throughout the entire conflict. And yet, Emi laughed along, as if she knew something her men didn’t. “Yeah, that was probably my best move last game, even if it didn’t really buy me much time.”

“At least it was warm there - we’ve been fighting in the snow for so long that if I had toes, I’m sure they would’ve frozen off by now.” Both girls laughed for a bit before Molly continued. “Anyways, as I see it, this makes us even, one for one. So...”

“So it’s time for a tiebreaker?”

“Precisely. You do the pieces, I’ll do the cards?” Molly had already picked up the deck by the time she finished her sentence.

“Sounds good to me!” Emi began resetting the board, eager to see what the next round would be like.

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The Waiting Games - No More Can Be Done Today

Post by Craftyatom » Wed Dec 25, 2019 12:12 am

Emi wrote:It’s okay, mom - I found someone to pass the time with for today. See you tomorrow!
5 - No More Can Be Done Today
Molly yawned. “Alright, I think that’ll be my last one. I should get to sleep soon.”

“Aww. Are you sure?” Emi had lost track of how many times they had played this game, but she felt like she could go for a few more.

“Yes, I’m certain.” Molly chuckled. “You know, a few hours ago, I would never have guessed that you’d be begging me to play one more game.”

Emi was somewhat opposed to the idea that she was ‘begging’, but still had to admit that she had undergone quite a reversal. She had spent all morning trying to stave off boredom until her mom arrived to pick her up, and when she had found out that she’d have to wait a whole extra day, it seemed like an impossible task.

There was no point trying to go for a run, or even a walk - the blizzard outside made it difficult to get traction, and she didn’t like being out in the cold anyways. All of her friends had gone home earlier, and the school was pretty much deserted, save for the occasional sighting of Ikezawa from 3-3. Maybe her ride home had also been held up by the snow.

The boredom had gotten so bad that Emi even tried doing some homework, only to find that her teachers had apparently decided to let the students enjoy the break for once. There had been some minor assignments, but she had finished them all in the days prior.

Having vowed never to do homework early again, she tried staring out the window, listening to music, and eventually, just pacing around the girls’ common room. There, Molly had noticed her frustration, and suggested playing a game together to pass the time - and indeed, how the time had passed.

“Alright. Should we take this game back to where we got it?”

Molly glanced out the window, then grimaced; not only was there still a thick blanket of snow on the ground, but it was now also pitch-black. They had been playing for a long time, and the sun had set early, given how deeply into winter they were. “No, let’s just leave it here. We can take it back some other time.”

Emi shrugged. “Fair enough. Besides, I’m sure they won’t mind if we don’t have it back right on time.”

“Well... Let’s not find out. I’ll take it back tomorrow.”

Molly yawned again, and Emi noticed. She was clearly pretty tired. “Hey, why don’t you go to bed, and I’ll put all this away?”

“Oh... Are you sure you don’t mind?”

“Yeah, it’s no problem. You go ahead.”

Molly smiled. “Alright then, I suppose I shall.” She stood up, took a few steps back towards her room, then stopped, and looked back at Emi. “Thank you for playing with me today, Emi.”

Emi was a bit surprised. “Sure thing! And, uh, thanks for helping me pass the time.”

“It was my pleasure.” With that, she turned and left, and Emi began to put the pieces back into their little boxes, and the little boxes back into the big box.

All things considered, it had been a surprisingly good day.

END.
Main route: COM(promise)
One-shots: Crafty's One-Shots (Dark Winter Sky, Dreamy, Path of Least Resistance, Project Blue Curtain, and more!)
Old poetry: Google Drive Collection

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Re: Crafty's One-Shots (Dec 25th, 2019: The Waiting Games)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Thu Dec 26, 2019 4:54 pm

When I started reading mmy thought was: "There's no way someone can have a pleasant time with that game."
...and then you baiscally wrote three more stories :-)

I remember the "different story entirely" very well.
Not so much the "weird old one-shot" though it was fun to reread it.

For inspiration for further chapters let me recommend the anime Houkago Saikoro Club that just finished airing.
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: Crafty's One-Shots (Dec 25th, 2019: The Waiting Games)

Post by Oddball » Fri Dec 27, 2019 10:58 am

That was a nice cute little read. I wasn't quite sure where you were going with it at first. It wasn't up until the part about the train where I started to catch on. Interesting take on Molly too.
Not Dead Yet

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Re: Crafty's One-Shots (Dec 25th, 2019: The Waiting Games)

Post by Feurox » Fri Dec 27, 2019 8:11 pm

Loved it, but then, of course, I'd seen this already in proofreading. Fantastic story, and so wonderfully creative! I have to agree with Odd, your Molly is a fantastic take on the character. Well done!

Pleasure to read, proofread, and re-read. Well done Crafty!

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Re: Crafty's One-Shots (Dec 25th, 2019: The Waiting Games)

Post by Craftyatom » Sun Feb 02, 2020 11:52 pm

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.
This one was a doozy.

Hello again, and welcome back to my submission for the 7th writing contest; as stated above, this one was somewhat difficult, for a few different reasons. It’s the first one since the hiatus for SX, which also meant that it had to be done as the semester was starting at my university. But those were just the external factors - we also need to talk about elements of the story itself that impeded progress on this project.

As you may know, I have a tendency to draw out my prompt-driven stories, sometimes to the extreme. This is because I want the basis of the prompt to make sense: there needs to be a reason for my characters to be doing what the prompt demands. That exposition can come before or after the prompted moment itself, but it must be present; I don’t like leaving that type of detail to the reader’s imagination. This prompt was no different: I got the idea from a joking comment made by another writer, and found that it fit perfectly, if somewhat tangentially.

So, I had a difficult prompt to begin with. I then decided to make it even harder for myself by trying to adhere strictly to the canon, with some important exceptions. This whole concept fit into the original story, so why not take advantage of that? The downside was that, in order to make sure I was doing the original justice, I had to play through it again, paying careful attention to particular elements.

So, what is this terribly difficult prompt I’m talking about? Well, funnily enough, it’s so tangential that it’ll barely spoil anything, though I will enclose it in a spoiler tag out of habit: Hisao and Hanako at the Track, as well as Hisao and Hanako in a Heat Wave. I found myself worrying about it as the deadline approached - I’m not sure I’ve really done this idea justice - but I’ve been wrong about that plenty of times before, so we’ll just have to see.

So, I hope you enjoy Nudge to Nurture!
Main route: COM(promise)
One-shots: Crafty's One-Shots (Dark Winter Sky, Dreamy, Path of Least Resistance, Project Blue Curtain, and more!)
Old poetry: Google Drive Collection

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Nudge to Nurture (1&2/4)

Post by Craftyatom » Sun Feb 02, 2020 11:53 pm

Nudge to Nurture

Forward Scouted
Exhausted, Hisao stopped for a moment to catch his breath. He didn’t like this newfound feeling of weakness - it was an overt reminder of his heart condition.

Of course, his heart wasn’t the sole culprit. Having spent the vast majority of the last four months reading books in a hospital bed as various doctors figured out how to keep him alive, he was rather out of shape. He hadn’t noticed it then, but he sure as hell noticed it now that he was going back to school - a new school.

He hadn’t been fit to return to his old one - as evidenced by this weakness, perhaps - and so he had ended up at Yamaku. A high school for the disabled. Until quite recently, he hadn’t thought of himself as disabled, but his doctors and parents had started using the term liberally. Just another thing that had changed so slowly in that hospital bed that he hadn’t noticed, and was now forced to come to terms with all at once.

In that, however, he had failed. His attempts to fit in had been disastrous. His heart condition? It seemed to be lingering over him, disrupting every part of his life. His new school? It felt like an alien planet. The two girls who had tried to show him around? They were only interested in having him join their club. The two girls he had met in the library? They had been scared off by his attempts to befriend them. His hallmate? Well, the less said about his hallmate, the better.

And yet, this was where he had to be. As he looked back up, the gates of Yamaku stood before him, their wrought iron construction seeming every bit as unwelcoming as it had been the first time he saw them. Back then, however, he had considered them a point of no return; now, he knew that such a thought was foolish. The point of no return was long gone, lost somewhere in a layer of snow that had melted months ago. Now, this was the only place he could really belong, even if he’d never fit in.

Strangely, however, the imposing gate was closed today, and manned by what Hisao assumed was a member of the security staff, standing at attention. Hoping that this he wouldn’t be held up here for too long, Hisao approached the guard. “Excuse me, sir, can I come through?”

The man’s posture remained stiff, and the rugged gold-colored helmet he wore prevented Hisao from seeing his expression. Luckily, he quickly replied: “Who are you?”

“I’m a student here.” Hisao reached up to tug on the collar of his uniform for emphasis, but couldn’t seem to find it - looking down, he realized that he was only wearing a t-shirt and a pair of boxers. “I-I guess I don’t have my uniform with me, but I promise, I’m a student at Yamaku.”

“That is your rank. Who are you?”

Hisao was confused for a moment, not quite sure what the man was asking about. “I, uh... I’m Hisao Nakai. I just transferred here... recently.” He tried to remember exactly how many days he had been here, but couldn’t, oddly enough.

“That is your name. Who are you?”

Even more confusing. “I... What do you mean?”

“Who are you?”

“I don’t- I’m Hisao Nakai, I go to school here, what more do you want to know?”

“Who are you?”

Frustrated, Hisao groaned. “I’m a disabled kid with a heart condition, okay? I have to take a bunch of medication, or else I’ll die of a heart attack. Is that what you wanted to know?”

“No.”

Hisao knew what was coming next, and pursed his lips. “Please, don’t-”

“Who are you?”

Exhausted, confused, and angry, Hisao snapped. “NOTHING! I’M NOTHING!” The guard, surprised, adopted a slightly more defensive stance. ”My heart ruined my friendships, it ruined my hobbies, it ruined my schoolwork - it ruined my LIFE! Now I’m WORTHLESS!”

Breathing heavily through gritted teeth, Hisao waited for the guard to respond. Instead, to his surprise, someone behind him spoke.

“Are you certain?”

Hisao woke with a start, covered in sweat, his heart racing, surrounded by darkness. It took him a few seconds to adjust to his surroundings: he was in his room. His room at Yamaku. This was only his second night here, but it already felt like... home? Not the kind of home people yearned for, with family and memories - just the place he happened to live. Where he belonged, whether or not he fit in.

He rolled over to look at his alarm clock. 3:17. Plenty more hours to sleep through - that is, assuming he could get some decent sleep. His new medications came with a long list of side effects, and strange dreams were probably somewhere on that list.

Strange dreams... Something about his dream felt especially strange. Perhaps the way it had ended, with that voice - he couldn’t remember hearing one like it before. It felt important, like he should’ve known who it belonged to. What was it about that voice that had been so different?

As he rolled back over and closed his eyes, he realized that he couldn’t quite remember what it had said - and yet, somehow, he knew what it had meant.



Determined-ism
From the darkness, a flower of color burst, illuminating the world around it before fading, leaving behind an array of glimmering fingers, remnants of the earlier explosion. Soon enough, they, too, faded away, leaving the pitch-black sky empty again.

It was only a temporary cessation. Hisao knew what would follow: sure enough, moments later, more fireworks erupted into a brilliant display, each ball of light followed in short order by a loud bang, which had raced through the air and across the landscape to reach his ears.

Transfixed, Hisao wondered if there was some deeper meaning in these fireworks for him. He had a view that few others did: while most watched from up on the hill, scattered across the grounds of Yamaku, he was sitting by the window of the Shanghai, and thus seeing the show from the other side, almost mirrored. It was special to him.

While the first few fireworks had simply been spherical, some of them were now shapes: a heart, a flower, an... arrow? To those up on the hill, he thought, it was pointing to the right. For him, however, it pointed left. Unsure whether he was humoring himself or the cosmos, he looked to his left, and saw-

Hanako. She, too, was watching the fireworks, their shifting rainbow of colors being cast onto her face. Hisao was on her scarred side, the one that she tried so desperately to keep hidden; in order to try and see the fireworks better, though, she was holding her bangs back, leaving her right eye - and the scars on her right side - out in the open.

The corners of her lips were turned upwards, and her eyes tracked each new point of light. She was entranced - and so was Hisao. Her expression of joy, her carefree pose, and even the contours of her face made him feel like he was floating, as if time itself had stopped. All the better if it had: he was willing to stay there, staring, forever.

“Beautiful, don’t you think?”

Hisao swung his head around to see where that voice - the same one from before, from his dream - was coming from, but his eyes began to burn, and he instinctively shut them. He gasped in surprise, but the air itself seemed to scratch at his throat, and he burst into a coughing fit.

When he finally managed to catch his breath, and slowly opened his eyes, he saw only a dark, dense fog. Insatiably curious about the voice, and certain of the direction it had come from, he began to walk forwards slowly, carefully feeling the rough ground with his feet, so as not to trip on obstacles hidden in the mist.

He felt like he was making progress, but even after many delicate steps, he was no closer to finding who had spoken. Their voice had been so close, practically right behind him, but they were nowhere to be found. Worse, the further he went, the more unbearable the air became - it seemed to grate against his skin, and flood through his lungs.

A new noise caught his attention: in the distance, something loud and artificial, blaring in an attempt to make itself known, despite the suffocating fog. Was it someone come to rescue him? Or was it a warning, telling him to stay away? Worse, it was coming from behind him, so investigating it would mean giving up on chasing the voice.

He groaned, and tried to think about what to do, though his head felt cloudy. He turned back towards the noise, is if it would clarify things; of course, he still couldn’t see anything, in any direction.

“You’re getting close. Keep going.”

The voice was coming from the same direction as before. He looked around, certain that whoever had spoken had been right next to him, but again saw nothing but swirling grey and black. He squinted, trying to see through the clouds, but it just made his eyes hurt more. He blinked furiously, trying to regain his vision, and-

woke up in his room, with sunlight streaming through the window. His alarm clock was going off - he groggily swung one arm over to silence it. As he sat up, and his brain started to adjust to wakefulness, he remembered his dream: the voice, fireworks, and Hanako.

His heart sank. Had that wonderful memory only been a dream? No, please no - he scrambled across his bed to the window, and looked outside. A number of wooden stalls still stood, but were clearly in some manner of disrepair - the festival was definitely over.

As his burst of adrenaline tailed off, and he came to his senses, he remembered properly. He had watched the fireworks with Hanako, and Lilly and Yuuko, in the Shanghai. They had gone home afterwards, and he had fallen asleep, his legs tired but his heart warm. No wonder he had dreamed about... her. Was that weird?

Well, probably not as weird as the voice. But, he thought as he stood up and went to shower, it probably wasn’t worth worrying about. His medications messed with his dreams; certainly not the worst side effects they could’ve had. If it meant more dreams about Hanako, he wasn’t about to complain.

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Nudge to Nurture (3/4)

Post by Craftyatom » Sun Feb 02, 2020 11:54 pm

Necessities
Hisao couldn’t focus on class.

He would stare absentmindedly at the paper on his desk for what felt like a long time. Then, unable to tolerate it anymore, he would glance backwards at Hanako’s desk - and each time, it would be empty, of course. He would look at the clock on the wall, and realize that only a minute or two had passed since the last time he checked. And finally, he would go back to staring at the paper on his desk.

Her absence worried him. Worse, it made him worry about other things, as well. He had gone to her room to deliver some schoolwork two days ago, and she had seemed... distant. Like she was just a shell of a person, barely speaking at all. Even before that, on the day Lilly had left, Hanako had already seemed somewhat reluctant. She hadn’t really wanted to do anything - in the end, they had simply gone back to their respective rooms, under the guise of homework and fatigue.

Had that been the truth, or had she simply not wanted to see him? Was this simply her way of trying to slowly push him away? Should he have objected? Been more persistent? Been less persistent? Had he messed up? What was he even supposed to do if he had?

Worse, yesterday, he had called Lilly for advice, and her words had been less than comforting. She had essentially told him to keep his distance, despite the fact that she knew Hanako was in pain. Why wasn’t he supposed to try and help? Did she know something he didn’t? Was she also secretly trying to push him away? Were they conspiring against him - or even against each other?

Just as his head felt like it would split open, a loud, grating noise split the relative silence of the classroom. Worse, Hisao recognized the noise: it was his cellphone’s ringtone. He quickly fumbled with it, and managed to silence it - but not before every head in the room turned to look at him.

Embarrassed, he angrily wondered who would be calling him at this time of day; when he checked the number, however, his heart sank. It was the same number he had called last night: that of the house where Lilly was staying.

Knowing just how important such a call might be, he stood up and walked out of the room. The teacher glared at him, and the other students giggled, but he didn’t care. He went into the hallway, waited for the door to swing closed, and called Lilly back.

“Hello?”

“Lilly, is that you?”

“Oh, Hisao, thank goodness. Is this a good time?”

Not so much, but he wasn’t about to stop her. “Yeah, yeah, now is fine. What’s up?”

“Well, yesterday, when we spoke...” She seemed somewhat reluctant, which only worried Hisao further. “There’s something that I forgot to tell you about Hanako.”

Hanako - just who he was afraid this would be about. “There is?”

“Yes, and it might be important. You see...” The long pause told Hisao that he wouldn’t like what came next. “She doesn’t need you, Hisao.”

Time seemed to stop for Hisao. “W-What?”

“She doesn’t need you.”

“N-No, no, she-”

“She doesn’t need you.”

All of Hisao’s fears seemed to come true at once. All of those moments that Hanako had avoided or ignored him - they all made sense. Even Lilly knew.

“She doesn’t need you.”

Hisao’s hands began to shake, so much that he dropped his phone, and it shattered into a million pieces as it hit the floor. Still, Lilly’s voice remained, as if emanating from the very air around him.

“She doesn’t need you.”

He dropped to his knees, then fell over onto his side, nearly lifeless.

“She doesn’t need you.”

His pulse was going wild, and he clutched at his chest in pain, only to find his hand covered in blood. Looking down, he saw that a gaping wound on his left side was pouring blood out onto the hallway floor.

“She doesn’t need you.”

He waited for Lilly to repeat herself, again and again, knowing just how right she was.

But her voice didn’t return this time. In fact, everything seemed quiet now: the classrooms, the world outside, and even his own pulse.

And then, finally, a new voice - one that he had never heard, but still recognized from his dreams - broke the silence.

“You need each other.”

This jolted Hisao awake, adrenaline still coursing through his veins. His sheets were practically soaked in sweat, and he was breathing heavily. Looking over at his alarm clock, he saw that it wouldn’t go off for another 15 minutes.

That almost certainly wasn’t enough time to calm himself down and get back to sleep - besides, his head was already buzzing with thoughts of Hanako, so getting back to sleep would likely have been an impossible task anyways. After sitting upright in bed for a minute, he swung his legs over the edge, got up, and started his day.

First, all of his pills, one after the other: a reminder of how weak he could be sometimes.

Next, a quick shower. The warm water helped wake him up, and washed away the panicked sweat that had built up on his body. Today was a new day.

Finally, back to his room, to get dressed. Yamaku’s uniform felt natural now; this was his home.

He was running early - more than half an hour. Still, he decided to walk to class, as sitting around in his room didn’t sound very appealing. He left, locking his door on the way out, and headed for the classroom.

Shortly after getting outside, however, he stopped. To his left was the main school building. But down the path to his right were the girls’ dorms. And with so much time before class - and so many thoughts racing around his head - maybe now was the time to finally talk to Hanako.

It didn’t take long for him to convince himself, and he turned right, down what he hoped was the right path.

When he finally arrived at Hanako’s door, he knocked cautiously, nervously, not even sure if she’d be awake. Luckily, he heard footsteps approaching the door from the other side, and soon enough, the door was opened slightly, with Hanako’s face peeking around it.

Hisao noticed that she was wearing her pink pajamas. Maybe she had only just gotten up - or maybe she wasn’t planning to leave her room all day. “Hanako, um... Can I talk to you for a bit?”

She spent a few seconds deliberating, then nodded and opened the door a bit wider, and motioned for him to come inside. Her motions seemed reluctant, and he hoped that he wasn’t intruding on her too much.

They walked over and sat down on the edge of her bed. “So, uh, how are you feeling?”

Hanako’s reply was quiet, as if she wasn’t really sure whether she wanted to say the words at all. “A little b-better.”

“Enough to go to class?” It was a stretch, but Hisao was willing to try.

“I... don’t know.”

Well, it had been worth a shot. They sat there quietly for a bit before Hisao tried starting the conversation again. “I was... really worried, yesterday.”

“Don’t.”

Hisao was surprised by Hanako’s terse reply. “Huh?”

“Don’t... worry. I’m n-not a child.”

It was as Lilly had expected, then. “I know.”

“No, you, you don’t- You don’t understand.” Hanako looked down at her feet. “You and Lilly, you don’t understand. You keep t-trying to... fix me.”

“What?” Hisao was taken aback. “No, we just-”

“You k-keep trying to protect me!”

“It’s not like-” Hisao started to choke up.

“You think I’m useless, and can’t handle anything myself!”

“Hanako, please.”

She looked up at him with fire in her eyes, ready to cut him off again - but stopped, and her eyes went wide.

Tears were streaming down Hisao’s face, and his lips quivered as he spoke. “I know you can handle it.” He swallowed. “B-But I... I can’t. I know you can manage without me, but I’m... not sure I could manage without you.” He wiped his eyes, then sniffed. “Yesterday, I was worried that you had finally given up on me completely. And if you did... What would I even do?”

Still completely taken aback by Hisao’s crying, Hanako responded cautiously. “You thought I was... ignoring you?”

Hisao nodded shakily. “I was trying to protect you all this time, Hanako. I always just wanted you to be happy. But I called Lilly yesterday, and she-” he sniffed again- “she said that she had noticed me being overprotective. That’s when I realized what I had been doing, and why you might not want to see me anymore.”

Hanako tried to think of something to say, but Hisao looked her in the eyes first, his cheeks red and his words punctuated by small sobs. “I’m sorry. I kept trying to help you, but just ended up hurting you. I was so worried about you, about us, about the thought of losing you, because I just... I, I...”

“Hisao?”

He inhaled sharply. “I love you, Hanako. And it hurts to see you hurt, and it hurts even more when I can’t see you at all. I just couldn’t take it.”

Hanako’s eyes widened in surprise once more. “Hisao, I d-didn’t realize, I... You, you really...” She blushed, and instinctively looked away, trying to hide behind her bangs. “You felt that way... about me?”

He sniffed. “Yes. For a long time now.”

She slowly looked back at him, then reached out with one hand, and brushed some tears from his face. “Hisao, I...” Lost for words, she leaned forwards, wrapping her arms around him, and he returned the favor.

They sat there for a while, holding each other, before Hanako spoke again, her lips now quivering as well. “I’m sorry, Hisao. I didn’t mean to make you worry so much. I didn’t think you- I didn’t think anyone c-could really, I mean...”

Hisao squeezed his eyes shut, which only increased the number of tears falling from his face onto Hanako’s pajamas. “I do. Please, don’t doubt that.”

“I... I won’t.”

“And when I get scared, Hanako, please... please protect me. I need it sometimes.”

Hanako let out a small giggle, though it sounded like it could turn into sobbing at any moment. “I will. I promise.”

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Nudge to Nurture (4/4)

Post by Craftyatom » Sun Feb 02, 2020 11:54 pm

Perspiration, Condensation
This new exercise routine was going much better than the first, and it wasn’t particularly hard to see why.

Those first few attempts at running felt like forever ago now - getting up at some ungodly hour, running around the track with a partner who was easily twice as fast as him, and only because it was what the head nurse had suggested. Hisao hadn’t been in the best mental state back then, but even now, it wasn’t a particularly appealing proposition.

So, for this updated attempt, he had changed some things. It wasn’t early in the morning anymore - it was the afternoon. Sure, that meant it was quite a bit hotter, especially given that the first heat wave of summer had arrived, but it still beat waking up super early. He also didn’t have a running partner this time: he was the only one on the track. Even on the days when they track team practiced in the afternoon, they generally did so later on in the evening - again, partly to avoid the heat, which was definitely taking its toll on Hisao.

But most of all, far more important than those other factors, was the motivation aspect of this routine. He wasn’t doing this for the nurse, or Emi, or even himself. He was doing it for someone far more important.

Turning onto the straightaway, Hisao looked to his left, across the field, past the other side of the track, at the bleachers, where Hanako was sitting. She had brought along a book to read, but seemed content to leave it closed and watch Hisao run for the time being. Even tens of meters away, he could see the tiny smile and blush she did whenever they made eye contact like this.

While the fact that she was watching was invigorating on its own, that wasn’t why he was doing this. He was exercising to try and improve his health, and he was trying to improve his health because that’s what Hanako needed from him. She needed him to be there for her, not stuck in a hospital bed, or worse, a coffin. That was the thing that drove him the hardest.

Of course, he certainly didn’t mind that they sort of got to spend this time ‘together’, in a sense. She had initially been reluctant to come along, since she would just be sitting there while he ran, but after some light persuasion she had given in, and now it seemed that she was enjoying it, at least a little. And Hisao loved seeing her enjoy herself, so it was a good deal all around.

Unfortunately, caught up in the moment, Hisao tripped. Perhaps there had been something on the track that he hadn’t seen, perhaps he had strayed onto the edge of the track, or perhaps his feet had absentmindedly gotten caught on one another. Regardless, he began to fall, and closed his eyes, instinctively putting his arms out in front of him, in an attempt to cushion his fall. Following that, there was nothing to do but wait.

And wait.

... the expected impact did not come.

Confused, he carefully opened one eye, to see what was going on. The horizon was stable - he wasn’t falling. In fact, he seemed to be suspended in midair, his body almost horizontal. He looked down to see where he would’ve fallen - and saw something chilling.

His body.

It wasn’t often that he got to see the back of his own head, but that was definitely it. His body was laid out on the track - and didn’t seem to be moving. Then again, as he looked around, nothing seemed to be moving. Everything was too still.

He looked over at Hanako, and saw that she, too, seemed to be frozen in place, having jumped off of the bleachers, her arm stretched out towards him and her face bearing a look of abject terror.

Before that expression really hit home, however, Hisao noticed that although everything still seemed frozen, the horizon was moving again - but in the wrong direction. Everything was moving downwards; more precisely, he realized that he was moving upwards. The body beneath him, the track, the field, Hanako, the school, they began to shrink away beneath him as he rocketed skywards.

As he rose further and further, his heart sank. He didn’t want to leave. He didn’t want to leave Hanako. And yet, he fell further and further into the sky, completely out of control, despite clawing desperately at the receding world down below.

Finally, after what seemed like quite a long way to fall, he landed with a thud. He got up to examine his surroundings, only to realize that something was very wrong. Above him was the ground he had fallen from, and below him, a platform of wispy, almost ethereal cloud, on which he was standing.

As adrenaline flooded his veins in response to this disturbing turn of events, he looked around, hoping to see a way out - instead, he saw a guard with a golden helmet, standing at attention.

His confusion became rage. “You‽” He began to advance on the guard, who raised his shield in response. “Send me back! NOW!” The guard stood firm, and said nothing. “Please, you have to send me back!I can’t leave her like this!”

“You’re worried about her.”

In a move that seemed almost too familiar, Hisao spun around, trying to find the source of that maddeningly elusive voice - and, to his utter surprise, found it.

A tall woman with purple hair, done up in a messy bun, stood a short distance from Hisao. She was wearing jeans, a thick sweater, and a calm yet interested expression.

After a second or two of shock, Hisao finally managed to cobble together a reply. “I- Yes! Of course I’m worried about her!”

The woman raised one eyebrow. “Not yourself?”

“Well... I mean...” Hisao didn’t like that question. It implied something about him - that there was something to be worried about. “Look, it doesn’t matter, just send me back!”

The woman smiled. “I figured as much. After watching you for this long, we would’ve been surprised by anything else, really.”

“What? Watching me? What do you...” Hisao shook his head. “Whatever, look, just send me back, or I’ll... I’ll make you send me back!”

This elicited a chuckle from the woman, which seemed oddly comforting. “We will, don’t worry. For now, let’s have a talk.”

Hisao didn’t want to spend any more time here than necessary, but quickly realized that he didn’t have much of a choice. As the woman made an arcing motion through the air with her hand, the clouds around them seemed to shift, harden, and iterate through a rainbow of colors, until finally they settled upon an unexpected form.

They now stood in a warmly-lit room, clean and orderly, with a small table laid out on the floor. The woman sat down at the table and picked up a mug of what looked like coffee. To Hisao’s surprise, someone else walked over and sat next to her: the guard.

He stowed his shield and polearm under the bed, then reached up and lifted the helmet from his head, revealing a handsome face with short black hair and a relaxed smile. He picked up the cup of tea in front of him and took a sip. “Oh, this is exactly what I needed.”

Hisao was no less dumbfounded than before, and couldn’t help but look around as he sat down opposite the others. “This is... This is Lilly’s room.”

“Indeed. As I said, we’ve been watching you. And our Hanako, of course - though the two of you are really more of a package deal by now!” They laughed, and Hisao managed a nervous smile before realizing what had been said, nearly glossed over by that joke.

“Wait, ‘our’ Hanako?” Something seemed to fall into place. “You mean, you’re...”

They nodded, and the woman replied, as the man was still preoccupied with his tea. “Yes, we are. But let’s not worry about that for now.”

Hisao found that he wasn’t really worried, but he was intensely curious. How was this happening? What was happening, exactly? He got the feeling that he might never know, given that his hosts didn’t seem that eager to tell him.

The man finished his tea, and put the cup down. “We learned a lot about you these past few months, Hisao. And we saw you learn a lot about yourself. Even if we were skeptical at first-”

“You mean, even if you were skeptical at first.”

The man rolled his eyes at the woman’s interjection. “Fine, even if I was skeptical, despite my wife knowing better all along,” he reached over with one arm and pulled her close as she giggled, “we’ve both seen just how important you and Hanako have become to each other. It’s... it’s more than we could’ve asked for.”

Hisao felt himself blush a little. It was strange to hear this older couple - whom he had never even really met before - compliment his relationship. He didn’t feel like he really deserved the praise, but nodded in acceptance regardless.

“Anyways.” The woman took over the conversation again, seeming a much more natural speaker than her husband. “No matter what you might need it for, you have our blessing, of course. And thank you, Hisao. Hisao. Hisao.”

That was strange.

“Hisao. Hisao. Hisao.”

The lights in the room dimmed, eventually fading to black, but the woman’s voice continued.

“Hisao. Hisao... Hisao.”

Something was definitely wrong.

“Hisao!”

Hisao groaned and opened his eyes, and immediately saw Hanako kneeling next to him, calling his name. As soon as he did, she gasped, then immediately leaned forward and hugged him, ignoring the layer of sweat on him that started soaking into her clothes.

“Hisao! I-I, I was so worried, you weren’t, you...” she trailed off, then began to sob, and Hisao instinctively put his arms around her. His arms hurt, but his heart didn’t, which was all he cared about.

“I’m sorry, Hanako. I didn’t mean to make you worry. I’m okay.”

She pulled away, tears still running down her face, and helped him sit up. “Are you... sure? You’re okay?”

“Yes, I’m fine, promise. A few scratches, but nothing serious.”

“When you fell, I thought... I thought you were... That I m-made you...” She burst out crying again, and buried her face into his chest. “What if I had? What if it was m-my fault? I c-couldn’t...”

Hisao held her close, gently running one hand through her hair in an attempt to comfort her. “It’s okay. It wasn’t your fault. And besides, I’m fine. I’m gonna be okay.”

He looked up at the sky, which was a bright blue, and completely devoid of clouds.

“We’re gonna be okay.”

END.
Main route: COM(promise)
One-shots: Crafty's One-Shots (Dark Winter Sky, Dreamy, Path of Least Resistance, Project Blue Curtain, and more!)
Old poetry: Google Drive Collection

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