Re: Unforeseen Consequences, Revised Edition
Posted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 4:21 pm
“You could not remove a single grain of sand from its place without thereby … changing something throughout all parts of the immeasurable whole” – Johann Gottlieb Fichte, in The Vocation of Man
The train was horribly crowded. It hadn’t been so earlier, but as the train travelled northward more people began filling in the seats. It quickly began to feel like the only remaining seat was the one next to Hanako.
Naomi and Natsume were sitting across the table from her, chatting about their plans for the newspaper club. She tuned out their conversation; she was an editor, they were a writer and the President, respectively. She was reading a book that Hisao had recommended to her, The Great Hunt. Well, technically Hisao had recommended The Eye of the World, but Hanako had already read it when he told her about it.
Hisao. Hanako’s heart ached at the thought of him. It was not as strong as it had been before. She was slowly getting over him, since he had been Lilly’s. Not anymore. Now, Lilly was halfway across the globe in Scotland. Lilly had chosen to join her, admittedly very rich, parents and was just someone else who had abandoned her. That wasn’t quite fair. Hanako knew how much Lilly wanted to reconcile with her parents, but she couldn’t help but feel a little bit of jealousy and resentment at the fact that Lilly had chosen them over her. There was little solace in the fact she had chosen them over her now ex-boyfriend as well. She was being too harsh on Lilly.
She was woken from her thinking by a rough voice. The accent was thick but still mostly understandable, partially because he spoke slowly.
“Hello, uh, this is the last open seat. I can be very thankful if you could let me sit here.”
Hanako turned slightly to regard the man. He was very big, if not breaking, then at least pushing one-hundred ninety centimeters and she could see some musculature underneath his loose fitting t-shirt. Another think that struck her about the man was his hair color. It was only a few hues redder than Emi’s light brown. He also had set of thick sideburns connected by a mustache. He hadn’t seemed to notice her scars, so she turned away from him before answering. He was also not the most proficient speaker of Japanese, it seemed.
“S-sure,” she said, silently glad she had the foresight to sit with her scars to the window. He sat down with a sigh.
“Thank you. I have been on my feet since six. I do not think I could stand six more hours on my feet.”
Hanako nodded at his comment. Lunch had been a couple hours ago, so he must have been standing for at least eight or nine hours. Hanako saw him take a book out from his bag, so she returned to her book as well, glad that his disturbance was now over.
Angus McCrae was having a hard time focusing on his book. It was a good book, if a bit depressing, considering how close they had been to escaping before the artillery shell hit them, but the girl sitting next to him kept drawing his attention. Mostly it was the book she was reading. He had never met anyone else, other than Da, who had read it. The fact that some random girl on a train was reading it struck him as a cruel irony. Or maybe it was God telling him he should talk to her. There were also the scars, which he had caught a glimpse of in the reflection on the window. They were a curiosity, but only that. They weren’t something that would really draw him to her, but neither were they something he found repulsive.
Of course, there was the problem of how to talk to her. She didn’t strike him as particularly talkative. Then again, that might just be him. He had seen people who were as silent as something that was really quiet around him turn into veritable broadcast station when they thought he wasn’t there. At least, that’s what he figured they thought, since they always shut up as soon as they noticed him.
Before he could say anything, one of the girls sitting across from him spoke. It was the brown haired one.
“I suppose, since we’re going to be sitting together for six hours, we should at least introduce ourselves. My name is Ooe Natsume.”
“And I’m Inoue Naomi, but its fine if you call me Naomi,” the one with bleached hair said.
“Uh, sure,” Angus said. Their introductions caught him a little off guard, and he had to remind himself that family names came first in Japanese. “I am called Angus McCrae.”
“I-Ikezawa Hanako,” said the girl next to him. Angus turned to look at her as she spoke. Doing so, he caught a glimpse of scars on the back of her right hand.
‘They go that far down? How much of her is burned?’ His surprise must have shown, since she moved to cover her hand. That was awkward. He had to do something to salvage the situation. Then he realized this was exactly the opportunity he was looking for.
“That book,” he started, “that would not be Wheel of Time, would it?”
The girl seemed startled by his words. She probably was expecting him to say something about the scars.
“I-It is, actually. The Great Hunt, to be specific. W-why do you ask?”
“It is just that I have not met anyone else who has read it. Do you like it?”
“Y-yes. It’s been a v-very interesting read.”
Angus could not believe what he was hearing. This girl was not only reading his favorite series, but she was enjoying it too. Predictable, considering she was on the third book.
“I agree. It is actually one of my favorite series.”
The girl seemed to be considering his words. “I-it’s good, but I wouldn’t say it’s a favorite for me. N-Not yet, at least.”
“That is understandable. It gets better the further in you read.”
Hanako seemed like she wanted to say something else, but instead returned to her book. When Angus turned to face Natsume and Naomi they had already occupied themselves with each other. Not wanting to expend the effort to eavesdrop on them, Angus returned to his book as well. It was not long before one of the girls addressed him again. Since she was the only one looking at him, he assumed it was Hanako who had spoken.
“I am sorry, I did not catch what you said.”
“I-I asked what other b-books you’ve read.”
“Oh. Well, there is quite a few, actually. There is the Orion series, by Ben Bova. The book I have here, The Founding is from Dan Abnett’s Gaunt’s Ghosts series. There are a few more that I have read, mostly from American and British authors. What have you read?”
“I-I’ve read a lot, too. From b-both Japanese and foreign authors. Recently though, I’ve r-read Dune and Dance, Dance, Dance.”
“Dune was a good one. I have not heard of the other one though.”
“I-It’s a Japanese book. Y-you might like it,” Hanako said, probably unsure of his taste in literature.
“I’ll check it out then, if I can find a good translation. Or perhaps I should learn to read something other than romanji.”
Unfortunately, their conversation was interrupted by a loud comment from one of the other girls.
“I’m getting hungry. Want to go hit up the concession car?”
“Yes. I think that would be a good idea. What do you think, Hanako?” That one was Natsume.
“O-Okay. But someone should probably stay and make sure no one takes our seats.”
“I can do that. You know what to get me, right Naomi?”
“Of course. C’mon guys, let’s go,” Naomi said, already bounding towards the concession car.
“Is she always like this?” Angus asked as he got up. He was hungry as well, and had probably been invited to go with them.
“Pr-pretty much,” Hanako said, falling in behind him.
Hanako quietly followed the wake of McCrae and Naomi as they passed through the second car. McCrae was strange, to say the least. He seemed to side-step the entire way, but then again, he was a wide person and the aisle was thin. He also walked with his left foot at a right angle to his right, which she could clearly see since she was keeping her face down. Even now, she didn’t want to cause a disturbance by letting anyone see her scars. Anyone other than Naomi, Natsume, and McCrae, that was. Hanako knew perfectly well that he had seen her scars and if he thought she hadn’t noticed him or had fell for that trick with the book, then he was dumber than he looked. On the topic of how McCrae looked, he would not be taken for an intellectual at a casual glance. His slow, stumbling speech didn’t help that impression, although that might just be because he was, clearly, less than fluent in the language.
They passed into the third carriage. Hanako focused on McCrae’s boots as they went through the transition area. Surprisingly, she found they were rather similar to her own. ‘On second thought, maybe not. The heels on his are higher.’ They were also laced, made of leather and the tops were folded down. Even so, they were clearly men’s boots. ‘Perhaps he works with horses?’ Hanako spared a glance around her. No one seemed to notice his odd footwear.
The fourth carriage brought complaint from Naomi.
“How many cars are in this train?”
“Many,” McCrae responded, “but I think a concession car is a next one.”
McCrae was wrong. It was the sixth carriage that had the food and drinks. Hanako refrained from pointing this out. Naomi and McCrae handled that task themselves.
Natsume was looking out the window. She had set up the travel board of chess they carried with them, hoping to play Hanako again. She already knew it was very unlikely for her to play against Naomi, as “you’ll just beat me anyways,” was apparently a valid excuse to her. ‘How is she going to get better if she never plays?’ Natsume thought. At least she was trying.
Fortunately, it was not long before the three returned. Natsume took her food from Naomi and turned to Hanako.
“Would you like to play some chess?” she asked her.
Hanako nodded. “I-I’ll take black, unless you’d prefer it.”
“No thank you. I’ll need every advantage I can get against you.” They both giggled quietly at that. The truth of it was that Natsume wasn’t too bad of a player, but against Hanako, she probably only had a third of a chance of winning, at best.
“Ch-checkmate,” Hanako announced, sliding her pawn into position. Natsume sighed.
“Good game, Hanako. But if you don’t mind, I think I’m done for today. Maybe Naomi will play with you.”
Hanako looked over to Naomi to see her reaction. She hoped she would accept, even if she was such an easy opponent.
“Nuh-uh,” was all she got in response. Hanako’s shoulders slumped and she started to pack away the chess set. McCrae cleared his throat.
“Uh, if you want, I may play against you. It will be a while since I played though.”
Hanako considered his offer. She did want to keep playing, preferably against a friend, but McCrae was almost a complete stranger. Even so, he had reacted rather mildly to her scars. She was self-aware enough know what she initially interpreted as revulsion was most likely just surprise on his part. Besides, he did seem to have somewhat similar taste in books.
“O-okay,” she assented. She unpacked the chess set and took black again. She had to admit to herself that she was a little curious to see how he played.
As white, he took the first move: King’s pawn forward two. The standard opening. She countered by threatening it with her Queen’s pawn, which he answered by advancing his own White Bishop’s pawn to guard it. She advanced her White Bishop to defend the pawn.
After a moment’s consideration, he moved his White Bishop to check her King. She interposed a pawn between them. He moved a knight to guard it. She ignored it and took the bishop anyways. He did as expected and claimed the pawn.
They continued playing. Hanako performed a Queen’s-Side Castle, and Angus performed a King’s-Side Castle. Hanako made a mistake. Then another. She had been doing pretty well before, but now he had her King pinned between her own pawns and the very rook she had castled with. It was not mate yet, but McCrae had managed to turn the game around surprisingly quick. She still had a chance.
“Checkmate,” McCrae announced after realizing that by removing his Queen from Hanako’s Rook’s path he had won.
“G-good game, McCrae,” Hanako said.
“Please, call me ‘Angus.’ Being addressed as ‘McCrae,’ makes me feel like I am about to be, uh,” Angus faltered. He didn’t know the Japanese word for “reprimanded.” He settled with saying, “like I am about to be told I did something bad.”
“O-okay,” Hanako said, “then I guess you c-can call me ‘Hanako.’”
“Well then, Hanako, how about another game?”
Hanako seemed like she was about to accept, but something stopped her. She looked around the carriage, then checked her wrist watch. A disappointed frown crossed her face.
“I-I’m sorry, but our stop is c-coming up soon.”
Angus was mildly disappointed. “Understandable.” He helped pack away the chess set before taking out his book again. He had not turned the page before the stop was announced over the speaker. He packed the book away and, when the train pulled into the stop, got up to claim his luggage.
“Oh? This your stop too?” It was Naomi who asked him.
“Yes. It is yours?”
“What is coincidence.” They got off the train together and bid each other farewell at the street side, where the girls found a bus and Angus walked down the street to a small hotel.
Later that night, Hanako finally made it back to the dorms. She was a little tired from the long train ride, but mostly from the longer seeming bus ride. As tired as she was though, she was able to make out voices as she approached her room. They seemed to be coming from Lilly’s old room.
‘New neighbor already? I guess I’ll deal with her in the morning.’ Hanako was not looking forward to it. Hanako had hoped they’d leave that room empty, at least until the next wave of first-years. No such luck on her part.
Although there was no school tomorrow, she still began to unpack her bags. They contained all of her clothes, so it was impossible to put off, unless she wanted to go about naked. Even if she wasn’t scared and had been so inclined, she doubted she could get away with that. As she unpacked she listened to the voices drifting through her wall. Although she wasn’t good at speaking, she was very good at listening.
She could make out two different voices, but that was all she could tell without actively listening in. Fortunately, she could do so without slowing her work too much. She didn’t have a lot to unpack anyways.
One voice was female, the other male. That was intriguing. For a moment she considered putting her ear to the wall and listening in. From the sound of it they were talking, but about what, Hanako had no idea. Not that it was her business anyways. Putting her new neighbor out of her mind, she returned to unpacking her clothes.
It was not long before curiosity got the better of her and she found herself pressing her ear to the wall.
Listening in she heard a voice, the guy, say, “Too bad Hanako couldn’t join us tonight.”
Hanako recoiled from the wall. ‘Why would he say that? I don’t even know who it is. His voice did seem familiar though.’ Of course, the only male voice that was familiar to her other than faculty and staff was Hisao’s, but he had no reason to be in that room with Lilly gone. She returned her ear to the wall.
She had missed something, because the next line she heard was, “Late tomorrow I think. The text she sent me has her return date as the twenty-sixth.”
There was a noticeable pause before the girl spoke. Joy, gratitude, and a slight tinge of regret mixed together as she realized who it was that was speaking. “Hisao, today is the twenty-sixth.”
Hanako immediately pulled away from the wall. She didn’t know how, or why, but Lilly was there, at Yamaku still. She was immensely happy that her best friend had chosen to stay with them, but she was also a little annoyed Lilly hadn’t seen fit to tell her. Not to mention the sting that Hisao was still out of her reach.
She was out of her room and at Lilly’s door as quick as she could be. She raised her hand to knock on the door and hesitated for a moment. She pushed aside her fears, these were her two closest friends, after all, and knocked quietly.
The low buzz of their voices stopped. Before long, however, the girl spoke.
“Who is it?”
“I-it’s me,” Hanako said. The sound of her voice would be enough to identify her to Lilly, and probably Hisao as well. Her knock was probably enough to identify her.
Hanako heard the bolt slide back, ‘Why is the door locked?’ and the door opened, revealing Hisao and, further in the room at the tea table, Lilly. Hanako thought she saw a bottle of white wine and two glasses on the table.
“Hey Hanako, sorry I forgot to pick you up from train station,” Hisao said sheepishly.
“It’s alright.” Hanako stood there, waiting for Hisao to move. “M-may I come in?”
It took a moment for Hisao to realize he was in the way. “Oh, yes, yes, of course! Come in! Oh, and guess who’s back?”
“It r-ruins the surprise when sh-she’s sitting in plain view.”
Hisao grimaced. “I suppose it does.”
“I’m sorry, Hanako. We planned to greet you at the train station,” Lilly made an exaggerated frown, “but someone got the date wrong.”
They had sat down by the time she finished. Hisao looked genuinely apologetic at Lilly’s call out. The feeling was reflected in his voice when he said, “You know how time slips by while you’re in the hospital.”
Hanako did know, having spent a short time there herself when she was younger. Lilly refilled her glass and poured one for Hanako too. Hanako thanked her for the drink.
Lilly took a sip of her wine and asked, “How was your trip? I hope the train ride passed quickly.”
“It was okay. We had a table to ourselves for most of the trip, but around Tokyo another person had to sit with us because the train was full.”
Hisao seemed a little surprised. “Oh? What was he like?”
Hanako thought about the question before speaking. “He was kind odd. He was a foreigner, I think S-Scottish, and he had a stilted way of speaking, l-like he wasn’t quite fluent.”
“Scottish? Was he wearing a kilt?” It was quite obvious that Hisao’s question was a joke.
Hanako shook her head. “No, but he was dressed a little odd. He was wearing khaki pants with a light tan shirt and leather boots.”
Hisao and Lilly frowned at that. “He seems … monochromatic,” was all Hisao said.
“Y-yeah. He was nice though. He didn’t seem to mind my scars, and we seem to like the same books. W-we also played some chess. I managed to beat him four out of five times.”
“That’s very interesting. Did you happen to catch his name?”
Hanako regarded Lilly with suspicion. ‘Is this one of Lilly’s tricks to get me to be more social?’ she couldn’t help from wondering.
“Yeah… I think it was A-Angus McCrae.” An expression of shock briefly flashed on Lilly’s face, but she recovered quickly. Hanako wasn’t sure Hisao had even noticed it. ‘Did she know him? What is Lilly hiding?’
Lilly let out a yawn.
“Tired? I guess it is getting late. Should Hanako and I go now?”
Lilly nodded sleepily. “Alright. Goodnight Hanako. Goodnight Hisao.”
Hanako looked down and realized she hadn’t had any of the wine. She quickly drained her glass before biding Lilly and Hisao goodnight. She was quite tired herself and welcomed her bed.
This time I'll be posting the story in smaller portions, so I can get feedback before committing fully to this specific timeline. I'm also going to slow down the pace a lot, while still sticking to the same general plan I had originally for the sequels.
Re: Unforeseen Consequences, Katawa Shoujo Forums Edition
Posted: Thu Jul 05, 2018 5:16 pm
It had been very early in the morning when Lilly called him, telling him they needed to talk. Angus found that odd, considering that Lilly hadn’t once gotten up before 10:30 during her stay in Scotland. He had figured she’d be the same here, at least until school started. She had said only that they needed to talk and to meet her at some bar in town, a favorite of Akira’s, if he remembered correctly.
Angus pushed open the door to the bar. It was deserted this early in the morning, so he was able to find the Satou girls quickly. Even had it been crowded, Angus doubted he could have missed the bright blonde hair each had. Lilly was seated at the far end of the bar, but Akira and another man were sitting at a table by the door. Akira waved a small greeting to him which he returned.
“Lilith?” he called out quietly, to let her know she was there.
She turned her head to face him and a small frown was visible on her face.
“Hello Angus,” she said pleasantly, “would you please take a seat?” Angus was a little worried. She had spoken in English, rather than Japanese. She had no reason to speak in English unless she wanted to keep this conversation private. Not that she’d need to, since the only people here besides them were Akira and her friend and the bartender. Angus supposed she might be speaking in English for his convenience.
Angus did as asked and ordered only a water to drink.
“How’d you know I was here?” he asked.
“You sat next to a friend of mine on the train.”
“I did? Which one was it?”
“It was Hanako,” she waved him off, “but that’s not why I called you here. I must ask, why did you come to Japan?”
Angus didn’t think much of her question. She was probably just curious. Even so, he had to think about her question to answer it.
“Well, you said you’d come back to Scotland. I figured you got cold feet, seeing as how you’d be leaving all your friends behind, so I thought I might come down here and spend maybe a week to get you to come. And if I couldn’t do that, then at least I’d get to see you and we might spend time together. It wouldn’t be much of a relationship if we only interacted with each other during the holidays.”
“Angus, we’re not in a relationship.”
Angus was caught off guard by her statement. He blinked to try to clear his mind of the confusion.
“What do you mean ‘we’re not in a relationship?’ The entire reason you were called back was so we could spend more time together before deciding to accept our parents’ arrangement. You know neither of our parents will be pleased by a ‘no.’”
“I mean exactly what I said. We’re not in a relationship, we’re not dating, and we’re not even friends. We’re just acquaintances,” despite the heat in her voice, Lilly maintained a low volume. A hint of pity crept into her voice as she said, “if it makes you feel any better, I did enjoy the time I spent with you. I could see myself coming to care for and love you, it’s just…” her voice faltered.
Lilly let out a long breath. This was very clearly uncomfortable for her. “There’s someone else. I have a boyfriend, and I already love him very much.”
Angus’s shoulders slumped. ‘Of course she has a boyfriend. I should have seen this coming.’ Another thought struck Angus. ‘Why didn’t she mention this when she first came to Scotland? Either she wasn’t she wasn’t involved with him back then, which means she picked him up in the meantime despite knowing we were supposed to be sounding each other out for an arranged marriage, or she was involved with him back then, but didn’t mention him when this topic came up, for some reason. Neither option makes her look good.’
“Why did you not see fit to mention him back in Scotland?”
“I didn’t want to upset my parents. I was hoping the situation would resolve itself.”
Angus sighed. “Lilith, you should know that nothing happens without a cause.”
“I know, but I was hoping I wouldn’t have to be that cause.”
“Sorry I wasn’t able to spare you from that.” Angus’s voice came out harsher than he intended. He couldn’t help but feel that her actions were irresponsible and selfish. After all, it was her actions that brought him across the globe. ‘No, I must be honest with myself. That was just a gross overreaction on my part.’
“No need to be sorry, it’s not your responsibility to protect me,” a questionable statement, but Angus let her continue, “still, I hope we can at least become friends, at least when I visit my parents and Akira.”
There it was, the dreaded, “but we can still be friends, right?” statement that had frequently been the answer to him, if worded a little differently.
Unable to keep agitation from his voice as he answered, he said, “sure.”
Lilly frowned. “You don’t sound pleased about that.”
“Of course I’m not pleased. All but one of the girls I’ve ever asked out has rejected me with that line. I’ll never get a girlfriend at this rate,” he lamented.
“I’m sure it’s not that bad. You’ll find someone eventually-”
“How? No amount of muscle can make up for lack of social skill.”
“You’re not that bad.”
“With people I’m comfortable around. It’s the introductions that kill me, but I can’t get comfortable around people without the introduction.” Angus let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. “But this doesn’t really concern you, does it? My romantic life is my burden to carry. I shouldn’t be bothering you with it.” Angus stood up before Lilly could say anything else and pulled out his wallet. “Her drinks are on me,” he said, pulling out his credit card. Before turning to the door he said to Lilly, “bye, for now.”
Before he could leave Akira pulled him up short.
Quietly, she said in Japanese, “She explained the situation to you.” It was not a question.
“Yes,” was all he managed.
Akira grimaced. “Sorry you had to find out like that. I’d have said something myself, but I didn’t find out until after we had returned here. At that point I thought it’d be best for her to break the news.”
“That is understandable.”
“But that doesn’t make it any easier, does it?”
Angus shook his head. “No, not really.”
Akira only nodded. “How long will you be here?”
“I’ve got a week before I return to Tokyo for the flight home.”
The rictus of pain on Akira’s face was very much exaggerated. “Well, if you’re looking for something to do, you could visit Hans’s Karaoke. He’s got a surprising amount of non-Japanese songs to select from.”
“Thanks, Akira, but isn’t karaoke something people usually do in a group?”
“Good point. I’d recommend a bookstore, but I’m not a nerd.”
Angus sighed. “No, you are not. Until next time?”
“Until next time.”
At that Akira returned to her friend and Angus left the bar.
Hanako and Natsume were browsing the isles of a small book store, Hanako looking in the sci-fi section and Natsume looking in the historical fiction section. Naomi was there too, but she wasn’t too interested in anything on the shelves and took every opportunity to loudly, at least for a bookstore, complain. The baleful gazes shot at her by the owner and her two friends every time she did so only quieted her for a moment. Hanako had picked up a number of books to add to her collection, including that Orion book the guy from the train had recommended when the doorbell chimed, signaling a new customer. From where Hanako was the entrance was hidden, so she didn’t bother breaking from her search. Given the lack of reaction from Naomi, who was hanging out near the entrance so she wouldn’t miss it when Hanako and Natsume were done, she figured it wasn’t anyone they knew.
Soon Natsume had collected the books she wanted and Hanako cut her shopping short out of courtesy. They went to go pay. Hanako made sure to keep her scars hidden as she gave the owner the money for her books. Once Natsume had paid for hers, Naomi practically ran out of the shop.
“Come on, come on, come on!” Hanako thought Naomi sounded like an overeager child when she spoke like that. “Let’s go to the karaoke place!”
“We’re going Naomi. Calm down, there’s no need to rush.”
Although Hanako displayed no outward sign of it, she found the interplay between Naomi and Natsume to be rather entertaining to watch. Like a mother with a hyperactive child, except they were both the same age. It was something of a wonder that they had managed to come together, but Hanako supposed it seemed natural that they had stuck together after meeting.
‘Or maybe it’s not that much of a wonder. Lilly and I are hardly the same,’
As they approached Hans’s Karaoke, they passed a game shop. Hanako had never been there, but as they passed by something caught her attention. Something pink.
She quickly turned her head to confirm what she saw. Her eyes had not lied, there was Misha, standing in plain view in the shop’s window. Shizune was standing beside her, and they were looking towards the door. Misha was waving someone goodbye, and as Hanako turned to continue down to Hans’s her eyes passed over the door just as it was closing. She stopped in her tracks when she saw who it was, prompting Naomi and Natsume to turn back to see what was wrong. They were both surprised at what they saw.
After the encounter with Lilly and Akira at the bar, Angus decided to walk around town. He might have taken Akira’s suggestion to go find a bookstore, except he doubted he could find a place that sold books he could read. Walking down the street, he nearly ran into someone he knew.
Although it had been but the barest glimpse of his face, he was certain he had seen Elijah Cw, one of the most annoying people he knew. Whatever he was doing here in Japan, Angus didn’t know, nor did he want to find out, or even interact with him, so he ducked into the nearest shop. Fortunately, it was a game shop, so he took the opportunity to look around until he was sure the threat had passed.
He selected an aisle that looked promising, though he doubted he’d be able to use anything he found there. The particular aisle he chose was for card games. While he didn’t play Pokémon or Magic, he thought he might find something interesting.
He was squatting, looking at the bottom shelf about half way down when an unfamiliar voice called out to him.
Angus turned around to see a girl with bright pink hair curled into drills standing over him with her hands on her hips.
“I am sorry, but, who?”
“Wahaha~!” she laughed. It was an uncomfortably loud laugh, “I’m Misha~! And surely~ you must remember Shicchan~!”
‘Shicchan? I don’t know a “Shicchan”’ Angus thought after briefly thinking about a Misha he knew back home. That was when he noticed the second girl. He stood up immediately and bobbed his head slightly.
“I am sorry, Hakamichi, I did not see you there.”
“No need to be so formal~! This has nothing to do with my father’s business~!” Misha said for Shizune.
“Oh. That is good, I suppose. I am not here on family business matters either. It has been a long time since we have seen each other, hast not?”
“Yes~! Not since your company negotiated that contract with ours~! Contract~? What contract~?” Angus could only assume the last part was Misha. She was ignored as Shizune continued. “So, what are you here for~?”
Angus grimaced. “I had some personal business to attend to, but it has been dealt with.”
Shizune seemed to be considering pushing further, but seemingly decided to let the matter drop.
“I didn’t know you liked children’s card games.”
“I usually don’t. I only have a deck for Paradox-Billiards-Russian-Roullet-Fourth-Dimension-Hypercube-Chess-Strip-Poker.”
Misha seemed to struggle on the translation for that. Instead of trying to sign it she just grabbed a packet from the shelf to show Shizune.
Shizune shook with silent laughter.
“Wahaha~! You actually~ play that game~?” Angus wasn’t sure how much of the translation was Shizune and how much was Misha.
“Do not mock it. No more intricate clash of the minds has ever been developed. This game is so complicated only the peak of humanity can ever hope to understand it.”
“The only thing complicated~ about that game is its ban list~!” Although Shizune’s words were spoken by Misha in an inappropriately cheery tone, Angus had no doubt they were signed with scorn.
“Well then, what type of games do you play?” As soon as Misha translated those words to Shizune, which was right after he finished speaking them, Angus regretted them. A certain gleam came into her eyes, one that was dangerous on men. On women it was downright deadly. Shizune had taken his question as a challenge.
“Come along~!” Misha translated and promptly followed Shizune out and into another aisle. This one was full of board games. The titles were in English, but Angus doubted anymore of them would be. Except maybe a section of the instructions. They likely had those in Japanese, Mandarin, English, and French. Shizune strode confidently down the aisle and bulled out a box.
“Risk is a fun~ game~!” Shizune retorted through Misha.
“There’s no depth to it! It’s just hurling bodies of men at each other! Axis & Allies is a much better world conquest game.”
“Is that so~?” Shizune’s meaning was partially lost in Misha’s translation. “Do you really~ believe that, or are you covering for something~?”
“Of course I actually believe that. What would I have to cover?”
“Would you be willing to accept a challenge to prove your words~?”
“Sure. I have nothing else to do.”
“Good~! Shicchan hasn’t had a chance to play since the new guy transferred in~!”
This surprised Angus. He knew Risk wasn’t really designed with blind people in mind, but he figured Lilly ought to be able to play it.
“What about with Lilly?” Misha frowned at his words. Shizune was displeased too, once she read Misha’s translation. Shizune had a colder frown than Misha’s, which seemed to be one of sadness rather than whatever Shizune’s was.
“Satou and I don’t get along anymore~” Angus reflected that it was a little jarring having Misha, who he’d never met before, speak as though she were Shizune. Then Misha’s words hit him. He was surprised. He was never very close to either of them, but he knew that Lilly and Shizune were very close. At least, that’s what he had picked up from Mr. Satou. Angus decided he should not dig for more information. It was not his place.
“Anyways, what would this challenge be?”
“One game of Risk~! Followed by one game of Axis & Allies~! Whoever wins the most has the better game~!”
“That does not make any since. It should be by which one is more fun, and besides, that is two games. What happens if we win one each?”
“Wahaha~! Then we have a tiebreaker~! Can I decide the tie breaker game?”
Angus was about to deny Shizune’s request when he realized it was actually Misha’s, and that it was not directed to him.
Not having copy of Axis & Allies readily available, Angus had to buy a set. It was the 20th Anniversary Edition. Once he had made his purchase he waved goodbye to Shizune and Misha and left it in their care. Scanning the street, both to ensure that Elijah was not present and to determine his next destination, he made eye contact with the cute girl from the train yesterday.
‘Cute? When did I start thinking of her as “cute?”’
“Oh hey it’s that English guy from the train yesterday,” Naomi said upon noticing Angus.
“I am Scottish, not English,” he said, very plainly annoyed.
“I meant as a name, not nationality.”
“That can be ‘Angus,’” Angus pointed out while resting his face in his open left hand.
“Angus, English, same thing,” Naomi declared.
“They are not the same thing at all,” Natsume rebuked her.
“You’re too uptight,” Naomi responded.
“So you always say,” Natsume muttered.
Hanako broke in to stop them from continuing their banter, as she had learned they tended to do, “Sh-shouldn’t we be going to H-Hans’s now?”
Natsume nodded. “Hanako is right. It was nice meeting you again, Angus, but we must be going now. Bye.”
“It is nice meeting you three again as well. Goodbye.”
Hanako started walking again, but Naomi loudly order them to wait.
“Hold up! What were you doing with Hakamichi?”
So Hanako hadn't been the only one who noticed.
Angus shrugged. “Nothing, really. I only ran into her, and she challenged me to a few games. Not now though, we may probably do it sometime later this week.”
Naomi groaned. “Hakamichi isn’t like that! If she’s challenged you she means to make good on it now! Come with us and we can help you escape!”
‘Naomi no!’ Hanako immediately thought. She really didn’t want to do karaoke in front of this complete stranger.
“I not think Shizune is that bad,” Hanako was a little surprised that he was on given-name basis with Shizune. She saw Angus’s eyes go wide as he saw something in the distance, not Shizune’s predatory face, as she was still in the store beside them. “On second thought, that sounds like the good idea. Hans’s Karaoke, was it? We would go there now.”
“You’re familiar with the place?” It was Natsume and she seemed rather surprised by it. For that matter, Hanako was as well, and Naomi too.
“No, but Akira,” he cringed slightly when he said the name, “recommend the place to me.”
‘Akira, as in, Lilly’s sister Akira?’ He did seem to know Shizune, so it was entirely plausible that he knew Akira too.
“Alright then, let’s go!” Naomi emphatically declared. As they took off to the place, which was not even a block away, Angus looked back, as if fearful of something hunting him. Hanako looked behind towards where he was looking but didn’t see anything other than the crowd.
As they entered Hans’ Karaoke, Angus looked out the window, trying to peer through the crowd to see if Elijah had seen which business he’d gone into. Long before he was satisfied, he turned away from the window. He didn’t want to seem suspicious.
“Hello!” a high pitched voice called out in English. The speaker was a moderately tall man with bright blonde hair. His voice was thick with what Angus placed as a German accent. He repeated the greeting to the girls, this time in Japanese.
“Four for an hour, please,” Natsume said, taking a wallet from her purse. The man, who Angus presumed was Hans, accepted the proffered cash and directed them to a room.
Once there, Angus could not help but feel awkward. He was in a private room with three girls, on an island across the globe from his home. He couldn’t help but think how many boys would consider the situation he was in lucky, even if he had no idea how to handle it.
‘God I wish Cap or Yuri were here. They always knew how to talk to women,’ Angus thought before he even spoke a word.
“You go first Angus,” Naomi forcefully declared. Her voice shocked out of his lamentation of the lack of socially competent friends nearby.
“Me? Why me?”
“Because you’re our guest. The guest goes first, its common courtesy.”
Angus wanted to dispute that, but he wasn’t sure he should. Looking at Hanako and Natsume, he saw that neither of them were going to dispute it, and he was imposing on them, so he acquiesced to the girl’s demand.
“Alright,” Angus said before going up to the machine. ‘Wow, Akira wasn’t kidding,’ Angus thought as he scrolled through the song list. Finding one he believed he could perform reasonably well, he selected it and started to sing.
Angus was finished singing. His voice was actually rather pleasing to listen to, Hanako admitted to herself. It was a shame she didn’t speak English better, though she did catch a few words she understood, like, “red,” “blanket,” “Utah,” and “Carol.”
The next one to go up was Natsume. Hanako wondered what song she would sing. It turned out to be some Japanese opera. Opera had never been Hanako’s strong suit, though she supposed it fit Natsume quite well. Next was Naomi. It took a moment for Hanako to identify her song, but she was able to place it as “Don’t Stop the Music.” Of course Naomi would choose a Eurobeat song.
That meant the next to go would be her. She could feel a sense of dread rising in her. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to go up and sing, it was that she didn’t want to do it in front of a stranger. Naomi’s song was coming to an end as she contemplated her choices. She could skip her turn or she could tough it out and sing anyways. By the time Naomi was finished she had still not decided. Fortunately, before she had to decide Angus spoke up.
“I am getting thirsty. Does anyone else want something to drink?”
“I’ll have a mimosa,” Naomi said hopefully.
Angus only fixed her with a flat look. “I can not buy for underaged.”
Looking dejected, Naomi said, “ I’ll just have an orange juice or something then.” Angus seemed perplexed about something. Whatever it was, he quickly put it out of his head.
“And I’d like a water, please,” Natsume said.
Angus looked at Hanako. She really wished he wouldn’t do that, but she did not cower before his gaze. “Do you want something to drink, Hanako?”
“J-just a water, too, please,” she said.
“Okay. I do not know how long it will take, so if you I will not mind if you start without me,” he said.
‘Does he sense the source of my hesitation? Does he even sense my hesitation? He might just be trying to be polite.’
“Alright,” Naomi said for the three of them. At that Angus left the room. If Hanako wanted to go without the stranger now was her chance. She couldn’t help but feel like she was being a little cowardly, but it was a feeling she had long grown used to when it came to her socializing.
She stood up and took her spot at the machine. She knew her song as soon as she saw it on the list. It was from one of her favorite bands, and the lyrics seemed written especially for her. She could not help but love it. She closed her eyes and began to sing as the song came on.
The song was over. Hanako slowly opened her eyes to see Angus. Panic immediately set over her. ‘How long has he been here? How did I not hear him come in? He probably thinks it was terrible, that’s why he’s not reacting. This was a horrible mistake, I should have paid more attention to the door,’ her rambling thoughts were interrupted by Angus.
“I … will not think of any words that describe how … beautiful … that was,” he trailed off, “I am unsure if that the right word. I greatly enjoyed it.”
‘What,’ Hanako’s mind was reeling. She could not comprehend that Angus had actually enjoyed her performance.
Angus grabbed a glass of water from the room’s table and brought it to her. “This one is for you,” he said.
“Th-th-thanks.” Hanako was still processing Angus’s reaction.
‘He … liked it?’ The thought that a complete stranger might not just tolerate her, but actually enjoy something about her was shocking.
It was Angus’s turn again and this time he chose a song with a quicker pace. It even had an introduction that went along with it, something about, “the Ladies from Hell.” Hanako focused on the song, putting Angus’s confusing behavior out of her mind. Once again she found herself lamenting her English skills. She would have to ask Lilly to help teach her.
They each went through one more song before leaving Hans’s.
“That was rather fun,” Angus said once they were a block away.
“It sure was. But there is still plenty of daylight left. What should we do?” Natsume asked.
“Mmh, Shanghai?” Naomi suggested.
Hanako had no objections, so she nodded her assent.
“Alright then, it is decided. Would you like to come with us, Angus? The Shanghai is a small teahouse in the town near our highschool.”
“The Shanghai? Sure, that sounds nice.”
The way he said it made Hanako think he had heard of it before. Perhaps the Akira he mentioned really was Akira Satou. They found a bus stop and made their way to the town. Naomi and Natsume sat together out of habit, so Hanako had to sit with Angus. It was not ideal, but she used the opportunity to further appraise him. She did not quite know what to make of him. He was familiar with Shizune and probably Akira and Lilly as well, somehow. It was the how she couldn’t figure out, since, as far as she knew, that summer was the first time Lilly and Akira had ever been to Scotland, and Shizune had never been. His accent was too thick for him to be a regular visitor to Japan, so it was unlikely he met them here. It just didn’t make sense.
The bus let them out in the town a few streets away from the Shanghai. The streets were empty despite the relatively early hour. They reached the teahouse without encountering anyone else.
“Hello and welcome to the Shanghai!” a bleary-eyed Yuuko called as they entered. Judging from her ruffled hair, crooked glasses, and the emptiness of the Shanghai, Hanako figured she had probably been asleep. “Please sit wherever you like.”
The booth they chose to sit at was the same one they chose every time. Hanako especially liked this one due to its position within the room, hard to see from most of the tables, and with high booths to keep the outside world out. As soon as they had seated themselves Yuuko popped back up.
“I’m sorry, I forgot to take your orders-”
“That’s alright, we’ll just order now,” Naomi cut her off.
Yuuko took a deep breath and asked, “The usual for everyone?” Before anyone could answer Yuuko realized Angus was there. “Oh, I’m sorry, you’re new here, aren’t you? Should I go get a menu, or…” Yuuko trailed off, waiting for Angus’s response.
“No, I do not think that should be required. Can you serve miso soup?”
“Yes,” she said, eager to please her new customer. At her normal speed, she asked, “the usual for everyone else?” Everyone assented and she rushed off to put in their orders. The table was silent for a bare few seconds before Naomi took over the conversation again.
“So, how’re you enjoying Japan so far?”
“It has been good. This is only my second day here, so I have not seen much of it so far.”
“Cool. What’re you going to do next?”
Angus fidgeted a bit before responding. “I am unsure. I meant to deal with some personal business, but it were resolved faster than expected.”
“That’s good, isn’t it? Now you’ll be able to go out and sightseeing,” Natsume interjected.
“It would be, if I knew of any places around here.”
“That’s no problem, we can show you around,” Naomi unilaterally declared.
Hanako’s thought was echoed in the words of Angus and Natsume.
“C’mon guys! It’s a great idea! A Yamaku student helps a foreigner around town! It’ll make a great story for the paper!”
“But who will write it? All of our writers are busy at this point.” At Natsume’s words, Naomi swung her gaze to Hanako.
Hanako realized what Naomi was planning before she said a word.
“Hanako isn’t working on anything,”
“B-but I’m j-just the e-editor! Y-you c-can’t expect me to wr-write!”
“Aw, c’mon Hanako, it’ll be good for you!”
Hanako looked at the faces of the other’s in the group. Natsume appeared thoughtful and Angus had the slightly confused look of someone who didn’t quite understand what they were hearing. She would be getting no help from that quarter. She returned to looking at Naomi. Big mistake. She had pulled one of Emi’s favorite tricks and was now assaulting her with hurt puppy eyes. They were too powerful. Even her social awkwardness couldn’t stand before them.
“Al-alright,” Hanako quietly agreed.
“Yay! I knew you could do it!”
‘Only because of your damned puppy dog eyes’
As Hanako hung her head she managed to catch a look of gratefulness from Angus.
“So, what do you have planned for the rest of today, Angus?” Naomi was on like nothing had happened.
“Well, as I can said before, I have nothing planned because I know nothing around here. I do still need to arrange a date with Shizune and The Pink One for the games, however.”
Hanako was mildly amused by how Angus referred to Misha. Her amusement, however, was cut short by a shrill blast from the front of the restaurant. As if Angus’s utterance of her name had summoned her, Shizune appeared, flanked by Misha. Misha was carrying two game boxes.
“Acchan~!” Misha announced once they had located their group. “Are you ready to lose~?”
“I can not believe it will be I who will lose, Shizune.” Angus replied cooly.
“Bold words~! But~! We’ll see~!” Misha beamed. Misha set down the boxes. Hanako could tell one was the old Risk box Shizune kept in the student council room. The other box, Axis & Allies, was newer. Angus and Shizune decided to play Axis & Allies first. Yuuko arrived with their orders while the two were setting up, and took Shizune and Misha’s orders before she left.
“We have enough people to play a full game. Will we keep this between us, Shizune?”
“Wahaha~! We’ll keep it between us~! I mean, you two~!”
Hanako felt relieved at Shizune’s declaration. She had never played before and probably would be much help. Angus picked Allies, and Shizune picked Axis. Finished setting up, Angus made the first move as Soviet Union. Taking only Infantry, Angus managed to force back the troops Shizune had in West Russia and Norway/Finland. Hanako felt that was probably a good start.
Angus lost. It had been a close thing, with only a single Infantry left guarding Germany and a mass of Soviet Tanks and Infantry in Manchuria ready to invade Japan, but a series of great rolls on Shizune’s part had let her land in Western United States early in the game, and Angus’s attempt to reinforce Eastern United States with British troops had left United Kingdom open to capture by Germany.
“Wahaha~! Tremble before our might, Acchan~!”
“Alright Shizune, you win. Time for Risk?”
Angus seemed to be taking his defeat rather passively.
“Yeah~! Prepare~ to~ lose~!”
Angus removed Shizune’s last soldier from the board three cups of tea later.
“Wahaha~! Good game, Acchan~!” Misha said as Shizune stared at the board in silent disbelief.
Angus nodded. “It seems we have beaten each other at our own games. What does this mean?”
Shizune gave up staring and shrugged.
“It means we need a tie breaker~!” Misha gleefully declared. Hanako was glad the Shanghai was still deserted. If it hadn’t, she feared Misha would make her die of embarrassment. As it was, she only risked a burst eardrum.
“A tie breaker? You mean like Paradox-Billiards-Russian-Roullet-Fourth-Dimension-Hypercube-Chess-Strip-Poker?”
‘Angus knows how to play PBRRFDHCSP? He must be a genius!’ Hanako had never been able to understand that game, and as far as she was aware, neither had Lilly nor Hisao. The level of tactics and strategy that went into the game was just too high.
“No silly~! Paper Football~!” Misha clarified.
Angus let out a contemptuous snort. “That is not a real game, and it is not anything like real football. I refuse to play it.”
“Awww~” It was not the first time Hanako had heard Misha disappointed, but it was a rare enough occurrence that it still struck her as noteworthy. Of course, Misha being Misha, she was back to normal in a flash. “It’s alright, Acchan~! We’ll think of something else~!”
Naomi chose that moment to let out a large yawn.
“I think Naomi and I will be leaving now. Do you want to stay and watch, or…”
“I think I’ll go with you,” Hanako said. It was late, and she wanted to spend some time on her favorite image board before going to sleep.
“That is not a bad idea,” Angus said, “I might to catch the bus back to Sendai to get to a hotel room.”
“You’re just saying that so you don’t have to face Shicchan’s wrath~! Really, Shicchan~? That’s so~ cheesy~!”
Hanako had slid out from the booth, and was getting ready to join Naomi and Natsume when she heard Angus address her.
“Uh, Hananko? Tomorrow, would I wait for you at the Yamaku gates, or should you want to start somewhere else?”
“Oh~? What’s going on tomorrow~?” Misha asked innocently.
“Hanako has agreed to act as a tour guide of sorts for Angus during his stay in Japan. For the newspaper, you see,” Natsume informed her.
“Really? Good for you, Hacchan~!”
Hanako briefly thought about telling Misha again to not call her that, but decided against it. Letting Misha treat her like anybody else, no matter how weird it felt, was probably something Shrink would think was good for her.
“Good night you three. See you tomorrow, Hanako.”
Angus nodded and turned back to Shizune. Out of the corner of her eye she saw him hand her some bills before turning and heading towards the exit.
Walking back up to Yamaku, Hanako felt a sense of dread welling up in her. It was not only the frightening prospect of having to guide a stranger around the city and Yamaku’s town, but also that she herself had very little experience in any of these places. Before Hisao had come, the only time she ever left campus was for grocery shopping at the little mart in town and to meet Lilly at the Shanghai. She had no idea what she would do.
I'm going to be releasing this fic in smaller parts, corresponding to each day. Later fics will be released by chapter.