The Kintsugi Club and Other Stories [08/28/2019]

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Feurox
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The Kintsugi Club and Other Stories [08/28/2019]

Post by Feurox » Wed Jul 04, 2018 10:27 pm

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Index

Ekephrasis
A Rika x Hisao story.

American Spirit
Suzu takes a gamble on a date with Takeshi.

The 'Feels' Trilogy:

Requiem for a Heart Song
Rika finds love in the unlikeliest of places.

Time is Dancing
Suzu's living the dream and now it's time to wake up.

The Kintsugi Club
Fate is giving Akio a chance at love, will he take it, or will it crumble into dust? (Story tribute to Mirage_GSM, Brythain, and Craftyatom.)

Competition and Secret Santa Stuff:

A Long Way Down [Discord Competition No1]
Hisao goes searching for his girlfriend, and things get left unsaid.

Circuitboard City [Discord Competition No4]
On a train between two towns, two of the main-cast bump into each other.

The New Year - S8 Submission for WillDFly
A happy ending for some.

Christmas Spirits, City Angels, A Shanghai Carol - S9 Submission for Scroff
Yuuko finds love, at last.


-----------------------------
Some words on Ekephrasis.

This project has been a long work of mine. In all honesty, I finished it mostly because it began to haunt rather than thrill me. Incredible thanks must be given to the utterly fantastic Zerebos. Firstly for his fantastic banner, (papa bless) and secondly for his attributes as a (semi)human being. Conversations with him brought this story to life, and will continue to keep me sane. Thank you my dude, and thank you to anyone who reads this! I don't usually do music suggestions, but if you're into that then I recommend Greg Laswell's Off I Go, it accompanies this piece very well.
Last edited by Feurox on Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:57 pm, edited 28 times in total.

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Feurox
Posts: 204
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Location: England, Oxfordshire

Ekephrasis

Post by Feurox » Wed Jul 04, 2018 10:29 pm

Ekephrasis

In the ghost of a cigarette the lights of the path dim gently, before switching off completely as dawn creeps towards them and the shadows pull in to my feet like the slow tide. The last breaths of the cigarette glow, before falling to the ground. Hiroshi, one of the dormitories' security personnel whose name I’ve come to learn, steps over the smouldering butt and waves me goodbye through the last wispy cough as he heads home. The sun continues to rise beyond him, and within the hour cars will arrive to usher in the day just beginning at Yamaku, the school of the gifted and disabled.

The early morning is a sort of time between worlds, a world of forms. What’s left is a diminished reflection of our own world, no imposed morals or meaning. I become all there is beside the dawn, the moon and sun. A single inkblot on papyrus.

I close my eyes and sit back against the windowsill with a stretch before I get up from my perch. As I do I spot a girl with light blueish hair in the distance by the female dormitories, perhaps she’s taking the early morning for herself as I have.

I skip a shower with a strategic sniff and, with a yawn, open the door to the dormitories. A group of second year guys chat between bites of their respective breakfasts but they don’t acknowledge my presence.

Today is my first day back in class after being stuck in the hospital, even though I was discharged on Wednesday of last week. The early mornings have been moments of reflection since then, but the aches from my bones and eyes suggests they’re not so healthy, not that health is a primary concern of mine anymore.

Up two beige flights of stairs, down the green wallpapered corridor three doors, I turn the lock into my own piece of home, the sun peeking below and beside the closed curtains that drape from my window to bed. My phone vibrates on the desk with shaking urgency, and the objects around it shake in symphony, a pen rolls onto the floor. I move to answer it, but the vibrating stops. Flicking up the screen, I see three missed calls from Rika, and a text that reads:

“Not feeling talkative this morning? See you at lunch dude.”

I laugh, and thumb a reply confirming to meet during lunch. After dodging her calls for the last week, I’d half expected her to have given up on reaching me. Not that I desire that. I know she’s been worried, even trying to find me in the hospital since she’s so familiar with its facilities. Unlike my own, Rika’s condition is unpredictable seeing as it’s a type of heart problem, left heart syndrome or something, ‘half-hearted’ as she calls herself.

She glares at me from my desk. From the inside of a photo frame and picture of the two of us where she’s cupping her ear towards me. She called it, “The Eternal What” when she gave it to me last month. There was sentiment there for me, even if it was a little harsh considering my own condition. Whoever’s last in the hospital between the two of us gets to keep the updated photo frame until the other ends up there instead; part of me looks forward to it because of this, a small part.

I slip out of my pyjama trousers, fold them over the back of my chair and change into some clean underwear and a semi-clean shirt, tripping over my shoes in the search for my school pants. Eventually I get both on and finish my look by sliding my hand through my hair, creating somewhat greasy waves I see from the mirror hanging limply from my door. I prop my guitar upright, having knocked it over in the great underwear hunt. And now dressed for the day, but asleep inside, I trudge from my room to the great outside and beyond.

The sun is well and truly up now, and if it wasn’t for the groups of disabled students hobbling or walking beneath it, the scene would look picturesque. Of course, it still looks somewhat beautiful students included, but I can’t imagine anyone hanging such a photo in their home, aside from serial killers or the really perverse. I recognise a girl from my class, she’s missing both her legs and walking alongside a slightly larger student briskly, lack of legs considered.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking over the half-egg hills of Yamaku’s grounds since arriving here two years ago. There’s just this little touch of the sublime; seeing the glow of the town from the valley beneath Yamaku encased in its own meniscus. Everything at and surrounding Yamaku exists in its own bubble, unpoppable, unescapable. It feels like every journey away pushes against the walls for only a short moment, before you’re flung back by elastic escape. Or at least, it felt that way until very recently. The majority of my peers are beginning to freak out about universities, but I’m not worried. Somehow being trapped is starting to feel like less of a burden, and the bubble – a collapsing star. I hurry to catch up with the crowds.

Inside the maw of the school, slow moving herds of students dilute between classrooms of the first, then second floor, until I’m up the final staircase and into my homeroom. There’s no sign of our teacher, but everyone else seems present. I make a “hello” gesture with my eyes to Molly, the girl I saw walking earlier, and then to Takashi, who’s drumming into the air, as well as some general “I acknowledge your existence” smiles to Natsumi and Naomi who sit at the back gossiping.

I take my seat and pull out a pen from my shirt pocket, twirling it over and over, before resting it on my lips whilst I stare out of the window. Before I’m too cosy, I feel the electric and silent stare of the mute class president, Shizune, and turn to send her a smile. I put my pen down for a moment and sign to her:

[Good morning, do I look ready for the day or what?]

I see the tiniest imaginable smile tug at the corner of her lips, I think she’s always had a bit of a soft spot for me to be honest, not that I deserve any reverie from her scorn. I left the student council out of sheer laziness and know she’s never really forgiven me. But not many people in our class can sign, so I imagine she appreciates the direct conversation without the mediation of her translator Misha – who also smiles at me behind her obnoxiously bright hair, watching our conversation. Shizune tucks the bangs of her short hair behind the frame of her glasses and signs back.

[Your shirt needs ironing. You’ve been chewing that pen. You need a shower. Overall improvement from usual yes.] I smile back at her, despite knowing she’s at least seventy-percent scolding me right now. Misha laughs audibly, causing everyone in the room to face her, or frown.

Predictably late and dishevelled, our homeroom teacher Mutou enters followed by a student I’ve never seen before. He’s new, and stands with his hands clasped together, tight against his sides as he surveys the room.

I turn to face the window as the guy introduces himself as Nakai, and rattles of some other generic hobbies in an awkward, and Mutou-inspired introduction.

Things could be worse for the new kid, he could have ended up like Takashi, who spluttered some nonsense about how he wasn’t really “disabled” like the rest of us, before sitting down and feeling the glare of everyone bar myself and Taro who could scarcely hold a laugh, and Mutou who awkwardly cleared his throat and began the day.

The new guy takes his seat in the second row, behind Molly – and the day begins, with the screeching of dragged desks for group work, and the lethargic instruction of Mutou to placate Misha’s ‘contagious’ energy.

~~~~~

I survive this morning’s classes; continually sneaking my pen from my physics workbook to my journal as I scribble whatever I remember from sentences I’ve dreamt up recently and Rika sings them from the rafters of a grand stage. Most of my morning, however, is spent posing as a useful group member to Naomi and Natsumi, who I unfortunately get paired with, since Shizune and Misha take the new kid on, presumably to try and brainwash into the now dualist student council. As members of the journali – newspaper club or whatever it is, Naomi and Natsumi gossip semi-quietly with one another, shooting stares across the room. They either don’t care, or think I won’t… maybe can’t, tell the victims of their rumouring about them. In the end, they do the lion's share of the work set by Mutou, so they successfully buy my silence; and besides, they’re hardly quiet enough to have to worry about anyone else hearing – Mutou even coughs in our direction and the two shut up to finish our assignment.

Just as I begin to hear the two discussing the ‘cute’ and ‘bewildered’ look of the new guy, the bell for lunch rings. Before Mutou can address the class, seats are shrieking against the floor and both girls, as well as the rest of the class, go screeching for the door. He doesn’t bother shouting and instead shrinks back into his seat, re-opening his book.

I remember my promise to Rika and follow the others out into the hallways, purposefully avoiding the slow-moving meatgrinder. I recognise the chestnut hair, and the bit at the back that sticks up, of the new guy sandwiched between Shizune and Misha further down the hall. I consider swooping in to the rescue but decide against it. I’m not much of a conversationalist, as Taro, who comes alongside me is constantly jibing. He budges me with his good arm as he comes alongside me, the other hanging limply in a sling beside him.

“Hey man, when’d you get back from the hospital?”

I shrug but give him a smile, not really in the mood to chat, but he doesn’t take it personally. He’s likely come to expect as much in regards to talking with me. We pass a newly hung painting that depicts some psychotic break by the lifts and vending machines, Taro comments that that it’s the work of a fellow student and I’m grateful a moment to not have such visions. Then it’s back down the staircase, where Taro holds onto the railing and we get caught behind a sluggish girl on crutches who clearly resents them, and again along the hall we finally reach the canteen. The crowds having dispersed into various rooms and the alloy doors open wide as groups mill together and queue for food.

Taro salutes me with his fingers and heads off to buy something to eat so I scan the room for Rika. It doesn’t take much searching as she’s actually sitting on the table itself rather than the seat, her white hair slung in a braid over her shoulder. To my disapproval Natsumi and Naomi are sitting with her, with Rika actually looking interested in their conversation for once whilst Takeshi holds one hand to his right ear, the other is bandaged over so… convenient for him I guess. He’s wearing that stupid hat again as well as the school blazer, it’s a ‘look’.

Seeing me approach, Rika jumps down from the table and runs to hug me. I can’t help but smile and return the embrace, giving her a squeeze. Her white hair smells of rosewater and the warmth from her chest envelops me. It’s like time itself slows to allow me to treasure the contact. She whispers that she’d missed me, unless I imagine that and I look up to see Takeshi watching us and laughing, whilst the other girls get up from the table talking amongst themselves.

“Hey, I didn’t know he could do that.”

“Do what?” Rika replies, loosening her hug around me and sitting to face him.

“Smile, hug, that emotional stuff.”

I give him the middle finger and take a seat alongside Rika, even though I’m smiling a little at his jest. I almost insult the bandage but decide against it, I consider myself above such mockery. That, and the moment has already gone.

“Those lovely ladies were just telling me of a rather fine gentleman to have recently joined their class, you wouldn’t know anything about that would you?” With a stupid posh accent, Rika gives me a serious look.

I shove her with a laugh.

“Oh, come on! Takeshi isn’t giving me anything here!”

Takeshi buries his head into his hands for a moment, presumably screaming, before looking Rika right in the eyes.

“He’s a guy, no obvious deformities from what I saw, slightly taller than me but not a pencil and I think he had brown hair. Now, Lelouch – when’s the next band practise?”

“Practise is at six, I bought you a calendar so use it. Now again, details! Was he cute? What was his voice like?” Rika interjects me.

Takeshi puts on a girly voice and cups his head with his hands.

“Oh, it was just super dark and husky, what a hunk!” She scoffs and flicks him on the nose.

Laughing, I take a bite from half of Rika’s sandwich, the half she’d slid to me whilst swooning over the mystery man from my class. I can’t help but feel a little jealous, Rika is rarely a ‘girly’ girl and then in comes this guy with girls blabbering about him within the same day he arrived. I’ve been called attractive here, even hooked up once or twice, but no one will ever fantasise about my voice. I try to change the subject.

“Have you learnt the lyrics I sent you Rika?”

I must have really butchered that, since Takeshi leans in confused and Rika rolls her eyes over every word I’d said, finally smiling when she puts together a jigsaw behind her deep eyes.

“Yeah, at least, I hope I have. Not long now till the festival.”

“He was talking about practise?” Takeshi asks, which always stings a little, “Got the beat mastered chief, we’ll nail it I’m sure.”

Anxious with both of their responses, I finish half of Rika’s sandwich and thankfully the subject changes from the new guy, to some shit Takeshi read last night and now believes. I hear him mention ‘mole-men’ but don’t fully tune out until he mentions a freak called Kenji, who I met when he stole my underwear whilst I showered last year. Somewhere during this conversation, Ritsu joins us as well as Taro but they mostly talk among themselves. I feel Rika poke me.

“So, two hospital visits in a row, when should I start worrying?” She asks with a bouncy but genuine tone.

“Just a teeny tiny stroke,” I utterly fuck up the ‘teeny’, it’s a hard word to say, even harder to slur, “nothing to worry about I promise.”

Everyone goes quiet, going through the motion of dissecting what I said, piece by piece. Their faces light up in series as they understand me, its only a few seconds but it feels longer, like I’m on the phone with terrible service. Trapped inside a phone booth with no money.

Rika is the first to understand me.

I want to reach out and squeeze her hand, I want another hug.

“I wish you’d tell us next time, we’d come visit.” She says.

“Damn straight,” Takeshi adds, “reclusive prick.”

“Stroke over bandage.” I decide I’m not above Takeshi’s level, and after a few seconds, everybody laughs except him.

“Ladies love it.” He says playing it cool.

Taro coughs, “Molly,” and coughs again. Takeshi’s face immediately glows, this time joining in the laughter.

“You guys are dicks.”

The bell rings, so as a slow-moving, homogeneous horde, the canteen trudges past the freaky painting and the first-floor practise rooms, splintering into our respective rooms for the remainder of the day.

~~~~~
Its six o’clock; admittedly five minutes after six, and I’m heading towards the music practise rooms. Yamaku has three of them, each increasingly smaller. Luckily there’s not an awful lot of competition for them on a Monday night, so I booked the biggest at the library last week. We also have one booked for Wednesday and Friday in preparation for this weekend’s festival, though since those times clash with Jazz club’s rehearsals, I’m not sure which rooms we’ll be given since they’re attributed by email on the day. This festival is one of the occasions where the school likes to celebrate its students, there will be stalls with games and food; a few student bands playing on stage and a firework display to test Yamaku’s fire response staff. I can imagine the event being a bizarre world for anyone accidentally wandering in, not that they would I suppose.

Outside of the room, I can hear Takeshi wailing on the drums loud enough to escape the soundproofing. It’s nothing like the stuff we perform, sounding almost heavy metal, but I decide to give him a moment to enjoy himself. Since he was in an accident two years ago, he’s heard a ringing in his right ear. I think it’s called Tinnitus or Tinatius. I know it starts with a ‘T’. Regardless, whenever his ear isn’t bandaged he’ll have a music earbud in to drown out the background sound. From what I’ve observed, this wailing is him getting creative with distraction. Waiting outside might have been for the best, as I catch Rika heading towards me.

“Why are you standing outside?” She shouts down the hallway, until she gets near and can hear the cacophony of cymbals through the music room door. “Oh right, well, since we have a moment.”

I tilt my head quizzically.

“Why didn’t you let me visit you in the hospital?” Her tone isn’t accusatory, but my eyes still find my feet, and a feeling like shame courses through me.

“Embarrassment.”

“You let me last time.”

“Not the same.” I protest, finding her eyes with all their compassion.

She takes a moment, and her eyes now lower instead of mine, presumably understanding my truth. The first was maintenance, the second - malfunction.

“You’re my best friend, I wanted to be there.” Even as she speaks with disappointment, I feel my heart begin to warm like a bee drowning in honey. The corners of her lips twitch and settle in frown, as she grabs my hand, her delicate fingers slotting into my own.

Just maybe, if when I spoke the voice inside my head was real, I would be someone else in this moment. Someone who doesn’t hide away from lengthy explanations and confessions.

I want to tell her everything, to gently grab her shoulders and accept the world of ‘okay’ she wants so desperately to believe in. To scream and be heard clearly from the roof into a world that screams back. I want to say anything without interference. But I don’t and Takeshi’s drumming stops drowning out the silence. After a moment, the door opens and Rika lets go.

“You two gonna come in or what?” He holds his hand over his bandage, peering down the hall and beckoning us in, to which we oblige and head inside. Rika continues to frown at me as she passes.

I take my guitar off of my back and unzip its case, whilst Rika begins playing chromatic scales up and down the piano. Clasping the corner of the sheet music I printed earlier with my thumb and forefinger, I distribute it accordingly. We’re playing three songs at the festival, two of which are covers. The third is an original piece I’ve written – it seemed fitting considering this is our final performance as a band, at least at Yamaku. The song is an abstract confession I wrote as a poem for Rika that never truly lived, at least not in her hands. Instead she commented that it was a sweet song, and I lacked the confidence to correct her.

Takeshi counts us in with a soft drum beat, and the three of us get lost together in the music; a world where ears don’t ring, hearts don’t stop and heads don’t explode into universes.

~~~~~
Last edited by Feurox on Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:25 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Feurox
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Ekephrasis

Post by Feurox » Wed Jul 04, 2018 10:30 pm

Unlike yesterday, I collapse into sleep despite my desire for the contrary, and wake up with time to shower, dress, and even eat some breakfast before I’m out the door and on my way to the main school building. Yesterday’s rehearsal was mostly a success and soothed most of my anxiety, aside from some minor chord confusion, we should be ready for Sunday’s performance. However, the pressure has clearly started to affect Takeshi seeing how he beat himself up over unnoticeable mistakes. Rika and I have already performed at the festival once, last year, but for him this is a new experience – his disabled debut.

By lunch time the day has fallen into its regular drudgery, with Mutou practically falling into his desk after writing work up onto the board. We end up covering most of the stuff we did yesterday, albeit in different groups, but nobody complains, everybody falls into the rhythm. Living at Yamaku is very cyclical, or maybe Mutou really does run on autopilot as Molly once suggested. Some people enjoy falling into this routine, waking up – learning – socialising – relaxing – sleep and repeat. I think even if you claim not to enjoy the repetitive nature of life here, it's impossible to escape it. We might reshuffle the order of things, or value different aspects of the cycle. But in reality, it represents Yamaku and the real world beyond it. We get up, we work, we rest, and then we get up to do it again. Disability or not, we all have to adjust to that routine and it’s harder for some than others, but there's no getting away from it.

“Anyone ever tell you that you think too much?” Taro waves his hand in front of me, snapping me out of my reverie. The classroom has emptied, leaving only Mutou at his desk reading and Taro before me. Actually, he’s standing next to someone. Oh.

“Hello, I’m Hisao Nakai.” He looks a little nervous to meet me to be honest, or maybe he always stands like that, with his shoulders stiff and his eyes straight forward.

“Lelouch Lamperouge. Call me Lou.” He stays looking at me, trying to understand me with his mouth agape in an awkward smile. Taro laughs and rubs Hisao on the shoulder with his good arm a little enthusiastically, this clearly startles him.

“So yeah, Lelouch has Aphasia or Apraxia or um, I think it’s one of those. Basically, he thinks normally and hears normally, but can’t formulate words properly thanks too…” Taro cuts himself off, not wanting to divulge more about my condition than is necessary. I’m thankful.

To ease the look of worry on the new guy’s face I give him an eager smile. He reassures himself and smiles back.

“Well it’s nice to meet you.”

“I’ve invited him to hang with us for lunch, don’t want you-know-who roping him into the student council.” Taro says laughing whilst Hisao looks uncomfortable. I object to the bad stigma Shizune has gotten over the years, I mean sure it’s earned to a degree, but I think she has what’s best for the school in mind. However, it’s not my place to pity Shizune. In fact, she probably enjoys the allusion to an iron-fisted ruler. I try to welcome Hisao as I get up from desk with a grin.

“Cafeteria?”

With that we exit into the hallway. Thanks to my daydreaming, the corridors are quieter than yesterday and once again we pass the newly hung painting that depicts mayhem and slaughter by the lifts and vending machines. Taro comments that that it’s the work of a fellow student, this time to Hisao. He looks bewildered. Down the stairs again and along the hall we pass the practise rooms and the sounds of a thumping drum beat. I wonder if it’s Takeshi as we go by, but we don’t check as we beeline for something to eat.

When we arrive inside the cafeteria, I immediately spot Rika waving at us from the table we sat at yesterday. She goes from a look of joy, to mild shock and back to joy again in an instant. Hisao, Taro and I queue for some food. I feel a vibration.

[Dude. He IS hot.]

Whilst Rika’s text forces me to stifle a laugh, I can’t help but feel a bit jilted. The banter of yesterday inches closer to reality and an uncomfortable feeling hits me. When I turn to look at her across the hall, I see her stuffing her face with bread whilst chatting to Ritsu.

Thanks to a rather short line, the three of us reach the table and once again Taro introduces Hisao to the girls who both reciprocate. It’s interesting watching the new guy check over us all, maybe at first unable to notice that each of us is broken in some way but knowing that it must be the case in order to be here.

“So how was your first day here Hisao?” Rika asks him.

“Well,” Hisao swallows his food, “If I’m honest it has been a bit strange.”

Rika raises her eyebrows with gravity, leaning across me to interrogate him. It gives me a view I’m awkwardly forced to divert from.

“What, because of all the freaks?” We all turn to look at Hisao, deadly serious.

“…”

Taro is the first to laugh, which causes all of us to break including Rika who collapses onto me before withdrawing. Hisao still looks a bit bewildered but joins in the laughter.

“You’ll get used to her.” I say. But nobody understands me and the laughter dies out as they try.

The rest of the lunch passes with chatting and joking, Hisao seems to be welcomed by all. It’s a nice afternoon, and I don’t bother speaking again.

~~~~~
It’s Thursday evening -uh, Friday morning, and once again I find myself nodding to Hiroshi, who passes me as I exit the dormitories. I step over probably his fourth cigarette of the night and drag my hands down over my eyes and cheeks as the night breeze meets my face. The dim lit path outside the dormitories gives way to declining stairs, that I take two at a time, clutching my jacket across my chest.

A moth flies elegantly before me and so I hold open my hand as it drifts into my palm, pacing along my ley lines, to the tip of my thumb.

“Hey little guy.”

“Uh, hi!”

I turn to see the source of the voice, and I’m a little startled to see that its Suzu Suzuki, a blue haired girl from my class that I’ve never spoken to even though we’ve been in the same homeroom, and literature club for three years. She smiles at me, sat under the glow of the stars on a grassy embankment by the path. A look of horror takes over her and she darts her eyes to her hands, prompting me to do the same. The moth sails away.

[Do you prefer to sign? I’ve seen you do it with Shizune a few times.] I don’t immediately respond, mostly out of shock that she can sign, but a little because it feels weird to know I’ve been watched.

[I don’t mind, I can’t speak properly but I can hear fine.] It takes her about a minute to understand my reply, which is frustrating because it makes me feel like I can’t even communicate clearly when I sign but she eventually realises what I’ve said.

“Oh, that’s a relief! To tell the truth I’m not that great at speaking sign. I just know what I learnt from hanging out with Shizune and Misha before they went all cold-war and kicked me out of their group.” That sounds like a bit of an emotional subject since her voice quivers near the end and I notice that she’s whispering, maybe to not be caught outside? I’m pretty sure we don’t have a set curfew, but then given the recent news about my condition I wouldn’t be surprised if the security staff were just giving me some leniency. I’m still confused as to why she’s talking to me. She continues:

“I know this is really random, and I hope I’m not like disturbing you or anything, but I’ve seen you out here a few times in the last two weeks. It's really nice at this time, right? It’s just reassuring to know I’m not the only one here who prefers it to the day. I’m Suzu by the way, we’re in the same class.” In truth, I like spending this time alone, but given her being out here at this time, and her effort to converse I decide I ought to give her the benefit of the doubt. Besides that, her voice is very delicate and soothing, it fits the night.

“I know you, I’m Lou. Have we spoken before?” It’s harder to whisper and be understood given my condition. Considering her reaction to my voice, we must not have spoken before. I expected her to have heard me in class, but Mutou never calls on me and every time I’ve seen her during school she’s either been sleeping or daydreaming. Her proclivity to sleep makes her appearance now all the more startling.

“Uhm, sorry, I just didn’t expect you to sound like that. Is that why you’re here?” That’s a bit of a personal question. But before I react she has that terrified look on her face again.

“Oh that’s so bad I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean –“

“No, it’s okay. Yes and no.” I can’t bear to hear her beat herself up over this and shake my hands to calm her down. I of all people know what it feels like to not be able to say the right things. She might be acting a little weird, but nobody comes out at this time to be normal.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” reassured, she regains her composure and looks from me out into the trees behind me and the top of the bubble of light from the town below the hill. “I’m narcoleptic, but you probably knew that. I fall down a lot, my muscles just kind of give up and I watch myself crumble into another broken bone. I sleep a lot too and sometimes I can’t at all.”

I actually didn’t know that. I feel terrible for thinking she was just lazy now. She’s currently wearing a brace on her left knee over her leggings. Before she had that she wore a sling and I assumed she just broke easily, I guess that’s kind of true. Despite being a school in which everyone is disabled, the taboo about asking never really went away for me. Maybe that’s because Rika, whose condition was so serious, was the first person I met here. Or maybe it’s out of shame of my own ailment.

“I didn’t know. You sleep in class a lot. I thought you were just tired.” I try my best to make it sound like I’m joking even if it’s a lie. She laughs, and her energy deflates, not in a bad way though, since she’s smiling at me.

“Wanna know a secret?” She taps a spot on the grass next to her, and I oblige, unzipping my jacket before I sit. “Most of the time I’m pretending, it gets me out of classwork.”

We both laugh. Its weird to find myself laughing, seeing as I’ve been using this time to be solemn and think about what I want to do before…

I don’t want to reach the conclusion of that thought, something about Suzu’s willingness to share with a relative stranger makes me feel oddly warm, despite the chill in the air and despite my earlier intention to be alone.

“Okay, my secret.” Suzu turns to face me as I talk, going through the motions of understanding before tilting her head and prompting me to go on.

“I actually used to have quite a nice voice, apparently.”

After dissecting my words, Suzu tries to stifle her laugh.

“It’s a little hard to imagine I’m sorry for laughing.”

I try to give a serious face, but it's early and I don’t have the constitution so instead I let out a deflating laugh, more of a cough which gives her permission to actually laugh.

“You weren’t born with it?” She asks after regaining her composure.

I could use this opportunity to open up, to share my truth with someone other than medical staff. To tell someone what it was like to wake up being unable to scream, being unable to be understood even now after years of speech therapy.

“No…I had a stroke five years ago that hospitalised me. Had it since.” I could salvage this opportunity to tell her the full story.

But the moment's gone and I don’t.

Suzu’s smile vanishes, slowly like a sink emptying through a tiny drain as she dissects my words. She grabs her shoulders and looks forward, away from me again.

“I’m sorry, that’s terrible. One minute you’re fine and then…” I follow her look. Unlike from where I was standing below her, the embankment allows us to see past the tops of the trees, past the small bubble of light encasing the town below and out into a dark sky dotted with shotgun stars, like someone flicked them off the end of their paint brush. “Why are you out here anyway?” She doesn’t turn towards me to ask, but the question catches me off guard – a simple question with a simple answer made complicated by my shame.

“Thoughts too heavy.” This time she makes eye contact. I’m scared my poignancy is lost to the delay of understanding, but her emphatic smile tells me for the first time in a long time that it’s not. She replies in turn.

“I think I’m running away.”

“From Yamaku?” I ask.

“More like myself I guess, I’d rather lie awake where I can see something, then let my mind sleep when my body declines.” Once again, she faces forward as if trying to find something out in the beyond. I can’t help but wonder.

“What do you see out there?”

I guess I take her off guard, or she doesn’t understand me as I see her face contort in concertation. Inside her head, asleep but wide awake, words formulate into sentences of artillery. It must be relieving not having to worry about them exploding before they’re fired.

“Look there,” she points, “I see the tips of the city and the lights that reach even higher from them, I see how it fits in the palm of my hand. It’s kind of stupid, but being here, with nobody around, it makes you feel powerful, like you’re privy to something others aren’t. “

Hearing Suzu lose herself in describing what the night means to her makes me realise something. That I’ve misclassified what this time really means. It’s not a time between worlds. It’s not stained by our presence but enhanced by it. The relationship between us and the night is symbiotic, what’s the muse without the artist? Beauty without the perceiver? You don’t appreciate the sound without the silence. This is all forgetting that whilst Suzu and I ponder what the night means to us, someone on the other side of the world bites into their lunch, the world of romanticism a thousand kilometres away. Literally.

Re-grounded in reality, Suzu shivers, so I offer her my jacket which she accepts politely, wrapping herself inside of it like a blanket. It’s pretty cute. I can see Rika doing something like that, snuggling up to me with a snarky comment beneath stars that shine dutifully. Maybe I kid myself.

“You have something on your mind, right. That’s why you’re out here?” Suzu eventually asks, eyes closed and head laid back into the grass. “If you have something you need to say I think you should say it. Even if nobody hears you.” Her advice hits me but she adds, “They will.” She motions with her arms towards the trees, or the stars, or maybe the town.

It scares me, but she’s right. Time’s running out and eventually the night will be all that’s left of the supernova.

The clocks continue to chime in the distant night.

~~~~~
I wake up just in time for lessons and with a text from Rika that causes my heart to quicken. I ended up staying out with Suzu for most of the night, with neither of us retiring to our rooms until about four A.M. The majority of that time wasn’t really spent chatting, but it was pleasant to just have someone next to me regardless. I didn’t expect to be moved to action by her so much, after all I barely know her, and the severity of my situation probably demands more time to contemplate. But I don’t have a lot of time, and I’ve spent so much of it recently thinking that I may as well have been running in circles, chasing one of those mechanical rabbits at a racetrack of my own imagining. I’ve decided that I have to be honest, to myself and to Rika – damn tomorrow, it may never come. We may never wake up to see it, as Suzu said falling asleep inside my jacket.

My personal truth occupied my thoughts throughout the day until I ended up here, sat outside the practise room with Rika now heading towards me. I spent the first half of the day wondering how I would tell her, and how I would subsequently ask her to date me. I don’t want to use the pity angle for obvious reasons, and I certainly don’t want to guilt her. I’ve successfully kept the urge to not tell her entirely subdued, but even as she heads towards me now with a casual smile plastered on her lips I can’t help but doubt myself. Perhaps I should just tell her the half-truth, ask her out another time, when she’s come to terms with everything?

No, I can’t do that. Even if that’s more ethical, I physically can’t. The thought of waiting even a moment longer to confess sets my blood to boil beneath my skin and blisters screaming in bubbles. She’s closer now and I feel myself begin to sweat.

The second half of the day was spent contemplating her text, an ordinary message perceivable in a thousand different ways.

[Yo, we need to talk. Practise?]

It could mean any number of things. Has she noticed my absence from our group? Maybe she already knows my secret or does she feel the same way I feel for her? Does she know how I feel at all? It may well be nothing to do with me, maybe she’s sick again and needs another surgery. Maybe we’ll find our truths are the same or maybe –

“Dude, did you get my text, and why are you sweating?”

She’s before me now, a ghost with a half-smile and a questioning raised eye. I wipe my forehead with the back of my hand and sickness sinks like a pit in my stomach. In my anxiety I must have forgotten to reply to Rika’s text at all, which has earnt me a terrible start and an annoyed stare from her. She’s wearing her hair in a braid slung over her shoulder that she twiddles between her fingers. In her other hand is a small plastic folder, containing the sheet music I gave out on Monday and Wednesday. In all my excitement and bigger news, mostly the later, the festival has seemed inconsequential, but evidentially Rika is beginning to feel the pressure as frustrated markings and scribblings dot the pages inside the clear binder. Over the week banners and stalls have started going up around campus, and group projects put pressure on everyone throughout the school. Maybe I should have stepped up as a better band leader, but then maybe I should have confessed to Rika months ago. Maybes don’t cut it at Yamaku or the elsewhere.

“Yeah. Sorry. We need to talk.”

After the accustomed understanding period, Rika responds with a smile, not the reaction I was expecting. “Who goes first then?” She asks.

“You.” I reply immediately, shamefully. But I keep thinking over what to say in my head. There’s no way to say it without hurting her, I’ve already done that by keeping it from her since last Wednesday and not letting her visit me. How can I salvage my confession into a meaningful one? Rika checks up and down the corridor before grabbing my shoulders and speaking excitedly.

“Okay so I went to the Nurse’s office yesterday evening to restock on some meds...”

Hearing her mention the Nurse’s office with such a nonchalant tone worries me. She’s assured me in the past that her last hospital visit was a scheduled surgery, and that her medication pretty much guarantees her a healthy, albeit shorter life. Yet I’ve had my doubts. Since last year she’s referred to her condition as a machine in need of a software upgrade, but ‘good at heart’. I’ve started finding this particularly unfunny. Maybe a life-threatening illness is a catalyst for ironic comedy.

So then how do I broach the subject of my condition, if her own causes me such fear?

“Right,” I reply to her, seeing that she’s been waiting for me to catch up with her.

“Right, so I barged in because it was like six ‘o’clock and I couldn’t hear any talking…”

And how can I tell her I feel? Is it love, or does that have to be mutual? I want to kiss and hug her, but then I wanted to do those things and more with Miki last year. When we hooked up the feeling was pretty much satisfied and we haven’t spoken since. Would the same thing happen with Rika? Then again, I didn’t want to ‘cuddle’ Miki.

“…and the nurse turned to face me, stethoscope on the new guys chest with a fat grin on his face making that dirty ‘euw euw’ noise he makes.”

The new guy? What if she wasn’t being playful when she said he was attractive, did they get to know each other that lunch time, no not really, I was there.

“So, after he made a point about knocking and what-not, Nakai slapped a shirt on and the nurse gave me my prescription. But get this – “

I’m giving her my full attention now, sweating more. It must just be the effect of the new guy on me, and apparently on all the girls in this fucking school.

“Half of my meds were the same as the new guy’s! He gave them to both of us at the same time.”

I must admit that the connotations of this are interesting. Part of Yamaku’s charm is the kind of disability ‘top trumps’ we all subconsciously play. Rika for her part is visibly animated, a wide smile and open eyes that melt me as she grabs me harder by the shoulders with excitement.

“Lou he’s like me!” She contains herself a little, withdrawing her arms and I feel the heat rising in my chest. Is it wrong for me to be angry and jealous of her joy? “I caught him in the hallway after and, and…”

Even though she’s trying to calm herself down, I can tell how huge this is for her. Her eyes are lit up and she’s tugging her hair down over her shoulder.

“He’s like me. It’s not the same as mine, I mean obviously that’s like one in a million so how could he be but to meet somebody like me Lou, somebody who can be fine and then kablow, you know? Just like that be gone. Someone who can finally understand me and not be left wondering.”

I don’t know why but hearing this, knowing that all she wants is somebody to be like her. Someone who, at any moment, could explode and just stop existing like she might, it hurts me. Even though it should comfort me. I could confess to her now, about why I was really in the hospital, about why I’ve stayed up late listening to her stories. Why I’ve spent the last two years staring at her across tables and trying to make her jealous, dating Ritsu, fucking Miki. All she’s wanted is compatibility, and now when I have it, when all I’ve ever wanted was to have it, I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut.

But maybe I’ve realised something more. What she wants is a shared risk. Nothing definite, but an empathy with the same. I’m not really offering that am I? We can’t comprehend one another when I’m mandate and she’s hypothetical. When she’s the future and I’m already past.

“He said he’d come watch us at the festival, and he’ll hang with us after too! He’s already friends with Taro and, I dunno Lou I just have a feeling,” She calms down once again, her face plastered with a beautiful smile and a cocktail of hope, anxiety and genuine happiness. “Anyway, your turn.”

She’s waiting for me to talk, even reaching my hands with her own and squeezing them. Behind her I see Takeshi, ear bud in one ear bandage on the other and hat pulled down with his face to the ground. Air drumming as usual in his approach.

“What’s up?”

I could tell her now, I’ve planned it all day. Ran it through inside my head and, put myself to the sword a thousand times in an amphitheatre of my reflections. My love for Rika, my anger at myself, my jealousy at Nakai. It feels as though it’s all submitted to something, like it’s let out its last breath underwater. I respond.

“I was going to say you should talk to him, he seems nice.” I try to smile back to her, at least half genuinely.

She seems to accept it. But her face takes on a serious look.

“That’s so weird! You’re sure there’s nothing else?”

It’s like I see myself, below the waves, and whilst I’ve been struggling for so long against them filling my lungs with water. I finally close my mouth and eyes, arms up towards the ancient mariner. Still in the full light of the moon.

I say nothing. This time a choice. This time because nothing needs to be said.

Takeshi catches up with us, takes out his ear bud and the three of us enter the practise room for the last time before the festival. For the last time, maybe.



~~~~~

After a group hug, and wiping the sweat of off Takeshi’s forehead, we’re ready to perform. There’s a small crowd before us and swathes of people hobble between the stalls on either side of the festival strip. We’re the second band to play and the third overall. A group of first years will be playing to mark the end of the festival after the firework display, accompanied by some thanks by the Yamaku committee to its donors and sponsors etc.

Seeing as the fireworks will be taking place in the field just beyond us, we’ve likely garnered the biggest crowd of the night by accident rather than any expectation of our performance. Still, the pressure is on, and Takeshi isn’t the only one feeling it. Rika flicks through the lyrics of our first song, over and over as I do my final checks, the both of us shaking a little.

Takeshi’s drumming finally counts us in as the crowd goes silent, we begin to play.

Rika’s voice carries out into the crowd of swaying parents and students, below paper lanterns that ebb similarly. Calmness takes me over as I play and I watch Rika, hands on the keyboard, lungs jumping from her throat into the microphone. Her whole-body shakes, her white hair behind like the silk ends of a scarf.

I look past her into the crowd.

Sure enough, beside Taro is the new guy, his chestnut hair and slender form a dead giveaway, especially when stood next to Taro who sways with his arm limply abiding him. Hisao is smiling, not at me but at Rika. His eyes fixed in a way I recognise, caught in her charm and beauty.

Behind him, the crowd breaks apart into tables, stalls and the swathes of people moving between them. On the nearest table is Suzu, waving and smiling at me with a bowl of noodles and notebook before her. She has her body facing me, sat at the end of the table dangling her legs and watching us perform. I keep playing as I smile back.

Fixed on the atmosphere, I see Hisao and Taro cheering us on, behind them Suzu sways to our playing as she writes. At some point, Shizune and Misha catch my attention and cheer a little too loudly. Well Misha cheers anyway, and others from our class wave and smile.

At some point I get lost in the music, in Takeshi, in Rika and in the past that I become.

~~~~~

“You guys were great!”

Taro is the first to greet us as we exit from the stage, hugging each of us including Takeshi who squirms in his grip. With him, Hisao and Ritsu stand without much purpose, just waiting for Taro to compose himself. Rika pats me on the back and grabs my hand as well as taking Ritsu’s, the nerves having apparently worn off and her charisma returned to her.

We all look to her, our final performance at Yamaku over. Maybe our last time ever.

“Well I’m hungry, let’s grab something before the fireworks.”

And with that our group becomes one with the wobbling crowds, Rika tugging me and Ritsu by each of our hands on either side of her. There’s about thirty minutes until the fireworks are set to begin, so we pretty much settle for the first food stall we can find which happens to be run by some of the blind students here at Yamaku. The cashier, who I recognise as a fully blind girl from our year smiles cheerfully at us as she takes our order, and subsequently our money. We all end up buying buns of varying flavours, with about three minutes to spare. The girl tells us to enjoy the fireworks, to which Hisao replies ‘you too’, before looking mortified.

Armed with some grub, we find a comfortable patch of hill to settle on in preparation for the display. We sit in line with one another, Taro and Rika on either of my sides and Ritsu leaning into Takeshi causing him to blush. Between bites of food, and congratulations of our performance, we all laugh and chat about what we will do after the fireworks, Taro even mentions an upcoming long-weekend and his lake house. Next to Rika is Hisao, who’s being charmed more and more by her as each moment passes. Seeing the two get on so well salts my wound a little from the other evening, but she continues to hold my hand, squeezing it intermittently. Like maybe, deep down, she knows how I feel for her, reassuring me that I have a place with her no matter what. I squeeze her hand with finality, causing her to face me.

There’s a place for someone, to hold her hand and understand her. But it isn’t mine, I let her go. Speaking without the static, without the interference for the first time since putting down my guitar.

“Well okay.” She replies with a warm and determined smile.

I return it, rubbing Taro’s shoulder as I stand up and wave to the others to leave, they look somewhat confused but oh well. Back up the hill, past the crowds that have settled into sitting constellations. Sure enough, Suzu is still sat alone at the table, scrawling into her notebook between bites of food. She doesn’t see me approaching until I sit down beside her, facing the swathes of people now settled into pockets on the knoll I came from. The energy of the festival is intertwined with the approaching firework display, the great aimlessness of roaming between stalls and display stands placated by the screaming of phosphorus, a sensory overload of colour and noise.

“Hey,” Suzu acknowledges me, placing her pen down delicately on the pad, “you were pretty awesome up there.”

I give her my softest smile, reaching to grab her pen. She looks panicked for a moment because she’s clearly written a poem or something on the notebook, but she relaxes when I point at the pen and scribble in the air for some fresh paper. She tears the surface page and carefully folds it, passing me the pad to write on with a curious look on her face.

I write a confession. I write about my recent stroke that sent me back to the hospital. I write about the tumour the doctors discovered eating my brain, using the same words, ‘inoperable, prognosis, atrophy’. It’s short, a few sentences but it’s a start and I slide it back to her, smiling all the while. There’s something about the evening air, the quiet anticipation that surrounds the festival. Suzu’s worried, then immediately reassured face as she reads my note to her. It all calms me, I think I feel relieved. She opens her mouth to reply but stops herself and begins to respond in writing; a sentiment I don’t thank but do appreciate. She slides the pad back to me.
Have you told anyone else this?

No, I just thought you should have all the facts before I asked you to watch the fireworks with me.


She laughs as she takes the notepad.
So what, if you die then no hard feelings?


She watches my face anxiously, maybe wondering if her joking is too much. But decorum has already been thrown out the window.
When I die. No hard feelings.

This is kind of a lot to spring on me you know?


I should feel guiltier than I do, having only met Suzu properly the other night and suddenly baring my reality to her. I turn over the page to reply.
I thought I’d start with the truth, the rest can come later if you decide you want it to.
She laughs again as she reads my response, and pens in her own. She’s about to give the notebook back when the crowd begins counting backwards from ten, signalling the start of the display. She quickly jots another sentence that I just about have time to read as the pad slides across the table.
Tell a girl you’re dying, then ask her out, that’s shameful.

Well I guess I can’t object now – not that I was going to.


I laugh awkwardly, and feel a pang of residual guilt in my stomach. I can't deny that Suzu is an attractive girl, but even in writing I seem to have misconstrued. Whilst I won't speak on whatever future I may have, I know that in this moment I'm not looking for another love, but somebody to trust. Just as I'm about to clarify myself ,Suzu reaches for my hand and stands from the bench. I once again let go of feelings and we turn to watch as the countdown reaches zero and the first streak of light burns into the night.

The lights crackle and blaze above us, scorching veins into the sky and outlining the clouds with the coating of colours. With each rising hiss the crowd cheers until the rockets explode into ashes and awe. I can feel the weight of Suzu’s shoulder begin to lean into my own, and for a minute I miss the warmth of Rika’s hand until, as if to comfort me, Suzu’s arm slips behind and between my own and instead her heat envelops me.

I follow the trail of colours that fall like tears before us as they sprinkle and dissipate just above the crest of the hill in front of us. As I do, I spot the white hair of Rika, slowly awning to her right onto the shoulder of Hisao, whose head settles in return.

Maybe this isn’t a perfect story.

But we’re imperfect people, a shoebox filled with our own mutilated songs.

Thoughtless and silent, we begin to twirl away. Waltzing echoes of the past, with the promise of tomorrow, beneath paper lantern stars and a firework moon that shines ceaselessly.
Last edited by Feurox on Mon Aug 13, 2018 1:16 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Ekephrasis: A Rika and Hisao Story

Post by Hanako Fancopter » Thu Jul 05, 2018 12:42 pm

Man that note at the end hit me a bit. You use a little too much purple prose for my tastes but the content was solid. Nice work.
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Re: Ekephrasis: A Rika and Hisao Story

Post by PKMNthiefChris » Thu Jul 05, 2018 3:11 pm

This was... Really, really good. I'm wishing I had more to read of it now, even as I turn what I read over and over in my head... Excellent work

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Re: Ekephrasis: A Rika and Hisao Story

Post by Craftyatom » Fri Jul 06, 2018 2:31 am

I thoroughly enjoyed this story, even if I realized very early on that it was going to be bittersweet. I was initially confused about whose PoV we were seeing, but it all got cleared up in time. After that, I found myself chilled by your descriptions of Aphasia: as someone who's rather particular about what I say, this type of speech disorder sounds like a nightmare - especially given the protagonist's account of his first encounter with it. The fact that everyone had to stop and think about what was being said only drove the point further home. And then, to hear that Rika was the one who understood him best...

The central theme of mortality is relatively common in Rika stories, but you've reversed the roles. Now it's someone else wondering if they're worth it to Rika. The thought that the answer might be no is tragic enough, but to finally change your answer, only to then sacrifice it in the end? It's just too perfectly heartbreaking. I'm not really the crying type, but if I were, this would absolutely be a story to cry to - not necessarily sad, since this is arguably the best ending possible, just a good old cathartic tragedy about how contrived the universe can be.

The only part I was kind of iffy on was Suzu's role. She's presented as more of a philosophy buddy early on, and then by the end she's a romantic interest. I feel like you didn't do quite enough to justify that final leap - sure, she opened Lou up to the idea that it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, but that was in the context of his predisposition towards Rika. Without any internal monologue from him regarding Suzu, it felt a bit like she was just a convenient rebound. Maybe I just didn't read enough into what was said, but either way I would've preferred some overt references to such a big decision.

Anyways, this was a lovely read, tragic but uplifting, well-written and with good characterizations. Quite a few SpaG errors, which I'll compile and message you about, but the story itself was fantastic. Oh, and as I've said with some of your other work, you certainly flex your poetic muscles at times - but for me to consider that anything but enjoyable would be hypocritical :P
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Re: Ekephrasis: A Rika and Hisao Story

Post by Mirage_GSM » Fri Jul 06, 2018 12:33 pm

Okay first of all a few SPaG issues (not complete, just the stuff that seems to be repeating)
Hiroshi, one of the male-dormitories security personnel...
As I do I spot a girl with light blueish hair in the distance by the female dormitories,...
Dormitories are neither male nor female.
I consider swooping into the rescue
in to
It doesn’t take much searching as she’s actually sat on the table itself
Sitting - unless someone else "sat" her there, but I think she'd take exception to that. Same in the next sentence.
I can imagine the event being a bizarre world for anyone accidentally wondering in
wandering
“Why are you stood outside?”
Standing... Same as with "sat" above. and a couple more times further down. Not going to mark them all...
Taro and I que for some food.
queue - silly but true :-)
given her being out here at this time, and her effort to conversate
So, apparently "conversate" really is a word, though one I've never seen used before now. "converse" would probably be a lot more commonly used.
Maybe that’s because Rika, who’s condition was so serious
whose
having only met Suzu properly the other night and suddenly bearing my reality to her.
baring

As for the story itself...
Boy, that was one HELL of a rebound in the end! Girl you like looking at another guy? Let's propose to the chick you first talked to yesterday. :lol:
Apart from that the story was a very good read - especially the scene with him first talking to Suzu. The beginning was quite heavy on purple prose though. That first chapter took me about twice as long to read as a story of that length would usually have.
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Re: Ekephrasis: A Rika and Hisao Story

Post by Feurox » Fri Jul 06, 2018 3:06 pm

PKMNthiefChris wrote:
Thu Jul 05, 2018 3:11 pm
This was... Really, really good. I'm wishing I had more to read of it now, even as I turn what I read over and over in my head... Excellent work
I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it. Thank you.
Hanako Fancopter wrote:
Thu Jul 05, 2018 12:42 pm
You use a little too much purple prose for my tastes but the content was solid.
I had to look up 'purple prose', but totally understood when I found out the definition. Mirage also made this point. I don't really have a comment on it since I've done it subconsiously, but I know i've been guilty of it before as well. Maybe it's something to do with my studying, seeing as I read a lot of Gothic and Romantic literature. I'm going to try and be more aware of it in the future, so thank you.
Craftyatom wrote:
Fri Jul 06, 2018 2:31 am
The only part I was kind of iffy on was Suzu's role. She's presented as more of a philosophy buddy early on, and then by the end she's a romantic interest. I feel like you didn't do quite enough to justify that final leap - sure, she opened Lou up to the idea that it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, but that was in the context of his predisposition towards Rika. Without any internal monologue from him regarding Suzu, it felt a bit like she was just a convenient rebound. Maybe I just didn't read enough into what was said, but either way I would've preferred some overt references to such a big decision.
I set myself a bit of an uncomfortable time frame regarding this. I wanted the scene to end with the fireworks from the beginning so that only gave me 7 days to work around. Saying that, I also feel I've overlooked the original way I wanted this story to end. I've made a small amendment, and if I continue this project I'll definitely try to clarify the nature of their relationship at least for the time being, but my intention was actually to have Suzu as a character that Lelouch can just be honest with. Saying that, I can't deny that I got a bit lovey dovey in the end just because I wanted, as you said, the best possible outcome for an otherwise cruel scenario. Having Lelouch watch on alone, or even just sitting with Suzu, doesn't really capture the feeling of overcoming that I wanted this ending to have. It's something I'll consider if I continue this sometime.
Mirage_GSM wrote:
Fri Jul 06, 2018 12:33 pm
SPAG SPAG SPAG


Whoops. I ammended everything you pointed out that I could see myself. I'll continue to fix and thankfully Crafty has agreed to help me in this regard too. Thank you for pointing all of these out Mirage, I seem to have this problem frequently. Reading over my work always sends me into a blur to just post it already, so I'll get in contact with someone to exchange proofreading again if I carry this on. I never realise how much SPAG impacts a story until I read someone else's work with similiar issues and then it's clear as day in how it detracts. Thanks again.

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Re: Ekephrasis: A Rika and Hisao Story

Post by Mirage_GSM » Mon Jul 09, 2018 10:20 am

When I proofread someone's story I generally use the suggestion mode of Google docs (instead of just correcting everything and sending it back), so the author can see what kind of mistakes are recurring.... That is if they bother to look at them instead of just klicking "accept all" :roll:
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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Re: Ekephrasis: A Rika and Hisao Story

Post by Zerebos » Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:39 pm

Just wonderful Feurox, seriously I thought this was lovely. I can agree with some of the previous sentiments of the sudden pairing of Suzu near the end. But it almost makes sense when you consider the characterizations of them you depicted here. They would be the exact people to impulsively get closer--as loners/outcasts of the night.

There was definitely quite a few SPaG issues, and I think next time I'm not giving you an option--we're using google docs :wink:

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American Spirit

Post by Feurox » Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:21 am

Another one-shot to tide things over whilst I work on Gravity. (Surprisingly, I haven't given up on that.) This one contains some mature themes, but after a discussion with some of the other writers on this forum namely Oddball, ProffAllister and CozyRavioli, I think a specific warning may be unnecessary. Instead, I'd urge you to avoid this story if you enjoy more light-hearted topics; this story is not necessarily oppressive but I think in hearing that warning you'll know if this story isn't for you.


Furthermore, I'd just quickly like to give thanks to several people. These people being Craftyatom, Brythain, StilesLong, Downix and Zerebos. At various points during the writing of this, these people were incredibly helpful in either a proofreading or advice capacity. I wanted to handle this story respectfully, and I think; I hope, that this was achieved. I'm not so sure I would have been able to fulfil that without these people, so many thanks. You should absolutely check out all of their writing if you haven't done so already, but I've taken the liberty of hyperlinking each name with my favourite story of theirs on the Renai. Please do me, and them, the honour of reading them when possible.

If you enjoy listening to music whilst you listen, then I'd have a few suggestions for this.

Grey Lynn Park - The Veils
The Fall - Half-Alive
Strangeness and Charm - Live From Hammersmith - Florence and the Machines

As always, special thanks goes to Zerebos for being what I regard as mostly human, and generally a great dude. Thank you.

American Spirit

With the rain pelting our umbrella and my arm tucked on the inside of Takashi’s jacket, we stumble back up the hill to Yamaku, the road dimly lit by streetlights and the occasional passing car. This is our third date together, but unlike our dates preceding it, a feeling of expectance lingers, although I’m not sure of what.

I suppose it could be longing - a feeling I’m not particularly familiar with. Our hands dance about by our sides, hungry to grasp, maybe to render and tear. Something in me wants to rip open fabric, to clasp over flesh, whilst another numbness stirs, tugging my hands to my own shoulders with strings of barbed wire.

Due to the towns reluctant use of streetlamps, we hobble between pockets of gold in a sea of dark rain, quick enough to avoid the cold’s bite but slow as to stay beneath Takashi’s umbrella dutifully. A car limps beside us, passing unhurriedly until its red lights meld into the fog ahead. The area surrounding Yamaku is relegated to a sort of dreaming in-between. Everything slows down like its just waking up for the first time. Maybe this is why so many students feel comfortable in the town below, like they’re phantoms, exposed though they are to the small collection of people that run the shops and cafés that give what little life there is to the town in their sighs.

We continue; the rain beating down on us from above and pressing us forward up the hill, passing the dark houses on either side until we arrive at the wright iron gates. They’re unclosed, like the gates of Strife, and we pass the threshold.

Automatic and wordless, we find ourselves walking the path that leads to the dormitories, nothing but the night on either side and the electric hum of those dim bulbous lights to decorate the pathway. The rain drowns out any of the other evening sounds; the quiet makes me want to scream. I consider it, but shake the thought.

Despite our unconscious effort to avoid people, maybe in pre-sex shame that is, I think, on both of our minds, we fail. The stench of a cigarette burns at my nose, at my soul. The distinct smell intrudes my thoughts as the girl in front of us and to our left drags on it, her crutches lying on the floor beside her, the rain drenching her shirt enough to become see-through to the black bra beneath.

I hate the smell, it makes its way inside me until all of me feels sick. It reminds me of my step-dad, his disgusting, burning, breath.

Cigarettes are by their very nature intrusive. Artificial little things that pollute both the air and the body. That smell of burning and tabaco comes from Saki. A girl from my year who puffs her life away dutifully, her head lying on a grass pillow, giving us a smirk and a wink that serve to repulse me.

It’s late, which is probably the reason Saki is being so brazen in her habit. Then again, I doubt she’s afraid to get caught since she’s on a first name basis with most of the staff here at Yamaku. As much as I hate the act itself, I can’t begrudge her for smoking. She’s a self-appointed ‘hopeless’, with some rare and complicated muscle degeneracy disease that’ll slowly kill her regardless.

I wouldn’t say we were friends, but our circles mix enough to be familiar with one another. Neither of us can hide our conditions, although Saki has never tried too. She always introduces herself as a girl with half a life left, ‘Full-disclosure’ she calls it.

‘Coping mechanism’ , I call it.

I must have been staring, since she sits up a little, making eye contact with me and raising an eyebrow. She looks as if she might say something, but I shake off my absent mind and continue along the path, Takashi’s hand still in mine and the rain still assaulting us; droplets dripping from the edges of the umbrella.

I look back just before we enter the dorms. I see Saki sat, now upright, with the bursting rain drops like a skirt of smoke around her and a crown of stars circling behind her. Maybe the sight would paint her in magic, if the burning end of her cigarette didn’t glow artificially, brighter than the stars behind.

We open the building door, letting out golden light and the warmth of the dormitory that flitters out like a firework beneath the rain. We’ve nonverbally agreed to come to my room rather than his; he mentioned in the café something about his room being messy, and it must have taken root in my subconscious since I essentially guided us to the female dorms.

Luckily, there’s only a few people in the common room as we walk past, shaking off the rain and closing the umbrella as we do. They pay us no heed; but Takashi awkwardly scratches his neck anyway, I wonder if he knows any of them. I certainly don’t.

The feelings from earlier, the hunger, and the fear, come back with a vengeance and my stomach drops. Something inside me is sinking fast. The nerves and expectations continue to rise as we do, foot after foot at each successive step, ascending the floors to my room.

I like Takashi. He’s charming and handsome. He’s kept me laughing since he joined our friend group. As a somewhat new student, he was shy and confused about the workings of the school when we took him into our circle and tried, our failing bests, to show him the ropes.

I don’t know when I found myself attracted to him. Our first date was, if anything, an accident. Naomi, Natsume, Takashi and I were heading into the city when Naomi had an epileptic episode. It wasn’t a big deal; it happened from time to time, but Takashi was majorly freaked out. After getting Naomi some proper medical attention--luckily we had barely left the grounds and Yamaku’s mini ambulance picked her up--we decided to skip the city and head into the town to relax. Naomi insisted we try and enjoy the day, I could tell she didn’t want to join us.

It felt good, putting someone’s mind to rest like that. We shared some chocolates and had a can of coffee each in the park, people-watching as the real world passed us by. Takashi stopped worrying, and eventually we weren’t holding hands in reassurance but something else. The day hadn’t started with any intentions, but it ended with a timid kiss, both of us unsure, neither of us upset from its start.

Now outside of my room, Takashi smiles, lent against the wall. I ask him if he wants to come inside, and he nods before leaning down to kiss me. We’ve kissed before, but this time is different. There’s something hungry in the way he presses against me, like warm veins stretch out from his lips into my cheeks. It’s only a second but I feel myself shake and suck in as one hand finds his waist, and my other finds the lock with the key. I can’t seem to get it into the lock whilst we kiss in the empty hall, maybe it’s an omen, I hope not.

We have to separate from one another whilst I fiddle with the key, but with both hands I quickly push it in and turn it leaning into the opening door as I do. My hand still shaking, I find the switch and fill the room with the moody orange light. It’s still raining pretty heavily, so Takashi closes my window, and then the curtains. He takes my room in, maybe surprised at its bareness. A collection of coffee cups, mostly unwashed or otherwise dirty sit on my dresser drawers. One of the cleaner cups is being used as toothbrush holder on top of the tiny porcelain sink the dormitory rooms offer. I’ve left some textbooks on the desk next to a photo of my sister and mother and an alarm clock, but aside from that, I’ve hardly personalised it. He doesn’t ask about my family but I see him inspecting the photo as he paces nervously, maybe noticing its unusual feature. Nor does he ask about the collection of medications dotting the shelf above my sink, some to keep me awake, Adderall, Ritalin, and others to help me sleep, their names are a little more complicated, but Takashi doesn’t examine them closely.

Whilst his nerves are adorable and only help to further his charm, I find myself hoping that this isn’t his first time. I snake my arm around his waist a little timidly, and I can tell he’s unsure from the tremor in his hand, as he brushes my hair behind my ear and cups my face. We kiss into the wall, soft, patient with one another. His confidence grows as I feel his hand move from my back to my butt. He stretches his fingers out before grabbing and kneading gently, it’s a nice feeling and the warmth spreads from his hand to our lips, to my stomach. I bite his lip between kisses, he kisses me harder in retaliation and squeezes again. I reach for his face, brushing the tops of his hair over the bandage on his right ear delicately. One of the things you learn at Yamaku is how to be delicate. A lot of people here are only a few cracks away from shattering. In the case of Takashi, his tinnitus has rarely been mentioned, and he doesn’t seem to have any resentment for the accident that caused it. Still, I’m gentle when touching that side of his face. A fact he seems to appreciate as he kisses back surer and harder.

He stops cupping my face and reaches for the lights switch. I stop him with my own free hand, the one that isn’t wrapped around his waist. I tell him that the lights stay on and he looks confused, but his hand finds my head again – this time surer that it belongs there, and then we’re kissing again, our shadows joined behind us.

He pushes off the wall, moving both of his hands onto my hips as we waltz backwards towards the bed. It’s awkward to kiss him from this angle, considering the height difference, and so I bring my lips to his neck, and then to his collar. He makes an affirmative noise as I kiss and suck lightly as not to mark him. I keep doing this as I fall backwards onto the bed with him on top of me, his elbow propping him up over me as his hand finds my knee, then my thigh and then beneath my skirt. I grip his forearm and suck harder on his collar bone, letting out a moan of my own.

His shirt pokes at my face a bit as we begin to speed up, so I release my arm from around his waist and play at untangling the buttons. It’s a little difficult from beneath him, but I manage to undo the first and second button before he has to take over. He stands up from my bed with his shirt hanging looser by the second of off his shoulders, as his fingers work nimbly at unpicking them. He’s moving urgently, practically tearing the fabric as he pulls it aside. I already miss the feeling of his hand, more so as I admire his physique. The light fabric of his shirt seems to billow beside him as he falls back on top of me, like a white cape on a swinging chandelier. His lips find my neck and his hand returns to between me, as my own finds itself beneath his shirt and running along the muscles of his back.

I start to smell cigarettes. I reach for his head and kiss him hard, and bite. He withdraws for a moment and rubs his lip with a laugh, but I need it and so I pull him back again and keep kissing. Harder. I drag my nails along his back and across his hips to his front, stopping and tugging at his belt. For a moment, as I unbuckle it, I feel my muscles tense and relax – like I’m about to lose control of them. The smell of cigarettes from earlier gets stronger, and I suddenly want to scream again.

But I don’t. Instead I suck hard on the side of his neck, leaving a deep scarlet mark. I finally manage to unbuckle his belt as his hand undoes the top two buttons of my blouse. I untuck the bottom of it from my skirt with a shuffle, and he stands again, pulling off his trousers with a skip that almost sends him head first into the sink. It’d be funny if I didn’t need him so desperately; if it wasn’t all so pathetic. I lift my butt up from the bed to unclip the back of my skirt, and with Takashi’s eager help my tights come off too until I’m only in my underwear, blouse and bra peeking from beneath it. He’s grinning, stood before me in his underpants and it’s cute.

Maybe this is all a mistake, too fast, too doomed. I want to enjoy it, but with the stench of smoke filling up the room I want to be distracted.

Maybe I should apologise.

I sit up on the bed and wrap my arms around his neck to fight the dull throb in them; to stall the lullaby that will send them cascading down from him. From the confidence of his kisses - and from where he puts my right hand - it’s clear he’s enjoying this. I comply, running my fingers over the fabric of his underwear as he grunts in satisfaction. For his part, his fingers find me once again and fill my loins with burning, he runs them in small circles over the fabric of my underwear getting bigger and bolder with every moan. A tinkling in my feet sets of alarms that I subdue. I hear the clock tick, and tick again as I squeeze the top where the fabric protrudes.

I lie back again, letting my hand fall from his neck to his abdomen but continuing to squeeze him, his groans mingling with the sound of a ticking clock that chimes from nowhere.

As his lips find my neck, over me,

crushing me,

I find the wall,

my wall, where the blank turns into lilies,

my old wall, that dances like a wave
or the plumes of smoke from a cigarette.

Inside me. Grappling my blood. My old blood. My young blood.

An intoxication, like poison. The retreating siren scream inside me. Then

A clipping, the feeling of pinching
And the rip of paper.

The squelching of a rabbit under a heavy boot.
My eyes open
and close
and open groggily to the naked form above and a hand over my –

Pleasure, my hunger for pleasure. But instead a wave of pain.
Surprise, fear, fear.

The all encompassing dark and my hands, pinned to that feeling.

The mingling naked forms, my past and present like water-colours that seep from red, to green, to blue, to yellow, to red, to red -

I stop wailing.

Everything stops.

I let go of Takashi’s long-limp underwear and he falls back from me, terrified. He reaches out to touch me again but falters, withdrawing his hand.

He collects his clothes, re-dressing himself haphazardly, all the while asking me questions; all the while apologising for nothing. I want to talk to him, I do, but I don’t. Instead I curl up, like a butterfly climbing back into its old cocoon.

Takashi says something to me, but I don’t hear it through the smoke in the room. He slips out of a closed door, like the shadow we kissed against.

None of me moves. There’s none of me to move, except to curl my fingers and my toes: a sprawled out, half-naked, silence. Wriggling extremities beneath heavy sheets. I breathe again and again, until I can move my feet in their entirety; lift my arms to the bulb hanging above me, bereft of a shade. I wiggle back into my own body between breathes. All of me starts to move again.

The smoke that filled my room recedes, and with it the silence. The patter of the rain, whilst oppressive, helps to wake me up. My limbs click into place without moving as I steady myself piece by piece. Hot tears finally release themselves, and I find the strength to bat them away as they fall, sitting upright in my bed.

I don’t know how long I sit. Maybe an hour? Two? The howling of the wind and rain quiets to a murmur before I’ve swung my legs out of the bed onto the soft carpet. Once again, a feeling lingers, but unlike the longing hunger of before I feel as though my heart is falling; that my stomach has been ripped open and sown back up hastily. I feel like patchwork.

My room feels different too, like everything is out of its place. I reach for the photo frame on my desk.

I wonder if Takashi inspected it thoroughly enough to notice the additional arm around my mother, its source cut off from the picture as I am. The original had all four of us together, but I cut myself out as I cut out him. As my mother eventually did.

That arm doesn’t feel detached anymore, it’s firmly clasped around my neck. An albatross I never shot.

Finally, my arms my own, I pull my curtains open.

The rain has stopped, leaving only the miasma ghost of steam settled on top of the campus grounds. I can imagine Takashi walking beneath the earlier rain on his way back to his room, his hand rubbing the back of his neck and looking from side to side; looking guilty for a crime he hasn’t committed. I slip into some pyjama pants and throw on a hoodie as I leave my dorm. Maybe with the intention of apologising but mostly just wanting, no--needing--to move.

The light from the corridor stings my eyes as I exit into it. Silence echoes down the hall as I go. I’m half leant against the plastered wall as I walk fast to the stairs. Past the pantry and common room and finally I’m outside, where the artificial light is held back by the door. It’s heavier than earlier. Everything is heavier than earlier.

The rain may have stopped, but the black and cold of the night seems to have replaced it in all its oppression. Everything except the dresses of light that drop from each lamppost is enveloped by the night. If it wasn’t for the small glimmer from the moon, all of me could disappear.

With a clench, I step out and into puddles that squelch beneath me. The feeling is nice, like something is submitting under me as I walk. The dark is all around, beaten back at the edges of the pathway that leads from the dormitories and into the school proper, like I’m walking some void between worlds.

It isn’t raining, but I still feel like something’s on my skin. A pinching, tapping, persistence, that continues to stick to me. I feel tarred, like I’m trudging through something heavy. Like I’m walking underwater in the dry night.

I’m not sure what I’m doing.

Just walking.

Just being. Just ground and my feet.

Maybe that’s all any of us can do; can be.

Paper airplanes in a tornado. Broken Lego that refuses to fit, refuses to yield. Is that a good or bad thing?

A man dies still if he fights hard, as if he has done nothing.

“You ought to wear some more layers.”

Saki, still sopping wet, calls out to me from her kingdom on the hill. Her words turning into clouds as they leave her lips.

“That’s rich.” I don’t think my tone is unfriendly, per se, but I doubt I come across as just joking.

As if to prove my point, Saki lifts up her arms, the sleeves clinging to them and her shirt translucent from the earlier rain. She laughs and shakes herself, like a dog.

“That’s fair enough.” She responds, “nothing wrong with a little rain.” Then chuckles to herself, “so you and Takashi, huh?”

“It isn’t like that.” I reply, firmly.

“Well, it looked a bit like that.”

“Well, it wasn’t.” Firmer.

I could swear I hear her mutter something under her breath, but she turns to her side. The conversation apparently done, she lies back down into her knoll, rummaging through her coat beside her. Saki remains peculiar as always. I’m about to leave when she sits up with a noise.

“You want a cigarette?” As she asks, she pulls out one for herself from the packet. It’s been delicately maintained, unlike the battered packets that lay about the tables and cupboard at home. Even the rubbish from his cigarettes found a way to be intrusive.

“I don’t, they’re horrible little things.” I respond, maybe somewhat harshly.

She shrugs, sheathing the packet back into her coat pocket that lies beside her. I wonder why she doesn’t wear it in this cold.

“Do you judge a bear for killing salmon?”

“I’m sorry?” I reply, as Saki finds the end of her cigarette with the open flame of her lighter.

“It’s just in its nature, a part of its purpose.” She’s making eye contact with me as she smokes, gesticulating with her free hand even though I have no idea what she’s talking about. “Like these,” she wiggles the cigarette, its glowing nub like a sparkler with a trail, “everything is by design.”

I’m really not sure I follow, but she smiles like I’ve just agreed with her in my silence. It looks like she’s about to offer another to me, but instead she motions to her side. An invitation to sit with her in the rain, not one I’m particularly fond of.

Still, a word from her rambling resonates with me.

Purpose.

Right now, I haven’t got one besides the vague notion of apologising to a boy who I’ve likely scarred for life. I’d be striking whilst the iron was more than just hot; I’d be throwing the hammer into a volcano.

As I’m thinking, Saki makes an alarmed noise, like she’s remembered something important and visibly shifts, emptying the pockets of her jacket into her lap and placing it carefully next to her as a makeshift blanket for me to sit on.

The whole situation is just…bizarre.

I tentatively accept her offer, sitting down with as much grace as I can manage onto the already wet jacket- pillow- blanket.

“You look tired.” I can’t tell if she’s joking when she says that, given that she knows about my condition. Her tone betrays nothing, as it seldom does and she’s not even looking at me anymore, exhaling smoke into the black before her.

Maybe my situation isn’t as visible as I’ve always thought. Maybe people think I’m just lazy, and devoid of emotion, but there is a reason I refrain from extreme emotion. Everyone has a reason at Yamaku. I consider asking Saki, but it’s not a conversation I want to have right now.

With some restraint, I sigh and respond.

“Thanks, you seem the opposite.”

“Thanks,” she exhales another plume of light smoke. The smell is repulsive. “So anyway, did you want one then?”

“What?”

“A cigarette?” Her cheery tone takes me off guard. She really must believe she convinced me.

“No, it might be their purpose, but they’re still hurtful things.” I don’t have the energy to say more, so I don’t. Maybe this time it’ll be enough for her.

She doesn’t say anything, maybe thinking about what I said. She keeps looking me over, trying to place me, to understand me.

After a painfully long silence, she makes a humming noise, an affirmative one, and whilst looking into my eyes, snaps the lit cigarette between her two fingers, sending the dead and glowing ends cascading into the night before us.

Embers tango and die in the dark of the night, as we sit silently beneath the electric light of a lamppost.

Neither of us say anything else, neither of us feel the need. But somehow, without the spark of the cigarette, the dark of the night seems just a little bit lighter.

Only a little.

Maybe Saki isn’t so bad.

PKMNthiefChris
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Re: Ekephrasis/ American Spirit 01/08/2019

Post by PKMNthiefChris » Tue Jan 08, 2019 11:14 pm

I have reread American Spirit at least 8 times since this morning. Dude... that's haunting.

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Zerebos
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Re: Ekephrasis/ American Spirit 01/08/2019

Post by Zerebos » Thu Jan 17, 2019 10:31 pm

I think this turned out rather well considering the subject matter at hand. I really like how it was handled through imagery mainly. Not only did it not come out vulgar it feels like it strongly drives the point home and even gives you an insight to their mind. It had its purple parts for sure, but I do enjoy that style of writing and you sure do it well. The symbolism of her returning and interacting with Saki was probably more haunting to me than anything else. Probably because the feeling of almost resignation that occurs and how that resonates with me.

Very well done, mate, cheers.

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Re: Ekephrasis/ American Spirit 01/08/2019

Post by Mirage_GSM » Fri Jan 18, 2019 10:50 am

This one contains some mature themes, but after a discussion with some of the other writers on this forum [] I think a specific warning may be unnecessary.
I have to agree, because even after rereading that almost-H-scene a few times, I have no idea what is supposed to have happened while she... blacked out? Considering Takashi seems to have left before anything worthy of censorship happened, I'm not even sure what the warning should be about...

Anyway from a technical PoV just like the previous story this one started out with a lot of purple prose, and also like in the previous story that got a lot better once the characters actually started appearing.

Also you still have a tendency to use passive participles when gerund would be needed instead (leant instead of leaning, sat instead of sitting etc.).

Example:
"I'm leaning against the wall" means just that.
"I'm leant against the wall" means somebody picked me up, carried me to the wall and leant me against it.

Even if the intended meaning is obvious in most cases it's kind of jarring to read something like that :lol:
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.

PKMNthiefChris
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Re: Ekephrasis/ American Spirit 01/08/2019

Post by PKMNthiefChris » Fri Jan 18, 2019 12:21 pm

Mirage_GSM wrote:
Fri Jan 18, 2019 10:50 am
This one contains some mature themes, but after a discussion with some of the other writers on this forum [] I think a specific warning may be unnecessary.
I have to agree, because even after rereading that almost-H-scene a few times, I have no idea what is supposed to have happened while she... blacked out? Considering Takashi seems to have left before anything worthy of censorship happened, I'm not even sure what the warning should be about...
Pretty sure she's having flashbacks to her stepfather assaulting her or at least abusing her.

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