Spectral Letters and Other Stories [08/28/2019]

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Feurox
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The Kintsugi Club - A Tribute to Mirage_GSM, Brythain, and Craftyatom.

Post by Feurox » Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:09 pm

As always, my thanks go out to everyone who read and enjoyed Time is Dancing. Thank you so much for reading, and for your thoughtful feedback. I believe I’ve responded to most in Discord. My thanks, as always. Moving on…

The following story is dedicated to three members of this community. Three members, who have inspired me to write, and to get better at writing.

Those three people are Mirage_GSM, Brythain, and Craftyatom.

I’ve said many times in my comments on the Renai that these three people have been influences to me, but I fear that those words may sometimes come across as just words. When they are so much more than that, (contrary to the quote below by William Faulkner).

As someone incredibly new to writing fiction of any kind, it was initially overwhelming to join a forum like KS. I believe my writing has come a long way since I first started Gravity, (Precipitation, if you delve even deeper into the rabbit hole), and that growth is in no small part a result of the nurturing criticism and comments that members of this community have given me. But these three people deserve special recognition from me, for being both wonderfully talented writers, (COMpromise, After the Dream and Katawa Kijo can be regarded as some of the finest work this forum has seen produced,) and wonderfully helpful critics.

Mirage_GSM: Your commitment to always helping others improve their writing, and always having something to say about a story, is truly humbling. I’m sure I’m not the only one grateful for this, but I would like to voice it.

Brythain: Your help and advice when I first began writing seriously was paramount to my development as a writer. Whilst I think our styles differ quite heavily, it appears our desire for a heart-wrenching tale is a shared passion, and I am so grateful for the help and guidance you have given me over the years.

Craftyatom: Your commitment to thoughtful and constructive analysis has always been something I considered admirable. Lately, this admiration has driven me to try and leave more thoughtful comments of my own, to write stories that are worthy of that kind of analysis. Your writing, and your feedback on other’s writing has inspired me to tackle more complicated stories, more difficult characters and settings, and again, I’m hugely grateful, both for your talent as a critic and a writer, but your integrity as a person.


I began writing this story last week with the intention that it would be a tribute to these three wonderful members of our community. Perhaps you think this peculiar and strange, and perhaps you three think this kind of praise is unnecessary. But to me, this story is about putting my money where my mouth is, and I hope that, even if you fail to connect with this story emotionally, it can be seen as a small token of my appreciation.

As always, this story only exists thanks to the help of Lap, who not only proofread this story quickly, (a hard thing to do, since we’re very close to 20,000 words here), but who contributed many of its themes and ideas. I cannot express my appreciation in its entirety, but Lap, you have my most sincere of thanks, for both your thoughtful help, and your brilliant and humorous conversation that often gets me through the hardest parts of these stories.

This story represents the end of what I’m half-jokingly titling the ‘Feels’ trilogy. I’ll likely be unable to produce many stories of this size and quality (well, I hope they’re good quality), whilst lessons begin again, so until Christmas, it’s unlikely I’ll post any more stories for a while. (Gravity will be unaffected; I’ve got plenty of that waiting to come out). I believe that thematically it captures the best of both worlds; a middle-ground between Requiem for a Heart Song and Time is Dancing.

Song suggestions will be at the end, as I believe that you can listen to certain songs as a type of reflection.

My thanks as always to those who read and enjoy this story. I hope you can connect with it.
Last edited by Feurox on Wed Sep 11, 2019 3:17 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Feurox
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The Kintsugi Club P1

Post by Feurox » Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:13 pm

The Kintsugi Club


That was when I learned that words are no good; that words don’t ever fit even what they are trying to say at […] He had a word, too. Love, he called it. But I had been used to words for a long time. I knew that that word was like the others: just a shape to fill a lack[.]

William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying.

*
The walk to class is quiet this morning, it’s peaceful.

I learned the hard way that getting caught in a surging crowd can be dangerous for someone like me, and so I’ve always made sure to be early when I can be.

I stop for a moment and place a hand gently over my ribs. Even though I’m careful, I accidently send a small wave of pain through my entire right side. The pain serves as a harrowing reminder that I should never be late to class again. That was three months ago, in my last high school.

Everything is so calm right now, so it’s not much of a hardship getting up that little bit earlier, even if it does mean I have to avoid that weirdo in the showers who I sometimes find sleeping on the bathroom floor. Kenji, I think his name is. I’m not even sure he’s from my hallway, so why he uses our showers I’ll never know.

A little blue butterfly floats into my eyeline, its body caught in the wind as it slowly rises and falls like a wave. I reach my hand out, and it flutters down onto the tips of my fingers, and my sleeve peels back to reveal the splint on my wrist. That was three weeks ago, this time at Yamaku, but it’ll take another six to heal, probably.

The other me would have batted this little butterfly away by now, or maybe I’d have killed it and laughed with my friends.

A sharp pain courses through me as I inhale, causing the butterfly to flutter off into the morning breeze. I place my hand back on my ribs carefully.

That seems fair.

Conscious of the time, I start walking again. Yamaku is probably the most beautiful school I’ve ever been to, though I’m not one of those guys that’s been enrolled everywhere, so maybe that doesn’t mean much. The grass is freshly cut, and the aroma hangs in the air, like how you can smell the rain before it falls, and the pathway is decorated with flower beds on either side.

I think maybe it’s part of Yamaku’s philosophy to have such a well maintained and relaxing environment. It’s a welcoming atmosphere. One that feels safe. A place where parents can send their problems away for a few years. It’s nice.

It only takes a few minutes, but I cross the grounds and arrive at the entrance to the main building, well ahead of any crowds. I carefully head up the steps and notice a girl I’ve never seen before struggling with her wheelchair on the ramp.

Young me would have teased her. My friends would probably call her names and I’d laugh with them.

I look around; there’s nobody here besides me and this girl.

Another pain shoots through me when I breathe, but I clench my teeth and head over to her. She looks up at me, but immediately averts her gaze. She hasn’t got any legs.

“Would you like some help?” I ask, but she still refuses to look at me.

“I’m fine,” she says, but her fingers look sore, and though it’s hard to tell because of her long brown hair, her face is scrunched up in pain.

“Are you sure?” This time, she turns to face me, sure enough, her eyes are red and tearful. She’s got pretty features, and her eyes are a deep brown colour. I try to give her a smile. She looks a bit angry too.

“I’m sure,” she spits, “you can leave me alone now.”

I shrug and turn away from her. I only make it halfway to the door of the main building, before I hear her whimper from behind me. She’s barely moved an inch.

I’m not sure what to do. She doesn’t want my help, that much is clear. I’m not even sure I could help, since pushing a wheelchair seems like it might be quite physically exerting. Still, I’m not going to be late for class, and there’s nobody else around…

Another deep breath, another little wave of pain, and I start walking towards her again. She looks up towards me and scowls.

“I said I’m fine,” she says angrily, and I pass behind her.

“I know,” I reply, and take hold of the handles on the back of her wheelchair.

“I’m serious,” she says, twisting round to face me.

“I know,” I repeat, and I push. It’s surprisingly easy to move her, but it sends shockwaves of pain through my wrists regardless.

My knees begin to throb as I wheel her up the ramp. I clench my teeth through the pain, and the girl’s face goes from angry to resigned. When I was first diagnosed with osteoporosis, I thought it would just be the occasional broken bone, and not this weak and aching feeling.

Once we’ve made it up the ramp, I let go of her chair, and she looks away from me again. Maybe she’s embarrassed.

“You didn’t have to do that,” she says.

“I know,” I reply, and the automatic doors into the main building slide open.

“Thanks,” she mumbles, and I head into the building ahead of her.

It’s cold inside, and it makes me thankful that I decided to wear my blazer to class today, despite how sunny it is. My wrists are still hurting a bit from pushing that girl’s wheelchair, but the pain in my knees has mostly subsided. From the sound of it, the girl hasn’t followed me. I’m not in the mood for small talk anyway.

I extend my fingers out to touch the lockers and drag them along as I head down the hallway. They make a satisfying tapping sound against each one until I reach the staircase at the end of the hall, and each thump sends a sliver of pain from the tips of my fingers to my wrist, it’s a constant reminder of how fragile I am, but I don’t mind.

Stairs are always a bit of a pain. So, I take a steadying breath, one that hurts a little anyway, and take the first step carefully. Then I take the second.

It takes me a while, but I eventually reach the third floor where my homeroom is, and luckily, it’s still quiet. I adjust my backpack to be comfortable and hold my ribs again as I catch my breath.

There’s nobody in class 3-3 when I enter, so I take my seat at the back of the class and start rooting around in my bag for my book. This week I’m reading ‘Frankenstein: A Modern Prometheus’, and I’m enjoying it. At least, it’s a lot better than whatever I had to read last week was.

It’s just me in class for a long time as I slowly flick through the pages of my book. I get through nearly a whole chapter before anyone appears, but people begin to trickle in. First, it’s Shizune and Misha, who ignore me, and then Taro appears in the door frame.

There was a kid like Taro in my old middle school. He was a big guy. He was kind, thinking back. It didn’t matter though, my friends and I bullied him relentlessly for nearly a year. Calling him names, taking his stuff. I don’t know why we thought that was so funny.

He transferred schools after a year.

Taro looks at me. He doesn’t smile, he doesn’t scowl. He just looks straight through me, and then sits down at his desk one away from mine. Misha asks him something from across the classroom, and he laughs. They have similar laughs; loud ones, full ones.

Suzu enters, chatting with the tall athletic girl, Miki. Miki glares at me, and Suzu rolls her eyes, before putting her finger up to Miki as if to say, ‘give me a minute’.

“Will you have finished reading Frankenstein by tomorrow?” she asks me, and I nod. “Okay, good, make sure you bring a suggestion for next week’s book tomorrow night.”

Suzu is the president of the Literature Club and she takes that role very seriously. I never used to enjoy reading, but I guess I looked lonely, so she invited me to join. I wouldn’t say I’m an active member, we’re certainly not friends. She quickly turns back to continue chatting with Miki, who gives me another glare for good measure, before striding over.

“Not going to say anything rude today, Hayashi?” she asks angrily, her stump on her hip.

I look at her, and then down at the ground.

“No,” I respond.

Miki didn’t expect that, and from the look on Suzu’s face, neither did she.

“Well, uh, good,” Miki responds.

I tuck my book back into my bag as more and more people begin to enter the classroom, and after a while it fills up. Nobody says anything to me, and I don’t say anything to them. Ritsu sits down beside me and lays her head in her arms. Nobody talks to her either, but everyone else in class chatters amongst themselves and catches up with one another. I copy Ritsu; dropping my head onto my wrists. It hurts, but it’s a bearable pain. That quite girl, Hanako, isn’t here today, but that’s not much of a surprise.

After a few more minutes, our teacher enters dishevelled and late, and another day begins at Yamaku.

Another day begins; it’s beginning the same as the last.

*
I think we look for the differences in people because it makes us less lonely.
Carson McCullers.
*
The cafeteria is busy today, considering it’s so sunny outside. Still, I’m able to find a table, and I set my book and lunch tray down with a thump. The water in my bottle sways as I set the tray down.

It takes a bit of fiddling, but I find my pill box in my bag and open it up. I fish a tablet out and take it with a swig from my water bottle.

All the chatter makes it a little difficult to focus, but I open my book with one hand and take a small bite out of my curry bread. In the corner of my eye I notice Taro. He’s sitting with Suzu and Miki, and another girl from our class, Ikuno. They look like they’re having fun.

Behind me I can hear Misha and her bombastic laugh, and over on my left, Takashi and Molly, two others from class 3-3, are chatting idly. I think they might be together, but I’m not sure.

Today feels an awful lot like yesterday.

Well, except for one minor difference.

Sitting on my left, with her head propped up by her hand, is another girl that I don’t think I’ve seen before. She’s got blond hair that she’s tucked behind her ears and little red earrings. Her eyes are brown, like that girl from this morning, but this girl is more attractive. I don’t know if that’s a mean thing to think.

She’s got a tray of food before her, but she’s not really eating; just dancing her chopsticks around the plate.

“Is there something on my face?” The girl asks, her voice is deeper than I expected.

I’m caught a bit off guard. Was I staring at her?

“No, sorry,” I say, and avert my eyes back to my book. I’m probably blushing a little now.

“I know what you’re wondering,” the girl says. Her tone is playful, but her face is serious. “You’re wondering why I’m sitting alone, like a loser.”

“I wasn’t wondering anything.” I respond, and she looks taken aback. That fact that she says that makes me think she’s probably thinking that about me; thinking that I’m a loser.

“Oh,” she murmurs.

I return to my book and food. It’s hard to focus on my reading, because I can practically feel this girl looking at me. I look up after every few lines, and sure enough, she’s staring at me. I swallow, and a shot of pain runs through me. Broken rips are the worst.

“I don’t think you’re a loser,” I tell her, but her face doesn’t lighten up or anything. “Well, maybe you are, but then I am too,” I joke.

“We’re just a couple of losers then,” she says, and takes another bite of her rice. She doesn’t laugh, which kind of stings, but as least she doesn’t look quite so forlorn anymore.

After a few moments of silence, she puts her hands on the table and shuffles along seat by seat, until she reaches the middle. She taps in front of her, so I push my tray and book across, and shuffle along to be opposite her.

“Enomoto,” she says, and bows her head. “Saki Enomoto.”

This isn’t how I saw my lunch going today.

“Hayashi,” I say, and return a bow, “Akio Hayashi.”

“So, what’re you reading?” she asks me, before taking another bite of her rice, and tilting her head to get a glimpse at my book cover. “Frankenstein, like the monster?”

“Well, Frankenstein is the doctor, not the monster, but yeah,” I explain.

Finally, the girl laughs. It’s cute.

“Are you a nerd, Hayashi?” she’s trying to sound playful.

“Maybe,” I tell her.

“A nerd and a loser, what’re the odds?”

“Probably quite high, if the stereotype is to be believed.” I say.

“I guess that’s true,” she says, and takes another bite of her rice. I finish the last of my curry bread and tuck my book back into my bag. I look at my watch.

“I have to go,” I say, and that deflated look returns to her again.

“But there’s still like fifteen minutes before class?” she looks really dejected. It makes me wonder if I look that lonely usually.

“I have to avoid the crowds.” she looks me up and down, like she’s trying to figure out why.

“Well, I’d like to avoid them too.” She says after presumably failing to identify my condition. I’m lucky that others can’t tell there’s anything wrong with me. Well, in some ways, anyway.

I don’t say anything back to the girl. Instead, I slot my water bottle into my rucksack and pick up my tray.

“Hey, wait up.” Her desperate tone makes me feel a bit sad. “Can you pass me my crutch so that I can come with you?” It looks like her crutch has fallen to the floor. Great.

I don’t know if I really want this girl to come with me. I was kind of content to be alone. Still, it’d be mean not to at least pass her her crutch, so I make my way around the table to where she had been previously sitting and bend down to pick it up.

Pain shoots through me and I grimace. This time, it’s emanating from my left hip. That one was five months ago, when I fell into a table.

I pass her the crutch and she smiles gratefully. I move towards the hallway doors, and she calls out from behind me.

“Hey, wait up Hayashi,” I turn to face her, and notice a few faces from class are looking at the girl, and at me. I’m not going to run away, but I would rather not have another conversation with the girl, so I keep walking.

I get past the door, and hear her speedily hobbling to catch up, the sound of her crutch tapping against the floor behind me.

“What the hell man, I said wait up,” she says, a bit out of breath but beside me now. “Are you an asshole, Hayashi?”

“Yes,” I reply.

She laughs. What’s wrong with this girl?

“Then you’re exactly the kind of person I want to be friends with!” she exclaims excitedly, and gestures towards the elevator beside us. We’ve both stopped walking now, mostly because I’m a bit taken aback by her remark.

What’s that supposed to even mean?

“Coming?” She asks, pressing the elevator button over and over.

I wouldn’t mind taking the lift instead of the stairs, that’s for sure, but do I really want to spend more time with this strange girl? She seems nice enough, I suppose, but she’s a bit peculiar in her persistent efforts to talk with me.

“Well?” Enomoto says, tapping her cane against the now open door of the elevator. “Come on Hayashi, I don’t want to chase you again.”

I shrug and join her in the elevator, causing her to giggle.

“That wasn’t so hard, was it?”

“I just didn’t want you to hurt yourself following me,” I reply, and she laughs even louder than before.

“See, you’re not an ass, you’re a sweetie,” she jabs me in the side playfully, but the feeling causes me to cry out in pain and I grab my ribs. “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m so – “

I lift my other hand to cut her off and shake my head. She seems to be staring at the bandage on my wrist now, since my sleeve has fallen. Her eyes look sad.

“It’s okay,” I say, but her smile doesn’t come back.

This is awkward.

I mean, it was awkward anyway, but now it’s really awkward.

“You’re a third year, right?” She asks, and I nod. Still nursing my side a little. I raise an eyebrow, and she nods back. “Yup, I’m a third year too. I’m class 3-1,” she says.

Nothing about that class springs to mind, I don’t think it’s like 3-2, for the visually disabled, so it might be like my class, where it’s unspecific.

“How come I haven’t seen you around before?” Enomoto asks me.

I have to think for a moment. There are probably a few reasons for that.

“I’ve only been at Yamaku for two months, and I wasn’t here at all for the last week and a half.” I explain, and the girl nods her head in understanding.

“Hospital?” she asks.

“No,” I say.

The elevator doors open, and we both step out into the hallway. Since Enomoto jabbed me, her mood has changed quite drastically, and now we’re going to be heading in opposite directions down the hall. I feel a bit guilty, since she’s been trying to be friendly with me, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to say.

We stand in the hallway awkwardly for a few moments. She looks like she’s been punched in the gut.

“Can I see you tomorrow?” she asks. Her tone is different now too, it’s less playful, and kind of lonely.

I can’t exactly stop her, can I? So, I shrug and give her a wave.

“Okay.”

“Okay,” she smiles back.

*

Next
Last edited by Feurox on Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Feurox
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The Kintsugi Club PT2

Post by Feurox » Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:17 pm

The Kintsugi Club PT2



There are all kinds of truth ... but behind all of them there is only one truth and that is that there's no truth.
Flannery O’Connor, Wise blood.

*

The walk to class is quiet this morning, but it’s significantly colder than yesterday.

I don’t see any butterflies.

That girl from yesterday, Enomoto, has been preying on my mind all morning. Why did she sit with me? Why wouldn’t she give up and leave? Is she a new student, or has she simply never heard about me and the things I did?

I drag my fingers down across my face. I won’t be getting answers to these questions unless I ask her, and maybe it’s best that I don’t. With any luck, she’ll leave me alone today, and I can finish the last chapter of Frankenstein. I don’t want to give Suzu another reason to hate me.

I make it to the main building quickly, and just like yesterday, that girl in the wheelchair is struggling. She notices me and looks down at the ground.

“Do you want some help?” I ask, and she doesn’t say anything. She nods.

I take hold of her wheelchair and begin to push her up the ramp, and the pain shoots through my wrists again. I think I know why she’s struggling; the incline is way too steep and it doesn’t feel even on both sides. This girl doesn’t look like she’s familiar with how to use a wheelchair either; maybe she’s newly disabled.

At the top of the ramp I head past to the double doors, but the girl stops me.

“Hey, wait up a second.” I turn to face her. She looks really defeated. “Thank you, again,” she says.

“It’s okay,” I tell her, but she shakes her head.

“No, it isn’t.” Her forlorn and defeated look reminds me Enomoto, and I feel guilty again. I should have left this girl alone.

“Are you still getting the hang of things?” I ask, and the girl’s expression changes from sad to curious.

“I guess so,” she gestures down to her legs, or lack thereof, and gives me a faint smile. “This takes a lot of getting used to,” I try to return her smile.

“I bet,” I respond, and the conversation trails off. There are a few moments where neither of us say anything, but the girl perks up again.

“Okumura,” she suddenly says and bows her head deeply, “Miho Okumura.”

I bow in return, “Hayashi, Akio.”

“Thank you again, Hayashi,” she says, and she wheels beside me. I’m not sure what it is with random girls introducing themselves to me over the last two days, but at least there’s nobody from my class around to see me this time.

“Are you a second year?” she asks as we enter the main building, I shake my head.

“Third. How about you?”

“Yeah, I’m a second year. I’ve only been enrolled for a week.”

That explains her difficulty somewhat. From what I’ve overheard during literature club meetings, most wheelchair students take the back entrance into the school, since it’s closer to the elevators and presumably the ramp is much easier.

We make our way down the hallway in silence. I don’t drag my fingers along the lockers this time, since the girl is between me and them. She looks like she wants to ask me something, but she chews on her lip. When we reach the stairs at the end of the hall, where I presume we’ll split up, she coughs to get my attention.

“Hayashi, are you in a club?”

Well, that’s not quite what I envisioned her asking, though I’m not sure what exactly I had in mind to begin with.

“Yes. The literature club,” I tell her. “We meet every Wednesday evening in the library, at the back.”

She thinks for a moment, and suddenly she looks a bit nervous.

“Do you think I could join?”

I’m not sure I’m able to add new members, or to permit people to join. I feel more like a guest there than a member anyway, so bringing someone along would feel a bit rude.

“I’m not at liberty to say,” I respond, and she looks deflated and let down. I give an inward sigh, and my mouth opens without me. “Why don’t you come and ask the president at tonight’s meeting?”

I turn away from her. What’s wrong with me, why would I say something like that? What if Suzu takes my membership away? I squeeze my wrist and a fresh wave of pain shoots through me, calming me down a little.

When I turn back to face Okumura, she’s looking a little concerned, but there’s something else there too, a tiny little smile.

“Do you think that’s okay?” she asks me, and I suddenly feel sick.

I want to say no. Old me wouldn’t have had a problem telling this girl to get lost, to leave me alone. But now, I just feel…. I just feel sick.

I nod and turn away from her, towards the stairs.

“Oh, okay,” she says from behind me, “I’ll see you later than Hayashi.”

I turn the corner and take the first step of the stairwell. Pain shoots through my knees as I take each step and I grit my teeth. The pain is deserved and helps to calm me down. After each step, I feel a little less sick, and despite the aching in my knees, a little sturdier.

By the time I reach the third floor I feel better again, but my breath is ragged, so I steady myself against the railing and try to relax. It takes a few minutes, but I manage to catch my breath.

I readjust my backpack so it’s not digging into my shoulders, and I head down the hall until I arrive at my class. It’s not like yesterday, since Ikezawa who sits next to me has already arrived and is reading something. She doesn’t say anything to me, but she watches me out of the corner of her eye like a hawk as I drop my bag beside my desk and take a seat. I fish out my copy of Frankenstein and open to the last chapter.

Like yesterday, people trickle in slowly. First to arrive is Shizune and Misha, and then Taro, this time accompanied by Lelouch, who gives me a very unhappy stare as he enters. I avert my eyes from him, but I know he’s still glaring, and Taro is probably whispering something about me to him. Suzu and Miki arrive, and both give me a look, though Miki’s is more intimidating.

I put my book away and tuck my head into my arms, just as Ritsu enters and does the same beside me.

Another day begins at Yamaku; it’s beginning, the same as the last.


*

Sometimes, I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there's no room for the present at all.
Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited.

*
Class ended a few minutes ago, so now I’m just waiting for the room to empty and for the hallway to quiet down a bit before I head to the cafeteria.

Should I even bother?

I don’t feel that hungry, and that Enomoto girl is just going to bother me again. That, and I really ought to finish Frankenstein before tonight’s book club meeting.

Tonight’s meeting…

I drop my head into my hands again and that feeling of sickness courses through me. Why did I invite that girl? Do I pity her? Do I want to be friends with her?

“Hey, is Hayashi in there?”

Friends?

I’ve been at Yamaku for over two months now, but that’s the first time I’ve thought about having friends here. I look around the room, to Lelouch sitting on Taro’s desk, to Ritsu with her head in her hands beside me, to Misha, standing by the doorframe.

To all the people I hurt over the last two months.

Friends…

“Hi, Enomoto, you’re looking for Hayashi?” Misha says, and my attention is wrestled back to reality. Sure enough, standing by the door is the girl from yesterday, one arm on her crutch, and another holding two sandwiches. Misha turns to look at me, and her face becomes a frown. “Did Hayashi say something mean to you?” she asks.

“What? Of course not, we’re friends.” Enomoto replies and peers around the classroom door to see me. She waves at me.

Friends…

Everyone that’s still in the classroom looks towards her curiously. Taro and Lelouch have finished their conversation and are giving Enomoto analytical looks, whilst Shizune and Misha are signing to each other frantically. The only person who isn’t paying any attention to the girl is Ritsu, who might be asleep.

“Oh, well, he’s right there.” Misha eventually says, clearly a bit shocked, her usually bubbly self a bit dampened.

Enomoto passes Misha in the doorway, and Shizune and Misha head out into the hallway. I think I see Taro and Lelouch staring as she pulls a chair up beside my desk. I raise an eyebrow at her and she smiles.

“I know you don’t like crowds, so I figured you’d wait before leaving class. Then I had an idea,” she says, and drops the sandwiches on the desk. “Why don’t I bring lunch to you, skip the middleman.”

I just can’t place this girl. What’s her motivation? Before I can respond, Enomoto looks past me to Ritsu, who has woken up and is giving her a curious expression.

“Are you hungry?” Enomoto asks Ritsu, who looks like she’s not sure if she’s dreaming or not.

“Uh, yeah a bit.” Ritsu replies, and Enomoto smiles politely, before taking half of her sandwich and offering it to her.

Ritsu eyes the offered sandwich with surprise, and then she gives me that same look. I shrug, and she takes the sandwich from Enomoto’s outstretched hand. What the hell is going on?

“So, uh, nice to meet you.” Ritsu says, “Tainaka, Ritsu.”

“Enomoto, Saki.”

“Well, Enomoto, thank you very much.” Ritsu says, before taking a bite from the corner of her sandwich. I open the packet and take a bite from my own. It’s nice. I think Taro and Lelouch go back to talking, but I think I see them glance at us occasionally, so maybe we’re the subject.

“Hayashi, can I ask you something?” Enomoto asks, before peeking back over her shoulder.

“You can call me Akio, and yeah go ahead.” I reply, it only seems fair that she can call me by my first name considering she’s bought me lunch.

“Then you can call me Saki,” she says with a smile, but then her face takes on a serious expression again. “Why does everyone in this class look at you like they hate you?”

I, uh…

I suddenly feel sick. This sandwich is awful.

Ritsu giggles beside me. “A lot of them probably do,” she says, but she doesn’t sound angry at me like I’d expect her to. She looks a little sad.

Saki is smiling though. “Well, I think he’s okay,” she says.

“Why?” I manage to ask, “you don’t even know me.”

“And so, I should just automatically dislike you? What a horribly pessimistic outlook, Akio.” Ritsu laughs at that, and Saki takes another bite from her sandwich.

None of us say anything for a while. The two of them eat their sandwiches, but I’m not that hungry anymore. I have to focus on my breathing, but I’m able to calm down a little. Ritsu finishes her sandwich, and taps the table in front of Saki, who is studying the walls of our classroom.

“Thank you for the food,” she says, and then looks around the room again. Taro and Lelouch aren’t really staring at us anymore, so I guess they got bored. “I don’t think he’s that bad, by the way,” she points at me with her thumb.

How can she say that? After what I said to her on my first week here? These girls must be so damn lonely if they’re this willing to talk to me. Saki smiles at Ritsu.

I drop my head into my arms with one side of face facing up to see Saki.

“So, Ritsu, what do you usually do at lunch?” Saki asks over me.

“Normally what Akio is doing right now,” she says and giggles. That seems like a sad thing to giggle about, but I’m not much better.

“Well, would you like to join our club?” Saki asks, and I raise my eyebrow. Aside from having heard her mention it, I should probably have been asked for consent before I was forced into a club with Saki.

Ritsu sounds as confused as I am. “A club? What’s it called?”

Saki thinks about that for a minute.

“How about the Losers Club?” Saki asks, but shakes her head immediately. “No, no, I’ve stolen that from somewhere, I’m sure.”

Ritsu giggles again, and when I roll my eyes, both girls giggle louder than before.

“How about the Akio Ain’t So Bad Club?” Ritsu says laughing, and Saki has a dumb smile on her lips too. Saki looks like she has a better idea though.

“I know, how about the Kintsugi club?” she asks, and Ritsu thinks for a moment. I raise an eyebrow at Saki, and she claps her hands together to explain.

“Kintsugi is like, the art of putting stuff that was broken back together, sometimes with gold. I think it’s fitting,” she says, and points to my wrist, where my splint has peeked out from beneath my blazer.

“I like it,” Ritsu says. “Now what do we do in the Kintsugi club?”

That’s a good question, but I have a more pressing one. When did I consent to any of this?

“Well, how about we have our first meeting at the Shanghai tonight and figure that out?” Saki asks, and Ritsu smiles.

“Sounds good to me,” she says.

“I can’t make it,” I say.

They both turn to look at me, surprised. They probably think I’m blowing them off, which I kind of am.

“I have a literature club meeting tonight,” I explain, and Ritsu’s face lights up with understanding.

“You’re already in another club? And here I thought you were a loser,” Saki says with a playful giggle. I’m not sure if I find her attitude endearing or frustrating.

Before I can answer, Ritsu laughs loudly.

“Well, it’s the literature club, the two aren’t mutually exclusive,” she says, and both girls laugh out loud.

I notice Hanako peering in from the doorway. Saki has stolen her seat. “You should probably go,” I say to Saki, and her expression immediately sinks, “Ikezawa will want her chair back.” Upon hearing my explanation, Saki’s face lights up again. Despite how annoying she is, her smile does make me feel kind of warm.

“Oh, yeah, fair enough,” she says as she rises from my desk, and places Hanako’s chair back at hers. She turns to face Ikezawa in the doorway, and bows politely, “I apologise for borrowing your chair without permission.” I think I hear Hanako say it’s fine, but you can never be sure with that girl.

“So, tomorrow night instead then?” Ritsu asks, and Saki looks to me for any objection. I can’t think of an excuse, so I shrug.

“Sounds like a plan, let’s meet at the front gate at seven?” Saki says, already heading towards the door.

“AM or PM?” Ritsu asks, and I give her a confused look.

“Why would we meet at seven AM?” I ask, and Saki giggles with her hand over her mouth.

“Oh, right, yeah, obviously PM,” Ritsu awkwardly replies, rubbing the back of her head. “See you then, Enomoto!”

Saki laughs and gives both of us a wave. “Please, call me Saki! Have a good day you two,” she calls as she exits into the hallway.

Before I can bury myself back in my arm fortress, Ritsu taps my desk to get my attention.

“I guess fate gives everyone a second chance, huh?” she says.

A second chance…

The rest of the class begins to pour in. Maybe I imagine it, but it feels like everyone is looking at me more than usual, their careful glances like a thousand paper cuts.

I feel sick for the rest of the afternoon.
*

I am I, and I wish I weren't.
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

*
I check my watch. The meeting is supposed to start in about ten minutes. Suzu keeps looking at me curiously but returns to her book whenever I look back.

I can’t stop thinking about Saki. Why is she so persistent? Why does she want so desperately to be friends with me? She’s a pretty girl, so she can’t be hurting for male attention. So why me?

Then there’s Ritsu. What did she mean by a second chance. Is that what Saki is? Is that what the Kintsugi Club is? Do I deserve that?

Before I can get too lost in that rabbit hole, I notice Okumura scanning the library from its entrance. She notices me, and gives me a friendly wave, before wheeling herself in my direction. That sick feeling from this morning comes back, and I clench my wrist as hard as possible to distract myself from the sinking feeling in my heart.

She crosses the library, and Suzu gives her a curious look, before sitting up from her bean-bag seat and walking over towards the girl.

“Oh, hi,” Okumura says, clearly nervous, “is this the literature club meeting?” she asks.

Suzu looks delighted and gives her a smile, “it is, would you care to join us?”

The worry on Okumura’s face is immediately replaced with relief, and she returns the smile Suzu is giving her. “I’d love to, if that’s not too much of a problem.”

“It’s not a problem at all,” Suzu says and bows deeply, “Suzuki, Suzu. I’m the literature club president, and it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Okumura, Miho. Thank you.”

“So, Okumura,” Suzu begins to ask as she settles back into her position, “how did you hear about our humble Literature club?” Behind Okumura, I notice Lezard and a few of the second-year guys from our club collectively hobbling over to us.

“That’d be thanks to Hayashi here,” Okumura points at me with a smile, my heart drops a kilometre.

The mood between Suzu and her quickly changes, since Suzu gives me a confused look It’s not angry, surprisingly, but it still makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. I look down at my lap.

“I see,” Suzu says slowly, and Okumura looks thoroughly lost. “Anyway,” her tone immediately reverts to its usually cheery self, “This week’s book is Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. Are you familiar with that text?”

That’s it?

Just one curious look?

Sweet.

Okumura racks her brain but shakes her head.“No, I don’t think so,” she finally says.

“Okay, well you can borrow my copy for today, and if you think you can join in the discussion, please do!” Suzu tells her, and hands over her copy. Okumura wheels over to be beside my seat, and Suzu stands up again and starts talking to Lezard and the others. A few more people have arrived now.

Okumura taps me on the knee, and even that subtle tap shocks me a little.

“What was that about?” she whispers, and I avoid her eyes.

“It’s a long story,” I reply, my eyes fixed on the beanbag Suzu has just left.

After chatting for a few moments, the other members take their seats in the circle, and fish out their copies of the text. Suzu kicks of the discussion, and everyone gets involved. I don’t say anything, as usual, but it’s interesting to hear what people thought about the book. Lezard and Suzu have a pretty interesting argument about what Doctor Frankenstein’s fatal mistake was. Suzu claims that his mistake was in subverting God, women, and the natural order, whilst Lezard thinks that Frankenstein succeeds at those things, but fails at being a father to the monster he created. I personally think they’re both right, and wrong, but I don’t talk at these meetings.

To my surprise, Okumura manages to get a few words in here and there, which draws an impressed smile from Suzu more than once.

At the end of the meeting, everyone writes down a book suggestion and slips it into a bowl. Suzu picks one at random, and sure enough, it’s not mine. It’s Catch 22, by Joseph Heller. I haven’t heard of it, which means I’ll have to find a copy. Great.

Just as I’m about to pack up my things and leave, Suzu addresses the club, and we all give her our attention.

“So, as you all know, the festival in two weeks, and we need to come up with a stall idea. I was thinking we could just do some silly game, but I’m open to suggestions,” she says, and everyone thinks for a few minutes.

“What about a stall of fates?” Okumura asks.

A what?

“A what?” Lezard asks. How convenient.

Okumura thinks again for a few moments, rubbing the back of her head as she does.

“Like, uh, we write out a load of fortunes, and if you win a game you get a positive one, and if you lose, you get a bad one?” She explains, but I still don’t really get it.

“Like a curse?” Suzu asks, leaning forward in interest.

“Yeah kind of, but it’s a little bit less scary. It’d just be for fun. We tried it at my old school,” Okumura replies, and Suzu considers it.

“I kind of like that idea,” Lezard says, and Suzu starts to slowly nod.

“Yeah, it’s kind of cute,” she agrees, and Okumura begins to glow. “Are we all in agreement to give that a go?”

She looks around the room as everybody nods, including me.

Suzu smiles and claps her hands together.

“Okay,” she says, and we all get up to leave, “it’s settled then, next week we’ll have ten minutes at the end to start writing some down for the stall. Oh, and, welcome to the club Okumura.” She adds.

Everybody gives a short round of applause, and the meeting officially ends. Everybody begins walking towards the exit of the library, leaving Okumura and me behind a little. I’d rather not walk back to the dorms with those guys anyway, and they probably feel the same.

Just before the door, they turn back to face us.

“Oh, Okumura,” Lezard says, and their whole group stops, “we usually go to the Shanghai down in town after a meeting, do you want to come?”

Okumura looks at me, like she’s asking for permission, but I shrug. I didn’t even know that was something they did.

“Sure, if that’s okay,” she says, and begins to wheel after them. She catches up to them, but then turns around to face me by the door, “Not coming?”

Nobody else is looking at me, just Okumura. Something inside me is screaming to say yes.

“Nah, have fun though,” I reply, and her face drops.

“Oh, okay. I’ll see you when I see you then,” she says, and follows the others out of the library doors.

I think about a few things on my walk back to the dorms. I think about fate. I think about Saki. I think about second chances, and the idea of the Kintsugi club.

I think about that butterfly with the little blue wings, and a shooting pain runs through me.

You can’t un-crush a butterfly.

*

Next
Last edited by Feurox on Tue Sep 10, 2019 11:24 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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The Kintsugi Club PT3

Post by Feurox » Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:19 pm

The Kintsugi Club PT3



Because, don’t you see, what I know is what I am? And I can’t tell you that. You have to find it out for yourself. I’m like a book you have to read. A book can’t read itself to you. It doesn’t even know what it’s about. I don’t know what I’m about[…]
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man.

*
The walk to class is quiet this morning. There are no butterflies again, but I spot a few birds, which is an okay swap, I think.

When it’s this quiet, it feels like time is standing still. I think I’d like that. If everything could just stop for a while, so I could walk around without worrying about breaking, without worrying what would happen later in the day.

Maybe Saki would stop bothering me too, if she was frozen like that.

I’m surprised that I don’t feel happy to think that. In fact, I feel kind of sad.

I squeeze my wrist, sending a fresh wave of pain through me. I don’t deserve to feel sad about something like that, not after some of the things I’ve said, some of the things I’ve done. I certainly don’t deserve Saki’s friendship, nor Ritsu’s. I’m going to tell them that I want nothing to do with the Kintsugi club today. It wasn’t a hard decision.

Surprisingly, there’s no sight of Okumura at the front entrance. I guess I was kind of expecting to see her here, and to wheel her up the ramp again, but no, she’s not here.

It feels kind of lonely without her. I squeeze my ribs this time, for another fresh wave of pain, and head through the double doors of the main building. At least I don’t have anyone between me and the lockers today, so I can drag my fingers along them like a rapid drum beat again.

The stairs hurt, but I make it to the third floor without too much of a struggle and enter my class. Shizune and Misha are already here this morning, but I ignore them and head for my desk.

I haven’t been able to find a copy of that book yet, I may have to request it from that skittish librarian lady. Oh well. I sink my head into my arms again.

“Hayashi,”

I look up to see Shizune stood in front of me, with Misha just to her side. Shizune looks very serious, but Misha looks kind of nervous. Her face makes me feel kind of guilty.

“Hayashi,” Misha repeats, and Shizune signs to her. It’s weird seeing them talk like this, with their eyes drawn between their hands and my face. “We wanted to ask if you’ve caught up with the work missed last week, and, um, Shizune would like to remind you that the student council here to help if you need anything.”

I look them up and down, Shizune is giving me a smile. That’s the first time I’ve seen her do that since I met her, and promptly insulted her.

“Do you know?” I ask, and Misha translates, her face looking confused.

“Know what?” Misha asks, or, uh, Shizune asks? One of them.

“Why I went home, where I was last week.” I say.

Misha translates again, and now her face looks concerned, like she’s scared I’m going to get angry with her again.

“We do not, but you seem quieter this week, and we wanted to make sure everything was okay.” She finally says, and Shizune pushes her glasses back onto her nose. Misha is trying her best to appear friendly, but it’s obvious she’s uncomfortable.

I don’t really know what to say. When I’m not being an asshole to them, they get concerned? What kind of horrible world do we live in, where that’s not a cause for celebration, where that isn’t just enough for them to leave me alone.

I didn’t notice I was tearing up, but my cheeks are a little wet. Both girls are looking at me sympathetically. I can’t decide whether I think they know or not, but I guess it doesn’t really matter anymore, it’s obvious something is wrong with me.

How pathetic I must look. One week I’m calling everybody names, telling everyone to leave me alone and keeping to myself; then suddenly I’m a crying mess, with girls bringing me lunch like I’m the one deserving sympathy, like after everything, I deserve to be happy.

I drop my head back into my arms. I’m not sobbing or anything, but my eyes are still really stinging. Eventually I hear the two girls sit back at their desks, and a few more chairs scrape against the floor as they’re pulled out by my classmates.

Ritsu says hello to me, but I don’t look up. She taps my table a few times until I look up to see her there.

I want to tell her to get lost. To leave me the hell alone and take that Saki girl with her.

But I can’t say anything at all, I can barely breathe.

“You okay?” she asks. I think that some of our classmates are looking at us, but Ritsu doesn’t seem to care.

“What’s going on?” Ritsu asks, trying to give me a sympathetic smile. She’s obviously very taken aback by my crying. I’m still not sobbing or anything, but I can’t really control my sniffling, and I’m breathing kind of loudly. I feel so goddamn ridiculous.

I close my eyes and squeeze my wrist. Ritsu must notice I’m hurting myself, because she makes a startled noise as my teeth clench up.

I open my eyes again; she looks blurry now.

Why am I even upset, it’s not like we were friends anymore. The guy was an asshole. He deserved what he got.

Maybe I deserve it too.

Another day begins at Yamaku; but nothing is the same anymore, nothing will ever be the same again.

I can’t unwrite the past.
*
Life is like a play: it's not the length, but the excellence of the acting that matters.
Seneca

*
“Dude, you can’t do things like that to yourself,” Ritsu says, but I’m not really paying any attention.

“Akio,” Saki says, pouting at me. “The Kintsugi club is all about honesty.”

It is? That’s news to me. I thought that the Kintsugi club was just a bunch of losers with no friends. I thought I was going to tell them I don’t want to be involved. Why can’t I just say that?

“Okay, well I’m sorry, it was nothing,” I say and push off the wall.

It’s seven PM, and we’re heading into town for the first ever meeting of the Kintsugi club. I didn’t see Saki at lunch, but that’s because I spent most of the day in the nurse’s office anyway, thanks to Shizune and Misha. He decided to let me skip the afternoon’s classes, but I’ve also got to meet with a counsellor next week.

“I think we need to be honest with one another, otherwise this will never work,” Saki says, and automatically the three of us begin to shamble slowly down the hill into town. “Since Akio was an ass today, I think he should start.”

Honesty.

That’s all she wants. Maybe if I do that, she’ll stop hanging out with me. That’s what I wanted this morning. I think I still do, or maybe I never did? I feel simultaneously suffocated and alone, trapped and free all at once.

Ritsu gives me a patient smile, which feels a bit forced given some of the things I said to her when I first arrived here.

“I was at a funeral last week,” I explain. The air feels cold, and the sky is kind of dark given the time of evening it is. “He was an old friend of mine, sort of. I think maybe he deserved what he got. I think maybe I deserve it too.”

Their faces go from sympathetic to outright shocked. That’s not surprising considering what I just said, but they haven’t cut me off yet. We’re past the main gate now and onto the path by the side of the road.

“We weren’t really close anymore,” I continue, but I have to think a little, “I don’t know if we were ever close. The guy wasn’t very nice, none of our group was,” I stop again, Saki is looking at me like her heart is broken. “I don’t think any of us are -”

Saki coughs abruptly, and Ritsu and I turn to face her as we walk.

“You’re wrong,” she interrupts, her thoughts apparently gathered. “Nobody deserves to die, no matter what they did,” she says, her eyes welling up a little. Obviously, this is an emotional subject, but she doesn’t know the kind of asshole Sho was.

The last memory I have of him was when he broke my wrist; he kept asking me where all my strength had gone. Now he’s rotting in the ground. I win, Sho.

“Exactly,” Ritsu says in agreement, nodding her head. “I think members of the Kintsugi club should be forbidden from dying,” she adds.

Saki looks a bit forlorn for a moment, but giggles, the tone a little lightened.

“I agree.” Saki’s cheesy grin, and determined eyes, make something in me feel strange; like there’s something bubbling within my stomach. It feels like that sick feeling from the other day, but, better? “After all, the Kintsugi club is about making the broken better,” Ritsu and Saki share a resolute nod.

“Why are you both doing this?” I ask, just as a car passes by us, blinding me for a moment with their headlights.

“Doing what?” Ritsu asks.

“Trying so hard to be friends with me, suffocating me with this stupid optimism.”

Saki thinks for a minute, and Ritsu looks a bit upset. Somehow, Saki laughs and bats away my accusation.

“You think everything is about you, huh, Akio?” she asks, that playful smile from our first meeting dancing on her lips.

“What?” My tone probably sounds harsher than I intend, but again, Saki seems unfazed.

“Have you considered that I might just want a friend? I’m not out to get you, and I don’t believe that you’re a bad guy, despite your weird obsession with being one. Though without a doubt there are probably better friends I could have chosen,” I’m stunned into silence by that.

I don’t know what to say. I can’t exactly be insulted, after how I’ve spoken to them both.

Does this change anything? If Saki isn’t doing me a favour, but rather, I’m doing her one?

Is that what friends really are, just people doing each other favours?

Saki looks depressed now, like she doesn’t know what else to say. Ritsu doesn’t look much better.

“I’m sorry,” I say, and another sharp pain echoes from my ribs. That’s probably karma at work.

“Why’re you so scared to just be happy?” Ritsu asks from beside Saki, and the girls giggle. Maybe to lighten the tone, maybe because this whole situation is just bizarre.

I’m not scared though. There are just people that deserve happiness and those that don’t, right?

The lights from the town begin to appear in front of us, and after a few minutes of walking in silence, we arrive at the Shanghai. The whole town feels like it’s asleep, and the café isn’t any different. That librarian from school is working behind the counter, and she nearly knocks herself out with how aggressively she bows as we enter.

This is the first time I’ve been to the Shanghai since I arrived at Yamaku, but it’s exactly what I expected it to be. Warm and cosy, but with this extremely relaxed vibe like it’s paused outside of time. I was wishing for that kind of feeling this morning, but now that I’m here, I’m not sure I like it. It doesn’t feel like I thought it would.

We take a seat in a booth by the window and Saki asks the waitress for some coffees, before clasping her hand together and smiling widely.

“I officially welcome you both to the first meeting of the Kintsugi club,” she says, and Ritsu claps.

Even though it’s so stupid. Even though I didn’t really want to be here this morning, I smile.

I smile, and it’s like breathing at last.

I close my eyes, expecting a wave of pain to course through me, but it doesn’t.

Behind my eyes I can still see the funeral procession. There’s a lot of crying, my old friends all look devastated, and they give me a sympathetic nod as I pass them. I overhear Sho’s parents sobbing, my parents look miserable too.

As they lower the coffin into the ground, I remember all the times we shared together. That time we pushed that first year so hard he started crying. The time we stole that large kid’s manga and set them on fire while he watched. That time we beat up Michio for back talking us.

Then I think of more recent times, like the time Michio’s brother broke my ribs, and Sho ran away. Or when I told him about my osteoporosis, and he broke my wrist.

Is this all you leave behind, Sho? Is this all you have to give?

Should I be lying next to you?

“What makes a person good?” I ask, and Saki and Ritsu look at each other confused.

“They try,” Saki responds with a smile.

“They try,” she says again.

*

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Last edited by Feurox on Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:37 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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The Kintsugi Club PT4

Post by Feurox » Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:22 pm

The Kintsugi Club PT4


How dreadful the knowledge of the truth can be,
When there’s no help in truth[.]

Sophocles, Oedipus Rex

*
The walk to class is quiet this morning, and I actually spot a butterfly this time. It doesn’t land on me though.

It’s Saturday, which means there’s only a half day of classes today. The last few days have been uneventful. Saki and Ritsu dragged me along to the cafeteria at lunch, and we visited the Shanghai last night again. I mostly keep quiet around them, but they don’t seem to mind.

I guess I’ve started enjoying their company, which feels kind of weird. They’re not like my old friends at all. They’re kind. I don’t know if I’m having fun, per se, but it doesn’t feel worse than being alone.

I’ve found myself wondering about them a bit more lately, and not about why they’re hanging out with me. I think that’s just because they’re lonely, and I guess I am too.

I feel genuinely curious about them, about why they’re here at Yamaku. Ritsu has something with her wrist, I think, because she sometimes wears this blue splint thing on her hand. Saki, however, is an enigma. She uses a crutch, so I can only assume she’s got something wrong with her legs, but what? I’ve heard that people can have cerebral palsy in just their legs, but is that common? Wondering about it won’t solve anything though, if I really want to know, I’ll have to ask. She doesn’t strike me as dishonest, which makes the fact that she hasn’t brought it up yet a bit suspicious.

Unlike the last few days, I notice Okumura waiting by the entrance to the main building, and she waves me over.

“Hey Hayashi, I’ve been waiting for you,” she says, looking nervous.

“Do you need a hand?” I ask, but she shakes her head and a tiny smile creeps onto her face.

“No, I’ve got it,” she says and begins to wheel herself up the ramp, the sight makes me feel a bit proud, for whatever reason.

“So, what’s up?” I ask, as we pass through the doors into the hallway. Like always, the hallway is colder than outside, which causes me to pull the sleeves down over my wrists.

“Lezard and Suzu,” Okumura says, and my heart drops a little, “they told me some of the awful things you said to them when we went to the Shanghai,” she trails off and averts her eyes from me.

“Yeah,” is all I can muster in response, but she shakes her head and carries on.

“How could you say things like that to people you barely know?” she asks me, her tone a little angry, but also just disappointed.

It feels like so long ago now since I arrived at Yamaku; two months have flown by. After Sho broke my wrist, and my old friends began teasing me, I realised I couldn’t stay at my old high school. I was too vulnerable there, too weak. I wanted to be home schooled, but my parents insisted on this place, and from the moment I stepped inside I knew I’d hate it. It’s beautiful, sure, but it’s a façade. A fake face that the school hides behind, when there’s nothing different about this school.

The truth is that there’s nothing different about me either, and it was so much easier to just hate these people. These broken and weak people.

I thought I was better than them, that I wasn’t like them. I realised at Sho’s funeral that I’m right about one of those things.

I’m not like any of them. I’m worse.

“I want to be friends with you,” Okumura finally says, her face a mixture of emotions, “but I want you to explain yourself first.” Just as I’m about to speak, she raises her hand to stop me. “Why did you help me?”

Another girl asking to be my friend…

I have to think about that for a while, and we reach the end of the hallway. She’s looking at me expectantly, but I don’t really have an answer for her.

Do I tell her that I’m scared of dying like Sho? That I don’t want to just leave behind more misery like he did? Do I tell her that I want to be different? Is that even true?

Do I tell her about the Kintsugi club, about fixing the broken?

“I don’t know,” I tell her, and her face drops.

Neither of us say anything. We’re just standing, well, she’s sitting, opposite one another in the hallway.

After a long silence, she sighs and opens her mouth to speak, but I hold my hand up to cut her off.

“I used to think it was okay,” I begin, and she tilts her head quizzically. I scan the hallway to make sure we’re still alone, and continue, “I used to think being mean was okay, it didn’t matter. People that wouldn’t stick up for themselves deserved it. It was just so easy to be rude, and so much harder to be nice.”

The elevator doors open beside us, and a member of the nursing staff nods politely at us as he passes. I wait until he’s down the corridor and out of ear shot before continuing.

“When I came here, everyone was so persistently nice all the time,” I think back to my first week, when Misha and Shizune wouldn’t leave me alone, when Suzu invited me to join the literature club and I called her a nerd. “It felt so fake. Everyone in my last school learned to leave me and my friends alone, but here it’s like nobody would take the hint. I kept calling them freaks, but they wouldn’t stop being nice to me. It pissed me off.”

Okumura looks visibly upset by that.

“But you joined the literature club anyway, and Suzu let you?” She asks me, and I shrug.

“It was nurses’ idea,” I explain, and she nods, “it was that or mandatory counselling. Not that it matters now.”

She raises her eyebrow in question, and I sigh. I guess I’m going the full distance now.

“I went home last week for a funeral. He was my friend, I guess. He got hit by a car when he was riding his bike. It’s kind of funny,” She gets that upset look again, so I chuckle and wave my hand. “Funny is the wrong word. It just made me realise something.”

I check up and down the hallway again.

“It made me realise I’m scared.”

She doesn’t say anything to me. I’m not sure she understands what I’m saying. I don’t even know what I’m saying anymore. Why am I tell this girl anything?

I drag my hands down my face, and her expression hasn’t changed.

“I need to get to class,” she finally says, before pressing the button on the elevator doors. I stand and watch in silence as the doors open, and she rolls inside.

Just before the doors close fully, she looks at me with a sad look in her eyes. It makes me feel guilty.

“It’s never too late, Hayashi,” she says, and the doors close.

I turn and take the staircase. The pain shoots through my knees again, but it doesn’t calm me down. It just, hurts. Everything just hurts.

Before long I reach the third floor, and then my classroom. Taro looks through me. Lelouch scowls. Miki and Suzu look at me, but it’s different today, they don’t stare so harshly. They don’t pierce me.

Shizune and Misha frown.

I take my seat and bury my head into my arms.

Before long, the classroom fills up. Hanako takes her seat beside me, and Takashi enters beside Molly. People give me curious glances, but they feel softer today.

Ritsu waves to me from the door and enters the room.

“Hi,” she whispers.

“Hi,” I reply.

Another day begins at Yamaku; it’s beginning, something new, something unknown.

It’s not too late, I think.

Just try.

*
Anything cracked will shatter at a touch.
Ovid.

*
“Akio, are you paying attention?” Suzu asks.


Honestly? No. “I’m sorry,” I say, and she… she laughs.

Everybody laughs.

What?

“Okay, okay, so I think we all agree that this book wasn’t for us,” she says, and a chorus of nods echoes around the room.

Maybe I would have enjoyed Catch 22 if I’d had any time to read it, but Saki and Ritsu have kept me too busy to get any reading done. Not that I’m complaining. I’ve started to enjoy the quiet conversation of the Kintsugi club.

I’m beginning to wonder if I actually enjoy reading, since I haven’t even picked up a book since I started hanging out with Saki and Ritsu.

“Well, we have something else to do today,” Suzu begins, and everyone closes their books. “The festival is next Sunday, so we need to start writing our fates!”

There’s an excited murmur in the group, and across from me, Okumura is smiling. She pulls out a wad of paper, and Suzu takes it from her gladly. Lezard and Suzu hand everyone a scrap of lined paper and we all begin writing down ‘fates’ on our sheets.

I don’t really know what to write, so I scribble down some pretty generic things, like ‘good luck will come to you if you’re patient’ and ‘today is a gift’. It’s meaningless, sure, but I’m not sure what else to put.

After ten minutes of writing, Suzu ends the meeting and collects our submissions. We’re not going to be reading a book for next week’s meeting, since the session will mostly be in preparation for the festival. Everybody gets up and heads for the library doors, but Okumura stops in her wheelchair and waits for me to catch up.

I’m not sure what I’m supposed to say to her. Am I meant to apologise for how abrupt our conversation ended the other day? Are we friends now? That doesn’t seem likely given her sad face when the elevator doors shut…

“Hey,” I say, and she looks up to me with a nervous smile.

“Hi, I wanted to ask you something,” she begins, before twisting around to face the rest of the group. They’re watching us intently. “I asked them if we could invite you to the Shanghai with us.”

I look past her, to Lezard and Suzu who look as nervous as Okumura.

“What did they say?” I ask, and Okumura giggles.

“They said you could come, why else would I bring it up?”

That’s a good point, it’d be kind of cruel otherwise. But do I really want to go with them? I’ve never been invited before, and I haven’t spoken to any of them outside of the club since the day I shouted at Lezard and Suzu in class.

I look back at them again, they’re waiting for me.

I’m about to say no, when two thoughts shoot through me, like I’d just squeezed my wrist for the pain.

It’s not too late, I think.

Just try.

“Okay,” I say.

“Really?” Okumura asks.

“Okay, Okumura,” I say again, and she laughs loudly. I notice Lezard smile behind her.

“You know, you can call me Miho,” She says and bows at me again.

“Okay, Miho,” I say.

I breathe in, but it doesn’t hurt.

Maybe my ribs are healing, or maybe, just maybe, it’s my heart.

And the Kintsugi club is living up to its name.

*
The past is never dead. It's not even past.
William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun

*
I think I was wrong to call the Shanghai timeless when we were here the other night. It’s more… sleepy. Like some old dog, that doesn’t have the energy to go out much anymore, so it just slumbers about the house and falls asleep in awkward places.

The waitress, however, is far from sleepy. She needs to chill the hell out, it’s disturbing. As Saki and Ritsu chatter before me, I can see her juggling multiple cups of what I presume are our coffees, since there isn’t anyone else in here, on a tray. If she spills it on me, I’m going to flip.

Thankfully, the skittish woman manages to collect herself enough to set the drinks down carefully, and Saki gives her our thanks. I take my cup from the tray and bring it up to my lips; the aroma wafts up to my nose. Even if she’s a bit of an overly energetic mess, the woman makes good coffee.

“So, welcome to the Kintsugi club’s third meeting,” Saki says and Ritsu giggles.

“It’s the fourth actually,” I correct her, and both girls giggle again.

“Well, what’s the topic of discussion today then?” Ritsu asks, and Saki thinks for a moment.

She rubs her chin, and then clicks her fingers in realisation. Her snapping draws my attention to her fingernails, which she’s painted the same red colour as her earrings. I think she’s saying something, but I’m not paying attention. Have they always been that colour? They look nice.

I shake my head and focus again on her eyes. Her deep brown eyes…

“Akio,” Ritsu says, and I have to shake my head again. I can feel my cheeks beginning to get warmer. “Saki was just saying that it’s your turn to bring up a topic for discussion,” Ritsu says, before taking a sip of her coffee and then yowling because it’s still boiling.

Uh… a topic. Like, uh, dinosaurs or something?

I don’t think I know enough about dinosaurs to bring something like that up, and Ritsu is probably the kind of person with niche knowledge on that kind of thing anyway, since she’s otherwise so scatter-brained.

That reminds me!

“Well,” I begin, “I thought we could talk about what brought us all here, to Yamaku.” I’ve been meaning to find out what’s wrong with these two for a while now, but I’ll admit, I’m more curious to hear about Saki’s condition than Ritsu’s. I turn to face Saki, but…

Something’s wrong.

She looks down, her face contorted in pain. It reminds me of the first day I met Miho Okumura, and she was struggling with her wheelchair.

She looks like someone who can’t move forward. And then, with a brilliant and beautiful smile, she’s back.

What the hell.

“Okay,” Saki says, clapping her hands together on the table. “I’m here because I have a persistent tremor in my right leg.” She picks up the cane beside her and gives it a shake for emphasis. “Hence this bad boy right here,” she leans in and whispers, “his name is Horatio, by the way.”

Ritsu laughs, and even I’m forced to suppress a chuckle.

I can’t explain it, but something in me feels really relieved to hear that. Her reaction was weird, but, as she said, the Kintsugi club is about honesty. Well, the club seems to be about whatever Saki wants, but I don’t mind so much now.

Ritsu leans across the table and gives Saki’s crutch a shake too. “Lovely to meet you Horatio,” she says in a posh accent, and this time I can’t help but laugh.

Saki’s face lightens up, and she tilts the crutch towards me.

I look around. It’s still empty in here.

Screw it.

I grab the crutch and give it a gentle shake. With my other hand, I pretend to tip my hat to it.

“Elated to make your acquaintance, Mr Horatio,” I say properly, and both girls explode with laughter.

“That did not just happen,” Ritsu says in disbelief, and in-between laughs.

“It so did, I wish I could have recorded it,” Saki confirms, and I can feel my cheeks begin to glow again. “Anyway, Ritsu it’s your turn.”

Ritsu thinks for a minute, like she doesn’t know what she’s being asked, but she claps her hands together and nods in realisation.

“I’ve got bad carpal tunnel, that’s why I sometimes wear that pretty blue splint. I used to make these little origami figures, but it’s pretty much constant pain now, so I can’t.” Ritsu explains, and I nod. That’s pretty much what I was expecting.

Oh, it’s my turn. Fair’s fair. It seems my ailment is the worst one then. Something about that makes me feel relieved.

“I’ve got osteoporosis,” I explain, and I pull my sleeve to reveal my bandaged wrist. Though of course they’ve both seen that. I have a better one, I guess. I stand up from the table and untuck my shirt, the girls look surprised, but don’t interrupt me as I pull my shirt up and reveal the bandage around my ribs. “I break pretty easily, and I think it takes me longer to heal than most people.”

The girls nod, and then Saki giggles.

“We got a free strip tease with his, you’ve got to up your game, Ritsu.”

Ritsu’s face becomes immediately red, and mine probably does the same.

“I was just being thorough,” I say defensively, but Saki is still giggling at me. Despite my efforts, it proves contagious, and I end up laughing as well.

“I think we can call the Kintsugi club a success, you know,” Saki eventually says, before taking a long sip from her coffee.

I think she’s probably right.

Ritsu is looking at me, waiting for my response. So is Saki now.

I take a long sip of my coffee too. The pressure feels like it’s on me to say the right thing here.

I close my eyes.

Even if it’s just to these two girls, these two self-described losers, I don’t feel like the bad guy.

When I open my eyes again, the look on Ritsu’s face has gotten more nervous, but Saki looks confident… like she knows me. I find myself looking into her eyes again…

I raise my coffee cup into the air.

“To the Kintsugi club,” I finally say, and both girls join me with their cups.

“The Kintsugi club,” they echo.

*

Next
Last edited by Feurox on Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:39 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Feurox
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Location: England, Oxfordshire

The Kintsugi Club PT5

Post by Feurox » Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:25 pm

The Kintsugi Club PT5


To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.
Oscar Wilde.

*
The walk to class is quiet this morning. It feels serene and peaceful, but it also feels a bit lonely. Part of me wishes that Saki was walking to class with me, or maybe Ritsu. I’m looking forward to hanging out with them at lunch.

That thought makes me stop for a minute. I would never have thought that last week, or two weeks ago when I first met Saki.

Is that what friends are? Not just people doing each other favours, but reasons to wake up, to stick through the day.

Do I really deserve those kinds of friends, after everything? Or is fate setting me up for a fall.

I breathe in, and again, no pain.

If Sho could see me now, what would he say? Would he break my wrist again? Would he call me a nerd and a loser?

Would he do anything different if he knew where he’d end up?

Does redemption really exist?

“Akio!” A voice calls out from before me, and I shake my head to ground myself back in reality. Okumura is smiling at me from in front of the school doors, already up the ramp.

“Hey, Miho,” I reply with a wave.

“Something on your mind?” she asks as I catch up beside her and we enter the main hallway. She looks and sounds cheery this morning, it’s a big difference from the day we first met. I wonder if part of the reason I helped her is because she reminds me of myself.

“Not really, I’m sort of thinking in general,” I think of Saki again.

“Someone special?” Miho asks.

Uh, is this girl telepathic.

She looks at me and bursts into laughter, slapping the rims of her wheelchair as she giggles.

“No way, I was right!” She says, and I can feel my cheeks begin to heat up. “You were just smiling a lot, thought I’d take a guess,” she stops laughing and smiles at me again, “so who’s the unlucky lady?”

Hah, unlucky is probably right.

“She’s a friend,” I admit. I think I’m taking the ethos’ of the Kintsugi club too seriously with how honest I’m being, but Miho is a friend… Friends tell each other these kinds of things. “She’s really kind, and really pretty but…”

“But, let me guess, you don’t think you deserve her?” Okumura asks, and I nod. Nothing gets past this girl, apparently. She laughs again, but it’s less intense this time. “You probably don’t, if she’s that wonderful a person.”

I know that, but hearing her say it out loud still hurts. We reach the end of the hallway, where we would split up, but instead, she motions for me to join her in the elevator, so I slot in beside her and the doors close.

“You know, I’m not so sure that you can divide people the like that, like there’s good people and bad people,” she says, “there’s only people.”

She’s looking away from me now.

“There are just people, people who do good things, and people who do bad things,” she explains. “You just have to decide what kind of person you want to be, and make it so.” That last line is delivered with a smile, but she looks like she’s lost in her own world a little too.

That’s a pretty philosophy, but it’s also a harrowing one. If the only difference between good and bad is choice, then why is there so much bad in the world? Why do people choose to be bad? Why do I? I don’t want to believe that it’s because people want to be; that I want to be.

“What about inherently bad people?” I ask. She rubs her chin and thinks.

The elevator doors open to the second floor, and she wheels out into the corridor.

“I don’t think there’s such a thing.” The doors begin to close, but she stops them with her arm, and it resets.

“Even if there is, you’re not one,” she adds with a smile, and then she lets the doors close.

Her philosophy sounds an awful like what Saki said in the Shanghai, about what it takes to be good.

They try, she said.

Before long, the doors open to the third floor and I exit the elevator and proceed to my classroom. It’s nearly empty, save for Suzu, who’s passed out on her desk.

As I pass by her, she rouses and gives me a confused look before… smiling?

She’s smiling at me.

Something inside me feels weird now.

I smile back, and she drops her head back into her arms.

Just as I take my seat, Shizune and Misha enter the classroom. Then Taro and Lelouch, Miki and Molly, Lezard and Takaeshi…

Nobody seems to glare at me, Lezard even gives me a polite wave.

Ritsu appears in the doorway, and I can’t help but smile at her. She’s got her wrist splint on today, but she waves with it anyway, before yelping a little in pain and laughing. It causes a few others in class to laugh too.

She sits down beside me, and Hanako slips in to my right.

Our homeroom teacher, Mutou, enters last, but this time it looks like he has an excuse for being late, as a messy haired boy follows him into the classroom. He introduces himself, and we clap.

Another day beings at Yamaku; but something in the world has changed, something in me, maybe.

I breathe in, and a pain emanates from my ribs.

Is this pain the cost of change?

*

There's truths you have to grow into.
H.G Wells, Love and Mr Lewisham


*

Today’s the day.

All around me, there are swarms of people surging to and fro, like slow moving barrels in a stream heading from one stall to the next as the festival reels them in. I recognise a few faces from my class, like Taro and Miki, but they don’t smile as they pass me. They don’t scowl or anything either, so every cloud and all that.

Thanks to Suzu’s insistence that third years should get to enjoy the festival, the second years are manning the Literature club stall for most of the day. I handed out fates for about two hours before Suzu let me go and enjoy myself. Maybe she just wanted me gone, but I’m not going to protest too much. It was kind of weird anyway, seeing people from class, people I’d hurt. They seemed to find it just as strange as I did.

Now I’m just waiting and watching the passing crowds of students, families… friends.

“Akio!” Ritsu’s cheery voice comes from behind me. Saki is walking beside her, tapping her cane with a cheerful smile.

I smile back at them.

“The Kintsugi club’s first festival, how exciting!” Saki exclaims, and Ritsu offers me a high five, which I accept. It’d be bad for both of us if he we high fived hard, so instead our hands kind of just sit together for a second and then withdraw.

Saki extends a hand towards me, and I feel my cheeks begin to blush as our palms slot neatly into each other. She doesn’t pull me up or anything, I just stand up, but for a moment her fingers gently brush over the bandage on my wrist and she smiles at me gently. It gives me Goosebumps.

Both girls looking at me, hands outstretched, it makes something inside me feel warm. I feel… at peace.

“So, where to first?” Ritsu asks, and Saki turns away from me. I think I see a bit of crimson in her cheeks, but she quickly shakes it off and recovers to her usual bubbly self.

“Apparently the ring toss game is an easy win,” Saki says, and begins scanning the crowd for said game. “Over there!” she points.

The prize-to-player ratio would explain the number of students walking around with oversized stuffed animals. It would also explain the large queue forming at the stand. Still, Saki seems to have her heart set on it, so we head over and join the line.

It doesn’t take long for us to reach the front, but with Ritsu’s carpal tunnel, and my still healing wrist, we’re not able to win anything. The game itself seems like it’s been made a bit easier, specifically so Yamaku students can still win, but alas, it’s no use. I thought Saki would score a few points, but she seems just as bad as we are. Her throws lack power, and she even seems to run out of breath. Still, losing doesn’t dampen her mood, and we head onto the next game. Giggling all the while.

Game after game, stall after stall, we float around the festival like an exploring ship, plotting new stars in the expansive sea. After a few hours of that floating, I hear a voice calling out after me as we pass.

Sure enough, a familiar face pops up from behind the Literature Club stall. Miho.

“Akio, are you really going to pass by without playing?” she asks with a playful smirk.

Ritsu and Saki look to me, maybe surprised to see someone else talking to me, but they happily follow me over to the game stand.

It’s a pretty silly game, where you have to hook little plastic fish with rods, and as has been the theme today, none of us are very good at it. Still, Miho laughs and offers us a fate each, which is what the stand has been using as prizes.

The girls take their fates and unravel them. Ritsu smiles like a big idiot, but it’s quite sweet. Saki… blushes and looks away from me immediately, before folding her fate back over and tucking it into her bag.

I unfold my scrap of paper. It’s not one of the ones I’ve written; instead, it’s a delicately written message, but I don’t recognise the handwriting. It looks like it’s probably from a girl, maybe Suzu?
The moment you’ve been waiting for is upon you, don’t let it slip through your fingers.

I carefully fold the scrap and place it into my pocket. Saki is standing before me, her brown eyes looking into mine. I don’t know what Ritsu is doing, but I don’t want to be the first to avert my gaze. For a tentative few seconds I notice Saki’s hand wavering just beside my face, like she wants to touch me. I want her to.

She quickly blushes and looks away, and I turn to notice Ritsu trying and failing to win at the fishing game again. At least she didn’t see that awkward encounter.

I return my attention to Saki, who is now sitting on the bench behind us rooting through her bag for something or other. She notices me looking and blushes again, but motions for me to join her. I oblige, and she moves her bag to the ground. There’s an awkward feeling in the air.

Neither of us says anything for a while, but it feels nice to watch the festival come and go with her beside me. I notice that new guy from my class, Nakai. He’s being dragged around by the track star with no legs. It’s cute.

There’s something so magical about the festival atmosphere; about the swathes of people moving between gently swinging banners and lights, laughing and playing games as the day becomes evening. I’m not sure I would have appreciated something like this a few weeks ago. I guess I have Sho’s death to thank for that.

That feeling makes me feel a bit peculiar.

Since I heard the news about his accident, I’ve been thinking that karma just came around to bite Sho, that it’d probably be coming for me next. But I’m not so sure that’s true anymore… it can’t be, or I’d already be dead too.

I don’t know if I miss him; that’s probably the wrong word. Our friendship was never that good anyway, just two people with a mutual interest in being horrible. He was somebody both there and not, but now he’s just gone. Just nothing.

Did Sho have to die for me to start living?

“Hey guys, there’s still a few stalls to visit before the fireworks,” Ritsu calls out from the Literature Club stand, and begins heading over to us through the crowd. I turn to Saki, who has stopped fiddling with her bag and is now using her crutch to stand up from the bench.

I stand up and offer her a hand, but she smiles and shakes her head.

“Lead the way Ritsu,” she says, and Ritsu gives us both a warm smile.

We visit a few more game stalls, being careful to avoid the crowds to prevent me from getting hurt. One of them has us trying to find matching cards, which despite no obvious disadvantage on our part, we’re still unable to do, and another game has us rolling dice together trying to get a higher number than the person behind the stall. After a full day of playing games and hanging out, Ritsu is finally able to win, and receives a tiny little plush snake that she hoists over her shoulder as we wander around the final stalls we haven’t visited.

The fireworks are set to start soon, and despite our shared belief that we should probably eat before then, there aren’t many appealing food stalls to choose from. We finally settle on some yaki soba from the class 3-2 stand. Saki recognises the blond girl working behind the counter, but I don’t know her, and apparently neither does Ritsu.

After much deliberation between Ritsu and Sakiabout where to sit, we settle on a lovely spot of hill just past the gathering crowds. It gives us a nice view of where the display is set to start, and according to some vague source Ritsu quoted, it’s the best spot for privacy, though I’m not sure why we need it.

“Are you both excited?” Ritsu asks, and Saki smiles.

Excited is probably a strong word, but I am looking forward to the firework display. It’s the first time I’ve spent a festival like this with friends, real friends.

Ritsu suddenly smacks both sides of her face with her hands.

“Camera! I need to get my camera!” She exclaims, before hoisting herself to her feet and running off in the direction of the dormitories. Saki giggles, and turns to face me, and her smile vanishes. I notice her fate in her hand, the scrap of paper delicately folded between her fingers.

“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,” Saki whispers. I expected her tone to be playful, but it isn’t, it’s just sad. It’s not very fitting.

“Sure,” I say, and unfold my fate from my pocket. I take another look at mine and smile before swapping mine with hers.

I unfold Saki’s fate.
Accept what you can’t change and focus on the future.

What? Who wrote that? What does it even mean? Saki laughs as I return her fate with an amused look, but it sounds dejected.

“That seems like a load of rubbish,” I say, attempting to lighten our moods back to how things were before we got given our fates.

“Maybe…” She whispers, and for the first time since I’ve known Saki, she seems speechless.

“I wanted to tell you something,” I begin. She’s still holding onto my fate, playing with it in her fingers, I’m not sure why that makes me feel strange, but it does. “I wanted to thank you.”

She raises her chin towards me a little, so that our eyes are looking into one another.

“I wanted to thank you for the Kintsugi club. For chasing me down the hallway.” I continue, and I think see the traces of a smile. “I know I’m a difficult person to get on with, and of all people, I didn’t deserve your persistence, but I’m so grateful.”

She still doesn’t say anything, and I’m not exactly sure how to say my own feelings either.

“I –“

“You –“

We interrupt one another, but she nods her head for me to go first.

“I didn’t know how badly I wanted to change until I met you, how badly I wanted a friend,” I finally say. Saki looks like she might cry, but she steadies herself.

“I’m grateful for our friendship Akio, and your honesty.” She looks off into the crowds again. Something still feels wrong, like there’s something being held back, like the guillotine is yet to fall.

Wordlessly, Saki shuffles over to my side on the hill. She places her hand on mine, and the feeling sends warmth all over me. Again, she lifts her hand beside my face…

Are we…

Is this…

I close my eyes, and lean in.

But she’s not there.

When I open my eyes, the sight of Saki’s tears breaks my heart. She’s still facing me, but her eyes are streaming with tears, and her lips are quivering.

“Akio…” she says, “I lied to you, and I’m so, so sorry.”

Just like that, the air freezes, and that guillotine of words comes cascading down.

A firework explodes, and I watch its scattering reflection in Saki’s deep brown eyes. The colours paint her tears in brilliant shades of red, orange, and purple, but her tears cannot be made beautiful.

“About my condition,” she manages between breaths but another firework explodes and cuts her off. Its brilliant golden light falling like an angel in her eyes.

“I’m – “I see her lips, but the sound of another firework blocks her out again, and her hand falls from my face into her lap. I turn to face the firework display, just as a rocket marks the sky with fading sparks..

The display seems to go on for an eternity, with Saki crying for as long beside me. There’s no sign of Ritsu, which is kind of relieving.

Eventually, the explosions end, and the last embers fall to earth and dissipate. My heart feels like it’s been wrenched from my body, but I turn to face Saki again. Her eyes are red now.

“It’s not a tremor,” she finally says, and another sob escapes her. “It’s a death sentence.”

I…

I close my eyes and lean back. It all makes sense. Her reaction at Sho’s death. The look on her face when we discussed our conditions.

The first time we met… when she said that I’m the kind of person she wants to be friends with, an asshole. Someone who it doesn’t matter if you hurt… someone you can leave behind when you die…

“Y-you lied to me; you lied to Ritsu,” I stammer back.

She reaches for my face again, but I bat her hand away. The motion causes me some pain, and Saki yelps in surprise.

“What about honesty, about the Kintsugi club?” I ask.

I feel sick.

From behind Saki, Ritsu waves and jumps up and down excitedly, her camera waving around her neck as approaches us.

“I got some awesome photos, guys! Check these out!”

Saki turns to face her, and Ritsu’s face becomes very concerned.

“Did something happen?” she asks, but neither of us respond.

“Did Akio do something?” Ritsu asks, coming alongside us and kneeling beside Saki. Saki shakes her head, but Ritsu looks at me with a peculiar glance all the same. One that I recognise from class.

So that’s how it really is.

I stand up, and Saki reaches for me.

“Akio, wait…” she begins, but her throat fails her and gives way to another sob. “I was just scared.”

Ritsu looks really confused now and has backed away from Saki a little.

“I can’t believe you,” I manage, “I… I thought we were friends. Damn it I thought we were…” I trail off before turning away.

What did I think? That we could date, that we could be together? A time bomb and a bully?

I want to accept Saki’s outstretched hand. I want to kiss her or hold her or something. But I can’t stand to look at her right now.

How could I be so stupid?

I hear Saki call out for me again, and then Ritsu, but I don’t turn back.

The crowds are retiring for the night, and I notice a few familiar faces as I pass them. Miho calls out to me from beside Suzu and Lezard, but I shrug them all off and continue walking.

Eventually I make it into my dorm room and slam the door.

I open the window and stick my head out of it.

I scream.

I sob.

I scream again.

*

Next
Last edited by Feurox on Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:39 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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The Kintsugi Club PT6

Post by Feurox » Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:30 pm

The Kintsugi Club PT6


I used to advertise my loyalty and I don't believe there is a single person I loved that I didn't eventually betray.
Albert Camus, The Fall.

*

The walk to class is quiet this morning. It’s empty.

Most of the stalls have been disassembled and stripped already, but a few still stand, and will likely stand until this evening. It’s weird seeing them empty, they’re like corpses sitting upright along the pathway.

A small blue butterfly floats before me, its little body buffeted by the breeze.

It flutters around me for a moment, and I extend my hand. It doesn’t land on me, which is probably a good thing. Maybe I’d have crushed it like old times.

I continue along the path to the main building. The morning is kind of grey, like the colour of yesterday’s festivities has left everything drained. Like everything is painted in ashes.

Miho isn’t waiting for me at the door today, which is fine. I’ve been wondering if she gave me last night’s fate on purpose to try to encourage me somehow. I guess it kind of did, not that anything good has come from it.

I still don’t know how to feel; whether to scream or to sob.

On the one hand I’m sad. Saki’s condition is so much worse than I’d thought. I don’t want her to die, obviously. She isn’t like Sho or me, she doesn’t deserve that kind of fate.

And yet she lied. Maybe it was out of fear we’d be scared to get close her, or maybe she just didn’t want to talk about it…

But honestly is the policy of the Kintsugi club. And a lie is always a lie.

Saki makes everything around her prettier, like she’s some beautiful disease that contaminates the things she touches with her kindness. I thought for a minute that I was changing too.

But a lie is always a lie. And I am what I am.

Maybe there’s no good or bad, no right or wrong. Maybe Miho was wrong about people, about good and bad.

Maybe instead of people who do good or bad, there are good people who do bad, like Saki, and bad people who sometimes play at being good, like me.

Without realising, I’ve arrived at my classroom. My knees hurt a little from the stairs, but I’m otherwise fine, and I enter room 3-3 to the wonderful sight of an empty class.

I arrive at my desk and tuck my head into my arms.

Eventually, the sound of people reverberates down the hallway, and Shizune and Misha enter, their energy unaffected by last night’s festival. Taro and Lezard enter too, both shuffling like zombies.

Suzu enters with Miki, and she offers me a smile as I lift my head up. I don’t smile back, and her face drops again. Miki scowls at me.

“Get lost Miura,” I say, and she lifts her stump to me. She quickly realises her mistake and swaps hands to give me the middle finger.

The familiar feeling of Miki’s anger makes me laugh. I didn’t expect annoying her to be that funny.

“Akio…” I hear from beside me, and I notice Ritsu standing there, looking at me like I’m some caged animal.

She makes her way over to my desk and makes eye contact with me. She looks nervous.

“I’m sorry about what I said yesterday, I shouldn’t have assumed you had done something wrong.” She says, but she looks scared of me anyway.

“Whatever,” I reply and tuck my head back into my arms.

The last few members of our class enter, including that new guy, Nakai.

He looks like an idiot with his hair sticking up like that. He makes me feel angry.

Our teacher enters with a grumbling apology. Another day begins at Yamaku.

Another day begins, it’s beginning the same as the first.

*

Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?
Albert Camus.

*

The lesson before lunch drags on, but eventually ends. Mutou, our teacher, talks a lot but not much of it is sense. He warns us of looming exams, but I struggle to care, as does apparently most of the class.

That Nakai kid sits in the second row, hastily scribbling notes down and otherwise being irritating. There’s no way he understands what Mutou is talking about, so why pretend otherwise? What a fool.

With the bell signifying lunch, the classroom empties into the hallway before me. I don’t bother getting up, and Ritsu doesn’t either. She taps on my desk, but I don’t raise my head to look at her. It seems only Ritsu and I stay in class, which is a bit annoying. I’d probably leave too if the crowd outside wasn’t so large; I don’t really fancy another broken bone on top of everything else.

“Akio,” I hear again, but the voice is different.

From the doorway, Saki looks at me like I’m a freakshow. I feel Ritsu tense up beside me.

“Go away Saki,” I say coldly. But my heart doesn’t really buy that.

“I won’t,” she replies. Her face is filled with determination.

She enters the classroom and sits at the desk beside me.

“I won’t abandon the Kintsugi club,” she says and Ritsu hums in agreement.

“Well I will,” I reply and Saki flinches. Her face stays resolved, even though that probably stung her.

“I’m sorry Akio, I wanted to tell the truth –“

“No you didn’t. You wanted us to tell the truth, but it’s one rule for us and another for you.” I interrupt, but this time Saki doesn’t flinch. Ritsu clearly does.

“Can I talk now?” Saki asks. “I was worried,” she begins, and holds her hands together on the desk. “I was scared that if I told you both about my condition, you’d stop wanting to be my friends. I mean, after all, who wants to be friends with someone living on borrowed time?”

I’d suspected that was partly her reasoning, but it doesn’t make anything better. It doesn’t make anything okay.

“You have that little faith in us?” Ritsu asks. It’s kind of surprising to hear her criticising Saki, considering what she said yesterday.

Saki looks hurt that Ritsu would ask that, but it’s a valid question. One I would probably have liked to ask myself.

“No...well, I don’t know,” she says, “I didn’t want to hurt anyone…”

There’s a silence between us as everyone considers their next words.

“Well you did,” I say, “you both did.”

Both look wounded to hear me say that, Ritsu looks like she might cry.

“I just want things to go back,” Saki eventually says. “How many times will I have to apologise?”

I don’t say anything.

“I’m sorry Akio,” Ritsu whimpers, “I know you’re not a bad guy – “

“You know that?” I interrupt again. “How, might I ask? Because you hung out with me for a few weeks? Because I wasn’t mean to you, just for a little bit?”

They’re both a bit stunned by my outburst.

“You both pretend to know me, but you don’t. Neither of you do,” I can feel my voice rising as I talk. “You want to know what kind of guy I am? Really?”

“Akio…” Saki starts, but I raise my hand to cut her off. I turn to face her, to look into her eyes.

“Me and Sho would tease and ridicule kids like you. Different kids. Pathetic kids. I don’t know how many kids we pushed around, how many people we hurt. How many lives we ruined.”

Saki looks angry for a moment but steadies herself. I’m not looking at Ritsu, but I imagine she looks the same.

“You’re not that kind of person anymore,” Saki says defiantly.

“You don’t know that,” I respond.

“I think it.”

“Then why did you lie to me?” I ask.

Saki doesn’t say anything and neither does Ritsu.

I get up from the desk, my whole-body quakes with anger.

“That’s what I thought,” I grab my bag from the floor.

They think I’m the bad guy, it makes me feel crap.

But…

I drop my bag.

I am the bad guy. Right?

What am I angry about?

Saki and Ritsu look at me confused and hurt. I’ve hurt them.

Why am I crying?

“Akio?” Saki asks, concern in her voice.

I fall to my knees.

What am I even upset about?

I try to slam my wrist into the floor, but Ritsu grabs me. Both girls are shouting and crying. I can hear someone running in the hallway.

There’s a sickening thud and both girls scream.

Pain courses through me. It’s calming.

What am I?

My heart feels like it’s going to explode.

What am I?

*

We wander, question. But the answer waits in each separate heart - the answer of our own identity and the way by which we can master loneliness and feel that at last we belong.
Carson McCullers, The Mortgaged Heart.

*

It’s been about a week since my episode in class.

The nurse said it was a panic attack. As did the counsellor, who I now have to meet three times a week instead of just once.

The thought makes me sigh.

I used to tease people like me. Broken people. Vulnerable people.

Is this my punishment? To frighten those I care about? To break at every touch? To hurt at every breath.

Did Sho get off lucky? Did he ever stand where I stand now, on the precipice of change?

There’s nothing below the cliff of change. Nothing but ashes.

“Akio,” a voice from behind me says.

“Hi Miho,” I reply.

It’s a Thursday night, which would normally be when I met with Saki and Ritsu. Instead, I’m outside alone, sitting on a bench and staring off into the sky.

Well, I’m not alone anymore.

“You weren’t at yesterday’s literature club meeting,” she begins, “Suzu said you were sick but I don’t buy it.”

She wheels up beside me, a concerned look in her eye.

“I had a panic attack, apparently.”

“Apparently?” she asks, and laughs hesitantly. “How do you ‘apparently’ have a panic attack?”

I shrug and continue looking out into the sky. The clouds are moving slowly above us.

“I’m not going to pretend to know what’s wrong with you,” she begins, and I chuckle a little. “You’re a very strange guy, and if the stuff I’ve heard about you is true, a bit of a nasty guy too.”

I turn to face her now. She’s smiling, despite her words.

“But I wanted to thank you.”

Huh?

“For what?” I ask.

“You helped me. You showed me the literature club.”

Neither of us say anything else. We just sit here, staring into the golden sky.

After a few minutes, I hear her breathing slow to a gentle rise and fall. I turn to face her, and sure enough, she’s fallen asleep. How bizarre. It’s so stupid that I smile… I smile for the first time since the festival.

It’s like that feeling at the Shanghai again, like I’ve finally taken a breath. I want to chase that feeling, to hold onto it forever.

I close my eyes too. I guess the evening is kind of peaceful like this.

I take a deep breath.

Did I really help this girl? It feels like so long ago now that I pushed her up the ramp to the main school building. She hasn’t got any legs, but she’s been moving forward a lot quicker than me since that day, it seems.

What excuse do I really have to keep living in the past? To keep pitying myself and pushing everyone away?

Is one lie all it takes to break my heart?

I open my eyes and wake Miho.

She groggily shakes her head, and smiles.

“I’ve got to go,” I say.

She looks confused, and I clasp both of her hands in mine.

“I still have time,” I say.

I still have time.

*

The trouble with me is that for a long time I have just been an ‘I’ person. All people belong to a ‘we’ except me. Not to belong to a ‘we’ makes you too lonesome.
Carson McCullers, The Member of the Wedding.

*

The bell of the Shanghai rings as I push open the door. It’s empty in here as usual, but at least there’s a different waitress behind the counter she gives me a polite bow, but I scour the booths quickly.

In a booth by the back window, I notice them, and I rush over.

“Saki,” I finally say, and she turns to face me.

Ritsu gives me a gentle smile, one that’s unsure.

“I want to talk to you,” I pause and reconsider my words, “I need to talk to you.”

Ritsu looks confused, but giggles.

“Why’re you so out of breath Akio?” She asks, and I see the hint of a smile on Saki’s lips.

“I ran here, kind of. Run isn’t the word,” I answer her, and take another steadying breath.

Saki looks at Ritsu curiously for a moment, then Ritsu gently claps her hands on either side of her face with realisation.

“I uh, I’ll be –“

“Yup.” Saki and I say in unison, and Ritsu slides out of the booth. She looks left and right, unsure of what to do with herself, before disappearing out of the door and into the evening. I slip into the seat and face Saki.

“I’m sorry,” I blurt out, and Saki smiles widely.

“You don’t have to be sorry,” she says.

“I do,” I bow deeply from across the table. “You gave me a second chance, but I couldn’t see past my anger to do the same for you.”

“A second chance?” she asks.

“At life, at everything.”

She giggles at that, at the absurdity of it all.

“I did no such thing. I told you before, I spoke to you because I was lonely. I had my own motives.”

I shake my head.

“It doesn’t matter,” I say. “You helped me, and I’m so grateful.”

She doesn’t say anything, so I continue.

“I can’t imagine what it’s like, having a condition like yours, but I want to be there for you,” I finally say, and it’s like I’ve finally found all my words from the festival.

“Akio, are you…” she trails off.

“Yes, I’m asking you out.”

Saki breathes in deeply, and her smile falters. She looks somewhere between crying and laughing. That’s pretty much how I feel too.

“I won’t deny that I have some feelings for you too,” she says, but her tone isn’t a happy one. It’s not sad, it’s just, defeated again. She opens her mouth to speak a few times before she settles on the right words. I place my hand over my chest and steady myself

“But those feelings are why we can’t be together like that.”

I don’t understand.

“I –“

“I know it sound stupid,” she interrupts me, “but I just can’t hurt you like that.”

I feel sick again, but it’s not like the other times.

“We’re not compatible in that way.” It clearly hurts her to say that. Before I can say otherwise, she lifts her hand and bats my thoughts away, “I just know, okay? I won’t gamble with our friendship; I won’t ever do that again.”

As much as this rejection is killing me, it feels… right, somehow. It’s nice to know how seriously she thinks of me… even if…

Even if it’s our doom.

Saki’s eyes go red again, and she brushes a tear before it can fall.

“I…” I can’t manage anything else.

Saki smiles at me patiently, and the door of the Shanghai opens again as Ritsu re-enters.

“I need some time,” I eventually say.

Saki briefly frowns, but nods in understanding.

“I’m still here,” she says.

“I know,” I say.

“Everything okay?” Ritsu asks, before slotting in beside Saki in the booth.

Neither Saki or I speak, and Ritsu’s face quickly becomes concerned.

“Did Saki do something, Akio?” she asks, in what I think is a joke.

I get up from the booth and think for a moment.

Before I leave, I raise an imaginary mug, my eyes stinging, me knees hurting, my heart aching.

“To the Kintsugi club,” I say.

“The Kintsugi club!” they echo.

*
Sometimes, you have to step outside of the person you've been and remember the person you were meant to be. The person you want to be. The person you are.
H.G Wells.

*

The walk to class is busy this morning. It feels weird to be walking to school at this time, when the crowds are around, when I could get caught and hurt. But I’ll take it slow, with two girls to be my shield.

Two friends.

It’s strange seeing the day like this, with crowds of students giggling and laughing as they head in the direction of the school.

Last week, I forgave Saki.

Las week, Saki rejected me.

I close my eyes and take a deep breath, and a distinct thought dances in my mind.

Just try, I think.

I think back to the festival, to my scrap of paper, my fate.

I open my eyes, and see Ritsu waving at me to join her, her smile warm and delicate. It’s welcoming.

Beside her, Saki is waving too, her crutch, Horatio, supporting her.

“The moment you’ve been waiting for is before you, don’t let it slip through your fingers,” I whisper to myself.

I take a step forward, towards tomorrow. Towards another beautiful day at Yamaku.

There’s a lot of pain in the world. There’s a lot we still have to figure out.

There’s a lot of bad too, and sometimes, it weighs you down. It intoxicates you.

But we’re not the sum of broken parts, and maybe, maybe, we’re not inherently bad.

All it takes to be good is to try.

All it takes to be better is to try.

It’s going to be hard to just be friends, to get better.

Sometimes, our hearts break, and it feels like no matter what, they can’t be repaired.

But we’re members of the Kintsugi club, and our broken pieces tell a story. They sing of what we’ve faced, how we’ve changed.

And there’s nothing that a little bit of Saki can’t fix.

Music Suggestions
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Last edited by Feurox on Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:40 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Music Suggestions for 'The Kintsugi Club'

Post by Feurox » Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:31 pm

Okay, if you got through all that, well done - I hope you enjoyed the read.

Thanks again go to Lap - my appreciation is unending I assure you.

If you like listening to music to reflect on a story, I have a few pieces here that I think you might enjoy. Do let me know what you think, if this is your kind of thing:

'Two Weeks' by Bears Den

'Who I want to be' by Tom Day

'How to be yours' by Chris Renzema

'I Wanna Get Better' by Bleachers

'L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N' by Noah and the Whale

'Lost it to Trying' by Son Lux

'We Never Change' by Coldplay

My thanks, as always.
Last edited by Feurox on Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Time is Dancing and Other Stories [08/28/2019]

Post by brythain » Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:46 pm

Your mastery—of the form of writing you're using—is improving. One can linger over the sentences and paragraphs, because they are beautiful.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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

Post by Feurox » Tue Sep 10, 2019 11:44 pm

Edit 1 ( won’t call it the last, you never know)

PT 2 has an extra scene I missed during the uploading process. Whoops, my bad. Hope this hasn’t affected anything too much, and if you read it before the fix, it should make sense now.

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

Post by Mirage_GSM » Wed Sep 11, 2019 12:52 pm

Okay, stuff to get out of the way first:
I accidently send a small wave of pain
accidentally
That quite girl,
quiet
“I’ll see you later than Hayashi.”
then, Hayashi
that the student council here to help if you need anything.”
IS here
Okumura is smiling at me from in front of the ...
Is it intentional that he refers to her by last name in his head even though they are on first name basis?
Okay, done. Next.

Thank you very much for the praise in the dedication. As I told you before I do not believe I deserve half of it.

As expected it was a beautiful story. It was a bit hard to read - but in a good way, as in you have to pay attention to every throwaway line, because it might contain some hidden meaning...
The only issue was that just knowing Saki was a major spoiler which took away most of the impact the reveal at the end could have had.

Also, until reading the story I always thought Osteoporose wasn't something you could sudddenly "get" but something you're born with or at least something that develops over a long time. I'll have to read up on this more...
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
Sore wa himitsu desu.

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

Post by Craftyatom » Thu Sep 12, 2019 6:58 pm

Feurox wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:09 pm
This story represents the end of what I’m half-jokingly titling the ‘Feels’ trilogy. [...]

My thanks as always to those who read and enjoy this story. I hope you can connect with it.
I'll admit that, reading that opening, I expected another very sad story.  In my opinion, that wasn't what I got - instead, I actually got an incredibly uplifting and inspiring story.  It didn't make me sad, but it did make me feel; in particular, I really did connect with it.
Feurox wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:09 pm
Craftyatom: Your commitment to thoughtful and constructive analysis has always been something I considered admirable.
So, uh, no pressure on this analysis, then.  :P  Seriously, though, I'm elated to have been an inspiration.  It means I'm doing something right, at least - if nothing else, I've "contributed" to some of your excellent works.  Credit successfully stolen :P

Anyways, on to my thoughts on the story.  First and foremost, Akio is very relatable to me personally.  His entire internal monologue has a lot in common with mine, especially mine a few years back.  You really captured a lot of interesting ideas about self-worth, social role, Locke vs. Hobbes, human condition, and more.  This is a really nice walk through all of that, through the eyes of a character in the middle of a major transition.  From the very beginning, the reader is sort of caught between the person Akio is, undergoing a transition, and the person everyone thinks he is.  We don't know why he's so hated, but we know there must be something different.  Miho (perhaps my favorite character in the whole story) serves as a stand-in for the reader, learning conflicting information about who he is and what people - including Akio himself - think about him.

Saki serves as a reinforcement of these ideals: she, too, has a preconceived notion of who she is, what she deserves, how ro go about it.  She helps Akio up to her level, which is a brilliant and uplifting experience.  I think you might have gone a tad overboard with his reactions during this process - it seems like his crying had a quick and unexpected onset, as opposed to him tearing up and trying to stifle it for a bit - but that's different for everyone.  Regardless, he only gets as far as Saki, who is also dealing with problems of her own.  This eventually rears its head as the final conflict, which I was expecting to feel tacked on, but was actually quite good.  With one important exception.

The lessons learned throughout the story were experienced from Akio's point of view, but there were lessons to be learned from all involved.  During the final conflict, it becomes clear that Saki has ongoing problems.  Akio is most concerned about her honesty, but her lie is only a symptom of her deeper issues: her worth relative to other people, her self-perception, her social role.  Part of her reconciliation with Akio involves telling him about these underlying motivations.

And yet, while Ritsu clearly learns that she still harbored some concerns about Akio, and works to reverse them, Saki learns almost nothing.  She learns about honesty in the face of fear, but her fears themselves aren't addressed.  I really expected - nay, wanted - Akio to point this out.  I wanted him to show her that he used to think about himself as unworthy, that he deserved death, but that wasn't the case.  And if Saki thought that she didn't deserve something like this - if she thought that her happiness was worth less than someone else's sadness - then she needed to learn that lesson too.  Maybe I'm just a sucker for LtF, but I really think that a good, complete ending needed Saki to learn that it wasn't selfish to let someone else love her, as long as they understood what it would mean.  Whenthe story ends, Akio has found peace, but Saki is still running, in my opinion.  That's my one big problem with this story.

I did see a handful of SpaG errors, but most were pretty innocuous.  There was one, however, which is bad enough that I think it deserves an edit.
Feurox wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:25 pm
It gives me Goosebumps.
This is a case of a stray capital.  Ordinarily, this is one of the most understandable and ignorable errors - a single press of the shift key, or two sentences edited together, can easily produce this outcome, not to mention that it can occasionally be a stylistic choice.  But the word you capitalized here - goosebumps - has a specific, different meaning when capitalized.  Goosebumps is a series of books by R. L. Stine (as well as a spin-off TV series), which is well-known to many who read them as children, at least where I grew up.  So when I read that sentence, I got the mental image of Akio being handed a large collection (the series is rather voluminous) of children's novels, which was a tad jarring.  Maybe that's just me, though.

Overall, a very nice story, and one that really resonated with me.  I think the ending kind of missed out on a really important aspect of the story, but I only believe that so vehemently because the characters were just so well-represented in the first 80% of the story.  I definitely think that there was a missed opportunity, but also believe that the story is still a very good one as is.  Excellent work overall!
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Re: The Kintsugi Club and Other Stories [08/28/2019]

Post by NuclearStudent » Sun Sep 15, 2019 7:32 am

First of all, The Kintsugi Club is very daring stylistically. I appreciate the experimental work and stylistic innovation you've been doing with the inserted quotes in this piece and in other pieces. It's very daring, but it's very much against my sense of taste. You're a bright mind who doesn't need the words of other people to decorate yourself with. But I think I get the aesthetic you're going for. It's a byzantine arrangement of purple prose and emotion. It's not quite my thing. I found it quite difficult to get through due to the characters, the themes, and the technical parts of the writing. I found it difficult to linger over the sentences and paragraphs.

There is no Kintsugi in the Kintsugi club. That's all metaphor in a dramatic way, which is representative of this piece as a whole. It is anything but down to earth. Your other pieces tend to begin with more slice-of-life, which gives us time to ease into the setting and become invested in the characters. This story slams right into angst and drama, and carries on this way from start to finish. Consequentially, I never developed any interest in Akio, in Saki, or in the various emotional conflicts brought up in this piece. I found Akio intolerable as a narrator because he did nothing but complain. I don't like it when the suffering and angst starts at max, holds there, then just collapses. I'm a sadist which prefers more tease-and-denial.

Not that I liked Saki much better. Saki was a dear, but when she complained about her coming death I grew bored of the dying dear. It was very Learning To Fly, especially like how I never got into Learning To Fly either. Now, Learning To Fly seems universally beloved, so it might be that I have bad taste. I am a writer of poor torture porn that doesn't even stand up to my own eyes. So my opinion definitely bears a large grain of salt.

Those remarks were unpleasant for me to write. Onto happier matters-

What is your opinion on Catch 22? It was one of the first books I read, when I was about seven years old. It helped define my relationship with my parents, with teachers, and with people in general. I love it. I reread a little bit just now, and I continued to love it. It's rather interesting that Saki and the other characters within this story didn't like Catch 22. Suits their characters. They seem to be straightforward people, and I imagine that straightforward people find Catch 22 unbearably dull or simply stuck up its ass with its own drama and metaphors.

On a completely different tangent, are all of those quotes from books that Akio has read in-universe? They don't line up with his mind as I understand it. To me, they feel like they've been projected on by you, rather than arising from Akio. Akio doesn't seem like he'd think in book quotes. He doesn't seem like he'd be very well read. He's got an anti-intellectual tinge to him.

On tangent number three, you ever read the His Dark Materials series? It was a childhood favorite of mine. Probably my favorite fiction series to this day, though I have not read it in years. It has a final line about how good and bad are things that people do, not what people are. I'm not sure if I agree with it, but it's very much in the theme of this story.

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Feurox
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Joined: Mon Sep 02, 2013 2:03 pm
Location: England, Oxfordshire

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

Post by Feurox » Thu Sep 19, 2019 9:24 am

brythain wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:46 pm
Your mastery—of the form of writing you're using—is improving. One can linger over the sentences and paragraphs, because they are beautiful.
Mirage_GSM wrote:
Wed Sep 11, 2019 12:52 pm
Thank you very much for the praise in the dedication. As I told you before I do not believe I deserve half of it.

As expected it was a beautiful story. It was a bit hard to read - but in a good way, as in you have to pay attention to every throwaway line, because it might contain some hidden meaning...
Craftyatom wrote:
Thu Sep 12, 2019 6:58 pm
[..] First and foremost, Akio is very relatable to me personally. His entire internal monologue has a lot in common with mine, especially mine a few years back. You really captured a lot of interesting ideas about self-worth, social role, Locke vs. Hobbes, human condition, and more. This is a really nice walk through all of that, through the eyes of a character in the middle of a major transition. From the very beginning, the reader is sort of caught between the person Akio is, undergoing a transition, and the person everyone thinks he is. We don't know why he's so hated, but we know there must be something different. Miho (perhaps my favorite character in the whole story) serves as a stand-in for the reader, learning conflicting information about who he is and what people - including Akio himself - think about him.
My thanks, as always. The pressure was on with regards to you three liking the story and I'm glad you were all able to get something from it. The praise of 'beautiful' is still something I'm coming to terms with. Thank you so much. In the case of Brythain, you've seen my writing develop over the course of a few years and in proofreading etc, so I hope my style has matured and proven to be worthy of that credit of 'beautiful'.
Mirage_GSM wrote:
Wed Sep 11, 2019 12:52 pm
The only issue was that just knowing Saki was a major spoiler which took away most of the impact the reveal at the end could have had.
I knew this would be a problem, but considering her condition, I also hoped that this partly played into the atmosphere of the story. When we're introduced to Saki, we know of her condition, (though if you don't, I don't think the reveal is spoiled), and we're playing a waiting game for when the truth will come out. I had hoped that Saki's lying would create a sense of dread for the reader, though perhaps I failed there. Still, between using Saki and an OC, (I'm saving myself for more Rika stories), I was unsure how to change this effectively.
Craftyatom wrote:
Thu Sep 12, 2019 6:58 pm
The lessons learned throughout the story were experienced from Akio's point of view, but there were lessons to be learned from all involved. During the final conflict, it becomes clear that Saki has ongoing problems. Akio is most concerned about her honesty, but her lie is only a symptom of her deeper issues: her worth relative to other people, her self-perception, her social role. Part of her reconciliation with Akio involves telling him about these underlying motivations.

And yet, while Ritsu clearly learns that she still harbored some concerns about Akio, and works to reverse them, Saki learns almost nothing. She learns about honesty in the face of fear, but her fears themselves aren't addressed. I really expected - nay, wanted - Akio to point this out. I wanted him to show her that he used to think about himself as unworthy, that he deserved death, but that wasn't the case. And if Saki thought that she didn't deserve something like this - if she thought that her happiness was worth less than someone else's sadness - then she needed to learn that lesson too. Maybe I'm just a sucker for LtF, but I really think that a good, complete ending needed Saki to learn that it wasn't selfish to let someone else love her, as long as they understood what it would mean. Whenthe story ends, Akio has found peace, but Saki is still running, in my opinion. That's my one big problem with this story.
Most of our discussion on the story has already taken place on the discord, and what a fascinating conversation it was. I have only a few rebuttals to this comment, though I do believe that the criticism is very fair. Saki's lie is, as you say, a symptom of deeper issues. That being said, our perspective of this story's conclusion undoubtedly differ fundamentally. As you say, we're seeing the story from Akio's point of view, but this isn't an Akio story. (I actually think that, of all characters, this is Miho's story but hey ho). There are some deeply troubling ideas surrounding the Kintsugi club. Akio and Ritsu can be fixed, as it were, or they can live mostly normal lives, but there isn't that hope for Saki - she won't be put back stronger. You see the ending as a tale of hope and inspiration. But to me, this is a story about wilful ignorance. Saki, Akio and Ritsu will live on, wilfully ignorant of the looming troubles - nothing really resolved, but all under the collective illusion that things have changed. Maybe some things have, like Akio's self worth, Ritsu's attitude towards Akio, but some things haven't - Saki is still in denial, and Akio is too hopelessly enamoured to see it. Still, that's how I wanted it to come across, but your view of the story isn't wrong. Perhaps I failed to present that kind of narrative, but it's just all the more inspiring to me now. Thank you.
NuclearStudent wrote:
Sun Sep 15, 2019 7:32 am
First of all, The Kintsugi Club is very daring stylistically. I appreciate the experimental work and stylistic innovation you've been doing with the inserted quotes in this piece and in other pieces. It's very daring, but it's very much against my sense of taste. You're a bright mind who doesn't need the words of other people to decorate yourself with. But I think I get the aesthetic you're going for. It's a byzantine arrangement of purple prose and emotion. It's not quite my thing. I found it quite difficult to get through due to the characters, the themes, and the technical parts of the writing. I found it difficult to linger over the sentences and paragraphs.

There is no Kintsugi in the Kintsugi club. That's all metaphor in a dramatic way, which is representative of this piece as a whole. It is anything but down to earth. Your other pieces tend to begin with more slice-of-life, which gives us time to ease into the setting and become invested in the characters. This story slams right into angst and drama, and carries on this way from start to finish. Consequentially, I never developed any interest in Akio, in Saki, or in the various emotional conflicts brought up in this piece. I found Akio intolerable as a narrator because he did nothing but complain. I don't like it when the suffering and angst starts at max, holds there, then just collapses. I'm a sadist which prefers more tease-and-denial.

Not that I liked Saki much better. Saki was a dear, but when she complained about her coming death I grew bored of the dying dear. It was very Learning To Fly, especially like how I never got into Learning To Fly either. Now, Learning To Fly seems universally beloved, so it might be that I have bad taste. I am a writer of poor torture porn that doesn't even stand up to my own eyes. So my opinion definitely bears a large grain of salt.

Those remarks were unpleasant for me to write. Onto happier matters-
I must say, it is a great shame to me that you were unable to enjoy this story. I did try something new, and whilst I don't regret it, I'm sorry you weren't able to connect with it. Though, I'm not sure this is quite 'purple prose'. Hm. It's sad you couldn't enjoy this story, considering how fond you are of my previous two, but once again it simply inspires me to write more. So thank you for taking the time to explain the parts you dislike, it means a great deal to me.
What is your opinion on Catch 22? It was one of the first books I read, when I was about seven years old. It helped define my relationship with my parents, with teachers, and with people in general. I love it. I reread a little bit just now, and I continued to love it. It's rather interesting that Saki and the other characters within this story didn't like Catch 22. Suits their characters. They seem to be straightforward people, and I imagine that straightforward people find Catch 22 unbearably dull or simply stuck up its ass with its own drama and metaphors
I enjoyed it. Not my favourite book, but it's definitely a worthwhile read, though I'd have to go back and re-read it to give you a full detailed explanation of my thoughts. Probably a discussion for the Discord. With regards to the story, Saki doesn't read catch 22. That's Suzu, and we probably don't know enough about her to decide her character that well.
On a completely different tangent, are all of those quotes from books that Akio has read in-universe? They don't line up with his mind as I understand it. To me, they feel like they've been projected on by you, rather than arising from Akio. Akio doesn't seem like he'd think in book quotes. He doesn't seem like he'd be very well read. He's got an anti-intellectual tinge to him.


I think it's likely Akio would be familiar with some of these texts, but no the quotes are not from books he's read in universe. Despite that, I would argue that they directly correlate to the scenes they precede. They're books and author's I'm quite fond of myself, and I wanted to try something a bit different instead of regular scene breaks.
On tangent number three, you ever read the His Dark Materials series? It was a childhood favorite of mine. Probably my favorite fiction series to this day, though I have not read it in years. It has a final line about how good and bad are things that people do, not what people are. I'm not sure if I agree with it, but it's very much in the theme of this story.
I've never read this story, but I'll take a look if you recommend it.

Thank you so much everybody for the thoughtful comments and criticisms.

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

Post by Oddball » Sat Sep 21, 2019 9:06 am

Dedications to other authors and none of them are me. You lost major points there. For that and for having a story who's title I don't know how to pronounce. Man, you're off to a bad start before I even get to the story. :evil:

Akio is a rather interesting character. There's a lot of build up to how he's such a horrible person and how nobody likes him before you get to the explination, which is honestly nowhere near as bad as he makes it out to be. You do a good job at capturing his desire to change without actually knowing or thinking he can.

Saki's betrayal was an emotional gut punch. It's not what she did, but how it was reacted to. Again, though it feels like the characters are taking something and blowing it way out of proportion. It's honestly rather refreshing. Many writers wouldn't be able to resist the urge to make it far over the top. The restraint here is rather realistic.

One thing that did seem slightly off was having Suzu as the president of the bookclub. Nothing is wrong with the idea, but it does tend to fly against most of her portryals and seems to give her a more important role without actually having anything for her to do in story.

As for the ending, it feels unsatisfying. I think you set things up for an emotional reveal and end with more of a shrug and a “oh well.” While I suppose it's realistic, it doesn't really resolve anything.
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