Feurox's Den of Sadness [04/26/2020]

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

Post by Craftyatom » Thu Sep 26, 2019 5:58 pm

Regarding American Spirit:

I proofread this, way back when.  Recently went back over it so I could leave my thoughts here, for various reasons.

If I didn't know better, I'd say that the opening is far too dreary for what it is.  The entire sequence paints such a quaint picture, and yet it's described not just as melancholy, but straight up disgusting.  The weather is oppressive and invasive, while Suzu and Takashi are described like animals - frantic this and visceral that.  But I know better.  I know how much you love your foreshadowing.  Some of it might be that Suzu has a particularly dark perspective on her narration, but surely the effect on the reader was intentional.

As for the climax of the story, while I had no doubts as to what was being implied - the various things scratching at the back of Suzu's mind made it rather clear - what actually happened in the moment was, initially, a complete and total mystery.  I had to piece together what had happened after the fact.  Now, in one sense, that could be a way of putting the reader in Suzu's shoes.  But I don't think it was - we don't really get to see her go through that process or realization, despite the story being told from her point of view.

But then, why was this vital centerpiece of the story so ambiguous?  While I'm not usually one to criticize writers for purple prose - I think it's a wonderful and creative part of writing - it may have been taken a little too far here.  I mean, really, as soon as one starts using whitespace creatively, they're unlikely to get a good reaction from me.  To be fair, that ruling probably has something to do with my tastes in poetry, but regardless, I think you crossed the line from "poetic beauty" to "poetic mess".  As you've said, however, this was all done in an attempt to not cross some other lines - not the way I would've done it, but I can see what you were going for.

The remainder of the story almost feels too lively and normal in comparison - I expected Suzu to curl up in a ball and end the story there, given the depressing theme so far.  And yet, we get a peek into the process of recovery from the event - she even considers going to talk to Takashi, which blew my mind when I first read it, but (somewhat ironically) makes more sense because it wasn't her fault.  She never decided to do that to him, so she doesn't feel bad about him, just sorry for him.  That was a nice surprise to me, given that I essentially wrote him off once he bailed on Suzu before she had even said anything else (something which itself might have been made a bit more confusing by the stylistic choices for the event).  Saki's role was kind of telegraphed, but still nice.  I expected Suzu to be more vehemently opposed to the smell of cigarettes, but she plays that entire exchange pretty calmly.

Overall, this was an interesting story about a difficult topic.  Some of your stylistic choices made for incredibly potent moments, while others reduced the story's readability and broke immersion.  All in all, however, it was a good (if haunting) read, with a lot of emotion (from characters with so little exposition) and brilliant imagery.  Even if I just feel empty each time I read it.

Oh, and clearly my proofreading wasn't perfect, since I found some mistakes.  Well, only one mistake in the story, but still.
Feurox wrote:
Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:21 am
If you enjoy listening to music whilst you listen, then I'd have a few suggestions for this.
Listening to music while listening?  That's difficult.  Not everyone has such skill.
Feurox wrote:
Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:21 am
wright iron gates
Iron gates that can fly for short distances, but become hopelessly obsolete as the state of the art advances? :P
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Spectral Letters [10/05/2019]

Post by Feurox » Sat Oct 05, 2019 1:07 pm

This short letter was written in response to this week's book club meeting. You can see the conversation here: Book Club.

I'd place this letter in my 'Requiem for a Heart-Song' timeline.

Spectral Letters
Dear Iwanako,

I’m sorry this letter has taken so long to reach you; the truth is that your letter stirred up feelings in me I’d thought I’d long forgotten, and I’ve found it quite difficult to reconcile those feelings within myself. Still, I wish I had worked up the nerve to write back sooner, I don’t want to leave things unsaid, not anymore.

I’m glad to hear our class has mostly stuck together, and you have my condolences for getting stuck with Mr Tachibana for homeroom classes. I have some particularly unpleasant memories of his grey and grotty beard; I hope he’s managed to clean the crumbs out of it by now. I admit, it is quite peculiar to think that we’re seniors now. Maybe especially so for you and I, after everything that has happened this year. I’m not sure I can explain it, but I feel much older now than I did back then, even if it’s been less than a year.

I started seeing someone a few months ago. We have similar conditions, and she’s actually the one who encouraged me to respond to your letter. I think you’d like her, if you were able to withstand her ceaseless optimism long enough to get to know her, or if you managed to get a word in between her countless questions. Part of what attracted me to her was how inquisitive she can be, but I imagine that meeting you would prompt thousands of questions that neither of us want to answer.

I’m not going to dance around the true subject of this letter.

I’ve spent too much of this year thinking back to my stay in the hospital, about those four bland walls, the same selection of books, the passing faces, some leaving for the rest of their lives, some never leaving again. That person back then, it wasn’t me. Or maybe it was, but it wasn’t the me I am now. I know there was nothing either of us could say to one another, there was no remedy for how I felt. Even if you were to go back to those quiet days, and tell me to not give up on myself, I’m not sure it would have mattered. The person you were talking to back then, they were already dead.

I know that sounds morbid, but I think it was necessary. For a while I felt like a walking corpse, someone living on borrowed time. Even when I arrived here, at my new school, it was like the person I was had long gone. I guess I never realised how much of who I am depended on where I was, the people that surrounded me. Sometimes it’s like my memories of the time before my heart attack aren’t my own, they’re like old family videos of a time I don’t really remember, I recognise the people, the times, but they’re like fleeting shapes. I know that sounds very nebulous, but I’m not sure how else to explain it. If I could go back to those quiet days in February, I wouldn’t. If could go back to before them, to my time as a “normal” high-schooler, I wouldn’t. There’s no going back, and there’s nothing to go back for.

The truth, Iwanako, is that the Hisao you wrote this letter for doesn’t exist.

Whatever we had, whatever we were, it died with the old me in that hospital bed. I think that’s for the best. I may have been drifting during those quiet days, but you were sinking alongside me. I used to think you abandoned me in that hospital, but I was wrong. Perhaps unknowingly, you set me free. I only hope you can do the same for yourself.

We all have a choice. Look forward, or look back.

I hope you’ve made the same choice that I have.

Once yours,
Hisao Nakai.

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8 Years

Post by Feurox » Sat Jan 04, 2020 8:13 pm

8 Years
The moment was all; the moment was enough.
Virginia Woolf, The Waves.
Mutou spent a few moments fiddling with his tie, before giving up on getting it straight, and pulling the thing off in frustration. His hands were shaking too much anyway, and nearly everyone had left the café, so he didn’t have to keep up appearances anymore. He had tried to temper his expectations, he did every year, but the ritual never became easier. Whether out of obligation, or because deep down the good outweighed the bad, he kept coming to the Shanghai at the same time and day every year. But today was particularly bad.

Nomiya had already left, his mood seemingly unaltered by the news.

Maybe it came with the business.

Maybe it was part of some cosmic plan he didn’t believe in.

Maybe it was the weight of the past, and the permanent impermanence of the future on either side of him. Whatever it was, it hurt. It really hurt; it hurt more than usual.

With his tie now scrunched up and in his jacket pocket, and the bill paid generously by the deputy head, Mutou made his way outside. His phone vibrated, and in the dark outside the Shanghai, it light up his face.

[It never gets easier.] It read.

[It never does.] He replied.

His phone vibrated again, but this time he let it go, and tucked it back into his pocket. Mindless conversation wasn’t really on the agenda tonight; nor was the mindful kind.

It was warmer than usual, and it being such a nice night was frustrating. It’s meant to rain at times like this. Rain. Thunder. Lightning. For a minute, he imagined them all.

It should be colder for this time of the year, he thought to himself, as he began the slow climb towards Yamaku. But it wasn’t cold, it was really warm. Still, he pulled his jacket tight across his chest.

At least there was a pleasant breeze; a breeze that kept him from sweating too much from the exercise. He could have driven up, but that didn’t feel right somehow. The walk would do him good. Right?

He’d said the same thing to her once.

She was a good kid.

Of course, there were positives from tonight. Nakai was doing well for himself, but then, they kept up regularly anyway. That shy girl Nakai had dated, she was also accomplished enough... something to do with marketing.

Then there was Kapur. That girl had talent and passion, but it wasn’t until the creation of the science club that she’d really come into her element. Now she’d written my accomplished academic work than Mutou and Nakai combined, the clever girl.

These were things Mutou had already known, however. The success stories of Yamaku academy.

It felt a bit colder when he reached the gates to the school, but he couldn’t work out if that was the sweat beginning to form on his back, or if it was merely in his head. Now that he’d gotten what he wanted, it wasn’t that important – and the doors to the school entrance opened with a groan. Thankfully, the night staff wouldn’t be locking up for a few more hours.

There was an image repeatedly dancing around Mutou’s mind. The image of a limp body twisting, north, north-east, north, north-east, and the image of toppled stool, like a paint can spilling everywhere. It was such an awful way to go.

There were only so many things Yamaku taught you to expect.

He gave a polite nod to the janitor as he passed towards the staircase, and took the three flights to his homeroom. The door was locked, and a bit stiff to open, but as always it gave way after a bit of finicking. It didn’t really matter though; he wasn’t in a rush.

After clearing a few stacks of paper from his desk, he opened the drawer and pulled out his trusty hip flask. In the bottom cupboard of the desk, he had a fairly nice tumbler, though it was due a clean. With both in hand, he exited back into the hallway, and down the first set of stairs to the second level.

He followed the corridor, thankful it was empty, until he reached the end, where a huge canvas painting was hanging on a large column before the library. It was once this awful harrowing picture of a… man screaming? He still didn’t know what it used to be.

The replacement, now seven years old, was still fairly abstract but far more gorgeous. It was a Sakura tree, with petals falling above a festival scene, and what looked like paper-cut-out men dancing. There was something ultimately beautiful and tranquil about the piece, and its sheer size allowed it to entirely capture the atmosphere surrounding it; not that Mutou was an art buff.

It had been painted on a thick canvas, and the delicate brush strokes all poured into one-another, as though they had been delicately pressed each time so that every line seems to go on forever. Everything in the painting was connected. There were roots at the bottom of the canvas, and in the far corner, the name, Suzuki. It was so small that most students wouldn’t ever know it was there.

He opened the flask, and poured a generous helping of the deep amber liquid into his tumbler glass.

After a brief moment, he took a long swig from the glass and closed his eyes.

Mutou saw the students who looked at the canvas every day when they walked from their classrooms to the library, or their various club rooms. Few ever stopped to consider the painting, to consider what it might have meant, to consider its' painter.

Few saw the painted world of Suzu Suzuki, and even those who knew her seemed to feel lost and confused after seeing it. Mutou thought he might be the only one in the whole world who saw the painting for what it was. Maybe he would be the only one ever.

In the dark and lonely corridor, he poured himself another whiskey, and thought about the world.

But he thought, with a toast to the Sakura tree.

***

“I know things are tough right now,” Mutou whispered, awkwardly scratching the back of his head. “Everyone learns to cope in their own way, but everyone does learn.”

It was only the two of them in class 3-3, but still, Mutou felt the need to whisper. The girl sat before him was quiet at the best of times, but with only the two of them in the room, everything felt louder, and harsher.

Suzu yawned, and buried her head deeper into her arms.

“I know, I just feel helpless,” she explained. “I am trying to keep up, it’s just stressful.”

Mutou leaned back and began to stroke his chin. He coughed to clear his throat, and began speaking a little louder.

“I know you are. I know it is. It’s a difficult time of your life,” he explained, feeling particularly old now. “Why don’t you join the Science club, Nakai has proven perhaps a better teacher than me.”

His joke lightened the mood a little, and Suzu smiled at him, though her head was still tucked into her arms.

“I’ll try, but I think it’s more than that.”

“Hmm?” Mutou asked, and wordlessly, the two began to pack up their belongings in order to leave. The class had finished quite some time ago anyway.

“It’s like I feel this… restlessness,” she explained, and Mutou slowly nodded. The pair made their way out into the hallway, and down the first set of stairs whilst both thought of what to say next.

“Whilst I’m happy to give you my own advice, and listen to you, there are counselling sessions provided by the school, should you need them?” He asked and explained. Something inside him already knew that Suzu Suzuki was the not the kind of person who needed therapy though. She wasn’t sad, he thought. She was lost. He could empathise with that. In fact, something in her eyes made him feel like he was looking back into his own.

“Thank you, but I think I just wanted to vent a bit,” Suzu replied. They stopped on the second floor and looked down the hall. He was heading towards the staff room, and, coincidentally, she was heading to the library.

“That’s… good, really.” He thought for a second as they continued down the hallway. “Would you like to know what I do when I feel restless?”

They reached the centre column, where an ugly canvas of a face loomed over them. Suzu looked up at Mutou, searching for answers, maybe. She nodded.

“I go for a walk. I know that for your condition that can be dangerous, but perhaps with a friend you could clear your head. There’s a lot of majesty in the world around us, a lot of beauty. You should find something beautiful.” He couldn’t help but smile.

When he was young, he would walk the village streets to unwind, staring at the sky, dreaming of one day swimming between the stars. He thought about the little steam that ran beside his house, where he would delicately pick up beautiful beetles, each a different colour. He thought about the melding colours everywhere around him as a boy, and once again his eyes met the short bluish haired girl before him.

“Do you have something like that?” he asked, and Suzu pondered this strange advice for a moment. She was willing to try though; she was always willing to try.

“Yes, I think so. There’s this tree, back home.”

He smiled.

“I don’t know what you believe in Suzuki, but I think sometimes all it takes is the beautiful to make you realise that there is meaning in the universe,” he was looking a bit past her now. “Whether you take meaning from it, or make meaning within it.”

After a moment pause, he continued.

“We all get restless sometimes, but we get back on track. I promise.” He said with finality. It was a little unlike him to think so…nebulously. Still, Suzuku didn’t seem to mind.

She smiled at him, in the dim light of the hallway.

“Okay,” she said.

“Okay,” he said back.

Then, with a bow, they went their separate ways.
Last edited by Feurox on Sat Jan 04, 2020 9:16 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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8 Years - Notes

Post by Feurox » Sat Jan 04, 2020 8:17 pm

8 Years - Notes

Today marks the 8 year anniversary of Katawa Shoujo's release. I've been around since 2013, but it's the last few years where to me, the community has really come alive in a brilliant way. It's amazing to me that such a community exists, and that I'm a part of it. Of course, there are those I miss, (please come back Munchenhausen :( ).

Anyway, this was just something I drummed up in the last hour since - oh damn it I'm 15 mins late on the anniversary.

Also, I can write short stories, Mirage. :P

Many thanks to PKMNThief Chris for giving me feedback on this within 3 minutes. You're incredible dude. Hope everyone enjoys it, and Happy Anniversary KS!

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Re: Feurox's Den of Sadness [01/05/2019]

Post by KSFFWriter » Sat Jan 04, 2020 8:44 pm

Re: 8 Years

This was lovely. Somber and slow, with hints toward a more elaborate history behind things, but not actually going into it. It feels like it's exactly the right length for what it is.

Thanks for writing this!

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Re: Feurox's Den of Sadness [01/05/2019]

Post by Craftyatom » Sat Jan 04, 2020 9:09 pm

Up to the usual standards of quality and depression I've come to expect from you! Definitely had a few SpaG issues, but nothing too horrid. I messaged you with a list.

A pretty good take on the scenario. I think Mutou's internal monologue was well-portrayed - there are one or two moments where his characterization seems off, but they're followed by an acknowledgement that they're unusual for him, which is fair enough. I was worried the story would fall into the trap of 'everyone in this one class did something amazing', but I think you kept it reasonable, especially with him forgetting Hanako's name. Much more believable than some of the takes on the cast's future I've read. The plot point with Suzu was, overall, handled well. The idea that Mutou remembers her because of that pep talk, and the resulting painting, is nice. Focusing on how they mesh, when the only two other people Mutou remembers from that class were the prolific scientists, was a great show of character.

My one big complaint is how the story handles the specifics of Suzu's (presumed) death: in particular, the "image dancing around his head". Mutou presumably wasn't there to see it happen - if so, there should be 10,000 more words in this story about how and why. (That's not supposed to be inspiration, by the way. :P ) It's unlikely there'd be a published image, especially one circulated around Yamaku, of that sensitive and grim a nature. Realistically, it could have been described to him by someone else at the Shanghai, or a colleague, but they likely wouldn't go into much detail, which brings me to what I assume is the case: Mutou is imagining this. He's imagining a thousand morbid possibilities, all the horrible things that might've befallen Suzu. So talk about it! That feeling, of needing to know but wanting to not, is a really important and relatable one, one which would really add to the sentiment of the story, imo. I would've preferred either a long fight against the invasive curiosity hounding him or a single sentence about how many ugly things he can imagine - as is, it's just 'yeah she fell off a stool' (EDIT: The story has been updated to clarify this part a bit more - not a fall. But that only creates more questions!). A juxtaposition between the grandeur and complexity of life and the ease and simplicity of its undoing might also have been apt, but would've required different tone/language, imo.

Anyways, overall, a good little story, that covers a lot of interesting topics without going overboard. Good work!
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Re: Feurox's Den of Sadness [01/05/2019]

Post by brythain » Sat Jan 04, 2020 10:14 pm

Aha, this is good stuff. It establishes you as a prime author of melancholic material.

It's OK not to get into too much detail. Sometimes, quick, dark brushstrokes are all you need to outline characters and their feelings. Or at least, that is (as you know) the way I think about it.
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Re: Feurox's Den of Sadness [01/05/2019]

Post by Hanako Fancopter » Sat Jan 04, 2020 11:30 pm

Melancholy as always, and certainly nice to see someone marking the anniversary. This is probably more appropriate than whatever I would've cooked up, though it leaves me wondering if the first part of the story refers to Suzu having passed away 8 years ago, and how she died if so.
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Re: Feurox's Den of Sadness [01/05/2019]

Post by PsychicSpy » Sun Jan 05, 2020 1:10 am

Enjoyed it highly. Thinking on the prompt, I like the direction you went: going for Suzu as the focal point while making Mutou the main narrator. I really liked that choice because I think its the best way to tell the story as being able to see multiple futures, while making Hisao or one of the girls being makes it more limited. Well written overall.

Similar to some other commenters, Suzu's death was a little confusing. I think there could have been some expansion on her death, but that's goes either way because I get what you were going for. That's probably my only critical thing I can say. Good work overall!
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Re: 8 Years - Notes

Post by Mirage_GSM » Sun Jan 05, 2020 8:36 am

Feurox wrote:
Sat Jan 04, 2020 8:17 pm
Also, I can write short stories, Mirage. :P
So I see.

Next, let's work on making them less depressing... :wink:

As some others I was not quite able to bring Suzu as you've shown her in this story in alignment with her apparent suicide.
Since the suicide was hinted at before Suzu ever showed up in the story, I was expecting some kind of explanation and barring that at least some wondering about the reasons on Mutou's part or even some kind of self-doubt in the vein of "If only I'd noticed earlier". Though Mutou is certainly world-wise enough to realize he might not be at fault, he'd probably wonder as to the exact reasons - if he doesn't know them - or to reminisce about them if he does.

I realize keeping it vague was almost certainly your intention, but the restriction of writing first person narratives is that you're not allowed to simply keep the narrator's thoughts a secret unless there are certain circumstances (e.g. trauma that causes the narrator to suppress an event).

P.S.: What was the prompt?
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Re: Feurox's Den of Sadness [01/05/2019]

Post by Feurox » Sun Jan 05, 2020 3:14 pm

KSFFWriter wrote:
Sat Jan 04, 2020 8:44 pm
Re: 8 Years

This was lovely. Somber and slow, with hints toward a more elaborate history behind things, but not actually going into it. It feels like it's exactly the right length for what it is.

Thanks for writing this!
My thanks! I'm glad you were able to enjoy the story, despite it's sombre tone!
Craftyatom wrote:
Sat Jan 04, 2020 9:09 pm
Up to the usual standards of quality and depression I've come to expect from you! Definitely had a few SpaG issues, but nothing too horrid. I messaged you with a list.

A pretty good take on the scenario. I think Mutou's internal monologue was well-portrayed - there are one or two moments where his characterization seems off, but they're followed by an acknowledgement that they're unusual for him, which is fair enough. I was worried the story would fall into the trap of 'everyone in this one class did something amazing', but I think you kept it reasonable, especially with him forgetting Hanako's name. Much more believable than some of the takes on the cast's future I've read. The plot point with Suzu was, overall, handled well. The idea that Mutou remembers her because of that pep talk, and the resulting painting, is nice. Focusing on how they mesh, when the only two other people Mutou remembers from that class were the prolific scientists, was a great show of character.

My one big complaint is how the story handles the specifics of Suzu's (presumed) death: in particular, the "image dancing around his head". Mutou presumably wasn't there to see it happen - if so, there should be 10,000 more words in this story about how and why. (That's not supposed to be inspiration, by the way. :P ) It's unlikely there'd be a published image, especially one circulated around Yamaku, of that sensitive and grim a nature. Realistically, it could have been described to him by someone else at the Shanghai, or a colleague, but they likely wouldn't go into much detail, which brings me to what I assume is the case: Mutou is imagining this. He's imagining a thousand morbid possibilities, all the horrible things that might've befallen Suzu. So talk about it! That feeling, of needing to know but wanting to not, is a really important and relatable one, one which would really add to the sentiment of the story, imo. I would've preferred either a long fight against the invasive curiosity hounding him or a single sentence about how many ugly things he can imagine - as is, it's just 'yeah she fell off a stool' (EDIT: The story has been updated to clarify this part a bit more - not a fall. But that only creates more questions!). A juxtaposition between the grandeur and complexity of life and the ease and simplicity of its undoing might also have been apt, but would've required different tone/language, imo.

Anyways, overall, a good little story, that covers a lot of interesting topics without going overboard. Good work!
Wonderfully thoughtful feedback as always. I found that I could have taken this story in a few directions. On one hand, I wanted to test myself, only giving myself an hour to write it - I think part of that test involved me trying not to overthink things, which lends itself to the vague nature surrounding Suuz's death. I thought it would be mostly obvious, but considering the replies, I guess I overshot that mark.

I can only agree that this story would be better with a more in-depth psychological reaction from Mutou, some attempt to work out what went wrong. I don't want to say that this story would be necessarily better without the limitations I set myself, but then, I also do feel that this story is... honest, I suppose. And on the subject of my depressing tales, I do find this one to be somewhat more... peaceful? Though happy, probably not.
brythain wrote:
Sat Jan 04, 2020 10:14 pm
Aha, this is good stuff. It establishes you as a prime author of melancholic material.

It's OK not to get into too much detail. Sometimes, quick, dark brushstrokes are all you need to outline characters and their feelings. Or at least, that is (as you know) the way I think about it.
A prime author of melancholic material? ;) Now who else is that list Bry? You, me, (doomish?) :P
Hanako Fancopter wrote:
Sat Jan 04, 2020 11:30 pm
Melancholy as always, and certainly nice to see someone marking the anniversary. This is probably more appropriate than whatever I would've cooked up, though it leaves me wondering if the first part of the story refers to Suzu having passed away 8 years ago, and how she died if so.
My thanks! Shame to again see I'd been a bit unclear with my method of dispatching Suzu, but I won't say anything here. Maybe mysterious is best.
PsychicSpy wrote:
Sun Jan 05, 2020 1:10 am
Enjoyed it highly. Thinking on the prompt, I like the direction you went: going for Suzu as the focal point while making Mutou the main narrator. I really liked that choice because I think its the best way to tell the story as being able to see multiple futures, while making Hisao or one of the girls being makes it more limited. Well written overall.

Similar to some other commenters, Suzu's death was a little confusing. I think there could have been some expansion on her death, but that's goes either way because I get what you were going for. That's probably my only critical thing I can say. Good work overall!
Thank you for the feedback! It's a shame I can only really respond in echoing what I've said before, but regardless, I think it shows that this story needed a bit of clarification! Thank you!
Mirage_GSM wrote:
Sun Jan 05, 2020 8:36 am
Feurox wrote:
Sat Jan 04, 2020 8:17 pm
Also, I can write short stories, Mirage. :P
So I see.

Next, let's work on making them less depressing... :wink:

As some others I was not quite able to bring Suzu as you've shown her in this story in alignment with her apparent suicide.
Since the suicide was hinted at before Suzu ever showed up in the story, I was expecting some kind of explanation and barring that at least some wondering about the reasons on Mutou's part or even some kind of self-doubt in the vein of "If only I'd noticed earlier". Though Mutou is certainly world-wise enough to realize he might not be at fault, he'd probably wonder as to the exact reasons - if he doesn't know them - or to reminisce about them if he does.

I realize keeping it vague was almost certainly your intention, but the restriction of writing first person narratives is that you're not allowed to simply keep the narrator's thoughts a secret unless there are certain circumstances (e.g. trauma that causes the narrator to suppress an event).

P.S.: What was the prompt?
My next one will be heartfelt, you have my word.

My thought process was very similar to what you mentioned there with Mutou. He wouldn't blame himself, imo, but then, I wanted the flashback to somewhat suggest he did try, but he didn't know how deep the whole thing went. (Especially considering he feels she doesn't need therapy,). then again, part of what I liked when writing this, was that maybe his advice worked, and maybe Suzu was better, but the universe can just be so contrived, and in the end, it hadn't mattered much. Still, keeping it all so vague seems to work to the stories detriment, alas.

And there was actually no prompt, just that I wanted to write something for the anniversary. (Though, I stole THAT idea from Psychic Spy!). I suppose the time limit was self-imposed as well, so yeah! :D Thank you for the feedback!

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Re: Feurox's Den of Sadness [01/05/2019]

Post by PsychicSpy » Sun Jan 19, 2020 6:17 pm

Whew, that was a doozy. A lot of feels in a few sittings. I promised a review, so I figured I would go ahead and type it out. I'll take your stories one by one, outside of 8 years, which I have already reviewed and the contest entries.
Ekephrasis
Interesting take. The reader is pleasantly surprised that the narrator isn't Hisao, though it is a Rika x Hisao story. It's a tough world out here for a guy. I also liked the use of the early morning scenes. The ending was realistic, and i will always appreciate that. I will say that they're were some points where I just was "meh", where it felt like it dragged on a bit.
American Spirit
Ooh boy. I actually really liked this story. I'll say that this is very bold to attack the issue of sexual abuse and the trauma it can have on somebody later in life. I appreciated that, and I thought it really proved its worth as a story, because I came away thinking about the story, as well as the implications for any relationship with a character who has been abused in the past.

Like I've said at some point, I think Saki acted as an interesting character in the story, as kinda a contrast with other characters with the story. Moving on vs feeling the scars of the past. The symbolism of the cigarette smoke. Very interesting stuff.

As for negatives, I do look feel that it was a little opaque. It took me two read-throughs to fully understand what was happening. Perhaps that is the nature of a story like this; that the notes are so subtle, so ingrained for a character, that it is better that it isn't outright stated.

Either way, good story, enjoyed it a great deal.
Requiem for a Heart's Song
Bro, I cannot believe what you did. Kaiko? Man, that really hit me right in the feels. Especially since you tease it at first, then make it seem like things are going to be ok, then snatching her anyways? Cold as fuck. Nice work.

Rika's relationship with Hisao was very cute, and I appreciated that we got a form of realistic closure.
Time is Dancing
This one is probably one of my favorites. And I think we see themes of abuse again; but I feel they are better executed than in American Spirit. In this case, I also think this story has an interesting take: What happens when the person you love turns into a completely new person? Suzu wants Lelouch to desperately be the same man who she fell in love with, and the readers do too.

This personality shift is all too true to real life. These things can happen when it comes to things having to do with the brain.
Kintsugi Club


Still not sure what "Kintsugi" means. Maybe "losers?" Anyways, onto the actual review.

This story was good. The interaction between Miho and Akio I'd highlight as something that makes him feel like he's an ok person. Saki's rejection: tragic, but these things happen. Personally I think he should have gotten with Miho, but that's my piece. I'm going to say that I think Akio's inner struggle was done well in that it drove the conflict and set him up to kind of come crashing down when Saki makes her big reveal.

I thought you made a nice meta-comment by having them read Frankenstein. I don't know if it was your goal, but Frankenstein, with all the moral questions contained, was a great symbol for what was happening in the story.

I think though that it is hard to make the reader feel as emotional as Akio since much of the community knows about Saki. That challenge of course is by no fault of your own; merely an observation.

***

So where does this leave me? Well, I now understand why you are seen as the sadness guy of the community. But I'd like to say I noticed a few trends:

1. Your stories tend to be realistic. I don't think I read one story here that I couldn't see happening in real life.
2. Sometimes, there are sections that tend to drag a little. American Spirit probably has the least of this, because it's shorter.
3. (not factual more opinion) I like that Suzu isn't really treated as a throw away, "I fall asleep in comedic situations" character.

I'd also like to point something out. If you've read reviews I do for longer groups of stories, I try to highlight good and bad, and I want to explain why there isn't as much criticism of the stories on this review.

To me, there are several things that people tend to criticism: Pacing/flow, SPaG, Characterization. i think those three are the main ones that form factual criticism rather than content criticism, which I often feel is emotion based (not always; often). You avoid many of these. The closest thing I can get is that sometimes it's a little sluggish every once in a while. But your SPaG is impeccable, and the useful thing about not using Hisao or most of the main cast (or using them primarily as side characters) is that the characterization can't really be challenged. Lelouch, Takeshi, Suzu; none of them have canon character/characterisms. I can't or don't feel comfortable criticizing any characterization. That's why there probably isn't as much criticism as some might like.

Anyways, this review is much longer than I thought it would be. Overall, I really enjoyed reading your stories, and I'm excited to see what you have in story for the future!
NO KATAWA BAD
My collection of oneshots
Avenues of Communication: One of the best Shizune/Hisao fics I've read, written by Lap
S10 entry (Misha oneshot)

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Re: Feurox's Den of Sadness [01/05/2019]

Post by Mirage_GSM » Mon Feb 03, 2020 8:33 am

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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Feurox
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I am Disappeared - A Rika x Saki Story

Post by Feurox » Tue Feb 18, 2020 12:05 pm

Dedications

This story is inspired by, and dedicated to Lap and Scroff.

Firstly, this story is partly inspired by a plan we had months ago. Back when we first really began talking, and working together as a unit. We wanted to write a story that discussed art; how our characters see it, and produce it. That unfortunately didn't happen; we all became too busy.

This, is partly a tribute to that.

But more than that, this story is a tribute to Lap and Scroff as people. They've been wonderful proof-readers, thought-sharers, and most importantly, friends. You two have helped me both in and out of the forum and server, and I will never be able to express my gratitude enough.

Usually, these two gents proofread my stories before they're released. I wanted to give them a break on this one, and present it as a sort of gift. Of course, that means poor Lap will likely PM me a list of all my mistakes, but this story was also partially an experiment for me - I wanted to see how far I've come since I started writing. I used to be terrible, I hope that for this story, you can notice the improvement.

Lap and Scroff inspire me to write more, to write better. They inspire me to explore the boundaries of what my writing can achieve, to connect with people and let the stories in my head spill out onto the digital page. I chomp at the bit to read your stories.

Though you two saw this story begin; it's changed shape over and over throughout the course of the last month. I hope you two enjoy it, (and anyone else who gives my stuff the time!)


Lastly, my thanks go to PKMNThiefChris who helped contribute the themes and ideas of this story. You're always so helpful, so thank you mate.

If you read this story, and are not already familiar with Lap and Scroff's expanded bodies of work, there will be a link at the bottom of this fic. Please do them, and me, the honour of checking their stuff out. I'm sure you'll see what I mean if you do.

Also, Retro, this is for that bet we had. I hate loosing, but I hope you enjoy this prize. (Some Saki x Rika).

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I am Disappeared - A Rika x Saki Story PT1

Post by Feurox » Tue Feb 18, 2020 12:08 pm

I am Disappeared - A Rika x Saki Story PT1
Feeling lurks in that interval of time between desire and its consummation.
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World.
“You ever think maybe we’re not meant to know?” Saki asks, playfully dancing her brush against the canvas.

“I’m not sure,” she stops her painting for a moment and looks back at me, “I think we’re meant to try. Something about the journey and not the destination,” I explain. Maybe explain is the wrong word, but still.

“Maybe,” she agrees, before returning to the canvas. Somehow, her brush strokes seem slower, less alive.

“What’s got you thinking about this, anyway?” I ask, and take another looks at my canvas. It’s blank.

“I don’t know,” she sets down her brush, “I was wondering how many kids never see graduation here, I guess.”

I shrug. It’s not exactly a cheery topic.

“Everything all right?” I reply.

She smiles.

“Yeah, I wasn’t actually talking about me. I should get that far at least.” It wouldn’t be the first time Saki’s thoughts had taken a… darker turn. Hell, it wouldn’t be the first that mine had.

“I don’t know the exact number.” After a moment of silence from both of us, I sigh and stand up from my stool. “I don’t really want to know either.”

“Sorry,” she whispers solemnly. I give her a shrug.

“It’s alright, I think about this kind of stuff too I just…” I don’t know how to finish that sentence.

“You just wish you didn’t?” she asks. There’s a tiny smirk creeping onto her face.

“Maybe,” I reply, and she reaches for her cane to stand up.

I walk over and pick it up for her and she gives me a grateful nod as I pass it over.

“Did you get much done today?” Her attempt to lighten up the conversation is appreciated, if a bit transparent.

“Hm, a little,” I lie, and fling the cover over my canvas. Before Saki can do the same, I catch a glimpse of the vibrant colours painted onto it. It looks to be a natural landscape, with a fast-flowing river snaking down the middle. I don’t get a very good luck before the cover-sheet is pinned over it gently. I turn around to pick up my rucksack.

“This assignment will be the death of me,” Saki jokes, and I let out a quick laugh.

“Maybe you won’t make graduation after all,” I tease, and Saki giggles immediately. It’s not often we joke about our conditions, but sometimes the fruit is just too low hanging to ignore.

“I would haunt Nomiya until his last breath,” she responds, before slinging her arm through her bag. I guess she’s a little more lady like than me, especially since this rucksack was originally my brother’s.

“The way he smokes,” I pretend to inhale a cigarette, “that shouldn’t be so far away.”

Saki looks down at the ground and sighs, “I’ll never understand why people insist on shortening their life like that,” she’s got this angry glint in her eye. I get it, even if I don’t share her contempt for the vices to quite the same degree, “drinking and smoking their life away like that. Ought to give them a week in our shoes, see if they still do that stuff,” she huffs and we head over to the door.

“If we’re trading bodies, let’s give them longer than a week,” I joke, and Saki quickly smiles again. “Let’s let them have it on a more permanent basis.”

“You’re telling me you’d want a body like Nomiya?” she playfully asks. I open the door for her, and she exists into the hallway. I turn off the lights in the art room and follow her.

“Who wouldn’t?” I joke. Saki just sticks her tongue out at me.

“You can be really weird sometimes, Rika.”

With a few more jokes, and a few more excuses for Saki to call me weird, we exit out into the evening. It’s that kind of golden colour now, with hints of purple, and there’s a gentle breeze in the air. It’s been getting a bit warmer recently, but even still there’s this nip in the air. I’m thankful for my hoodie, at least. Saki stops, and taps her cane in front of me for me to do the same.

“Hey, the night’s still young, shall we head into town for some food?” She asks.

I don’t really have anything better to do, I suppose.

“Sure,” I reply, and she smiles brightly. “The usual?”

“Yup, Dragon Eats it is!”

Honestly, I have food to eat in the pantry, but I can’t help but spend money sometimes. At least the stuff in town is better than the crap they feed us in the cafeteria, and at least the stuff at Dragon Eats is better than the Shanghai.

Saki looks really pretty tonight, not that she doesn’t always look pretty. She’s repainted her nails that lovely crimson colour, and she’s wearing these beautiful earrings that perfectly stand out from her light brown hair. That’s something she does a lot, make an effort to look pretty, to look girly. I can’t say it’s a joy we share, my hoodie probably says as much. Different strokes, and all that. Maybe that’s what having a brother has done to me, he always teased me for crying so much. Then again, Saki isn’t exactly weak or anything… pretty and strong. That makes me a bit jealous, I suppose.

“When was the last time we ate in town?” Saki asks. The tapping of her cane and our slow exit from Yamaku grounds makes for quite the relaxing trip. If it was just a little darker, we’d have a pretty picturesque view of the town from here. She’s looking at me expectantly.

“It was like, a week ago,” I answer, and she simply nods.

“Time flies,” she mutters a little sadly.

“Oh, how I wish it wouldn’t,” I reply. Only half joking.

“You quoting something?” she asks me. A car passes us by with its headlights on full beam.

“No, just being weird again,” I explain and she giggles.

“It’s true though; that’s why we have to cease the day.”

“Is that what you call this?” I ask, and again, she giggles.

“It’s enough.”

We continue down the hill wordlessly. The sounds of the evening, and the continuous clicking of Saki’s cane against the floor making a gentle rhythm for us as we walk. I guess it’s more like a walking stick then a cane, since she doesn’t need it to navigate; her legs just don’t work very well anymore. There’s this smell in the air… like, rain? I try not to think about it, and eventually the smell and sounds of the town replace it.

We pass the Shanghai, the local bookshop, and the park, all of which are surprisingly busy considering that it’s a Tuesday evening. By the time we’ve crossed the park, the smell from our go-to food stop has thoroughly intoxicated us both; Saki is practically floating towards it.

Image

Unlike the Shanghai, Dragon Eats is more like a fast food restaurant, with mostly outdoor seating and a range of unhealthy fried food. The owner gives us a polite nod as we take our seats across the bar from him. Aside from two others, it’s fairly empty, so we’re offered drinks quickly. Saki and I both opt for some green tea, and it’s quickly provided.

The owner, Mr Domen, makes some polite small talk with Saki as I mull over the menu for the hundredth time this year. That’s probably a conservative estimate.

Saki gestures towards me. I smile and give Mr Domen my order. His energy is positively contagious, and I find myself clapping my hands together in excitement for my food. With both of our orders, he disappears behind the bar and starts getting to work. It’s mesmerising watching him finely chop everything and add it to each respective pot.

“So, I have some news,” she begins.

I take a sip from my tea and raise an eyebrow.

“The new guy?” I ask, and immediately she begins to blush.

“Indeed.”

“Well go on, spill.”

I place my hand on neck and feel my pulse.

Saki also takes a sip of her tea, before looking around us, like her mysterious boy might be lurking somewhere. She clasps both of my hands in hers, taking my own from my neck, and I’m sure out of the corner of my eye I see Mr Domen smiling.

“So, I think he might have asked me out,” she whispers excitedly.

“On a…”

“On a date!” she exclaims, suddenly loud. The few people around look at us, but in a friendly way. Saki still goes quite red in the face. I giggle, though it’s not really my voice.

“Exciting news indeed,” I squeeze her hands back. She withdraws them and begins tapping on the counter with her fingers rhythmically. She looks very cute when she’s all excited like this. I suddenly feel a bit queasy.

“He was being really… shy, I guess. It was cute.”

“Was he doing that thing when he holds his chest?” I ask with a sly smile, apparently Saki finds it adorable that he’s always doing that. I tried it a few times too.

“Sure was; he kept rubbing the back of his head too. I think he was preparing for me to say no,” she looks a little sad then, but quickly perks back up. “As if I would!”

Since Saki met the new guy, Nakai, I think he’s called, she’s been totally enamoured with him. Even though her excitement is contagious, and I’m genuinely happy for her, it has become quite frustrating to constantly hear about him. I haven’t met him yet, but I doubt anyone could be as wonderful as she’s making him out to be.

Maybe I’m jealous.

Before I can dwell too much on those thoughts, my attention is drawn by a rather slender man taking his seat beside us. Well, a few seats down, but still. He’s wearing a long brown coat, and he looks really tired… the five-o-clock shadow probably isn’t helping. I recognise him from Yamaku, he’s a science teacher I think, but I’ve never been in his class. He notices us sitting here, and gives us a polite nod. We nod back, and I tap Saki on the shoulder.

“Is he your teacher?” I ask, and Saki giggles.

“Yeah, class 3-3’s homeroom and my science teacher,” she explains. Even though there’s only a one-year difference between us, Saki still makes me feel like there are some things I should just know; like she’s much older and wiser than me. Maybe I’m just stupid, I guess. “Mutou. Hisao is in his class actually,” she continues. “You’ll probably have him next year.”

“Ah,” I respond, and Saki quickly returns to excitedly discussing the various outfits she’s considering for her date. I’m happy for her, and even a little excited on her behalf; I just wish I could find someone to make me that happy, I suppose. Or I wish I could make someone else that happy.

I take a long sip of my tea and finish the cup.

“I just need this one to go okay, I don’t want to be – Oh wow!” Mr Domen delicately places our meals before us, interrupting Saki. It smells incredible, and it looks just as good. Saki quickly picks up her chopsticks, and Mr Domen notices my empty cup of tea. I don’t even ask, but he fills it back up and gives me a cheery smile.

Saki leans over her bowl, before raising her head with a bright and beaming smile at Mr Domen.

“You’re honestly a magician, Sensei,” she bows politely, and Mr Domen returns to his other customers with a light chuckle. I faintly hear him discuss something with the man who sat beside us, Mutou. From the look on Mr Domen’s face, the conversation is a solemn one.

I shrug and tuck into my food. Saki is too busy stuffing her face to notice Mutou, otherwise she might say something. She can be very talkative and nosy.

Even though I try to savour every bite, I finish my bowl far too quickly, and have to watch Saki slurp up the rest of her noodles.

“Show aash I wush shaying,” Saki swallows. “So, as I was saying, I need you to help me pick out a cute outfit for the track meet.”

“Oh, so that’s where he’s taking you? To watch Ibarazaki win?”

Saki sticks her tongue out of me. It’s actually adorable.

“Okay, well we’re going to dinner afterwards too! I think him and Ibarazaki are friends or something, so he wanted to watch her race.”

“Well, I guess I’ll watch the race with Akio then, we haven’t hung out one-on-one in forever!” I say, and Saki looks glad.

“You coming to back me up then?” She asks coyly.

“I wanted to come anyway,” after a few seconds of silence, I ask, “do you not want me to be around?”

Saki shakes her head defensively and takes a swig of her tea.

“No! I’d feel better knowing you were there, I think.”

She giggles, and then grasps my hands again.

“You know, I’m so grateful to have met you,” she says, but before I can appreciate the moment, she lets go.

We gesture to Mr Domen and he heads over with our bill. Saki pays for us both, and I give her a grateful bow. I think I paid last time, so I don’t feel too bad letting her get it. Still, something seems off as we get up; Mr Domen isn’t smiling quite so brightly.

Before we leave, I take a look at the man beside us. He looks sad.

He looks scared.

“Rika?”

I turn to Saki.

“Sorry, let’s go.”

_____________________________________________

“You tired?”

I finish yawning and turn towards Akio. He’s wearing his uniform without the tie; it gives him this cool look, like he doesn’t follow the rules or something. What a bad boy.

I’m kidding; well he is kind of handsome I suppose. Not my particularly flavour of tea, though. I don’t think. I don’t know.

“Yeah, Saki had me up all night going through her wardrobe,” I reply.

Akio laughs. “Ready for the big date and everything then,” after a moment of looking around, he adds, “poor Nakai doesn’t know what’s coming for him.”

We share a giggle, and begin scanning the crowds forming at the edges of the track. There are two bleachers, both half-filled with people, since anyone who really wants to watch the race will try to get as close to it as possible. There are also a few vehicles besides the track, some medical and some media. The track meet is a big deal for Yamaku; something about overcoming our adversity.

I don’t know about that. There’s a girl in the year above me, Ibarazaki, who calls herself the ‘fastest thing on no legs’. That doesn’t sound like overcoming her disability, it sounds like being good because of it, not in spite. I wonder if I’m being a bit harsh; it’s not like I can do anything in spite of my disability.

If anything, the whole day just reminds me how fragile I am. It reminds me of getting winded at the top of the staircase. It reminds me that I have to avoid fast moving crowds; that I can never go on a rollercoaster. It reminds me of my family; preparing for my inevitable disappearance.

“Rika,” Akio snaps his fingers and I’m grounded in reality again, “there’s a spot over there.”

As we being heading over, he turns to me with a sly smile.

“It also gives us good visibility of Saki and Hisao’s date, you know, in case he tries anything funny,” he laughs.

Sure enough, the seats we’re headed towards are a few rows above Saki and to her right. She notices us passing, and gives us an enthusiastic wave.

Once we’re settled in our seats, far enough away from the lovers below, I tap Akio on the shoulder.

“Isn’t he in your class?” I ask, and he nods. “Well, what do you make of him. Should we be worried?”

Akio thinks for a second, but shakes his head.

“Nah, he seems a bit like a lost puppy, but otherwise he actually seems to be quite a good guy. He even made an effort with Ikezawa, and he hasn’t told the council duo where to stick it yet, so he must be patient.” He explains.

“Ikezawa?” I ask. I’m not sure I’ve heard the name before.

“Ah, yeah,” Akio scratches the back of his head awkwardly. “She’s this girl in our homeroom class; very shy…” After a few moments he adds, “she has some severe burns.”

I sigh. I don’t really know why, but I feel a bit guilty knowing who she is just from that description.

“So, he seems nice then,” I say rather than ask, changing the subject.

“Yes, he does.”

There’s a bit of an awkward silence between us. If I’m honest, I suspect that Akio had a bit of a thing for Saki, so watching her with someone else must sting. Maybe he moved on already. Maybe he never liked her at all. I remind myself to just ask.

People start to gather on the track. From here, they look a little like mini-figures gathering up to start their big race. For the third years, this might well be the last and biggest year of their lives. I lean forward as they line up.

The bang still takes me by surprise, and I instinctively place my fingers underneath my jaw on my neck to feel my pulse. It’s risen a little, but it’s not too bad. Akio gives me a curious glance, but his attention quickly returns to the race. He knows about my condition, so I’m not surprised he looked a little worried for a moment there.

I try to keep up with the race, but it loses my interest pretty quickly. The first event is a 3000m middle-distance race, so it’s not clear yet who’s going to win. A few people are tailing at the back though, If I were the betting kind, I’d probably say they won’t.

My attention ends up drifting from the track to the crowd; there are a few people I recognise, sitting with their parents or their friends. I end up back on Saki and Hisao. I squint and lean forward a little.

Yup. They’re definitely holding hands. Something inside my stomach starts doing backflips.

I lean back and watch the clouds slowly passing by above. Time seems to take forever to pass; everyone is either quietly murmuring to one another or fully invested in the race. At least Akio seems to be getting bored now too.

“Wanna make a bet?” He asks quietly, nudging me back into reality.

“Nah, I don’t gamble,” I say and stick my tongue out.

“Boring,” he huffs.

“No, this race is boring,” I correct him, and he covers his mouth to snort with laughter.

“Fair point,” he eventually says. Thankfully no one has turned around to face us. We’re being more than a little rude.

“So, can I ask you something?” I whisper, and he leans over, his attention still half-on the race.

“Shoot.”

“How do you feel about Saki and the new guy?” I ask, and Akio tenses up visibly.

“What do you mean?” He replies, quieter than before and his voice a few tones deeper than it just was.

“Does it…” I think carefully on the word I want to use, and put my hand on his knee. “Does it sting?” I ask tentatively.

He doesn’t flinch at my touch, but his eyebrows furrow quiet heavily. We sit in silence for a few seconds, and a bell rings from the track announcing that the runners only have one lap left.

“Yeah, it does,” he admits, but he relaxes a little. “I was beginning to think I liked her.”

I sigh.

“For what it’s worth, I think you’re a really good guy. She does too. I think she would have said yes if you’d asked,” I say, and that just twists the knife a little deeper. Still, Akio starts to smile.

“I just want her to be happy,” he whispers quietly, but we’re interrupted by the sound of cheering and chanting, as the first of the 3000m runners approaches the finish. Sure enough, it’s one of our own, not that I recognise them. Yamaku comes in first and second, and a wave of cheers echo through the crowds. Akio withdraws from beside me and begins clapping and cheering. Another wave of runners begins to line up for the next event.

We don’t talk much for the rest of the races, but Akio does convince me to bet dinner on the last set of sprints. The short girl with no legs, Ibarazaki lines up, so I bet on the slender girl beside her, the one missing a hand. It’s a fairly close race, but Ibarazaki takes it at the last second, sending Akio cheering.

“Okay, okay, no need to get over-excited,” I laugh, and Akio pumps the air with his fist a few times.

He points his thumb at himself and shouts fairly loudly, “this guy just won a free dinner!” The crowd on our bleacher shares an uproarious laugh, before beginning to get up and shuffle down from their seats. Since we’re sat at the back, we might as well wait until it’s gotten quieter. Akio doesn’t seem to mind waiting, and sits back down in his seat.

Saki turns to face us from below and smiles, before taking her date’s hand and disappearing behind a surge of people. They’re presumably heading into town for some dinner. I hope she has fun.

Akio smiles at them as they go, but it looks a bit strained. It’s understandable though; I really feel for him. Or maybe I’m just being jealous again, maybe I want what they have and I’m desperately trying to convince myself I’m not the only feeling left behind.

I sigh again and tilt back to watch the clouds.

“How did you know?” Akio asks, breaking the silence.

“How did I know what?” I ask him, and he leans back to join me.

“How did you know I liked her?”

I bite my lip and close my eyes.

“I’ve seen that look before, I guess.” I explain, and Akio just sighs.

Thankfully, he doesn’t ask me to elaborate. I wouldn’t want too anyway.

“Wanna go for dinner now, or should we feel sorry for ourselves some more?” He asks with a playful nudge, and I hoist myself up.

“Dinner sounds good to me,” I reply, and the two of us begin our decent from the benches. There are still plenty of people loitering about, but the majority of the crowd has already dispersed. I imagine families have taken their children into town for dinner, so in spot of quick thinking, (and thinking about my wallet), I decide to tow us in the direction of the cafeteria. Akio doesn’t fault my logic, and we head off.

I’m glad it’s such a warm day today, but I always feel a little exposed without my hoodie. I always feel safe within it, so without, it’s like I’m not wearing my armour or something.

Akio doesn’t make any small talk as we walk the winding pathway back to the main building. I’m not surprised, he’s probably feeling quite down about Saki. I can understand that feeling, of missing your chance. It really burns from the inside out.

Just as we enter building, Mutou, who we saw the other night at Dragon Eats passes by us and exchanges a nod with Akio and me.

“Hayashi,” the man says with a bow. He looks really tired.

“Sensei,” Akio bows back.

Mutou… I think his name is, turns to face me. “I… don’t believe we’ve met,” he says, tilting his head to the side. He sounds a bit awkward.

“Katayama, Rika,” I bow, and he does the same.

“Mutou,” he responds. “You’re a second year?” He asks, and Akio looks like he might start laughing any minute now.

“Yes, Mr Sato is my homeroom teacher.”

Mutou scratches his head, the school is small so I wasn’t expecting it to be hard for him to remember a colleague. Though, if this is the teacher Akio has had the last year, I’m not surprised. He mentioned he was a bit scatter brained.

“Ah, yes,” he nods. After a few moments, he gives me a slight smile. It doesn’t really suit him, I don’t think, but it does look very genuine. “You have very good taste in restaurant,” he says.

Akio looks at me curiously, and I give Mutou an awkward bow again.

“Thank you, Sensei,” I nod. And he hovers for a moment, unsure how to proceed.

“Uh, yes, good-evening Hayashi, good-evening Katayama,” he practically whispers the last part and disappears around the corner.

Once Mutou has fully disappeared, Akio bursts out laughing.

“You’ve been eating with Mutou? How scandalous!” he jests, and playfully nudges me with his elbow.

“He just bumped into us in town, that’s it!”

Akio laughs again, but begins walking.

“I don’t know why you two insist on eating down in town all the time, the cheap food down there is suspicious,” he says, and I catch up beside him.

“You think the canteen food is ethically sourced and morally unambiguous?” I ask with a grin.

He opens his mouth to reply, but quickly shuts it again.

“Ah, okay, good point,” he finally says, and we both laugh.

Laughing with Akio like this feels great, I wonder if Saki and Hisao are laughing now.

I wonder if they’ll kiss.

I stop, and Akio turns to face me.

“Something up?” he asks.

I close my eyes. I feel something inside me restart.

“No,” I reply.

And I pretend to mean it.

_____________________________________________

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Last edited by Feurox on Tue Feb 18, 2020 1:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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