Flowers Before the Fireflies - A Miki Pseudo-route (Updated 11/11/19)

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Re: Flowers Before the Fireflies - A Miki Pseudo-route (Updated 2/2/19)

Post by PabloPabloPablo » Sun Feb 03, 2019 1:45 am

Kinda been awhile. No excuses for that really, just going to saying sorry for the wait. Hopefully it was worth it for you guys!

---

Procrastination

Mutou’s lecture seems to have put Suzu to sleep, along with a majority of the class. I’m well awake, but not because I’m listening. Instead, I’m busy people watching, as creepy as that sounds. To be exact, I’m trying to get a few students’ names down, or at least the students whose names I can somewhat remember. There are the obvious ones, like Misha, Shizune, Suzu and Miki. Those are the people I tend to interact with regularly or who I at least need to know. Then, there are the people whose names I can barely recall. I only know them because Mutou randomly calls them out in the middle of class, or I just overheard their names. The only ones I can actually remember are Maeda, who sits to Shizune’s right, as well as Kapur, who sits in front of me. Then there are the unknowns, which is pretty much anyone I haven’t interacted with yet. I could just ask people what their names are. I’m sure they wouldn’t care if I didn’t know their names. Still, it’s embarrassing. I suppose I could just ask Miki if I’m really that curious.

What I’ve come to realize is that Miki chats with everyone in the class, save for Hanako and Shizune for obvious yet differing reasons. Sometimes she’ll have long-winded conversations with a random classmate, though normally it’s just a few pieces of small-talk with whoever is around her. The person she tends to bug the most is Haruhiko, who often counters her playful jabs with unrelenting taunts. It’s confusing to try and piece together what their relationship actually is. Their friendship seems to be completely one-sided, but Haru never tries to get away from her. He just follows her lead more often than not, with nothing more than a few complaints. It’s odd to me.

Maybe I’m just being a jealous idiot. It’s very possible. I know that they’re not romantically involved, at least I think I know. It doesn’t matter, though, right? I’m just her friend, nothing more. Besides, she’s like one of the guys. She’d more likely hook me up with another girl than go out with me herself. I couldn’t date her, it would be like dating one of my guy friends. It wouldn’t work.

Who the hell am I kidding…

The bell snaps me back to reality, along with waking up just about everyone in class, save for Suzu who’s still face-down on her desk. Miki, having woken up from the lecture, runs over to me as soon as the wave of students leave. She stands in front of her desk with her mouth open, but her voice refuses to come out. She closes her mouth, pondering her words for a second before she grins her big, smug, grin. “Hey, so, you know how we were like, supposed to study today?” she asks in an expecting manner.

“Just get out with it,” I say, squinting my eyes as I prepare for the impact of whatever excuse she can manage to conjure up.

“Well…” she says, before abruptly pausing. Her eyes begin to look as empty as Suzu’s before she goes on. “So, Emi… She like told me I have to work overtime today. And the next day. For the track meet, you know? She uh… Told me over the ph-”

“You’re making this up as you go along,” I interrupt.

“Shut up.”

That’s about as much confirmation as I’ll get out of her. I sigh, shaking my head at her. “Why even agree to study with me if you are going to constantly ditch, anyway?”

Miki tilts her head, working out the question in her brain. “That’s a good question, Hisao. Real good. Never ask it again,” she says, before chuckling to herself.

“Look, if you’re gonna skip, I’ll just have to tell Haru and Suzu so they can help me drag you to the library…”

“Woah!” she exclaims, looking at me with a scowl. “And I thought you were cool… But you’re just a damn snitch. And here I had the hots for you…”

Her words are enough to cause a torrent of embarrassment to wash over me, breaking my composure enough to make me forget what I was going to say. I only come back to reality once Miki starts laughing. My bashfulness turns to annoyance immediately. I just stare at her, my irritation adding fuel to her amusement.

She calms herself, clearing her throat before she flashes me a wink and a grin. “Too easy, Hisao. Too easy.”

Before I can retort, a voice comes from behind Miki. “Miki, stop toying with the poor guy and hurry your ass up,” Haru says with a tired tone. Not sure whether to thank him or not, but it at least got me out of a potentially embarrassing conversation. I have to admit, though, it was amusing at least.

“Yeah yeah,” Miki grumbles back at the boy before she starts to walk off with him. She turns around to wave me goodbye. “Seeya at five, Hisao,” she says before walking out with Haru.

With the two of them gone, the classroom falls silent. Everyone has left at this point, leaving me the lone student remaining. I can’t help but feel disappointed by that.

---

Around this time, the library is devoid of life. It only has a few students sitting around as they lazily read some random book. I peek my head towards the beanbags at the end of the library, and sure enough, Hanako is there as engrossed in her reading as usual. This time, I decide not to disturb her. With some time to kill, I start to look through the shelves of books to try and find something that catches my eye. A few books do, and I take them along with me as I search for more. Eventually, I have a hefty stack of various novels. In fact, I think I have a bit too many books.

Eventually I settle for the reading material I gather and retreat to the tabled area of the library. It’s just as devoid of life as it usually is, save for a familiar, sleepy face. Suzu, whose focus is solely on the book she’s reading, sits at a circular table with four chairs surrounding it. The book that has her attention seems to be the english textbook that our teacher assigned us to read. Either she’s completely engaged in the textbook, reading every line with careful analysis in order to take in as much information as possible, or she’s completely out of it. I really can’t tell with her.

She spots me as I approach, her eyes now fixated on the stack of books that I have in my hands. “That’s too much to read,” she whispers as I place the stack down onto the table.

“Yeah, probably,” I say in a subdued tone as I take a seat next to her as I continue. “But, I’m probably not going to finish half of these anyway.”

“Why not?” she asks, tilting her head and narrowing her eyes as if I just said something blasphemous.

“Uh, well, a lot of times I don’t end up liking the books as much as I expected. So, I just return them a quarter of the way through. Some of them are good, but not great. I’d rather read the great stuff first, honestly.”

I clearly didn’t explain as well as I could have, considering the look Suzu is giving me. She seems confused, almost hurt even. What the hell did I say? I don’t think I said anything to offend her, and yet she’s staring at me as if she was a kid I’d just told Santa Claus wasn’t real.

“I see…” she says, turning her eyes back to the english textbook in front of her. “I like to just read the whole book. Even if it’s bad, I figure that it might get better, you know?”

Ah, that might explain it. I rub the back of my head, nodding in agreement. “I mean, yeah. It might get better, but I figure it isn’t really worth the trouble or time to read the book, you know?”

She closes her eyes, nodding slowly. “A bad book is a waste of time, yes. But nothing is as big of a waste of time as only cleaning half the rough off a diamond, and then ignoring it as if there was nothing of value there in the first place.”

“Huh… You got a point,” I say, shrugging in disbelief at her thought process. It’s not like what she said is groundbreaking or even something that I particularly agree with, but it made me think, at least.

“Ah, but, watching paint dry is probably a bigger waste of time. At least with reading you get a kinda bad story to laugh at. Paint… It’s just there.”

I should have seen that coming.

The two of us read in silence for a few minutes before I spot two familiar faces out of the corner of my eye. Miki looks depressed for reasons that I’m fairly certain I can figure out, while Haru looks as annoyed as he always does. Miki looks at Suzu and then at me, chuckling rather loudly. “Of course you two nerds would be starting early.”

Suzu and I collectively shush her in nearly perfect sync. Miki just frowns as she takes a seat next to me. Haru then takes the remaining seat across from me. “So, what’s the plan,” he mutters, looking towards me specifically. All of a sudden a wave of responsibility hits me.

“Er, well… Let’s start with our worst subjects so we all know what to focus on. Then we’ll go through any subjects a majority of us are weak in.”

Haru nods in agreement before clearing his throat. “Alright. Social studies is my worst. Next?” He asks, looking towards Suzu.

Suzu looks around for a second before answering. “Um… I’m not the best at math.”

“I’m pretty bad at english and social studies,” I say, looking towards Miki expectantly.

She looks back at the three of us, shrugging in response. “Well, you see, I’m actually amazing at every subject. I just, uh, don’t try cause it’s boring. But if I have to have one weakness, it’d probably be math-... No, actually, science.”

Miki seems unsatisfied with with either answer. I guess she’s bad at both. “Lucky for you, I’m actually pretty good at math and science,” I explain, which just gets Miki to scoff.

“Figured,” she says with a smile. I nearly open up my science textbook before I notice Suzu looking at me with puppy dog eyes. Looks like I’ll have double the workload.

“Hey, Suzu,” Haru calls out, seemingly breaking Suzu’s concentration as she looks over to the guy. “I’m decent at Math. Could help you out if you help me with Social Studies.”

Suzu looks up, probably thinking the offer over, before nodding slowly. “I can help you with that,” she says, inching closer to Haru as she pulls out a math book. Before the two converse any further, Haru looks to me with a nod. I don’t really get why, but I have a hunch. I’ll have to ask him about it later.

I look towards Miki, who is completely unaware of anything at the moment save for the dreaded physics textbook in front of her. “Don’t look so scared,” I say, turning the pages to concepts we’re currenting learning in class. Miki quickly groans as she looks over the numerous formulas on the page.


Even though she complains non-stop, she does manage to pay attention to the things I teach her. Whether or not she gets what I’m telling her is a different story, but she is at least listening to what I’m teaching her. Miki is also good at asking questions. Now, a lot of her questions are pretty obvious ones, but I’d rather her ask them to figure out the obvious answer than have her be ignorant completely.

She’s definitely not good at science as a whole, but she’s passable at certain aspects of it. What she’s really good at is understanding and applying the concepts to real life. Even with problems that don’t necessarily tell you what concepts are in play, Miki will take the time to figure them out thoroughly. The issue she has is in solving the problem. Her math is pretty awful. Formulas seem to be her worst enemy, as her brain seems to shut off anytime a problem goes beyond basic algebra. It’s frustrating to be honest, but it’s nothing I can’t work with. Still, with every problem she attempts, the more her annoyance grows. Eventually I have to go over the problems step by step for her to solve them. Even then, it takes a while before she finally completes them. Well, she completes half of the required problems, at least.

“Ugh, this shit makes no sense,” she says, letting her pencil fall onto the table in defeat.

“You just need to get the concepts down and you’ll be fine,” I explain, which just gets a sigh out of her.

“Hisao… I’mma lost cause,” Miki states, looking towards me with an annoyed expression. “I don’t got the brain for this kinda work. You’re just wasting your time.”

“No, I’m not, you’re just being too hard on yourself, Miki.”

“Yeah, yeah…” she mutters, getting up from her chair and packing all her notebooks and pencils. “I appreciate the effort, at least. But, I think I’ll end up brain dead if I do this shit anymore. Sorry.”

I open my mouth to protest, but stop myself before I say anything. With a sigh, I nod in light agreement. “Yeah, might be time to call it.” It seems Suzu and Haru are done as well, with both of them chatting about various subjects as they put their stuff away.

Suzu gets up from her chair as well, giving Haru a short and sweet bow. “Thank you,” she mutters in a tired tone. Haru just responds to the gratitude with a nod.

Miki grins and wraps her arm around Suzu as she approaches. “Seeya guys later! C’mon Suzu,” she says as she leads the smaller girl out of the library with little to no struggle. Suzu looks like she doesn’t care either way.

With their departing, I’m left with Haru in lonely silence. He gives me a smirk as I look over at him sitting in the chair comfortably with his hands behind his head. “What?” I ask him in a confused and awkward tone.

He shrugs, keeping the same smug expression. “Nothing, nothing. Just, you know, spectating.”

“Spectating, huh? Then why’d you do what did back there?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, New Kid,” he says, feigning ignorance.

“Don’t play dumb, dude…” I say, scowling at him. It just makes Haru chuckle. “I was planning on having it be a legitimate group study, but you separated the group into pairs on purpose. Though I’m not sure why.”

Haru drops his grin, adopting a more mellow expression. He casually looks around, as if to make sure nobody was listening. Once he deems the coast is clear, he leans in and speaks in a softer tone. “Listen, I feel the need to help you out a bit. Mainly because of the pattern every guy goes through.”

“Pattern?” I ask in a halfhearted way.

He holds a finger up, prompting me to hold any further questions I have. “I’ve been her friend for… a year now? I dunno. Anyway, the pattern usually goes like this: A guy tries to get closer to her, she starts to show some ‘signs’ of liking the guy back, he confesses, and then she rejects him. Happens all the time, without fail.”

Haru’s pattern causes my stomach to drop. It does sound an awful lot like the progress of my relationship with Miki, especially the first point. Hell, part of the reason I formed the study group was to try and get to know her more, do something more with her than just be the guy she runs with.

But, this pattern only really matters to me under the assumption that I want to date her. I don’t, I just want get to know her more, become good friends, stuff like that. A relationship with her should be this faraway concept that I shouldn’t even think about. At least, that’s what I want to tell myself. I sigh, scratching my head as I try to piece my thoughts together. “Okay, well I don’t mind being a friend to her.”

“Yeah, yeah, sure buddy,” he says, chuckling and shaking his head. “Even if you are telling the truth, which you’re fucking not, eventually you’ll get the hots for her anyway. And when you do, the patterns gonna start up.”

“Then I’ll worry about that then,” I mutter as I start to get annoyed. “Why do you even care, anyway?”

“I got my reasons,” Haru says, quickly dismissing my question as soon as it exits my mouth. “Look, New Kid, I’m helping you out cause I like you. And I can tell Miki likes you too just based on the fact she hasn’t ditched you yet. If you don’t want my help, then just say the word and I’ll leave you be.”

Haru sits there, patiently waiting for an answer that I don’t have. I really don’t know Miki enough to have feelings for her. Does that really matter, though? I mean, feelings are something that just spontaneously happen, there’s no set line to cross. And to say I’m not interested in the idea of dating her would be a lie… Dammit, why the hell am I even trying to fool myself, anyway?

“Fine, help me out,” I say, sighing in relief.

“Great! Looks like you got a wingman, New Kid,” he replies, getting up from his chair and throwing his bag strap around his shoulder. “Let’s head out before the library closes.”

I nod in agreement, packing up all my books and heading out of the library with Haru. The entire trip to the dorms is littered with small talk about various random topics. I can’t help but wonder if he has any ulterior motives for helping me. One thing that I wonder is if he went down the same pattern he warns me about. If he did, why would he want to help me out in the first place? I have a lot of questions, but every time I try to ask, I get cold feet. I do manage to get one question out as we approach the dorm.

“Hey, Haru. How many people has she rejected, anyway?”

Haru looks back at me, wearing an expression that I can’t quite place. He rubs the back of his head, contemplating his next words pretty carefully.

“Ah… Honestly man, it’s probably best if you don’t know.”
Last edited by PabloPabloPablo on Wed Oct 30, 2019 5:33 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Currently working on Flowers Before the Fireflies: a Miki Pseudo-route

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Re: Flowers Before the Fireflies - A Miki Pseudo-route (Updated 2/2/19)

Post by JoesAlot » Sun Feb 10, 2019 2:45 pm

Turns out Haruhiko's ulterior motive is just to recreate his favorite rom-com in real life.

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Re: Flowers Before the Fireflies - A Miki Pseudo-route (Updated 6/15/19)

Post by PabloPabloPablo » Sat Jun 15, 2019 3:55 am

This took awhile to update, but thankfully school's done for me so I can get back to work. Again, sorry for the ghosting and I hope you all enjoy the next chapter. Had to proof read this myself, so excuse any errors that might have slipped my watch.

---

Attempt

I shoot my eyes open from the sound of sharp knocks outside my room. Looking up at the door through groggy eyes, all I can think is how annoying those damn knocks are. When I look at the clock, my annoyance subsides. I’m only up about five minutes earlier than usual, so I can’t hate the person behind the door too much.

As I push myself up out of bed and rub my eyes, a voice speaks from the other side of the door. “Yo, New Kid! You up?”

Even if I didn’t recognize Haru’s voice, “New Kid” is a dead giveaway. I open the door to a fully dressed and wide awake Haruhiko standing in front of me. He looks at me for a second, analyzing every inch of my tired face with nothing but an awkward silence to provide ambiance. “What?” I ask, yawning right after.

“Nah nothing. You just look like you barely got any sleep,” he says with a tone that I can only assume is concern.

“Spot on,” I reply in an attempt to dismiss the subject. I’d really rather not let this guy figure out that I couldn’t sleep due to my overwhelming thoughts. What he said to me last night really stuck with me, making me feel like my chances with Miki are pretty much zero at this point. And yet, here he is, pretending to help me with this unresolvable situation. “Anyway, why are you here?”

“To start off early,” Haru states with a smirk. “I got a gameplan ready for today that’ll probably work. It’ll get the two of you alone, but I’m gonna need you to be on the same page with me, aight?”

Oh God, he’s serious. I hold my hands up urging him to pause as I try to process what he’s saying. “Hold on, hold on, we really don’t have to move this fast.”

“Yeah we do. Otherwise she’ll get bored and move on to whoever catches her interest.”

“I don’t think that’ll happen…” I mutter, not believing my own words one bit. Suddenly, the sound of locks and chains fills the dead hallway, as the door in front of mine opens to a very annoyed looking Kenji.

“What the hell is happening? Why is there so much damn noise?” he asks, looking at no one in particular. He focuses his glasses at Haru, walking up to him as their faces get uncomfortably close. Oddly enough, Haru doesn’t even flinch, standing perfectly still. Kenji backs up after a few moments, shaking with rage. “You’re not Hisao! The hell did you do with him?”

“I’m right here, Kenji,” I say, catching his attention and instantly mellowing him out.

“Oh. Sup dude? How you’ve been?” He asks, showing no signs of his outburst moments ago. Before I can ask, however, he looks back at Haru with a scowl. “Who’s this?”

“Haruhiko. He’s from my class. Haru, this is Kenji.”

“Yo,” Haru mutters with a smile. “Just call me Haru. Nice to meet ya.”

Kenji keeps his glare fixated on Haru for a moment. I prepare myself for more rage before he mellows out once more. “Damn… Damn, I really underestimated you Hisao. You’re a recruiter too? With you on our side, we might be able to finally rally the troops in preparation.”

“Preparation for what?” Haru asks. I don’t have time to stop him. Time slows to a crawl, as if it was a movie or something. Kenji sighs, preparing to spit out a rant that I’m powerless to stop. All I can do is watch as Haru is about to experience Kenji in full force.

“Why, the feminist invasion of course! Didn’t Hisao run this down for you? The female population here is enacting a plot that’ll lead to the near extinction of males on the planet! First they’ll hit Japan, then the world. We’re right in the epicenter man, we’re the front lines. If we don’t die in glorious battle, we’ll be sold as slaves for labor and breeding purposes. They got the numbers advantage, so unless we act fast and stop them before the war happens…”

“Then we’re as good as dead,” Haru finishes Kenji’s sentence, nodding as if he just had an epiphany. The whole scene leaves me dumbfounded.

Kenji smirks, patting Haru’s shoulder. “Smart man. You recruited a sharp one, Hisao.”

“Yeah…” I mumble in defeat as I look towards Haru. He has a wide grin on his face as he looks over towards me. “You two can talk about that while I get ready for school.”

Kenji looks a me with a confused expression that quickly becomes a look of understanding. “Letting the leader handle the initiation? I appreciate the respect. You’re a good man, Hisao.”

I shut the door behind me before he goes on for any longer. From the other side of the door, I can hear some more of Kenji’s rage filled rants. What an “exciting” start to my day. I pour the cocktail of pills out of their bottles and toss them down my throat. The medication has become yet another daily routine for me, and I’m not too sure how to feel about that yet. After tossing on my uniform and combing my hair, I open the door to the two of them conversing with each other. Well, it’s more like Kenji is constantly talking while Haru listens in amusement.

Haru takes his eyes off Kenji for a second to look me over. “Not gonna shower?”

“I showered last night,” I say, yawning right afterward. Normally I shower in the morning, but the evening runs that I have with Suzu and Miki have started to condition me to take them before I go to bed. Sleeping while covered in dried sweat is definitely not a pleasant experience.

Kenji looks at me with a disappointed face. “Night showers are dangerous man. That’s the perfect time to get shanked. Plus everyone hides bodies at night.”

“Have to agree with Kenji there,” Haru blurts out. “Plus you gotta smell nice for your date.”

“Date?” Kenji and I both ask at the same moment, though only Kenji continues on. “Date with who? A girl?!”

“A-actually, it’s more of...” Haru fumbles to try to think of the word to ease Kenji’s rage. “An infiltration, sort of.”

I’m shocked as to how quickly he adopted Kenji’s vocabulary. Thankfully it seems to work, as Kenji smiles at the proposition of me being a spy. “Ah, undercover kind of job, huh? You’re brave, Hisao. Maybe too brave.”

“Well I didn’t sign up for a date in the first place, so I need some sort of explanation…” I look to Haru, who just waves off my concerns.

“It’s simple, New Kid. Miki is sick of being bossed around by the track team, so it won’t take much to get her to ditch practice. Then you two will go on a date in town or wherever you decide to go.”

Before I say anything, Kenji pipes up. “Miki? The spy?”

“...Spy?” I ask with some hesitation.

“Yeah, spy,” Kenji continues, as if he had said nothing out of the ordinary. “She’s what we like to call a ‘tomboy,’ which means she’s renounced her womanly ways to try to infiltrate our ranks. Tomboys are often more appealing to men because they mirror our actions and try to mimic our interests. It’s an easy way to get someone’s guard down only to strike when they least expect it. Tomboys are strong, but they carry all the weaknesses men have, like gullibleness and being dense. There’s no doubt she’ll get you somehow.”

“I doubt Miki would do that,” I say, looking to Haru for backup. He just looks at me with a grin and shrugs. I can’t tell if he’s playing along with Kenji’s antics or is being serious anymore.

“Whatever man,” Kenji replies in a dismissive tone which does irk me a bit. “I need to update the war plans with this information in mind. Good luck dude, you’re gonna need it.”

With that, Kenji turns back into his room and shuts the door behind him. Once a few moments pass, Haru bursts out laughing. “That guy is hilarious,” he says, slapping me on the back with enough force to cause me a stumble.

“Yeah… Hilarious…” I mumble, shutting my door and leaving him behind as I walk down the hallway. Haru quickly catches up, continually snickering at Kenji’s behavior. Normally I’d be willing to admit he’s pretty funny, but that’s only if he wasn’t such a constant annoyance to me.

Once the two of us exit the dorms, Haru wraps his arm around my shoulder and pulls me into a huddle. “Alright, so here’s how this is gonna go. I’m gonna be the one to convince Miki to skip out on practice. You’re gonna be right next to me when I convince her, and she’ll most likely take you along whether you like it or not. She hates being alone and I’ll be too busy covering for her, so the date will literally appear right in front of you.”

“You say that, but your plan seems like it’s dependent more on luck than anything.”

Haru scoffs. “Listen, I know Miki. It doesn’t take her much convincing to do something, especially if it’s in her head already.”

I opt not to say anything else, sighing as I remove his arm from me. The two of us walk to our classroom, making only meaningless small talk. The class is relatively empty but one presence does leave me surprised. Miki was sitting at her desk, her hand holding her head up as she tapped her finger on the desk. It’s odd to see her up so early, though the times she wakes up seem to be random.

Haru nudges me, nodding to Miki. It doesn’t take me long to get what he’s hinting at. The two of us approach her, snapping her out of her boredom the moment she notices us. “Yo! You two best friends now?”she asks, rubbing the sleepiness out of her eyes.

Haru shrugs. “He’s a hell of a lot less annoying then you are.”

“Your banter is starting to piss me off, bro,” Miki says, scowling at Haru as he just smiles sarcastically. “I’m way too tired for that today.”

“What’s up?” I ask quizzically, gaining the attention of Miki who looks at me with a warm smile.

“Ah, just the track team working my ass off. Nothing new.”

“You really should take a break,” Haru says, flashing me a brief look that nearly causes me to roll my eyes.

“You know I would if I could,” she mumbles irritably. “I can’t afford a break when the track meet is on Sunday. Besides, even if I wanted to take a break, Emi would just get on my case and keep yapping till I blow my brains out.”

“If you say so, but if you do need a break I could always cover for you,” Haru says, catching Miki’s interest.

She pauses for a moment, hesitantly rubbing her chin as if she’s thinking the offer over. “They’ll know it’s a buncha bullshit, though.”

“When has that ever stopped you?” he asks, feigning annoyance.

Miki’s face beams a look of pride at those words. “True. Still, I don’t got shit to do other than practice, so I don’t see much of a point in ditching anyway.”

Haru nudges me with his elbow as if I don’t notice my cue. I clear my throat before I speak up. “Well, if you don’t have anything to do, you and I can always go into town. I need some stuff from there anyway, and I could use the company.”

She thinks if over for a lot longer than I expected. I’m not saying I know her completely, but Miki strikes me as the type to pounce on something like this. Hell, Haru said that’s how she is, and while I don’t really know how trustworthy the guy is, I can at least expect him to know Miki. And yet, the words that come out of her mouth seem like a one-eighty for her. “Nah, man. Honestly as much as I want to… I can’t. Not this time at least.”

I’m shocked, as is Haru. His shocked expression quickly turns into curiosity as his brain tries to wrap itself around what just occurred. “Why are you making this track meet so important?” he asks, much to Miki’s surprise. Her face betrays her nervousness as she quickly tries to string together an excuse to get her out of this conversation.

“Uh… Why do you even think that? I mean, It’s just another track meet. Yeah, totally another track meet. I don’t give two shits about it, hell I’ll even ditch on Sunday. Yup… Just a normal track meet…”

Alright, now that was just painful. I shake my head, rubbing my temple as I try to think of the best way to deflate the situation. “Look, Miki, if you don’t want to tell us what’s up you don’t have to.”

She hesitates, thinking over her next words carefully. “It’s not that big a deal, honestly,” she explains, sighing as she rubs the back of her head. “My parents are gonna be there, and I just wanna do my best for a change, you know?”

“It takes your parents being there for you to actually be a useful part of the team?” Haru mutters, which gets him a decently powerful punch to the shoulder. His only reaction is a monotone “Ow.”

“Wanting to do your best for your parents is nice, but I’m sure they wouldn’t want you to work yourself to death,” I reply, getting a nod of agreement from Haru.

Miki gives me a shrug in response, something that I didn’t quite expect. “Maybe not… But I’d also rather not get benched for knowingly ditching a practice session.”

“That’s a good reason not to ditch,” I mutter, thinking the situation over for a moment before continuing more loudly. “Still, burning yourself out is only going to be detrimental in the long run. You don’t have to ditch practice, but at least take it easy. Asking Suzu to cancel our running session for today wouldn’t be a bad idea either. It’d ease the load on your legs, and I’m sure she’d understand.”

Haru apparently decides it’s best to keep quiet. Even when Miki glances toward him, probably wondering what his perspective would be, he simply shrugs and keeps quiet. She then looks over at Suzu’s desk, which is empty. “I’ll ask her then. I would be down for an extra study session, but I can already tell I’m going be out of thinking energy after practice.”

“Like usual...” I say, prompting her to punch me on the shoulder like Haru, though it’s very clear she’s doing it gently.

“Oh well,” Haru mumbles in disappointment. “Guess you two will have to save your date for another day then, huh?”

“What?” I immediately say as those words hit my eardrums. He smirks at me, causing me to slightly panic a bit. It only gets worse as Miki opens her mouth.

“Date?” she asks, visibly confused as she looks over at me. “Well… I can’t say that wasn’t a smooth attempt. Almost got me there, tiger.”

I’m most likely blushing up a storm, but I’m too embarrassed to even care. In fact, I’m so embarrassed that my fight or flight response has seemed to decide that freezing in place is the best thing to do. Miki tries her best to contain her laughter, snickering at my suffering as Haru can’t help but chuckle as well. Honestly, the laughter eases me a bit, as it probably means that Miki took that passing comment as a joke. At least, I’m hoping that she did.

I clear my throat, having regained my composure. “I’m going back to my desk,” I say as I start to leave Miki and Haru. However, Miki grabs hold of my sleeve to stop me.

“Before you go day-dream about me over there, I wanted to know if you’d come to the track meet to cheer me on.”

I thought it was pretty obvious I’d attend, but I guess not. Ignoring her daydream comment, I try to respond in the most nonchalante way I can. “I’ll be there, yeah.”

Miki smiles and lets go of my sleeve. “Cool. Oh, by the way, we can go to town next Sunday if you still want to. I won’t tease you about it being a date either.”

I nod in agreement, adding a quick “sounds good,” before heading to my desk as I wait for class to start. I flash Haru a glance, which he returns in the comfort of his own desk. He gives me a quick and inconspicuous thumbs up before looking through his notebook. Despite every roadbump, I think things have gone pretty smoothly thus far, though I’m still in the dark about a lot of things regarding Miki. All I can really do is to support her during the track meet and hope our date goes smoothly… Even though it’s not a date.
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Re: Flowers Before the Fireflies - A Miki Pseudo-route (Updated 6/21/19)

Post by PabloPabloPablo » Fri Jun 21, 2019 11:37 pm

Rough Track

Waking up to the school being filled with people is an unusual start to the day to be honest. If I didn't know there was a track meet today, I'd think there was another festival or something. What’s even more odd is that, while a majority of the crowd appears to be parents or family members, there's a few people that look like Yamaku students. Only, not Yamaku students. It was honestly surprising to think that there’s more schools like Yamaku around the country, though in hindsight I suppose it’s not that crazy of a concept. There’s more disabled students in the world than just my peers after all, and it makes sense for our two schools to compete against each other. That being said, I didn’t expect this many people to show up to see kids like us run. With this and the festival last week, it seems that people aren’t as judgemental as I thought. Of course, the less people that come, the less packed it is, so it’s a trade-off.

The entrance to the bleachers ends up looking like some line in an amusement park, but actually entering the bleachers reveals that it’s not quite full yet. I guess everyone decided to go in at once, or maybe I’m just bad at guessing the number of a crowd. Looking around for anyone I might recognize, I end up spotting Suzu, sitting on a bench near the back as she talks to a standing Haru who’s wearing the typical gym attire. She flashes me a soft smile as I walk up, waving lightly.

“Hello,” she mutters in her monotone voice. Haru looks back at me with a grin, patting my back as I take my seat next to the Suzu.

“Glad you could make it new kid,” he says, looking over to a woman sitting on the other side of the drowsy girl. “Uh… Hisao, meet Mrs. Miura.”

Mrs. Miura? I lean my head to the side to get a better look at the woman, who I previously ignored as some random stranger. She’s tan, much like Miki. Her eye and hair color are all the same shade of brown as her daughter’s as well, though she’s opted to put her hair up in a sort of office bun. Despite looking just like an older Miki, her attire, posture, and aura are all so different. Her stare seems to piece my soul, as if she’s analyzing every atom in my body in search for any imperfection to judge me on. The black rimmed glasses on her enhance the feeling, as if her lens are amplifying all my insecurities for her to observe in full clarity. Her black blazer and knee-high business skirt make her stick out like a sore thumb in a sea of t-shirts and school attire.

“Uh…” I stutter, unable to muster up the courage to really say anything to her. “I’m... Hisao Nakai. Nice to meet you, Mrs. Miura.”

Her expression stays the same, as she nods slowly. “Nice to meet you then, Nakai,” she says in a tone that wants to end the conversation before it even begins. She focuses back onto Haru with glaring eyes. “Shouldn’t you be down there, Suzumiya?”

“Ah… Well, the guys don’t run for a while, so I’m free to do whatever I want really.”

“I see,” she says, sighing as if she’s dealing with some annoying client. “Well your team would probably appreciate you being down there with them. Imagine if everyone else left you alone while you were running. It wouldn’t be a pleasant feeling, I’m sure.”

Haru seems at a loss for words. “Good point…” he admits. He waves us a farewell as he strolls down the bleachers, leaving the three of us in silence. One thing that is confusing is that it doesn’t seem like Miki's father is anywhere to be seen. I know she said her parents were coming, not just her mom. My curiosity is strong, but I’m not stupid enough to ask a personal question like that.

Just as I resolved myself to avoid the question, Suzu seems to perk up. “Mrs. Miura, where’s Mr. Miura?”

Honestly, I couldn’t tell if Suzu is socially inept or she doesn’t care. Either way, it seemed she had the same thought I did. Mrs. Miura doesn’t seem to be offended by the question, and she just looks off to the side while answering. “He couldn’t make it, sadly. I wouldn’t mention it to my daughter. It’s probably a sore spot for her.”

Speaking of Miki, it seems the 400 meter race was just about to start judging by how everyone was getting lined up. I gaze towards Miki, who seems to be doing last minute stretches before taking her position. Right in front of her was Emi, who looks scarily confident. I mean, she is fast, but honestly her and Miki are probably about even in terms of speed. At least that’s how I remember it from my first week. That being said, Miki seems to lack that same confidence. She’s not really smiling. All she’s doing is staring blankly in front of her. A pistol lets off a loud bang as the runners bolt off the block. That’s when I see exactly why Miki had that expression on her face.

Emi instantly pulls ahead of her and the rest of the runners. I hesitate to call it a race, as it just looks as if the other girls are desperately trying to keep up rather than trying to win. Though it’s not over just yet, as Miki grits her teeth and picks up the pace gradually. Emi seems to notice, as just before they reach the finish line she speeds up just enough to widen the gap once again. Everyone claps and cheers, save for Mrs. Miura and me. Even Suzu lightly claps her hands together, but I’m left too stunned to be polite.

A sigh snaps me out of my trance, as I look over to Mrs. Miura as she folds her arms together. “Shame,” she states with a shake of her head, refocusing back onto the track. Though it seems that Miki is absent this time. Scanning around the field, I eventually relocate her, as she takes a brief break to stretch out her limbs some more. It wouldn’t be weird if Emi wasn’t lining up for another race.

“Why sit this one out?” I ask, mainly to Mrs. Miura. She shrugs, opting to not even look over at me as another gunshot rings in the air.

“That is something you need to ask her about. Though if you want my theory, it’s probably because she doesn’t like the 200 meter dash. Or maybe she’d rather lose three races rather than however many that short girl runs.”

Harsh, but understandable. Still, three races? Miki has to beat Emi in at least one of them. By the time our little conversation ends, the 200 meter dash was pretty much already finished. Emi won, obviously. Miki lined back up for another race, in the same crouched position as before. Her eyes narrow and keep their gaze down her lane. The world goes silent, as if everything is waiting in anticipation to see Miki try to best her everest. That, or to see Emi blitz past her.

The pistol fires once again, only this time the outcome is even more apparent than last time. Given the shorter race, Miki has no time to catch up before Emi gains so much distances that it’d be feasibly impossible for Miki to even tail behind her, let alone beat her. Still, she keeps on running. Unlike the coy smile on Emi’s face, Miki shows nothing but pure concentration. It’s not enough.

The crowd cheers once again. I regain my manners this time and clap with the rest of the crowd. Mrs. Miura keeps her hands folded on her lap once again. Suzu does too, though having no emotion or reaction to something is a seemingly normal occurrence. She yawns, rubbing her eyes and the bags underneath them.

“Need to take a nap?” I ask.

She thinks for a second before nodding. “Probably. I’ll stay up for Miki, though.”

“You sure? I’m positive she wouldn’t mind you leaving early.”

“I know,” she says with a tiny smile. “I want to see her run is all.”

Mrs. Miura seems to overhear our conversation, as she abruptly interjects. “Suzuki, right? Listen, your own health should not be outweighed by anything. Miki would probably feel worse if she knew you had to push yourself to sit through her runs. Go to your dorm and rest up.”

Suzu looks at the woman with her typical blank stare, but I look at her in shock. She’s been nothing but cold this entire time, and now she decides to be, well, motherly. It seems to work, as Suzu slowly nods. I try to offer her an escort, but she swiftly declines with a wave of her hand. Without a word, she gets up from the bleachers and heads down towards the exit. She waves goodbye before she disappears from view.

Now I’m all alone with the mother. How awkward. Neither of us seem up for much conversation, so I decide it’s best to keep silent until Miki’s next race. Man, does it not come fast enough.

For all this waiting, I do see Haru run a couple of times. The boys bracket seems a lot more intense, as every race is pretty much neck and neck instead of watching a little girl completely destroy any sense of competition. They're both impressive for very different reasons. Haru is definitely fast, though noticeably not fast enough to win any race. I’ll have to remember to use that as ammunition against him.

Miki’s next race finally comes, though it’s noticeably different this time. Everyone is lined up in different spots, as if there’s a few races going on at once on the same track. It takes me an embarrassingly long time to realize that this is a relay, and Miki is the anchor for her team. Emi is also the anchor for another team. Therefore, the outcome of the race is all determined on which team gets their baton to the anchor first. I can see it now in my head. Miki’s expression is just as determined as ever as she waits for the baton to reach her. All she needs is a half a second lead, and this win will be hers.

Her teammates round the track, keeping neck to neck with Emi’s team. Miki positions herself on the track to take the baton. Right at that moment, her teammate gets slightly ahead of Emi’s. Miki takes full advantage of the miniscule lead she has and dashes forward as soon as she senses the baton on her fingertips. Emi closes the distance fast, taking the lead as quickly as she normally does. Only this time the lead is much shorter. In all the other races, Miki manages to close the distance right at the last second, with only centimeters between them to spare. This time she’s closer. This time she’ll win.

I lean forward, anxiously fixating on the sprint before me. I can’t help but cheer Miki on, shouting “Come on Miki! You got this!” in a sea of the crowd’s noise. The finish line closes in, and it’s as if time itself slows to a crawl with each step they take. Emi is still ahead, but Miki is fast approaching. However, once again, she’s not fast enough. Emi seems to just accelerate at a rate that Miki can barely keep up. They’re practically sprinting at equal speeds, but that won’t let Miki close the distance, only keep it. Then, the unthinkable happens. Emi stumbles. She doesn’t fall flat on her face, but it’s significant enough to try and take the lead. However, even as Miki closes the distance for what’s almost a photo finish, Emi still manages to get past the finish line before her. That being said, my mind wanders off from the race and more onto Emi. A hint of worry starts to set in, but that’s quickly diminished when she retains her bright smile after the race is over.

Mrs. Miura gets up from her seat, seemingly unenthused about the whole thing. “You go on and congratulate her on second place, I have to call her Father to give him the disappointing news.

Ouch. I hope Miki doesn’t take the loss too hard, though. She normally would be laid back about everything, but her face during the races had a lot more engagement packed into it than normal. I head down the stairs quickly and towards a disorienting crowd of people

Shifting through the crowd of family and peers, I manage to find Miki, mostly surrounded by her guy friends as they stand and chat. Once she sees me, her face brightens up even more.

“Hey, you made it!” she says, walking over with a grin. “I know, I know, I’m pretty damn awesome. Pretty damn fast too. Not faster than that munchkin, but I'm sure you’ve fallen head over heels for me regardless.”

“Yeah, sure…” I reply, chuckling to myself before being squeezed by a hug from Miki. It comes out of nowhere, but it’s not unwelcomed. At Least it wouldn’t be if Miki wasn’t completely covered in sweat.

Once she lets go, her smirk tells me everything I needed to know. “Sorry. I just didn’t think it was fair that I was completely covered in sweat while you just stand there without a drop of it on you.”

“Thanks for that,” I say with sarcasm oozing out every syllable. She just laughs.

By the time our little chat finishes, Mrs. Miura finally catches up with me. Miki’s expression changes from joy to something that I can’t quite pinpoint. However, I can tell that it’s not a normal expression one has from seeing a parent. Miki rubs her arm a bit, before sighing. “H-hey Mom. Thanks for coming.”

Mrs. Miura nods, looking over towards the crowd of people around Emi. “Second place again,” she sighs, managing a slight smile. “Well, you’ll just have to try harder next time, right?”

“Yeah. Next time… Next time I’ll win for sure,” she replies without her usual enthusiasm.

“One can only hope,” Mrs. Miura state. “That being said… you did do okay. Not as good as you could do mind you, but…

She stops herself from finishing the sentence, shaking her head. “I hope you don’t mind me leaving before the award ceremony. I’ll be sure to attend whatever other school events you may have this year. And I’ll make sure your father comes along too, so don’t disappoint.”

“I won’t,” Miki mutters in a soft voice. Mrs. Miura nods, turning away with only a wave as a goodbye. The two of us are left alone in silence, before Miki groans in pain.

“God, I’m sore,“ she complains, “I think I did practice too much for today.”

“Told you,” I mutter as I keep fixating on Mrs. Miura in the distance. That conversation was so odd, yet Miki doesn’t seem fazed at all. Being a bit too curious, I decide to bring it up. “Is something up with you? You seemed a bit out of it when talking to your mom.”

“I did? Weird,” she states, shrugging before putting her arms behind her head. “Hey, I already promised the track team I’d hang with them today, so you don’t have to stay around if you don’t want. Don’t want you getting all jealous now, right?”

“You changed the subject,” I say, causing her eyes to widen in shock before she quickly saves face.

“I did? My bad,” she replies before trotting off back to her group of friends. “See yah around Hisao. The date is still on for next Sunday, so don’t forget!”

With that, I’m left alone with more questions than answers. Although I’m tempted to continue to confront her about it, it’s pretty obvious that she doesn’t want to talk about what happened. Still, that amount of deflection on the topic is so weird. Though no amount of speculation will get me closer to the truth, so I just got to drop it for now. I’ll have to remember to ask Haru about it when he’s not around Miki.

With that having transpired, I’m forced to head back to my dorm. I got to finish that homework for tomorrow anyway. Now I wonder if Miki’s procrastination is influencing me...
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Re: Flowers Before the Fireflies - A Miki Pseudo-route (Updated 6/21/19)

Post by Hanako Fancopter » Sun Jun 23, 2019 7:25 am

I think you have my feedback on this from the discord. Basically you have made a solid foundation, now I'm hopeful to see where you go with it.
An Unusual Friendship (Misha x Hanako Route)
Riposte (Rika Mini-Route)
One-Shots Thread (Random Smut/Meme Stories)

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Re: Flowers Before the Fireflies - A Miki Pseudo-route (Updated 8/20/19)

Post by PabloPabloPablo » Wed Aug 21, 2019 1:27 am

Smaller chapter today in preparation for a big one that I'll drop as soon as I finish proof reading. Hope you guys enjoy it!

---

Castle

The week has flown by so fast that I almost didn’t realize that is was Thursday. The only thing that has been on my mind is non stop anxiousness. At first, the question was why. Then when I figured out why, I only got more anxious. A “date” was not something that I went on in a long time. And let’s just say that my track record when it comes to being with girls is zero wins and one heart attack. At least I can’t ever screw up that hard again. Unless I die of course.

I realize that is a joke, but for some reason that feels like a real possibility.

These intrusive thoughts have brought me straight to the library, where I can calm down without having to worry about Miki or Haru bugging me and making the first date jitters even worse. I just needed some alone time to try to think things through before I go and screw things up on Sunday.

As I browse through the shelves of books, nothing really catches my eye as being super interesting. I had a whole pile of books only a few days ago, and now all of a sudden my entire motivation for being here fades. Eventually I pick out a book that at least somewhat interests me. It’s just one giant book on chess openings. I’m honestly shocked they even have a book on this in the library. I used to play chess casually, and I it was certainly never to the extent to read up on advanced tactics on it. As I skim through the pages, I find that it doesn’t look too complicated to understand. Either it’s a beginners book or I remember more about Chess than I realized.

Looking down the aisle, I spot a familiar face that just brings me back to my nervous reality. Hanako sits there, reading on the same beanbag she was on when I scared her off. What a nostalgic memory for something that only happened two weeks ago. Come to think of it, I never did apologize to her for scaring her off. Though I’m pretty sure the reason I didn’t was the very real possibility of making it far, far worse than it was. Still, I do feel bad for just ignoring it like it didn’t happen. She’s become a ghost to me at this point, which I figure is how she likes it, but…

Ah what the hell. I got nothing to lose, right? Besides, those bean bag chairs are comfy as hell, so it’s worth it in my book. I walk up casually, approaching her from the front just so it doesn’t seem like I’m sneaking up on her. “Hey Hanako.”

As soon as I speak, she looks at me like a deer in headlights. “H-H-Hisao?!” She yelps out. Oh lord, this was a terrible idea you dense bastard...

“Uh… Yeah, hi. Look, I know it’s a late apology, but I just wanted to say that I’m sorry for what happened the other day. I honestly didn’t mean to push any boundaries that may or may not be there.”

She seems to calm down, if only barely, tilting her head a bit. “Oh… It’s okay,” she whispers. “I’m… Sorry about what happened too.”

“No need to apologize about it,” I say, waving off any blame she might have. It doesn’t seem to work much. “Anyway, uh, how about we just start over?”

“Start… Over?”

“Yeah, start over. Like, just reintroduce ourselves and not worry about what happened.”

Hanako looks down for a moment, brushing a piece of hair over her scars. Thankfully I don’t overtly stare at them this time. She nods slightly. “I-I’m Hanako. Nice to… Meet you. Again.”

Well she didn’t need to add the again in there, but oh well. I smile as I reply. “ Hisao. Nice to meet you again as well..”

Thankfully she seems a lot more calm than she did before. That being said, she still refuses to look me in the eye, and seems hellbent on covering her face as much as possible. It’s understandable, honestly, though a bit demoralizing. I cough a bit to ease the tension, as futile as it seems to be. “Well, I don’t wanna bother you anymore, than I have, so I’ll just head out.”

“Oh…” she starts, looking towards nothing in particular, before managing to lock eyes with me for just a second. “Y-y-you can… Stay. If you want to.”

Holy shit, how did that actually work? I shake off the surprise and just nod in response, taking a seat on another beanbag. I shift myself for comforts sake before popping open the chess book to skim through it some more. Unlike last time where the tension was nigh unbearable, this was only slightly awkward at most. I think it has to due to my mind wandering back to Sunday once again. That being said, Hanako does seem to continually glance towards me every so often. As time passes, it becomes perfectly clear that she’s not staring at me, but the book in front of me. In fact, she doesn’t even attempt to hide her interest in it, taking rather long glances that I assume only she thinks are discreet. Chess, huh? Coincidental as hell.

“You play?” I ask aloud to her.

At first, her only response is a cute “Huh?!” However, she eventually works up the courage to answer fully. “Yes… Just a little.”

“You have a board?”

“N-no. At least… Not here.”

“Damn.”

“Do… Do you play?”

“I used to, but I haven’t in a while.”

“...Why not?”

“Nobody to play with, really.”

“Ah…”

And with that, more silence. Still, that was almost a legitimate conversation with her. Quite a feat if I must say, even if it did only last for a couple of seconds. It makes me feel a little bit of pride underneath all that date anxiety. I close the book, finding it to be a bit too much to wrap my brain around as it gets to the more complex theories. Hanako continues to catch a few glances as it, which gives me an idea. I hold out the book to her, which causes her to legitimately flinch. “Wanna give it a read? It’s a bit too advanced for me.”

She hesitates, opening her mouth to say something before closing it once more. With movements that make a sloth jealous, she reaches out for the book. “T-t-thank you…”

“No problem. I’ll be sure to play you someday. You can use me as your training dummy if you want.”

Her blank expression starts to worry me, as if I said the wrong thing or something. But to my surprise, she actually manages a tiny smile. “S… Sure.”

Huh, that was easier than I thought it would be. Maybe being with Miki has helped my social skills. Then again, social skills seem to be the least applicable thing to Hanako ever. Whatever. I randomly pick out a light novel off the shelf and try my best to not think about it too much. Hanako seems fairly content looking through the chess book, basically treating me as if I’m not even there. It feels weird to be on the opposite side of that dynamic. Then again, maybe it was a mutual dynamic the whole time. Everyone ignores Hanako while she ignores everyone else. That raises the question of is she ignoring everyone because everyone ignores her, or does everyone ignore her because she ignores everyone?

Am I overthinking this? Yes. Does that make it a stupid question? Possibly. Am I only thinking this to get rid of my intrusive thoughts? Most definitely.

I sigh loudly, snapping Hanako out of her trance, and causing her to look at me. “Ah, sorry about that.”

“Are… You okay?”

Huh? I feel bad that I’m surprised she’s concerned. I just figured people with a lot of problems themselves don’t have the energy to waste concerning themselves with others. Then again, this is Yamaku. Everyone’s got problems. Probably beyond the physical, too. Developing some empathy for the people around you is something that every Yamaku student might get.

“Yeah, mostly. Just kinda, what’s the word… There’s just stuff going on and… Yeah,” I say, stopping myself from elaborating about it to her.

“O… Oh,” she says. “But… y-you’re okay now…?”


“Uh, yeah, I think so.”

She looks content with that answer, nodding and going back to her book. Am I okay right now… Yeah I am. Nothing bad has happened yet, and the date is still three days away. So, why exactly am I worked up? Well, what Haru said about Miki’s rejection spree is concerning, but if it hasn’t happened to me yet then why should it matter to me? My mind suddenly thinks back to the day of the festival. “The future hasn’t happened yet, so why even bother thinking ‘bout it?” Miki said. She’s right. If the future is just a mystery, why should I try to guess what-ifs? I just need to deal with the only thing that matters, the present. Anything before or after what’s currently happening is none of my concern.

I breathe a sigh of relief. “Thanks Hanako.”

She looks at me, a bit confused. “What… Did I do?”

“Ah, nothing. Just cleared my mind is all,” I say, getting up the beanbag. “I’ll stop bothering you now. Let me know if you want to have that chess game anytime soon, alright?”

Hanako, still a bit confused, manages a tiny smile. “I-I will.” With my gratitude expressed, I head back to the only other place of the school I like, my dorm.

---

I frantically unlock my door before I accidentally alert Kenji to my presence once again. I’m in a good mood, and I don’t need him to spoil it right now. Though once I open my door, I notice a rectangular piece of paper on the dorm’s floor. Picking it up, it looks to be a letter of some sort. Pretty old fashioned, but whatever suits one’s fancy. Still, I can’t imagine who’d send a handwritten letter to me of all people. Flipping the envelope around confuses me even more. “Iwanako.” As surprising as this is, I knew something like this was coming eventually.

I get it, honestly. Without even opening the letter, I knew exactly what this was. Closure. Not for me, but for her. She always came to the hospital with that depressive look in her eyes. My own depression didn’t help that fact, and ultimately we just slowly built ourselves into the situations were where in. She should have stopped coming to that hospital a long time ago, for her own good. But she kept coming until she finally had enough. Maybe it was for my sake. Maybe it was for hers. Either way, it wasn’t healthy.

Looking back on it, I was too busy wallowing in my own sorrows to truly feel sorry for Iwanako. Now with this clearer mind, I finally manage to realize how hard the situation was for her. This letter is just her finally getting the closure she needs. That’s good, honestly. I’m happy for her. But this letter isn’t my closure. I know reading this won’t help me for even half as much as it probably helped her. Besides, it’s not what I need right now. Miki said before, “Fuck the past.” I don’t know if I fully agree with it, but there’s truth there. Looking back to see what could of been or filling yourself up with regrets just isn’t healthy. I haven’t thought of the hospital for a while now, but I’m not stupid enough to claim it still doesn’t effect me. I’ve decided not to look back after getting to know Miki, Haru, and Suzu. And I think that’s for the best. I’m just happy Iwanako is able to do the same. Maybe one day I’ll be able to tell her that I’ve moved on face to face, if that’s even a good idea. But, if I do end up telling her that, I don’t want to do it through a letter.

Without any hesitation, I open a drawer in my desk and toss the letter inside. I couldn’t bring myself to throw it in the trash, especially considering what it probably means to her. But it’s nothing for me to concern myself about. I just have to live my life, no matter where it takes me.
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Re: Flowers Before the Fireflies - A Miki Pseudo-route (Updated 8/21/19)

Post by PabloPabloPablo » Thu Aug 22, 2019 1:57 am

Two posts in very rapid succession! Apologies if it seems like spamming, but I really wanted to get these two chapters out, especially this one. With school starting soon, I wanted this to be the last posted chapter in case a hiatus comes up. Hopefully it doesn't though! This marks the end of Act 2. As an act, it's pretty short, but now I get to move on to writing what this route really is based around in the coming acts. I know people have said it's been a fairly standard and by the numbers kind of fic, and I hope I can change that perspective as we head into act 3. This is a big moment for me, and I only hope you guys enjoy the chapter as much as I enjoyed writing it.

As always, thank you for reading this far. Here it is!

---

Fallen Tree

An alarm clock cries, dragging me from the peaceful state of sleep back into the monotony of reality. A quick tap of the snooze button stops it for a while, but it comes back far too soon. Being awake is not so bad once the repetitive ringing stops, but I’d still rather be asleep than awake right now. I’m sure maybe a few more minutes of sleep won’t kill me, right? I’m normally early to class, so I doubt I’d end up late. Closing my eyes, I drift off, letting whatever thoughts pop into my head sit there. I really need this. The week has been uneventful and we’re not doing much in class, if anything at all. Yesterday was probably the most uneventful day of the week, since most of our teachers just assigned homework and told us to finish it by Monday. I mean, it makes sense, given it was Saturday, but it felt pointless to even show up.

Ah, right. It’s Sunday, huh? I’m supposed to meet Miki today.

I spring out of bed, rushing to the showers to quickly wash off. I toss on whatever shirt looks nice, stopping myself at the mirror to quickly adjust my messy hair. I hurry down the hall after locking the door behind me, not caring much if Kenji hears me this time. Seems like I got lucky, as he’s either not home or decided to stay cooped up in his room today. The day is warm and with clear skies spreading across the horizon. I look around for Miki, who quickly told me after class yesterday to meet her outside the dorms. It seems like she’s nowhere to be found, which it kind of unsurprising. Though as I resign myself for a long wait, the doors to the girl’s dorms open.

To say Miki looked good would be an understatement. Her clothes were simple, with just a white tee, distressed denim shorts, and a red plaid shirt wrapped around her waist. It didn’t seem like she put much thought into the outfit, but nevertheless it looked amazing on her. However, as she waved in greeting and skipped her way toward me, something seemed off. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I chose not to linger too much on the thought as she got closer.

“Yo!” she says, “ready to head out? Or are you too busy admiring my feminine charm?”

“I wouldn’t describe any of your qualities as feminine, to be honest,” I reply, causing her to flash me a scowl.

“What are you, stupid or something? You’re supposed to compliment a girl when they show up all fancily dressed or shit.”

“Whoops,” I say, shrugging coyly. “I’ll be sure to write that down for when I see a girl like that.”

“Hello?” she points to outfit.

“I wouldn’t call a shirt and shorts fancy, to be honest.”

“Really?” she asks, “It beats my usual look though. I’m even wearing a bra this time.”

“This… Time?”

“Pfft, please. There is no way in hell you haven’t noticed that by now.”

“I don’t tend to stare at women's chests very often to notice that kind of thing,” I say, trying to convince her despite how obviously fruitless that is.

“Guy,” she starts, holding up a finger as she counts up. “Teenager. Lonely. And you’re trying to tell me you don’t stare at tits?”

“You didn’t have the add the lonely part. And despite all that, no, I don’t stare at a girls chests every chance I get.”

“Just when you can get away with it,” she replies, causing me to smack my face with the palm of my hand. She holds her hands up. “Hey, hey, I was just messin’ with you. I do wear a bra… Most of the time at least.”

“Right...” I say, giving up on the conversation. “Anyway, you never did tell me exactly what we’re going to do.”

“Ah, that’s ‘cause I don’t know what the hell we’re gonna do.”

I fake a shocked expression, causing her to stick her tongue out at me. We inevitably decide to just head into the city that's not too far from the town. It's apparently just a short bus ride away, at least according to Miki. With no objections, we settle with that plan and wait by the bus stop. The bus is surprisingly quick given how spur of the moment our decision was, driving up after only a few minutes. Then again, Miki did pick the time to meet up. How sneaky…

The bus ride is pretty short given how remote the town looked. I knew that there was a city nearby, but I didn’t expect it to be so close that you don’t even need a train to get there at a reasonable time. The city itself is all too familiar to me, though it’s been a while since I’ve walked around in one. It’s a welcomed return, though I will say that the coziness of the town has grown on me a lot. The city is much more busy and fast paced in comparison. I would think that Miki would feel at home to this kind of environment, however she seems relatively indifferent to it as the two of us stroll on the walkways.

“What do you want to do first?” I ask, turning my head towards her. “Maybe grab some brunch?”

“I ate a granola bar, so I’m stuffed,” she says, patting her belly.

“Sarcasm?”

“Duh.”

I sigh, looking around the buildings to try to spot anything that looks appetizing. It’s mostly stores or fancy restaurants that eat away at your wallet, but I do end up spotting a ramen shop tucked in between two large clothing stores. It’s a typical open shop with a cozy atmosphere to it. It reminds me of some of the older looking buildings from the countryside that somehow manage to stay up. If Miki told me that this was actually a thousand year old shop, I probably still wouldn’t believe her since she’s Miki. That being said, if someone else told me then I’d honestly consider it a possibility. The chef is right in front of the customers, able to chat with them as he works his life away making noodles. Not that he seems to mind, as he’s all smiles as the two of us head over and plop ourselves down onto empty stools. The bowl comes just as quickly as we order it, though Miki stops me before I have any chance to so much as smell the dish.

“Race to see who can finish first?” she asks with a grin.

“No, you’ll win.”

“Eh? How the hell do you know that without trying?”

“Because you’re like a predator when it comes to food,” I reply, getting glare from her and a punch on the shoulder

“That’s not true at all and you know it...” she says before slurp her noodles up like a vacuum.

After that quick meal, Miki takes me by my wrist and drags me around to, “go look for things to spend money on,” as she puts it. Honestly, I don’t mind much. My mom used to always take me around town to shop with her, given how dad would rather take a dive in some nice, warm lava than go around looking at clothes. As a result, I’ve been engineered at a young age to have a resistance to being dragged around store to store.

Eventually she pulls me into a clothing store that fits her budgetary constraints. It’s relatively empty outside of the staff and filled with a wide variety of clothing that makes the racks look like rainbows. Miki runs over to the hats on the left wall, grabbing one and throwing it on. It's a red, plain baseball cap that seems pretty well made for being so generic. After examining herself in the mirror, she turns towards me with an expectant expression.

"Looks good," I say, which she gives a small smile to.

"I know, right? It matches too, I think."

"I didn't peg you as someone who cares about matching clothes."

"I don't really, but it doesn’t hurt, right?” she asks. I can’t exactly argue with that. She puts the hat back on the rack, picking out a white hat instead. After trying it on for a bit, she checks out the price. Her eyes widen in shock before she tosses it back where she found it.

I let her go about her business as I roam around the store. A glasses rack along a watch display case catches my interest, mainly due to some of the odd frames they have. A lot of them remind me of Kenji’s frames, which isn’t a good thing. I get the thick prescription lens, but why anyone would actually ask for thick frames is beyond me. I try out one of the round framed ones and look at myself in the mirror next to the rack. The combination of the glasses, outfit, and hair all come together to make me look like some typical teenage otaku. Needless to say, I look pretty dumb. So dumb that I try my best to contain my own laugher. Miki, having picked out another white hat, walks up behind me and chuckles without even so much as an attempt to keep a straight face.

“Haha,” I say, putting the glasses back. “I’m sure you won’t look any better with glasses on.”

Miki stops laughing and takes a long look at the rack of glasses. She walks over and takes one of the thinner frames, placing it on her face. They look oddly fitting for someone like Miki. The thinner brown frames mesh well with her skin, while the oval shaped lens give her a sort of analytical look to her. She doesn’t seem the type to wear glasses, but if she did, she would rock them.

“You’re blushing,” she says nonchalantly, taking the glasses off.

“Good joke,” I say, still opting to turn my face to the side in an attempt to hide any redness that might be there. “You do look good with them on.”

“Think so?” she asks, looking back at the rack. “I dunno. Don’t think I’m the glasses type.”

“Figured,” I say, ending the conversation in its tracks. She pays for her hat and plops it on her head without a care in the world for how crooked it might be. From there we go from shop to shop without much of a goal in mind. Miki looks for clothes only to pout when nothing appeals to her as she proceeds to drag me out. I follow without any protest, though after the fourth store I do start to get a bit impatient.

“Why don’t we take a break from the stories and try to do something else?” I suggest, piquing her interest a bit.

“Like what? Don’t say karaoke, cause I’m not about to sing in front of you.”

Okay, well that’s out of the picture. I rack my brain trying to come up with something, only to be reminded of my previous high school. All we did was play soccer and go to eat, but on rare occasions me and a group of friends went to karaoke to act like a bunch of idiots. It was fun, though I honestly don’t view those memories as fondly as I used to.

That’s when an idea pops into mind. “Arcade?” I ask, causing her eyes to widen.

“Think I’ll do alright with my, uh, handicap?” she says, waving her stump up.

“I think you can learn how to use a joystick without much trouble,” I say, noticeably relieving her a bit.

After a few seconds of pondering, Miki smirks and grabs my with her hand, pulling me towards what I assume is our destination. The streets get a bit more lively as the day goes on and the sun barely starts to descend. The arcade Miki drags me to seems fairly packed, both with people and of cabinets. The outside stands out like a sore thumb, having giant letters across the building with a rainbow of colors for each character. The inside is filled with machine after machine, tightly packed together for what feels like miles of various colored tiles. There’s even an upstairs, though when I try to explore, Miki grabs me by the collar.

“That’s the pachinko area,” she says, pointing up towards the ceiling with her stump as the muffled sound of clacking metallic spheres becomes all too apparent.

“Ah… Avoiding that,” I say, shuddering at the memory of my dad’s obsession over those thinly veiled gambling machines. Of course, actual gambling is illegal, but turning money to little metal balls that you can win more of in exchange for more money is somehow allowed to exist despite the laws.

“Aww. Don’t wanna lose your money, huh?”

“Obviously. I don’t see why you care to ask since you’re the one that stopped me in the first place.”

“Of course I stopped you, because I can’t afford us both losing money today,” she says skipping forward and up the stairs to gamble away. I want to stop her, but she’s Miki. Trying to stop that girl from doing something is akin to trying to stop a train from moving. It’s futile, so I accept my fate and walk up with her as the sound of alarms and metallic clanks grows ever larger.

“Are you even old enough to play?” I ask, noticing the eighteen and over sign as we climb up the stairs.

“I’m nineteen, bro. How about you? Probably still seventeen or something?”

“I’m old enough,” I say, which gets a doubtful look from Miki. “Is that somehow surprising? I don’t look young at all.”

“Hey man, take that shit as a compliment. You got good, young, baby skin.”

I glare at her, getting only a chuckle for a response. Once we finish climbing the stairs, the full cacophony hits us like a truck. The sound is so loud that it’s impossible to even think. The parlor is a lot different from the arcade downstairs, as it’s filled with mostly middle aged men or elderly woman. The kinds of people with disposable incomes, unlike the two of us. I nearly expected the entire place to smell of smoke, but it surprisingly doesn’t. Odd, as I remember back in the day the old parlors did. It’s probably good that it doesn’t, given my heart isn’t exactly in the best shape of its life. The bright lights and harsh noises don’t deter Miki one bit as she exchanges most of her money into the machine, turning all her hard earned cash into little metal balls. What’s worse, they’re barely enough to fill half the bucket.

“You’re gonna turn all that into cash?”

“Huh?” she says, holding her stump up to her ear. “Can’t hear you over all this money making noise.”

I stand there, palm rubbing my face as I mentally prepare myself for what I’m about to witness. Miki plops down onto a seat and starts dispensing her cash-turned-ball-bearings into the pachinko machine. A lot of clacking noises happen and a ton of lights light up as giant digital text flashes on the screens to the point where I start to feel a headache forming. I honestly don’t know much about how these machines work or how to play despite my family history with it. What I do know that you’re supposed to get more balls from winning on the machine. That’s not happening with Miki, though, as she keeps on inserting them into the contraption and getting nothing in return. She doesn’t look too worried at first, but as her bucket gets more and more empty, her face gets more and more anxious. She fidgets in her seat, pouting to herself as she fails time and time again to get the jackpot.

“Stupid ass machine is broke or something…” she says, as her potental winnings continue to go down.

“You know I haven’t gotten shit so far, so that means I should win now. That’s how like, statistics work, I think.” she says, letting a ball bearing go into the machine only for it to win nothing.

“Please. Please be the jackpot. I fucking beg of you,” she pleads, only for those pleads to go unheard.

It isn’t until she’s down to her last handful of balls that she looks dead inside.

“I see you’ve learned that gambling is bad,” I say, taking the nearly empty bucket away from her before she even attempts to play again. She only groans in response.

I eventually manage to coerce her out of the parlor with enough money for at least the bus fare back. I leave a mental note to never let Miki gamble ever again, though just as quickly as she lost all her money, she is quickly back to her usual high-spirited self. “Alright, that went shitty. What now? Preferable we do something not so expensive, yeah?”

“I think that limits things quite a bit,” I say, trying my best to think of anything fun and inexpensive. “This wouldn’t have happened if we just went to the arcade to… play arcade machines.”

“Yeah, but it’s no fun if there’s no risk attached to it,” Miki says, throwing her hands behind her head.

“I suppose, but I’m pretty sure you’d have just as much fun on the arcade machines and not lose nearly the same amount of money.”

She shrugs. “Maybe, maybe. But then I couldn’t have gotten the jackpot.”

I look around, trying my best to find this imaginary jackpot she’s talking about. Seems to annoy her well enough.


“Right… You made your point,” she concedes, walking off down the block to where I can only assume is nowhere special. “Let’s just grab something else to eat and then head back. The day was fun while it lasted, I guess.”

“Well, there’s no need to end it right now,” I say, walking by her side. “I can pay for the rest of the day if you need.”

She looks at me, probably surprised at the offer, before shaking her head. “Nah. As much as I’d love to steal your money and leave you broke, I don’t think my pride would let that happen.”

“Your pride is probably what led you to lose your money in the first place.”

“Yeah… It’s pretty dumb sometimes,” she chuckles to herself before continuing down the directionless path. I opt to say nothing, keeping at her pace as I just tag along to wherever she goes. It leads me to feel a bit defeated if I’m honest. I really don’t want this day to end so early, especially when it feels as though we haven’t done much to begin with. I thought that I was personally making a lot of progress with Miki today, but the air just feels awkward now. Given what happened, it’s easy to blame her for the day ending so soon, but I honestly can’t bring myself to say that. Especially when it was pretty entertaining to watch the entire debacle. I think that’s what bothers me the most. I had fun, Miki seemed like she had fun, and yet the day feels emptier than it should.

---

After eating quickly, the two of us hitch a ride on the next bus to drive us up the hill and back to our little school. It’s a long wait for both the bus and the actual ride itself. Longer than it was in the morning, that’s for sure. The obvious silence between the two of us definitely doesn’t make time go by any faster either. The most conversation I manage to get is the same banter we always have, only without much of the energy. Looking back at Miki, it’s easy to tell that she feels bad about the pachinko incident. It’s always easy to tell how she feels, until it isn’t. I open my mouth to spout out something about how it’s not her fault, or how I still had fun, but I know that won’t really do a damn thing. Still, it seems weird that she’s caring so much about today. Normally when things go wrong she kicks her shoes off and relaxes as all her plans burn right in front of her. Now? She seems out of it. Not sad, mad, or really upset in any way. Just out of it.

The bus scretches to a halt, and the two of us exit right after thanking the driver. After just a few feet of walking, we find ourselves back to the big metal gate of the school, only with a nice orange glow from the yawning sun. I honestly didn’t even realize how late it got after what happened. If we stayed out in the city for any longer, we would have been cutting it close when it comes to curfew. It’s a bright side, I suppose, but it doesn’t do much to lift my spirits. The two of us head through the gates and back towards the dorms as the silence looms over us. By the time we make it, not so much as a sound has been muttered between us. It’s awkward, but most of all, frustrating.

Miki turns to me, twirling a piece of her hair around her finger. “Not the best ending, but it was fun up until then, right?”

Her smile is more painful than comforting. “Yeah, you’re right,” I say halfheartedly. It’s clear she notices, as that smile turns into a frown.

“Well, I’ll see you around then, yeah?” she says, holding her hand up to wave before turning around towards the girl’s dorms. It feels slow, watching her walk off as I twiddle my thumbs. It’s annoying. I mean, really, how pathetic must this sight look? I’d argue it’s up there with having a heart attack during a girl’s confession. Hell, it even reminds me of the hospital. That day that Iwanako left that room for the last time, all I did was watch her leave. Looking back, I wanted to talk to her. I wanted to tell her to stay. But I was too broken to do so. Or at least that was my excuse for it. Was it valid? I don’t really know, but I know that is sure as hell isn’t valid in this situation.

“Wait, Miki,” I call out to her, causing her to stop immediately and look back. I close the distance, which was short in the first place. Without any thought put into my words, I just spit out what’s on my mind. “Look… I’m not ready for the day to end. Not after what happened. And I can tell you feel the same way too.”

Miki smirks, “Spot on, but we already left the city. Kinda out of options unless you’re about to invite me in your room to play video games or something nerdy like that.”

“That’s not an ideal option,” I admit, trying my best to come up with anything that might be preferable to that. “There’s got to be something here we can do, right? Maybe go down the hill to the town?”

Miki looks as if she’s pondering herself, only for her eyes to brighten and her grin to widen in an almost scary manner. “I got an idea. Just wait here a sec, ‘kay?”

She skips off towards the dorms, seemingly plotting something that I have no say over. I’m left to my own devices for a second, just in time for a text notification to come in on my phone. I shuffle through the junk in my pocket and grab my phone, finding a text from Haru.


“How is it going?” he asks, in what I can only assume is a disinterested tone that can’t be easily transferred through a screen. I quickly text him back that it’s going okay before shoving the phone back into my pocket.

About five minutes later, Miki strolls out of the dorm, effectively looking the same save for her bag appearing a bit more full and for her newly bought hat to be gone. She waves me towards her, pointing to the edge of the building and heading around it. I follow, a bit confused as to our destination but curious nevertheless. It turns out the dorm has a pretty large wall behind it, hiding the dense forest on the other side. The top of the trees is colored in the dimming orange light, who’s rays barely manage to reach past the thick canopy of branches and leafs. Miki goes through a rusting metal gate, leaving it open and inviting for me. With some hesitation, I step through, and find myself in a realm of maple trees and chirping birds. A smell of thick grass and forming moss becomes more apparent as civilization heads farther away. Miki keeps to the weathered path as she looks behind her to flash me a grin.

“Do you know where we’re going?” I call out to the seemingly infinite span of trees.

Miki nods, “Kinda, yeah. It’s coming up soon.”

Just as she says that, she decides to stray off the path. My eyes widen, but I stop myself from saying anything. After a few minutes of walking through fallen branches and slippery rocks, we find ourselves at an uprooted tree, barely lit through the slits of the canopy. Miki plops herself down onto it, tapping the space next to her as she looks at me. I sit next to her, noting the distinct lack of comfort almost immediately. I guess it’s easy read my thoughts, as Miki starts chuckling.

“What?” I ask, eyes narrowing towards her.

“Nothin’,” she says, sticking out her tongue at me. After finding her own comfort, she shifts through her enlarged bag and pulls out a large bottle filled with a red liquid, setting it down onto a flat piece of the bark. Odd, I thought she’d be a beer person.

“Really?” I say, holding the red wine bottle in my hand as I examine it.

“Yeah. Figured sake would be too much.”

“How’d you sneak this in, anyway?” I ask, leaning in curiously as she smirks.

“Let’s just say my sister isn’t always a bitch,” she explains, grabbing the bottle back from me. She easily uncorks the bottle, taking a swig directly from it before handing it over to me.

“You have a sister?” I ask, curiously listening in as I examine the bottle further. The smell is a lot stronger that those ones dad gave me not to long ago. Though that was in a glass, not directly from the bottle like some crazy person. I guess carrying around wine glasses in your purse isn’t exactly plausible. I take a breath and take a drink of the wine. It’s a bit bitter, though I can’t say I hate. I know that there’s some proper way to drink wine, like letting air in and swishing it around, but I just swallow it after letting it sit there for a second. No need for the extra steps when it tastes just fine as is.

I hand the bottle back to Miki, who grabs it and takes another large drink of the bottle. “Yeah. Half sister. I got a half brother too. What about you? Got any siblings?”

“Nope. Only child.”

“Lucky,” she says, handing the bottle back to me. “I mean I love ‘em all, but holy shit are they a giant pain in the ass sometimes.”

I swirl the bottle around a bit before taking a drink. Doesn’t change a thing. “Trust me, being an only child isn’t as fun as it seems. Sure, they spoil you a bunch, but their expectations are fully centred on you. Do one thing they don’t like? You’ll never hear the end of it.”

“Oh God, tell me about it. I remember Mom always forced shit on me. I had to do piano lessons for like, a good five years before I finally convinced her to stop paying for them.”

“You? Playing the piano?”

“I know right?” she chuckles, taking the bottle from me. “But! I was actually a beast at the piano. My songs could make you cry, no joke.”

“Sure, whatever you say,” I mutter, chuckling as well. “I’d love to hear you play sometime.”

“Well, that’s gonna be a bit hard if I’m honest,” she says, holding up her stump as she tries to contain her laughter. The bottle keeps being passed between the two, as the red liquid slowly drains away.

I look up at the dark orange sky, noticing some of the stars starting to showing up. It brings up a topic to mind, one that I believe would be encouraged by the alcohol if I was even close to being tipsy, let alone drunk. “You think there’s aliens out there?”

Silence. Miki looks towards me, giggling to herself. “That’s a stupid nerd question, you know that right? Like, I totally expect it from you, but it’s still so nerdy.”

“Hey, it’s a real question! I mean think about it.”

“Oh, I’m thinking about it alright. About how stupid it is, at least.”

“Come on,” I say chuckling and shaking my head. It was pretty dumb, but it came to mind. At this point I’m just letting anything that comes to me out for everyone to hear. Except that everyone is just Miki and a few bugs that bother us.

“There’s one hundred percent aliens out there,” she mutters, smirking towards me. I smile back, nodding in agreement.

“Think they look like us?”

“No, stupid. Little green men. Or squids.”

“Squids?”

“Bro, octopuses and squids are super smart. If you told me they could build little space ships and fly around, I’d believe you.”

I shrug, conceding over the fact that cephalopods are indeed smart. I’m surprised she knows that of all people, given how she hates science and all that. Though I guess she’s not averse to learning interesting facts at least.

“How’d you become such nerd, anyway?” she says, curiously tilting her head. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on you for it. Well… Maybe I am, but just ‘cause I’m a bit jealous.”

“Uh, well…” I scratch my head, unable to come up with any answer that’s really substantial. “As far as I know, I was always interested in it. It never, you know… Started from anything. I was just good at it from the beginning.”

“Beginning as in primary school? Or as in like, your old high school?”

“I don’t think I knew that I liked science in elementary,” I explain, shuddering at the embarrassing memories of my younger years. “High school though? I think I got a better feel for it there. I never did any science club or anything, though. Just played soccer after school.”

“Oh, as part of a team?” she asks, leaning forward with her stump propping her head up.

“Nah, just for fun, you know? I was never good enough to be apart of a team, and I didn’t care enough to get any better either. Looking back, I probably just did it as an excuse to not be in a club.”

“I getcha. I was apart of the track team back back in middle school, too. But I didn’t do shit there except hang out with friends,” she says, before chuckling abruptly. “Nothing’s changed.”

“Yeah… Probably not,” I say, laughing with her. “For me though, everything’s changed. For the better, honestly. I mean, I used to really hate how my life was before my incident… When I think about it, I was depressed back then too. Just going through the motions of life without really living. Sure, the heart problems made it worse, but it was always there. I was just too indifferent to deal with it...”

“I feel that,” Miki comments, swirling the bottle back and forth before taking another sip. “I think… After my incident with the shark…”

“Shark?”

“Yeah, shark, that’s how I lost my hand,” she explains, holding her stump up with a playing grin. “Okay no, after my hiking incident, I kinda had a change of mindset I guess. It’s easy to see your life flash before your eyes when a big ass boulder comes hurtling towards you. I realized that life is way too short. Gotta live like your gonna lose another hand.”

“That’s… A saying,” I mutter, accepting her words of wisdom for what they are. Although her story sounds rough. I actually never got to tell her about my stay at the hospital. Kinda feel bad when I think about it. She hands the bottle towards me and I opt to take another drink. After swallowing a good portion, a work up the guys to tell her. “Believe it or not, I had a heart attack last winter after a girl confessed to me.”

“Holy shit, really?” she exclaimed with a look of curiosity and concern all wrapped into one.

“Yeah, really,” I say, a bit embarrassed over the fact. “Landed me in the hospital till I had to transfer to Yamaku. It was hell, both the hospital and the transfer. At first I was so upset over leaving my old school. I had a lot of friends there, or at least people I thought were friends. They kinda ditched me after the incident. I don’t blame them though, as I barely took the chance to interact with them. Plus I was a wreck mentally and kind of an asshole.”

“Oh, I know,” Miki comments, grinning as I look to her with a playful glare.

“Anyway… I was sad and mad and all the other negative emotions. But honestly, after meeting you, Suzu, and Haru… I would transfer again in a heartbeat. No pun intended.”

“Aw… So you do care about us,” Miki teases, getting a laugh out of me. “Well, I say fuck those guys for ditching you. I used to have friends like that, and gosh, they were awful. Though honestly, that reminds me. This friendship thing between us? Yeah, it’s canceled. Sorry!”

“Ha ha, very funny,” I say, taking another drink of wine before handing it back to her. The forest gets quieter, though it’s not nearly as awkward as it was on the bus. This time it feels cozy, as if the two of us just sitting around having a drink is all we really need.

“You know,” she starts, pausing to take another drink from the bottle. “I hadn’t told anyone about this place till today. I came here a lot the first two years of school, but I got busy with third year shit.”

“This a special place for you?” I ask, genuinely curious as to why she came here so often. I mean, it’s pretty, but not exactly my ideal place.

She flips open her phone, smiling lightly at the screen before closing it. “You’ll see.”

Ominous, but it’s easy for me to tell that she was trying to hide her excitement. I sit there, awaiting whatever it is she wants me to see. All this waiting around seems to attract a lot of bugs, as they start to swarm the two of us with unrelenting annoyance. Maybe they like wine. Who knows, but for some reason Miki doesn’t seem to mind. I brush off a few that land on my shoulder and a couple that try to make a nest out of my hair. At this point visibility is all but gone, as the orange hue retreats over the horizon. All the bugs I end up swatting at practically disappear, making their swarming even more annoying. Curious, I hold my hand out, trying to coerce one to land in order to get a closer look. Eventually one does, and I lean forward to try to examine it. It’s a bug, that’s for sure. It kinda looks like a slimmer and more colorful beetle more than anything else, with yellow borders around it’s wings. Regardless, they annoy me more than any beetle could, though I resist my urge to crush the poor thing. Not it’s fault that it was designed to be a nuisance, after all.

Suddenly a light pops up from the forest. It’s dim, but it’s noticeable enough to alert me. I look over to Miki, who I can still manage to see, and it looks like she doesn’t even care. The worry starts to go away until another light flashes towards my side. And then another light flashes on the other side of me. Then another. And another. Before I know it, the entire forest is lit up like a twinkling night sky. Looking down at my hand, the bug that had landed there glows a yellow glow, flickering on and off every second before flying off towards its brethren.

The alcove of the forest shines bright as thousands of tiny fireflies dance along the forest floor. Their flickering attracts more to join in as the glow grows brighter with each twinkle. The few cracks of the canopy shine through with moonlight, as if to showcase the wonderful performers in their little light show. I look towards Miki, whose face is just barely lit up thanks to the bugs all around her. Her smile is a lot different than I’ve seen before. It’s not full of smug or sarcasm, but of genuine joy. It’s cute, but it’s so odd to see at this time. My mind doesn’t focus on it for long though, as a few of the fireflies cut through my vision, as if they want me to focus on them. The lightning bugs continue to frolic through the trees and grass, flying towards and away from us as if we’re not even there anymore. Being a city boy, I only ever got to see these little guys on the rare occasion that one wandered out of a forest. Never in these numbers that’s for sure, and never this close up either.

“It’s beautiful,” I mutter, enthralled over the show of yellow lights. Miki audibly laughs, sighing afterward in a relaxed manner.

“Yeah… This never gets old,” she says, holding out her hand as a few fireflies rest there for a moment, all the while continuing to shine away the twilight. Eventually a rather large amount start to crawl all over her, lighting her up like a christmas tree. She doesn’t seem to mind, though, giggling like a typical school girl. I smile at the sight as my mind races with a thought. It’s something that I’ve known for a while, but never really said, even to myself.

I really do like this girl. Looking back, I think I’ve liked her since the festival. After she told me all that stuff about getting rid of the past and living in the present, I realized it’s what I needed to hear at that moment. I can’t really imagine what I’d be like if I didn’t hear it, and it was only two weeks ago. Though honestly, I’d probably just be that moody, depressed asshole I was on the first week. It’s crazy to think about how rapidly my life has changed in less than a month. It’s a blessing honestly, and it’s thanks to her. I owe her a lot, it turns out.

What was it Haru said? All of the guys that confess to her get rejected. It’s a scary revelation but thinking about today, I can’t help but think of my chances. Opening up, showing me this place, telling me that I’m the only one that’s seen it… I don’t know what to think. She’s a flirt, I learned that quickly. It’s not some sign that she feels the same way, but this is all a lot different from flirting. In this hidden alcove of twinkling lights, it feels as though that there’s no place that’s more perfect for a confession. Do I think I’ve got a higher chance than any of the other guys? No. But I know now that if I don’t confess to her right here and right now, then I’m never going to get a better chance. Then I realize the choice I have to make. Keep Miki as a friend, or risk it that friendship.

For some reason that terrifies me more than any kind of rejection would. Our relationship has only existed for less than a month. Is it really wise to risk all that for the possibility at dating? I’m honestly not sure. I don’t know how she would take a confession. Probably should have asked Haru about that, but it’s too late now. I gotta come to a decision. What would Miki say? What would Miki do?I know exactly what she’d do. She’s say fuck it and just confess. The future shouldn’t be worried about. The past shouldn’t be worried about. The present is the here and now, and that’s all that matters. And presently, I want nothing more than to tell her how I feel about her.

I turn to her, partially covered in fireflies myself. “Miki,” I call out grabbing her attention.

“What’s up?” she asks in a relaxed tone, brushing away all the lighting bugs on her in a gentle manner.

Alright, don’t overthink this and don’t fuck this up. I take a deep breath, forcing my mind to project the thought into words. “Look... I like you. A lot. So… Do you wanna go out with me? And don’t ask if this is the wine talking.”

“Is this the wine talking?” she asks with a smirk.

“I just-” I start, stopping before chuckling softly. “No. It’s not. I promise you it’s not some joke or prank that I’m pulling on you. I genuinely want to go out with you.”

Miki… becomes hard to read. Her emotions shift by the second as she tries to process what she hears. At first she has her typical grin on, but then it changes to surprise, only to then change to pondering, and then to a variety of emotions I can’t read at once. I almost think I see joy for a second, but it’s quickly overshadowed.

One expression eventually sticks, lit up by the faint glow of the fireflies. I’ve seen it before, and even now I still can’t pinpoint what it is. Although it doesn’t take a scientist to know what’s coming next. All I can do is brace my heart for it.

“I’m sorry, Hisao… But I just wanna be friends…”
Last edited by PabloPabloPablo on Mon Sep 23, 2019 4:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Flowers Before the Fireflies - A Miki Pseudo-route (Updated 8/21/19)

Post by Feurox » Mon Aug 26, 2019 11:18 am

I promised I would leave my remarks on this route, and now the bill comes due. I'm going to begin my thoughts by hopefully assuring you. This story has been a delightful read, and it made an otherwise boring train journey into a wonderful time, you have my utmost thanks for writing something I would consider so well written.

I should also preface this comment with an acknowledgement. I have made it no small secret that I consider Craftyatom's 'Com(Promise)' one of this forums most brilliant stories. Undoubtedly, my fondness for his story has had an influence on how I read this particular tale. Much of what utterly adore about his writing, and the story itself, can be seen here, but I want to also stress that the two are unique enough that I am able to separate my thoughts on them, and avoid comparison nearly entirely.

I say 'nearly', because there are a few things these routes have in common. Namely, they both master something I'm hugely fond of - the natural progression of a relationship. For Craftyatom, that type of natural progression is brilliantly shown in Miki's inner thoughts, her very human woes, and otherwise 'normal' life.

You take a very different approach, and it's one I'm quite fond of - despite my style having changed from that very same format. Your writing itself doesn't require much technical scrutiny. It's really good, and the fast passed dynamic of conversations keeps the pace fast and bombastic, an energy that suits your characterisation of Miki very well. I think the story could benefit from a few more frequent steps back - some of your best writing is when Hisao is thinking, here's my favourite so far:
What I’ve come to realize is that Miki chats with everyone in the class, save for Hanako and Shizune for obvious yet differing reasons. Sometimes she’ll have long-winded conversations with a random classmate, though normally it’s just a few pieces of small-talk with whoever is around her. The person she tends to bug the most is Haruhiko, who often counters her playful jabs with unrelenting taunts. It’s confusing to try and piece together what their relationship actually is. Their friendship seems to be completely one-sided, but Haru never tries to get away from her. He just follows her lead more often than not, with nothing more than a few complaints. It’s odd to me.

Maybe I’m just being a jealous idiot. It’s very possible. I know that they’re not romantically involved, at least I think I know. It doesn’t matter, though, right? I’m just her friend, nothing more. Besides, she’s like one of the guys. She’d more likely hook me up with another girl than go out with me herself. I couldn’t date her, it would be like dating one of my guy friends. It wouldn’t work.

Who the hell am I kidding…
(Flowers Before the Fireflies, Act 2, Procrastination)

Hisao's thoughts are incredibly human, I'm sure many of us can relate to that situation. What's great, is that this reflection isn't coming from nowhere - Hisao and Miki have got some chemistry, and the evolution of Hisao's descriptions has mirrored that change in relationship wonderfully. You're not throwing curveballs at all, but still, you're getting an emotional response from me. Bravo. I'd like to use the quote above to discuss my favourite aspect of your story.

'Flowers Before the Fireflies' wonderfully highlights the frustration of people missing one an other by an inch, and what results is a deeply relatable, human story of two people who are reading the same book from different pages, hell, maybe even in different languages. It's clear that Miki and Hisao have got... 'something', but there's more at stake then a simple easy fix relationship for either of them. Hisao's relationship with Miki, whilst natural, is a dependant one, and as things stand, it seems unlikely they would enter a relationship on an equal footing. Likewise, Miki's rejection at the end of Act 2, whilst powerful, is hardly surprising. Her family situation, and overall attitude have set her up as a character who struggle with her independence, who holds herself in such a regard that being vulnerable is akin to showing weakness. I'll be very excited to see what you do with that premise, two people struggling to meet as equals. Very good stuff.

If you were expecting my comment to be critical, I'm sorry if I've disappointed you. I struggle pointing out the flaws in this story thus far, but there's a simple reason for that. You've written yourself into such a direction that I believe the emotional payoff, and otherwise quality of this story, is really now being revealed, (that's not to say it wasn't good, but I'm only now emotionally invested). I can imagine that is both a relieving and deeply stressful thing to hear, because what happens next definitely feels like the coming climax of this story. The promise of this story has me deeply interested, and it has me once again thinking about it's fitting title:

Hisao might have seen the 'Fireflies', but he's not seen the forest for the trees.

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Re: Flowers Before the Fireflies - A Miki Pseudo-route (Updated 8/21/19)

Post by PabloPabloPablo » Tue Aug 27, 2019 2:29 am

I said a lot of what I wanted to say in the discord, but I really did find this comment very sweet. Like you specify, I was expecting a lot of critique on it, but I'm happy to know that I'm doing good so far, at least in your eyes. I really do hope that the coming chapters keep you and everyone else reading engaged, as it's served as nice dose of motivation to keep on writing.
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Re: Flowers Before the Fireflies - A Miki Pseudo-route (Updated 9/9/19)

Post by PabloPabloPablo » Mon Sep 09, 2019 8:17 pm

Well, here it is. Act 3 is about to start. I'm honestly quite nervous, but I hope you'll all enjoy what I can planned for these next few chapters. It's been almost a year, and I've made a lot of progress. I'm honestly quite proud of that, and I hope I can make much more progress as the fic continues on. Anyway, here it is!

---

Act 3: Withering Tulip

Again and Again

I forgot to do the assigned homework yesterday.

After Miki rejected me, I didn’t feel up to doing anything, much less doing homework. It's a shame, though honestly I find it hard to care. I wash myself, get dressed, and head to class. At this point, I’m not really awake, just going through the motions of my daily routine.

The school at this time is silent, with barely a soul in the hallways and stairwells of the building. If I had to guess, most people awake this early are at the cafeteria for breakfast. The emptiness of the classroom all but confirms that, as I’m practically the only one here, save for the chubby guy in the corner of the room.

I head over to my desk and fall onto my seat, my head held up with my hand.

This feels awful. I feel awful. It’s not as bad as when I got admitted to the hospital or when I first came to Yamaku, but I definitely haven’t felt this out of it since either of those two events. Maybe I’m just overreacting. I mean, it’s only a rejection, right? Rejections happen pretty frequently, and will probably continue to happen all my life. I know that makes logical sense, but my emotions say screw logic right now.

Whatever. I’ll get over it after a week or so. Until then, I’ve just got to make sure I didn’t ruin my friendship with Miki. She was pretty normal throughout the whole debacle yesterday. In fact, by the time we said our goodbyes she was all smiles. So, I should be okay, right? I think I just need to convince myself that our friendship isn’t dead rather than convince her. Makes sense, given the fact that she’s got to be used to rejecting people by now…

The door swings open and Haruhiko enters from the hallway. He scans the classroom, smirking as his eyes lock onto mine. “Yo, New Kid!” he says, walking over and slapping me on the back. “How’d the date go?”

I try my best to act nonchalant, but all I manage is a dejected face and a groan. “It… happened. I asked her out and got rejected.”

Haru’s eyes widen in shock as he borrows Misha’s chair and takes a seat. “Shit… Why? I mean, why’d yah confess so soon.”

“I don’t know, man,” I say, sighing to myself and realizing how stupid of a mistake it was. “I figured it was the perfect moment, you know? We were having fun, she was opening up. It just seemed right.”

I leave out the part of the forest for obvious reasons. She said she never brought people over there, and I can only assume she doesn’t talk about it much if she just goes alone. Given her face last night, it must be precious to her, so I’m not about to ruin that fact.

Haru rubs his temples. He looks as if he’s trying to comprehend my stupid decision. “Well, I’m not gonna argue with that, since I wasn’t there. Damn, this puts a dent into things.”

“Puts a dent in things is a funny way to say I’m screwed," I mutter, tapping my fingers on the desk.

“Nah, we’re not gonna give up that easy,” Haru exclaims, flashing me a smirk. “It’s just a speed bump is all, don’t worry about it.”

“Haru, I think if a girl rejects you, then it’s pretty obvious that she’s not interested.”

“Well, sure but…” he stops, rubbing his chin before continuing. “There’s always a chance she gains interest, right?”

“Yeah… Maybe,” I mutter, turning my head away as I stare off into the morning glow from the windows. He’s kind of right, but I’m pretty sure I’d just be wasting my time trying to pursue her again. That, or I’d just get my heart broken a second time. Unrequited love is a pain, and I really don’t need that in my life right now. Especially now that I’ve just started feeling good for the first time in months.

Haru stays silent for a while, but gets up from the seat and begins to head back to his desk. He turns around, “Sorry about being a shit wingman,” he says, before continuing towards his seat.

I want to tell him otherwise, but I can't muster up the energy to say it. A date is a date, and without his little plan I wouldn’t even have had the chance to ask her out. I guess it was a good thing and a bad thing at the same time. I got to have a great time, but I got rejected. It was nice while it lasted, the fireflies were gorgeous, and I got to know Miki a bit more. It was a good day that was ruined by one bad moment, and really it was only ruined for me. Miki seemed alright.

Is that normal? I’ve ever rejected anyone before, unless you count a heart attack as a rejection. I remember that, even as I saw Iwanako leave the hospital room, it cut me deep. And I honestly didn’t even know her that well beyond an acquaintance. It’s not really the same as rejection, but I figure it might still sting in the same way. I don’t know what Miki felt during that night. Maybe it was all sorts of things. Maybe it was nothing. She's an open book, but there's times where it feels like she completely closes herself off. I’m honestly not sure what triggers the difference. Either way, these thoughts don’t do much to help me move past it.

The classroom fills up rather fast, with pretty much everyone present save for Hanako and a few others. Miki pops in about a minute before class starts looking like she finally got a decent night’s rest. Our eyes immediately lock onto each other. She smiles and waves before heading to her desk. It was brief, but it sticks in my mind even after Mutou walks through the door.

---

“Please let go of me,” Suzu says in her typical monotone voice as Miki clings to her like a child clings to her mother.

“No can do… Why did they have to have a quiz today of all days?” Miki groans, slumping down to the floor still holding onto the small girl.

The sight is hard to miss given everyone but a few people have left the classroom already. As much I want to go over there, part of me is feeling hesitant. I’m not even sure the proper etiquette when it comes to being friendzoned. Am I supposed to give the girl space before I interact? I’m definitely not about to bring it up in the middle of a conversation, but how do I just forget it happened? I have no idea, and it’s bugging the hell out of me. I guess I’ll just wing it for now.

After putting all of my notebooks and supplies in my bag, I head over to the two girls. I try my best to come up with something clever to say to the two, until Suzu quickly notices my presence.

“Hello, Hisao,” she says with a tiny smile. Miki looks up with a groan, staring at me for what feels like an eternity. Eventually she buries her face into Suzu’s side.

“I’m dying Hisao,” she mutters underneath the fabric.

“I… doubt that.”

She let’s go of Suzu, who gives her a rather cute and quiet thanks. Miki scowls at me before she starts complaining. “You didn’t say there was a quiz today…”

I point the board, which noticeably says pop quiz before it’s erased by another student. “That’s probably why.”

“Um, well… Why didn’t you remind me that pop quizzes are a thing?”

“I kind of assumed everyone knows they exist.”

“Everyone knows they exist, yes,” Suzu chimes in with a delicate smile.

“Damn it, Suzu, you’re supposed to be on my side,” Miki says with an exaggerated pout.

“I don’t take sides; especially when the sides makes no sense.”

Miki sighs, lightly petting Suzu on the head as she admits defeat. Suzu doesn’t seem to mind all that much. Then again, I’m not sure what she minds and what she doesn’t. Suzu just kind of… Exists in some monochrome version of our world. I’m not sure exactly how to explain it. She’s not like that Tezuka girl who makes no sense at all and has her own world to explore. Suzu always lives in reality, just in some version of reality that is purposefully bland. She always has some sort of consistent logic to her that’s coated with what would probably be sarcasm, assuming she didn’t say it in the same tone all the time. It’s probably because she’s tired, but I’m starting to wonder if that’s a real excuse or not. Then again, maybe that’s insensitive of me.

“By the way, are you still down to run today?” Miki asks, looking at my specifically.

“Uh, yeah. Why wouldn’t I be?” I say, a bit confused. Though it really only takes a few seconds to know what she’s implying with that.

“Oh, uh, no reason,” Miki says, throwing her arms behind her head. It seems like the two of us aren’t the only ones that feel the awkwardness, as Suzu looks at the two of us with an obviously confused expression. Miki starts to open her mouth before Haru calls her over.

“We gotta go, Miki, or else the captain will chew me out too…” he mutters in his typical half-hearted tone before heading out to the hallway

“Ugh, fine…” she mutters, hurrying over to the doorway before turning back to the two of us. “Seeya later Hisao, Suzu.”

Just like that, I’m left alone with Suzu, who’s still looking at me with a confused expression. “What?” I ask, getting a bit uncomfortable as her deadpan gaze pierces through me.

“You seem…” she stops herself, looking at the lights to presumably daydream a bit before continuing, “out of it.”

How did she notice that just from this brief interaction? Either I have the worst poker face ever, or Suzu is just damn good at reading people. How funny for a deadpan girl to know how to read people.

“Uh, I sort of am, yeah,” I say, taking a seat at Miki’s desk next to Suzu. She rubs her eyes, yawning for a second before smiling lightly.

“Do you want to talk about it?” she asks in a hushed tone, which I guess is her way of trying to prevent other people to listen in.

That offer is something I really have to think about. I really don’t want it out there as gossip that I got rejected by Miki. I’ve quickly noticed that the school is a lot less populated than I thought it was, so I can only assume that word gets out fast. Trusting Haru with it is one thing, especially when he seems to have good intentions. Suzu, though, is a wildcard. I can easily see her accidentally letting it slip out in her exhaustion. Though that might be pretty presumptuous of me, seeing as she hasn't slipped any secrets to me. Yet.

Whatever. She's a sweet girl and my friend. I shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

“Ugh, where to start,” I say, pondering if I should give some context or not. “I asked Miki out the other day, and uh… It didn’t work out. She rejected me.”

“Oh,” Suzu mutters, looking at her her lap for a second before reaching her hand out and patting my shoulder. Her movement is rigid and awkward, but I appreciate the thought at least. “Are you two fighting with each other?”

“Nah, nothing like that, it’s just…” I try to find the best word to describe the situation, coming up blank. “I don’t know. Awkward, I guess? It’s barely been a day, so I haven’t had much time to get over it. I figure she can sense the vibe I have about the whole thing and that just makes things even weirder for her… So, I guess it’s my fault.”

“Don’t say that,” she says, shaking her head in quite the exaggerated manner. “Your feelings are your feelings. They’re uncontrollable, especially when your a teenager."

"That's true, but…"

"No buts!" Suzu exclaims in a surprisingly assertive tone. "Things might be awkward for a while, but putting the blame on yourself is only going to hurt you more. There's no point to it."

Ugh, she’s right about that. Acting so depressed about the whole situation is not only tiresome, but it also just makes me feel even more shitty. I keep telling myself that, and yet I can’t stop thinking about it. I know how stupid it is, I know how much it’s affecting my mood, and yet even when I try to forget about it, it still creeps it’s way into my thoughts. I just assume it’s because it happened yesterday, but it feels as if these intrusive thoughts aren’t going away anytime soon. I hope that’s not the case.

“Thanks,” I say in a halfhearted tone.

Suzu frowns. “It’s bothersome to see you like this. You know that, right?”

That’s a bit weird to hear from her, honestly. We’re friends, but not exactly super close. I guess she’s just caring like that. “Listen Suzu, I’ll be fine. It’s not the end of the world or anything, I just gotta have the time to get over it is all.”

“Get over it in what way, exactly? Just push it to the sidelines and try to forget about it?”

“Thats…”

That’s what I was going to do. It seems like the best course of action. I fail to see how it would be a problem either.

She sighs, rubbing her eyes once again as she tries to push back her obvious exhaustion. “Hisao, you like Miki, right? You didn’t just ask her out for some shallow reason, correct?”

“What? Of course I actually like her, I’m not that kind of guy.”

“If that’s the case then ignoring your feelings won’t get rid of them,” she says in a soft tone. “Do you really think that you could just forget about your feelings when you and Miki see each other almost everyday? A crush is not something that one can easily forget about. Not on their own accord at least.”

“Okay, but how is ignoring those feelings not the best option then?” I ask in confusion. I’m honestly not sure what she’s trying to imply with her advice. In fact, if I didn’t know any better, I’d assume she’s pushing me to just ignore it and move on.

Suzu scowls at me. It’s kind of scary, because I had no idea she could look like that that way or that she could emote at all, other than the occasional small smile. “If you keep telling yourself to ignore your feelings, then you are perpetually reminding yourself that you have those feelings. You're just increasing the pressure on yourself every single time you have to push them down. If you acknowledge the fact that you have those feelings in the first place, then you can actively work to get rid of them. You can’t do that without accepting that they’re there in the first place.”

I try my best to listen to what she’s saying. It makes sense, and at the same time it doesn’t. I acknowledge my feelings, it’s not like I’m hiding them or anything. Even with her explanation, it does little to actively convince me that just accepting my feelings is going to do anything. If it does do anything, I’m not convinced that it’ll help anymore than just ignoring them. Hell, trying to move past them is in fact accepting them. Right?

I open my mouth to ask her for further explanation, but she lets out a loud yawn before I can say anything. She rubs her eyes a bit more before standing up from her seat and slapping her cheeks lightly. “I have to head out to the clubroom before I end up falling asleep,” she says as she slowly packs up her books. “Lezard gets upset if I don’t hurry. Apologies.”

It’s an abrupt end. The universe hates me today, apparently. “It’s fine, do you need help to get there?” I ask, standing up next to her.

“Ah, no no, it’s okay,” she says, smiling softly at me. “Thank you for the offer though. I’ll see you later today, okay?”

I nod, albeit with a bit of hesitation. “Take care, Hisao. And… try to feel better, okay?”

She leaves before I can respond.

Try to feel better? I suppose that’s all I can do right now. Her advice still floats around in my head even after she leaves. Part of me wants to disregard it, while another part of me wants to look into it more. It’s like those little angel and devil caricatures are on my shoulders having some sort of argument, only it’s much less mundane than that. It’s just me, standing there conflicted over advice on how to get over some girl, like a typical teen in a typical high school. Only my entire situation, from the reason for being here, to the people I know, to my own physical condition is anything but typical.

How pathetic…
Last edited by PabloPabloPablo on Wed Oct 23, 2019 4:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Flowers Before the Fireflies - A Miki Pseudo-route (Updated 9/9/19)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Thu Sep 12, 2019 8:20 am

I have to admit I also don't really understand the advice Suzu gave him...
Otherwise nice chapter, but I don't really have anything else to say about it.
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Re: Flowers Before the Fireflies - A Miki Pseudo-route (Updated 10/24/19)

Post by PabloPabloPablo » Thu Oct 24, 2019 5:36 am

Mirage_GSM wrote:
Thu Sep 12, 2019 8:20 am
I have to admit I also don't really understand the advice Suzu gave him...
Hopefully it becomes more clear as the story goes on. Speaking of that, new chapter! It's been awhile but I'm back on track, hopefully. Hope you guys enjoy.

---

Coming Storm

The library hall used to be a peaceful place until I made the stupid decision to host our study sessions here. Suzu and Haru are both good polite people but Miki? Polite is not a word I’d use in describing her. The number of times I’ve seen Yuuko nervously having to tell Miki to be quiet has got to be a hazard for her emotional stability. Miki isn’t malicious, but after about thirty minutes of hushed tones, she seems to slowly go back to her loud voice without even noticing. Hell, she does it so gradually that I barely notice it until we start getting dirty looks from the few others in the library. Those dirty looks eventually turn to tired looks. Then those tired looks eventually give up and leave the library, leaving the only souls being us four, Yuuko, and probably Hanako in the very back.

Miki groans loudly as she rests her head on the table. “Why the hell is math so difficult?”

Suzu shushes her, causing Miki eyes to widen in realization. I sigh, shaking my head. “Everyone already left, so there’s no point in whispering anymore.”

“It’s proper etiquette, Hisao,” Suzu says with a pout. "Besides, Yuuko appreciates it."

"I think she'd just be glad she doesn't have to come over here to quiet us down," Haru mutters as he solves another math problem.

"Right, sorry," Miki whispers, sighing to herself before looking back at her textbook. "This is Impossible, I think. Like, math is probably some ancient riddle that we’re not meant to solve, or something like that."

"Nope, everything is solvable,” I say with a bit of irritation in my voice. “You just have to stop giving up so soon.”

“Probably… But it’s a lot easier, right?” she says, smiling brightly towards me. I don’t smile back.

“Finals are in less than a month, Miki,” Suzu reminds her. “There’s no more time to goof off anymore.”

“Ah, right,” Miki says as her head slumps downward. Our gazes catch each other for a moment, but it’s quickly broken by me. Maybe she tried to break it too. I don’t know. I’ve had this uneasy feeling since yesterday. It’s probably the emotions from my rejection building up inside. They do say things have to get worse before they can get any better, and it’s only been two days. Still, I figured the feeling of being directly rejected would be the worst part about this experience.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around that advice I was given yesterday. It made no sense, right? I mean, I know I can be stubborn, especially when I’m in a depressive mood, but her words felt meaningless. I appreciate Suzu’s attempt to helping me, butI think it just confused me more. That’s typical of Suzu though, so I probably shouldn’t be so surprised about it.

Haru has been noticeably quiet this entire session, only really muttering a few comments every so often. I think he’s able to feel the awkwardness between me and Miki. That or he just wants nothing to do with it now that I’ve made it clear I’m done trying to date her. I can’t blame him, honestly. This whole situation just feels like a slow motion trainwreck. Not just the rejection, but these study sessions too. What’s the point of them if no progress is being made? Suzu is doing okay, Haru doesn’t even need the help, and Miki has made negative progress as far as I can tell. I don't know if she’s even trying or not. If she is, then she’s going to need more than just my help to get her up to speed before finals. If she’s not trying, then why did she even agree to this in the first place?

Suzu rubs her eyes before yawning loudly. “Trying to force the concepts in our head isn’t going to do any good right now. What say we take a break for a few minutes?”

"Sure," I say, dropping my pencil and closing the textbook. "Going to take a nap?"

Suzu nods, stretching out her arms before laying them down on the desk with her head atop. She closes her eyes, looking as if she had instantly fallen asleep.

"Aww, cute…" Miki says, looking at the sleeping girl in front of her.

"Miki, don't," Haru says with a glare. She pouts and crosses her arms.

"I wasn't gonna do anything, stupid. I can keep my hand to myself."

"Uh huh," he mutters, looking back down at his textbook. Miki sighs as she starts toying with a piece of her hair. I'm sitting there reading a random book I picked out from the library before the session. I’ve barely turned a single page at this point.

Miki looks over at me, eyeing the book in my hand. "Whatcha reading?"

"I don't know," I answer, a bit half assed. "It's some stupid light novel."

"That's all light novels," she mutters with a smirk.

"Yup" I say, ending the conversation right in its tracks. It doesn’t take me long to notice how disappointed she looks out of the corner of my eye. I guess she was expecting some back and forth teasing. Too bad. I don't feel up for it.

"You two need time alone?" Haru says, looking up from his textbook for the first time in a while. "I don't wanna get caught in this little crossfire."

"What?" Miki asks. "Nah, nah, everything's all good. Right Hisao?"

"Uh, yeah," I confirm after an awkward pause.

"Sure…" Haru chuckles, shaking his head as if we were a pair of idiots. "Look, it's awkward as hell watching you two dance around each other, acting like nothing is going on. So go figure that crap out so you guys can focus on studying."

I want to retort, but when I think about it, he's right. The wound is still fresh, so trying to interact normally with Miki has been impossible. I'm sure it'll get better after a while, but right now? I can't help but feel so out of it, especially when I'm talking with Miki. Regardless, I don't see how talking it out is going to do anything but make things worse. As a result, I sit there with a straight face, unwilling to bring myself to agree to his suggestion.

Miki rolls her eyes and grabs my hand, pulling me along before I have the chance to complain. I end up accepting my fate. Once we're out of the library, she turns towards me with her arms crossed. She opens her mouth, looking as if she wants to air all her grievances out at once. All that comes out is a sigh. I guess she doesn’t want to start. Neither do I.

"Look…" I say, unsure as to how best to word my thoughts. "I really do want to pretend like nothing happened, but it's a bit hard."

"I mean, I get that, but…" Miki stops herself, sighing. "Ugh, whatever. Stuff like this heals over time. Just don't beat yourself up about it."

I nod, still feeling a bit uneasy about the whole situation. Miki is quick to notice, looking at me with both a concerned and tired expression. I can’t help but wonder if that’s because of all the people she’s rejected already. Maybe they all acted the exact same as I did. Maybe they took it better. Maybe she thinks we’re all just trying to get at her for sex and nothing else. I don’t know. I don’t really care to know. What they did wrong is their business, not mine. I just need to figure out what I did wrong...

"Wanna go for a walk?"

She asks that out of nowhere, in a tone that is more reminiscent of her usual enthusiasm.

“What about Haru and Suzu?”

“Suzu is out cold and Haru just wanted us out of there,” Miki says, looking a little annoyed when she says his name. “C’mon, it’ll only be like five minutes.”

Five minutes. Five minutes of what? Silent walking through the corridors as that awkward air between us grows thicker with each step? Five minutes of stilted banter that will abruptly end due to my own pity party I’m throwing. I don’t think that’s something I want right now. Though the more important question to ask is if it’s something that I need. That’s not something I can answer though. I have no idea if staying away from Miki is the best option, or if getting closer is. Getting closer sounds like a terrible idea, but I’m so ignorant on the subject of rejection that it could be my saving grace for all I know. Still, interacting normally with her when I feel like this? Impossible.

“I’ll pass,” I say, already regretting my decision as the first syllable comes out of my mouth. “Thanks for the offer though.”

Miki doesn’t seem to take it very bad, as she just shrugs and walks off down the hallway. “Suit yourself.”

I’m left alone. Again.

Haru spots me immediately as I enter, quick to notice the lack of a certain someone in my company. “Where’d she run off to?” he asks as I pull up a chair. “You didn’t… You know... Make her all teary eyed did you?”

“No,” I reply. “I doubt Miki cries very much anyway.”

“She doesn’t,” Haru mutters, looking back down at his textbook. “So where did she go then?”

“I don’t know. She asked me if I wanted to go on a walk and when I declined she just left.”

“Uh, okay… Why the hell would you refuse that?”

“Well…” I start, feeling my mind wander off into various reasons for not going with her. Stuff like me being tired, or not wanting to keep Suzu and Haru waiting. It’s all crap so I don’t have to admit the one thing I know is true, but really don’t want to say.

“I just feel like shit whenever I think about her,” I confess, causing Haru’s eyes to widen. “I get that it’s just the post rejection depression hitting me because of how early it is, but it’s hard to really act like everything is all well and good when I’m around her. I thought that the two of us… I don’t know, had something. But knowing that it was really nothing special… It hurts like hell.”

Haru stays silent, eyes focused on me as I ramble about my silly troubles. Pouring my heart out like this feels both relieving and terrifying at the same time. I can’t help but feel like my predicament would be seen as silly to anyone else if I tried to explain it. Haru seems to take it seriously though, as he takes a long time to try to think up his response.

“I get that,” he starts, closing his textbook and setting it to his side. “It was something special to you, but not to her. The difference of perspective hit you like a ton of bricks and you’re still uncertain about the whole thing.”

I nod before continuing. “You said it seems like she felt the same way, when you were talking about her cycle of rejection. It did feel like that. I figured at the moment I confessed that there was no way in hell I would be rejected, and that there was no way in hell she didn’t feel something too. Hell, she even took me to a spot that was special to her…”

I told myself I wouldn’t mention that, but it slipped out as I was airing my grievances. Luckily, Haru doesn’t press the issue too much.

“It can feel like that sometimes. Like some chick is totally in to you only for them to reveal they really didn’t care much about you. The difference here is that Miki isn’t doing this maliciously. But, I figured you knew that already.”

“Well, yeah,” I reply uncertainly. “I know she isn’t, but… I just want to know what went wrong. Was it something I did? Maybe it was too soon? I don’t know, but it’s been annoying me to no end.”

“I don’t have the answer,” Haru explains with an exaggerated sage-like tone, though he quickly shifts back to being more serious as he continues. “That answer isn’t going to come from anyone but you. Trust me, I wish I could speak some magic mumbo jumbo and get rid of your problem right away, but that’s impossible. Miki won’t even give you that answer, cause I doubt she knows exactly what you did wrong either.”

“Right…” I mumble, sighing at the realization that I’ll have to do things the hard way. I knew that there wasn’t really anything the others could do to help me, but I’d hoped I’d get some advice that would make things a little easier. “Well, I’ll have plenty of time to figure it out, I guess.”

“Yeah, you got a whole month till finals, after all. That’s a whole lot of study sessions for you and Miki to kiss and make up.”

“Oh shut it,” I say, managing to crack a smile. “Though I probably should fix things before summer, right?

“Eh, don’t worry too much about deadlines,” Haru says, waving his hand in front of him. “It’s not like Miki will disappear after the summer. She pretty much just stays here all the time anyway.”

I nod, though I’m not sure if I fully agree with that sentiment. I’d rather not be in a bad mood when I see her after summer. Besides, I had hoped to do things with the three of them during vacation. I always did stuff with my old school buddies, since it beat being cooped up in my room all the time. Still, that leaves me with less than a month to sort my problems out. Not the most forgiving deadline.

Suzu stirs, lifting her head up quickly to stare at both me and Haru through squinted eyes. I forgot she was even here as I was speaking with Haru, so the sudden presence is quite terrifying. All of a sudden, thoughts of her listening in on the conversation fill my head with paranoia. Though I soon realize she knows pretty much all of this, so there’s probably not much to fear.

“Where’s… Miki?” she asks, rubbing her eyes and yawning loudly.

“She needed to stretch, so she took a walk,” Haru explains, casually flipping open his textbook as if our conversation didn’t happen. I try to follow suit, opening my math textbook and skimming through some random problems.

Suzu, looking far too groggy to really notice anything, nods slowly. “How long was I asleep..?”

“Eh, fifteen minutes?” Haru mutters, looking a bit unsure himself as to how long things have been going on. “Actually, how long has Miki been gone for?”

“Uh, I’m not sure,” I answer, looking back at the entrance to the library in nervous anticipation.

Eventually, Miki bursts in, carrying some drinks and various foods from the vending machines stacked on top of each other. Well, if I’d known that was what she was going to do then I would have gone with her. I get up from my chair and meet up with her halfway to help out. Yuuko is looking like an utter mess, probably thinking about telling us off, but looks far too scared to actually do so. As I pick up the few bags of chips and bread from Miki’s pile to ease the load, she flashes me a quick smile.

"Thanks," she says as the two of us head back to the table. For a second, it feels like all the heavy emotions that lay on me are lifted, almost as if they didn’t even exist in the first place. All because of a simple, genuine smile.

Me and Miki lay down the junk fool all along the table. Suzu quickly grabs hold of an iced coffee that Miki brought, while Haru casually pulls in a few bags of candy towards him. “Alright, we can relax for a bit longer, but then it’s back to studying, got it?”

“Okay,” Suzu replies, taking a sip of coffee.

“Got it,” Haru says, tossing a piece of chocolate in his mouth.

“Roger that!” Miki exclaims, handing me a bag of random bag of chips I’ve never seen before. Whatever, a bit of unhealthy snacks can’t hurt me too bad in the long run.

We never get back to studying. Instead we continually stuff ourselves with junk food until Yuuko works up the courage to kick us out.
I'm too young to have ever used forums before.

Currently working on Flowers Before the Fireflies: a Miki Pseudo-route

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Mirage_GSM
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Re: Flowers Before the Fireflies - A Miki Pseudo-route (Updated 10/24/19)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Thu Oct 31, 2019 10:54 am

Once again a great chapter.
You don't find stories about rejection that often around here. Most of the time, the couples just fall in love with each other the moment they meet, so a more realistic take is certainly refreshing.
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: Flowers Before the Fireflies - A Miki Pseudo-route (Updated 11/11/19)

Post by PabloPabloPablo » Mon Nov 11, 2019 8:04 am

Well, I don't mind a clear cut love story without any rejection, but I wanted to try something a bit different for this route. Hopefully it works out. Anyhoo, next chapter!

---

A Balanced Perspective

The week has been relatively boring. I’ve done nothing but study for the past couple of days. Normally I wouldn’t sweat exams very much, especially considering the fact that they’re still pretty far away. However, given how much time I’ve spent trying to catch myself up to the curriculum due to my hospital stay, I’m not exactly as comfortable with certain subjects as I’d like to be. I ended up skipping over almost half a year of school. Despite me catching up, I don’t think I’ll be able to go into the finals knowing for an absolute fact that I can pass. It also takes my mind off things, mainly my situation with Miki.

It’s almost been a week since I’ve been rejected. I still feel like crap, but I definitely don’t feel as awful as I did. Though honestly, that’s not saying too much. It’s still weighing on my mind, and I can’t seem to shake off the weight it has no matter what I do. So I just replace that weight with the weight of exams. That seems to work well enough, though Miki downplays the importance of exams any time she can. I’m not surprised by it, but I can’t wrap my head around just how nonchalant she can be about the whole thing. It’s not abnormal, but it is frustrating.

Our teacher makes it a point to remind us about that fact today, to which the majority of the classroom groans. I suppose they just want the day to end already. It’s been nothing but period after period of lectures about finals, and now the final period of the day is staying in line with that pattern. I stay silent, as does Suzu, though she’s sleeping, so her silence is a given. Miki, however, groans the loudest. So loud that the teacher glares at her.

“Is there something you’d like to say, Ms. Miura?” she asks in an authoritative tone. Miki’s eyes widen and she chuckles awkwardly.

“Uh, no,” she mutters, rubbing the back of her head with her hand. “Just… clearing my throat.”

The teacher squints at her, though she inevitably goes back to her lecture about finals. Miki sighs in relief, making sure to do so quietly, so as not to anger the teacher any more than she already has. The chime signifying the end of the school day cuts the teacher off, causing a wave of students to rush out of the classroom before she has a chance to finish her rant. One of those students includes Miki, who seems in a rush to get out of there. Maybe she was hungry, who knows. I decide to stay in the classroom for the moment, looking over the notes for the day and the assignments for the weekend.

However, my stomach seems to have other plans. It cries out in anguish over the lack of food, only having had a snack bar to gain nourishment from. I knew that skipping lunch was a bad call…

I pack up my stuff and head out of the classroom, entering the loud hallways bustling with people. I don’t know how people can just stand around the hallways doing nothing, but there they are. I don’t have much time to judge, as my empty stomach pushes me along towards the cafeteria. Though as I get closer and closer to the cafeteria, I spot the girl I've been trying to avoid. Miki looks around the end of the hallway, anticipating something or someone as she clutches two boxes. Our eyes meet as I approach, causing me to stop in my tracks. She smirks, rushing over to me so fast that I brace myself and my heart for an impact. Luckily, she skids to a halt just mere feet away from my chest.

She leans in with a smirk and whispers, “Hey~... Wanna try some food?”

A million questions burst into my mind. The biggest one is, what exactly is the food laced with? The next question is, am I going to die if I eat it? It’s Miki, so it’s fifty-fifty if the answer is yes or no. I sigh and examine the two little boxes at her side. “Did you make these?”

“Yup!”

“Then no.”

Miki scowls and punches me on my shoulder with her stump. “Fine then, nerd, I’ll ask someone else!” she exclaims in an annoyed tone, turning her head away from me with a loud humph.

I casually pluck one of the boxes from her side. She tries to grab it back from me, but her hand is too preoccupied holding the other box. It seems like a typical bento box. In fact, I think it’s the same box Suzu uses whenever she makes food for our running sessions. “Who was this for?” I ask, curious as to who she’d put effort into making food for.

“Uh… You?” she says, as if she’s unsure herself as to why she made it.

“I mean who was it originally made for,” I reply, rolling my eyes.

“Oh,” she mutters, gaining back her smirk from before. “I guess it was for Emi. I tried to cook since Suzu made it seem fun. It's not, but I got two meals that I'd rather not go to waste, you know? I know that the munchkin will eat anything healthy, so I figured she'd be willing to try it, but I guess she didn't show up for class today.”

“So… You want me to try it instead?”

“Duh."

“I don't know if I trust your cooking,” I say, looking over the boxes in fear.

"Oh, come on!" Miki exclaims with a scowl. "I made these with love and care, with my bare hands- hand! What's the worst that can happen?"

The worst that can happen? That would probably be me dying of food poisoning, if I had to guess. Though I honestly am curious to see how Miki’s culinary skills fare. But my thoughts are quickly overrun with the annoying memory of the rejection. A week, it’s been a week. I shouldn’t expect my feelings to change. Or, maybe I should expect them to change. I don’t have a clue, and that’s what’s most annoying. That conversation with Miki went smoothly for the most part. Our conversation just now felt normal. It was typical of the ones we always had before a week ago, without my angst weighting us down. I still do feel awful whenever it pops into my mind, after all.

Haru’s advice the other day didn’t help much in that regard either. Well, by advice I mean his lack of advice. All he said was that I needed to find my own answer to my problem. It’s just the way to go about solving my problem is a big mystery. Suzu said not to ignore it and Haru said to find out the solution myself. If I combine those two pieces of advice, what do I get? Nothing substantial, that's for sure…

Oh, what the hell. I won’t know how I’ll feel around her if I don’t try, right?

“Alright, I’ll try it,” I say, causing Miki’s face to light up with a bright smile..

“Cool! I know the perfect spot to eat at, too.”

Miki waves for me to follow, skipping off down the hallway and towards the stairwell. We pass a fair amount of students going about their busy day of club activities. Some of them I recognize, some I don’t. The school used to feel gigantic, and in terms of size it kind of is. However, the population has only felt like it’s gotten smaller as the days go on. I mean, I’ve gotten to learn pretty much everyone's name in my class. Honestly, if I tried to name the people in my old class, I think I’d struggle even before my incident. Sure, I’d have heard their names spoken before, but I didn’t know them. I don’t claim to know the people in Yamaku either, it’s just that I feel much closer to them than I ever did my old classmates. Maybe that’s because we’re all in similar predicaments.

When I first came to Yamaku, I worried I wouldn’t be able to fit in with people that were… well… broken. I was stupid, and I figured that I didn’t deserve to be here with them. I look back at that mentality now and cringe, even if it was only a month ago. I was so worried that my high school life would be forever ruined because of my incident, and yet now my biggest problem is that I’m crushing on a girl that doesn’t feel the same way. Miki was right, nothing really changed between my old high school and my new one. The people are different, there’s a hospital down the road, the school is a bit bigger, we live here, and the variety of food here is broader. Those are pretty much the only differences. Dying of a heart attack too, though I did nearly do that at my old school.

Eventually we make it out of the main building and she leads me around to the back of the school. The sky is surprisingly cloudy, so various dark splotches of shade dart the campus. There are a couple of benches surrounded by a flower garden, with various sunflowers and roses rocking back and forth in the breeze. It’s nothing special, but that oddly adds to the charm of it. Miki takes a seat on one of the benches overlooking the bed of flowers as I do the same.

"Pretty, huh?" She asks, kicking her two legs out in front of her in a rhythmic pattern.

"It looks nice, yeah," I admit, untying the messy bow around the box of food. I wonder how she managed to wrap this up in the first place, given she's at a bit of a disadvantage. Maybe she got Suzu to help her or something. After the bow is off, I open the box to find that the food looks… Passable? I mean, it’s just rice, vegetables and chicken, so it’s not going to look like some high grade food. Admittedly, it does smell nice. After breaking apart the two wooden chopsticks in the box, I grab a piece of chicken and take a bite.

It’s food. That’s a positive. It doesn’t taste like much except chicken and maybe a bit of seasoning, but it’s not disgusting. So, I keep on eating. Looking back at Miki, it seems she’s attacking the dish at a rapid pace, eating nearly a quarter of the box’s contents by the time I’ve eaten a couple pieces of chicken . How typical.

In between her chewing, she turns towards and asks, “How is it?”

“It’s good,” I answer, taking another bite of beef. “The meat is kinda bland, but it’s overall pretty tasty.”

“I’mma just ignore that last part and say you loved it,” Miki says as she continues to eat. She finishes her meal pretty quick, stretching her arms above her head as she looks out towards the flower beds. A cozy silence develops between us as I continue to eat. However, as the minutes pass, Miki cuts off the silence with a question.“Hey… You think I can pass my finals?”

“Why do you ask?” I say, looking over curiously towards her.

“I dunno. We got another study session today, right? It just doesn’t seem like much progress is being made, you know?”

I nod. “That’s because we really haven’t made any progress.”

“So, I’m screwed then,” she says, chuckling at the idea. “Oh well. Better luck next time, right?”

Better luck next time? She can’t be serious. I sigh, placing my relatively empty bento to the side and turning towards her. “Miki, you can’t just fail these exams. If you fail, then you won’t meet the graduation requirements, and if you don’t meet graduation requirements, then you won’t be able to take the entrance exams for college.

“Well, you’re not wrong,” Miki mutters as her gaze locked onto the flowers. “I mean, what happens happens, yeah? I’m not saying that going to college wouldn’t be neat, but if I can’t get in then I can’t get in. There’s no use kicking myself over it.”

“That’s kind of the problem,” I say, with a more annoyed tone. “You have to kick yourself into high gear or you’re going to fail. I mean, sure you can get some jobs without college, but a lot of jobs these days want degrees.”

“Yeah, that’s true, but I don’t even know what career I want. If it narrows down the options then I might as well give up on college in the first place, right?”

“No,” I immediately state, causing her to sigh. “If you need to find a career you want to pursue, then it’s best to look at your hobbies. What do you like doing? What would you want to do even without getting paid? You don’t want to be some depressed office worker, you want a career that you can enjoy. Or at the very least, you want a job that you won’t hate waking up to.”

“Ugh, screw office jobs,” Miki groans and rolls her eyes. “I feel you on getting a job I can enjoy, but the only problem with that is that work in general is just unenjoyable. I don’t want to be bossed around all day and forced to go to the job on certain days at certain times. It’s too restrictive.”

“Then there’s jobs that are flexible in that regard,” I say, though I fail to come up with any examples. I know that jobs with flexible schedules exist, but I’ve never really thought about them till now. “What would you want to be? Like, in a perfect world, what career would you want.”

Miki stays silent for a bit, looking over to me with a look of contemplation. “Park ranger,” she mutters, shaking her head. “Maybe, I dunno. I thought it would be cool when I was younger, but nature can be a pain sometimes.”

“Park ranger? I didn’t expect that.”

“Why?” she asks with a confused look. “Not hippie enough to be all in tune with the animals?”

“No, I just thought something like a personal trainer would be your go to career,” I admit. When I think about it, I suppose a park ranger would make sense. She did seem to enjoy herself back in the forest. Hell, it was even her special spot…

Miki shrugs. “Personal trainer might be the better way to go. That’s why I said I dunno. What about you? What do you wanna be?”

That’s a very good question that I don’t actually have an answer to. I mean, I know I want to get into a good university, but to do what exactly is something I haven’t thought of. However, it doesn’t take me long for something reasonable sounding to pop into my head.

“Something related to science probably,” I say with some uncertainty. “I’m not sure exactly what, but I know the field I want to get into. That’s just as good as knowing what career, I’d say.”

“Really? That sounds like cheating.”

“It’s harder,” I say with a sigh. “I mean, I could do the bare bones education that’s there for me, but I really don’t want to. Going into further graduate programs opens more doors for me than just entry level jobs, you know?”

“Why bother with all that?” Miki asks with a confused tone. “Just get a basic degree and become a teacher. Simple and easy, right?”

“Sure, it’s easier, in a way. But keep in mind I’d need a teaching credential too, and with a graduate degree I can teach at the higher level. It’s not like I’d go for a doctorate, a masters is fine by me. That opens up enough doors me to decide when I get there.”

“Okay, so you're really only shooting for a graduate degree because you don’t really know what you want to do, right?” she asks. “Like, you don’t know if you want to go into the super competitive fields, you just want the option.”

“Yeah, what’s the problem with that?”

“I dunno,” Miki shrugs. “Just kinda feels like you’re thinking a bit too far ahead, no?”

“Not really…” I say, a bit confused at the question. I figure going for a masters makes more sense than just getting a bachalors. “Don’t you have a plan?”

“I just said I don’t know what I want to be,” she mutters with a sigh. “Besides, it’s so far away, so why bother thinking about it, right?”

I suppose she’s got a point. I shouldn’t really have expected Miki of all people to have plans for the future beyond what she wants to eat for dinner. Screw the past, screw the future. Live in the present. I still believe in that philosophy, but I don’t see how basic education plans could hurt. Though I guess it does fall in line with worrying about the future, huh?

After some contemplation, I come up with a semblance of an idea. “It is pretty far away, I’ll admit. That being said, there’s career training you can do right now that will help you out in the present and the future.”

“Yeah?” she looks over with a curious expression. “Like what?”

“You could try for an internship, maybe. I’d say a club, but track and field already has you locked up. Other than that…”

“So there’s not much,” Miki says with a chuckle. “I mean, come on. Internships sound interesting, but I’d rather get some part time job to get money on the side as well. And track already takes up most of my time. It’s easy to say there’s stuff for me to do in the present, but actually find that kind of stuff is a pain in the ass. Like, what do you do that’ll help you out in your future career?”

“I…”

I can’t answer that.

Now that I think about it, I haven’t really thought much about science since I got here. Hell, I only now just thought of making it into a career. Other than my tutoring efforts and the school work itself, I haven’t had the time to actively be thinking about my future. I just sit in science class and listen, I don’t actively seek out knowledge about the scientific field or anything. I do the bare minimum to pass with a high grade and nothing beyond that.

But, that’s for the better, right? I mean, it’s like Miki said, the future hasn’t happened yet, so why worry about it?

Somehow that saying doesn’t have the same luster it did when I think it…

“See, even you're having trouble,” Miki says with a smirk. “But don’t sweat it. Like I said, it’s so far away that worrying about it will only stress you out more.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” I say in a halfhearted tone. Miki is quick to notice, as her smirk turns into a frown.

“Oh come on, no need to be depressed about everything, Hisao. That crap is just a huge weight on you. You need to live a little instead of always moping over stuff.”

“Fair enough," I say. Though I'm not sure she can blame me much. “How should live a little, then?”

“I dunno,” she says. “Do what makes you happy.” she said, bouncing my own advice to her back at me.

Do what makes me happy.

A simple idea, though one that is so open ended that it's really hard to think about how to start. I wonder, what does make me happy exactly? The answer to that pops into my head rather quickly. Hanging out with Miki.

That’s kind of sad, isn’t it?

Miki stands up from her seat and stretches her arms out. She grabs the two bento boxes and looks over at me. "Well, I gotta head over to the track field before the captain gets on my ass. Seeya later, Hisao."

"Seeya," I say as she walks off. I'm left with me and my thoughts as I look back at the flowerbeds.

Do something that makes me happy, and live a little. Hanging out with Miki some more is definitely not going to make me feel better any faster than usual. It'll take more than that, but what? It feels like I have a bunch of answers to the wrong questions. So much conflicting advice is thrown at me, some if it so cryptic that I still don't get it, while the other so simple that I doubt it'll do anything at all. It's so confusing and so frustrating.

Miki said that the future is far away. If that's the case, then why does it feel like it's approaching so fast? Why does it feel like I could my eyes and be done with school? So close and no plan. I told her I want to be a scientist, but why? Because I'm good at it? Because I like it? Which of those two is the better reason? If I don't go into science, I have no clue what else I'd do. It was just the first thing that popped into my head when I thought of future careers, and trying to think about any other options leaves me with nothing. So, maybe it's just my only choice.

Who knows?

Actually when I think about it, the answer is kind of obvious. After all, a science teacher probably knows more about the scientific field than anyone else in this school. At least, I hope he does…
I'm too young to have ever used forums before.

Currently working on Flowers Before the Fireflies: a Miki Pseudo-route

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