Respice Adspice Prospice - A Misaki Kawana Pseudo Route

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Beeronious
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Respice Adspice Prospice - A Misaki Kawana Pseudo Route

Post by Beeronious » Wed Jan 02, 2019 12:44 am

Remarks:
Some of you may have remembered I posted my early attempt at a Misaki route around a year ago. That story has (obviously) been abandoned. Looking back on it, I had become unsatisfied with several aspects of it. These were in relation to the plot and where the story, and Misaki had gone vs. where she was. I had looked into revising that story, and found it would actually be less work and more constructive to take what I had learned in my initial outing and start from scratch.

The idea in my head for Misaki has percolated for quite a while, and along the way after scrapping the initial Misaki fic I started developing the idea for an Ikuno route, who was initially going to be Misaki's close friend in the original story. However, the Misaki in my head has maintained her bizarre siren's call. So here we are.

I have been working on this story at a snail's pace, but decided to abstain from posting it on the renai here until the word count of the story exceeded my previous attempt. I have taken all of the comments, suggestions and constructive criticism on board. I have learned a lot from everybody, and for that I thank you all.

I would especially like to thank Hanako Fancopter for proofreading the chapters he has and spotting those mistakes that I have missed. Also, apologies to Oddball. I saw your comments on my previous story and did not reply. This was not out of rudeness, I was already deep into this one when I read it. Anyhoo I hope you enjoy, feel free to comment, and if need be, tear this story a new one.

Chapter List
Act I: Life Expectancy
Parting The Iron Curtain
The Language of Flowers
A Maudlin Smile
Black Dog
Last edited by Beeronious on Wed Jan 02, 2019 12:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Beeronious
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Re: Respice Adspice Prospice - A Misaki Kawana Pseudo Route

Post by Beeronious » Wed Jan 02, 2019 12:45 am

Parting the Iron Curtain
Well this is an awkward way to start a Thursday.

I look at the group assignment Mutou has nonchalantly dropped in front of me, then to the two empty desks to my right. I suppose even if the dynamic duo were here, they would hardly be interested in helping me out. I suppose that's what I get for refusing to be dragged into Shizune's little tiff. I best be on with it.

"Umm... Excuse me..."

It is only a moment after I open the packet that I hear the meek, uncertain voice addressing me. I look and see one of my classmates standing beside my chair. I vaguely remember her sitting up front beside the girl missing her left hand. She seems to avoid eye contact at every chance, her hands are awkwardly pressed together, as she seems to be focused on fidgeting with her fingers. She clearly came to ask me something. I guess it is up to me to push forward.

"Yes?"

Smooth Hisao. She looks up, almost startled at my response. I can't help but be reminded of Yuuko, the skittish librarian. The girl keeps looking at the ground unsure of how to proceed. She hesitates awkwardly.

"Umm... I was wondering. If... that is... you don't mind... you seem to be looking for a group... umm..."

I think I gather the gist of what she wants to say. If I wait for her to actually ask I think I will still be here this evening. Well, nothing ventured.

"You were wondering if I would join you for this group work?"

Startled at me interrupting her, she gives a small yelp.

"Yes. That is, with me and my friend. If that's not too much of a bother."

I shake my head.

"No not at all. I'd be happy to. There are two desks here that are free. So why don't you both come over and we can get started."

The girl suddenly nods and quickly heads over to her desk to talk to her compatriot. It's only a moment later that we have formed a circle with the desks and we sit down. There is a moment of somewhat awkward silence. The girl who approached me seems nervous, constantly avoiding my gaze. Her friend on the other hand seems to be staring right at me. The analytical gaze she bears is all too familiar, having spent a majority of this week hanging out with Shizune. However, it seems I will have to break the ice if we can hope to get this work done.

"I guess I should introduce myself. I'm Hisao. Hisao Nakai."

The girl, previously avoiding my gaze seems to look up and I am sure I hear a little squeak from her.

"I'm Ikuno. Ikuno Komaki. You can call me Ikuno."

I nod in response, politely acknowledging her introduction.

"Only if you call me Hisao then. Ikuno."

I turn my attention to Ikuno's friend. She stands up in her seat and gives a slight bow.

"My name is Misaki Kawana. I am pleased to meet you Nakai."

The formality of her greeting strikes me as unusual. It seems to be in a very stark contrast to Yamaku's generally casual atmosphere that I've already started acclimating to. Before I can respond she has already sat back in her chair.

"Please. Call me Hisao."

"I thank you for your request. But Nakai shall be suitable for the time being."

Considering the nature of her introduction I shouldn't be surprised. But the minor rebuff does sting my ego a little. As I open up the reading, Ikuno leans besides me and whispers.

"Don't worry about Misaki. It took about six months of being her friend before she called me Ikuno."

I shrug nonchalantly. It's reassuring to know it's not anything I've done. I guess Kawana is simply just the way she is. As I start reading, I am relieved to know I already am familiar with this material. I had already studied most of it while constrained to a hospital bed for four months.

I take the time to have a look at my new work partners. The first thing I notice about Ikuno is her large round, expressive blue eyes. She clearly is the type to wear her heart on her sleeve. She seems to be a somewhat anxious person, judging by her previous interactions with me already There's also the state of her obviously well bitten fingernails. It's only looking at her nails that I notice that the nail on her right thumb doesn't seem to have been bitten down like the others When I made my introduction to the class three days ago, I recall Ikuno's right thumb was missing. I suppose this thumb must be a prosthetic.

"Is something the matter Hisao?"

I am pulled from my thoughts by Ikuno staring at me with a slightly worried expression present on her face. I quickly shake my head, trying not to worry her further.

"Oh sorry nothing. I was uh... spacing out."

Ikuno looks at me for a moment and then looks down and wiggles the aforementioned thumb around.

"I didn't think it was that obvious..."

"No it wasn't. It's just. You weren't wearing it on my first day when I introduced myself to the class. So it was kind of weird, I was wondering if you regrew it again."

I try to deflect with a silly joke. This elicits a small laugh from her before we quickly get back to work. I try and focus, but having already learned this before. My attention wanes and I find myself glancing towards my other companion.

In a contrast to Ikuno with her eternally expressive eyes, Kawana seems to have an impenetrable expression. Her dark eyes seem to maintain a laser like focus on the task at hand. I notice briefly the strange bulges from her shirt. She seems to be wearing something unusual underneath it. The obvious conclusion is that it is something to do with why she is here at Yamaku. I notice she is staring at me suddenly.

"Nakai? Do you need assistance with this work?"

Delivered in the same borderline deadpan manner as before.


"No. I actually reviewed this topic a while ago. I had... plenty of time on my hands."

Kawana nods in acknowledgement, before returning to the reading. The rest of the reading time is used up by the two girls in silence. I take advantage of the time and start on one of the first questions. Considering I had spent the past few months in hospital I found it somewhat unchallenging.

I see Ikuno looking over at my sheet, presumably having finished her reading. She is wearing a beaming smile on her face.

"I didn't know you were good at this subject. If I'd known that I would've poached you sooner. Umm... If it's okay would you be able to let me do the next question and check to see if I got it right?"

"In other words she is going to botch the answer and get you to do it for us."

Kawana calmly chimes in with her quip. This causes Ikuno to fold her arms in an exaggerated pout.

"I wasn't going to do that! Honest! He's just good at it, and I thought it would help to have some constructive criticism for once."
"It's okay. Really. I consider it a way to thank you for bailing me out from doing this alone."

Ikuno puts her head down and starts working on the second question. This leaves me and Kawana staring at each other. I've barely known her for a single school period and yet the wall she puts up is obvious to see. I guess I should at least try to break the ice.

"So..."

"Yes?"

Smooth Hisao. Really smooth. Well maybe the current subject.

"Do you do well in this subject?"

"I get grades that I would consider adequate."

Any hopes of cutting through the awkward atmosphere that seems to permeate around me and Kawana are promptly dashed. I quietly focus my attention on the next questions in the assignment. Even if it means getting back to school work, I just can't handle the awkwardness.

Thankfully Ikuno comes to the rescue. Again. She eagerly thrusts her worksheet in front of me. Thankfully I am able to distract myself by going over Ikuno's answer.

"It looks like you're on the right track. You came to the wrong answer."

I point to the small mistake I noticed in her working. Unfortunately, this completely threw off her answer.

"Just here. You messed up on the math. You had the right formula and concept though. So that's good."

"Oh... ummm... sorry about that."

I shake my head. I have no idea why she's apologizing.

"No need to apologize. Just a simple error."

This seems to appease her. The rest of the questions are promptly answered and we find ourselves the first to be finished. I can't help but smirk inwardly. Shizune would be pretty ticked off if we completed the assignment. If she was here that is.

"Hisao?"

I get pulled from my thoughts as Ikuno tries to get my attention. I guess I was spacing out again.

"I just wanted to say. Thank you. For helping us out today."
"What are you talking about? You are the ones who helped me. I would've been doing all this solo if you guys didn't ask me to join you."

"Oh umm. Yeah. That's true. Ummm. I was wondering if... if..."

Ikuno awkwardly presses her fingers together.

"If you would like to join me and Misaki for lunch today. That is... if you don't have any plans. Which is okay if you do..."

She's getting frantic again. I should try and calm her down.

"No that's fine. I'd be happy to."

It's not like I had plans for lunch anyway. And Ikuno is nice enough. It's only a few seconds later that the bell chimes.

"Okay! That's great. Well then. It was nice working with you. And we'll see you at lunch."

Ikuno waves to me skipping over to her desk. Kawana stands up and nods her head in acknowledgement. It was a strange change of pace working with those two. Although it's nice to get to know some of my other classmates.

Time continues its inevitable march forward as the chime of the lunch bell heralds the reprieve from class work. As the various students get up to scatter to their various cliques, Ikuno bounds past the currently empty desks of Shizune and Misha, a child like smile plastered on her round face.

"Are you ready to go Hisao?"

I pack my various books and school accoutrements into my school bag and casually stand up.

"Sure am. I'll probably have to swing by the cafeteria to grab some bread. If that's okay."

I feel a slight wince of pain as Ikuno proceeds to poke me in the forehead.

"Now now. Just because I'm not as stuffy as Misaki doesn't mean I don't have my manners. I always make way too much anyway. You can share some of my lunch. It has to beat bread right? Right?"

Well how can I say no to a free lunch? Especially under the weight of such unbridled enthusiasm as well as the temptingly large, well wrapped bundle she holds with her schoolbag. I nod my head in agreement and follow Ikuno, who is joined by Kawana at the door of the classroom.

The walk is kind of long, but somewhat familiar. Ikuno mindlessly chatters away as I find myself at the running track I was at this morning with Emi. We cross the track coming into the comfortable shade of a relatively large zelkova tree.

The girls sit themselves opposite each other, leaving a space beside the tree itself. I take my place and lean back against the stump. As Ikuno unwraps the large bundle I find myself reflecting on how rare a delight such a mundane activity as enjoying a simple lunch in the shade has become to me.

Furthermore, this is the first outdoor meal I've enjoyed since that day four months ago. A single letter, a diminutive raven haired girl, the crunch of snow beneath my feet...

"Hisao? You okay? Is something the matter?"

Ikuno's face plastered with worry. Kawana, her expression remaining stoic, is staring at me in curiosity. They have probably noticed the sudden blackened mood that has swept across me. I slowly exhale, trying to calm myself.

"I'm fine. It's just been a long time since I've... eaten outside."

Ikuno seems to read into my comment, responding by holding out a pair of disposable chopsticks one would get at a ramen stand. Ikuno appears to be holding a similar pair in her other hand already prepared to eat. As I take the chopsticks from her, she deftly uses the chopstick in her other hand to flick off the lid of the lunchbox.

"Well then, let's eat! Help yourself Hisao. We can't have you starving on our watch."

She playfully prods my ribs with her chopsticks before taking a piece of octopus sausage. I turn my eyes to Kawana, who has placed her smaller lunch box in front of her. She removes the lid and lowers it in front of the box. Methodically she places a pair of black lacquered chopsticks emblazoned with a golden floral pattern on the lid. She then presses her hands together in a practiced motion.

"Thank you for the food."

It is only then that she begins to eat her humble lunch. I feel another poke in my ribs as Ikuno looks at me.

"You going to sit there and stare at Misaki or are you going to have something to eat? The chicken is delicious."

Ikuno points her sticks at some chicken pieces sitting atop some rice. Taking a piece and putting it in my mouth I find it hard to disagree with her. It is delightful.

"It's good isn't it? Isn't it?"

Ikuno's face looks somewhat doubtful, anxious even. As if I am going to judge her on a boxed lunch. Unless...

"Did you make this yourself?"

She simply nods once. I feel I should allay her concerns and answer sincerely.

"It's probably the best piece of food I have had in a long time... And in saying that.."

I quickly swoop in grabbing two more pieces of chicken and put them in my mouth, chewing heartily while at the same time diving in for some of that delicious rice. As nice as the turkey sandwich at the Shanghai was, there is something about somebody's home cooked meal that is so nostalgically pleasing to the palate.

"So, Hisao. How much have you seen outside of Yamaku?"

It's Ikuno again trying to break the silence as we eat. I pause for a moment and place the tip of one of the chopsticks to my chin.

"I only have been to the Shanghai with Shizune and Misha. Is there anything else in town?"

"Not much. There is an art supplies store, a park and a couple of other small eateries. But if you really want to do anything you have to go to the city. There's everything to do there. Sing karaoke, go to the arcade, catch a movie..."

"Catch a movie? It's been ages since I last went to the cinema. I think it was last year that I last went."

"Hmmm? What did you see?"

"Oh. I saw Cinderella with my friend Takumi. He was always dragging me to films like that..."

Takumi was the classic film nut. From Akira Kurosawa, Takeshi Miike to Quentin Tarantino, Takumi would happily eat all of it up. His infectious enthusiasm would lead all of us to join him in watching a banquet of various movies. I wouldn't be surprised if he was cutting class right now seeing some bizarre movie involving a red balloon or some controversial period in history. More likely both.

"Cinderella? Your friend was a fan of Disney huh? Well that's really cool that they have a cinema that plays such old movies."

I shake my head at Ikuno's apparent misunderstanding. I find her genuine and rather enthusiastic to be quite disarming. Whereas that time in Lilly's tearoom on my second day was reminiscent of an indulgent mother, I find Ikuno's wide eyed attention to be like an enthusiastic little sister lapping up each detail as if it was the most interesting fact in the world.

"I don't mean that. It was a movie that came out last year, rather than being about a girl going to a prince's ball it was about a group of girls haunted by a ghost with a missing face."

It wasn't exactly mealtime conversation, and Ikuno looks slightly uncomfortable. I quietly begin returning to my share of the lunch internally kicking myself. I already have apparently torpedoed any chance of a friendship with Shizune and Misha. I seemingly have managed to outdo myself by doing what took a few days in a couple of hours.

"What did you think of it?"

The sudden voice, charged by enthusiasm, pulls me from my moment of brooding. However, its owner wasn't Ikuno, who is looking somewhat startled. The question is from Kawana, who is leaning forward, her eating implements sitting atop a closed lunchbox, hands planted on her knees. Her eyes have the same focus I noticed when she was working on the group project. This time however, they were directed towards me.

"Well, umm..."

I wouldn't be surprised if Ikuno developed her speech patterns from being subjected to the interrogator's lamp that was Kawana's gaze. She seems genuinely interested, in fact it's probably the first sign of genuine interest I seem to have garnered from her since meeting her.

"Well, it was fun. Although the twist at the end with the mother was as predictable as the tides. Although the whole horror based on plastic surgery was pretty interesting."

Kawana seems to digest what I was saying for a moment nodding twice in what seems to be apparent approval at my opinion. She taps her fingers on her knees rhythmically before finally replying.

"It really came across at first as being a good psychological horror movie, but it was just something rather generic."

"I know how you feel. I really like the psychological stuff so it was a bit disappointing."

Just as Kawana is about to respond, we are interrupted by the school bell heralding the end of lunch. We all begin packing up the two lunch boxes in relative silence as we make our way back to the school building. I quietly curse my heart as I make my way up the three levels to the third floor and our classroom.

As we return to the classroom, and prepare to go our separate ways I get the duo's attention for a moment.

"I just wanted to thank you. For lunch, and hanging out with me."

The gratitude is stilted, awkward but sincere. And I really did enjoy their company. Kawana simply nods in response. On the other hand, Ikuno's face lights up like a puppy that has just noticed a biscuit being dangled above its nose.

"It's no problem at all Hisao. Umm..."

And there it is. Ikuno again grows anxious clearly about to ask me something. She begins pressing her index fingers together, her gaze going down to her feet.

"If it isn't a bother... You're welcome to join us again tomorrow... or whenever you like."

I shake my head and sigh slightly. This girl seems almost as skittish as Yuuko.

"I would like that, honestly. And I'll try to bring my own lunch next time. I would not forgive myself if I kept leeching off you. Anyway, I should probably get back to my desk. Thanks again for lunch."

"Anytime Hisao!"

"You are most welcome Nakai. I too appreciated the company"

All three of use return to our desks just before the teacher enters the room. I am only half paying attention and find my gaze wandering out the window. This turn of events was interesting to say the least. Although I may have ticked off Shizune and Misha, it was nice not being harassed to join the dynamic duo in student council. It's funny how a simple meal under a tree would be so nostalgic.

I find myself looking forward to joining them again tomorrow
Last edited by Beeronious on Wed Jan 02, 2019 12:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Respice Adspice Prospice - A Misaki Kawana Pseudo Route

Post by Beeronious » Wed Jan 02, 2019 12:46 am

The Language of Flowers
"Sorry I'm late."

I certainly did not expect to find myself laid out in the bed of the nurse's office. Then again I suppose as the Nurse put it, I didn't show very good judgement. I can hear Mai in my head chiding me for being such a blithering idiot. She would likely have said something worse. Such unladylike behaviour.

I can feel the stares of my classmates as my entry into the room disrupts their lesson. Mutou looks towards me, clearly having been pulled from the rhythm of his lecture.

"Good morning Nakai. I'm glad you could..."

I hold out the note the nurse provided for me, which he takes and promptly reads. A look of mild concern replaces the look of minor irritation on his face. He sighs in resignation and gestures towards my desk by the windows.

The fifteen pairs of eyes now seem to be replaced by four pairs. Misaki's gaze follows me across the classroom, her expression unreadable as usual. Ikuno's look of worry is plain on her face. She greets me with a tentative wave. I return the gesture with a simple nod. I don't look in their direction but I can feel the gaze follow me as I make my way to my desk.

It's hardly ten seconds after I sit down that I feel the back of a pen being jabbed in my arm.

"Hicchan. Why were you late?"

I look over to Misha, her bubblegum pink hair framing a bright smile that reaches her cheeks. But her golden eyes mirror the expression I briefly saw on Ikuno as I walked past. Concern. I am reminded that, after all, this is not a normal school. At my old school, Shin's constant tardiness was easily attributed to laziness. Here, on the other hand, a tardiness accompanied by a note has different connotations. I feel a small pang of guilt and shake my head.

"I'm okay now Misha. I just had a small mishap."

The unspoken implication in my statement is clear. Misha catches on to this, despite what her air headed demeanour may imply. She leans forward as if to press on, but relents.

I can hear the lesson on particles turning into a string of gibberish as my mind begins to wander. Why did I decide to race the school's track star? Because I felt it’s what I should do. It has been so easy just to be idle, and go with the flow. Lying in a hospital bed as the world wandered ahead without me.

The Nurse wanted me to work on my health. Did I go along to the track because I wanted to improve myself? Or did I simply go along because I was expected to? What do I want?

I suppose the real question is “what can I hope for?” I have a literal broken heart. The doctors said that so long as I take care of my health, and with a little luck, I can live a long and fulfilling life. Luck is certainly not something that has been my ally, considering where I have ended up.

“Hisao…”

I snap out of my brooding and look up to see Ikuno and Kawana standing in front of me. Ikuno’s beaming her usual big smile, while Kawana maintains her normal unreadable expression.

“So… Umm.. Hisao. Will we…uh…that is.. have the pleasure of your company for lunch today?”

I eagerly dig out my lunch from my bag but then remember. A promise I made. Well, not a promise, I did just kind of nod, just going along with the flow. Regardless I did say I would show up. I sigh in disappointment.

“I’m very sorry Ikuno, Kawana. I’m afraid I will have to decline your invitation. I already got strung into lunch with somebody else.”

I can feel my proverbial boot kicking the puppy and Ikuno’s dejected face does little more than rub salt in the wound.

“That cannot be helped Nakai. It’s important to keep your word.”

Kawana’s words seem to sooth Ikuno as she relaxes into her usual smile. I cannot help but notice Kawana’s expression seeming somewhat solemn. Her gaze appears to be looking past me and out the window.

---

Lunch with Emi was both surprising and completely predictable. It was somewhat surprising to discover that Rin and Emi were such close friends. Although I couldn't help but internally question the poor taste of the person in the housing department who thought it would be funny to assign them next door to each other.

What was unsurprising was the apparent, unspoken guilt Emi carried over this morning's incident. No matter how hard she pushed me, it was my choice to try and keep up. In the end, I am the one who is responsible for my health. I should have known my limits.

---

Afternoon class passes by rather uneventfully and it isn't long before the bell rings to signal the end of class for the day. As I stand up, I find myself wandering over to Ikuno's desk. As I approach in front of her, I notice she seems to still be furiously scribbling down notes.

I notice the almost unnatural way she seems to be holding her pen, obviously due to her prosthetic thumb. I am rather impressed with the speed of her writing, despite the impediment. This is redoubled at its legibility. This quiet observation passes for nearly a minute before Ikuno looks up, noticing me watching her. She suddenly squeaks in surprise and almost jumps from her seat.

"Hisao... um... how long were you... uh... standing there?"

"Only for about a minute. You seemed really focused and I didn't want to break your concentration."

Ikuno awkwardly nods as she begins packing away her schoolwork. I can still see the slight dejection in her eyes from my rejection of her invitation at lunch. It seems she really did take it personally.

"Uh... that's fine. What... what can I do for you?"

"I feel I should apologise for ditching you at lunch today. This morning... I... I had an accident on the track while exercising with Emi. I ended up in the nurse's office for most of the morning. And Emi... well I think she blamed herself for what happened. She invited me to lunch with her as a way of apologising."

Ikuno looks at me for a moment. I'd really feel bad playing poker against her. Her face seems to have no filter whatsoever. I can see she is clearly satisfied with my explanation.

"Yeah I heard that's twice that girl has cleaned your clock this week!"

I feel a hand hit me on my shoulder and turn to see the tall tanned girl who sits beside Ikuno beaming a large toothy smile at me. Her long, unkempt hair, toned athletic figure and choice of wearing the boy's shirt spell out her obvious tomboyish nature.

"How did you know about that?"

The newcomer to the conversation laughs boisterously. Giving me another whack on the shoulder with her hands.

"I'm on the track team with Emi. I'm Miki Miura by the way. But you can call me 'Big Sexy'. Everybody does."

Miki holds out her left hand, which ends in a bandaged stump. Her large grin still being held on her face. I awkwardly take hold of the stump in parody of a handshake.

"Nobody calls her that..."

Another voice has entered the conversation. This one sounded rather detached and weary. I look behind Miki and see the teal haired girl I remember dozing during most of my first day. She is laying slumped across her desk, her head resting on her arms. She has turned to look in our direction, her eyelids weighing heavy on her face.

"That's Suzu Suzuki. The cutest member of the literature club. You can call her 'Snoozu'. She loves it."

"No I don't."

Suzu's face is back buried completely in one of her arms. Her free arm is now raised with a rather rude middle finger directed towards Miki. Miki, for her part, is grinning in self satisfaction at her teasing.

"So Hisao. I'm guessing you must have a rather unpleasant condition."

Miki's frank inquiry about what it is that had me sent to Yamaku takes me completely off guard. There has usually been an elegant song and dance around such a thing. I find myself only able to stare blankly at her. Miki notices my discomfort and waves her hand in front of her dismissively.

"Don't mind me. The only reason I ask is that Emi seems to have a talent for crashing into the worst people possible. Early this year she ran into a second year in the Newspaper Club who had... I can't remember what it was... Osteo..something. Anyways her bones break super easily. And last year she ran into a second year who had a really bad heart condition."

I can't hide my shock. Another person with a heart condition? I suppose it's not surprising that there is somebody else in a school like this with similar issues. There is a whole class down the hall dedicated to people with vision issues. While I think on this Miki continues unabashed.

"You know what is more amazing. Neither time did the other people get seriously hurt. What are the odds? The newspaper girl would trip and be in a cast for a month. She collides with the track team's freight train and comes out unscathed! The girl with the heart condition? Well she spent most of last year in hospital. Missed so much school she has to repeat. Emi beaned her dead on the chest like something in a bad manga. Should've caused the poor girl a heart attack. Nope, got right back up."

I'm unsure if I should be relieved or terrified. I vaguely remember Shizune/Misha giving Emi what was probably a well deserved tirade for running in the halls.I remember the small heart episode I had when she collided with me. If I had been as light as her I could possibly have ended up back in hospital. How did she get away with it twice before without a more severe reprimand?

"Oh! That reminds me! Misaki!"

Ikuno's sudden exclamation promptly derails my train of thought as I look to Kawana. She raises her head and looks towards Ikuno, who continues with what she had to say.

"Class 2-2's stall for the festival. How are you doing with the decorations you offered to help with?"

Decorations? It doesn't surprise me to see students enlisting to help other classes. Nor does it surprise me that Kawana would be talented in some form of decorating.

"I am looking to gather the flowers and will work on them tomorrow after class. Unfortunately this has been rather last minute. I am still not sure what flowers to use primarily. I was thinking of using Lotus to symbolise purity of body and mind. But I think it may be too controversial a choice."

The familiar discussion of flowers sends me back to those distant days. A small, quiet girl. A girl who loved tea, the president of the Ikebana club. I found myself fascinated by her. She obviously derived such joy from arranging those flowers. There was a simple beauty to those flowers she spent so much time meticulously manipulating. I remember how much research I found myself putting into ikebana.

To think that would all end with a simple note in a shoe locker, a walk in the snow to a tree. And to have my wish granted.

"How about using yellow poppies to symbolise success? We are third years after all. I am sure the teachers will be hammering in success for exams soon enough."

I find myself chiming in without even thinking about it. It was probably a bad suggestion anyway. I find myself frozen under Kawana's stare as she seems to ponder my suggestion. A small smile forms on her lips as she nods.

"I like that suggestion Nakai. And even though it is midsummer I would not be surprised if the florist still had plenty in stock. They may be eager to get rid of them for a better price."

Ikuno beams her bright smile in my direction. I suddenly feel a hand whack me on the back.

"Look at Mr Smooth over here. How do you know about Ikewhatchamacallit? Are you some kind of gaylord?"

Before I can come up with a comeback, Ikuno snaps her fingers suddenly and excitedly chimes in.

"Misaki! We should take Hisao with us to town! I'm sure he'll be a lot more useful in picking out flowers than I would be. He seems to know his stuff. That is... um.. if he... doesn't mind..."

Kawana nods her head and looks at me.

"Yes. Nakai. Would you like to accompany me and Ikuno in to town to assist me in choosing flowers for Class 2-2's decorations? We will also be stopping at the Aura Mart to gather food for the week. If that is not too inconvenient."

Kawana bows slightly as she makes her request. Before I can answer Miki seems eager to throw in her two cents.

"Well Hisao. It looks like you have to cave under the pressure of three pretty young ladies."

"Miki. I only see two pretty young ladies and a boisterous tomboy. And Kawana, Ikuno. I would be happy to accompany you. Besides, I need to get some supplies myself."

Ikuno nods, her cheeks flushing slightly. Misaki nods her head apparently pleased with my acceptance of her invitation. Miki laughs as she makes her way over to Suzu's desk.

"Well, I need to get this one back to the dorm safely. You behave yourself around those two. Okay? I'll see you tomorrow, Gaylord."

---

This is only the second time I have been outside of the school grounds since I first arrived at Yamaku. The road leading down from Yamaku's perch to the town below is rather empty. The dominant sound being the crunch of our shoes as we walk along the side of the road. The strange mix of freedom and unease washes over me.

My world has certainly grown smaller in the past months. That world having been reduced to a single room, it has grown to a single campus, the liberation of stepping out has me feeling somewhat apprehensive. I notice Kawana glancing in my direction, her face unreadable as usual.

"Nakai. Do you have any other ideas for flowers I could use?"

I look up to the orange sky as we walk, thinking for a brief moment about what other flowers could work with my previous idea.

"This may be a strange idea. But I have noticed that Yamaku has a lot more foreigners in its student body compared to other schools. If I remember correctly, in western cultures, alcea is symbolic of ambition. I'm sure our class representative would approve."

The crunching of our footsteps serves to punctuate the silence of Kawana as she processes that idea.

"I like it Nakai. It is certainly original."

"So Kawana. Why are you helping out Class 2-2?"

"Class 2-2 are doing a stand in the style of a traditional teahouse. They were intending to purchase some pre-made ikebana pieces. It seems that fell through at the last minute. In exchange for some of their class assisting with some of the physical labour for the photography club booth, I have offered my assistance to assemble some substitutes."

"Photography club? Are you both members?"

Ikuno shakes her head.

"No. Misaki is. I'm a proud member of the going home club. Misaki is really talented with a camera. She can take some amazing pictures, she likes playing with all sorts of settings that make the pictures come out weird. But they look really amazing."

Kawana visibly blushes at the praise heaped on by her friend.

"I am really not that good. I just like trying to get different perspectives of what we see."

I notice Kawana's breathing has started becoming much shorter. She suddenly stops walking.

"Ikuno... Nakai... can we stop for a moment?"

I nod to Kawana and look to Ikuno who briefly looks concerned but simply nods. I guess, judging by Ikuno's somewhat casual response that this is something to do with why she is at Yamaku. I open up my school bag and take out a sealed bottle of water offering it to Kawana, who holds out her hand in refusal.

"Thank you... Nakai... I just need to catch my breath for a moment. I shall... be fine in a few minutes."

I look over to Ikuno who seems to have taken this moment to attend to her own condition. She has a small device which she has place on her index finger. She briefly winces for a second, a muted squeak coming from her. She then inspects the device, nodding once before putting it back in her bag. Our eyes suddenly meet and she smiles.

"I was checking my blood sugar. I have type 2 diabetes. It's how I ended up with this."

Ikuno raises her hand wiggling her prosthetic thumb towards me. I simply give her a nod in response.

"I'm sorry if I was staring. I was just curious at what you were doing."

Ikuno waves away at the air dismissing my concern.

"Don't worry. I just thought I may as well take this moment to do my regular check. Speaking of which, how are you doing over there Misaki?"

Misaki gets back up to her feet, brushing off the back of her skirt.

"I am fine now. I apologise for the delay."

---

I remember hearing many of the guys at my previous school complain about going shopping with girls. While I can certainly understand those complaints, it is amazing what you can learn about somebody by how they shop and what they buy. Ikuno spent most of her time in the florist admiring the colourful assortment of flowers while Kawana meticulously analysed each and every flower, occasionally garnering my opinion. She was intent on getting several yellow poppies, which were as predicted on sale. We did not end up with any aclea, but decided on some more vibrant reds and yellows to complement the poppies. Despite the thorough, meticulous process, the shopkeeper was happy to accommodate us a good deal after closing time.

What was particularly enlightening was our stop at the Aura Mart. The wide variety of raw ingredients both Ikuno and Kawana purchased put my stash of instant noodles and frozen meals to shame. Ikuno's diabetes seemed to do little to impair on her natural sweet tooth, as indicated by several bags of sugar free sweets. Unsurprisingly, Kawana also purchased several packages of sencha tea. What was really surprising was the fact that this was dwarfed by the packages of strawberry milk boxes that accompanied the purchase.

As we make our way back up the hill, Ikuno takes a satisfied swig from her bottle of water.

"Well it seems you two had a productive trip."

Sine I had purchased the fewest items, I was on flower transport detail, carefully hugging the bundle beneath my arm so as to not damage them.

"Yes. The flowers I purchased were different than I envisioned. But I think they will turn out very well. Especially thanks to Nakai's input."

"I was glad to help. Besides I needed to get some supplies. After all I had no idea where to go, so you both helped me out a heap."

Ikuno smiles her big smile and nods.

"It was our pl..."

Ikuno's words slowly fade away, as if somebody had slowly tuned out a radio station. I feel the world around me sway back and forward. I didn't realise I was sweating so much. I lean against the guard rail on the side of the road suddenly out of breath.

"Hisao! Are you alright?"

I hold up my hand as I take in several breaths of air.

"I'm okay Ikuno. I just pushed myself a bit too hard."

Ikuno sighs as if dealing with a stubborn child and takes the flowers from my hands. I grunt in thanks and reach into my school bag for the bottle of water, taking several large gulps.

I am suddenly poked on the shoulder by Kawana, who is holding out one of the strawberry milk boxes out towards me. I raise my hand up to indicate my refusal. However, she pokes me again with the milk box.

"You should drink something with some protein. Otherwise you will make yourself worse."

I sigh and capitulate under her assault of simple logic and take one of her treasured milk boxes. Removing the straw I pierce the small foil cover and take a sip of the sweetened liquid.

"Thank you, Kawana. I'm sorry you had to give one of these up for my sake."

Kawana simply shakes her head, offering a small smile. The two watch me as I finish the milk box. Their expressions of concerned are poorly veiled. I suppose I owe the two of them an explanation. However, where do I begin? It was easy telling Rin, I had barely met her. These two, on the other hand. While I have only known them for a couple of days, it seems more difficult. I take in a deep breath, trying to relax my nerves. You can do this Hisao.

"The reason I am at this school. Four months ago, I had a heart attack."

Ikuno gasps slightly in shock. Kawana, maintains her stoic expression, however, I notice her grip on her shopping bags tighten.

"The doctors discovered the cause as being arrhythmia. That means my heartbeat is irregular. I have been in hospital the entire time. In fact, this week at Yamaku has been my first time outside of hospital in four months."

Silence permeates around us. The only other sounds are the cicadas and a small group of students walking past us. What feels like an eternity passes by as the pair seem to process this information.

"Scoliosis."

I look towards Kawana, she is tightly holding on to the shopping bag, looking down at her feet.

"It is a condition where my spine has a sideways curve. In my case it is an "S" pattern. The curve is significant in my case so as to slightly impede on my lung functionality. This can cause shortness in breath, especially during exertion. I wear a brace underneath my shirt to assist in minimising further misalignment. I will likely require surgery post adolescence to correct it."

Kawana looks up and sighs as the tension visibly leaves her body.

"Thank you Kawana, Ikuno. For listening to me."

Ikuno smiles and shakes her head.

"Thank you Hisao, for trusting us with that. I can tell that was very hard for you."

Kawana nods in agreement with Ikuno's assessment. I didn't tell them everything, but I doubt I would ever be able to. Ikuno takes a deep breath in as she prepares herself.

"I suppose it is my turn now..."

I quickly cut her off.

"Type 2 diabetes."

Ikuno blinks in confusion. Obviously surprised that I 'guessed' her condition.

"When we stopped on the way down. You checked your blood sugar and told me about it."

"Humph. Well that's just great."

Her pouting face lasts for a second before she starts laughing, which is joined in by the quiet chuckles of Kawana.

The trip back up is made in a comfortable silence. I find myself admiring the sky and listening to the sounds of summer, the cicadas chirping their signature song. The distant rattle of a train, the crunch of the gravel beneath my feet and the whistle of the wind. Despite the exhaustion of my body, I feel a sense of contentment.

It is not long before we come to the path that splits to the boys and girls’ dorms. All three of us stop, facing each other.

"Thanks for joining us Hisao. And for... everything else."

"Thanks for listening to my rambling. Ikuno, Kawana. I actually enjoyed that little outing."

Kawana bows her head and I return the gesture before heading back to the boys dorm.
Just before I reach the door I feel a slight tug on my sleeve. Turning around I see Kawana, looking down at her feet. We stand there in silence for several long moments. I am about to speak up when she beats me to the punch.

"Nakai. I was wondering. Tomorrow, after class. If you could help me assemble the flowers. I would appreciate it."

I am completely taken aback by the request. Kawana seems completely focused on the state of our shoes, not even hazarding to sneak a peek upwards.

"I'm not sure how much help I will be. I've never actually done any ikebana before. I just read about it."

"That should be fine. Any help you can give would be very appreciated."

I sigh slightly and shake my head. I doubt I was really planning to do anything tomorrow afternoon. I suppose it's better than being alone with my thoughts.

"Very well. I will accept your invitation. I'll see you in class tomorrow?"

Kawana looks up from the ground. A small smile emerges on her face.

"Yes. I will see you tomorrow. Goodnight, Nakai."

I simply nod and raise my hand in a small wave.

"Goodnight, Kawana."

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Beeronious
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Re: Respice Adspice Prospice - A Misaki Kawana Pseudo Route

Post by Beeronious » Wed Jan 02, 2019 12:47 am

A Maudlin Smile
The incessant chirp of the alarm clock tears me from my slumber. A swift slam of my hand silences its cruel siren call. As I sit up, recollecting my thoughts, I notice I am still in my school uniform from yesterday. I vaguely recall resting my head on the pillow for a moment after coming back from town.

"Dammit..."

I remember now that the Nurse had advised me to take it easy physically after my heavy dose of stupidity on the track yesterday. Looking at the time I sigh, having unknowingly robbed myself of another hour of sleep. Well, I suppose I should make the most of it. I can take some comfort in the fact that Saturday classes are only a half day.

---

The cafeteria is rather spacious and near empty at this time of the morning. Compared to the chaotic hustle and bustle of lunchtime I appreciate the comparative tranquillity.

Grabbing myself some slices of toast, a single pre-packaged butter and jam each, I notice a familiar head of hair standing out amongst the sparse groupings of people. Then again the golden locks and tall frame of class 3-2's representative is a hard sight to miss. I slowly make my way over to the table she occupies.

Her face looks up to my direction as I approach her. I unconsciously meet her clouded gaze.

"Good morning Lilly."

Apparently recognizing my voice, her lips turn up into a welcoming smile.

"Why good morning Hisao. I was unaware you normally had breakfast this early. Please have a seat"

Her hand gestures to the seating across from her. Accepting her invitation I sit down and begin the act of buttering up my toast.

"I don't normally. I just forgot to change my alarm this morning. Honestly I could have done with the sleep in."

I seem to have piqued Lilly's interest as she looks up from her meal.

"Oh? Did you have previous morning activities this week?"

My webbed brain still waking up doesn't feel up to the act of coming up with a believable lie. I guess I'll just be honest.

"Well the nurse had me running on the track with Emi. Unfortunately I had the genius idea of trying to race the school's track star. Nurse decided I should take it easy until next week."

Lilly's expression indicates she instantly got the implications of my statement. She takes a small sip from her styrofoam cup using the time to construct an appropriate response.

"Hisao. I'm sure the nurse probably informed you of the folly of that way of thinking. I do hope you take better care of yourself."

Her face softens to her tranquil smile as she continues.

"But how have you been settling in so far?"

Using the same methodology I take a sip from my cup of orange juice as I try to formulate an answer.

"I think I am settling in okay. Since I kept up with most of my studies in class, I don't think I have fallen behind in terms of lessons. Everybody has been very accommodating so far."

I do have other thoughts swirling around in my mind. However I don't really feel like emptying them on to Lilly. It does not seem fair to her to have to listen to the sad story of a boy who has lost most of his previous life and been thrown into a school in the middle of nowhere whose student body is a menagerie of broken people.

"So Lilly. How is the preparation for the festival coming along?"

Lilly sighs.

"The long hours of work in preparation along with... other pressures have made things stressful. But I do believe the worst of it is behind us. Our class were busy on Thursday evening finishing up the decorations for the stand. All that leaves is logistics."

The implicating of Shizune in being the cause of her problems does not escape me. Whatever issues the two have with each other, they likely run far deeper than I first expected. It certainly seems the wiser choice to not follow that train of thought.

"That seems rather rough. But I have faith that you will do an excellent job. What is it your class is doing anyway?"

Lilly smiles playfully at my compliment.

"Your flattery is duly noted Hisao. Our class is doing a noodle stand. Please feel free to come along and visit."

Lilly pauses a moment as her smile slowly wanes.

"You are planning on taking the part in the festival. Aren't you Hisao?"

While it is true I was very much undecided in whether or not I was going to attend, I am surprised Lilly was clued in to my indecision. It is likely just expected that I would go. So why is she airing her doubts like this? I suppose I should at least try and find out.

"What makes you doubt that I was going to go?"

Having finished her breakfast Lilly takes a small sip from her cup before putting it down. Her empty gaze faces me. Her look of open concern is like that of a mother whose child who has come home with a black eye and a torn shirt.

"Hisao."

She pauses, clearly unsure of how to continue.

"I know we have only talked a few times since you have transferred here. I know I am unaware of your circumstances. Nor do I wish to pry into them. However, I can hear the weight of their burden in your voice."

I really wish I was better at hiding my emotions. Having a near total stranger who I have talked to only a handful of times shouldering some of my intimate emotional burdens is uncomfortable to say the least. Nevertheless, she continues.

"A lot of students come to this school with their own burdens. They keep to themselves and shut themselves away in their own despair. I don't wish for that to happen to you. All I request is that you find somebody you can open up to. You may be surprised at how willing people here are to take on your troubles. We all... we all have our own circumstances."

I'm really unsure how to react. Part of me just wants Lilly to stick her nose out of my problems. Even if her heart is in the right place. She admits she doesn't know what led to me being here. And frankly, I really don't want her to know. On the other hand, her intentions are good, and she does appear to have my best interests at heart.

"I'll keep that in mind, Lilly. I do have people I have opened up to. If only a little bit."

Lilly's expression changes into a look of mild amusement.

"Miss Komaki and Miss Kawana if I recall correctly."

How? How does she know that? Of course, I forget how close her and Hanako are. As she reaches to pick up her tray I reach and grab it.

"I'll take care of it, Lilly."

Lilly smiles and nods her head.

"Thank you for your company Hisao. And please remember. Take care of yourself."

As the tapping of Lilly's cane emanates through the dining hall I am left alone with my thoughts. If Lilly could detect my depression, is it the same with the others? Why the smile of amusement at my hanging around Ikuno and Kawana? Is my emotional state so obvious? Are they sticking around me out of pity? To simply stop me from throwing myself off the roof? A black mood envelopes me as I finish my toast.

---

The black cloud in my head decides to follow me as I make my way to the classroom. I just want to be alone for a while, but I don't really feel like making the journey back to my room. I suppose since it's early I can make my way to the classroom and have some quiet time alone with my thoughts before class.

As I open the door to the classroom my hopes are promptly dashed. Sitting down at the front with her face planted firmly in a textbook is a familiar teal haired classmate. Lazily turning her head, her bleary eyes register my presence. She slowly raises her head and body upright as her eyes obviously struggle to focus on me.

"G'mornin Hisao. You're early."

"Yeah. I had an incessant mechanical friend eager to have me awake. But it seems you are even earlier."

Suzu's expression darkens as her eyes narrow at me.

"I never left."

I look at the bleary eyed Suzu and towards her textbook. A large wet puddle of drool darkens a significant portion of the page. I feel like I've again tripped a land mine. It really is difficult navigating this unfamiliar social landscape without stepping on somebody's toes. Prosthetic or otherwise. Suzu's face slowly turns into a wicked grin as she starts laughing.

"Gotcha Hisao. I'm just messing with you. I only came in a half hour ago. I think. I woke up early and thought I'd try and avoid an incessant non-mechanical friend eager to have me awake "

There is little doubt in my mind regarding the identity of this "non-mechanical friend".

"I can't imagine Miki being a pleasant means of waking up from a bad night's sleep. You should be thankful she doesn't have a key, that way she's only limited at hammering on the door."

Suzu sighs loudly in exasperation.

"Who said she didn't have a key?"

I wince at Suzu's explanation. Maybe it's growing up without any siblings, but I treasured my room as a sacrosanct place. The very idea of one of my peers being able to come in at any moment registers as being utterly horrifying. Although having born witness to Suzu's sudden bouts of sleep, I can completely understand entrusting a key to a close friend to make sure she hasn't fallen asleep suddenly and hurt herself. My name doesn't need to be Hercule Poirot to figure out that the brace on her knee was likely due to such a situation.

"So Suzu. Does Yamaku encourage students to look out for each other? You know, health wise."

I decide to try to delicately broach the subject. Even though Suzu has been anything but delicate. Nice enough, but blunt. She wearily nods her head, deigning to provide the info dump.

"Yeah. They generally encourage us to keep an eye out on our friends. Particularly our neighbours in the dorms."

I pause a moment as this realization hits me.

"So. We are meant to make sure our neighbours are in good health. Physical and mental?"

Suzu simply gives a small nod in response. Seemingly she notices my expression as she leans forward in concern.

"Why? Who are you next to in the dorms?"

"Kenji... Setou..."

Her face gradually falls as the revelation sinks in.

"My condolences."

Silence permeates the room for a minute. I listen to the sounds of students mingling in the halls. The silence of our class is broken as Suzu speaks up.

"But you seem to be getting along rather well with Ikuno and Kawana. So all is not lost. Ikuno in particular has been talking about you most of the week."

Ikuno has been talking about me most of this week? But I only really met her on Thursday? Surely Suzu must have made a mistake. I suppose though I am the new guy so I would be some sort of novelty at the moment. Even though I spent my first few days just helping the student council out. What there was of it anyway.

"You seem rather astute about the goings on of our class. Considering you seem to spend most of it asleep."

Suzu's expression changes to a small smirk, reminiscent of Shizune when she gets one of her ideas.

"I'll let you in on a secret. I'm not asleep like that all the time. It's a nice way to get a grasp of what's going on when I'm out."

I find her explanation rather difficult to believe. I think she really is just holding out for the latest gossip like any normal teenager. However common sense is telling me calling her out on that would be a foolish idea.

Suzu smiles at me and continues.

"And I have faith that you wouldn't disclose that little secret to anybody."

"Oh? And why are you so sure?"

Suzu's smile morphs into a wicked grin as she points a finger towards me.

"Because I'll just have to tell Miki that you tried to touch me inappropriately while you thought I was asleep."

I am confident that even without my heart troubles, I would be unlikely to survive the consequences of such an accusation. I sigh in resignation and wave her hand away.

"Fine fine. We have a deal."

It's not long after that enlightening (albeit disturbing) conversation that other members of our class start filtering in bit by bit. Ikuno, having just entered, spots me at my desk and enthusiastically waves while bounding over to me as if I had returned from a year long journey for enlightenment. Her smile is as bright as ever, but her eyes show the obvious concern.

"Hisao! How are you doing this morning? Are you okay? You didn't overexert yourself yesterday did you?"

I shake my head and wave a hand away as to dismiss her concerns.

"I'm okay. I just ended up sleeping like a rock the second my head hit the pillow. My sleeping patterns had been thrown off because of my meds. It's probably just what I needed."

It was only the half truth. But the last thing I needed was being smothered with concern. I already had enough of that from my friends in a previous life. Ikuno stares into my eyes, scrutinizing me as if she was some kind of lie detector. Her expression relaxes a bit as if happy with what she saw.

"Well that's a relief. I'd hate to have a new friend end up back in the hospital."

She already considers me a friend? But we've only just met properly two days ago. I don't mind the idea. Is this more pity? Realistically I cannot see Ikuno being able to hide anything like that. I want to accept her friendship at face value. But there is a small part of me that tells me she is tolerating my presence out of pity. After all, Lilly did say that many students simply shut themselves off to the world to wallow in their despair.

I've had more than my serving of despair. I can picture faces of my friends staring down at me in that white, sterilized room. To think that it's happening again, in a place that was supposedly a new start.

"Good morning Misaki!"

The greeting snaps me out of my thoughts as Kawana makes her way to where we are clustered. Maintaining her typical, disciplined stride she gently bows her head in greeting to us both.

"Good morning Ikuno. Good morning Nakai."

I casually wave my hand in greeting.

"Good morning Kawana. Are we all set for this afternoon?"


Kawana nods in response to my question.

"I have everything that we will need. Please meet me half an hour after class beneath the tree, where the path separates for the boys and girls dorm."

I give Kawana the thumbs up acknowledging her instructions.

"I will see you then. I'm glad to help."

"Huh? What are you two planning?"

Seeming both agitated and curious, Ikuno finally manages to get a word in.

---

The midday is far less oppressive in the shade of the tree that Kawana designated as our rendezvous. Once most of the students dispersed from class after midday, the sounds of last minute preparations for the festival dominated the atmosphere.

The irony of the situation does not escape me. I am waiting beneath the tree in summer for a cute girl. I can only hope I don't cause her to have a heart attack and ruin her life.

I wonder how much she blamed herself for what happened? Not that it matters. She wasn't the one whose life had been uprooted. She's not the one whose life expectancy had been so greatly reduced. She's not the one who lives in fear of a simple bump to the chest meaning a trip to the hospital or even worse.

My reverie is cut short by the loud, distinct rattling of some kind of trolley or cart being pushed along the pavement. Looking towards the sound's origin I see Kawana pushing one of the three tray dining carts used in the cafeteria. The cart is loaded down with the distinct bowls and tools used in ikebana, flower pots, some large bottles of water, the familiar flowers that we picked up yesterday, what appears to be a thermos and a basket wrapped in cloth. I then notice a small blanket as the sole occupant of the lower tray on the cart.

Hurrying over to where she is I wave in greeting. I offer to take the burden of the trolley, which she graciously accepts.

"So, Kawana, where are we headed?"

"I thought that we could proceed to the tree where we had lunch on Thursday. Most of the festival stalls will be located on the other side of the school grounds so it should be rather peaceful there. That will be an ideal spot to work."

I follow Kawana's lead to the now familiar spot. The walk is in a rather comfortable silence. The rattling of the cart makes any kind of small talk all the more difficult. The final portion of our short journey is made a little more difficult by needing to go 'off road' with the cart. Fortunately, the relatively dry weather ensured the ground was not too wet.

I park the cart and lay the blanket in the shade of the tree. Meanwhile, Kawana begins collecting the various items from the cart and sets the various items up in two positions across from each other. We sit down as Kawana begins assembling the first arrangement. Cautiously, I begin mimicking her actions. Having read about ikebana before, I find the process familiar enough. While my efforts are no match for Kawana's experienced hands, they seem passable.

With my second effort I find I do not have to concentrate as intensely. Every now and then I look up at my partner. Expecting to see a familiar look of intense concentration, I am surprised to see that she seems to be almost looking through the ikebana piece. A sense of tranquillity seems to permeate from her.

Her eyes glance up and meet mine.

"Is something the matter Nakai?"

Her tone seems more relaxed and feminine than I am used to hearing from her, it takes me a moment to comprehend and answer.

"Yeah. I'm fine. I just noticed how relaxed you seem to be doing this."

She smiles at me, still the familiar small smile I have been used to.

"I do find this activity relaxing. I really have not had a chance to practice it since I last went home."

Home? It is strange to think, but of course everybody here came from somewhere. They didn't just sprout from the Earth. My curiosity piqued I have to ask.

"Oh? And where would home be? If you don't mind me asking."

Kawana waves her hand, dismissing my concern.

"I am from Kyoto. Arashiyama to be precise. My family owns a small ryokan there."

It is not hard to imagine a much younger Kawana, clad in a tiny kimono, politely bowing to the ryokan's guests and welcoming them to their humble accommodation. I find the image to be awfully cute.

"Arashiyama. I imagine the bamboo groves there would be beautiful. And I am going to guess that you have amassed quite the collection of beautiful photos of them too."

"You would be correct. The bamboo groves, in the right light with the correct aperture can come out looking wonderful."

Her expression turns playful as she continues.

"Now it is my turn Nakai. Where did you call home before coming here?"

As they say, turnabout is fair play. Even if the past is still a touchy subject for me, it is only fair since I asked her the exact same thing.

"I grew up in Chiba. I know, I'm a boring city boy."

"I do not find it boring. It is quite the opposite. Learning where somebody is from, what they have done. Learning what has made them who they are. I find that deeply interesting."

We slowly return to silence as I continue on with my arrangements. The second arrangement has come together significantly better than the first. As I begin the third I am starting to feel more relaxed. The distant noise of the last minute festival preparations melt into a pleasant white noise.

In what feels like a few moments but was likely longer, I finish my fourth arrangement. Taking a moment to admire it I notice Kawana looking across at me and the arrangement. She nods to me in approval.

"You have certainly caught on rather quickly to the process. I know you have a familiarity with ikebana. If you do not mind me asking. How did you come to know so much about it?"

I'm not surprised at this line of questioning. It is particularly unusual for a boy to know much about ikebana, a distinctly feminine activity. And I am the mysterious transfer student after all. However, I can't help but feel my mind recede into that dark place while even thinking about this topic. I figure out a more diplomatic answer in my head.

"I had a friend who was interested in ikebana. I wanted to understand them better so I found myself reading various books on the subject."

What I said is not a lie. Well, not a complete lie. I doubt I would have ever called Iwanako a friend. In fact, before that snowy day I don't believe I said anything to her more substantial than some variation of hello or goodbye.

Kawana's lips curl up into a sly smile. She clearly perceives there is much more to my explanation than I am letting on.

"Did you confess to her?"

And there it is. I can feel myself freeze up. My muscles in my arms tense up, feeling like stone. This is too much. I'm not ready. The wound is raw, and festering. I slowly take in a long breath, trying to calm my nerves and bring order to the maelstrom in my mind.

"That is a long story Kawana. Please forgive me but I do not feel ready to tell that one yet."

Kawana's sly smile falls into a look of concern. But she slowly nods her head, seemingly accepting my explanation.

"I apologise for my undue questioning. Please be aware though, that if you ever do feel ready that I will be willing to listen."

Kawana's response is delivered in the same cool, methodical manner I have grown rather familiar with in these past few days. However, something about the wording gives me a sense of relief.

We continue on with our work falling back into a peaceful silence. Before I know it I have completed two more arrangements. The serenity of the moment is then suddenly betrayed by my body, my stomach begins a rumbling demand for sustenance.

Kawana looks up from her work and stares at me a moment. I can feel the heat rising to my cheeks, well aware that I am likely blushing. Kawana stifles a fit of giggling from my embarrassment.

"I will presume that you would like to stop for some lunch?"

"Ummm... sure."

Kawana simply nods and stands up, making her way over to the cart. She picks up the thermos, a pair of plastic cups and the wrapped basket. Returning with the items she proceeds to lay them out in front of us.

"I hope you don't mind. I thought some simple onigiri would be suitable."

She proceeds to methodically unwrap the basket and open the lid, revealing several rows of triangular rice balls, She opens up the thermos and pours the contents into one of the plastic cups.

"Please take this."

Handing me the cup, I smell the refreshing scent of green tea. Kawana finishes pouring her own cup and resealing the thermos. She then places her hands together in the same familiar motion I saw her do on Thursday.

"Thank you for the food."

She then proceeds to take a small sip from the cup. Doing the same I recognise the very gentle bitterness of sencha tea.

"Is this the tea that you bought last night?"

Kawana nods.

"Yes. I thought it would be nice with this weather."

She gestures with her hand towards the onigiri in the box between us.

"Please help yourself."

I take one of the onigiri and take a bite.

"This is really good Kawana. Although I feel guilty. Now both of you have fed me and I haven't made anything in return."

Misaki raises an eyebrow.

"You can cook?"

I shake my head laughing.

"You saw my shopping yesterday. My cooking ability extends to the fine art of pouring boiled water on instant ramen."

Kawana takes a small bite out of her onigiri before replying.

"It takes a fine culinary artist to get that correct. So your mother did most of the cooking for you?"

I shake my head.

"Not exactly. Both my parents worked long hours. So I was left at home alone a lot. I just uh... never really taught myself how to cook."

The confession is one I find myself being embarrassed about. Rather than bothering to learn a useful skill, even while having the opportunity and necessity, I simply lived off the culinary equivalent of trash. Maybe it was some stupid perception that such an activity is not manly.

"Ikuno is better at cooking than I am."

The statement seems to come out of the blue. I shake my head at her admonishment.

"I would like to disagree. I have had a lunchbox she made and onigiri you made. It's not exactly a fair basis of comparison."

We fall back into silence, taking our time to enjoy the meal. It's not long before the onigiri are finished and we both enjoy another cup of tea, I notice Kawana staring at me as I sip on my tea. Unable to continue drinking under the scrutiny I pause.

"Is something the matter Kawana?"

"I have to ask. Are we a bother to you?"

I shake my head.

"No. Not at all. I enjoy your company. Why do you ask?"

Kawana leans forward, taking in a breath. Even as frank as she is, I guess even Kawana has moments of hesitation just like any other person.

"Since you have come to Yamaku. I have noticed. You have never laughed, or even smiled. I am sure you have your reasons. And I saw how much pressure Shizune and Misha put on you. We didn't want it to be the same way. Ikuno is very sweet. She'd never want to push you into being uncomfortable."

Despite seeming to be babbling, I think I get the message. It really is reassuring to know their attempts at friendship seem to be genuine. I know I have not exactly been a ball of sunshine these last few months. Having a heart attack as a teenager is likely to do that.

"You're right Kawana. These months have been rather unkind to me. But if I'm to be honest, I've really liked hanging out with you guys. And I'm thankful at both of you for putting up with me."

Kawana shakes her head.

"It's not a problem Nakai. If you pardon me asking another question. What do you think of Ikuno?"

I find the question to be both vague, yet incredibly direct. I'm not sure what Kawana's agenda is in bringing it up, but I feel that honesty will be the best policy.

"I find her to be a bit of a worrywart, but ultimately very kind. She seems relentlessly cheerful, but in a much more gentle way than say, Misha. But I feel she seems to be worried about not living up to some invisible standard. Overall I like her."

Misaki closes her eyes, clearly contemplating my answer.

"I agree with you. Ikuno is a sweet girl. She is also an important friend. You two will get along very well. I think once I finish this last piece we should be able to call it a day."

Kawana puts the finishing touches on her last arrangement. We begin packing everything up on the cart. The ten pieces we have completed together (four by myself and six by Kawana) are delicately arranged on the top and second tray, with the leftover supplies and blanket and lunch accoutrements occupying the bottom tray.

As I push the cart along the road I look to my companion who walks beside me. I find myself feeling much more comfortable in her company than I expected. Despite the odd bit of penetrating conversation, our time was spent in a silence I found oddly comfortable.

As we approach the tree and bench that sat beside the fork in the road to the dorms Kawana stops.

"I can take the cart from here. I need to deliver this to Class 2-2."

As she takes the handle of the cart from me she smiles.

"I thank you for assisting me today. You did a great job. I doubt I would have been able to do so many without your help."

I find myself flustered at her gratitude. Thankfully Kawana continues.

"I have meant to ask. What are you planning to do for the festival tomorrow?"

I really had not thought about it. The whirlwind of activity I found myself in after being left in the static, unmoving environment of a hospital had me reeling these past few days.

"Umm. Nothing really. I haven't thought about it."

Kawana looks at me for a moment. The silence of her look seems oppressive when accompanied by the focused gaze.

"Would you like to join Ikuno and myself? We would both be happy to have your company."

After the previous conversation that proved my apprehension to be rather unfounded, I find the invitation to be welcome.

"I would be glad to. Where and when should we meet up?"

Kawana pauses for a moment clearly having not completely thought this through.

"How about right here at eleven?"

I nod my head in agreement.

"It sounds like a plan. I will see you tomorrow then?"

Kawana nods.

"Yes. I will see you tomorrow. And Nakai. I enjoyed our time this afternoon. Thank you."

I find myself a little tongue tied a moment at her compliment.

"I did too."

Smooth Hisao. Really smooth.

Kawana smiles and nods her head before walking back to the school with the cart rattling its song. I give her a small wave before making my way back to my dorm.

That's the second day in a row that has concluded with an invitation from this girl. I find myself looking forward to tomorrow. While I have only just met these two, I feel more confident in calling them friends. It is certainly a step forward from brooding alone in a hospital.

I should have an early night tonight. I don't know why, but I feel I should look my best tomorrow. I have a feeling it's going to be a big day.

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Beeronious
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Re: Respice Adspice Prospice - A Misaki Kawana Pseudo Route

Post by Beeronious » Wed Jan 02, 2019 12:47 am

Black Dog
I wipe the accumulated condensation from the bathroom mirror. I have to admit, taking a long, proper shower feels rather nice. Ever since I left the hospital, my showering routine has been rather Spartan, consisting of only washing the essential areas to ensure I am not offensive to others.

Inspecting my face in the mirror I can see the stubble on my chin is getting more significant. While it is not untidy or overly scruffy yet, it is probably a good idea to shave. I begin the familiar ritual that is passed down from father to son. The rite of shaving cream and razor.

"WHO GOES THERE?"

Dammit!

The sudden voice causes my wrist to slip and I feel the sharp sting of the razor's. I wince at the sudden pain.

"Kenji! You surprised me."

I try to maintain calm, despite my annoyance. I feel that my best policy around Kenji is to not get him too excited. Otherwise I risk being trapped in this bathroom all day listening to him ramble about feminist lizard people or whatever it is he's fixated on at any given moment.

Kenji's face falls in disappointment at hearing my voice. I know he is expecting some sort of bizarre attack orchestrated by powers unknown. Was he hoping for the big one today?

"Oh. It's just you. How's it hanging?"

I continue shaving as he makes his inquiry. It gives me something to focus on, should he begin one of his inevitable rants.

"Not so bad. A certain surprise shout from somebody did cause me to cut myself shaving."

Kenji scratches his chin thoughtfully. Looking at him, I am thankful that the condensation on his coke bottle glasses masks the maddened look I imagine in his eyes.

"So somebody WAS in here. This is concerning."

Kenji comes closer and places a rather unwelcome hand on my shoulder.

"However Hisao. There is something more concerning. Why are you using that kind of razor?"

I look down at my rather basic cartridge razor. I don't see anything wrong with it myself. But, considering my unwanted conversation partner I can hazard a guess.

"Well regardless of what you think, I'm not going to convert to a straight razor. As manly as you think that may be."

Kenji's jaw drops a little at my comment. His lips tightening as if I have offended him.

"A straight razor? Are you kidding? I only use an electric razor. That kind of manliness was contrived by the feminists to distract us from the true kind of manliness that they are afraid of!"

Kenji beats his now puffed out chest with a single thump to punctuate his declaration. I feel I should try and reassure him. I continue shaving.

"Okay Kenji. Next time I'm in the city I'll make a note to grab an electric razor."

This reassurance seems to calm him down.

"Good. Good. That kind of self indulgent manliness is a tool by them you know. They want to get us men to focus on our self image. They restrict true manliness so that feminist power can go unchecked. They want to distract us from the cause."

Really? I sigh internally. Still, he continues with his monologue.

"The girls, they'll distract you with their problems. They will use you to solve them. They will milk you financially, leave you as a hollow shell of a man and then cheat on you with some meathead. Don't let them. Don't be a fool. Don't obsess with some cute girls problems just to get into their pants my friend. Take care of yourself and your own shit first."

The more I talk to Kenji, the more I wonder if the entirety of his meaningful interactions with the female gender comprised of his family and those video games lonely men and teenagers play where they woo an imaginary girl by solving their life problems. Maybe he got one game over too many.

Kenji continues droning on about who knows what. In my limited interaction with my neighbour I have already figured out the best system of dealing with him. I simply nod and respond with instinctive yes and no answers. Occasionally I will respond with what he had just said in question form as if asking for clarification. It seems enough to allow him to vent whatever it is that is in his head, while I take in just enough to not stir him up, or cost me my sanity.

I dread the idea of what he has to show me that requires the use of puppets.

---

Beneath the shade of the familiar tree that is our rendezvous I look at my watch. 10:30. I am a half hour early. Not wanting to draw the further attentions of my bespectacled neighbour I sought refuge in a more public place. At the very least I wouldn't just "disappear".

I hear a familiar rhythmic clacking sound and look up to see the large smile on my short running partner's face as she jogs towards me.

"Good morning space cadet! Did I surprise you?"

"Not really. I could hear you before I saw you. I have a feeling the words subtlety and Emi Ibarazaki do not go together."

Emi folds her arms putting on a pout I am already becoming more and more familiar with.

"You better watch yourself mister. Your constant hangdog expression is not going to stop me from going extra hard on you on the track tomorrow."

She pauses and looks at me, her face becoming that of a pleading puppy.

"That is.. you are going to show up tomorrow."

Her weaponized puppy face is as effective as ever. Fortunately for me, it is also unnecessary.

"You can relax Emi. I told you I was going to continue training and I intend to stick it."

Emi folds her arms, her face becoming more serious.

"Well you better turn up, Or I'll break the door down and drag your sleepy ass to the track. Even if you sleep naked."

Her lips turn up into a grin.

"That may encourage you to run faster. I'll chase after you whipping your bare butt with a towel."

She suddenly begins giggling hysterically. I sigh in resignation.

"I look forward to it..."

Despite my obvious sarcastic tone, Emi's eyes open up wide and she lets out a scandalized gasp.

"Hisao... I didn't know you were such a pervert."

Feeling my tenuous reputation at this new school going down the drain I begin frantically waving my hands in front of me.

"No Emi! I was kidding. Seriously. Do you really think I'd..."

Emi's laughter interrupts my frantic pleas as she brightly smiles.

"I know Hisao. I was just teasing."

Her laughing subsides she leans forward.

"So. I take it you have a hot date for the festival?"

I feel my face heat up at the question. While I doubt this is something that could be considered a date, I am spending the day with two cute girls.

"Yeah, I'm meeting up with Kawana and Ikuno. From my class."

Emi puts own her pouty face again folding her arms.

"What? You are too good to spend the days with me? I'm hurt."

Her theatrical antics give away the playful nature of the reply. I have the sudden urge to play along.

"Your invitation is tempting. But spending my day being whipped on the ass by the school track star is not my idea of fun."

Emi gives me a slap on the shoulder.

"Well. Maybe next time. I better see you tomorrow lover boy. Enjoy your date. You best not be running bow legged tomorrow either."

And with that wholly uncomfortable send off, Emi jogs away into the slowly grow crowd. Each step punctuated by the clack of her prosthetics.

---

With my eyes closed I can hear the mixed sound of the festivities with all the more clarity. Voices, footsteps, the various sounds of food being fried, the excited laughter of children. The smell of the freshly cut grass and of the aroma various delicacies hit my nose. Another smell catches my attention, the crisp, fruity scent of what seems to be lavender.

Opening my eyes I see Ikuno standing above me, her big warm smile standing out on her round face. I notice she seems different. The colour of her lips seems more pronounced. Her eyes seem to stand out all the more. As well as that, her cheeks seem to have more colour and something of a glow to them. And finally her rather.... ample... chest seems all the more pronounced. I've seen her in the same kind of shirt every day, but it seems larger than usua.

"Good morning Ikuno. You look very nice today."

It seems like the right thing to say. It's clear she put some effort into dolling herself up a little for the festival. Even though we have to wear our school uniforms. Ikuno's cheeks turn a very deep shade of red as she looks to the ground, pressing the tips of her index fingers together.

"Umm...uh... thank you.. Hisao. You... you look very nice too."

She seems to mutter something to herself under her breath before gesturing to the bench I'm sitting at.

"Umm... that is... uh.. is it... can I... sit down here?"

I thought Ikuno had become more comfortable around me since we had started getting to know each other. But right now she's acting as nervous as she was when we first met. I wave my hand beside me and scoot aside to as close to the edge of the bench as I can to give her as much room as she's comfortable with.

"Be my guest."

Ikuno sits down right beside me. I can feel the warmth of her body radiating through her clothes. The close contact causes me limbs to suddenly feel tense. The lavender scent becoming all the stronger. I look beside me as Ikuno stares straight ahead. Her expression painfully nervous, her palms seemingly pressing into her knees.

The awkwardness around us is so thick I feel like I could chew on it. I tenuously look at my watch. The digital face indicating that it's 10:45. I wonder why Ikuno is out here so early. And by herself. I would have expected her to come to the meeting place with Kawana. I suddenly feel a little more weight on my side as Ikuno begins leaning against me. I look to my right and see her still with her hands planted on her knees and facing straight ahead, looking utterly terrified.

"Umm... Ikuno.."

"Meep!"

She suddenly sits bolt upright, still seemingly as close to me as possible. I need to get her in a conversation. I'm not sure what's got into her but I think I should distract her.

"What brings you out so early this morning?"

Ikuno looks towards me for a moment as if trying to figure that out for herself.

"Well. I got ready early. And well... I wanted to spend some time wi... spend some time enjoying the atmosphere."

"It is really nice out here. You should close your eyes and just listen."

Seeming to take my advice, she closes her eyes and we sit there in silence. After about a minute her face slowly begins to lose its tension. Her body begins following in kind. Taking a deep breath she opens her eyes, beaming her smile at me.

"That feels better. Misaki should be with us soon and we can begin. We have a lot to show you."

I hold up a hand at Ikuno, trying to stop her train of thought before it can begin.

"We're friends now Ikuno. Don't feel obligated to play the tour guide for my part."

Ikuno wraps bother her arms around my arm and leans forward. I can feel her soft chest pressing up forcefully against my arm, her face a mere centimetres from mine. Her face turning stern.

"Hisao. I want to show you the festival. Because it's fun. It's not a question of obligation. I want to. Okay?"

I look into her blue eyes as they look back into mine. Her cheeks slowly begin reddening as her face relaxes into a strange smile. Not her usual beaming, almost childlike smile. This smile seems more intimate, a private moment for just the two of us.

"Click"

The familiar voice is followed by the sound of a camera shutter. In the blink of an eye I find Ikuno sitting bolt upright on the other side of the bench. My cheeks are feeling warmer than the summer air. I look towards Kawana, who stands there with a small smile on her face. In her hands is a large, extremely professional looking camera. Standing up I offer my hand to Ikuno, who tenuously takes it as I help her to her feet. I turn towards my other companion and offer a small wave in greeting.

"Good morning Kawana. Shall we head off?"

---

"So you're helping out the Newspaper Club today as well Kawana?"

I look to my companion walking beside me, continuing to admire the rather high end camera now hanging in front of her. Kawana simply nods in acknowledgement of my question.

"Yes. They are naturally going to publish a story on today's festival. It is a rather significant event on Yamaku's calendar. I offered to take some pictures for them while I was out today."

Ikuno, walking on my giggles.

"You mean you offered so Natsume owes you a favour."

Kawana smirks in response.

"It is better to be owed than to be owe. Especially where Ooe is concerned."

She suddenly stops and raises her camera, pointing it towards a small teahouse stall run by some underclassmen. She begins adjusting the large lens on the camera and starts taking several pictures.

Staring at the stall, I cannot help but have a sense of familiarity about it. This stall seemed no different than the plethora of tea stalls I had patronised and participated in. The girls in their yukata looked as cute as plenty of other girls. It is not until I look on the counters around the stalls and notice the familiar flower arrangements that it clicks into place.

"Kawana. Is this..."

Kawana looks to me with a small, yet warm smile.

"Yes."

"I-KU-NOOOOOOOO"

Skipping from the tea stall is a waif of a girl, dressed in a sky blue yukata carrying an open, matching parasol. Her skin and hair are a paleness matching that of snow and her eyes are a bright, unnatural red. The large grin on her face gives her the demeanour not of a high school student running a festival stall, but that of a child playing dress up with her mother's wardrobe.

Ikuno squeals as the waif catches her in a big hug. I can't help but admire the dexterity she managed in keeping herself completely in the shade of the parasol while executing such a manoeuvre. I briefly wonder if this girl was some kind of trained assassin in a past life. Ikuno, finally catching a breath manages to speak.

"Ah... Rika. Good to see you. I see the flower arrangements came along nicely."

The girl, Rika I believe her name was, turns towards Misaki and politely bows.

"Thank you again Kawana for your assistance. You really got us out of a bind."

Kawana returns the bow.

"You should also thank Nakai here. He assisted me in assembling the arrangements. If it was not for him I would not have been able to assemble so many in such a short amount of time."

Rika now looks towards me. Internally I brace myself to be tackled to the ground. However, instead she steps towards me and starts looking me up and down. She starts looking around inspecting me like a used car. I fully expect her to kick my shins as if they were tyres. She nods to herself and steps back towards Ikuno.

"He's cute Ikuno."

She leans towards her and whispers in her ear loud enough that likely the entire stall can hear.

"You're right. He has a nice ass"

Ikuno's skin tone suddenly begins to match that of a tomato. This is punctuated by the click of the camera shutter as Kawana mercilessly documents Ikuno's embarrassment. Rika perks up at the sound of the camera and bounds over towards me.

"Do me! Do me!"

Kawana complies, pointing the camera towards the both of us. Rika deftly wraps the arm holding the parasol around me, managing to put both of us in its shade. She throws out her free hand in a proud 'V' sign. The camera clicks as Kawana takes the photo.

Rika then puts a hand on Ikuno's shoulder and pushes her beside me. Her voice ever chirpy and sing-songy.

" ♫ Your turn! ♫"

Ikuno steps awkwardly beside me. A few seconds later she leans against me as the camera's shutter clicks again. Kawana pauses a moment, looking down at the camera. I can hear the beeps as she begins making some adjustments before stepping over to Rika, passing her the large camera.

"My turn."

Rika steps to where Kawana was standing. Kawana stands beside me at a reasonable distance, standing straight and expressionless. Her hands held in front of her at waist level in as formal a pose as possible. Rika lowers the camera for a moment.

"Kawana. I'm afraid you're a little out of frame. Could you step a little closer to Nakai please?"

Kawana simply nods and scuttles a tiny bit closer. Rika gestures with a hand.

"You're going to have to move closer."

Shuffle.

"Closer."

Shuffle.

"♫ Closer. ♫"

I suddenly feel the warm body of Kawana right up against me. Turning my eyes beside her, she maintains her formal pose, facing directly forward. Her cheeks are slightly flushed pink. I turn my eyes forward as the shutter clicks.

"Nice nice. However, Nakai you look so glum in them. I hope you weren't that glum with ♫ me ♫."

Rika steps towards Kawana and passes the camera back to her. She suddenly freezes as if having a revelation. She turns around to face me and bows.

"My name is Rika Katayama. It is a pleasure to meet you."

Feeling suddenly awkward I return the bow.

"My name is Hisao Nakai. I transferred in this week. It is a pleasure to meet you as well."

Rika smiles brightly as ever and nods at my greeting.

"Well I need to get back to work on this stall. It was nice to meet you, and thanks for helping with the arrangements. You guys saved our bacon."

We all say our goodbyes as Kawana and Ikuno continue leading me around the festival.

---

"Well. Rika is unusual."

I remark on my encounter with the rather eccentric albino. My comment eliciting a small giggle from my festival companions.

"Indeed. I expect at any moment for Katayama to start twitching and spinning around like Ash from Alien."

I pause for a moment at Kawana's remark and look at her.

"I'm sorry Kawana, I haven't seen Alien."

My confession elicits a scandalized gasp. Kawana seizes my forearm and looks me dead in the eye.

"You have not seen Alien? Ikuno! Did you hear that?"

Ikuno stares at Kawana looking utterly confused at the sudden, passionate outburst (by Kawana standards). She scratches the back of her neck chuckling in embarrassment.

"I'm sorry Misaki. I haven't seen it either."

Kawana looks to her friend and shakes her head.

"Well then. I believe we have to remedy this."

She vigorously points to Ikuno.

"Ikuno! We are going to borrow your room Saturday after class is finished."

Ikuno blinks at the sudden declaration.

"Ummm. Sure Misaki. But why my room?"

Kawana finally lets go of my arms and folds her own arms in front of her.

"It is simple. You have a larger television in your room so all three of us can watch Alien. It is mandatory viewing."

I feel somewhat sceptical about Kawana's declaration.

"I'm not sure a movie about an alien murdering the crew of a star ship is considered mandatory viewing."

My remark is cut off by Ikuno's excited squeal as we come to one of the game stalls. Hanging on the inside walls are a cornucopia of stuffed animals of various shapes and sizes. Ikuno's eyes are lit up like a kid who has found a golden ticket in a Wonka bar.

"They're. So. CUUUUUTE!"

I look over to Kawana who has stopped to stare at the various stuffed animals with her friend. Her eyes seem to be focused on a particular animal. A rather realistic looking rendition of a small black dog. Even I have to admit it looks rather cute.

"Are you interested in that black dog up there?"

Kawana maintains her gaze at the little black dog.

"Schipperke."

The strange word sounds difficult even on Kawana's refined tongue. I stare blankly at her unsure at what she means.

"It's a Schipperke. A small dog known as the 'little black devil'. Small, loyal and troublesome."

The covetous gaze on Kawana's face is obvious. I look at the game that holds the desired dog. A series of rifles lay across the bench at the front of the stall. At the rear of the stall is a series of duck shaped targets moving along a track. So it seems to be one of those games where I shoot the targets with a cork gun. I can do this.

Impulsively, without a word, I place the money down on the counter. The attendant unenthusiastically lays a small plastic box with the rubber corks in it that serves as the ammunition for my weapon.

I raise the rifle towards the target. I am reminded of the article I read in one of the litany of military magazines Shin owned. The one about how snipers would breathe out before they fired to try and maintain consistency in aiming. He really was obsessed with the military.

"Hisao..."

I wonder if he finally got together with Mai. The two of them were like little kids with a crush. They would constantly tease and harass each other. It was like something out of a bad anime.

"Hisao..."

I really do miss them sometimes. I wonder what everybody else is up to? Have those two finally confessed? I wonder if they are all in the same class together? How is Iwanako doing?

"Hisao!"

I am snapped back to reality as Ikuno looks to me confused. I look towards the rather impatient looking attendant who directs his thumb towards one of the rows of prizes.

"Which one you want?"

I take only a moment to look before pointing at the prize I wanted. Lazily nodding he passes me the Schipperke. I promptly turn towards Kawana and hold it out to her. Her eyes light up like a Christmas tree as she takes the dog plush into her arms. She holds it close for a moment like a child before regaining her composure. She bows her head to me in gratitude.

"Thank you. Nakai."

I wave off the gratitude as if it was no big deal. But seeing the usually tranquil face of Kawana light up like that was certainly worth the effort.

"Shall we be off then? I'm sure Kuro would like to see the rest of the festival."

As we start walking, I can hear Ikuno's outraged gasp beside me.

"Kuro? What kind of bland, unoriginal name is that for Misaki's new friend?"

I fold my arms, feigning indignation as I look towards Ikuno.

"Oh? And I suppose you have a better name for the pup?"

Ikuno smiles smugly as she points a finger upwards.

"Yes I do. The dog shall be called Tama."

I nudge Ikuno in the side.

"Tama? Really? And you say my name is bland and unoriginal. Why don't we ask Kawana what she wants to call it?"

Both of us turn towards Kawana simultaneously. I feel a pang of envy as she clutches the little black dog against her chest.

"He is a mischievous little puppy like all Schipperkes. I shall call him Nyarlathotep. Nyan-Nyan for short."

"Well Ikuno. You heard the lady. I'm sure she'll give Nyan-Nyan a good home."

Ikuno gives a small giggle, nodding in apparent agreement.

"Still Hisao. That was some impressive shooting."

She places a finger beneath her chin thinking.

"Too impressive. Suspiciously impressive. You're not some mysterious transfer who will turn out to be some ex military child prodigy are you?"

My face falls at the sheer ridiculousness of that statement.

"You've been watching too much anime."

Ikuno seems undeterred as she folds her arms and leans towards me.

"Staaare."

Ikuno's judgemental gaze is punctuated by Kawana, who proceeds to mimic Ikuno.

"Staaare."

"Now c'mon. I don't have any real shooting skill... I followed..."

"Staaare."

I look down at my chest into Nyan-Nyan's little black beady eyes. Kawana is holding out the little black pup, his pink tongue hanging out of his little mouth.

Since that cold day in February beneath that tree I have felt myself falling further and further into myself. I have clung to those days lost. To isolation, those friendships forgotten. To that door that leads to the future closing. To the absence of that scent of herbal shampoo. The tension from that loss has been winding inside me like a spring wrapped around my spirit, constricting ever and ever tighter.

Staring into the black plastic eyes of Nyan-Nyan, whom Kawana has thrust in my face, I feel as if somebody had cut that spring. The tension that had been residing had suddenly been released. I fall to my knees and suddenly begin chuckling. The chuckling turns into loud, boisterous laughter loud enough to likely draw the attention of the entire festival. So, maybe half the volume of Misha's trademark wahaha~!.

I'm not sure how much time passes. I feel tears streaming down my eyes, and am finding it hard to breath. Slowly, I can feel the uncontrollable laughter subside. As I find my breath again I wipe my wet eyes and get to my feet. My cheeks are hot with embarrassment. I manage to work up the courage to look at my companions. Expecting to see looks of embarrassment or disgust, they are both wearing genuine smiles.

"Ummm... sorry about that."

Ikuno shakes her head in response and waves away my concern.

"No need. It feels good to let it all out. Besides..."

She leans toward me, cupping my ear with her hand and whispers in my ear.

"You have a really cute smile."

My eyes go wide at the embarrassing comment. I can feel my cheeks growing warmer. Likely they are a similar shade to Ikuno's at the moment. It's only then that I notice that I am indeed smiling. I can't even remember the last time I smiled, or even felt the urge to smile.

I put my hand out and pat the plush dog on the head. I offer Kawana a playful wink.

"Thank you, Nyan-Nyan".

---

I think to myself how lucky we were to find such good seats where we did. A mere four rows from the stage. Although there is a small wait before the performances by the music and drama clubs, I am thankful for the chance to rest a bit.

As I sit down, a part of me feel lucky to be flank by two pretty girls. I know Shin would curse my name if he saw me. Even though we all know where his eyes fell, he always loved to run his mouth.

I feel the warmth of Ikuno's body as she leans against me. I'm not sure what has got into her today, but she has certainly been more touchy feely. I think back to that moment just before Kawana showed up. What was that all about?

I look to Kawana as she hugs Nyan-Nyan close to her. She turns her eyes to face me and smiles at me.

"So Kawana. Do you know if anybody from our class is performing?"

Kawana nods her head, she turns her body to face both of us.

"Yes. Tainaka will be performing a flute solo."

I think back to the various members of the class, trying to put a face to the name. Unfortunately I draw a blank. Thankfully, Kawana throws me a lifeline.

"Ritsu Tainaka. She sits behind Hakamichi and Mikado."

I can picture the girl now, with her light brown hair and yellow headband. She struck me as somewhat haughty and unapproachable. I don't think neither of us have even so much as exchanged a greeting.

I hear the sound of clapping and return my attention to the stage as a middle aged woman, dressed in a rather tidy brown suit approaches the front. She introduces herself as Hana Sakamoto, head of the performing arts faculty at Yamaku. She goes on about how great a year it has been, the importance of music and how much promise many of her students are showing.

She wraps up her introduction as the band plays some rather familiar, albeit bland musical numbers. They are rather straightforward, pleasant pieces, but nothing really stands out in particular about any of them.

There is an applause as the pieces finish. Ms. Sakamoto returns to the stage and thanks the audience for listening. She then informs the audience that certain members will be performing pieces individually, starting off with an unfamiliar pair of students. Saki Enomoto on violin and Chisato Souma on piano. A chestnut haired girl with a cane and violin moves her seat to the front, while a girl with short brown hair cracks her knuckles at the piano. Their piece is a familiar one, I vaguely recall as 'Canon in D'. It's nothing short of amazing, especially in contrast to the rather safe, bland piece previously performed by the entire ensemble.

The next few students begin their performances with varying degrees of skill and reactions. They are all certainly far better than I ever could hope to be musically. As the last student finishes his piece, Ms. Sakamoto returns to the microphone.

"Thank you. That was Kanade Tachiba on piano, performing Chopin's Opus no 9, 1st movement. Our final performer this afternoon will be the very promising Ritsu Tainaka on flute."

I begin clapping with Kawana and Ikuno and the rest of the audience. However, this time I hear a section of the audience applauding far louder, accompanied by some whistling. The familiar girl steps forward on stage. Her perfect posture and haughty expression take on an immeasurably elegant, refined aura as she stands where Ms. Sakamoto was but a moment ago. She gives a simple bow and moves the flute to her lips.

Her flute playing technique is flawless. The piece she is playing is vaguely familiar, and hauntingly beautiful. It casts images in my mind of a lonely traveller in the desert at night. Of loss and possibility. Ritsu stands on stage, her eyes closed, perfectly still but for her fingers as they move across her instrument.

As the piece approaches its climax, her focused expression falters for the briefest of seconds. There is the slightest hiccup in the note before she continues on unhindered. The piece finishes perfectly and is met with the same applause that it started with.

I look over to the source of the louder applause and whistling, paying attention to who her enthusiastic fans are. I notice a group of male students from my class. The quiet silver haired boy who sits beside Kawana is clapping enthusiastically, the rather large boy who seems to always be asleep, and coincidentally sits beside Ritsu as well. However, standing up, clapping more vigorously than anybody on stage is the normally rather composed boy who sits in front of Misha.

As the applause dies down, and Ms Sakamoto closes out the event, I lean towards Kawana, tapping her shoulder to get her attention.

"That piece that Ritsu played. It sounded somewhat familiar. Do you know what it is called?"

Kawana nods.

"Yes, it is called ' Syrinx' by Claude Debussy. It is beautiful is it not?"

I nod in reply as we begin to stand up and join the audience in returning to the festivities.

---

"We never did see our class' booth today. What was it that they were doing?"

I adjust my sitting position on the blanket we have laid out in the garden. The smell and shade of the zelkova tree have become all the more familiar in these past days. It was only yesterday that I spent the day arranging flowers with Kawana. Although I am sure my friends would be jealous of us sitting here watching the orange dusk sky.

"We're just doing a generic cafe. I managed to get us out of doing shifts. Well, myself anyway."

Ikuno, sitting on my left side folds her arms and pouts slightly as she says this. Hinting at more to this story.

"I still believe it would have been more fun to do a haunted house again."

Kawana, on my right replies. However, her reply causes Ikuno's mouth to drop open, looking utterly scandalized.

"Really Misaki? After we put you in charge of it last year? You didn't forget what happened did you?"

This has piqued my curiosity. Folding my arms I look at Kawana, happy to take the bait.

"Okay Ikuno, I'll bite. What happened?"

Eager to vent her supposed outrage, Ikuno is happy to oblige.

"Last year, Misaki lead the charge for our class to put on a haunted house. Although, Misaki found the idea of simply a dark room and some students wearing sheets to be 'too pedestrian'. She decided to take inspiration from all those creepy movies and books she's into.

She emptied out the entire classroom, added some soundproof lining and covered all the walls in boards painted black. When enough visitors came in, she shut the doors and lights. 'Sensory deprivation' she called it. Unknown to everybody in there, she had rigged the speakers to play what was it?"

"Infrasound. Low frequency sound that the human ear cannot hear. It is known to cause feelings of intense discomfort and fear."

Kawana cuts in, answering Ikuno's question before allowing her to continue.

"Anyway. After about ten or fifteen minutes, she turned on a projector that showed disturbing images, nothing violent or stuff that could get us in trouble, but crawling bugs, meat being cut. At the same time, the speakers suddenly started playing the sound of squealing pigs. It... well.. we had to shut it down after the first time because some kids and a woman fainted."

"It was certainly more interesting, and more responsible than Suzu's idea of dressing Miki up in 'bloody rags' with a prop chainsaw on her arm and let her run around school."

Kawana tries to defend her actions, but it seems, despite her obviously valid point, Ikuno is undaunted.

"And that's not even mentioning the ectoplasm incident. Did you know how many hoops Shizune had to jump through to make that go away?"

Kawana nods her head. Obviously unable to argue that point. Although I'm afraid to ask what is involved with that.

---

The orange sky has faded to darkness, interrupted by the gentle dance of stars that paints its dark canvas. The din of the crowd that has gathered in the gardens in the past half hour is punctuated by the snoring on my left.

Ikuno seems content to use my shoulder as a pillow, happily snoring away, a small string of drool runs from her mouth and down my shirt collar. I look to Kawana, who is watching my predicament with an amused smile.

"Are you afraid to wake your sleeping companion?"

I smile and nod at Kawana's question.

"If she's tired she's tired. I can't say I blame her considering how frantic everybody has been this week I'm sure she's not the only one exhausted."

Kawana nods.

"You too, Nakai. Do not discount the energy used in adjusting to an alien environment. I am surprised you are not also asleep as well. Although I am glad. I will not be alone in enjoying today's crescendo."

What does she mean by crescendo? Kawana looks at her watch before looking up, gesturing at the sky. As I look up I see the first flash of colour, and the crack of fireworks. This is followed by another, the display lighting up the sky, and all around us in its kaleidoscope of colours.

The display holds my attention for a few moments before I look at my companion. Her usually neutral, almost expressionless face is staring at the sky in a childlike wonderment. The awed smile prominent on her face. Her dark, intense eyes relaxed and wide eyed, focused on the display above us. She holds Nyan Nyan close to her chest, like a child holding a precious teddy bear.

Kawana is usually so guarded. Her distant, public face is the very model of the elegance of old nobility. Yet in these few days I have bore witness to seeing that mask slip.

Her eyes turn to meet mine. Her smile remains, no attempt to try and regain her composure. She raises Nyan-Nyan higher up so I can see, and playfully moves his paw as if it was waving at me. I respond with a smile, holding back a small bout of laughter.

Kawana moves herself closer, her shoulder resting against mine. I feel her hand resting on my wrist.

"Thank you for coming with us today. And for my new friend."

Her voice is very quiet, I struggle to hear it above the crack and whistle of the display above us.

"No, Kawana. You invited me along. So thank you for today."

And for tomorrow, and for all the days after.

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ArtLucio
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Re: Respice Adspice Prospice - A Misaki Kawana Pseudo Route

Post by ArtLucio » Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:58 pm

Ikuno is very cool. I hope hisao does not hurt her.

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Mirage_GSM
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Re: Respice Adspice Prospice - A Misaki Kawana Pseudo Route

Post by Mirage_GSM » Fri Jan 04, 2019 1:38 pm

Very nice!
You probably shouldn't have given away that it's about MIsaki. That would have been a good twist for later on...
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
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Sore wa himitsu desu.

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Beeronious
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Re: Respice Adspice Prospice - A Misaki Kawana Pseudo Route

Post by Beeronious » Sun Jan 06, 2019 5:16 pm

Mirage_GSM wrote:
Fri Jan 04, 2019 1:38 pm
You probably shouldn't have given away that it's about MIsaki. That would have been a good twist for later on...
I had actually thought of that.
However, I like the idea of the Ikuno thing going on, and the reader knowing it is doomed. Maybe I'm just a sadist.

Hanako Fancopter
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Re: Respice Adspice Prospice - A Misaki Kawana Pseudo Route

Post by Hanako Fancopter » Thu Jan 10, 2019 8:29 pm

ayyy it's about time this fic was posted. Obviously I've read it already and I like it. Look forward to its continuation

PersonR12
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Re: Respice Adspice Prospice - A Misaki Kawana Pseudo Route

Post by PersonR12 » Mon Jan 28, 2019 5:36 pm

Love this fic, read the original before but I think it's an improvement. I have a shit memory when it comes to things like this but just keep up the good work and I can't wait for more to come out!
I am a human person.

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Razoredge
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Re: Respice Adspice Prospice - A Misaki Kawana Pseudo Route

Post by Razoredge » Wed Jan 30, 2019 4:38 am

I must admit, I'm really interested in this story. I kinda like crossovers, when it's well done. So, I'm intrigued. I will look forward to this story with pleasure. For now, it's pretty nice.
Lilly = Akira > Miki = Hanako > Emi > Rin > Shizune

Stuff I'm currently writing : Beyond the haze : A Lilly Satou pseudo-route & Razor's One Shots & misc.

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Beeronious
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Re: Respice Adspice Prospice - A Misaki Kawana Pseudo Route

Post by Beeronious » Wed Jan 30, 2019 5:06 am

Razoredge wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 4:38 am
I kinda like crossovers, when it's well done. So, I'm intrigued. I will look forward to this story with pleasure. For now, it's pretty nice.
Thanks for the comment. But I'm curious where you got the crossover part from. I'm guessing you mean Misaki.

I briefly played One: Kagayaku Kisetsu e, but stopped when Misaki appeared as I was working on developing this story and the two were... quite different.

Although I do have a crossover story I am working on. I am planning on finishing the second chapter this weekend and then editing fun.

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Razoredge
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Re: Respice Adspice Prospice - A Misaki Kawana Pseudo Route

Post by Razoredge » Wed Jan 30, 2019 5:21 am

Yes, I meaned that, obvioulsy.
Lilly = Akira > Miki = Hanako > Emi > Rin > Shizune

Stuff I'm currently writing : Beyond the haze : A Lilly Satou pseudo-route & Razor's One Shots & misc.

MrMadrid
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Re: Respice Adspice Prospice - A Misaki Kawana Pseudo Route

Post by MrMadrid » Wed Apr 10, 2019 5:24 am

Very good act 1 and characterization, the way in which Kawana is so formal is almost always a little refreshing, taking into account the lighter atmosphere of Yamaku. Very good development and I look forward to a next part.

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