Rin Epilogue: The Long Road (Updated 15/10/2019)

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MoashLannister
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Joined: Sun May 12, 2019 11:19 pm

Rin Epilogue: The Long Road (Updated 15/10/2019)

Post by MoashLannister » Sun May 12, 2019 11:44 pm

This is a Rin Epilouge fic that takes places just a few days after her Good End. This is only part one of something I hope to expand far into the future.

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Chapter 1: Assurance

The sunlight on my face reminded me of the passage of time, and I gently open my eyes to the familiar sight of my dorm room. Letting out a yawn, I reluctantly get up and stare at nothing at all. Summer vacation was still underway, a couple of weeks before a majority of Yamaku’s students return from wherever they went, and the routine of mundane classes, cliques, and exam pressure resumes.

Sighing to no one in particular, I get up and immediately take my daily dose of pills, a habit I’ve been forced to acquire in order to ensure my survival. When I down the last of them, I look out my window and stared at the empty campus, wondering what to do with my day. Admittedly, that was a question I’m asking myself more and more often.

A knock on my door quickly breaks me out of thoughts as I approach the door. I have a sinking suspicion on who it is, and as I open the door my suspicions were soon confirmed as the familiar sight of Rin stood outside my doorway.

“You know, I always wondered how you manage knock on my door.” I ask. Admittedly not something you’d say to most people, but if nothing else, Rin does not qualify for “most people”, in too many ways to realistically describe.

She looked at me with her usual flat stare. “I use my feet.” She replied in a neutral tone of voice. “Of course, I could also use my head, but I would hurt my head. And then if I hurt my head I would need a band aid over it, and then the doctor would get mad at me for using my head, even though teachers like it when students use their head. But then “using your head” and “using your head” means different things, even though the words are the same…”

She stops herself before she could go any further with her tangent and slumps her shoulders down, her face contorting slightly, as if resisting the urge to continue. “Good morning, Hisao. Want to eat breakfast?” She mutters out after a brief silence.

“Sure, just let me get changed.” I say, and with only a slight amount of hesitation. “You can come in, if you’d like.”

Rin doesn’t respond, instead just walking in and sitting on my bed. I close the door and close the curtains and start taking off my clothes, feeling only slightly self conscious as I did so. Looking back, I see that Rin doesn’t even seem to notice that I’m stripping down, staring at some part of my room I’m certain only she can understand in her own special way. It’d probably be a bit emasculating for a girl to ignore a guy taking off his clothes, but it’s fine for me, especially in this case.

And so began our usual song and dance with each other. It’s been a couple of days since the day she came to my room, all soaked and wet from the pouring rain. A day I’d soon never forget in my mind, though not entirely for the reasons I want it to be.

Ever since then, while I would hesitate calling us “in a relationship”, we have ticked off a lot of the checkboxes. She would often come to my room and ask me for breakfast before she had to go for remedial classes, and we would often hang around our rooms when her classes were done, and I will admit to have slept in the same bed as her on a couple of those occasions. We even went to the Shanghai one of those days, in what many people would consider a date.

But…

Those words: “relationships”, “dates”, they weren’t accurate terms. If held at gunpoint and asked to properly describe my association with the red-haired girl still staring at that corner of my room, I’d ask the shooter to get it over with and pull the trigger. We weren’t an ordinary couple, if we were a couple at all. We didn’t say affectionate words to each other, the days didn’t go by with us staring lovingly into each other eyes. Instead we spent our time merely being with each other, mostly silent save for the odd conversation. Not a bad arrangement, per se, but a rather benign one.

Perhaps most damning of all, was the metaphorical chasm between our views on the world. She sees thing so wildly different that it was a headache simply to talk to her sometimes. Our conversations never seem to equate to anything resembling equilibrium between us, much to both our chagrins.

We were, in essence, on two separate universes. And I’m alright with that. I’ve learned, through anger and tears, to be alright with that.

Stopping my train of thought for now, I finish buttoning up the final one of my uniform. I turned to Rin, who was still staring off into the distance, and gently placed a hand on her shoulder. Her eyes immediately snap to mine. “Breakfast?”

“No, I haven’t eaten breakfast yet.” She responded, matter-of-factly.

“Would you like to?” I responded, ignoring the fact that it wasn’t the question I asked.

She nodded once and we quickly went out of my room towards the cafeteria.

The walk was a slow one, neither of us pressing for time. As usual, a silence formed between us. Rin had nothing she wanted to talk about, and frankly, I didn’t either.

I used to hate silence, it reminded my so much of those awkward days back at my hospital ward, where no one could find the courage to speak to me, and I didn’t have the courage to speak to them either. It only got worse when, one by one they slowly stopped coming, capping it off with the girl that witnessed my heart attack in the first place. Iwanako.

I wonder if she got my letter by now. Would she reply back, or has she truly moved on and would rather cut me off from her life. It was an useless sentiment to have, I realize, but I was still caught thinking about it.

“I don’t like it when you look like that.”

I turned to look at Rin, who dug into me with those piercing emerald eyes of hers. She looks, or at least I think she looks, slightly worried. “Eyebrows furrowed, slight frown. You look like a statue at a cathedral. Are you a statue?”

“No.” I reply. Leave it to Rin to make me flustered by comparing me to a statue. “Sorry. Just...thinking about something.”

“Then don’t” She replied. “Don’t think about it.”

Heeding her advice, I filed that thought away and simply enjoyed my walk with Rin. Nowadays, silence was simply something that happened between Rin and I, another fact that I had to accept about us. She will only speak when she wants to, because that’s how she is. No use in changing that.

Maybe one day I’d like to further solidify what’s between us, “move the goalposts” as it were. But for now I’m simply taking things one day at a time. The future can wait. That’s why it’s the future.

---------------------------

The cafeteria was a ghost town, though some students were still there, sitting in distant seats eating their breakfast or talking to the person seated next to them. I directed Rin towards a table and began getting food for the both of us. It wasn’t anything special, just sliced apples and a milk carton, but food was food.

Without even asking, I handed a slice of apple and held it in front of her. She pressed her mouth forward and eat it, lingering on my fingers just a bit before pulling back, and I couldn’t help but utter a smile. It was nice to know that there were things I can expect from her, however mundane it may be. And yes, I do enjoy the feeling of her mouth on my fingers, an oddly pure act for something so dirty.

“So, what’s for classes today?” I ask. Classes were a boring topic, but an important one.

“Science. Mostly Physics.” Rin replied as I fed her another apple slice. “I’m so not that good at that. Have you ever asked a taxi driver to fly a plane? Physics is like that to me. Though I’ve never drove a taxi or flown a plane...”

I simply nodded back at her and handed her another slice. “I can help you, if you’d like. Physics is probably the only the only subject I have complete confidence in.”

Rin closes her eyes in contemplation. “Mmm...can you teach me why hair gel makes people’s hair stand up?”

“No, but I can at least teach you how to pass your exams, I think.”

At that, Rin looks down and onto the ground. “Exams...sounds weird. Like a beehive that has wasps instead of bees.”

“Nervous?”

“I need to pass, so I’m told. Otherwise I won’t get into college.”

“Have you thought about college much?” I ask as I pierced the milk carton with my straw.

“No, I haven’t. Been thinking about other things.” She said, more a statement than an admission. I always wondered if Rin was capable of anything other than other than a blank statement. Another mystery, I guess. “I don’t know what to do after I graduate.”

I stayed silent, not because I don’t know what to say, but because I’m frightened that I know exactly what to say. Why don’t you go to an art college? A voice in my head wanted to say, and I promptly shoved that voice down the deepest metaphorical well I can find.

The subject of her painting wasn’t something we’ve brought up ever since that day on the hill. I’m not sure if she still painted or not with how much remedial classes has been eating her schedule, but I wasn’t about to push her into saying anything she wasn’t going to. It wasn’t even the idea of Rin painting itself that worried me, but rather the...potential discussions that it could lead too.

Past experience has taught me to steer away from that issue, at least for now. Even though we’re comfortable with one another, I’m not going to overstep my bounds unless absolutely necessary.

“I’ve...read a couple of brochures after exams. I’m pretty sure I want to get into Physics.” I responded, trying to change the target of the subject. “Still not sure about the specifics, but that is generally the field I should go in, since I it’s the one I have the best grades on.”

She contemplates that further, as if that statements has the weight on the world. “So you’re doing it because you’re the best at it.”

“Yeah, but also because I want to. I like physics, I like learning more about it. How it works, how the word works. It just feels...right to me.”

She glances at me, her eyes moving side to side. And without warning she suddenly stands up. “I need to go. Classes.”

Please tell me I didn’t say something wrong….again...

Without a word, Rin stood up and walked away, leaving me with the same question I had at the beginning of a day. Deciding that I might as well fill the time with something familiar, I head over to the library to read.

------------------------

The library was, like most of the school, a ghost town. I browse through the ever familiar shelves, picking a book at random and headed over to my usual spot.

Surprisingly, my little corner of the place was not empty. Sitting on a nearby purple beanie was Hanako. She seemed to engrossed in her book to really notice me, so I simply sat two beanies beside her and begin opening up my latest read.

It seemed that after a while, she finally noticed me as I heard a soft but very audible gasp. Glancing over, I noticed that she’s staring right at me, her delicate looking face and quivering body making me slightly uncomfortable. Ok, perhaps a little more than slightly.

“Do you...want me to move?” I offer.

“N-no, you don’t have to…” She quickly responded, as if she offended me. “I-I just didn’t expect anyone else t-to be here.”

“That makes the two of us.” I wryly noted. “Summer vacation emptied this place quite a bit.”

I recall a similar scene happening like this with her, during my first days at Yamaku, of which I can barely recall anything from that time, apart from a certain scene involving lunch at the art club. A distant scene from another life, another person. “You seem to enjoy what you’re reading, seeing as you didn’t notice me come here.”

Her body shook ever so slightly at that, as if she were about to leap out at any moment. Her hands tensed, and she finally spoke. “Y-yes, it’s this b-book about a king who went of to fight a giant. I-it’s very good.”

“Maybe I’ll get around to it sometime.” I said. No further conversations happened after that as we both returned to absorbing ourselves into the written words of others in a peaceful, but awkward silence.

“U-um, Hisao?” I heard her voice call out. “W-what are you reading?”

“Oh, this.” I say, not looking away from my book. I get the feeling facing her would make things more awkward than it is. “Nothing special, just a collection of Japanese poems. Not really my cup of tea, but it’s not putting me to sleep.”

“O-oh, t-that’s nice.” She responded, and another silence began.

I can’t say for sure how much time passed with us minding our own business, but it seemed to pass by sluggishly as I continued my read. Eventually a rumbling in my stomach indicated that I wanted to eat something and I stood up to stare at my watch. 11 o’clock.

I looked to see that Hanako was just about done with her book as well, and she was just sitting there, looking nervously around the room.

“It’s lunch time. Are you going to go to the tea room?” I ask. She turned around to look at me, a distraught look on her face. Smooth, Nakai.

“U-um, no…T-there’s no one there.” She meekly responded.

“I thought you had lunch with...Lilly, was it?” I say. I recall that part too, though I admittedly felt ashamed that I wasn’t able to recall much of her. A definite downside to hanging out with Rin so much, every other day felt blurry in comparison.

“S-she left for Scotland.” Hanako said, and I could almost see the tears welling up in her eyes, even as she was trying not to. “H-her family wanted her to join them there, s-so she left.”

Well, that definitely explains things. As far as I know, Lilly is the only person Hanako ever remotely speaks to in Yamaku. For her to leave probably meant that she doesn’t have anyone around for her to talk to, much less hang out.

Alone, isolated, distant from everyone and everything. It reminded me a lot of Rin, despite the two radically different personalities. The colors were different, but the canvas remained the same.

Should I reach out?

“Well, I’m heading to the cafeteria to eat.” I said, more bluntly than I intended. “If you want to come along, you’re free to.”

My proposition shocked her, and it seems she didn’t entirely register what I was saying at first. However, she eventually gave a slight nod, even as her expression continued to be one of slight fear. “O-okay…”

Well then, not the most encouraging of starts, but a start nonetheless. Putting our books at their respective shelfs, I made my way to the cafeteria for the second time today, Hanako trailing behind.

--------------

Lunch was a rather simple serving of curry and vegetables, a meal I’m convinced was made up by the cafeteria workers at the last minute. The two of us sat at the corner, far away from the two or three remaining students here.

I put a spoonful of the curry to my mouth, stuffing it down without tasting any of its blandness. Across from me, Hanako ate her meal more delicately, scooping it up and slowly putting it to her mouth. I’m not sure if she either enjoys the meal or that’s simply how she eats most of her meals.

Conversation was pretty much nonexistent between the two of us. I wasn’t exactly sure how to talk to her, and seeing as how I barely know how to talk the girl I happen to be in love with, I doubt I’ll be giving advice on that subject any time soon. So we both silently ate our meals, tolerating each other’s company.

“U-um, H-Hisao…” I looked up, slightly taken aback that the silence was broken. “W-why did you want to e-eat with me?”

I pondered that question while I ate the rest of my lunch. Giving her my actual reason (that her situation reminded me of Rin) would probably only make things weird, but on the other hand, lying isn’t exactly a good solution. So I decided, like with many of my decisions recently, to cut a middle ground between the extremes.

“I figured you want some company.” I said, trying to sound as non threatening as I possibly could. “With Lilly gone, I figured you haven’t hung out with anyone at all lately. Am I right?”

Hanako said nothing, and I wondered for a second if I overreached. But in the end she gave me a light nod. So far so good.

“I won’t pressure you to hang out with me or anything, but if you need someone to be there for you, I think I can do that.” I gave her a light smile, hoping to ease her anxiety. “You can also talk to me about anything you’d like.”

“A-anything?” She asked. I wasn’t sure if it was out of curiosity or desperation.

“Yeah.”

“U-um...it’s just that…” She started stammering, before finally letting it all out. “AreyouandTezukadating?”

The question flew by so quickly I almost didn’t catch it. But there it was, a question that was Hanako’s mind, and certainly on mine.

“Ehhh…” I mutter out, which only caused Hanako to shrink back in horror. “No, no, I’m not mad you asked that.” I quickly let out to try and save face, though that doesn’t seem to be working as she continues to look down onto the cafeteria floor. “It just...came out of left field.”

Hanako doesn’t look convinced, though she did at least reply. “I-it’s just, people see you with T-Tezuka a lot, a-and they say you two are…”

She doesn’t continue with her sentence and instead opts for eating her remaining curry, though at a much faster pace than before. I take the time to process what she said, about there being rumors that Rin and I are dating.

Should I be flattered, that people are perceiving a scenario that I so desperately want? Should I be sad, that said perception is far off from the actual reality of things? Should I be mad that people are prying into things not involving them?

I push those thoughts aside like I do so many things. First things first, is to give a straight answer to Hanako.

“It’s...complicated.” I admit. “We aren’t exactly romantic with each other, but we’re definitely not “just friends”. Honestly, I don’t know what we are. We just...are”

“O-oh…” Hanako said, sounding slightly disappointed. “T-that’s...weird.”

“Tell me about it.” I mutter out as I finish the last of my mediocre meal and stood up, throwing my tray into the garbage bin. Checking my wristwatch tells me that it’s 1pm. Still some time before Rin’s finished with remedials, but I don’t feel like going to the library anymore.

“U-um, sorry if I disturbed you, Hisao.” Hanako said as she discarded her own tray. “I-I’ve got to go, so I-I…”

“Yeah. See you later.” I said, looking at her with a straight face. “If you ever need to talk, just ask. I mean it. I need to kill time off summer vacation somehow.”

Hanako simply nodded before parting ways with me. Alone again, I decided to go to the one place that I haven’t been to at all lately, though not for lack of wanting. It was arguably the place where my life here truly began.

---------------

The rooftop was empty, as expected. Walking up to the chain link fence, I looked at the school courtyard below. It looked devoid of activity. No students walking about, no distant voices of conversations. I couldn’t help but feel a little sad at that.

I decided to lay down on the rocky ground and stared at the blue sky. The endless array of clouds moved slowly by as I let out a quiet sigh. Closing my eyes, I finally let all my excess thoughts out, one by one.

The most immediate one that comes to my mind was Rin, and where I want to go with her. It’d be nice to think that we could graduate together, enter a college not far apart from one another and maybe move into the same place together, but I know that for what it was: an ideal scenario in my head, a fantasy that has a very likely chance of not working out.

Right now, graduation wasn’t even a guarantee, for her more than myself. I promised myself to help her however I can, but in the end her grades are something I can’t really decide, though I can certainly try my best to aid her.

But that was the lesser of two problems. The bigger issue was very much her and her art, and what she was going to do with it. I don’t know where she wants to take it, and I am very scared on pushing her in directions she doesn’t want to. At the same time, she does eventually need to decide a career for herself, and I can’t see anything other than art being her true calling.

Another future problem, but the future was inching closer. For as much as we like to forestall, hard decisions come closer, day by day.

My thoughts suddenly drifted towards another direction, as if my mind were lost in a sea of memories. I recall a couple of rather passionate calls from my parents about visiting during summer break. I declined the offer, but I do admit the fact that I have to come home to them eventually, probably during Winter.

“Home”. It felt weird, saying that word when in reference to my old place. True, my parents were there. But all my friends have moved on to bigger and better things, and my parents were doing just fine without me, working away the hours. In essence, my absence showed how unessential my presence truly was.

I hold no resentment towards that fact, merely acknowledgement. That place that I used to call home can no longer be considered such, at least to me. Yamaku is my home, it was where I had my friends, few they may be, it was where I learned to be a person again, and it was here that I met the girl I want to be with.

But...it couldn’t be my home forever. Time and graduation will part me from this place, and then the question becomes: where will my home be then?

That’s in the future, live in the present.

I set aside my many questions, opening my eyes. Surprisingly, the sky was still blue and not orange as I suspected. I took to looking the clouds again. Some took shapes that I can vaguely recognize as objects, others simply “were”, not taking any resemblance of anything I recognize, though I’m sure Rin could come up with descriptors for all of them.

Yet all of them were drifting in the same direction, towards something. There was solace to be had in that, that even clouds were moving towards something.

The rest of day was simply spent looking at the sky. It wasn’t like reading a book, there was no fixed story, no sequence of events for the work to either follow or defy, and certainly nothing resembling what I was going through. It was merely the sky, and infinite expanse of blue, with only clouds dotting its vast framework.

And yet, it captured me all the same. I couldn’t tell how long I spent simply marveling at the simple sight before me, but I could see the color shift from blue to orange by the time I was done with it. What thoughts were through my head or what conclusions I got from that experience, even I couldn’t say.

All I know is that I have a girl to meet up with.

----------

Walking down the stairwell and into the hall, I open the door to 3-2 and saw that it was empty save for her. Rin was staring out the window into the sky much like me at the rooftop. I quietly took a seat and sat down, not wanting to disturb her thoughts.

Looking at her again, I waited patiently. Perhaps that was the one thing I was missing during those days with her, the patience needed to truly care for her despite my lack of understanding. I have no doubt that much more patience was needed if I was ever going to stand by her.

I worry that I don’t have enough, but I will stand by her anyways.

She eventually turns around, though she doesn’t seem surprised to see me sitting there. A slight frown was on her face, and her eyes gave away all sorts of emotions within her, as if she were about to break down. Seeing her like that, I walked up to her and immediately wrapped my arms around her, and she sunk into my grasp, her head sinking into my chest.

“I didn’t ask for a hug.” Rin muttered out. She wasn’t crying, but the look on her face just now spoke more to me than tears ever could.

“I know.” I responded softly. “I felt like you needed one.”

Instead of going on a tangent, Rin simply stays silent as her head nuzzled my chest. We stayed like that for a little while, silently enjoying the other’s warmth. But Rin eventually broke apart, her eyes locking onto mine.

“Was that a good hug or a sad hug?” She asked, her face confused. “I couldn’t tell because it felt good, but it also felt a little sad. Like eating a sweet with a pill in the middle.”

“I don’t know, maybe a bit of both.” I responded uncertainty. “Come on, I think we should get dinner.”

--------------

“Sorry, they ran out of melon bread.” I said as I sat on the bench beside her, two vending machine bread on my hand. “So I just bought red bean.”

Rin doesn’t respond so I simply unwrapped the two paper wrappings and held one up to her, she quickly took a bite as I took one out of my own. The sun has almost completely set, and the stars could be seen out into the sky.

“You don’t talk to me as much anymore.” Rin noted in between bites. The slightly vulnerable look from earlier had vanished, leaving Rin looking like how Rin usually does, completely unreadable. “You used to speak to me a lot more, but now it’s like your mouth needs to recharge.”

“I figured I’d wait for you to speak up.” I admit as I took another bite out of my bread, the red bean leaving a sweet aftertaste. “You’ll talk to me when you want to, and I respect that.”

“But what about when you want to?” Rin asked.

I quickly took another bite of my bread to delay answering that question, however short. “Whenever I seem speak to you on my own terms.” I say slowly, and try my damndest to not sound even the least bit accusatory. “I always seem to say the wrong thing, or say it in the wrong way to you, and it ends up hurting you. I don’t want to do that.”

“So you decided to become silent.” Rin noted. “Like those mimes on TV that try to make invisible boxes.”

I nodded.

Rin says as she takes another bite out of her bread and looks away. “You say a lot of stuff. Sometimes you say a lot of things I don’t really get. And you say things that I hate sometimes. But then you also say things I want to hear, and things that are right. You’re like a gacha machine, but instead of toys you just...spew out words instead, except without the colorful capsules.”

I...wasn’t sure what to make of that. “So, what things do I say right?”

“The things you say right are right.” Rin said, leaving me just as confused as before. “Have I said anything right to you?”

A single line immediately recalls itself to my mind. It was said rather flatly all in all, but the words it contained had its impact on me, and still does.

“On that field...when you told me you love me.” I answered, taking a deep breath. Might as well let it all out. “After we went home, and I went to bed, I thought of that moment a lot with you out on the field. I realized that I...was really happy you said that, and that I love you as well.”

Rin seems to register the gravity of my words, or at least I think she does. She looks at me, her gaze unwavering.

“Did I...say something wrong again?” I ask, preparing for the worst.

But she smiled. By God she smiled. It was a soft, gentle smile. A smile that I will forever remember as the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. “No. I think...you said something right that time. The me before I met you didn’t love you, and the me that met you also didn’t love you. But the me here, the me right now loves you, even though I’m afraid of you and I don’t know you sometimes...”

It wasn’t a direct “I love you.”, but at that point I didn't care. I felt like a massive weight was lifted off me. She loves me. For all our troubles understanding one another, she really does love me.

How could I not love her back, looking at me like that?

I press my head forward and kiss her on the lips. We haven’t exactly kissed a lot, and one of those was when she was high on medicine, but damn it if there was a time for it, it was right here in this moment.

It helped that she didn’t seem to mind as her mouth opened to my touch. I pressed my lips on hers further, savoring the feeling, the vindication of both our feelings. I’m pretty sure the buns I was holding fell to the ground, but how could I care when this is so much sweeter?

She loves me.

I reluctantly pull back, my head still awash from euphoria. “Rin, I…” I try to stattemer out what I wanted to say. A million different sentences wanted to be spoken at once: apologies, promises, questions.

“Talk. Please talk.” Rin said, the faint smile still on her lips. I think this was the longest I’ve seen her ever holding a smile, and I wish it never ended. “You’re like a radio station. You play whatever you wish to.”

“A...radio station? You mean like music?” I asked jokingly.

“No, more like those stations that do nothing that talk all day. What’s the word…?” Rin said and looked up, as if she could find her answer among the stars.

I shook my head in disbelief. What is it about this girl that makes everything she does so mesmerising?

“And if I play something you don’t like. Would you change the channel?” She shook her head in return. That was all I needed to hear.

The rest of the night was spent, as she requested, talking. We didn’t talk about anything important, like our future or even about our relationship, just whatever it is that popped up in our heads. Sometimes she would say something I couldn’t grasp, and I’d simply stayed silent.

She spoke anyways, going on long tangents about insects and humans and other things how it all worked out in her head. She never seemed to be frustrated that I couldn’t see what she sees, only appreciative that I was listening.

Would every moment with her be this happy, I thought. Probably not, but I’m alright with that.

I couldn’t remember how late it was when we finally stopped speaking, but we did eventually have to call it a night. Rin gave me a brief hug and I hugged her in return, speaking nothing. Some things require more than words.

“I won’t run away from myself.” She said, determined. “I am me.”

“I wouldn’t have you any other way.” I responded, and reluctantly parted ways with her. I could tell a wide grin was plastered on my face. But I didn’t care.

------------------

*RING RING*

A buzzing noise on my phone broke me out of that sweet reverie. Oh well, better now than earlier. I picked it out of my pocket and recognized a familiar name on the screen. Mom.

Well, this was a long time coming.
“Uh, hello?” I asked, holding the phone to my ear. I wasn’t sure if it was because of my previous trip to cloud nine, or it being so long, but I immediately regretted my decision.

“Hicchannnn~” A loud voice called out and I pulled back my head immediately, my ears ringing. Right, I forgot. Mom has no indoor voice. “It’s been so long, why haven’t you called your own mother?!?”

“Sorry, sorry.” I said, partly out of genuine guilt and partly to quiet her down. “Things have been busy at Yamaku. I was actually planning on calling you during Summer Vacation.”

Unfortunately, she doesn’t buy it one bit. “Are you really so busy that you can’t call your parents once in a while? Your father and I have been worried sick about you.”

I almost wanted to retort about how they barely worry about me at all before the incident, but thankfully I didn’t vocalize my thoughts. No need to make things ugly, especially on a night like this. Instead I decided to change the subject.

“So, you just got off work, huh?” I said. Mom usually never calls during work, and it was pretty late, around the time where she would be done with her shift. “How are things with you and Dad?”

“Things are going fine.” She said in a cheery tone, like one you’d hear from a commercial selling vaguely useful products. “I recently got a small bump in my salary, and your father is working hard for a promotion.”

“I...see.” Not exactly the answer I wanted to hear, but it’s nice to know we’re not in crippling debt at least. “Um, listen. Sorry I didn’t come home.. I had a lot of things to sort out at Yamaku, and I didn’t want to leave any loose ends.”

“I understand, Hicchan.” Mom’s voice took on a more serious tone. “I know you’ve made your own life there, and I respect that. But you know that we still care for you too, even if we can’t be there for you all the time.”

“I know, and I’m really sorry.” I responded, feeling guilty at wanting to lash out at them. They’ve been there when I needed them, and sometimes that’s enough. In fact… “Actually, I was thinking about visiting you guys during Winter Break. Would that be alright?”

“Of course! Your father and I would be happy to see you again. We can probably bend our schedules during that time so we can spend more time together. And you can even bring any friends of yours there if you want…”

Bring my friends, huh? Well, there would be one person I wouldn’t going home with on Winter Break, that’s for sure.
“I’ll think about it. It’s getting late, tell Dad I love him, alright?”

“Of course. Love you, Hicchan. Please don’t get into trouble.” And with that, my mom hung up the phone.

It was a slow walk back to my dorm room, and I’m glad that Kenji didn’t ambush me, at least. My first immediate thought was to just lay down on my bed and let sleep claim me, but I quickly reminded myself to take my medication.

After that final, bitter step, I gracelessly allow myself to lie on my bed, close my eyes, and go to sleep.

-----------

The sunlight from my room alerted me to the fact that yesterday has, indeed, ended.

I groggily get out of my bed and take my medication, glad that I was able to sleep through most of its side effects. As I took my final one, I didn’t even ask myself what I was going to do today.

A knock on my door answered that for me, and I opened to see her there.

“Good morning, Rin.”
Last edited by MoashLannister on Tue Oct 15, 2019 6:41 am, edited 6 times in total.

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Re: Rin Epilouge: The Long Road

Post by Feurox » Mon May 13, 2019 6:18 am

This is an okay start. But you’ve got to fix your use of tenses. Even if time-disphporia might fit the character of Rin, it doesn’t seem that you’re doing intentionally.

Still, this is a nice start, and I look forward to what comes next.

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Re: Rin Epilouge: The Long Road

Post by Mirage_GSM » Mon May 13, 2019 8:57 am

Okay, first of all your tenses are all over the place switching between present and past sometimes within the same sentence, and there are even some... creative constructions like:
A day I’d soon never forget
which I'm not even sure whether it is supposed to be present, past or future tense...

Then Hisao seems to have a strange order of priorities when it comes to relationships:
...and I will admit to have slept in the same bed as her on a couple of those occasions. We even went to the Shanghai one of those days...
I mean... "We selpt together a few times, but nevermind that, we even had dinner together once" is strange, or is that just me?

Also quite a few sentences sound as if you never read them aloud or thought about what they actually mean, e.g.:
Maybe one day I’d like to further solidify what’s between us, “move the goalposts” as it were.
That's not what "move the goalposts" means...
The cafeteria was a ghost town...
I couldn’t help but utter a smile
Then there are the inconsistencies of plot:
“So, what’s for classes today?” I ask. Classes were a boring topic, but an important one.
You literally started the story by saying it was still in the middle of the summer holidays... and a few paragraphs later you make it clear that these are supposed to be Rin's remedial lessons, but that's both a bit hard to swallow and too late...

In short this would have needed a lot more editing before posting...
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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Re: Rin Epilouge: The Long Road

Post by Lap » Mon May 13, 2019 10:48 am

I quite enjoyed this. There are a few technical issues, as Mirage & Feurox pointed out, but overall I found the story & tone very fitting for Rin & Hisao, and I look forward to reading more of it. Good stuff.
Avenues of Communication: Shizune suffers an accident.
Akira's Surprise: Akira pays a surprise visit to Lilly, Hanako and Hisao on Christmas eve. S9 Entry.
Arrival: Hanako's first days at Yamaku. (On Hiatus)
Home: Hanako & Hisao at University, sharing an apartment with their friend Lilly (on Ao3).
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Re: Rin Epilouge: The Long Road

Post by Hanako Fancopter » Wed May 22, 2019 2:35 am

Pretty much agree with past comments: Good start, want to see where you go. I like how Hisao has become more like Rin after being with her--he spends a whole section on the roof just staring at clouds for hours.
An Unusual Friendship (Misha x Hanako Route)
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Re: Rin Epilouge: The Long Road

Post by Band of Bones » Sat Jun 01, 2019 10:36 am

I like the tone of that story.

I very much like the conversation where Hisao and Rin tell each other that their relation is not driven by understanding each other on an intellectual level, but by ... what?
The "real" Rin and Hisao are out there together with all the wealth of signals they can send and receive subconsciously, to communicate despite their brains being built so radically different. You only have printed words to convey that happening and I think you are doing a good job of setting the mood.
Maybe some things need to be off for that to work. But for that to work your readers (me at least) need to be sure that things are off for a reason.

Like "A day I'd soon never forget in my mind" - which, while it does not really work, still feels very much like something Rin would say. But it is a thought of Hisao's so what does that mean? If this is Hisao becoming Rinlike, where is a similar scene of Rin becoming Hisaolike? Or is it just something you did not intend to come out like it has? (Like moving the goalposts (making things harder for the other guy by changing the rules in the middle of the game) - which I am pretty sure was not what Hisao actually wanted at that time, and it makes me curious as to what your first language actually is)

Looking forward to your next move.

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Re: Rin Epilouge: The Long Road (Updated 15/6/2019)

Post by MoashLannister » Sat Jun 15, 2019 2:22 am

I've read feedback on my first chapter, and I want to personally thank anyone who takes the time to read through my dreck, knowing how hard it is to sit through. I've tried to take it all into account and will strive to correct any errors I may make, as well as going back and reediting earlier chapters in the distant future.

(Special thanks to Stiles for being my beta reader.)
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Chapter 2: Readjustment

It was an exceptionally bright Sunday morning. The sun was bearing down on the campus with its full force, and the few remaining students opted to wear less clothing to compensate, myself included. I ditched my usual sweater vest, settling on my a simple white uniform and some loose slacks, though I felt it did little to abate the heat.

Rin, despite expressing her usual demeanor, also seemed to feel the heat as she exchanged her usual slacks for a pair of short gym shorts. I didn’t compliment her on her choice of attire, though my eyes definitely enjoyed the sight of her in shorts.

We were currently out in the forest just outside Yamaku. I figured it’d be a nice trip away from the endless remedial classes Rin was having, and I probably needed some exercise to avoid getting chewed out by the Nurse.

If Rin had any thoughts she wanted to share, she didn’t feel like sharing them. I was too out of breath to say anything so the chirping of the birds and the rustling of leaves was all that could be heard during our trek through nature’s domain.

I didn’t really have a set destination in mind when I started this, but sometimes it felt nice not to know where to go, as long as we knew the way back. Besides, it would do Rin some good. She hadn’t seemed particularly eager to go on this walk either after a whole week of non-stop classes, but that was how she is.

After perhaps an hour of continuous walking, my breathing was getting heavy now, and my body felt like it was on fire. I was close to the point of stopping right here and now, but maybe I thought I could go at it a little further…

THUMP. THUMP.

A sharp feeling in my chest immediately made me reconsider that idea. I stopped and placed my hands on my knees as the pain rose and subsequently fell; my breath grew more frantic than before. Mercifully, I wasn’t about to have a heart attack in the middle of the forest. That would certainly be a death sentence.

“Hey, Rin?” I said, hearing the fatigue in my voice. Perhaps I was walking a little longer than I thought. “Let’s take a break here. I think I need it.”

If Rin noticed my little episode, she gave no indication. Nodding once, she walked over to a tree and sat down on the grass, leaning slightly against the trunk. It made for a cute sight, and it took the sting off my chest a bit.

“Thought tree,” she muttered as her head tilted demurely upwards, towards the leaves and the sky above.

“Hm?” I sat down beside her, letting out a deep breath. I was tempted to lean my head down towards her shoulder, but I refrained from doing so.

“This is the thought tree,” Rin declared.

“When did you came up with that?” I questioned, my mind recalling a particular event near the beginning of my stay at Yamaku, not all too dissimilar to this. It’s funny how much I could remember time spent with Rin as opposed to almost anything else. Funny, and a little bit eerie.

“When I came up with it. Just now.” Rin’s eyes were still glued to the canopy above. What I wouldn’t give to see what she sees, even for a few moments.

I loosened my composure slightly and rested my head on the tree. It was actually more comfortable than laying on the rooftop, and just as relaxing once I got in the right mood. Being with Rin has made me mastered the art of simply letting any worries go, and it is a useful skill to have when I just wanted to get away from it all.

“So, what are you thinking, Rin?” I asked, trying not to sound too curious.

“I’m thinking about how penguins look both black and white” Rin started. “Like the yin and yang symbol. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, they’re both black and white and...”

Rin continued on and on about her various thoughts, before finally stopping. She took a few seconds to actually continue, and as I turned to her I could tell from her face that she’s braced herself for the words, the important ones. “And I’m thinking about painting again.”

“Oh?” I responded, trying to sound like it wasn’t a big deal. It was. It was absolutely a big deal, and something I didn’t even know how to approach in the slightest, even if I knew that it must be approached eventually. “So you really haven’t been painting at all this summer?”

“Not since…” Rin cut herself off, her eyes immediately shutting and her lips forming a deep frown. It was obvious to me what she was referring to. The exhibit, and all the painful memories that came with that experience for her. She broke herself trying to express herself to the world, and is only now trying to piece herself back together.

“You don’t need to say it. I know.” I placed a hand on her shoulder, squeezing it slightly to reassure her. “No need to dig up things you don’t want to.”

“But I want to.” Rin said, her voice more confusion than outright sadness. “I want to dig it up and throw it away and bury it again, over and over and over again. Like a person who keeps an old video tape even though he doesn’t want to watch it.”

“Rin…” Damn it, I don’t know what to say to her. My mind was grasping at straws. “It’s...alright. The past is in the past.”

Rin doesn’t seem to find comfort in those words. She continues to stare at the sky, and I could see the uncertainty in her eyes.

“That’s why...I want to paint again. Today,” Rin stated, her voice a whisper. “I need to paint over the me back then, paint it with the me that I am now. And I want you to be with me when I do that.”

“Me? Are you sure?” I asked.

Her gaze finally broke away from the sky, and towards me. The vulnerability in her face was heartrending, and the hand I’d placed on her shoulder was now moving to cup her cheek. She nuzzled against it eagerly, as if she were clinging onto a lifeline.

I needed no other response from her. Her silent pleas were enough for me to understand the request, if not the reason.

“Alright, I’ll watch over you.” I whispered as I closed my eyes. It was the least I could do for her.

I felt the gentle touch of lips on my fingers, and I noticed my smile coming back to me. Rin seems to take comfort in my touch and we let ourselves be for the moment, silently processing what was said. I wanted to feel contemplative and insightful, but all I could think of at the moment is Rin, the problems she’s going through, and how could I possibly help her.

“Rin, do you trust me?” I said quietly, my eyes still shut. The question was out of the blue, I realized, but I needed to ask.

All I could hear was a barely audible “Yes”, and I responded by ruffling her hair. In that instant, I was content.

“Hisao, you’re messing up my hair. Stop.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Once we were back at Yamaku, we decided to part ways temporarily, as she wanted to, in her own words, “get all of myself ready”. As much as I desired to be with her more, I understood that she needed to do whatever it is she needed to do.

I didn’t mind. I was riding a good mood all the way back to school and besides, I was hot and sticky. A shower was in order so I went back to my room, still pleased by what Rin had said.

Towel in hand, I ducked out of my room and had my hand on the bathroom door when I heard another door open behind me.

“Hey man…”

My mood instantly fell. Urgh, I guess a completely peaceful day wasn’t what fate had in mind. I looked to my side and sure enough, Kenji was there in his regular green jacket, complete with the scarf. Does he not feel how hot it was today?

“Hey,”man”. Can I...help you?” I immediately regretted my words. What force would I need to pray so that he didn’t take me up on my offer?

“Actually, yeah.” Kenji said in a slurry voice as he adjusted his glasses. ”There’s something I need you to take care of, my man. Top-secret stuff…”

Damn. Well, you reap what you sow.

“What is it?” I asked with a begrudging tone that he didn’t seem to notice at all.

He reached inside his jacket and immediately pulled out a green envelope. “This letter contains the key to defeating the feminist movement. It is the master plan to end all master plans. It is the culmination of decades studying them and their regime.”

...Well, if nothing else, I can’t blame Kenji’s insanity on heat stroke.

At that point in time, I didn’t even have the willpower to protest. “Alright, alright. Just let me shower and I’ll mail it for you.”

“Yeah, yeah. Thanks man, you’re risking your life for the cause, takes some balls,” Kenji declared with a nod, a self-satisfied smirk on his face. “If you need anything, brother, just ask. I got hands all over the black market. Illegal goods are my speciality.”

And like that, he was gone. I unashamedly looked at the envelop, my morbid sense of curiosity destroyed any sense of politeness I had towards him. It was nothing more than a plain envelope, all in all…

… and addressed to a girl.

I could’ve been wrong, but the name of the receiver was very much a feminine name, which begged the question on why was Kenji supposedly sending “the key to defeating feminism” to a girl? Or did he even knew he was sending it to a girl?

I chalked it up to Kenji being his usual manic self and entered the bathroom for my shower. I made a small note in the back of my mind to mail it after I’m done watching Rin paint.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Once shower was done and over with, I headed over to the entrance to the girls dorm, where Rin was patiently waiting. She had changed into a dull blue smock and white shirt, the quintessential garb of an artist. The look fitted her very well.

Alongside Rin was another person, one I’m familiar with. If her cheerful demeanor and tan skin didn’t give it away, one of her arms ending in a stump certainly did.

“Hey Miki.” I said as she greeted me with a wave of her good hand. “I’m surprised you stayed over for Summer.”

“Sup, Hisao.” Miki responded eagerly, flashing me a grin. In a lot of ways, her cheery attitude reminded me a lot of Emi, though the two are supposedly rivals on the track team. “Didn’t really see a reason to go back home. Family seems fine without me judging by some of the calls they give me.”

That last statement struck a chord with me. Guess I wasn’t the only one feeling irrelevant in that area.

Miki gave me a teasing wink. “So...what’s with you and Tezuka over here? You guys doing something the school shouldn’t know about?”

I felt my cheeks immediately heat up at that verbal jab, which only made Miki prod me further. “Oh, your face is certainly being honest. Don’t worry Hisao, everyone in school knows at this point.”

I make no attempt to defend my position, unsure that it’s even a position I want to actually defend. I looked to Rin for any sign of help, but she simply gave me a neutral glance, as if she didn’t hear anything. I couldn’t tell if that makes me feel better or worse.

“Anyways.” I blurted out. “What are you doing here Miki? You hang out with Rin often?”

“Nah.” Miki said as she started to walk towards me. “I just figured I’d keep an eye on Tezuka, as a fellow dorm mate.”

“She’s watching over me because Emi’s gone.” Rin noted, her eyes darting between the two of us. “She comes in and helps me with stuff sometimes. I prefer Emi though. Or you.”

Instead of taking offense to that, Miki simply glared at me like a hungry predator eyeing its meal. “Oh, she prefers you, huh? I wonder if she’s referring to getting dressed or undressed.”

“Both.” Rin mentioned flatly, leading Miki to burst out laughing at her blatant confession of our intimacy.

...I would say I wanted to die right now, but considering I already have a fatal heart condition, I probably shouldn’t say that unless fate gives me another life threatening problem. As it is, all I could do was bury my head in my hands, the heat in my cheeks increasing exponentially.

“I’ll be heading out now. Have fun, you two.” Miki teased as she walked away with a satisfied smirk on her face. “Try not to break any curfew rules~”

“You know, Rin.” I said exasperatedly once I knew Miki’s out of earshot. First Kenji, now this. “I want to hide somewhere really far away, for the rest of the day.”

“My room isn't far enough.” Rin retorted, turning her back towards the girl’s dormitory. “Come anyways.”

I followed her to her dorm room, thankfully passing by exactly no one on the way. I opened the door for her and we both went in.

Her room was more organized than the last time I visited, a fact I found surprising for some reason. A desk with books and notes stacked up. A dozen posters hung on the wall, painted with Rin’s signature style. And finally a singular easel with a blank canvas, placed between the wardrobe and the bed.

This was actually the second time I’ve been here, the first being the time I came to check up on her when she was sick. The first time was a rather interesting turn of events, to put it mildly.

“You can sit on the bed if you want.” Rin said, and I did as she suggested. She sat down on the floor, which was littered with her other art equipment, her feet deftly moved to grab a brush. And then, she simply sat there, unmoving.

I remained silent for a bit, but then the lack of movement started to get uncomfortable. Rin not painting with a blank canvas in front of her was an unnatural sight. “Nervous?” I asked, and she shook her head.

“Just thinking about what to paint. Weird, my head is empty. Not empty empty, just empty about things that I want to paint.”

From my view on the bed, I could see her eyes concentrating on the blank canvas, as if looking for inspiration on that pure white sheet. Finally, taking a deep breath, she moved her feet and began.

“Don’t look,” she ordered as she brushed a blue line on the canvas. “Bad luck.”

Following her command, I looked away from the canvas. I instead analyzed the already-finished paintings that hung on the wall. They were all different from one another in terms of color and mood, and yet all of them had the same type of incomprehensibility that I’ve come to know from her works.

“Hey, did you remember the last time I came here? When you were sick?” I asked, hoping I sounded casual.

“No.” She responded instantly, and then added. “Don’t talk yet. I want you to talk, but I don’t want you to talk. Like an alarm clock that I want to wake me up, but not at this very moment in time because I just want to sleep more.”

“Mm, alright.” I sighed dejectedly before shutting up, finally accepting that she really doesn’t remember the first time I came here, where we had our first kiss. Not exactly the most romantic first kiss in the world, given the circumstances.

Time passed as I continued my silence, looking awkwardly around the room. I turned to look at Rin at times without looking at what she’s painting, studying her expressions. It felt like I was always trying to study her, like a tricky physics problem or a challenging postulate.

Her eyes were entirely focused on the canvas, her pupils jittered slightly as she added more brush strokes onto it. Her face was like stone, unmoving and unfeeling contrasting with the quick actions of her feet.

I couldn’t see what she was painting, but my limited art experience and my imagination could at least let me guess at how she was making it. A multitude of seemingly unconnected strokes of varying colors filling the canvas, slowly revealing more and more of the overall picture as it gets added, like a beautiful landscape after a foggy mist.

Another stroke was added, then another, then another. Slowly but surely the picture comes to life just as the artist envisioned it to be. I wondered if Rin thought the same way when she’s actually painting, or that was simply how I see it?

“Come look.” Rin said at last. That was fast.

I turned my head to look at what she painted.To my surprise, it wasn’t an abstract piece. In fact, the picture I was staring at was very familiar to me. Short green strokes represented the slight falling of leaves, the light blue background dotted with the occasional white and gray. It was…what she looked at this morning in the forest; the sky blocked by the canopy of leaves.

“I couldn’t think of anything to paint.” Rin said as she looked down at the floor, sounding a little sad. Sure enough, there was a frown on her face, ever so slight. “I try to think of what to paint before but all it does is make me remember the time at the atelier. It’s annoying, so I painted this.”

“Rin…”

“This isn’t me.” Rin acknowledged as she looked at the painting in disappointment. I agreed, the painting was beautiful but it wasn’t...Rin, or rather it wasn’t how she saw things. I liked to think I at least knew that much. “But, the paintings I painted for the exhibit weren’t really me either. They were just what I wanted to show other people, but it still wasn’t me.”

Her words were starting to worry me, so I got off the bed and knelt down beside her, placing a hand on her shoulder. “You can always try again.”

“I tried again and again,” Rin muttered as her face continued to look down. “But it’s like trying to catch a swallow with your hands. You think you can get close but it always flies away. And then it flies back close to you so you try to catch it again and…”

I couldn’t help but sigh at how apt that analogy applied to both our situations.

“Maybe it is impossible for people to truly understand you. I don’t, and I’m not sure if I ever will completely.” I said, both my hands now on her shoulders. “But that doesn’t make your attempts any less important, or meaningless.”

“But why?” Rin lifted her face up to look at me, her eyes seeking answers I don’t fully know. “Why try if they won’t ever understand?”

“Why do you still love me, even if I don’t understand you?” I said softly, returning her question with one of my own. It was both my answer and something I desperately wanted to know.

“I...” Rin stopped and closed her eyes. “I don’t know. I don’t know why I do, I just do. You’re like a part of my brain that wasn't there before. I want you close even if I know you don’t truly know me, but that doesn’t apply to anyone else. Why doesn’t it?”

I sat down on the floor beside her, pulling her close. Even if words couldn’t get through sometimes, these little acts could. Perhaps it would have been enough for the both of us at another time, but not here. I needed to soothe her doubts, even as I fear that I might fail. I’ve always feared that I might fail her, yet I keep trying.

Because I love her.

“I wish I could give you all the answers, but I can’t. Only you can.” I leaned my head against hers until our foreheads were touching. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t help you find your own answer. That’s what I’m here for.”

“Can you?” Rin pleaded with subdued desperation.

I gave her a slight kiss on the cheek. “I can, and I will. It may not be now, or tomorrow, or even a year from now, but you will find an answer you’re satisfied with, and I’ll be there every step of the way. We may be drifting in uncharted territory, but we’ll still be together. I promise.”

It was a really flimsy promise in hindsight, with nothing to back it up, but Rin seemed satisfied as she returned the kiss with one of her own. She closed her eyes again and let out a deep breath before gazing at me. No words were spoken, there was no need to in that instant. Afterwords, Rin sighed and looked at me, a slight flicker in her expression.

“I want to paint again. Hand me another canvas?” Rin said as she separated from me and resumed her previous position. There was a slight fire in her voice, a renewed sense of determination. “It’s in the wardrobe.”

I nodded and moved to open her wardrobe, her voice adding. “Don’t peek at my underwear. Emi says boys like to do that and that I shouldn’t let them.”

A little late for that boundary Rin, considering what we’ve done. But that’s neither here nor there, as I took out another canvas and placed it on the easel.

Another period of time passed as Rin painted on. I leaned on the bed so I could be next to her. I wanted to be as close to Rin as I could get, and by her few glances at me, she seemed to want me close by too.

Distant objects in space can still be affected by their gravitational pull towards each other, I recalled Mutou saying in one of his long-winded lectures. Another apt metaphor for the two of us. Ever distant, yet pulling each other closer.

She burned through the second canvas, and the art was more abstract this time around, though I could barely make some traces of a familiar object here or there. It was a piece that was much more Rin in its nature, but it didn’t seem to satisfy her.

“Mmm, still not right,” Rin noted, though she didn’t seem sad as the last time. If anything, her determination intensified.

“Another canvas?”

She nodded absently, and I went to place another one on the easel.

Time really flew by as Rin painted through another three canvases. Each of her pieces grew more and more distorted as she went along, as if capturing some alien reality. Her eyes never broke away from the easel, and her feet was a blur as she attacked the blank slate in front of her with color and form.

In the end, with five completed pieces spread out on the floor, Rin finally decided that it was time to stop and laid her foot down. The floor was a mess of paints and brushes, and Rin herself was messy and sweaty from all the effort exerted.

“I think you need to clean up,” I suggested, which Rin responded with another absent-minded nod, her mind clearly on the art laid out before her.

Allowing Rin to ruminate on her thoughts, I slowly picked up the scattered art tools around her and gathered it, leaving them in a neat pile in the corner of her room. When I was done, she was still fixated on her works.

Feeling my stomach growl, I asked, “Want me to grab you lunch? I’m sure there’s still stuff in the vending machines.”

“Okay.” Rin said quietly, before laying down on the floor and closing her eyes. She said nothing more, and I walked out the room, leaving Rin alone with her art.

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Returning with two sandwiches in hand, I opened the door to the sound of light snoring. Rin was asleep on the floor, her face an odd expression of both serenity and uncertainty.

I couldn’t help but find it cute, and also that I didn’t have it in me to wake her up at the moment. I simply placed her sandwich on the desk as I sat beside her, eating mine silently, staring at her sleeping face.

While looking, I couldn’t help but wonder what she thought of before she slept. Looking to the five paintings for clues, I could only conclude that she was slowly finding herself again in her art. Painting for her own sake, nobody else’s. It was a hypothesis I was comfortable with.

It wasn’t long before I saw her eyes finally flutter open, looking out the window to the afternoon sky. She looked at me and a smile formed on her face, a sight I hope to remember till the end of my days, for such a sight was too breathtaking for me to describe.

“Good afternoon, Miss Tezuka,” I said coyly, giving her a smile. “Enjoyed your nap?”

“Yes. I didn’t have to think about anything, like how a door doesn’t think even if you opened it or not.” Rin replied, a slight giddiness in her voice. “But now I am thinking, but I’m ok with that. Why am I ok with that?”

“Maybe you’ve finally found your answer.” I stood and handed her the other sandwich. “Your lunch.”

She slowly got up and grabbed it, and started to eat her food. She quickly finished it and suddenly shook her head. “I’m still thinking about it. Take off my clothes, Hisao.”

The last statement threw me off guard, and I eyed her suspiciously. “Rin, I don’t see how the two are related.”

“They don’t,” Rin said, lifting her shoulders up. “But maybe they do, maybe you taking off my shirt will give me my answer, like opening a cocoon and revealing a butterfly. Even if it doesn’t, take it off. It’s hot.”

Well, when my girlfriend asks me to take off her clothes, what kind of guy would I be to refuse? I sat down close to her, my hands slowly wrapping around her waist.

I started with her smocks, unhooking the back and letting it fall down to the floor. I could already feel myself blushing as I got to her shirt, slowly pulling it up until I saw all of Rin’s exposed torso, save for a pale blue bra. Looking up at Rin’s face merely showed me a smile with droopy eyes, and I wondered if she was doing this intentionally to mess with me.

“You like taking off my clothes,” Rin declared with an innocent voice only she could manage in a situation like this. “Like that one time in your dorm room when we had sex.”

“You know, people are usually more subtle when talking about stuff like this,” I said sarcastically as I stared at her body. It was how I remembered it on that rainy day; thin and fragile to the point of being malnourished, but a body I still found beautiful.

“Do they? Emi seems to like talking about it.” Rin said with a smirk. “She talks a lot about being naked, I wonder if she wants to be an animal. Animals don’t wear clothes.”

Ok, this was much more information than I needed.

“Emi is a girl. This is different…” I responded, hesitating to do anything else. She then pressed herself against me, her chest onto mine. My hands tightened their grip around her and my fingers ran down her back, making her tremble slightly.

“You feel so nice, like a pillow,” Rin murmured, her face still buried against my shoulder. “I like it when you’re around. Whenever you’re around, it’s like I’m sick, but a good kind of sick. Is there a good kind of sick?”

“I believe it’s called love,” I murmured back, nuzzling her neck slightly. This all felt like some sweet dream, one I did not wish to ever wake from. “And we’re both infected with it, I’m afraid.”

“Love…” was all she said, leaving the singular word hanging in the air between us. “Sounds weird.”

We stayed like that for a bit, comfortably resting our bodies against each other. I would have suggested that we move to the bed, but the tenderness of that movement was not something I wish to interrupt.

“I’m going to take a shower.” Rin mentioned, her voice hazy as she slowly and reluctantly parted from our embrace. “Then...what do you want to do? I feel like I want to do what you want to do, even though I don’t know what you want to do.”

An idea immediately popped into my head.

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“Hisao, I don’t get this. What do you do?” Rin, clean after her shower, asked as her foot pointed to the next question, her expression mildly frustrated. I couldn’t help but shake my head, this was the second question in a row that she immediately asked for my help. I wonder if picking Math instead of Physics was the wrong choice, but it probably would have been the same either way.

“Ok, so this question uses some principles from the question beforehand.” I started, pointing to the question above. “See how it uses this equation?”

Rin nodded slightly.

“You first use this equation on this part, then a separate one on the second part.” I continued, feeling a little like Mutou as I finished my explanation. “Then you make a third and final one using the previous two.”

“Oh.” As if a lightbulb in her head was turned on, she immediately began scribbling out the equations. After a while she finished, showing me the paper with an answer. It was correct. “Like this?”

“Yeah. Now that you got it, let’s take a break for you to process what you learned.” I said, taking a look at the paper of math questions in more detail. It wasn’t the hardest thing in the world, not to me anyways. But teaching Rin the same principles that I have taken to heart was another matter entirely.

That wasn’t entirely true, though. Rin had a pretty good grasp on the fundamentals of mathematical equations, but when it came to questions that were asked to use more than one type of equation, or used an equation in an unorthodox manner, she gave up almost immediately.

Rin finding unorthodox questions hard. I couldn’t help but notice the irony in that.

“Am I getting better?” Rin asked as she slumped slightly down on the chair, the lingering frustration still on her face. “I don’t know if I am. It’s like going up an escalator, but you don’t know if it’s going your direction or the opposite direction.”

“You are improving,” I tried to assure her, much like how a teacher would assure a student. Not too demeaning, but not too encouraging either. “You just need to know what equation method to use for the situation. Other than that, I say you’ve got a good grasp of things.”

“Talking math is hard,” Rin blurted out, her head tilted to one side, giving the impression that she’s half-drunk. “Math is like another language, like Math and English are cousins and they share the same words, but they don't mean the same. I think I prefer English.”

I decided not to respond to that analogy, instead placing the paper down and patted her on the shoulder. “You’re getting better, trust me. I have confidence that you’ll get by your finals just fine.”

“You’re a good teacher, Hisao,” Rin mentioned with a slight smile, though the compliment was undercut by her flat delivery. “Whenever I don’t get something, the class teacher just sighs before doing anything. But you don't sigh when you help me.”

I considered that for a brief moment. As frustrating as it could be sometimes, I did find my time teaching her to be an overall enjoyable experience. Is it because I liked teaching others, or simply a byproduct of the specific individual I was teaching?

Perhaps a bigger sample size could confirm my hypothesis later, but not now.

“Well, I think we can wrap things up for now, if you want,” I offered as I placed the paper on the stack of books. “Unless you can stomach Physics on top of Math.”

Rin shook her head and gave a flat stare, which is as blunt as she’s ever gotten. I guess even someone as out there as Rin had something in common with the everyday student: an instinctive desire to not learn any more than they have to.

I looked out the window and see that the horizon was a bright orange, the sun well on its way to setting. Yawning slightly, I found it a little hard to believe that I almost spent an entire afternoon in the girl’s dorm. It honestly felt like time sped up those past few hours: the painting, lunch, and teaching all felt like just moments ago.

“I’m tired.” Rin moaned out in the middle of my thoughts. “My head feels like milk. Except milk supposedly makes you smarter, but the milk in my head is making me dumber.”

“I can get you dinner, if you want.” I suggested. “Though I think I’m getting sick of bread. Maybe we should head to the convenience store and grab some instant noodles in the future.”

“Let’s go out, Hisao.” Rin said, already standing. “I want to be outside my room. This room feels like Math right now, and I don’t like Math.”

Personally, I wouldn’t mind if a room felt like Math. Math I understand. Regardless, I nodded back and opened the door for her, and she bolted out in an Emi-esque way out the room. The two of us quickly made it out of the dorm and onto the campus.

Rin and I didn’t have a set destination in mind, so we settled for simply taking a walk with her around the school. There seemed to be a lot of wandering in our lives lately: us in the forest, Rin with her paintings and her studies, and me with Rin. We’re both moving in uncertain directions, like explorers without a map.

I felt a little worried at that prospect, though less so than I expected. It was so easy to get lost in it, to simply wander aimlessly without a single goal in mind, but it was also...empty. Not meaningless, as the peace it grants for the present was of some value, but that value is only for the present, never the future.

I reflected back on Rin’s question, on why she should try reaching out if people won’t understand her the way she wants to. The answer I gave her seemed to satisfy her, but on further inspection I was the one left feeling the answer wasn’t entirely perfect.

Logic, after all, dictates that an act which bears little to no chance of success to be an exercise in futility. Repeated attempts will not alter the outcome, much like how it was impossible to jump an entire building’s height no matter how many times you jumped.

So why try if the conclusion was already written out?

“Hey, Rin?” I asked. Just as she looked to me for answers, for direction and acceptance, sometimes I desired the same from her. “Do you think some things are impossible?”

“Of course. I can’t hold something, because I got no arms. That’s impossible. You can’t get pregnant. That’s also impossible.”

“That’s not what I mean. What if you’re like...trying to climb a wall that you can’t climb. Even if you know you can’t get over that wall.”

“Oh…” Rin closed her eyes, thinking. Whether or not she understood the true meaning of my question, I didn’t know. There were so many things I didn’t know. “I don’t know what it’s like to climb. No arms. But if you can’t climb it regardless, you can’t climb it. But if you want to try, try.”

“Even if you know you’re going to fail?”

“Everyone does something for a reason,” Rin mentioned as she stared into the distance. “Emi once said she’s going to run so fast she breaks the sound barrier. I don’t think she ever does, or at least she never showed me she can, but she still runs. She runs, I paint, and you do your...Hisao stuff. I never know what you do; you need a hobby.”

“But whatever you do, you do because you want to do it, I think. Everyone says they’re going to do stuff even if never happens, but they still keep doing it even if what they say never comes true. Odd.”

I took a minute to I swallow what she said. It’s true that people make all these grand ambitions for themselves, yet rarely do they fulfill it in its entirety. So many people say they’re going to become billionaires or create something amazing, only for them to quickly forget about it.

Yet they’re still going on with their lives.

Even if you know it’s impossible, there is still value in the attempt. It’s only now that I understand the true value of what I said to her, those words that were just a hopeful attempt at comfort. Just because something is forever out of reach, doesn’t mean the chase towards it was any less real, or meaningful, or life-changing.

After all, if I didn’t chase after something seemingly impossible, I would never have gone after Rin. It might be one of the few things I’ll never regret doing in my life.

“You can be very wise at times, Rin.” I said, half-jokingly and half-earnestly.

“Are you going to start worshipping me? Like the Buddha or the Pope?” Rin responded, her eyes still distant from where she was. “I hear people worship wise people.”

“I’ll think about it,” was all I could say as I wrapped an arm around her shoulder and pulled her close, continuing our walk in peaceful silence.

MoashLannister
Posts: 7
Joined: Sun May 12, 2019 11:19 pm

Re: Rin Epilouge: The Long Road (Updated 15/6/2019)

Post by MoashLannister » Tue Jul 16, 2019 2:39 am

(Once again, special thanks to Stiles for being beta reading.)
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Chapter 3: Progress

My eyes fluttered open, letting me see my dark room, the curtains shut as to not allow light in. It was a familiar, lonely sight, and one I wanted to didn’t want to have to leave behind. But begrudgingly, I got up and changed into my uniform, beginning my morning routine.

I would wake up, get changed, and then stomach the fact that I had to go out into the world. Before summer vacation, I would have had breakfast with Lilly, but now she’s gone. A part of me missed her, another part of me was glad she’s gone, and both parts of me hated myself for thinking either of those thoughts.

I slowly opened my door just a little to see if anyone was in the hallway. The residents of the girl’s dorms usually weren’t up this early, and with summer vacation most of the students have vacated temporarily. I enjoyed that; it meant fewer people to be looked at by.

I finally prepared myself to go outside, resisting the urge to just go back and crawl into my bed for the whole day. Taking a step out of my room, I quickly shut the door behind me. There. Now there’s no turning back from-

I feel a pair of eyes looking at me, almost making me immediately retreat into my room. Just ahead of me was a student with messy auburn hair and no arms. Tezuka. She didn’t say anything as she continued staring at me.

I hated being stared at, but then again, I hated a lot of things.

“G-g-good morning…” I said, flinching internally at how pathetic my voice always sounded.

“Good morning,” Tezuka responded as her eyes continued to bore their way into my face. It wasn’t a pitiful stare like most people gave me, and it wasn’t revulsion at my scars. It was just a blank stare, but it was still unnerving.

“A-are you going somewhere?” I asked as I met her gaze slightly.

“Yes, I am going somewhere. I am always going somewhere. Are you going somewhere?”

I heard rumors that she was odd, but seeing it for myself firsthand was jarring. It was like talking to someone who just blurted out whatever she’s thinking, no matter how absurd.

“I-I was heading out to breakfast.” I felt my feet twitch slightly, every instinct in my body urging me to just ditch this conversation and go somewhere quiet, where there was nobody to deal with.

“Oh. So am I. Guess we’re both thinking the same thing. Maybe we joined our thoughts when we both thought of that,” Tezuka noted flatly, the ridiculousness of her words baffling me. What was with this girl? “Actually, Hisao probably made me think that. Did he make you think that too?”

“I-I don’t think so…?” was all I could respond to that weird comment.

“Oh,” Rin replied quickly. Is she disappointed? Upset? I can’t tell and it’s scaring me. She stares some more at me and I shift uncomfortably until- “Well, if you want to come, come. I’m going to the cafeteria. Hisao is waiting for me, like those kids' stories where a parent waits for his child.”

Rin turned her head around and started to walk away, barely acknowledging that we even had this conversation before she was out of sight.

Breathing a deep sigh of relief, I immediately got out of the dorm building before anyone else can see me. It was much easier now that most of the school’s students and faculty were gone, and I quickly found myself at ease again.

I hated being alone, but I also hate it when others are nearby. I was nothing but a charity case, someone who people either ignore or hung out because they felt bad for the poor orphan girl with scars all over her body. It made me sick and angry just thinking about it.

But…

Tezuka didn’t seem to ignore me, but she didn’t seem to pity me either, if she even knew how to. She just acknowledged my existence before walking away like it was nothing out of the ordinary, where it would have usually taken nothing short of blindness to not flinch at the sight of me.

I feel my stomach growling slightly and walked to the cafeteria, my head down low so that I didn’t have to look at anyone.

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The cafeteria was close to empty this early in the morning, a still atmosphere in the air. I quickly grabbed a tray and whatever food that was on display without looking at the servers. No doubt they would just see the scars. People always see the scars.

I quickly glance around to see if Tezuka and Hisao were there, and sure enough they were in the farthest corner of the cafeteria, quietly eating their breakfast together. I took a step towards them before stopping.

Thoughts immediately swarmed my head, as they often do when I thought of approaching people on my own: “You would just be bothering them.” “They don’t really want to hang out with you, they were just extending the courtesy.” They made themselves heard in my head again and again, and my body remained frozen in place.

I tried to shut them out as I forced a step forward, then another, and another. Eventually Hisao noticed me walking towards them. He didn’t say anything, but simply nodded before returning to conversing with the girl opposite of her.

“H-h-hi.” I stammered out as I got close to them. This time, Hisao and Rin both looked at me. They didn’t seem surprised, but they weren’t particularly inviting either, especially Rin. “C-can I eat with you two?”

“Good morning, Hanako. Of course you can sit with us.” Hisao said calmly and continued about eating his breakfast. Tezuka, however, kept her eyes onto me even as I sat down. She didn’t say a single word, and just kept her disturbingly ambivalent gaze on me.

Well, at least she isn’t pretending to not notice my scars. Not that I resented her stares any less for it.

“I-I-Is something wrong?” I asked her, barely containing myself any longer as I met her gaze with my own. I wanted to scream and run away.

“A lot of things are wrong. The world is dying, or so the news keeps saying. I hear bears are losing population, and that’s wrong,” Tezuka said, and I couldn’t tell whether she’s genuinely trying to make conversation or if she was mocking me. “This breakfast isn’t wrong though, even though I usually think it is.”

“I agree, the breakfast is better than usual,” Hisao noted as he took another bite. “You’ll have to put up with her, it’s how she is.”

“O-ok,” I replied meekly as the three of us ate breakfast together. It wasn’t like breakfast with Lilly, where the two of us would exchange pleasantries and talk about mundane stuff. The reassuring aura that she gave off wasn’t present with those two.

And surprisingly, I found it refreshing. They didn’t seem to pay attention to me apart from a simple acknowledgement of my existence. Rin and Hisao simply ate together in peaceful silence with me, and I found it easier to stomach the experience.

It also helped that Tezuka stopped staring at me so creepily.

“S-s-so, do you two often eat together?” I asked, and almost found it surprising that I was the one who broke the silence.

“Yes,” Rin answered as she sipped on a juice box. “I have remedial classes, so I eat lunch in class while Hisao does Hisao things. Do you do Hanako things?”

“I-I mostly just go to the library to read.”

“Yeah, I was actually thinking of heading there again once you go to classes,” Hisao stated as he finished his breakfast, pushing the tray away and letting out a content sigh before playfully adding “I need to do Hisao stuff because you’re not with me, Rin.”

Tezuka simply nods and continued sipping on her juice box. Looking down at my tray of food, I can’t help but feel like I’m an outsider to the entire conversation. Maybe it was a mistake to try eating with them…

“You like doing that,” I heard Tezuka say, and immediately looked up to see that her eyes were on me again.

“E-excuse me?”

“You like planting your head down,” she noted, closing her eyes. “I saw you once after class, and your head was facing down the entire way. Is there something interesting on the floor?” She opened them again, staring impassively at me.

I felt anxious at such a blunt question, the first one I’ve had in Yamaku. Everyone else always asks me stuff in a soft, almost condescending tone, but here comes Tezuka who doesn’t seem to grasp the concept of subtlety.

Oddly enough, the unintentionally rude way she asked was preferable to the appeasing ways other people do. It made me feel like I wasn’t being looked down upon.

“N-no,” I replied. “I-I just don’t like l-looking at people.”

“Oh,” Rin said, and closes her eyes. “I guess I can see that, sometimes I don’t like looking at people too. One time Emi came in as I was painting at I didn’t want to see her at all, so I turned my head whenever she was around for a while.”

“She looked at one of your unfinished paintings, didn’t she?” Hisao remarked dryly.

“She did, even though I said not to. I felt like kicking her back then, except I was painting, so I settled for not looking at her. She then said sorry again and again so I started looking at her again, like how my teacher would look at me again even though I ask him another math question.”

Hisao rolled his eyes at that last sentence, then begin chuckling lightly. I noticed Rin smiling slightly a little as well. There was definitely something between the two of them.

“You’re looking up now though,” Rin stated. “I think I like seeing you look up. It’s like seeing the number of sheep in the world go up.”

That sudden compliment threw me off guard, and I couldn’t blurt out anything in response. Tezuka’s...oddity was definitely something I’ve never encountered before in my life, and I wasn’t sure what to think of her.

“Isn’t it almost time for your remedial class, Rin?” Hisao said gently, causing Tezuka to close her eyes. “I know you don’t like it but…”

She simply nodded and stood up. She gave Hisao a slight nod and started to walk away. They didn’t kiss or hug or anything like that, they just simply nodded. Did they not like to do that? Hisao then turned to look at me, and I instinctively looked away.

“I’ll be heading to the library. We can read together, if you like to,” Hisao said, giving me a slight smile.

There it was again; the calm way in which he offered me that chance. He didn’t press me into reading with him, he simply told me to come if I wanted to. It felt relieving not to feel forced into doing anything.

“O-okay,” I replied, a slight smile forming on my face.

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The library was completely empty, except for me, Hisao and the librarian. I liked that sort of privacy, to be in a place where others are present but without the unnecessary attention that they would give me in any other part of the school. The fact that summer vacation emptied out most of the people here just made it easier for me in the regard.

Like most of my other times in here, I decided to pick up another new novel to read. The library contained a variety of things, but I always found myself choosing fiction novels. Whether it was Tolkein or Andersen, most of the things I liked to read about things that aren’t rooted in the current world, though I have a particularly soft spot for stories with a slight element of romance in them.

Hisao relaxed beside me on another beanie, picking up what seemed to be a book about history based on the cover. He didn’t glance at me as he flipped over another page, his eyes focusing on the large leather-bound book.

It was rude to stare at him, so I continued with my latest read, quickly immersing myself in the world and its characters. As always, these books provide me a doorway to emotions I feel I could never get in the real world: happiness, appreciation, comfort.

Books didn’t judge what the reader was, and books couldn’t see my scars. That was what was so great about them.

Hisao didn’t bother to make conversation with me, but I found the silence much more comforting than last time we were at the library together, which was mainly just awkward. We were simply in our own little worlds, with one unaffecting the other.

Eventually, curiosity and the pleasant aura made me feel at ease enough to speak to him. “U-um, Hisao?”

“Yeah?”

“U-um, d-do you like hanging out with me?” I asked.

He immediately turned his face to me, and for the first time didn't turn away. It took a lot in me not to even move my eyes away from him, but I managed to. He didn’t smile at me, but simply said “I do. It’s nice having you around, and I prefer it to reading on my own.”

He said nothing more as he turned back to his book. I didn’t know if he was intentionally trying to make me feel comfortable, or if he simply wanted to continue reading. I also resumed reading my book, before I heard his voice.

“Do you like hanging out with me? Honestly?”

I stayed silent at that question, my mouth quivering as I debated on what to do. How much should I give away?

“I-I do…” I finally managed to utter out. “Y-you d-don’t talk much to me, though.”

“I would like to talk more, honestly,” Hisao said, eyes still on the book. “But I don’t want to force you to, or make you say something you don’t want to. I trust you’ll talk to me when you genuinely want to.”

I asked, shocked. “R-really?”

“I do.” Hisao said calmly. “We’re not friends, but I’d like us to be. I’d like to be more open and honest with you, and for you to do the same to me. Of course, that’s only if you wish to.”

Those words completely took hold of my thoughts. He trusts me? He wants us to be friends? To be more open? I almost wanted to believe that’s true, but another voice in my head already screams at me that it’s all just a lie. He just wants to feel better by having someone inferior around.

I wanted to believe. I so desperately wanted to believe. But how could I?

“Hisao…” I said, my attention on the book evaporating. I needed to ask this question, I needed to make sure he isn’t lying. “W-why are you here? At Yamaku?”

He stayed silent for a while, and I immediately felt my hope sinking. I figured he didn’t trust me after all.

“I have arrhythmia,” Hisao said quietly, his voice barely above a whisper. “It’s a condition where my heart could beat irregularly. If I don’t take care of it properly, I’ll have a heart attack.”

My mind immediately blanked at his answer. Risking a glance, I saw that he was looking through his book and that his eyes seemed different than before. Not just sad, but a deep worry on his face, as if saying that sentence somehow put his life in jeopardy.

“Oh…” was all I could manage before I placed my book in front of my face, ashamed to distract myself by reading. “I-I’m sorry for asking that, i-it was rude of me to…”

“It’s alright, I’m not mad,” Hisao said. “Like I said, I want to be open and honest with you. I...haven’t been so in the past, and it caused me a lot of unnecessary hardships. Besides, there’s no point in lying about it.”

I felt my chest getting tighter as I slowly lowered my book, allowing myself to peek at Hisao’s face again. He placed the book down on his lap and was looking at me again. His face wasn’t smiling, but it wasn’t angry either. It was...an honest face, nothing hidden.

It was a face I felt I could trust, that I wanted to trust, if only a little.

“T-thank you for telling me.” I couldn’t bring it in me to smile, not with how awkward I'd made things by asking him, but I could at least look him in the eye. “I-I would like for us to be friends.”

At that, Hisao showed a slight smile. “Then we’re friends, then.” His smile widened as he added, a little playfully. “Want to shake on it?”

I couldn’t help but smile a little as I nodded slightly. Hisao extended his hand and I extended mine, and we shook our hands once before looking away.

I felt just a little bit of courage building up within me to ask him something again. “U-um, Hisao? C-can I ask something...again?”

“Sure.”

“H-how do you find T-Tezuka?”

Hisao took a deep breath before answering. “She’s like a roller coaster, honestly. She can be so weird, so out there. I sometimes feel like I’m hanging out with a different person every day. But I care for her all the same.”

“I-I see. S-she seems a bit...distant.”

“She does give off that impression, doesn’t she?” Hisao said wryly, closing the book and sinking down further into the beanie. His demeanor was extremely relaxed, almost apathetic. “I try not to harp on it too much. She is who she is.”

Feeling like I’ve bothered him enough, I decided to continue on with the rest of my book. After what felt like a few hours I closed the back cover on it, the story coming to its end. Turning to look at him, I saw that he was still in that same position, his eyes deep in thought. His calm expression was something I wish I could have.

“I-I think I’m done reading for today,” I mentioned, which seemed to have caught his attention. “T-Thank you for keeping me company.”

“Thank you for having me,” Hisao said as he stood up, letting out a light yawn.

“U-um, if there’s anything you want to do....” I said as I stood up. We slowly walked together to put our books back into their respective places. “I-I feel like I owe you for asking you s-so many u-uncomfortable questions.”

“No you don’t. I chose to answer them, after all,” Hisao said as we stood there in the library, eyeing each other. “Though if you really want to, you can join me and Rin for dinner. We’re heading to the Shanghai after Rin is done with remedials. It’d be nice to have someone else to join us.”

I froze for a second. It’s been a while since I’ve gone outside Yamaku, and truth be told I didn’t really want to go where other people could so easily see my scars. I felt like refusing, but something in me dared to accept his offer.

“I-I...let me think about it,” I said at last.

Hisao nodded as we left the library together. “That’s still a ways away, take all the time you need. We’ll be at the Yamaku gate at 6 if you want to go.”

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We parted ways not long after we exited the library. As much as I liked my newfound friendship with Hisao, the desire to be alone was something I could never really get away from. Hisao seemed to understand, or at least he didn’t object, and simply thanked me for the company once again before leaving.

I went back to my room and quickly laid in my bed, hugging my pillow tight as I looked at the clock on my table. It was just past 1. There was plenty of time to make up my mind on whether to go or not.

There was a part of me that wanted to go, to be with the person I now considered to be my only friend currently in Yamaku. But another part of me, the part of me that always saw the worst of people’s intentions, that always took every act of kindness as cruel pity and every blessing as a hidden curse, came up again. Accusing Hisao of simply trying to make friends with the pathetic scarred girl that had nowhere to go and no one to run to.

It was a hard thought to ignore, especially when I’ve listened to it for so long I’ve come to believe it, regardless of the validity of those statements.

Another one came out, even worse than the last. It accused me of being undeserving of his friendship, of anyone’s friendship. I was a person who would resent people’s help no matter how genuine, and for that I didn’t deserve even an ounce of their time.

Slowly but surely, the thoughts of self loathing and suspicion started to outweigh the ones promising a friendship. I wanted to scream out at all the dark thoughts in my head, I wanted to shut them out so badly.

Why couldn’t I just let myself be happy? Why can’t I see anyone’s kindness as anything other than empty pity?

Lilly ditched me in the end, and eventually Hisao will too. Those were my only thoughts, even as I wanted to think about anything else but them. I pressed my face against my pillow, pointlessly hoping that it could muffle out the voices in my head.

I want to be open and honest with you.

That voice, Hisao’s voice whispered in my ear. My mind frantically remembered him in the library, with those calm eyes, saying those hopeful words.

I want to be open and honest with you.

Can I really believe him? I wanted so desperately to, but can I?

I sighed as I closed my eyes. Those dark thoughts were still in my head, but I managed to calm myself a bit and continued listening to that voice, the voice that promised me a way out of my misery.

I didn’t know when my mind was made up, but eventually it did. If Lilly’s absence truly made me realize something, it was that I hate being alone.

I looked at the clock again. It was 2. Four more hours to prepare myself. The question on whether I was going or not was no longer there. I wanted to go out with them; I no longer wanted to be stuck where I am, completely alone.

Taking a deep breath, I hopped out of my bed and started taking off my uniform to change.

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The sun was starting to set when I finally came out of my room. I was wearing a pink shirt with a blue jacket, as well as black jeans. My nerves were still getting the better of me as I fidgeted around with my fingers.

Hisao and Tezuka were waiting just outside the school gates. They were still in their school uniforms, and I immediately wondered if I should have changed at all. My nerves just increased as I approached them.

Tezuka was actually the first one to notice me as she turned her head towards me. I tried not to look away as I walked up to them. “G-good evening, Hisao, Tezuka.”

“Don’t call me that,” The red headed girl immediately said, though her face didn’t seem to be angry. “Teachers call me that, and you’re not a teacher. Call me Rin.”

“I-I’m sorry,” I said as I immediately took a step back.

Hisao let out a light chuckle as he turned to me. “Thank you for coming with us. I wasn’t sure if you were going to.”

“I-Is it really o-ok for me to be here?” I asked, my nerves reaching a boiling point. “I-I don’t want to get in between you two.”

“You and Hisao are friends, right?” Tezu...Rin asked suddenly.

“Y-Yes…”

“Then you’re my friend too. Emi says that’s how that works, even though I don’t know why. When you marry someone your friends don’t become your wife’s friends, and when you become someone’s boss you don’t become his friend’s boss…”

She went on and on, and I stopped keeping up with her babbling. Hisao looked at me and simply gave me a sympathetic smile as he said, “Rin, are you hungry?”

Rin cuts herself off and looks at Hisao before giving the most expressionless pout I’ve ever seen. “Yes.”

“Then let’s go. The Shanghai isn’t going to be open forever.” He turned around and started walking out the gate, and Rin followed shortly after. I quickly followed after them, determined not to get left behind. Oddly enough, Rin’s long...whatever it was...made me less nervous than before.

We walked on the roadside down the hill. There wasn’t any conversation between the three of us, and I was too nervous to bring anything up. I was walking just a bit behind them, almost as if I was a separate entity from the two of them, which I sort of was.

Eventually, we made it to the small town at the bottom. The place was quieter than usual, with hardly a person out on the streets apart from us. I looked at several stores on the way, and the employees inside looked extremely bored.

After a while, however, I realized that we were heading towards an unfamiliar part of town. This wasn’t the way to the Shanghai.

“U-um,” I started to speak up. “T-this isn’t the w-way to the Shanghai. I-I think it’s that way.”

Rin and Hisao turned around to look at me pointing at another street. It was the route Lilly and I go to whenever we went to visit the cafe. Seeing it again now that she’s gone made me a little nostalgic, and a little sad.

“Oh, is it? It’s been a while,” Hisao pointed out. “Why don’t you lead the way, Hanako?”

“M-me? Are you sure?”

“Yeah, you’re more familiar with this area of the town than Rin and I are. I usually just take the bus to...uh..” Hisao said before uncomfortably cutting off.

“The atelier,” Rin finished. “Did you forget, Hisao? Are you suffering from dementia already? I thought you need to be old to do that.”

“Hey!” Hisao said in mock offense, a slight grin on his face. “It’s not like you don’t forget things too.”

“I do forget things.” She nodded as she closed her eyes. “But I forget them because I don’t think they’re important. Why do I need to remember what food I ate on the 26th of May?”

Hisao could only shake his head, and I found myself a little jealous of them. Those two seemed like the type who truly cared for each other with no strings attached, and my mind wandered back to whether Lilly’s friendship was just as genuine or not.

“Anyways, mind guiding us, Hanako?” Hisao asked. “We would probably be lost without you.”

I nodded slowly and started to lead the three of us. Rin and Hisao continued bickering about forgetfulness, and while I didn’t join them, I didn’t put as much distance between us as I had.

It wasn’t long before we reached the Shanghai. It was decorated like a traditional tea house and before long, an old woman I didn't recognize smiled at us and invited us to sit. "What do you want to have tonight?"

“Do you have anything to eat for dinner? That isn’t bread?” Hisao asked.

“We have some chicken pie.”

“Alright, then one of those. Rin, Hanako?”

“Mmmm,.” Rin said and closed her eyes again. I wonder how often she does that. Does she close her eyes whenever someone asked her anything? “Pie.”

Turning to me, the elderly waitress didn’t flinch when she saw my face, though I did my best to keep it hidden all the same. “U-um, do you have the chicken sandwich? I-I’ll have one of those.”

“Alright, dearie. Any drinks? Desserts?”

“Iced tea,” Hisao said.

“Water. Preferably with a straw. Not straw water, the drinking kind,” Rin stated.

“U-um, some tea and a c-chocolate cake,” I finished quickly, feeling slightly embarrassed that I was the only one ordering any sort of dessert.

The old waitress simply nodded before walking off. A few minutes later, our drinks arrived. Rin eyed the black straw in her cup, watching it spiral around the glass before finally leaning her head down to take a sip of it.

“Is there anything you’d like to talk about, Hanako?” Hisao asked as he calmly took a sip of his iced tea.

The sudden question threw me slightly off guard. “U-um…”

“Sorry if it came out of the blue,” Hisao said apologetically. “I was just wondering if there was anything on your mind, since you’ve been mostly quiet. If you don’t, that’s quite alright.”

“I-I…”

The waitress came over with our food before I could properly respond, which I was slightly thankful for. Rin, Hisao, and I all tucked in, which killed any and all conversation. It meant we didn’t kept going down an awkward path, but it felt very different from meals with Lilly, where we talked throughout. It felt wrong to comparing them to her, but for a long time she was the only meaningful social contact that I had.

However, the justification didn’t eased my guilt in the slightest, merely fueling it further.

“U-um,” I said as I finished my sandwich first, wiping my mouth with a tissue. I had to say something to make for what I’d been thinking... “I-I was wondering about how close you two are.”

“Are we close, Hisao?” Rin asked in between bites of her pie. “We’re next to each other, so I guess we’re close. But we aren’t touching each other, so we’re not that close.”

“She meant emotionally.”

“Oh.” Rin closed her eyes. “I guess we are.”

You guess? You two are boyfriend and girlfriend and you only “guess” that you’re close to him? What kind of relationship was this? Of course, I kept those thoughts to myself as I took a nervous sip of my tea, waiting for my dessert.

“I’ll take it,” Hisao commented as he finished his pie, looking at Rin with a slight smirk. “Sorry, you’ll get used to how she is.”

I don’t I ever will. I don’t even know how you got used to her.

“Me and Hisao are close like two people with a string attached,” Rin said. “Except the string is sometimes long and sometimes short, and you can’t tie people with it, and it doesn’t have a color so I don’t know whether to call it blue or red. Do you have anyone like that?”

Her eyes were onto me again, and I looked down onto the ground. “I-I don’t think I have anyone like that. I-I’m not close to anyone…”

“Oh,” Rin stated flatly, and though I could tell it wasn’t an insult, it still stung. “Would you like to be close to us?”

My eyes immediately snapped open towards her. She looked as if she hadn’t said anything, and I didn’t know whether to be angry or be happy. Hisao meanwhile looked at Rin with a look of mild surprise, though he gave me a sideways glance.

“I-I don’t know if I can…” I whispered quietly. “I don’t know if I should.”

“Because of your scars?” Rin asked, keeping her tone even.

I felt as if I should be mad at her calling out my scars so plainly, but for once I was glad at her neutral tone. She didn’t speak about my scars in pity or revulsion, just a clear statement of facts. It was probably the first time anyone spoke about my scars without any emotion one way or the other.

“N-no, i-it’s not that,” I said, a little louder this time. “I-It’s just...hard for me to trust anyone.”

Rin stared at me, looking slightly more serious. “A lot of things are hard. It’s hard for me to use a vending machine. No arms. It’s hard for Hisao to not be around me, or so he likes to say. But I still use a vending machine when I need to, and Hisao can stay away from me if I ask him to.”

“Even if I feel every second that I’m not with you is torture. Agonizing torture,” Hisao said in a mocking tone.

“But sometimes you need to do things that are hard, I think. If you don’t do things that are hard, then it’s like owning a room without any furniture to move. It’s just empty.”

I look at the two people before me, and they looked back at me. I think in that moment I understood a little why those two were so close. They said they didn’t understand each other, but they respected each other enough to not pretend to.

It was something I deeply envied. I wanted to experience that for myself.

“I-I think you’re right,” I said, putting courage in my voice. “I-It’s hard for me to trust anyone, b-but I want to trust you two. C-Can we be friends, Rin?”

Rin’s reply was a puzzled look. “I thought we were already friends. Are we not friends?”

I couldn’t help but let out a light giggle at that. For how weird and off-putting she’s been, she can be oddly nice to be with. “I-I’d like to think we are.”

“Then we are,” Rin said as she sipped from her cup.

The waitress finally arrived with my cake, and our conversation turned to other topics: school, exams, summer vacation soon ending. I found myself talking not because I felt forced to, but because I genuinely wanted to. The atmosphere around us was warm and inviting, and I found myself not resisting it at all, willing to enjoy the moment.

As I took a bite of my cake, I felt for the first time that I was no longer stuck. It wasn’t going to be easy, but I was willing to trust in them and let myself be trusted in, however small that trust might be. And that was more than enough for now.

MoashLannister
Posts: 7
Joined: Sun May 12, 2019 11:19 pm

Re: Rin Epilouge: The Long Road (Updated 16/7/2019)

Post by MoashLannister » Thu Aug 15, 2019 11:00 am

(Special thanks to Arodyok for beta reading)

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Chapter 4: Revelation

As summer vacation began to approach its final days, I found my schedule fairly fulfilling. With the addition of Hanako to me and Rin’s daily routine, the atmosphere was much livelier overall. While I’m not sure if she trusted us completely, she didn’t shy away as much as she used to.

It probably helped that Rin wasn’t the overbearing sort, and that we respected her privacy and only hung out at her request, which was starting to become a daily occurrence.

Nowadays, the three of us decided to forgo the cafeteria in favor of the rooftop as the place to eat our lunches. Mostly it was just me and Hanako, as Rin still had to go through her grueling remedial classes. But our lunches were often very nice, even if Hanako would sometimes be silent through most of it.

Rin still painted when she wasn’t dead tired from classes, and would always invite me along whenever she did. If felt like she was getting back into the flow of things. She didn’t complain about her art anymore, seemingly content with the results she’s founded for herself.

As for me, I was simply content with watching over her, as I was doing now in the mild afternoon weather. The fact that I’m coming to the girl’s dorm more and more would probably fuel all sorts juicy rumors once all the students return from vacation, but that was a problem for another time.

“Done.” I heard Rin say as I put my train of thoughts aside, sitting up from her bed to look at her. She gave me a slight smile as she looked at me.

Looking at the painting, I could see Rin’s usual abstractness all over it. Eyes were dotted all around the edges of the canvas, surrounding a maw that contained a spiral of silvery grays and pitch black. It was imaginative, slightly terrifying, and oddly enthralling too; the typical hallmarks of her work.

“Mm, may I ask about it?” I asked, looking her in the eye. She gives me a slight nod. It was always important to ask permission when I talk about her paintings, otherwise she might say she wanted to kick me. So far she hasn’t backed up those threats, but I get the feeling that a knee to the gut from her would be painful in many ways.

“What is this?”

“A clock.” Rin responded with a flat stare, her smile fading. “Well, not a clock. But when I thought of a clock, I thought about painting this. I had the picture in my head, except that I didn’t since my head can’t project pictures out of my skull.”

I nodded and looked back at the piece. With her explanation, I can vaguely make out the impression of the clock, or at least I thought so. The eyes were placed where the numbers should be, and the spiral was most likely the rotating handles. It was weird imagining it, but time with Rin has loosened my sense rigid perception of the world ever so slightly.

“Why did you want to paint a clock?”

“I thought of a clock. It’s tells the time, every second of it and even when we don’t want to. Like a mother who keeps asking me what time it is, but she immediately answers her own question. I wanted to paint something like that.”

“So you don’t want to be told the time.”

She nodded slightly, though her look implied that I’m not fully grasping what she’s saying. I thought harder about it, and I can only draw one conclusion.

“Rin, are you scared about the future?”

She gave me a quizzical look. “I don’t know. Am I scared of the future, Hisao?”

“I’m not sure.” I responded. “That’s the immediate impression I got from the painting. I guess I’m wrong again, huh?”

“Not wrong.” Rin said, and closed her eyes. After a while, she finally continued. “I’m not scared of tomorrow, or tomorrow after tomorrow, or tomorrow after tomorrow after tomorrow. But then I reach a tomorrow that I am scared of, like a line of apples that has a rotten one placed somewhere.”

“So you’re not scared about the immediate future, but you are scared of the distant future.” I guessed again, piecing together her words. “Does it have to do with exams, or your art?”

“It’s like I’m going across the street to buy something, but I don’t know if what I’ll buy is what I wanted to buy in the first place, and when I get back I might not even like the thing that I bought.”

“So you’re afraid that you might be forced to become something in the future,” I said, putting my honest thoughts out. “but it might not be something that you want to be and you’re afraid that you can’t change back.”

Her eyes suddenly open. She gave me a long hard stare, her eyes completely wide. This is the closest she’s ever looked at being surprised.

“Did I say something wrong?” I asked, nervous at what I might have done.

“No, you said something right. You almost never say something right, so maybe what you said is wrong. But a right kind of wrong.” Rin slowly started to smile, a genuinely wide and joyous smile. “You said what I was thinking, Hisao. Not a piece of it, but most of it. You can understand me.”

The revelation should honestly have hit me a bit harder, but I couldn’t help but focus at her smile. She looked happy, genuinely happy. As if someone suddenly told her she won the lottery.

This was probably the first time I interpreted her thoughts completely accurately, or as close to complete accuracy as I could, and I didn’t even know how I did. It wasn’t as if I was deliberately trying to decipher the meaning behind her words; I simply guessed at what she was feeling.

And yet, according to Rin, my guess was right on the mark. What I’ve been trying to do for the better part of a few months just happened naturally, almost by accident.

“Rin, I…”

She suddenly threw herself at me, her head pressed against my chest. I could feel my heart skipping a beat.

“You can understand me...” Rin whispered out again as she looked up at me. The corner of her eyes were slightly wet, and her face spoke volumes about how she felt. I returned her smile with one of my own, wrapping my arms around her waist and embracing her.

“I guess I can.” I said, unsure of how to respond. “But I might have just gotten lucky, you know.”

Good work, Nakai. She gives this heartwarming smile, and that’s all you could say to her. Rin didn’t seem to mind as she continued to look happy, planting a kiss on my lips. This day has certainly turned for the better, and I could feel myself grinning ear to ear as our lips parted. I felt on top of the world.

“How can you understand me, Hisao? Did you read my mind?” Rin asked, a child-like wonder and curiosity to her question.

“I don’t know.” I admitted. “I’ve spent a lot of time with you since I’ve been to Yamaku. Maybe that’s why I can understand you sometimes. Or maybe we’re both putting in the effort to understand each other.”

Again, I am in awe at my attempts at sounding romantic, if they can even be called that.

“Mm, that sounds nice. Like cotton candy.” Rin said as she closed her eyes once more. Her expression returned to how she usually smiled, a barely noticeable smirk on her lips. “I think I’m trying to make you understand me. Not like how a robber forces a guy to give his money with a gun. More like…”

“A teacher trying to a student Math?”

“Something like that.” She stayed silent for a bit before continuing. “I feel like I’m not making you understand me in a big way, but in a small way. That’s why I close my eyes whenever we talk about my art, because I’m trying to put my words together so you can understand. It’s hard, and I don’t think it works a lot, but I want to do it.”

I feel genuinely touched that she’s trying to make herself better understood for me. For someone like her, that probably took a lot of effort on her part, and for her to do that for my sake was probably the sweetest gesture I could think of.

“Rin. I’m happy that I’m able to understand you, if only a little. I know I can’t all the time, but I’ll try regardless. I think we can slowly improve on that, bit by bit. As long as we try.”

I planted a kiss on her forehead, which she seemed to appreciate. We weren’t the most affectionate couple in the world, but we have our moments.

“You said you were scared that you might have to change? Is it because of college?”

Her smile fully faded now, her face contemplative. “Mm, I think I have to go to art college. But if I do, I’ll need to be different, right? I need to force myself to be different, otherwise they won’t let me in.”

“I guess so…” I didn’t have the heart to lie to her about this, and it’s something she needed to think about anyways. “You’ll probably be asked to do pieces that you might not usually do. Different styles and all that.”

“I’ll need to paint something that isn’t me,” Rin acknowledged. “and I’ll need to paint even when I don’t feel like painting.”

“We all have to adjust to college.” I brought up. “When I get to college, I can’t be as lax as I used to be. Even if the subject is something I like, I’ll have to dedicate a lot of time to it, even if I want to do other things. It’s just how those things are.”

I realized it’s not fair comparing my fears on college with hers. Passionate as I am about Science, it isn’t as attached to my identity as painting is to Rin. But it’s also true that I’ll have to be different than I am if I want to go through college without any major problems.

“That’s still a ways away, you know. College will come eventually, but it isn’t here now. No sense in rushing it.”

She pulled back from me and nodded. “I don’t want to think about that anymore, Hisao. Give me something else to think about.”

“Anything you have in mind?” I asked.

“Tell me about you, Hisao. Not the you now, but the you before.” Rin said as she leaned back against the wardrobe. “I feel like I want to know more about you for some reason. Isn’t that what boyfriends and girlfriends do? Know each other then spoil each other for marriage? Except we probably did that in the wrong order.”

“So you’re confirming we’re boyfriend and girlfriend?” I asked.

Rin’s answer was a simple shrug and a flat stare, so I decided not to press the issue. I guess it would have been nice for a confirmation, but it would be pretty silly to think of us as anything but lovers, even if we don't actually say that we are.

“I’m going to be honest, my past wasn’t all that interesting before I discovered my condition. I was just a boy who hung out with other boys in school, and one girl. I played soccer as a hobby, my grades were passable but nothing to brag about, and I often go out to the city at night.”

As I spoke, I felt extremely satisfied about opening up to her. My past wasn’t something that I mean to bottle up, but I never really had the opportunity to really talk about it until now. Rin seemed to be paying close attention as I continued.

“Your past is interesting, Hisao.” Rin noted as she tilted her head up slightly. “You played soccer, and that’s interesting. I never played soccer before. You go out late at night, and I’ve never done that before when I was a kid, except when I couldn’t sleep and stayed awake until I cried. What’s that like?”

“It was relaxing. My parents were barely home during my childhood, so I didn’t have to worry about them being mad at me. And I liked the freedom of being out all on my own, so it didn’t really matter what I was seeing back then, just that I was out.”

Rin closed her eyes and just nodded, and I realized that I really didn’t know much about her past. We didn’t really talk about it at all during our time together. It suddenly felt odd that I didn’t know much about her past, or even her parents.

Maybe Rin was right, and we are doing this whole “relationship” thing in the wrong order.

“What about you?” I asked. “What was your childhood like?”

“Mmm, my childhood was like...” Rin said with a slight smile on her face. “It was fun, like being at a carnival. My mom and dad would often hug me a lot, and they bought me all sorts of brushes. It always makes me happy when they buy me a new paint set. I was...what’s the word you use when you’re really really happy but it’s not because you’re seriously happy?”

“Childish?”

“No, and yes. I was childish, and I was also very different. I think my mom and dad knew that, though they didn’t know at first.”

“Your parents seem very important to you.” I noted, smiling a little at her recollection.

“Mom and dad are important,” Rin agreed. “they’re not artists, but when I started to paint they had an entire room for me just so I could paint. One time I got lost in the mall and my mom immediately hugged me tightly when she found me, like a really tight bear hug. Except she wasn’t really a bear.”

Rin must have had a really loving childhood, and very doting parents. I felt oddly jealous of that fact, though I know I had no right to be.

“My parents were always very busy,” I admitted. “they work at a PR department, so they have very long shifts and barely any vacation time. Their style of parenting was very...hands-off. Unless it’s about my grades, they barely get mad at me about anything, mostly because they were never there.”

“You sound sad saying that, Hisao.” Rin said, her face showing concern.

“A little, perhaps. I understand why they can’t be there all the time, but sometimes I wish that they could be there more. I’ve seen more than my fair share of missed birthdays. They make it up to me eventually of course, but it still stings a little.” I stopped and let out a sigh. “Saying that out loud makes me feel like I’m a selfish brat.”

“Maybe you are,” Rin replied bluntly, though with no maliciousness to her voice. “I didn’t get to see my parents a lot when I came here. Now I only get to see them during the holidays now, even though they send me letters on how they’re doing. I think it’s because they want me to be by myself.”

My mind raced back to that call with Mom I had a few weeks prior. I haven’t called her since, which only further increases my guilt. I made a promise to myself; call her tonight to check on how she’s doing. I owe her and dad that much.

“So I assume you’re going back to your parents for winter break?” I asked. It would be sad for me to be apart from her during winter, but it would also be selfish of me to deprive her from seeing her family.

Rin said nothing at my question, and opened her eyes. She looked away from my face for a brief moment and continued her silence.
An awkward feeling entered the atmosphere. Rin seemed to want to keep quiet. I didn’t know what was going on between her and her parents, but I felt like I shouldn’t pry into such a personal matter.

Deciding to break the silence, I asked. “Is there anything else you want to know about me?”

“Mmm, your condition. Arrhythmia, I think?” Rin said, her tone light. “You told me you have that. It doesn’t seem to be part of your pants.”

I immediately froze, feeling as if my veins have frozen. The sheer feeling of fear that took hold of me in that moment was too sudden and too intense to really describe. But it was only for an instant as it passed by, replaced by admission that this question was a long time coming.

How will she react to it? How will I?

“It’s...something to do with my heart.” I admitted, looking at her eyes and reminding myself that she deserves to know this more than anyone. “It beats irregularly, and any strain on it will probably trigger a heart attack.”

Rin seems to realize the gravity of what I said, as her eyes opened up ever so slightly. “Will you die?” She asked, and I could swear I heard fear in her voice.

“If I don’t get treated immediately, most likely.” I said, digging deep within myself to continue, even as it tears me apart to admit my mortality to someone who I wish to spend my life with, no matter how short it may be. “The doctors say that if I take care of myself well I can live a long life, but there’s always a chance something unexpected happens that’ll trigger a heart attack. Something as simple as tripping and falling down could easily do the trick.”

An immediate silence followed, and I could feel the atmosphere between us growing thicker. Rin eyed me as if I were a stranger, unfamiliar to her.

“You can die...” Rin whispered out, and all I can do is to give her a nod. It was painful to see her worry about me like this.

A tear streaks down her face as she continued to stare at me, wordless. It was honestly all I could do not to cry myself, looking at her like this. It was so easy, how a simple question could ruin what happiness there was mere moments ago.

“I just thought of you dying,” Rin said as she closed her eyes, fighting back more tears. “and then I cried. I thought of never seeing you again and it made me cry even more. I never had to think about this before. I never had to cry about this before. Why did you tell me?”

I forced myself not to shed tears, and to be strong for the both of us. “I honestly didn’t want you to know. You were the only person I found it hard to tell. But I had to let you know eventually, beca-”

“Please be quiet, Hisao.” Rin cut me off before I could finish. “I don’t want to hear you, I don’t want to see you. Not now. Not when my head is like this. I need you to go away.”

I felt my heart sinking as she turns away from me, tears still flowing down her face. I didn’t have the will to face her any longer, not after what was said. Feeling myself at the verge of tears, I slowly left the room. We both needed time to think, and it was probably for the best that we do it separately, as much as I may dislike it.

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I didn’t feel like doing anything after that, so I simply headed back to my room and slammed the door. I glanced over at my medication and immediately felt a pang of anger, and the fact that I have to look at them everyday.

Sighing, I simply laid on my bed and hoped that sleep would claim me. It did not, whether through the side-effects of my medications or my troubled feelings. I tossed and turned on the bed, but can’t find myself any calmer.

I heard the sound of knocking on my door, and without thinking I rushed to open it. Outside was the familiar face of Kenji, and for once I’m actually glad he’s here. If it distracts me from my thoughts, I’ll take any sort of favor he gives me.

“What do you want?” I asked, not even trying to hide my frustration.

Kenji seemed to notice, as he actually took a slight step back at my words. “Hey man, you alright or something? You seem pretty cheesed. Did the feminists got to you?”

“Yeah, let’s just go with that. I escaped though.” I said, buying into whatever bullshit theory he’s willing to rope me into. Anything to keep my mind off things for a while. “Do you need anything?”

“Do I need anything? Man, I’m not here to take your charity.” Kenji responded incredulously as he reached into his jacket. “I just came here to say thanks for delivering that secret letter. The cause is strengthened by your great sacrifice.”

Oh right, the letter. I vaguely remembered delivering during one of my trips to the Shanghai. “That letter had a name on it. A rather feminine name.” I mentioned. “Are you sure you’re sending it to a guy?”

“What?” Kenji shouted aloud, loud enough for the entire dorm to hear. “You’re not supposed to say that out loud. The feminists have ears everywhere, and you’ll compromise my inside man.”

“Inside man? So it was a girl?”

“Shut up, shut up. They have ears everywhere, they have eyes everywhere, they even have noses everywhere.” Kenji shouted again. If anyone was compromising the so called cause, it was definitely him with his shouting. “I’ll tell you all about it when the time is right. For now, take this.”

He hands me another letter, this one pink with frilly decorations. I took one look at the name and immediately recognized it.

Iwanako.

“I found this near your door. You should keep your spy messages closeby, man.” Kenji whispered as he adjusted his glasses. “Can never be too careful, even if the message is encrypted. Trust me, I know. I had my supply reconnaissance letter intercepted by them, with level 7 encryption and everything.”

My mind felt like it was in a whirlwind. First Rin, now Iwanako sent me a letter. I immediately turned to him and said. “Hey, I need to open this letter. Mind if I do that?”

Kenji, for once, actually seemed to take my request seriously. “Alright, man. If you need anything, you know where to find me. Password this week is “Histamine.””

I closed the door on him and immediately sat down in my chair, dropping the letter on the desk. My mind was still reeling, do I really needed another thing to potentially drag me down further? Feeling like I have no other choice, I picked up the letter and opened it.

The letter was written in a very feminine handwriting, the paper itself being pink. I disregarded all that to look at what she’s written.

“Dear Hisao,

I admit I was surprised that you decided to reply to my letter. I thought that you’d want to continue to keep our distance from each other, and honestly the letter that I got from you seemed to reinforce that idea. But I felt that it was too rude not to reply, especially given how hard it must have been to read my letter, knowing what I’ve said.

From what I’ve gathered, you seem to be getting your life back together. I’m happy for that, and I hope that you’re in a much brighter place now. I know living with a condition like yours can’t be easy, but I’m really glad that you seem to be in a better state than when you were in the hospital.

Truthfully though, your reply wasn’t the only reason why I chose to mail this letter, though it is still a big one. In the intervening months since you’ve went to Yamaku, I’ve become friends with Mai and Takumi, and me and Shin are currently dating. They approached me shortly after you left the hospital, and one thing led to another. As cruel as this might sound, I think we all bonded over your absence and the distance you’ve put between us.

While I truly value the friendship that’s formed between the four of us, I would feel absolutely horrible if I just kept that fact from you. If you blame me for taking your place in their lives, I will offer no defense. I can only hope you can forgive me, and let you know that they still talk fondly about you. If you ever decide to come back for the winter, we can all catch up with one another and try to truly move past those awkward days at the hospital. I think I can say for all of us that we truly wish that can happen.

However, if this were to be our last conversation, I would want to end it on a friendly note, at least on my end. I hope you’ve had a great summer.

Sincerely, Iwanako.”


I placed the letter down, letting out a sigh. The thought of my old friends was something I thought I had left behind, and now here they are, fresh in my head. It was a bit heartening to know that they’re doing fine with their lives, even if they’ve seem to have completely moved on past me.

I considered writing a letter back for a moment, then decided against it. I honestly didn’t know how to respond to that kind of thing, not that I don’t want to. Maybe it truly was for the best best to leave things in the past and move on, and not try to rekindle something that’s long since been buried.

Do I resent them for moving on? It was silly to think about, and also really stupid, but the more I thought about it the more I can’t deny that I feel...something towards my old friends and Iwanako. I just didn’t know what, and perhaps I’ll never know unless I confront them again.

Going home for the winter seems like more and more of an inevitability than a choice now, with both my parents and my old friends there, it’ll be settling a lot of things at once, as potentially disastrous as that may be.

Today has been quite a day, and I’m not sure that I want something else to happen for a long while. All I knew was that I didn’t feel like staying in my room, so I quickly went out for a walk, letting me process my thoughts.

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The air was getting slightly colder as I walked to the school courtyard, afternoon giving way to evening. I tried to stop thinking about everything and simply focus on my walking, focusing on my legs moving in rhythm. One step, then another step, then another.

I walked from the courtyard to the track. I didn’t know why I went there, as I simply went wherever my legs took me. It was deserted, save for one person who was currently running through the track and blistering speeds. I seemed to have caught her eye as she immediately stopped to wave at me.

“Hey, Hisao.” Miki said. “What’s up?”

“Nothing much, taking a walk.” I said, not even putting the effort to smile. “Needed to get things off my head.”

“You too, huh?” Miki grumbled as she approached me, her face twisting into a scowl. “Come on, sit down and let me finish my laps. We can bitch together or something. I need it and you’re here so...just be my verbal punching bag for the day.”

Feeling like there’s no better option, I take a seat in one on the bleachers as Miki continued her run. My eyes were fixated on her form, moving swiftly across the track. She’s not as fast as Emi, but she would still lap me without breaking a sweat, even assuming I don’t just die from running. At this point in time, it very well could happen.

Even vaguely thinking about my condition seemed to embitter me today. I thought I could leave that uncomfortable part of me behind, simply treat it as something to deal with by myself. But in hindsight it was probably a foolish idea. Just as my life doesn’t fully belong to me, I can’t simply assume that I’m the only one that can be hurt by my condition.

I was so lost in my own thoughts that I didn’t even realize that Miki stopped running, only noticing her presence when she sat down next to me.

“So...you wanna go first? Or shall I?” Miki offered as she looked down at the track.

“Ladies first.” I replied. Honestly I don’t even want to know if I want to get this off my chest, considering how well that went this afternoon.

“Ladies first, huh? Didn’t know you’re so old fashioned.” Miki lets out a slight chuckle before sighing. “You how I said my family was doing fine without me?”

I let out a soft “No.”, only having a vague recollection of her mentioning family.

“Don’t blame you, but I was lying my ass off back then. Long and short of it is that my parents are getting a divorce.” Miki’s face looked vaguely distant as she said that, growling slightly. “Mom says one thing, dad says another thing. Wanting me to take a side, all that crap.”

“Oh…that’s…” I couldn’t muster anything else to say to that.

“Sucks? Yeah, it does. Hard. And now my parents are fighting over custody over my siblings.” She lets out an angry groan and stands up, kicking the air in frustration. “Just thinking about it gets my blood boiling. And the worst part is that I don’t have anyone to blame for it, cause as far as I know one day my entire family went to shit. It just happened, and I have to go home eventually because apparently the law needs my opinion on who should get custody rights.”

She got louder and louder as she went on, and I suddenly feel extremely bad for her. Whatever I’m going through right now seemed so miniscule compared to that. As distant as I am with them sometimes, the thought of my parents divorcing is something I didn’t even want to consider, let alone have to experience.

“Anyways, that’s my side of the story. Been running here every day to keep the edge off, as if I could run away from it at all.” Miki let out a depressing whimper before turning to me. “Alright, I kept up my end. Your turn, and no cop outs.”

I take a deep breath, mustering the will to talk. “It has to do with Rin.” I said meekly.

“Oh? Girlfriend problems, huh?” She said, raising an eyebrow. “Is it something serious or did you two just have a little lover’s spat?”

“Well, I told her something that I needed to say and she didn’t take it all that well.” I placed a hand on my head, my mind just wanting suppress the memory. “I...uh...have a heart condition and well, let’s just say that my life expectancy is not what I wish it could be.”

“Damn. That’s some pretty serious shit.” Miki sat down beside once again, eyeing me with some sympathy. “Well, at least you were man enough to tell her straight up. Hiding that kind of thing isn’t exactly gonna win you any points with the ladies. Take it from someone who knows.”

“Not exactly what I wanted to hear.”

“I know, I just don’t know what else to tell you.” She let out an annoyed huff. “I’m not the kinda gal you turn to when you need serious advice, I’m the type of gal you turn to if you need someone to hang out with and talk about stuff that doesn’t matter.”

“Well, sorry for not coming to you for your intended use.” I responded sarcastically.

“Fuck you, dude.” Miki jabbed back, sticking out her tongue. “No wonder you can only score with Tezuka. You two just drive everyone off with your lack of charm.”

The two of us glared daggers at each other before exchanging a playful laugh. It felt nice to get something like this off my chest, as painful as it initially was. Even if Miki doesn’t have a serious answer, it was good to know someone else knows what I’m currently going through, insignificant as it is on a worldly scale.

“If you want my advice? Like real advice?” Miki said, looking serious now. “It was going to happen anyways, so you just gotta deal with it. I wish my parents aren’t divorcing, but that sure as hell ain’t happening. So whatever happens, you just have to accept it.”

“Even if she doesn’t want to be with me after what I’ve told her?” I asked, the possibility leaving me numb. After all we’ve been through, for my condition to pry us completely apart would be something I wouldn’t know how to deal with at all.

“Well, sounds like that’s the problem. She wants to be with you, but you just told her you might not be around as long as she likes.” She leaned her head upwards and closed her eyes, basking in the slight breeze that was blowing through. “But yeah, you can’t force things. It’s up to her just as much as it’s up to you.”

“I know...” I muttered out, knowing that that’s true.

“Well, that was a nice round of misery.” Miki said as she stood up. “But I’ve had enough moping for one day. See you around?”

“Yeah. If you ever want to do this again, feel free. I think we have enough misery to go around.” I offered that partly as a joke, but also to see if she would genuinely accept it.

“I’ll think about it.” Miki walked down the bleachers before turning back, giving me a smile. “I hope you get your shit sorted out with Tezuka, Hisao. I mean it.”

“I hope you get yours sorted out too.” I returned the smile with one of my own, though it was a little forced. She continued to walk away, leaving me alone once more.

I didn’t know how long I sat on the bleachers, but I did know that by the time I left the sun was starting to set. On the way back to the dorm, I picked my phone out of my pocket and dial in my mother’s number. I had so many problems on my mind, might as well get one of them out of the way right then and there.

“Good evening, Hicchan.” My mom’s voice was as exuberant as ever. “I’m so glad you decided to call me. How is everything?”

“Everything is going fine.” I lied, not wanting to bring up my troubles. Chances are she won’t understand it, yet pester me about it till midnight. “How’s work? I’m not interrupting anything important, am I?”

“Oh, no dear. I’m in the middle of my dinner break.” Mom lets out a rather hearty laugh before continuing. “Anyways, why did you call me? Do you need anything?”

“No, I just feel like calling. I wanted to see how you and dad are doing.” I ask.

“Oh, we’re doing fine.” Mom said with confidence. “Your father dad finally got that promotion I talked about a few weeks ago, more pay with less working hours. He’s been the happiest I’ve seen all year, and he even gave me a new dress as a celebration gift!”

“That’s amazing. Tell dad I’m glad he got it.” Listening to her news comforted me a little bit, especially after my talk with Miki. Whatever else happens, the fact remains that my parents are still my parents, and they love both me and each other regardless of how little time we spend with each other. It just took me hearing about a worse off situation to make me actually appreciate that fact.

“Oh, he’ll be so happy to hear that from you, Hicchan.” Mom lets out a giggle. “Anyways, still coming home for the winter?”

“Yeah, definitely.” I responded, feeling absolutely sure about that fact. “Only a few months away, and then all three of us can be together.”

“I look forward to it more and more each day.” I could hear Mom sniffling a little. “I miss you, Hicchan. I miss you so much that I just want to drive to Yamaku to see you again.”

She was probably exaggerating just a little, but it was a sweet sentiment. I felt bad that I didn’t seem to miss her as much as she misses me, but the feeling was still there.

“Yeah, I miss you too.” I said, noticing that I’ve arrived at my dorm entrance. “We’ll spend a lot of time during the Winter, I promise. I’ll even go shopping with you and dad, if that’s what you want.”

“What?” Mom sounded genuinely shocked for a moment. “Are you sure? You always complained when I take you out shopping.”

It’s true that I found shopping with her tedious, especially when she’s buying new clothes for either of us, but I felt like I should probably do what they want to make up for my absence. Besides, as tedious as it may be, nothing will top those disastrous four months in the hospital as far as tedium is concerned.

At least, I hope not.

“Yeah, I’m sure. I need new clothes anyways, my old ones might be too small.” I replied as I entered the dorm building. “Anyways, I think that’s all I wanted to say. Sorry.”

“Oh that’s fine, Hicchan. My break is just about to end too. Stay safe, you hear? Love you.”

“Love you too.” And with that, I ended the call. I entered my room, feeling marginally better than when I had left it, though not entirely fine.

With nothing else to do for the evening, I decided to sit at my desk and force myself to study. I wasn’t feeling particularly hungry, so dinner can wait a while. I thought for a moment if Rin is going to eat dinner, but I felt like she still doesn’t want me around and I’m too afraid of what will happen if I go to her again.

Letting out a sigh, I take out a physics book and opened it, trying to forget about things for a while.

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It was the dead of night when I heard the knock on my door. The rest of the evening consisted of me studying until I was tired, only stopping to get something to eat or to take my medications. I was just about to drift off into slumber until a soft but frantic knocking shook me from falling asleep.

Letting out an annoyed groan, I got out of bed to answer the knocking. Opening the door, I found Rin waiting for me. She didn’t say anything as she immediately entered my room without warning, catching me further off guard.

“Rin, why are you here?” I asked, closing the door. Turning around to look at her, she looked no worse for wear. Her face still carried that same neutral expression, showing little emotion.

She stared at me for a moment, and simply uttered out. “I want to sleep with you tonight, Hisao.”

My eyes widened at her statement, and I feel the heat in my cheeks rise. “I don’t think we should...after what happened…”

“Not sex.” Rin said, her face still expressionless. “I want to sleep in your bed with you. But I don’t want to have sex with you, unless you want to. Then maybe I want to have sex with you.”

My tired mind felt very lethargic, so I simply nodded at her, unable to find the will to object further. Rin walked over to the bed and laid down on it, staring at me in anticipation. I silently walked over to the bed and laid beside her, to which she promptly turned around and pressed her back onto my chest. I wrap my arms around her and held her, which she doesn’t seem to mind.

I felt like I should say something to her. About my condition, about how she feels, about everything. “Rin…about this afternoon…”

“Don’t.” I heard her whisper out, a creak in her voice. “Don’t say anything. Help me forget about today, Hisao. I don’t want to think about it, so help me bury it. Like someone putting something they don’t like in a chest and locking it, even though they should really throw it away.”

“Rin…” I tried to find the words to speak, but her request rendered me too afraid to speak.

“Just forget about today.” Rin whispered again, and I’m not sure if it’s directed and myself or her. “When tomorrow comes, today will become yesterday. Then we don’t have to think about it anymore. We can do that, right?.”

I couldn’t find the will to refute her, so I simply laid there, holding her tightly as we both tried to sleep. After a while, Rin began to breathe out softly as she drifted off into sleep. As for myself, my feelings were too much of a mess for me to sleep, at least not until exhaustion does the job for me.

Rin wanted to forget everything about my condition, a desire I admittedly can understand very well. But for our relationship to completely disregard that would be irresponsible, especially going forward. I didn’t know what to do, or even what I’m going to do. Is it completely fine to leave that issue buried and unresolved? I know the answer to that, but….

Feeling slightly faint, I closed my eyes and nestled my head again Rin’s. summer vacation was about to end, and along with it our period of relaxation. I didn’t know what the future held in store for us, and I worried that it might end disastrously for the both of us.

But for the moment, I tossed all of that aside and simply let myself embraced her, my mind drifting off to sleep as we silently await tomorrow.

User avatar
Tetrax333
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Re: Rin Epilogue: The Long Road (Updated 15/8/2019)

Post by Tetrax333 » Fri Oct 04, 2019 10:37 am

Really enjoying the story and i'm super curious how this story will go. Will keep following this story, hopefully to its completion. You did an excellent job here.

MoashLannister
Posts: 7
Joined: Sun May 12, 2019 11:19 pm

Re: Rin Epilogue: The Long Road (Updated 15/8/2019)

Post by MoashLannister » Fri Oct 04, 2019 10:53 pm

Tetrax333 wrote:
Fri Oct 04, 2019 10:37 am
Really enjoying the story and i'm super curious how this story will go. Will keep following this story, hopefully to its completion. You did an excellent job here.
Aw, thanks. Comments like this are what keeps me going. Except a new chapter soon-ish~

MoashLannister
Posts: 7
Joined: Sun May 12, 2019 11:19 pm

Re: Rin Epilogue: The Long Road (Updated 15/8/2019)

Post by MoashLannister » Tue Oct 15, 2019 6:39 am

Chapter 5: False Progression

Summer vacation was finally over, meaning it was time for me to go back to the usual routine of attending classes and surviving them until graduation. Letting out a loud yawn, I open the door to the classroom to see that everyone seemed to be in a rather downbeat mood, most likely due to having to return to school.

Of course, two notable exceptions are Shizune and Misha, who seemed to be as energetic as ever. They were signing to each other until they noticed me, their hands mostly a blur. I took my seat right beside Misha and rested my head on the table. It feels familiar to be at my seat after summer vacation, though I can’t say the same for what came next.

“Good morning, Hicchan!” Misha said aloud, much to my ears displeasure. “How was your summer vacation?”

“It was good.” I muttered out dispassionately, feeling too out of it to give any effort to my response. “How was yours?”

“Oh, it was great. I got to see my parents!” Misha let out a laugh, and I’m pretty sure the other student’s were not appreciating how loud she’s being. Not that she seemed to care, as her carefree smile suggested. “Anyways, I heard some things about you Hicchan. Care to tell me?”

My mind, which wasn’t exactly running on all cylinders at that moment, genuinely didn’t know what she was referring to. It took me a few seconds to realize she’s most likely talking about those rumors about me and Rin. Still, I wasn’t sure if that’s really what she wants to know, so I decided to play dumb. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Oh come on, Hicchan. You can trust me.” Misha pleaded, and behind her I could see Shizune looking at me with a certain glint in her eyes. I guess Misha isn’t the only one curious. “It’s about you and Tezuka. A lot of people have been talking about you two, how you hang out all the time.”

I started to wonder why people can’t leave well enough alone. I’m not exactly the type to gossip about stuff, so maybe I just don’t know the exciting high people get when prying into other people’s business. Letting out a sigh, I answered. “Yes, me and Rin are dating...more or less.”

Shizune lets out a satisfied smirk as she tapped her on the shoulder, leading them both to sign at each other for a minute. Eventually Misha turned back to me and said. “Well, we hope you two are happy together. Sicchan says fraternization is an essential part of the school social order.”

I simply nodded and stayed silent, wanting the conversation to die down so I can be alone with my thoughts for a few moments. The fact that we’re happy together was obvious, though what occurred a few days ago between us definitely threw a wrench in that otherwise perfect situation.

After the night we spent together, Rin went about her business pretending like nothing happened, or perhaps she genuinely blocked it out of her mind. Regardless, we spent the last days of summer painting, talking and eating together like we usually did. We essentially got back to normal after that night, if you could even call what we are “normal”.

Still, the fact that she didn’t want to bring up what happened or my condition in any capacity was something I couldn’t just get out of my thoughts. I didn’t have the heart to confront her about it, but neither did I have the willingness to just forget about it as she seemed to.

My thoughts came to a halt as Mutou entered the room, his refreshed appearance contrasting the rest of the class. “Good morning.” He said in a genial tone. Well, as genial as Mutou gets anyways. “I hope you all had a nice summer vacation.”

The rest of the class moaned out in agreement, causing him to raise an eyebrow. “Regardless, the time for relaxation is over. Final exams are soon approaching, and I will not have anyone in my class be held back because of it. Understood? You all have futures as productive members of society, futures I will not see ruined because of laziness”

What should have been a motivational, or at the very least threatening, speech was undercut by his flat delivery. Sure enough, the rest of the class didn’t seem all that moved by it. Mutou turned his back to begin his class, scribbling words onto the chalkboard.

I didn’t pay all that much attention to the class, though enough to make sure I could pretend I was. My mind wasn’t receptive to learning this morning, though considering the current subject I could probably get away with it.

It felt weird being back in class again after summer break. So many things occurred during that period, and I’ve changed because of it. People rarely are the same as they were in the past, but it feels as though I’ve gone through more change in the past few months than I’ve had in the past ten years. And I doubt I’ll stop changing, especially with Rin around.

“What now?” seemed to be a recurring question in my life. What do I do now that I have my heart condition? Where will I go now that a person I love not only knows about it, but wishes to completely ignore it? Where will I go if that proves to be impossible?

So many questions with answers that are hard to conceive. Perhaps this is how Rin felt when she learned about my arrhythmia, to not know what to do with the questions it poses for the both of us. I felt a sense of guilt at that idea, even knowing that it’s something that can’t be helped.

“Nakai!”

I hear Mutou call out to me, a slight frown on his face as he asked. “Do you know the answer to this solution?”

I take a quick look at what he wrote on the chalkboard and immediately work it out in my head. My knowledge in Physics helped get some of it right, but not the entire thing. I relayed my incomplete answer to Mutou, which doesn’t seem to satisfy him.

“A good effort Nakai, but that answer is insufficient. Please try to pay attention in class.” With that, he turned his back and wrote the full answer onto the chalkboard, explaining it.

I immediately went back to daydreaming, understanding Mutou’s warning yet ignoring it all the same. Perhaps it’s because I’m feeling particularly distracted today, or perhaps Rin has influenced me more than I thought. I’d put my money on it being the latter.

As class dragged on, I found myself thinking about the sky and how wonderful it would be like to float on the clouds without a care in the world.

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The bell rang, bringing an end to Mutou’s lecture as he exits the class. I didn’t listen to too much of his lecture, though I’m sure I can pick up on what I missed in a textbook. Standing up, I stretched my body in order to feel less lazy and immediately think of what to do now. Lunch would probably be a good start, preferably with company.

Turning around, I see Hanako remaining at her seat. She was as still as a statue, not moving as the people around her got out of their seats and walked out. Feeling as if I should invite her, I began to approach her, which seemed to catch her attention as she greeted me with a nervous smile. “Good m-morning, Hisao.”

“Morning.” I responded casually. “I was heading out for lunch. You can join, if you want to.”

She took a moment to consider before giving me a slight nod. With that settled, I walked out the classroom door with her trailing behind me…

Only for someone to barely avoid colliding with me, like a driver swerving his car out of the way to avoid hitting a jaywalker. The person stops right in front of me, bouncing up and down as she looks at me with a wide grin on her face.

“Morning, Emi.” I said, giving her an incredulous look. “Were you trying to hit me on purpose?”

“Morning, Hisao.” Emi replied with her usual cheer. “I was going to invite you to eat lunch with me and Rin on the rooftop. I haven’t seen you all summer, so maybe I was just a bit too excited.”

“Nice excuse.” I jabbed back, causing her to pout. “Anyways, you and Rin already caught up with each other?”

“Yeah!” Emi bounced up and down. “We met the moment I came back to Yamaku. She seemed to miss me, in her own way.”

Without warning, she grabbed my arm and started pulling me away. “Come on, Hisao. We need to get up there at once, so you can tell me all about how you and Rin spent summer together.”

I turn back to look at Hanako, who seemed too paralyzed to do anything for a moment. I plant my foot down, preventing Emi from dragging me any further. “Hey Emi.” I said as I pulled my arm away from her. “I sort of asked Hanako to lunch, so do you think we can…”

Emi looked at Hanako, who shied away from her. Without missing a beat, she immediately went up to her and said. “Hey, wanna go to the roof with us? It’ll be really fun.”

Hanako didn’t say anything, though it’s obvious she was nervous from the look on her face. She turns her head to me, and I try to give her the most reassuring smile I could. That seemed to help as she looked a bit calmer. “O-ok…”

“Great!” Emi exclaimed, bouncing up and down again. She immediately dashed ahead of us, turning around and sticking out her tongue at me. “What are you waiting for, Hisao? Every second you’re standing there is another second you aren’t out on the roof.”

With that, she took off without us. I turn to Hanako, who was now walking over to me. She looked slightly confused, and said quietly. “S-she seems...peppy…”

“Yeah, she’s a bundle of energy alright.” I responded in exasperation, though truth be told I missed her cheerfulness. Hanako and Rin were always nice to be with, but Emi’s simple exuberance provided a nice contrast to Rin’s stoic complexity. “Come on, let’s head up there. Otherwise she’s going to yell at me some more.”

Hanako gave me a nod, and we make our way there. It wasn’t long before we were walking up the familiar spiral staircase, going through the doorway leading to the open sky.

As expected, Rin and Emi were there. They were sitting on the rocky floor with around eight bento boxes, and Rin was already eating one of them with a plastic spoon. “Hey!” Emi said as she saw us. “Mom left me with these extra bento boxes. I didn’t want to eat these for lunch and dinner for four days straight, so I figured we might as well finish them now. Take as many as you want.”

“Your mom sure left you a lot of food.” I noted as I sat down next to Rin and picked up a bento box off the floor. She didn’t do anything to indicate that she acknowledged my existence, most likely because she’s eating and is already more than familiar with my presence.

“Yeahhhh...” Emi said with a bit of whine in her voice. “She sort of went overboard with dinner plans during the last day of our summer vacation. My stomach was filled to the brim that night.”

“Sounds like you had a fun summer vacation.” I said as I opened up the box. The contents seemed to be slightly different than Rin’s and Emi’s, though all of them have both rice and some beef inside, as well as plastic utensils. I looked over to see that Hanako also quietly took a box, and was sitting opposite the three of us.

“Yeah, yeah. It was a great time.” Emi replied dismissively before eating another bite out of her box. She gave me an inquisitive stare and said. “But enough about me. How are you two lovebirds doing? Been getting busy during summer vacation?”

“Yes.” Rin interjected before I could even answer, entering the conversation with the grace of a construction worker. “I’ve been busy painting, and Hisao has been busy watching me paint. He likes to watch me a lot. Like people who have binoculars that watch birds all day, except I’m not a bird and he doesn’t have binoculars.”

Emi lets out a giggle at that, which only causes me to feel embarrassment. “I don’t really watch you that much, do I?” I asked nervously.

“You do. I feel like if you could, you would glue your eyeballs onto me. Except that would mean you can’t see because your eyeballs wouldn’t be attached to your head.” Rin took another bite before continuing, speaking as if I really did want to glue my eyeballs. “Maybe you should glue your head to me, except that would make me a bit uncomfortable. Don’t do that.”

At that, Emi simply burst out laughing. I turned to look at Hanako and see that she was giggling a little as well, trying not to look at me while doing so. I simply took a deep sigh and continued eating, waiting for the giggling fit die down.

“Seriously though, you two seem closer than ever. I’m almost jealous.” Emi said. “Maybe I should leave taking care of Rin to you. You can help put on her clothes, bathe with her…”

The devilish smirk on her face as she said that couldn’t be any more evil even if she tried. “Actually, Miki did all that while you were away.” I pointed out, desperately trying to deflect her teasings. “Though Rin said that she prefers when you take care of her. Didn’t you?”

Rin nodded once, saying nothing. Emi looked oddly fierce at the mention of Miki. Fierce by Emi standards anyway. “Well it’s nice to know that I’m better than freaking Miura, though honestly that’s not saying much.”

The comment hit me a bit harder than I would like to admit, mostly because I know about Miki’s...less than ideal family situation. We didn’t talk about it at all after that day in the track, though we still struck up a conversation when we happened to pass by each other. “What do you have against her, anyways?” I asked, trying my best not to sound too biased. “She seems fine.”

“She likes to tease me. It’s like she can’t go two seconds without aiming some joke at me.” Emi said with an angry huff. “And even though I’m a better runner than her, she always acts like she’s the best one on the team. It ticks me off.”

“So you hate her because she’s your long lost sister? Because apart from actually being the best runner, you just described yourself as well.” I responded jokingly, causing her to glare daggers at me.

“Hisao, you meanie!!” Emi shouted out, and for a second I swore she was going to throw her bento box at me. “Take it back, take it back right now or I’m never speaking to you ever again!”

“Alright, alright. I take it back. You’re nothing like Miki.” I said, more out of self preservation than anything. Emi simply looked away from me, and I would feel worse about it if she didn’t look so cute doing so.

“Are you and Miki really long lost sisters?” Rin asked innocently before shaking her head. “Or maybe you two are related in some other way, like you’re her cousin’s cousin's cousin’s…”

“You too, Rin?” Emi shouted incredulously. “I regret ever giving you two these bento boxes!”

“Too late to take them back. Unless you want to reach into my stomach to get it.” I jabbed back, feeling just a little cruel in teasing her so much. Rin nodding at my statement didn’t exactly do anything to discourage me either.

“That’s it! You two are no longer my best friends.” Emi turned to Hanako and gave her a fierce smile. “Hanako, want to be my new best friend?.”

Hanako, who was just quietly eating her meal, had a look of shock on her face at the sudden question. Her mouth was quivering, trying to find an answer. “Uh...uh...I...”

“Alright, alright. I apologize.” I called out, trying to deflect her attention away from Hanako. In an exaggerated voice, I spoke out. “I solemnly swear that you and Miki Miura have nothing in common, and that you are the undisputed queen of the track.”

Emi turned to me, pouting. “Hmph! Apology not accepted. Not until you treated me to some desserts at the Shanghai. Expensive ones, Hisao!”

“Ouch. A fair sentence, I suppose.” I replied in a faux-defeated tone. On the corner of my eye, I see Hanako giving me a grateful look. I turned to look at her and gave her a little smile in return. “We can all go to the Shanghai together. Maybe tomorrow after school?”

“It’s a deal.” Emi replied in agreement, returning to her usual cheerful expression. “Hope you have a lot of cash in your pocket, cause I’m spending it all.”

The rest of the lunch went by pretty smoothly, though we didn’t have the stomach to finish all eight bento boxes. Most of the conversation seemed to be playful banter between Emi and I, with Rin seeming content to add the occasional comment and Hanako staying silent through all of it. Still, there was definitely a friendly air here and all four of us were enjoying ourselves.

However, the distant ringing of the bell brought it to a halt. “Aw, man.” Emi groaned, getting up. “Class already?”

“Guess time really does fly with you around.” I noted as I stood as well, helping Rin get to her feat. “Would you like to see me after class, Rin?”

Rin closed her eyes, giving it a thought. “Yes, I would like that.” She said, and in a surprising act, moved forward and pressed her lips onto mine. It was a quick kiss, but it was amazing all the same. “I also wanted to kiss you just now, so I did. I can do that, right?”

“As many times as you want.” I replied, smiling. Rin looked as deadpan as ever, seemingly unphased by my answer.

“Heh, you two are really cute together.” Emi said in a sly voice before grabbing hold on Rin’s shoulder. “I almost feel sad that I have to tear you two apart. Come on Rin, class is waiting.”

“Ok…” Rin muttered out as she follows Emi, turning around to give me one last look before descending the staircase.

That left me and Hanako. I turned to her and see that she looked a bit apprehensive, staring at the doorway. “Is something wrong?” I asked, not knowing exactly what’s bothering her.

She turned to look at me and said softly. “No...it's j-just...I didn’t talk much. During lunch, I mean.”

“Rin didn’t talk much either.” I replied. “You can talk as much or as little as you want to.”

“Class is almost starting.” She said quietly, her hands clenching. “Honestly, I-I don’t feel like going back…”

“You can stay here, if you want.” I offered. Hanako often wasn’t present during classes, but from what I can tell the teachers never really made a fuss of it. “I need to go though, History is a class I really can’t afford to skip.”

She looked at me for a little bit, letting out a slight smile before saying. “Y-you know, you shouldn’t encourage someone t-to skip classes…”

“Well, I’m not exactly planning to be a model student” I replied in a sarcastic manner, walking towards the doorway. “Anyways, I’ll see you later?”

Surprisingly, I turned around to see Hanako walking towards me. She looks at me a little strangely before saying. “I c-changed my mind, H-History isn’t a subject I c-can skip either...”

I can’t tell if that was a genuine reason or an excuse, but my head immediately thought of the latter. It was pointless anyways. Without saying a word, I nod to her. We both make our way down the steps, hurrying a little to get to class on time. When we enter, we got back to our seats and waited for classes to resume.

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The final bell rang out, signalling the end of another school day. The teacher once again urges us to focus on our upcoming final exams before taking off. Trying to avoid any Shizune and Misha’s antics, I immediately bolted out of the classroom. The hallway was full of students, but among the tide of bodies I managed to find Rin.

“Hey, Rin. Where’s Emi?” I asked her, my voice catching her attention.

“Track meet stuff.” She responded, her eyes bouncing between the various people walking about in the hallway. “I feel like painting, but also don’t feel like painting.”

“Why?” I asked, which seemed to just make her frown.

“I usually paint in the Art Club during school days, but I don’t feel like going there.” She said, looking down towards the ground.

I can imagine a couple of reasons why she wouldn’t want to go there, though the biggest one is definitely a man by the name of Nomiya. “You can paint back in your room.” I offered.

She shook her head at that. “I don’t want to paint in my room again.”

An idea suddenly struck me, and I looked at my watch. We still had time. “I can carry your art supplies from your room and you can paint somewhere else.”

She seemed to beam up a little. “Really? Where?”

“Anywhere you’d like.” I said, giving her my best smile. “The roof, the forest, even the running track if you want. I don’t mind.”

She seems to give it some serious thought. “The roof.” She said conclusively. “I want to paint on the roof.”

“Alright, let’s get going then.” I replied as we started to head towards the school exit.

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“Hisao, hand me more red.” Rin requested as she brushed another stroke onto the canvas. “It’s too far away.”

“Which red? There’s several shades of it.”

“The one that’s not so red, but also red.” She replied, staring intently at the unfinished piece before her. The wind was blowing against her, making her hair flow wildly, making her look messier than usual. Of course, the splattering of paint on her uniform also helped with that. “Like a book that isn’t quite fiction, but isn’t quite historical.”

Unsure of what she’s trying to say, I look over the shades of red and find a rather muted one, handing it over to her. It seemed to be the right one as she immediately dipped her brush onto it and started to paint on her canvas once more.

She was facing the sunset, looking at the horizon in between brush strokes. I only brought one canvas, as she said she only needed to paint one piece. Regardless, we’ve been on the roof for the better part of an hour, scarcely making conversation as she pours more effort into a seemingly endless painting.

“My parents sent me another letter.” Rin said, out of the blue.

“Oh.” I replied, vaguely recalling a conversation involving her parents. “What did they say?”

“That they miss me, but also that they’ll see me during Spring Break.” She said, an odd creak in her voice. “And also that I need to study hard for finals.”

“What about Winter Break?” I asked, the idea I’ve long kept under wraps immediately springing into my mind.

“Winter isn’t a good time for them. I don’t know why, but they often leave me with my grandparents during the Winter.” The creak in her voice continued, as if she’s forcing herself to speak. “When I asked my grandparents, they said it’s because they’re busy.”

I couldn’t offer any response to her, so I kept my mouth shut. It wouldn’t be a good idea to ask her to come with me during Winter Break after mentioning her parents. So for that moment I continued to look at her, waiting for her to finish her painting.

As if she was reading my mind, Rin suddenly asked. “Are you going somewhere?”

“What?”

“Are you going somewhere?” She asked again, her eyes breaking away from the painting to look at me. She looked on in anticipation, waiting for my answer.

“I’ll be heading back to my hometown during Winter Break.” I said, the words just flowing out of my mouth. “To hang out with my parents.”

Rin didn’t say anything, and simply went back to her painting. I tried to look at her for any sort of reaction, but her face was as stoic and expressionless. Deciding not to push things any further, I simply turned towards the sunset.

“I don’t want you to go.” I heard Rin whisper out, barely detecting her voice.

I couldn’t muster up the will to face her, so I simply looked up at the empty sky. “I have to. My parents are expecting me there.”

“I know.” was all that she responded with. “I’m done, Hisao. Please come look.”

I moved over to Rin to see her latest work. The painting on the canvas wasn’t some abstract piece, but instead a piece that depicted the very rooftop we’re currently on. There were some artistic liberties taken, such as the lack of a fence, but all in all it was a very accurate recreation of this place.

Of course, what was an even more accurate depiction were the two figures on the rooftop. Both of them were sitting slightly apart from each other. I couldn’t see their faces, but it was fairly obvious who the two of them were. It was like looking through the eyes of a bird, watching us from above.

“Did you want to paint this?” I asked hesitantly, trying not to upset her.

“It’s not what I wanted to paint before I got here.” She admitted, looking at the work with conflicted eyes. “But when I started painting, I couldn’t get this image out of my head and my legs wouldn’t stop moving and…”

Cutting herself off, she lets out a deep breath and closed her eyes. “Do you know what this means, Hisao?”

“It’s us...on the rooftop, isn’t it?”

“Yes.” She said, though my answer didn’t seem to appease her. “I wanted to paint us being together, but I don’t know why. I know the answer but not knowing why the answer exists, like knowing what phones are but not how they’re made.”

“Don’t leave me, Hisao.” She pleaded. “I like it when I know you’re around, even if I can’t see you or hear you. If you go back home, I won’t be able to do that. It’ll be like waiting for something that you know will come back, but you still wonder if it’ll ever come back and I…”

Rin stared at me, her expression practically begging me not to go. For a split second, I wanted to say that I won’t, but I know better than to lie. “Rin...do you want to go with me?” I asked, finally uttering out the question that I’ve been meaning to ask for so long

She blinked for a few seconds. “What?”

“Do you want to go with me?” I repeated, looking at her with all the seriousness I can muster. “My parents allowed me to invite someone over, so you can stay over at my house. We can be together over Winter Break, and I can show you a bit of my past.”

Once again, Rin blinked a few times and seemed to be stuck in place, staying absolutely still. Her eyes waver just a little, and her mouth moves as if it were deciding whether to frown or smile.

“Rin…” I started to say, but she cuts me off with a sudden kiss to my lips. It was over just as soon as it started, but it caught me off guard nonetheless.

“I want to be with you.” She said, nodding her head slightly. “I’ll go.”

“Are you sure?” I said, feeling my chest getting tighter. This is exactly what I wanted, yet why do I feel so uncertain?

“I’m not sure.” Rin admitted. “I’m not sure I want to know more about your past, or meet your parents, or even if I want to go. But I’m sure I want to be with you, so I’ll go. Because you’ll be there, Hisao.”

I could only nod in gratitude. It was obvious that this decision isn’t easy for her, but for her to go for my sake was something I can’t help but feel thankful for. “Thank you, Rin…”

“I also want to kiss you again. You said I can do it as many times as I want…”

She gave me those pleading eyes of hers again, and I can’t offer up a shred of resistance to it. I press my face forwards, and she kissed me more eagerly this time. We kiss for what seemed to be an eternity, savoring every second of it.

We eventually parted, both of us gasping for breath. Rin closed her eyes and whispered out. “I want to be closer to you. Take off my clothes, please…”

Without so much as a thought, my hands went to unbutton her shirt one by one. Rin was silent as I undid all of it, taking it off her and leaving her in her blue bra. As I wrapped my arms around her to reach her back, I’m reminded of a rainy day from long ago. How different were we from back then? Have we changed at all these past few weeks?

It probably didn’t matter. Just as Rin pleaded that she doesn’t want to see me go, the thought of her leaving me would probably devastate me. We’ve made no promises, exchanged no vows, and yet it felt like we’ve become too intertwined in each other’s lives to consider backing away.

The thought of that scares me more than it does comfort me, oddly enough; the idea of something as simple as walking away being so horrifying.

I finally managed to unhook the back of her bra, letting it fall down. Rin finally opened her eyes to look at me, a melancholy look on her face. “You’re thinking again. Thinking about things.”

“One of us has to.” I responded, trying to play it off as a joke.

Rin rested her head against my chest a little, letting out a sigh. “I think about things too, but there’s always some things I don’t want to think about. Like eating breakfast but hating cereal. I don’t want to have cereal for breakfast.”

I can’t help but laugh a little at that analogy. Leave it to Rin to talk about breakfast in a situation like this.

“You’re not done taking off my clothes.” She mentioned, sounding almost impatient.

“Working on it.” I replied as my hands reach down to her pants, pulling it down. Rin thankfully helps me out by moving her body so that I can remove it completely, as well as her panties.

My hands instinctively reached down to unbutton my own shirt, but Rin stopped me. “Don’t.”

“Rin…?”

“Don’t take off your shirt.” She said, her face inching forward again.

“...Alright.” I said after a while, my hands slowly moving down to my pants to unbuckle them. In a few seconds I took both it and my underwear off, leaving me with nothing but my shirt. Rin looked up and down my body, her eyes seemingly trying to analyze some mysterious aspect of me.

“The thing in your pants seem to be fine.” She notes, and it takes all my energy not to let out a laugh. Thankfully, Rin seems to have other ideas as she kissed me again, pressing her body eagerly against mine.

No more words needed to be said for the time being as my hands felt the smooth skin of her waist. Our lips parted only to meet each other again, our bodies clinging to one another like our lives depended on it.

“Hisao…” Rin whispered out, a slight breath coming out of her voice. “Lay down...”

I did as she asked and laid on the hard ground, looking up at her. Seeing her body, her green eyes overlooking me with the evening sky behind her, it feels captivating. Like something out of a dream. “You’re beautiful.” I said to her without thinking, letting my emotions fully take control.

She doesn’t respond as she positioned herself on top of me, giving me a questioning look. I nodded at her and she lowers herself, letting out a quiet moan as I feel her body shake a little. My hands reached up to hold her body, my eyes never breaking away from her face.

“Stop thinking…” Rin whispered as she started to move. My hands squeezed her hips, eliciting a quiet moan from her. I feel myself complying with her actions, letting my thoughts shut down to savor this moment between the two of us.

Rin started to move a little faster, closing her eyes and letting out a relaxed sigh. My hands moved up to her chest, squeezing it gently. She let out a moan at that, which only led me to squeeze it more.

We went on like this for a while, feeling the warmth of each other’s bodies. No words were said, just the sounds we made solidifying our enjoyment of the act. I wouldn’t call what we did passionate or even affectionate, but simply something to validate that we were here in this present moment with one another.

Eventually, my endurance ran out. Without warning, I feel my mind flashing for a second, letting out a rather loud moan before my body goes limp with exhaustion. Rin seemed to have experienced the same as well as she laid down on top of me, her breaths heavy and ragged.

Our silence persisted as we watched the sky turn from orange to purple. It was way past the time where we are allowed to be here, but both of us didn’t really felt like leaving just yet. I wrapped my arms around Rin, as if wanting to convince myself she’s really there.

“Hisao…” I heard her voice call out, soft and emotionless.

“Yes?” I responded, feeling myself getting drowsy. I feel as if we really needed to get out of here, but much like with a lot of things, I decided to push that urgency away.

“I like looking at the sky with you.” She mentioned as she rested her head just below mine. “We’re like two clouds floating in the sky together.”

I simply nodded to her as we continued gazing, enjoying this relaxing moment.

“We should probably go…” I suggested after a while, both to her and to myself. “Otherwise they’ll lock the doors and we’ll be stuck here until morning.”

Surprisingly, she agreed. After putting our clothes back on, we slowly made our way down the staircase. The school was very eerie with no one around and barely any light in it, but it wasn’t much of a hassle to find our way out of the building, which thankfully wasn’t locked.

As we walked down, I felt Rin pressing the side of her body against mine. “You know, you’re acting really clingy today.” I said to her. “Any particular reason why?”

“I don’t know.” Rin responded bluntly. “Wrap an arm around my shoulder, Hisao.”

I did as she said, wrapping an arm around her shoulder as she pressed her body towards me further, resting her head on my shoulder. We didn’t say anything further until we eventually have to go our separate ways.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, ok?”

“Will I?” Rin asked, looking at me with a serious gaze. “Will I see you tomorrow?”

“I promise.” I face her as I said those words, meeting her eyes with an equal amount of seriousness.

That seemed to satisfy her, as she gave me a nod before silently walking off to the girls dorm. Once she’s out of sight, I slowly made my way back to my own dorm room.

As I enter my room my thoughts turned to Winter Break, which I’m now looking forward to more than ever.

And yet as I thought more and more about it, I couldn’t help but feel a slight sense of dread creeping up on me. I started to worry that the things that could go horribly wrong. That my parents wouldn’t accept Rin, that I wouldn’t be able to reconcile with my old friends.

Well, only one way to find out if my fears were well founded or not. And that’s still a time quite far away. Feeling too lethargic to do any reading, I take my nightly medication and headed off to sleep, hoping that the future ahead for me can fix the problems of the present.

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Lap
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Re: Rin Epilogue: The Long Road (Updated 15/10/2019)

Post by Lap » Tue Oct 15, 2019 9:39 am

Your depiction of Rin feels like the most true-to-Rin depiction I've read in a while. The chapter title is disturbingly ominous. Thanks for the enjoyable read.
Avenues of Communication: Shizune suffers an accident.
Akira's Surprise: Akira pays a surprise visit to Lilly, Hanako and Hisao on Christmas eve. S9 Entry.
Arrival: Hanako's first days at Yamaku. (On Hiatus)
Home: Hanako & Hisao at University, sharing an apartment with their friend Lilly (on Ao3).
One-shots

MoashLannister
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Re: Rin Epilogue: The Long Road (Updated 15/10/2019)

Post by MoashLannister » Tue Oct 15, 2019 11:06 am

Lap wrote:
Tue Oct 15, 2019 9:39 am
Your depiction of Rin feels like the most true-to-Rin depiction I've read in a while. The chapter title is disturbingly ominous. Thanks for the enjoyable read.
Thank you. Rin is definitely hard to do right, as you need to balance being zany, quiet and downright weird. Still, for you to say that gives me a bit of confidence in my ability to write her.

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Mirage_GSM
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Re: Rin Epilogue: The Long Road (Updated 15/10/2019)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Thu Oct 24, 2019 11:42 am

Nice chapter again.
One minor remark: There's not going to be a spring break. They will have graduated by then.
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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

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