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

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

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

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 Sat Jun 15, 2019 2:26 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Feurox
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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

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

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Re: 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.
Current KS Stories:
Avenues of Communication Shizune suffers an accident. (WIP)
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. (WIP)
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.

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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.

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