Rin Epilogue: The Long Road (Updated 15/10/2021)

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MoashLannister
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Re: Rin Epilogue: The Long Road (Updated 15/3/2021)

Post by MoashLannister » Tue Jun 15, 2021 7:02 am

Chapter 14: Leap

Another day had almost gone by, with only a scant few hours left. As I lay on my bed, looking up at the empty ceiling, that was the only thought that I could muster. Another day, and I’d gotten no closer to reconciling with Rin.The rift between us seemed as large as ever. I thought about what my mother had said about letting time settle this, but all I felt was the fear that time would simply widen that rift to the point where I could no longer reach her.

“Maybe you’re wrong,” I whispered to my mother, despite the fact that she wasn’t there. “Maybe it’s just making things worse. Isn’t that what you want? For things to become so bad that I don’t have a choice but to break it off with her?”

I felt immediately guilty about blaming her like that. Her advice was genuine, and perhaps it might have been helpful for a regular problem that regular couples face. But our problem and our relationship was anything but regular.

I heard a knock on my door and groaned. It was probably Kenji, who's been doing that a lot since I’d gotten back, talking about whatever goes through that insane mind of his. A few times, I’ve let him in just because I couldn’t deal with being alone with my thoughts, but now it wasn’t even worth the effort. Listening to him wouldn’t fix my problems, so why did it matter?

After a few minutes, there was another knock, and it was then that I finally noticed something odd about it. A single loud knock as opposed to the battering Kenji usually gives, and I didn’t hear his usual diatribe. Only silence. Not to mention that it sounded too different to be a knock using someone’s hands...

No, there was no way it could be.

Another few minutes passed, and a third knock came. Still no voice accompanied it. At this point, my body tensed up even more, and without thinking I sat up and got off my bed. My heart was torn between hoping it was her, and wishing it wasn’t.

I walked to the door, and froze with my hand on the handle. My breath felt heavier, as if it was burdened by an intangible pressure. Closing my eyes, I opened the door.

Opening my eyes, I see her standing right in front of me. Rin was looking at me, but it was almost like she was looking through me instead. Before I could even react, she walked past me and entered my room, saying nothing.

“Rin…” I muttered as I turned around, seeing her immediately lay down on my bed. Normally, such a sight would have been the highlight of my day. Now it just made me feel awful, wondering just what was her intention in coming here, after so long without so much as a word.

With a sigh, I nearly slammed my door shut in frustration, but managed to restrain myself enough to close it gently. I walked back to my bed, step by agonizing step, getting closer to Rin. It felt as if I was walking on a tightrope, that at any moment I’d just plummet to the ground without a safety net.

Something as simple as walking towards someone shouldn’t feel as horrifying as that. It would have been absurd if it wasn’t so real.

As I finally reached the bed, I looked down at Rin. She was facing the wall, eyes shut as if she were trying to sleep. Her hair and clothes were a mess, and her expression was troubled.
The subtle movements her body was making made it clear that she was very much awake, though I almost wished she was asleep.

“Why are you here, Rin?” I asked gently, not even caring if she gave me a satisfactory answer. I just wanted her to respond with something that wasn’t silence. Unfortunately, she didn’t react to my question.

“Rin, please…” I said again, almost begging, and again I was met with nothing. I’d cry, but I’d long since run out of tears.

I was so close to her, just mere inches apart. And yet I felt as if we were in two separate worlds again, that I was no longer her anchor to reality. In some ways, it was even worse than her time at the atelier, because this time I understood her fear all too well. The fear of losing me, of the person who she loved more.

But regardless of my understanding, I could do nothing about it. Despite my promise to chase her wherever she went, Rin was in a place I simply couldn’t go. A place where I would never belong.

I almost wanted to scream. Like that time I lashed out about not being her muse. I thought I was past that point, and yet the urge to yell was there, to try and force her to listen to me.

I’d come so far, and yet in that moment, I felt as if I hadn’t even taken a single step.

Without saying anything, I lay down on the bed beside her, my back to hers. I felt so tired, but with her so close to me like this, it was hard to sleep.

I lost all sense of time as I wavered between being asleep and being awake. Though I hoped that exhaustion would force me to sleep eventually, Rin’s presence prevented me from succumbing to it. I wondered if Rin was asleep by now, or if she was still pretending to be.

If it was the latter...what could I even do? What should I even say?

I knew that her being here was uncomfortable for her as well, as it meant she had to acknowledge my problems, whether or not she wanted to. Did her desire to be with me simply outweighed that? But her silence and unwillingness to address it continued to keep me at a distance. She was skirting the line between letting go and holding on, but that was unsustainable, for both of us. Sooner or later, a choice had to be made.

And then a thought came, a dangerous thought that I would never have considered earlier. Should I...force her hand?

It would be cruel of me, to force her to choose, but that was going to happen anyways. She has to decide whether to keep me in or cut me off from her life, and simply remaining like this was too painful for both of us. A part of me wanted to just go to sleep and ignore that idea, and while it was extremely tempting, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

“Rin,” I said, louder than I intended. “I need you to talk to me about this.”

All I’m met with is her silence.

“We can’t keep going like this, I can’t…” I stopped myself before going any further, trying not to stray too far into hopelessness. “If you want this relationship to end because of...because of my heart condition, that’s fine. I don’t ever want to hurt you, and if that’s all I’m doing by being with you, then I’m willing to let you go.

“But if you don’t want me to go, then we need to talk about it. Not tonight, I don’t think either of us are ready for that.” I paused again, wondering if she was even listening. It would be pointless if she wasn’t, but even though I didn’t know, I still continued. “Tomorrow night. Please come here so we can talk, like how we did before this all happened. Try to remember those times. We were happy then, right?”

Those memories of our time together were something I treasured above everything else, yet recently I couldn’t find any enjoyment in remembering those times, only more sorrow. Like a photograph slowly being drained of color, of warmth.

“If you don’t show up tomorrow night, then…” I felt my eyes getting wet as I prepared myself for what I was about to say. “Then I’ll consider our relationship over.”

Saying those words was like a knife through my chest, yet I felt as if they needed to be said. We couldn’t stay as we were now. We needed to change, even if it meant that we might permanently be apart.

Again I was given no response, and my exhaustion began to win out. I closed my eyes, knowing I won’t open them again as I fall asleep, something that I both needed yet did not want.

“Goodnight, Rin. Please know that I love you. I’ll always love you.”

These were the last words that I said, and if the worst truly were to happen, those would be the final thing I would have said to her in spite of it all.

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I let out a groan as I awoke, opening my eyes to see the wall. I sat up in surprise. I was looking at the wall, and alone in my bed, which should have been impossible since…

Getting up immediately, I looked at the entrance to my room and saw that the door was completely shut, no crack or opening to suggest that someone with difficulty closing doors had left. Or even that someone had entered in the first place.

As I rubbed my eyes, I tried to recall what happened last night. It all felt so surreal, but I remembered her entering my room. The words I’d said out of desperation, the ultimatum that I gave her.

Those memories felt real, but at the same time I couldn’t help but question if they weren’t something I simply wanted to have happened, instead of what actually happened.

“Tonight…” I muttered. The deadline I’d set for the both of us, to either move on together or move apart. I’d said that we wouldn’t have been ready yesterday, but would tonight really be any different? I had my doubts that I was, but I supposed there really never is a time to be ready to talk about such a thing.

But I still had the rest of the day to worry about, and I started by getting my medications over with. Swallowing pill after pill, I consider simply staying in my room all day until night came, but I quickly dropped that idea. Trying to see Rin is out of the question, as I’d already told her she had until evening to think things over.

As I finished the last of my medications, I continued to wonder about what to do. I decided to go for a shower at first, wanting to refresh my body, if not my mind. Thankfully, Kenji didn’t appear to spoil that experience, and I managed to wash myself and change in relative peace.

After that, I walked out of the boys’ dorm, my destination still unclear. My first instinct was to go to the cafeteria, but I wasn’t feeling particularly hungry and it was a little earlier than when I usually ate breakfast.

Instead, I found myself walking around the school buildings, my feet walking as if they had a will of their own. I wasn’t sure where I was going, but after a while it became clear where I was heading, and why. It was the same place I’d headed during the first time Rin and I’d had trouble with my condition.

As I walked over to the track, I saw Emi running at full speed, a determined look on her face. Emi seemed to notice me as I walked towards her, though she didn’t slow down to talk to me. I was fine with that, and simply watched as she ran lap after lap without much effort. Even in the chill of winter, it seemed an act as effortless to her as breathing.

Eventually, she slowed down during the last couple of laps, finally stopping to catch her breath before walking towards me. Emi looked a little frustrated, though there was an element of curiosity in it as well. The fact that I’d decided to go to the track probably surprised her a little, considering it had surprised me as well.

“Morning,” Emi said as she stopped a few feet in front of me, bouncing a little. “You’re up early, Hisao. Can’t sleep?”

“Yeah. Though I’m starting to wonder why I’m here instead of in my room,” I responded, trying to lighten the mood, even trying to give her a smile. Unfortunately, all I could manage was a very forced grin. “Done running?”

“Nah, I still got a few laps, but you looked like you needed to talk.” Emi began stretching before pointing to the bleachers. “Why don’t you wait there till I’m done? It’ll only take a few minutes.”

“Actually…” I looked down at my attire, which was my casual attire. Hardly something to exercise in, even if I was wearing sneakers. “Mind if I join you?”

The look of shock on Emi’s face would have made me chuckle in any other situation, as she almost leapt back in surprise. She blinked a few times and rubbed her eyes, as if she were dreaming.

“Did...did I hear that right?” Emi said with suspicion. “You want to exercise? You, Hisao Nakai? You refused to run after the first time!”

“Well, I guess I’m willing to try again,” I said noncommittally, hoping she didn’t take it as a desire to run with her every day. Honestly, much like my decision to go to the track, I’ve been speaking and acting in the moment. “Just...nothing too extreme, alright? I’ve got enough to worry about.”

I didn’t really say that last part with any amount of solemnity, but Emi seemed to flinch a little at it before grumbling something to herself. She then turned around to the starting line of the track, motioning me to come along, which I hesitantly did.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but fine,” she muttered with disgust, though I knew it wasn’t for me. “We’ll do a couple of laps, and I won’t go full speed. But you’re going to have to follow me, alright? No half assing this, or I’m leaving you in the dust.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I grumbled back sarcastically as we reached the starting line. I added, in a more sincere tone, “Thanks, Emi.”

“If you’re going to thank me, I expect a nice cake in my future,” Emi warned as she began to stretch, which I tried to mimic. As we stretched, she asked, “So, why now? Honestly, I’d given up trying to get you to run after we talked about Rin freezing up for the first time.”

“I guess I was finally in the mood,” I said in a rather unconvincing tone, much to Emi’s displeasure. Much less sarcastically, I asked her something that had been on my mind ever since I got out of bed. “Hey, did you see Rin this morning? Was she in her room?”

“No, I just sort of headed here the moment I woke up,” Emi admitted. She seemed to be done stretching, and waited for me to finish. “Why do you ask?”

“Just curious,” I answered without elaborating, the lingering question of whether what happened last night really happened in my mind. The rational part of my mind said it did, and yet there was still that bit of uncertainty. Emi looked at me with impatience as she was waiting for me, and I added, “I think I’m ready. On three?”

“Fine.” Emi turned around and took up position next to the starting line, with me walking up to her side. I waited for her signal, mirroring her pose as I prepared to run for the first time in a long while.

“One…” she said, and I felt my body tense up, then very quickly she said, “Three!”

Emi took off immediately as I registered her ploy, already gaining some distance between us. I got over my shock and annoyance and quickly took off, trying to catch up to her. I felt the wind blowing against my face as I ran, my legs doing their best to keep a quick pace.

“Come on, that's all you got?” Emi taunted, though in an encouraging tone. I sped up just a little, worried that my heart might act up at any moment. The extra effort seemed to be worth it as I managed to catch up to her a little, though I knew that was mostly because she allowed me to. If she had been so inclined, she no doubt could have lapped me with ease. Maybe even two times to show off.

“Good, keep it up for three laps.” Emi ordered as we turned the corner, barely halfway through the first one. Already I was beginning to feel fatigue beginning to set in, my legs slightly wobbly, but I knew once I’ve gotten into this Emi wasn’t going to let me quit until she was satisfied.

The two of us went silent as we passed the first lap, and near the end of the second I could feel my stamina reaching its limits. Around the first turn my breath got even quicker, my speed slower, and my legs felt as if they were going to give in. I could even feel my heart beating at a rapid rate, and prayed that it wasn’t going through another episode.

“Hey, you alright?” Emi said in a worried tone, actually slowing down to run side by side with me instead of constantly being ahead. “If it’s your heart then we should...you know...stop.”

“I’m fine. We’re near the end, anyways,” I insisted, feeling no pain in my chest. Despite my dislike of running, and the temptation of stopping early, something made me want to finish the full three laps. Maybe it was my hatred of leaving things half finished, or perhaps just wanting to ‘run my problems away’ as Emi liked to do, but I pressed on without any objections from her.

We passed the second and third turns without incident or chatter, though Emi sped up a little as we neared the finish line, probably wanting to get first after knowing I was doing fine so close to the end. I crossed a few moments after her, slowing down to a crawl before stopping to catch my breath, feeling exhausted.

My body was sweaty despite the cold, my legs wobbled from how much they’d gone through, and I almost wanted to sit down on the ground to recover. But my heart hadn’t acted up, and was in fact slowly going back to its normal pace. That was all that mattered to me.

“Not bad for someone who hasn’t run in a long time, I guess,” Emi said offhandedly, bouncing around with lots of energy to spare, in contrast to my sorry state. It seemed as if she could run a few more laps, and probably would have if not for my presence. “I’d say you’ll get better at this, but that’s assuming you even want to do this again.”

While it wasn’t phrased as a question, there was definitely a hint of curiosity to Emi’s statement, though it’s not the opportunistic excitement of her previous attempts to get me to run with her.

“I think I might.” I said, to both her and myself. Much like me wandering here, I gave my answer without much forethought, simply telling her how I felt about it at that very moment.

“Going to tell me why?” Emi asked, immediately getting closer to me and giving me a curious stare. Clearly she wasn’t going to take anything less than a proper answer, and I let myself recover for a little while longer, trying to come up with the right words to say.

“I suppose I just want to prevent something like what happened to me during my trip, getting a heart attack from a measly collision and a fall,” I responded with a sigh. I walked back to the bleachers, Emi following behind. “Of course, that can still happen no matter what I do, but I guess reducing its odds is a good thing to do, even if it’s by a small amount.”

“Hey, you’re making running sound like it’s not worth much,” Emi complained as I took a seat at the bottom row, with her opting to remain standing. “And if you think it’s such a small chance, then why would you even bother running in the first place, Mr. Pessimist?”

“I guess...I owe it to Rin to try what I can,” I admitted. “I’ve been content with just taking my medication, because it was enough for me. I thought I couldn’t really do anything if my heart started going haywire, and maybe I’m just overthinking things, but I think that sort of mentality got passed on to Rin.

“She always liked to act like my heart condition wasn’t there, and I encouraged that by not really talking about it because I was afraid it would upset her. I didn’t pretend that it wasn’t there, but I was treating it like it was no big deal, right up until I got sent to the hospital. It shattered the illusion she had about me being fine, and I couldn’t help but think I enabled it because it was convenient for the both of us.”

My frown deepened as I said those words out loud, feeling guilty now that I’ve managed to put it into words. The fear of seeing Rin freeze up at my condition had ended up making things worse in the long run, when the reality of the situation made it unable to be ignored. I couldn’t help but think of what would happen if I had pressed the issue earlier. Would we have been better off than we are now, or would she have distanced herself from me regardless?

An irrelevant question to my current situation, asking about a possibility that has long since passed, but one I couldn’t help but wonder about. Had I done the best I could, given the situation, or had I been too complacent?

“So you’re trying to make up for it now?” Emi asked, her tone serious. “I guess if one good thing can come out of this mess, it’s that you’re seriously trying to get in shape now.”

“Nothing too extreme. I’m doing this to avoid going to the hospital, not to find an excuse to go there,” I insisted, trying to keep her expectations moderate. “I’ll push myself every now and then to improve my stamina, but only when I feel absolutely certain. That alright with you?”

“Well, I guess I won’t be signing you up for any track meets,” Emi quipped before extending her hand, giving me a cheery smile. “I’ll do my best to keep you in tip top shape, so even a car running you over will feel like nothing. That includes managing your diet, you know?”

“Considering our frequent trips to the Shanghai, I think that’ll be just fine,” I snarked back, earning a pout. “Thanks, Emi. It means a lot to me.”

“Hey, I’m helping both you and Rin, so it’s a win-win for me,” she said enthusiastically. “Maybe she’ll be so impressed with your health that she’ll talk to you again.”

“About that…” I glanced uncomfortably to the side, deciding it was time to reveal what happened last night. “I think I should tell you that Rin visited me last night, when I was about to go to sleep.”

“Wait, what?” Emi’s eyes widened as she immediately leaned her face in, both her voice and expression demanding answers. “What did she do? What did she say?”

Looking awkwardly down at the ground, I slowly recounted what I thought happened yesterday. About the choice I ultimately gave her, about how she disappeared before I woke up, and how everything felt so vague. I even mentioned that it could have been a dream, though she didn’t seem to buy that for a second.

“So that’s why you asked me if I saw Rin this morning,” Emi muttered in realisation. “Damn it! I should have visited her room before coming here.”

“I’m pretty sure that it was real,” I conceded, trying to reaffirm both Emi and I. “But I didn’t know when she left, or if she even headed back to her room or not.”

“But what you said…” Emi sounded extremely worried, and I couldn’t really blame her. This affected more than just Rin and I. “Are you really going to just break it off if she doesn’t show up? After all you’ve done to get close to her?”

“We can’t continue as we are now,” I answered calmly, closing my eyes and clenching my fist. “If we do, we’ll be even worse than when we started. If she doesn’t show up, then it’s probably what’s best for her. The last thing I want is to be a burden to her, even if it means I’ll have to disappear from her life.”

Emi didn’t respond, and there was a moment of quiet between the two of us. It’s not that we didn’t have anything to say, it was merely that words couldn’t accurately depict what the two of us were feeling.

“What about us then? What about Hanako?” Emi asked at last, a slight tremble in her voice.

“I hope we’ll still be friends, but it’ll have to be separate from your friendship with Rin. The same goes for the others.” The answer I gave was much more difficult than I thought it would be. Thinking about what would happen if Rin decided not to see me again was utterly depressing, but it was a scenario I needed to prepare for, otherwise it would just break me even more.

“Do you think she’ll show up?” Emi asked. In some ways, the only question that really mattered.

“I don’t know,” I admitted, hating the lack of certainty. It would have been easy to say I had faith in her love for me, but that would have been unconvincing to both her and myself. The doubt I felt was something I couldn’t deny, much as I wanted to. “I guess I’ll find out tonight.”

“I hope she does show up, Hisao.” She sounded like she was trying to sound optimistic, and I appreciated it. “I really do.”

All I could respond with was a nod, getting ever closer to the time where I’ll get my answer from Rin.

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With our run over, we decided to clean up before heading to the cafeteria for breakfast. The fact that I had to shower again so soon was mildly annoying, but I didn’t want to spend the whole day in sweaty clothes.

As I hopped into the shower and turned on the hot water, a voice from outside immediately made me groan.

“Hey, man,” Kenji’s voice was oddly soft, yet no less obnoxious than usual. “Got the usual for me? I need my fix.”

“...What do you want, Kenji?” I asked, uninterested in dealing with him but knowing that silence wouldn’t do anything to get him to go away. “I’m really not in the mood.”

“Right, right, the payment,” Kenji responded with a giggle, once again caught up in his own delusions. “You know I’m good for it, but I can give you some nice intel in the meantime. Something’s been brewing in this place.”

I wanted to just dismiss him, but his rambling about having information made me wonder if he could actually be useful for once.

“Tell me about yesterday,” I said, trying to play into his fantasy. “Did anyone come in and out of my room?”

“Heh, oh boy do I have a story to tell you.” He sounded extremely excited, and for once I was interested. “So, here’s the scoop. Dark hour, no moon in sight so the feminists were prowling, trying to find holes into our territory. Our safe haven.”

...I suppose expecting a comprehensible answer was asking too much of him, but I continued to listen anyway.

“Of course, our defenses were made to withstand things like the goddamn A-Bomb, so they couldn’t easily get in.” His voice grew louder with every word, as if he were a storyteller reaching the tale’s climax. “But then they did it. They goddamn did it. They managed to get through by disguising themselves as one of us, man. Now they could be anyone. But I know you too well, so I know you ain’t one of those vixens in disguise.”

“I assure you I am not,” is all I could really answer to such a ludicrous claim. “So who managed to get through? A girl?”

“Damn straight, homie,” Kenji all but shouted, and I was thankful that no one was in here to listen. “She had the look of a man, with her short red hair and muscular frame. But I’ve learnt to detect them using my own telepathic waves, and she was definitely just a chick in disguise.”

“Oh, she certainly tried to pretend to be a gentleman, knocking on the door a few times. But when that failed she used her psi abilities to force the door open and did who knows what in that room. Trust me, we need a minesweeper to scan this entire building, otherwise it’ll be the end of masculine civilization as we know it.”

There it was. Proof that Rin had in fact visited me yesterday, that it wasn’t all some desperate event that I dreamt up. Granted, it was Kenji giving me this information, but he also didn’t have a reason to lie or make it up and it went in line with what I’d experienced myself. In spite of his eccentricities, I believed him.

That assurance made me feel a little better, though not enough to dispel my many worries. I quickly finished my shower and put on my clothes, opening the stall door to see a completely naked Kenji right outside.

“Thanks, Kenji,” I said as I walked past him, completely ignoring the sight of his...masculinity. “I think this might be the first time you’ve ever helped me.”

“No problem, man,” he responded, and he sounded almost sane, at least until he added. “Make sure to give me my cheque in a black envelope. Those damn feminists control all the postage systems now.”

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I entered the cafeteria, which was as empty as usual these days, though that wouldn’t last long with winter break nearing its end. After that it would only be a few months before finals and graduation, followed quickly by college.

Those things haven’t even been part of my mind since I got back, but they were going to happen, and soon. I haven’t even thought about what college I wanted to go to, or even begun studying for finals, instead abandoning preparations for the future in order to mope on the present.

Another good reason why Rin and I couldn’t stay stuck like we were now. We wouldn’t be able to focus on our futures if we were, unimportant as they seemed right now. Though I didn’t know how well I’d be able to study knowing our relationship was over. Not all that well, most likely.

Feeling my stomach growl, I went to grab some breakfast. I grabbed two bread rolls and some butter, a few hard boiled eggs, some beans and orange juice. Probably the biggest breakfast I’d had in awhile, probably due to the exercise.

Once I got what I wanted, I scanned the area for Emi and the others, and found her near the corner of the cafeteria. Alongside her was Miki, though Hanako or Rin weren’t present. I headed over there, and they noticed me as I neared them.

“Well, speak of the devil,” Miki said, waving at me as I sat down. “We were just talking about you. Or rather, I was talking about you. Emi mostly complained about how she had to hold back so much.”

As Emi looked away with an innocuous smile on her face, I began eating my breakfast, starting with the beans. “I assume you’ve told her about everything?”

“Pretty much,” Emi replied with a shrug. “Hanako too, when I was heading back for a shower. She’s looking after Rin this morning, so she just got some food for the both of them and left. I’ll probably go see how they’re doing after we’re done here.”

“That’s good,” I responded, feeling extremely relieved that someone was with her. “I’ve talked with someone in my dorm. He’s not exactly the most reliable source, but he did hear Rin knocking on my door last night.”

“So, you really did say that to her, huh?” Miki said in a casual tone. “Gotta admit, that’s a pretty ballsy move to do that, especially when she’s acknowledging you for the first time in...what, a week or so?”

“Yeah, but I think it had to be said,” I answered quietly but firmly. “We can’t keep dancing around the problem anymore.”

“Fair enough,” Miki remarked before her expression turned into a frown. “I hope it goes well, Hisao. You guys are like one of the only reliable things in my life, so I’d hate to see it fall apart.”

“Is that seriously the only reason?” Emi asked, sounding incredulous.

“Now you’re just looking for an excuse to be angry,” Miki replied, reacting to Emi’s comment with more annoyance than usual. “Obviously, I also want their relationship to be all happy and stuff. That really doesn’t need to be said.”

Trying to defuse the tension between them, I turned to Miki switched topics. “So, how’s your family situation going?”

“Oh, you know, my testimony got pushed up to about a week from now,” Miki mentioned in a manner not too dissimilar to discussing something mundane like the weather, though her voice grew angrier as she went on. “So I’ll be heading back home for a few days, to watch my parents fight and try to take care of my siblings before telling a court who I should give them to. Honestly, I’m starting to think an orphanage might be the best option. At least they’d pretend to care about them.”

Emi and I looked at her sudden display of vitriol in mild surprise, which even Miki seemed to realize was completely unlike her, as she shook her head with an annoyed groan.

“Sorry, I got a little heated there, huh?” Miki said in an attempt at a cheery voice, trying to brush it off with a smile. “It’s just things deteriorating back at home, is all. I didn’t really want to vent because you and Rin are having your problems, so I’d feel a little bad adding to the pile.”

“We all have our problems,” I responded, trying to sound understanding of her situation, which I suppose I did considering I also had a deteriorating situation on my hands. Though Miki was arguably in a worse position, considering she had far less control. And from what I could tell, she had little to no hope for a happy ending. “No shame in letting it out. God knows you guys have been taking my problems extremely well, all things considered.”

“Eh, everyone else’s problems are always preferable to our own,” Miki answered with a dismissive shrug. “So, you’re gonna be running with Emi every day?”

I ate some more of my breakfast while pondering how to answer that question, all while Emi gave me a rather intimidating stare. I suppose now that I had shown interest, she was going to make damn sure that I kept to it.

At the same time, I couldn’t see myself running every morning, at least not where I am now. The reason I ran today was mostly on impulse, but a regular routine was a different thing entirely, and any motivation I had for it would disappear if Rin and I seperated.

“I don’t think I can handle every day,” I said at last, causing Emi’s frown to deepen. “But I do want to run, so I’ll probably try to go when I feel like I can, and ease myself in a little. Who knows? Maybe at some point, I actually will run every day.”

“You’ll be doing that once I’m through with you,” Emi mumbled under her breath before getting up. “Alright, I think I should go see if Hanako needs a break or something. We’ll probably be with her until it’s bedtime.”

“Fair enough,” I responded, managing to give her a smile. “See you later, Emi. And thanks for helping me...and Rin.”

“There’d better be a ‘you and Rin’ after today. And don’t you dare drop out of running now that you’ve asked me to help you,” Emi demanded before rushing towards the door, leaving her tray on the table.

“Just the two of us now,” Miki noted as I took a sip of my juice. “And I think it’s gonna be that way till you decide to head to bed.”

“Don’t have anything better to do?” I asked, partially as a joke but also wondering if she really didn’t have more important things to do than spending all day with me.

“Well, I did have plans with a guy,” Miki said, her smile widening so much that it was obvious she was lying. “But I figured you need my attention more than he does, especially if the status of your relationship is all coming down to whether she shows up at your door tonight.”

“I appreciate it, Miki. I really do,” I replied gratefully. “I definitely think things would have been infinitely worse if you guys weren’t around to help us.”

“Hey, in the end whether or not you two will stick together isn’t up to us,” she said with a hint of in her voice. “And honestly, if I had to pick between trying to fix your relationship or my parents’...easiest choice in my life, really.”

“Are they really that bad?” I asked. Even with my issues concerning my parents, I’ve never had the disdain for them that Miki seemed to have with hers.

“They weren’t the best folks even when they were together,” Miki explained with a long and uncharacteristically angry sigh, the frustration making her seem like Emi. “The divorce was sudden since I thought they at least liked each other, but it seemed that was a load of shit too. They pay the bills, give me and my siblings money, and just expect us to grow up by ourselves. No cooked meals, no family outings, and I swear if I had two hands I could count the times I’ve heard the two of them say the word ‘love’.”

“Wow,” was all I could really say. “That sounds awful, Miki. I can’t imagine having parents like that.”

“Well, maybe I’m making a few things sound a little worse than they are, but most of it is true,” Miki conceded, seeming to have gotten most of her anger out of her system. “I don’t like to talk about them much, especially when Hanako’s around. She lost her parents while I still have mine, as shitty as they are.”

“I suppose so.” I said, and we finished our breakfasts in relative silence, both of us wanting a break from talking.

After we’re done, we went to discard the food trays before exiting the cafeteria. Miki seemed content to just follow me without inquiring about where I’m going.

“I’m heading to the library,” I told her as we turned a corner. “Get some books to keep my mind off things until tonight.”

“All books ever did was give me a headache,” Miki said with a chuckle. “But maybe I’m just reading the wrong kind of books.”

The two of us entered the library, which looked extremely empty save for the librarian, who seemed rather bored at watching over a mostly empty room. I went for the fiction section and passed a few shelves before finding the genre I wanted, one that I admittedly never read much of.

I picked a few books at random, Miki taking one as well before moving to the usual corner to read. I took a seat at my usual bean bag, and Miki sat where Hanako would sit. I opened up one of the books I’d chosen and began reading.

It was a novel about two people from different parts of the world meeting as children, growing up together. There were a lot of differences due to their culture, heritage and beliefs. In many ways, they were as different as two humans in the entire world could be. And yet they became friends, and eventually lovers.

“Whoa, this is some mushy stuff,” Miki noted, far louder than she should have considering where we were. I looked away from my book to see that she was actually blushing. “You read this kind of stuff, Hisao? Never really took you as the type.”

“Not really,” I answered before going back to my book, detailing the struggle the two leads were facing both from outside pressure as well as internal differences. “Fiction in general isn’t something I really read a lot of, though Hanako has helped me appreciate some every now and then. But this...this is relatively new territory for me.”

“Well, looks like I’m getting to a good part, so I guess I’ll shut up and try to focus.” Miki said in jest, though it seemed more likely she wanted to let me read undisturbed.

Time passed by as we read in silence, though I occasionally glanced at Miki to see if she was getting bored, which she thankfully wasn’t. The book covered a lot of the characters’ lives, with the last quarter being when they’re in their thirties and having several children, all while retaining most of who they originally were when they met. By then, a lot of their differences had been sorted out, and any external problems were handled or were irrelevant.

That wasn’t to say there weren’t problems, especially in regards to their children. One took after one parent’s beliefs and culture while disregarding the other’s, one had extremely difficulty trying to reconcile the two different viewpoints, while the last didn’t care for either.

And yet, they were still a relatively loving family, with the occasional civil argument at the dinner table. Near the end, I wondered if the author of this book was basing it off his own relationships, the relationship of people he knew, or was simply putting up an idealized romance with no personal basis whatsoever.

Still, regardless of being idealized or not, it ended with the relationship stable and happy for the foreseeable future. Something that made me feel a little better, though it was gone the moment I closed the book.

Thankfully, I had other books to help me recapture that momentary feeling of satisfaction, and i grabbed another from the ones I’d picked out. Once again, it mostly centered around a couple and their relationship as it slowly grew and changed.

It was around halfway through that book that I questioned why I was reading romance novels, when it was something that I hadn’t really done before. Reading had been source of comfort for me ever since my first hospital stay, but I didn’t think I’d ever read a single book that was focused entirely on romance, though a few did have romantic elements. Even then, those elements I’d mostly ignored or never gave too much thought too.

Perhaps it was because I wanted to feel that romantic bliss I had before everything seemed to fall apart, even if vicariously. Reading these moments of affection between characters I was learning about reminded me of the time when I tried to grow closer to Rin, and the period where we had been a loving, if unorthodox, couple. I desperately wanted that back, but for now I simply settled for having someone fictional experience that while I read on with a longing feeling in my chest.

Another reason might be that I wanted an answer, to be reassured that the outcome of our relationship would be a good one. Romance novels usually ended with the couple together, with a bright future ahead of them. It was what I wanted for me and Rin, to have our relationship be like that instead of the way it was now. Even if we were different from most couples, both real and fictional, I desired that one similarity.

As I finished reading my second book, one with a similarly happy ending to the first, I began hoping that every one that I picked had endings of that nature. Some novels had bittersweet or even bleak endings, and I felt that reading one of those would just be too painful to bear.

Thankfully, all of the books I’d read so far were free of those endings, even if some were less happy than others. Perhaps in any other situation, I would have considered them too saccharine to stomach, but now I welcomed the sweet tone of these books.

Partway through the third book, a question popped into my head.

Are Rin and I only halfway through our story? Are we near the end? Or have we already passed that, and I’m merely trying to salvage a pathetic attempt at an epilogue?

I was near the end of the third book when Miki called for me, though I was so immersed in it that I almost ignored her. Looking up from my book, I saw that she was finished with the one book she’d picked out.

“I was wondering when you’d peek out of your book,” Miki said with a smirk, shaking her head slightly. “You’re almost like Hanako. I’ve had to call her a few times because she was reading some story or other.”

“Sorry,” I said as I placed the book down, trying to give her my full attention despite wanting to read the resolution to the story. “I hope you’re not feeling too bored, waiting for me to finish.”

“Nah, I just finished myself. You may be slow on the track, but when it comes to reading, you have no problem getting a lap or two on me,” she teased with a wink before. “It’s just a bit after noon, and I’m feeling kind of hungry. How about we grab something from the cafeteria before you continue your little reading binge?”

It’s the afternoon already? Time seemed to fly when I was reading.

“Sure,” I said as we both got up, leaving our books on a random table before heading out of the library.

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Lunch went by uneventfully, and before long we were back at the library where I continued to read through romance novels. Miki read alongside me, but she was clearly there just to keep me company rather than having any actual interest in reading, trying to make me feel less isolated.

That said, I had heard her chuckle occasionally before lunch. Wondering what had amused her, I skimmed through the book she’d finished and realized that it was rather...raunchy in nature, though nothing extremely explicit.

The hours of the afternoon flew by quickly as I immersed myself in story after story, desperately using it as a means to escape my problems and wondering if this was how Hanako felt every time she read a book. Regardless, I was glad for the momentary reprieve from my fears.

Of course, such a thing couldn’t last, and eventually evening came around. Miki and I put all the books back in their places before leaving this time, and she called Hanako and Emi to come meet up one final time today, to have dinner and to update the two of us on how Rin is doing.

“She’s been in her room the whole day, surprise surprise,” Emi said as we ate our dinner, which mostly consisted of several types of onigiri and drinks. She’d also decided that we should eat at the track bleachers for some reason. “She’s mostly been laying down on her bed, but she also doodles from time to time, though they all just look like scribbles to me. We made sure she ate something before coming here.”

“Did she talk about anything?” Miki asked before popping an entire onigiri into her mouth.

“S-she responded to our questions, and occasionally commented about things when we were eating lunch,” Hanako answered, taking smaller bites while sipping on her drink. “R-Rin seemed like s-she was thinking about something. S-She always had her eyes closed, b-but it felt like she was actively trying not to open them.”

I tried to be optimistic and think that she was at least considering coming over to talk tonight.I silently ate my onigiri, looking up at the evening sky. The orange faded away to purple, the end of a day close by. For me, today felt like it was going to be the only day that mattered moving forward.

“Well, glad to hear she’s doing well,” Miki said once she’d swallowed her food, patting me on the back. “Good luck tonight, Hisao. I’d say something more profound and shit, but I’m not really good with words. Still, I think things will work out nicely.”

“Thanks,” I responded before letting out a sigh without meaning too. “I guess I’ll learn how she feels tonight.”

“I-I’m sure she’ll come,” Hanako said, a confident look on her face. “I-I believe in her. In the both of you.”

“Same here,” Emi added, her confidence more brash but just as firm. “Don’t worry about it, Hisao. Seeing you two act all mushy the past few months, it’s like you two are meant to be, you know? I know she won’t ever want to forget you, no matter what.”

I wondered for a moment if their faith was really genuine, or just something to reassure me with. Looking at them though, I could tell that they meant what they said, and their assurances bolstered my waning optimism. If Rin and I truly reconciled, it would be because of them just as much as it would be because of us.

They were wonderful friends, and ones I appreciated being with regardless of the situation. Perhaps when things were less dire, I’d try and show that appreciation. Maybe a trip to the Shangai, or something fancier.

But that was for another time, as I felt the need to go back to my room to wait for her.

I got up and told them I needed to go, and left after waving goodbye. The sky got darker as I made my way back to the dorm, fully transitioning to night just as I reached the door. I never specified a time, just that it would be at night. A small part of me hoped that she was already outside my door.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t there when I reached my room, though I’d expected as much. I opened the door and went in, leaving the door open a small crack she wouldn’t have to knock. After that, I simply went through my nightly routine, starting with taking my medications.

My medications...I hadn’t been taking them in front of Rin, always doing it whenever she wasn’t looking at me. I realized now that that had been a mistake, avoiding the topic for the sake of not hurting her. Perhaps if she had seen it, I could have eased her into the reality of my condition and this entire mess wouldn’t have had to happen.

I couldn’t hide from her anymore. Just as I’d accepted everything about her, everything she might be, she needed to do the same for me.

But would she?

MoashLannister
Posts: 35
Joined: Sun May 12, 2019 11:19 pm

Re: Rin Epilogue: The Long Road (Updated 15/3/2021)

Post by MoashLannister » Tue Jun 15, 2021 7:02 am

Once I’ve finished, I set my medications down on the table and pulled out the photo of us and our friends during the festival.. I sat down and stared at it. Rin had a copy of it as well, and I wondered if she’d ever so much as thought of it. Looking at all of our faces, it reminded me of happier times, and I let out a silent prayer that those times would return.

The next few hours passed by slowly, too slowly for me, as if they were days in the disguise of hours. I did what I could to occupy myself, such as some more reading, or looking through my phone, but each moment that passed added a miniscule amount of dread to my mood.

A miniscule amount, insignificant by itself. But over time it began to pile up, until it couldn’t help but feel significant. Small momentary thoughts turned into questions and imaginary scenarios. Of her never showing up, of us never talking to each other again.

How much longer until imaginary turned into reality? What was the line that separated the two? An hour from now? A minute? A second?

I looked at my phone again to check the time, and it was getting close to midnight. No doubt curfew was currently being enforced, if a bit more laxly due to the absence of so many students. There was no chance of me falling asleep tonight, as I wanted to wait for her until the very last moment.

Turning to look at the door, I saw no change. It was exactly the same as I’d left it, and I felt disheartened.

And then it moved, and for a split second my heart felt as if it stopped.

There was a slight creaking sound as the door slowly opened, and I got out of my chair and walked towards it, wanting to rush over there as fast as possible. Behind the door was Rin, looking down at the ground.

Like last night, she looked like a mess. Her hair was disheveled and disorganized, and the clothes she was wearing were full of wrinkles. Her face, or rather what I could see of it, looked tired and uncomfortable.

“Rin…” I said, unable to say much else.

Wordlessly, she entered the room and walked past me. Closing the door, I turned around to see that she was sitting on my bed. She didn’t lay on it like last night, staying still as she continued to look down at the ground.

I didn’t know what to feel in that moment. Relief for her coming here, concern at how her eyes are locked on the ground, confused as to what to do now that she was actually here. Emotions were at war in my head as I walked towards the bed, stopping for a few moments before slowly sitting down beside her., Rin didn’t react to my presence next to her.

Silence followed, neither of us saying anything, or making a move towards the other. We just sat there side by side, almost as if we were in separate planes of existence.

It was Rin who broke the long heavy silence. “I tried to forget about it,” Rin said softly, still looking down. Her voice was quiet, sounding exhausted. “About your heart, about that day you fell down and didn’t get back up. But then I couldn’t without forgetting about what happened that day, so I tried to forget that too. But I also couldn’t forget that day without forgetting the entire time we were at your parent’s house, so I tried to forget that too.

“Each time I tried to forget something, there was something else I needed to forget, like someone trying to pull a thread sticking out of a sweater, but then all it does is make more threads appear that you have to pull. So you keep on pulling and pulling, but once you’re done you don’t have a sweater left to wear.”

“And did you try to forget about...me?” I asked, knowing that question was dangerous.

Rin simply nodded, her frown deepening. “I tried, but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to lose the sweater, just bits and pieces of it, but even now it’s so torn and tattered, and the threads that I pulled out are starting to go back in. Sweaters aren’t supposed to do that, Hisao.”

Hisao...how long had it been since I’d heard her say my name? It should have made me so happy, and yet the way she said it only reinforced the solemn atmosphere in this room.

“Memories don’t work that way, Rin,” I said, trying to keep my voice gentle. “You can’t just forget about something like that, no matter how hard you try. Even if it was a painful experience, I couldn’t forget about the first time I had a heart attack, or how I discovered that I had arrhythmia. They are awful memories, and there was a time that I hated them, but I couldn’t forget about them. I don’t think I would have wanted to.”

“Can’t we forget about it?” Rin asked, finally turning her head to face me. “I want to go back to before I found out about your heart. About how you can die. We can go back, can we? Like using a time machine, except we’d be using our minds instead of an actual machine. Then I won’t feel this thing in my chest that I don’t know about.”

She sounded hopeful, as if she wanted me to buy into that idea that we can simply forget it all. Turn the clock back several months before I even mentioned my condition, and live out our relationship in blissful ignorance. Without thought, I placed my hands on her shoulders, and I looked her straight in the eye. She had sparked an emotion that I’d thought I would never feel towards her again up until now.

Anger.

“No, we can’t,” I said loudly as I glared at her, which caused Rin to shy away from me. “We can’t just pretend like it never happened, that I don’t have what I have, alright? My condition...it’s a part of me, even if I want nothing more than to throw it away. It’s something I’ve accepted, and it’s something you have to accept if you want me…”

“Hisao…” Rin closed her eyes, as if she didn’t want to acknowledge my words. Her body was trembling as I continued to hold her, unwilling to let her go until she finally opened her eyes, until the reality of the situation finally forced her to.

“I don’t want to accept it,” she responded, a tear coming down her cheek. “It’d be accepting that you can die right now, or tomorrow, or the day after that, or the day after that until you actually die. I don’t want to think about that, because it’d be like you’d be dead already, except you’re still here which somehow makes it worse even though I can talk to you and touch you and kiss you. I don’t want to wake up and then think about you, because it’d be sweet like candy but then the aftertaste would be bitter like medicine, which is so strong the aftertaste is the only thing I can think about...and then…”

Her words trail off, and she opened her eyes just a little to look at me, her face one of pure misery. I wanted to pull her close and hold her tightly, tell her that everything would be alright, but I knew that wasn’t what I needed to say right now. She wouldn’t believe me if I did.

“Rin, tell me the truth,” I said, and looked at her with all the sincerity I could muster. “Is being with me, knowing about my heart condition, too painful for you to be with me?”

She didn’t answer immediately, but her eyes did widen at me as tears continued to flow down her cheeks. Silence followed as she stared at me, her gaze emotional yet thoughtful, as if she were pondering that question herself.

“I don’t know…” Rin answered, shaking her head again. “I don’t know, Hisao…”

“You have to know,” I replied, gently this time. “You’re the only one who can answer that question.”

“But all the answers are wrong, like a test someone gave you where you can only fail, even though the one giving you the test wants you to pass’” I could hear frustration at the edges of her voice, and her frown almost looked like a scowl. “Being with you is painful, but if I’m away from you for too long I’ll think about you too, and whether or not you’re ok or if you still want me. You’re like the sun now, except not the kind that makes me warm and sleepy, but the kind that burns my body if I get too close but freezes if it’s not there. When I slept next to you yesterday, I felt happy, then sad, then worried, then happy again. On and on and on, like a ferris wheel that didn’t stop. But when I’m not with you I just felt this...nothing…”

She went silent immediately, and shivered at the mention of this ‘nothing’ that she felt, looking afraid.

“Rin…” I wanted to say something, but the words weren’t coming out of my mouth. It was as if I knew the feelings I wanted to convey, yet I couldn’t figure out how to put those feelings into words. Something needed to be said, and soon. I took a deep breath and stared at her. “Look at me, please.”

She hesitated, but ultimately looked into my eyes once again, focusing on me.

“I love you, Rin,” I said, my voice shaky. “And I’m sorry things can’t go back to the way they were. I’m sorry that I wasn’t strong enough to talk about my condition until it was too late. And...and I’m sorry that I can’t promise you that I’ll be with you until we’re old and gray.

“But even without my heart condition, that isn’t something I can promise you. Maybe my heart condition will kill me in fifty years, or ten, or two, or maybe it won’t. Maybe I’ll walk down the street and a car will run me over, or a plane crashes straight into me. Or a meteor hits the earth and we all die.”

“Like the dinosaurs?” Rin asked, her tone still hesitant. “I told Mama I wanted to see a real dinosaur to paint, and she said a meteor killed them all. It made me sad, but she bought me a toy dinosaur for me to use. Like using a marble statue to paint a real life human.”

“Just like the dinosaurs,” I replied, nodding my head. “We can’t control when we die, Rin. Sometimes it just...happens, and it may not be fair, but that’s life. And what we can control is whether or not we want to be with each other, regardless of that.”

“But even if you die from a car crash, or getting hit by a plane, or a meteor, I wouldn’t have to think about it until it happens, like how people don’t think zombies will eat their brains until they dig out of their graves.” Rin saidt. Although it felt as if we were going around in circles, I let her speak anyways, for her to fully let out all of the thoughts and feelings bottled up inside her.

“But your heart is something I can’t not think about, even when I don’t want to think about it. You might fall down and I won’t know if it’s the kind of fall that you’ll get back up, or the kind of fall that makes you stay on the ground until someone helps you or you die. And I wouldn’t know what to do even though I need to do something…”

“Then maybe, you need to get used to it,” I suggested, inching closer to her. “Like how you’re used to doing things without your hands. If you spend more time with me, knowing my condition, then it’ll get easier. I won’t hide anything about it from you anymore, if you’re willing to accept it, little by little.”

“Hisao…” Rin seemed to consider it, though she still looked uncertain.

“Rin, I can’t promise that I’ll be by your side as much as you’d like, until we’re old and had our fill of life,” I said firmly despite the fatigue, the stress, the anxiety. It was like finding a calm in the middle of a storm. “But what I can promise is that I want to be with you, every second of every day, regardless of how long I have left. No matter what might happen, that is what I want more than anything else. If I want to live this life, then I want to live it because you’re in it.”

It was a promise from the depths of my heart. As a man of science, emotional statements like that were things that shouldn’t be considered the truth, merely something that we wish it to be. And yet I could not see it as anything but the truth, as fundamental as the laws of nature itself.

“Hisao...I want to believe you.” Rin sounded hopeful, like when she’d suggested we forget about my condition. But this hope felt more genuine, if uncertain. “I-I want to be with you, every second of your life, even if I can’t. I want to turn one second of your life into a hundred, a thousand, like someone stretching time like it’s a piece of gum, except time really can’t be stretched like that and…”

She stopped herself and simply looked at me. Despite her silence, it was clear from the look on her face what she wanted. Rin was on the edge, and she wanted me to catch her when she fell. The question she gave me wasn’t spoken, but I got it nonetheless.

Can I trust you?

I simply nodded, and that was all it took for her walls to break down. Rin fell forwards towards me, her face landing on my chest. She wasn’t the only one that finally broke down, as I wrapped my hands around her and hugged her tightly, tears streaking down my face.

“I’m sorry…I’m sorry, Hisao...” Rin said, her voice muffled as she continued crying into my chest. “I know that leaving you alone was hurting you, and it also hurt me as well, like stabbing someone with a knife that doesn’t have a handle…”

“It’s alright, it’s alright,” I responded reassuringly, brushing her hair with my hands. “I forgive you.”

“Maybe I’m not good enough…” Rin said hesitantly, sounding extremely remorseful. “When you fell...had a heart attack...I didn’t do anything…”

“You’re good enough for me.”

“Maybe I’m not strong enough to help you…I wish I could take away your...heart condition, but I can’t.”

“You’re strong enough for me.”

There wasn’t anything spoken for a while afterwards, just her head pressed against my chest, and me soothing her by holding her tightly to me. Each of us needed to process what we said, and what we had to do in order to move forward together.

But, as painful as it was, we had finally moved forward. The roadblock that had paused our relationship was slowly breaking apart.

“Rin…” I murmured, looking down at her. She had been still for the past couple of minutes, and I wondered if she was sleeping. I wouldn’t put it past her, since I was getting close to passing out myself. “Maybe we should sleep now, and talk more tomorrow.”

I felt her nuzzling her head against my chest, up and down. It seemed she was awake, though unable to do much more than nod.

“If you’d like, you can sleep here,” I mentioned as well. “Just like yesterday. Just like we used to.”

Another nod from her, and I let out a deep sigh. Tonight had been long and grueling at points, but it was all worth it, as we’d begun to reach a resolution. If our life was like the romance novels I’d read today, we were not at the end just yet.

Rin pulled her head back and looked at me, still frowning. She looked calm, but there was a certain forlorn look in her eyes, as if she was longing for something.

“Hisao, I want to be close to you tonight,” Rin said, and despite how tired she looked, her voice was very insistent. “You know how when you’re teaching me physics, you said bonds between molecules are the closest things in the world? I want to be even closer than that, even though it might merge our bodies together, but we’ll still have two arms like a normal person.”

I chuckle at her odd analogy, just another one of the things I’d missed about her.

“Alright.” I responded, nodding. Rin quickly pressed her lips against mine for a brief moment, and in that instant it felt as if everything was alright.

“Help me take off my clothes,” she requested, and I obliged. From the moment she said that, I knew where this was heading. If there was any night for physical intimacy, it would be this one.

I started with her shirt, pulling it up and exposing her bra before wrapping a hand around her to unhook it. The straps fall off her shoulders and the bra falls down onto the ground. I slipped my hands down to undo the rest of her clothing, pulling down her pants and underwear until she was completely naked.

She was...beautiful, and a little bit different from the last time I saw her naked. Her hair was a little longer, her body looking a little less thin. It was all signs that she was changing, but she was still Rin Tezuka, the woman I loved more than anything.

“Thank you, Hisao,” she said before slipping back onto the bed, leaning her back against the wall. “Can I...take off your clothes?”

The request was odd, as I was always the one who took off our clothes in moments like these. Her feet were raised in preparation, and I simply nodded in response.

The next few moments were awkward, as she attempted to pull down my pants with her feet. I sat deeper in the bed, moving my body to help her as much as possible as her toes grab hold of my pants, slowly pulling it down my legs. She repeated the action with my underwear, leaving my bottom half completely naked.

“Thank you, Rin.” I said, my tone and body a little more stiff than I would have liked.

“I want to help you,” Rin responded, in the tone of voice that told me that she was speaking to herself as much as to me. “You’ve helped me so much, with my art, with who I am. The me I am now is because of you, even though parts of the new me hurt more than the old me. Now I want to help you, who you are and who you’re going to be.”

“You’ve helped me enough, staying by my side.” I reassured her, but Rin shook her head.

“I need to help you more,” Rin said, as her toes tugged at the edge of my shirt. “Right now, all I am is a Rin that can be with you, and sometimes not even then. But that’s not good enough for me, or you, even if you say it’s good enough, like saying you’re fine but you’re not really fine. I want to be a Rin that can take care of you, that can help you with your heart problem, even if I can’t get rid of it. Like how you take care of me. That’s the kind of Rin I want to be.”

Those words touched my heart, and I smiled as I let out a sniffle, though there were no tears.

“You can be that Rin, I’m sure of it,” I answered. “Thank you, and...I love you, Rin.”

For the first time in a long, long time, I saw it. Her smile, as shaky as it was, left its impression on my heart. It was the most precious sight I had ever seen, and once again I felt as if everything was going to be alright.

“I love you too, Hisao,” Rin whispered. “I will always remember that, because that is who I am.”

No more words were said afterwards as she took off my shirt, exposing my scar for her to see. That seemed to stop her for a brief moment, but she immediately closed the distance between our bodies and rested her head on my chest, her ear pressed against it as if to listen to my erratic heartbeat.

I wrapped my arms around her naked body, dragging my fingers against her skin. Once she seemed ready, her head turned upwards to face me, giving me that same look of longing.

I lean in and kiss her on the lips, which she eagerly reciprocates, responding far more forcefully than I’d expected. We continued to kiss as my hand slid down her back, neither of us wanting to separate our lips after such a long time apart. Even as I felt the need to part our lips, it was only until that feeling became too urgent to ignore that I reluctantly did so .

Rin lowered her head and knocked it against my chest a few times, and it took me a second to realize that she’s silently asking me to lay down, which I did. Rin then straddled me, her eyes never looking away from mine as she positioned herself on top of me.

I placed a hand on her hip to steady her as she lowered herself down, Rin letting out a whimper as I slowly entered her. She sank further and further down, until finally I was as deep in as I could go. Rin began to move upwards, then downwards, in a slow rhythm that set my heart racing nevertheless.

It reminded me of the last time we did this, on the roof so long ago, the sun setting as we reveled in each other’s bodies. She’d told me to stop thinking then, and while she might not have put it into words, it felt as if she was asking the same thing of me now. At least, that’s what I thought she was telling me.

That she was here right now, with me. Perhaps it was the same for her, reaffirming to herself that she was choosing to stay with me. Or maybe I was simply overthinking things, which was all the more reason to do as she said. Or didn’t say. To stop thinking and enjoy the moment.

My hands reached up to her chest, squeezing her breasts. She let out a moan in response, which I couldn’t help but adore.

What happened next was a blur as we continued to let out passions guide our actions, the sounds of our act filling the room. Our moans goaded us further and further, and I couldn’t keep my hands still, wanting to savor every part of her body.

“Rin…” I moaned as I felt my endurance about to give out. She simply gave me a nod in response, continuing to move. Not long afterwards, my mind blanked before immediately snapping back, all the fatigue I’ve been holding back hit me all at once as I closed my eyes. Despite really wanting to, I forced myself not to fall asleep just yet.

She fell on top of me, her head just below mine. I couldn’t see her face, but I could imagine that she looked exhausted. Feeling her shiver, I awkwardly tried to pull a blanket over us for warmth.

“Hisao…” Rin mumbled, her voice barely audible. “...I want to tell you something. A lot of things. But I don’t know how even though I know the words. Like knowing how to sail a ship but not knowing what direction to sail to.”

“I know, I feel the same way,” I responded as I gently rolled us until we were side by side. There were a million things I could have said to her right now, but ultimately I didn’t feel like it. I wanted this night to end as we were now, our bodies as close as they could be, the rift between us starting to mend. “We can do that later. Right now, we should sleep.”

“Mm…” Rin murmured, seemingly reaching the end of her ability to stay awake, though not without one final word. “Thank you, Hisao...for staying…”

It was the last thing I heard before falling asleep, which made my slumber a pleasant one, especially with her next to me.

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

“...sao.”

I didn’t know how late in the day it was, but Rin calling my name was what finally stirred me awake. Opening my eyes, I saw that she was still right in front of me, with a worried look on her face.

“Is something wrong?” I asked, placing a hand on her cheek, which she nuzzled. It’s funny how things are already starting to go back to normal, though I reminded myself that things have inevitably changed.

“I wanted to wake you up, Hisao,” Rin said, now pressing her head against my chest like last night. “I wanted to see you open your eyes, and I wanted to hear your heartbeat, even though I know that’ll happen even if I wasn’t looking at you. It’s like watching a bird fly away even though you’ll know it’ll fly away no matter what.”

“I see…” I responded as she continued to press her ear against my chest. It seemed that this is her way of taking care of me, or at the very least confirming that I was alive. “Do you know what time it is?”

“It’s morning, but not morning because it’s later than that,” Rin answered, pulling back her head to face me. It seemed she was satisfied with hearing my heartbeat. “But it’s not noon since noon hasn’t happened. Like a body of water being bigger than a sea but not as big as an ocean, so people call it a sea even though it’s not.”

“Late morning then.” I couldn’t help but chuckle at unorthodox analogies, just another one of the many things I missed about her. “Emi’s probably going to chew me out for not running with her.”

Rin looked at me with a curious gaze, but as much as I’d loved to just stay in bed with her, I got up and got off the bed. Walking towards my desk, I went to take my pills, making no effort to hide what I’m doing from her.

As I took my pills, I kept an eye on Rin as she sat up, gauging her reaction. She looked slightly uncomfortable, though her gaze never wavered away from me, even as her body shivered a little. It was a good sign that she was continuing to look at me, even if it was obviously not a pleasant experience for her.

“Are you alright?” I asked, just in case.

“Mm, I’m alright, but also a little not alright,” Rin answered. “You need to take those, right? I know, even though I’ve never seen you take them before.”

“Yeah, they help keep me alive, though they’re not a perfect cure,” I answered truthfully, unwilling to sweeten my words. “They have a lot of side effects, but I’ve gotten used to them by now. I used to take them when you weren’t looking.”

“Mm, but now you are…” Rin noted. I nodded in response. “It’s hard to watch you, even though it’s so easy to watch you doing other things, like doing nothing, or eating food, or sleeping…”

“Or when I’m kissing you?” I interjected, a small smile on my face.

“Yes, although it’s hard to watch you when you’re kissing me because you’re so close to me,” she said, eyes still focused as I continued to take my medications. “But I need to watch you do this. It’s hard now, but it’ll get easier and easier, like someone riding a bike for the first time even though I can’t ride a bike since I have no hands. I need to accept all of you, even the part that might take you away from me.”

“Thank you,” I replied as I finished the last of my medications, feeling a little cold from the lack of clothes. “Most mornings I’ll probably wake up a little earlier than usual to go and run with Emi. The exercise will help keep me in shape. Make my heart stronger.”

“I thought you didn’t want to run with Emi. Are you changing your mind, like how I sometimes change my mind about wanting one paint but then get another, even though I didn’t think about getting that other paint until I dip my brush in it?”

“It’s not that I didn’t like it, I just didn’t see the point up until now,” I explained as I sat back down beside her. “Even if I stay in shape, I didn’t think the time it might buy me would be worth it. An extra week? An extra month or year? And it wouldn’t be enough if something really terrible happened to set off my heart.

“But I was only thinking about myself. Now that you’re with me, any time I can buy is worth it, if it allows me to spend more of it with you. Even if my chances are increased by only a tiny fraction, I’d still want to improve it, for your sake.”

Rin leaned over to rest against me.. “Thank you, Hisao.”

“So,” I asked, wrapping an arm around her and pulling her close. “What do you want to do today?”

“Be with you,” Rin answered immediately. “For a lot of reasons. Because I’m sorry, because I want to see you again, because I want to talk to you again. I have a lot of reasons, but they’re all for the same thing, like fueling a car because you want to go to many different places.”

“I’d love nothing more,” I replied.

We spent the rest of the day in my room. Sometimes we talked about important things, sometimes about more mundane topics, and sometimes we didn’t do anything but look at each other as we leaned on one another. Regardless of what we did, the mere presence of her was enough to brighten my mood far more than before.

We were returning to how we once were, but I knew that we needed to be stronger than that. But for now, I was content with simply enjoying time with her again. Slowly but surely, we were moving forward together. There was still a lot of work to be done, but I felt as if the hardest part was behind us.

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Razoredge
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Re: Rin Epilogue: The Long Road (Updated 15/6/2021)

Post by Razoredge » Thu Jun 17, 2021 7:32 pm

Another pleasant reading, a long one yes, but it was very pleasant. I really like the light at the end of the chapter. I don't know what you planned for the other chapters, but I really like what you did on this one. That amount of hope you give to them after what they went through in the previous chapters. And just for that, I want to thank you. I don't know what will happen in the next chapters, maybe they will stay happy together, maybe they will have a harsh breakup, I don't know. But that amount of hope was something needed, after what happened. As usual, your writing quality is just awesome, I'm kinda jealous to be honest. We're talking about Rin, I don't know if she really realized what happens with Hisao, but she shows some actual signs of comprehension, and that's really good, especially for someone like Rin. But I do hope they will stay happy together. If it doesn't happen, I'm sure you will write something really good, even if it's really sad. Once again, thanks for another great reading.
Lilly = Akira > Miki = Hanako > Emi > Rin > Shizune

Stuff I'm currently writing : Beyond the haze : A Lilly Satou pseudo-route, Lullaby of an open heart : A Saki pseudo-route & Sakura Blossom : A way with Hisao

lividjava
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Re: Rin Epilogue: The Long Road (Updated 15/6/2021)

Post by lividjava » Fri Jun 18, 2021 10:05 pm

God reading this has been absolutely wonderful, everyone is written true to form and its just... idk everything just fits

ShizuneFan2019
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Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2019 9:20 pm

Re: Rin Epilogue: The Long Road (Updated 15/6/2021)

Post by ShizuneFan2019 » Fri Jun 18, 2021 10:56 pm

Hey there! I've wanted to read your story for a long time, but I've been so busy with life and writing my own work (that's Precious Friendships) that I couldn't make up any time for it. This weekend I have some reading time, so I decided to take a break from writing and read your story instead, both as leisure and to increase my vocabulary.

To be frank I'm quite impressed! The early chapter grammatical errors are admittedly a bit annoying, and I really don't like the use of past tense throughout the story, but nonetheless it's well-written. In my own story, I've written about almost all of the main characters in the game, with the notable exception of Rin, who I don't understand at all and thus cannot write anything about her. Your story gave me a lot of insights about her personality, and made me realize why I haven't been able to include her in my story. (Correct me if I'm wrong) Like many real-world artists, Rin is philosophical, imaginative (I found a lot of metaphors in your story), takes things slowly, and sort of deviates from the social norms. That's quite opposite to Shizune who I write about: Efficient, strict, self-restraining, and leading. Since I'm the Shizune kind of person, it's difficult for me to process Rin, but your story helped me a lot in this aspect. Maybe I'll write one chapter about Rin, but I'll need to absorb a lot of things from your story in order to do that. If I do, I'll reference some of the events in your story too, if you don't mind.

Edit: I'm now reading Chapter 14. Since it's quite long, I'll leave my comments here first. I'm very glad that we're in a similar, if not the same, wavelength, on most of the characters.

Hisao: I really love how he slowly matures after getting into a relationship. I also love how Rin's personality affects Hisao, and I agree that this is the way to go when writing about him.
Hisao's family: I absolutely agree with Hisao's mom's concerns about her son getting a girlfriend who is unable to take care of him. This is what I always have in my mind as well: If they're to make a family, it'll be extremely difficult.
Rin: The accident you depicted, along with her response, is quite similar to what happened in Sisterhood. Like in Sisterhood, if she wants her relationship to stay around, she will have to grow like Hanako as well.
Miki: Enjoying it. I think we both agree that "bantering" is the best way to write about her. I wish you made her conversations even more casual, though.
Emi: Running to avoid problems. I'll have to use this fact in my story too. We both agree that dessert is a girl's best friend.
Hanako: The only part of the story I feel awkward about, probably because my impression on Hanako has been largely shaped by Sisterhood. I just cannot see how she became so forward in such a short amount of time as to requesting others to be friends and inviting others to her room. That said, I appreciate the idea of Emi's cheerful personality rubbing off on Hanako.
Iwanako: The idea of splitting her name is brilliant, given that "Iwai" and "Nanako" are valid surname and given names. We both agree that "forward" is the best way to write about her.

Now being able to grasp her personality a bit, an interesting issue I want to learn about Rin is how she came up with all these traits. I've been able to figure out, at least partially, the other girls, but not Rin. For Shizune, it's her deafness and her father; for Lilly, it's mainly her upbringing; for Emi, it's her accident; for Hanako, also her accident. I hope I can find my answer in the remainder of your story, and this could be one aspect you may look into while writing.

MoashLannister
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Re: Rin Epilogue: The Long Road (Updated 15/6/2021)

Post by MoashLannister » Fri Oct 15, 2021 9:06 am

Chapter 15: Rebound

The sound of a school bell had always been a familiar noise, no matter how long I’ve gone without hearing it. Once that bell rang, it felt as if I’d just heard it yesterday, instead of a few months prior. Mutou stepped into the class, signalling the official end of our winter break.

“Good morning,” Mutou said, with the class reacting in tired greetings and yawns. “I realize that you’ve already begun to miss winter break, but now is no time to act wistful. Your finals are arriving soon, and it is my duty to ensure each and every one of you passes the science portion of the test.”

The subject of finals had been on my mind very little during winter break, as other and more immediate concerns had occupied my thoughts. Now that the break was over with, along with Mutou bringing it up, the tests immediately shot to the forefront of my mind. One set of final exams to determine how we did as high schoolers, and what colleges we were allowed to enroll in.

Of course, that’d be if we passed. Failure would mean that college wouldn’t even be on the table, which didn’t worry me all that much. I was confident in my academic abilities, with the only real question being, how well I would pass.

Not to mention that the winter break had had me feeling worried enough, to the point that I’d gotten a little desensitized to the emotion.

Mutou began teaching, scribbling several subjects onto the chalkboard which he deemed the most relevant for finals, though with the added caveat that we should diligently study all subjects regardless. A fair bit of the class still seemed too apathetic to truly focus on what he was saying, though some did listen with both attentiveness and worry, with Shizune being her normal diligent self.

After a few minutes, my interest in the class also began to wane, and I found myself glancing out the window. My thoughts turned to Rin, as they often did these days, and about how she was doing in her class. Yesterday was the first night we’d slept in separate rooms in a while, which she’d accepted with a lot of reluctance.

It had only been a short while since that fateful night at my room, where we finally began to sort our issues. Since then, things have gone back to something similar to where we were before I went to the hospital, though with a few obvious changes.

I’d begun my daily runs with Emi in earnest now, waking up early every morning to get some exercise with her, though she allowed me a few ‘cheat days’. It was exhausting at first, but over the next few days it became more and more routine, and now it was simply a part of my daily schedule.

The effects it had on my body were unnoticeable to me thus far, though Emi insisted that I was getting more fit, and that my body could take more punishment. She had been nudging me to push past my comfort zone, which I slowly did. Running a little farther, and a little faster. Small steps to a result that I would hopefully see in due time.

Rin was also more accepting of my condition, which was the biggest source of relief I could have ever had. Granted, she was still very much afraid of the consequences, but she didn’t try to pretend the problem there anymore. Before my runs, she insisted on watching me take my medications, in an effort to get used to it. Recently she would often talk to me as I took them, which made it easier for the both of us.

All in all, my winter break ended on a sweeter note than I could ever hoped for. It didn’t completely wash away the bitterness of what happened before, but it was a step in the right direction. Now it was about keeping on that course.

“Ahem, Mr Nakai.”

A voice snapped me out of my thoughts, and I turned to see Mr Mutou giving me a disapproving look, an incomplete equation on the chalkboard. Thankfully, it’s one I’m familiar with, and so I give my answer with a fair amount of confidence.

“That is correct. Good work, and I expect that level of performance in your finals.” Mr Mutou said, though the look on his face suggested to me that he was silently telling me to remain focused on class, even if I did get the right answer.

Deciding to take his advice, I pushed my thoughts of Rin to the side and focused on the class, which worked for Mr Mutou’s class. Given the subject in question, it wasn’t hard to concentrate on a subject that I had a fair amount of passion for.

As the classes went on however, and the subjects changed to ones more and more uninteresting to me, my thoughts began to slip back to Rin. By the time of our final class before lunch, I was barely listening to what the teacher was saying, though it was thankfully disguised by the rest of the class being in a similar distracted state.

I thought of my mother, and what she would think about our relationship. She would most likely still disapprove, even after we reconciled and with Rin being more aware of my condition. That disapproval came with a valid point, but at the same time, I felt as if it were a bigger one than she made it out to be.

Still, it would be best for me to inform her and Dad, especially now that finals were coming up. Once I graduated, they’ll be pretty instrumental in supporting me during my early college years, especially if I intended to stay in my own apartment with Rin.

That promise I made to her on that hill. I haven’t thought about it much lately, but it’s definitely still something I intend to make a reality. But for that to happen, I still would want the blessing of my parents.

The ringing of the school bell interrupted my train of thought yet again as lunchtime arrived, much to the pleasure of the class, who all eagerly stood up to head towards the cafeteria. I stood up slower than them, and instead headed to the back of the class, where Miki was already with Hanako.

“Man, classes are extra boring after a long break,” Miki said with a loud yawn. “Did you get any of what they were saying?”

“Bits and pieces.” I answered, trying to recall the classes, yet only getting a few key sentences at most.

“S-Same here…” Hanako added, slowly nodding her head.

“Well that’s still bits and pieces more than me,” Miki commented, rubbing her temple. “God, finals are gonna suck.”

“You’ll pull through,” I insisted, giving her a reassuring smile. “Besides, we’re all going to study together, right? Several heads are better than one.”

“Well that would depend on the heads...” Miki said sarcastically, pouting a little before giving me a wide grin. “I missed you, Hisao.”

“Was I gone?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.

“You know what I mean, dork,” she responded, playfully punching me in the shoulder, causing Hanako to giggle a little. “Good to see you’re acting like you again.”

“Thanks.” The three of us simply smiled at each other for a moment before I said, “Alright, let’s go find Emi and Rin and head to lunch already.”

“R-Rooftop?” Hanako said, almost like a suggestion. It had been a while since we'd eaten up there, and I began to want it now that she brought it up. “I-It’s not too cold today...a-at least I hope not .

I nodded in response, and the three of us exited the classroom where something almost collided with me, missing me by a few inches. That something just happened to be Emi running down the hallway, stopping right next to me while bouncing up and down, being her usual energized self.

“Man, you guys are so slow!” Emi commented loudly, drawing the attention of nearby students. “Lunch bell was forever ago.”

“Really, felt like it just rang to me,” Miki said in a tone that was clearly trying to provoke her, causing Emi to glare at her. “Anyways, we were thinking about eating on the rooftop.”

“Me and Rin were actually thinking the same thing,” Emi responded, sounding enthusiastic about the idea. “So that’s where we’re eating.”

A few seconds later Rin slowly walked down the hallway, her face as neutral as always, though she seemed to brighten a little as she spotted me. The past few days have definitely put her in a better place as well, the others telling me that she no longer froze at the mention of my condition, another reassurance about her acceptance of my condition.

“Hello, Hisao, Hanako, Miki,” Rin said with a slight nod. “Today is a new school day, but it doesn’t feel new. Like playing a game that is technically new, but feels like an old game with a new name, making it both new and old.”

“Urgh, can we not talk about school?” Emi said, rubbing her temples similarly to how Miki did earlier. “I swear, if I have to hear the world ‘final’ one more time…”

“But you just said final, and now I said it. What will you do now?” Rin asked curiously, causing the rest of us to chuckle at Emi’s expense.

“Let’s just get our food already,” Emi muttered, and we all headed to the cafeteria to grab some food before heading to the roof. As we made our way there, I felt Rin lean her head on my shoulder.

“You alright, Rin?” I asked, concerned.

“Mm, I didn’t get to see you this morning,” Rin noted as we continued to walk like this, attracting the attention of several students passing us by. “During class, I kept thinking of you. I wanted to go to your class just to look at you, like people paying just to look at a fish. But I didn’t even though I wanted to, and I kept thinking about it even though I know I won’t do it.”

“I hope I’m more interesting to look at than a fish,” I noted playfully before adding more wistfully, “I felt the same way during class. Almost all I could think about was you...or I suppose us, to be more accurate.”

“Us, you and me,” Rin said, sounding as if she enjoyed saying that. “I’m happy that there’s an ‘us’, Hisao. That it’s you and me.”

It was nice to know that she was thinking about me, even more so her enjoyment at the idea of us together. Perhaps I would have thought of these things as a given once upon a time, but after the tribulations we’d been through, it was something I want to cherish every time it is brought up.

“I’m happy too.” I responded, planting a quick kiss on her cheek.

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

“Man, this karaage is good,” Emi says in surprise, taking another piece and immediately popping it into her mouth. “I can’t believe they’re serving this in the cafeteria now.”

“I-I think it’s only for a limited time…” Hanako pointed out, taking one from her own cardboard box and eating it.

“Still, it’s nice to have something different for a change,” Miki said, though instead of grabbing some chicken, she went and sipped from her carton of milk. “Enjoy it while we still have time to, you know?”

We were all sitting down at the rooftop, the wind gently blowing against our faces. Each of us had a little corner where we settled on, not far away from each other, though Rin was right next to me. I saw her move her head again, and I fed her another piece of chicken, which she ate in a manner similar to a chicken. It was rather cute.

“You’re going to use your legs anytime soon, Rin?” Emi asked, pointing a chopstick at me. “He’s been doing all the work, you know? It’s like he’s serving for two.”

Rin seemed confused at the statement, and I was too admittedly. Surely I wasn’t feeding her everything up until now, but then I tried to recall a recent time where Rin ate something using her feet, and I drew a blank.

“I want Hisao to feed me,” she stated in a way one would state that water is wet. “So I ask him to feed me, and he feeds me. Like asking for a waiter refill at a restaurant. I can do it again and again, as long as I want to drink water. And I still want to, unless he doesn’t want to, then I don’t want to. Do you want to, Hisao?”

“I do,” I said.

“Then I want to,” Rin said in a conclusive tone, opening her mouth so I could place another piece of food into her mouth.

“You two…” Emi muttered, shaking her head slightly as she ate.

“Just making up for lost time,” I noted as I ate something on my own, though all that did was make Emi glare at me. She seemed a little more grumpy than usual for some reason. “You alright?”

“She’s just jealous of what you two have,” Miki said in a teasing tone, pointing her chopsticks holding some food in Emi’s direction. “If you want someone to feed you, I can do it. Say ahhh~”

Emi simply rolled her eyes as Miki chuckled, stuffing herself full of chicken without answering, causing me to feel a little worried about her. It could just be nothing, but if it wasn’t, I’d at least like to know what the problem is. Before I could say anything, Hanako spoke up.

“E-Emi, i-is something wrong?” she asked, sounding curious and concerned. “Y-You don’t have to answer, but if w-we can help you feel better, then…”

Emi looked at Hanako, who gave her a nervous yet calming smile, and deflated. She slumped against the wall and let out a sigh, swallowing her food before properly answering her.

“Sorry,” she said, looking oddly tired. “It’s just this whole finals thing has got me all wound up. Track club is going to cut our time so we can focus on our studies, and not to mention all the prep I need to do that will probably cut even more into my running time.”

“Well, sadly you can’t run your way into a good grade, otherwise you’d be a straight A student,” Miki commented jokingly before her smile faded into something a little more serious. “But yeah, it’s going to be a real pain. I’d blame my parents dirvorce hearing if I fail, but honestly I probably wouldn’t have prepared much even without that happening.”

“Mm, I don’t think I will fail,” Rin commented, though her tone was far from confident. “But that’s because I wasn’t thinking about it, like a sailor sailing a boat through a storm without thinking he will drown. But now that I am thinking about it, I’m thinking of failing, even though I don’t want to fail and I’m not sure if I will fail.”

Hanako seemed intimidated by the comments, as if the looming threat of finals had dawned upon her. She turned to me with a look in her eyes that hoped that I had something to say, which I did.

“Come on, you guys are making it a bigger problem than it is,” I said, trying to sound like I was absolutely sure, which I wasn’t. While it may not be affecting me as badly, the prospect of failing my final exams was definitely something on the back of my mind. “I’m sure if we properly study and take notes, we’ll be able to get through the exams just fine. Especially if we help each other, like how we did before winter break.”

“You mean you helped us with science,” Emi said, sounding unconvinced. “We still have other subjects to go through.”

“I-I can probably focus on literature and Japanese…” Hanako pointed out. “I-I’m good at those, s-so I can probably help you guys...”

“I can probably also help with math,” I added, glancing at Hanako as we smiled at each other, feeling as if we’re both helping each other pitch the same thing. “It’s not by bread and butter like Science, but I like to think I have a good handle with it. That’s four subjects down already.”

“Guess I have to pitch in somehow, huh?” Miki said, looking deep in thought before answering. “I guess I’m pretty good at social studies. It’s about the one subject I kind of like doing a test on...kind of. So yeah, that’s what I’ll be focusing on.”

Suddenly, all eyes turned to Emi, whose doubts seemed to be partially gone. While she still looked uncertain and nervous, she took a good look at all of us and showed us a fierce and fiery smile, similar to when she’s doing a run.

“Alright, maybe this won’t be that bad after all,” Emi agreed. “Leave health to me. I’d be a pretty bad athlete if I didn’t know how that works. That still leaves Home Eco, Music, Art and...urgh...English, not to mention a few others...”

“Mm...I’m an artist, so I should be able to do Art,” Rin pointed out. “Even though I don’t think you need to pass an art exam to be an artist. Plenty of artists never pass their art exam, or even take one before becoming famous, so why do I need to go to an art college?”

I was tempted to answer that question, but decided not to. We could discuss college later, after we’d all passed our final exams.

“Alright, so we all got something we can specialize in. That person is in charge of helping the rest of us study in that subject,” Emi pointed out, eating once again. “As for the other three, we’ll just have to bite the bullet and struggle together. How hard can it be, right?”

There was a moment of silence after that, as all of us contemplated the difficulty of those subjects. In particular, English was going to be a massive pain, at least for me.

“...Anyways, when should we start our little study group?” Miki asked. “I’d also ask how often, but we’re probably going to study non-stop until exams are done and over with.”

“Urgh, I don’t think I can start tonight. I still need to get all the running out of my system...or as much of it as I can,” Emi muttered, causing Miki to chuckle. “How about we start on Sunday? No classes, so we can spend all day trying to stuff our brains full of useless junk that we’ll only need for exams.”

“Sounds good to me,” Miki responded. “What about you guys?”

“T-That sounds good to me,” Hanako answered, sounding mildly excited. “S-Sunday it is.”

“Sure,” I added. Sunday seemed like as good a time as any to begin studying. “We can decide on what and where to study later.”

“Mm, it seems like the right time,” Rin said, closing her eyes. “Even though there’s not really a right time. There’s a wrong time, which is just before or during exam time, so there’s a wrong time but not a right time. Like a clock that keeps moving but stops after midnight.”

“Alright then, we shall begin our studying on Sunday.” Emi declared, raising her hand for no reason.

Not long after, the faint sound of the school bell could be heard, and all of us scrambled to finish our food before leaving the rooftop. As we made our way back to classes, Rin stopped just as we were about to separate, looking extremely hesitant.

“Mm, I know I need to leave you now, but I also feel like I need to stay with you,” Rin said, looking annoyed at the contradiction. “Like needing to drink but also feeling like you need better water than tap water, even though there’s no other sources of water so you’ll be thirsty if you don’t drink from the tap.”

“I’ll be fine,” I assured her, planting a kiss on her cheek for good measure. “The moment classes are done, I’ll go right to your classroom, alright?”

She didn’t answer immediately, but ultimately nodded, heading to her classroom. All the while, her eyes looked back at me until she couldn’t physically see me any longer. I also headed back to my class, and arrived just before it began.

The rest of the classes were more of the same from the morning, with teachers emphasizing the importance of our final exams, though their repeated insistence ironically made it sound less imperative to me. My thoughts were once again not on what was being taught, but on Rin.

I tried to imagine our lives after graduation, with each of us pursuing our own careers. College would probably take more out of our time together than at Yamaku, but in return we’d be living together, something that would be a major step towards the rest of our relationship.

Of course, as I thought about it, my mother’s disapproval of that idea hung over my head. Even if she did support me, I knew that her worries would not be assuaged. As much as we clashed over how much help I needed regarding my condition, I didn’t want her to feel that way, especially after my hospital visit when I visited her. There had to be a way to placate her.

After thinking over it for a bit, an idea formed in my head. One that would require the help of someone, but it should put my mother at ease. As for who that someone might be, I had a few options, though one person in particular stood out to me. Someone who could benefit from it as much as me and Rin would.

It would certainly be a good way to keep that person around, given how isolated she was in the past. While I would ask for her opinion later, I suspected Rin would probably approve as well.

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As the school bell rang for the final time, I immediately packed my things and gave a brief goodbye to Miki and Hanako, who seemed to have their own things to do after school. I quickly walked through the hallways, not quite bursting into a run, though the temptation was certainly there. Perhaps Emi had influenced me in that regard.

Rin was waiting outside the classroom, immediately walking towards me once she saw me. The two of us stopped right in the middle of the hallway.

“It feels like you’re late, even though you’re not late,” Rin noted. “Like going through a traffic jam to get to work. Even though you get there before you can be fired, you still feel mad because there’s a traffic jam, which isn’t a jam but is called jam.”

“Sorry,” I said, but she shook her head before resting it on my chest. “So...what do you want to do today?”

Rin didn’t answer immediately, continuing to rest her head on my chest before breaking away from me, walking away. It seemed that her answer couldn’t be conveyed by words, so I quickly followed her as she went down the hallway.

We exited the school side by side, leaving me wondering where exactly she wanted to go. It only took a few minutes for me to realize it, as we were soon heading in the direction of the girl’s dormitories.

Soon we were inside the building, just outside her door. I unlocked and opened it for her, and she quickly entered. I followed her in and closed the door behind us before taking a good look at her room. It’s been a long time since I had seen it, only getting accounts from the others over the winter break, describing it as a mess even by her standards.

Now though, it was surprisingly clean, with all of her art supplies tucked neatly into a corner. The paintings on her walls were the same as far as I could recall, but the room was far more organized than the impression that I had been given.

“I cleaned my room,” Rin said, seeming to know what I was thinking. “Emi had that exact same look when I asked for her help, even though you two don’t have the same faces, with one of you looking like a cartoon and the other like a real person.”

“When did you do this?” I asked.

“Mm, after the first time I began to sleep with you. Not sex, even though we did have sex that first time,” Rin answered, heading to the bed and sitting on it. “I knew you were going to come here later, even though I don’t know how I knew or when you would come here. When I thought about you seeing my room when it was still messy, I felt my head getting messy, like my head was also a room but one that went through an earthquake.”

“Well, I suppose I do like a clean room,” I said, sitting down beside her. “Still, you didn’t need to do that for me. I can enjoy a little bit of messiness, especially coming from you.”

“Maybe one day or two days, but not a week. It’s like eating mashed potatoes every day,” Rin responded as she lay down, eyes glued to the ceiling. “Eventually you’ll hate mash potatoes, and then you’ll hate the chef who made them. We’re going to be living together, so I shouldn’t keep things messy for too long.”

It was nice that she was thinking about living together, as well as making sure not to make things too difficult for me.

“Well, for most of the apartment, I agree,” I responded, laying down beside her, though my eyes were focused upon her instead of the ceiling. “But assuming we get a nice place, we can have a room reserved for your painting and artwork. You can make it as messy as you want.”

“Mm, you say that, but I still wouldn’t be allowed to pour gasoline on the floor and set it on fire,” Rin responded, closing her eyes. “Even though I don’t want to do that, you said I can make it as messy as I want, but I still can’t make it that messy even though I don’t want it to be that messy. Like not wanting to feed dog food to a dolphin.”

“There are limits to everything.” I agreed, reaching my hand out to brush her cheek.

“Even your love for me?” The question caught me off guard, though Rin didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with that. “You said you would leave me alone if I didn’t show up that night. Was that the limit of your love?”

It took me a lot of thought for me to come up with an honest answer, though she waited patiently for me to respond.

“If you look at it one way, I suppose that would be the limit of my love,” I admitted, sounding a bit reluctant in answering. “But looking at it another way, if it would only hurt you, then me letting you go would also be out of love. No matter what, I wanted what was best for you, because I love you.”

Rin finally looked away from the ceiling to gaze at me, and simply nodded. “I understand that, even though I feel like I shouldn’t...Thank you, Hisao.”

“You’re welcome,” I responded as she closed the distance between our bodies, resting her head below mine. “Thank you for staying by my side, Rin.”

We laid there together for a while, not saying anything as time went by. Most would consider it a waste of time, especially with exams so close, but I considered it a necessity. Such moments were what made our relationship stronger, the quiet understanding that we were there for one another, through all our problems past and future.

Rin suddenly sat up, and went to the corner where her art supplies were. “Hisao, take off your shirt please.”

“...Excuse me?” I said, confused by the sudden request. I knew that it wasn’t because she wanted to sleep with me, as she was much more direct in her desires for that, so I was left wondering what she wanted me to strip.

“I want to draw you shirtless,” Rin explained, taking some pencil and a sketchbook with her feet and positioning them on the floor, leaning back against the cupboard. “People draw other people naked all the time, even though some of the people are statues and they still get embarrassed even though their private parts are just marble instead of the actual thing. Like people getting aroused from a painting, even though it’s just paint.”

“Is that why you want to draw me shirtless?” I asked, hoping that wasn’t the case. “You know, the real thing is always better, especially when that person is more than willing to sleep with you.”

“That’s now why I want to draw you shirtless,” Rin responded without any hint of embarrassment whatsoever. “I can tell you why I wanted to draw you, but I feel like I want to tell you after I begin drawing. Like movies where the old master explains the training after it began, even though I’m not training you, unless it’s training you to become shirtless. I don’t think you need training for that. I did, but that’s because I had no hands.”

“I don’t need training for that,” I mimicked her words, and just to prove it, began unbuttoning my uniform and taking it off. With my chest exposed, I feel a slight chill, though it wasn’t enough to make me shiver. “See?”

“I am seeing, that’s why I wanted to draw you,” Rin said, and began drawing on her sketchbook. “Don’t move.”

“Can I talk?” I asked, which seemed to make her pause in consideration.

“You can, but try not to move your mouth too much.” Rin requested, and I complied.

Despite being given permission, I didn’t talk all that much as she continued to sketch me, making extremely erratic scribbles onto her sketchbook. Sometimes she would move her feet so fast I could barely keep up, and other times it would go so slowly that it almost looked like she stopped entirely.

“How much have you drawn…” I asked, deciding to break the silence.

“Your head,” Rin responded, slowing down once again. “Your shoulders, but it’s hard to draw the rest of it.”

I found that a little odd. Compared to the many minute details a face could have, the body should be relatively simple in comparison, with only minor muscular details. I thought about what would make it hard for her to draw it, until a thought crossed my mind. The one difference that set me apart from most other bodies, and while it technically would add much difficulty to a sketch of me, there was another reason why it would be troublesome.

“You’re trying to draw my scar, aren’t you?” I asked, though a part of me already knew that it was the answer. Rin simply nodded in response, not saying anything as she continued drawing.

“I was going to tell you, but you figured it out before I could, like someone spoiling a movie,” Rin said. “Did you figure out why I want to draw you with your scar? I feel like you do, but I also feel like asking even though I know you probably know.”

“I have some idea,” I answered, knowing that it’s her way of trying to further accept my condition. “Mind telling me anyways?”

Rin stopped for a moment, looking into my eyes before nodding again, though she didn’t say anything afterwards. I simply waited for her to speak again as she continued to sketch, her pace slowing and quickening at a seemingly random pattern.

“I tried drawing you,” Rin explained, breaking the silence. “When I didn’t want to see you, but I wanted to see you. Like wanting to watch a show but not wanting to see the boring parts. So I thought I would just draw you, so I can have a you to look at, even if it’s not actually you.”

“I see…” My mind suddenly recalled one of Emi’s accounts of her room during winter break, with things scattered everywhere, most of them being paper with scribbles on them.

“Even though I can remember your face and your body, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get it right,” Rin muttered, her voice growing quieter. “When I looked at my drawings of you, it was like looking at a jigsaw puzzle that had some of the pieces missing, and when I tried to fill in those pieces they were the wrong shape and the wrong color. I don’t even like jigsaw puzzles…”

I didn’t really know what to say to that, and simply nodded at her, recognizing the turmoil she was in during those days. It wasn’t all that dissimilar to my own, as my memories had been colored by the distance that had come between us.

“But now I think...I think I can finish the puzzle,” Rin said, still sounding unsure. “Just a little bit more.”

This time, I knew exactly what to say. “I believe in you.”

“Thank you, Hisao.” Rin responded, a smile forming on her face. “It’s still hard, but you’re helping me.”

“Like someone putting together the pieces, even though they’re not touching them with their hands?” I said, using her analogous way of speaking.

“Yes, just like that.”

Silence followed as I stayed in place for her to sketch me, Rin seeming to draw at a more even pace now. Occasionally I would glance out the window, the sun shining down brightly thanks to a clear sky.

“I’m done,” Rin said, placing her pencil down while staring at the sketch. “You can put your shirt back on, or not. I already have a permanently shirtless Hisao here, even though I prefer a real shirtless Hisao.”

“When you put it like that, it almost makes me want to go shirtless,” I noted, though I began to button my shirt anyways as I had been feeling more and more of the cold. “Are you pleased with your drawing of me?”

Rin nodded. “Come and look.”

I got out of the bed and went to her little corner, sitting down and leaning on the cupboard alongside her. Rin passed the sketchbook to me, which I took while glancing at what she drew. The drawing was a fairly realistic sketch of me, far removed from the abstract work she often did, although I felt as if some of my features were a little embellished. Not that I minded, considering that this was how Rin saw me.

I glanced over at my chest and saw the scar, looking extremely accurate to how it was in reality. Despite that, I did notice that it was drawn a lot more simply than the others, with what I assumed were far fewer pencil strokes compared to other parts of my body. Whether that was because there was little need to or because she didn’t want to, I couldn’t tell.

“It looks great,” I said in an encouraging tone. “I’m glad you drew me with a smile on my face.”

“You were smiling while I was drawing your face, so I drew your smile,” Rin answered. “Even though you weren’t smiling when I drew other parts of you. Like building a machine that has different parts that change color every hour.”

“I think people in general are a bit like that,” I noted as she rested her head on my shoulder. “If you ever wanted to sketch me again, just ask.”

“Mm…” Rin mumbled out tiredly. “Hisao...tell me about the future, even though you aren’t a fortune teller. I want to have a memory of it now, even though it hasn’t happened yet, like asking for a burger during medieval times when a burger hasn’t been invented yet.”

“The future, huh?” I whispered, feeling similarly tired despite not doing anything. Maybe her fatigue was contagious. “Well, after we graduate, we’ll be going to college. Me in one focusing on science, you in an art college.”

“Not the same college, even though some colleges have both art and science.”

“Yeah, but we’ll be going to ones that specialize in what we want to do,” I mentioned. “Before our semester properly begins, we’ll scout out a nice apartment. Not too big, so we won’t have to waste too much time cleaning it.”

“One room for my art stuff, and one room where we sleep,” she said. “That’s enough rooms for us, even though we need a bathroom, but I don’t need to say it because we’ll already have it. A home without a bathroom is like a restaurant with no spoons or forks or chopsticks.”

“Yeah…” I muttered, the idea I’d had earlier popped into my head, making me wonder if this was the right time to ask her about it. Since her mind was already on the future, I decided that it was best to have her thoughts about it. “Actually...I was thinking that we’d need a little more room than that.”

Rin eyed me with a curious stare, letting me gather my thoughts before I elaborated.

“I was thinking that we can have a third person living with us,” I said, trying to make it sound like a casual proposition. “It would mean that we’d have someone extra to do shopping and cleaning, not to mention the fact that rent would be cheaper since it’d be divided by three instead of just us two.”

Rin’s answer was a very simple, “And…?”

“And it’d get my mother off my back,” I admitted, feeling a little worried at bringing her up. “She still doesn’t trust us to live on our own together, especially after...I went to the hospital. So I think a third person living there might make her feel more secure about things.”

Rin didn’t answer immediately, and in fact looked down on the ground, a frown on her face. It was clear that the subject of my parents was a sore spot, but at the same time I felt as if it needed to be brought up.

“Does she hate me?” Rin asked, sounding just a little bit afraid.

“No, not at all,” I reassured her, and not simply out of a desire to placate her either. My mother had made it clear that while she had issues with my relationship with Rin, she did not bear any hatred towards her. It was something I was thankful about, even if she still opposed her. “She just feels...very weird about our relationship, because she doesn’t really know what we’ve been through together.”

She didn’t answer that, still looking down at the ground. I wrapped an arm around her and pulled her close to me, in an attempt to comfort her.

“I’m sorry, Rin,” I whispered, letting out a sigh. “But as much as I want our future to be perfect, life isn’t like that.”

“I know, we need to have good and bad, like eating a meal with steak and peanuts. I don’t really like peanuts,” Rin said, looking up at me. “Thank you, Hisao. For giving me peanuts.”

“No problem,” I responded, feeling a little relieved that I no longer had to hide anything from her. It might be difficult for her to process it, but at least she’s willing to.

“A third person living with us,” Rin repeated, closing her eyes once again. “It’s like a boat with three sails. You only really need one or two, but a third will make it faster. But it might also make the boat too fast when the wind blows.”

“Yeah,” I answered, having some idea of what she meant. “It can’t just be anybody. It’d need to be someone we trust, and who wouldn’t mind living with us for a few years. Someone who we like being around more often than not.”

“Mm, I think I know who you’re going to ask, even though I don’t really know,” Rin stated, her eyes still closed. “Her living with us will help her too, if I know who you’re going to ask. If I don’t, then it’d be like assuming you’ll give me chocolate on White Day, but you give me durians instead.”

“It is who you think it is...I think,” I said with a bit of a chuckle. “Do you think she’ll accept?”

“I think she’ll give the answer she’ll give when you ask her,” Rin responded, finally opening her eyes. “I’m getting sleepy, Hisao.”

“Well, I wouldn’t mind a nap.” I got up to my feet, with Rin doing the same. “I don’t think I’ll be able to do anything productive today.”

Rin didn’t say anything, and simply went to lay down on the bed, gazing at me all the while. I followed, laying down alongside her. The two of us stared at each other, refusing to close our eyes as I wrapped my arms around her.

“I love you, Hisao,” Rin whispered. “I felt like I haven’t said it a lot, so I wanted to say it now even though you know.”

“I know. I love you too, Rin,” I responded, only now beginning to close my eyes. “I want to be in the world where you live. Always.”

Rin’s response was to rest her head against my chest, gently brushing against it. She didn't say a word, but there wasn’t any need to. Not long after, I drifted off to sleep with her in my arms, and a smile on my face.

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When we woke up, the sun had already begun to set, and we decided to lay in bed for a little longer before finally getting up. It was too late to get anything resembling a decent dinner, so I offered to get something from a vending machine to fill our stomachs, which she accepted.

“Are you staying tonight, Hisao?” Rin asked just before I opened the door.

I paused and thought about it for a few seconds, before answering. “Do you want me to stay over?”

“Yes,” Rin stated plainly. “But if you don’t want to, then I don’t want to, even though I do want to. Like not wanting to be given money from your parents, even if you would take money if it fell from the sky.”

We did have school the next day, which made me a bit hesitant on staying over at the girl’s dorm. But seeing Rin’s face as I awoke from our nap made me realize how much I couldn’t stand being apart from her, not to mention the longing look in her eyes. While she may not be directly pushing me towards saying yes, it was clear that she wanted me to.

“Well, I’m sure I can sneak back into my dorm for an early shower tomorrow, especially since I’ll be running with Emi in the morning,” I said, giving her a smile. “So sure, I’ll stay here tonight.”

“Thank you, Hisao.” Rin said, smiling as well.

“I’ll go back to my room and get a change of clothes, then grab some dinner,” I responded, finally opening the door. “You sure you don’t want anything in particular?”

“I want what you choose for me,” Rin answered, causing me to chuckle. Her smile soon faded however, looking a little more serious. “Can you...bring your pills here? You need to take them, and I want to see it again.”

There was a brief moment of silence before I answered, feeling a certain emotion that I couldn’t explain when she asked that.

“Yeah, I will,” I assured her. “Anything else you want me to bring?”

“A blue horse, but I don’t think you have one of those.” Rin said, and once again I’m unable to discern whether she’s making a joke or not. Regardless, I gave her one final smile before heading out to my dorm room.

As I exited the girl’s dorm building, I looked at the sky as it began to fully transition into night, my thoughts turning to when me and Rin would be living together. I couldn’t help but imagine our apartment having a balcony, with a great view of the sky for her to stare at.

Will that become a reality? It was a question that I would have the answer to soon. Perhaps sooner than I was prepared for.

Apart from that, the walk to my room remained uneventful, despite encountering Kenji along the way. A part of me wondered what he was doing, though I assumed it had something to do with those feminist delusions of his.

Once I got into my room, I changed into more casual clothes, and quickly packed my medications and a few books into a bag. As I was putting my pill bottles in, a sudden buzzing noise caught my attention. Someone was calling me.

I reached for my phone and picked it up, seeing the number on the screen. It was Mom, and I clenched the phone a little tighter at that. She’d call me a few times during winter break, starting off with a few frequent calls before tapering off. This was the first time she had called since me and Rin reconciled.

Taking a deep breath, I finally answered.

“Good evening, Mom,” I said, noticing the stiffness in my voice. Though I supposed it was better than the previous tone I carried during our other calls, apathetic and completely devoid of anything resembling positivity. “How are you?”

“I’m doing well, Hicchan,” Mom answered in a loud and cheery voice, which sounded different from our previous calls as well, far more genuine than forced. “Well, besides the fact that your father messed up dinner again.”

I let out a brief chuckle at that. “I hoped it was still edible.”

“Oh it was,” she said in a reassuring tone. “The noodles were a little overdone, and there wasn’t as much soup as I’d like, but it was a perfectly fine meal. By your father’s standards, anyway.”

“I’m glad you two had a good time,” I responded, feeling a sense of fondness and longing. It had only been a few weeks, but I missed them. In hindsight, while the fact that I ended up at the hospital was necessary for Rin and me to move on together, I still wished I could have parted with my parents on better terms. “I’m actually packing my things right now. Sleeping over at someone else’s place.”

“Oh? One of your friends?”

I didn’t answer immediately, feeling a little nervous at finally telling her about Rin. The subject wasn’t brought up at all during our calls, out of both respect and uncertainty. But now I felt as if I needed to bring it up, difficult as it may be considering her stance on it.

“I’m actually staying over at Rin’s tonight,” I finally managed to get out. “We’ve...come to an understanding.”

“Oh…” was all she said for a while, a long silence following afterwards. When she finally decided to speak again, it was hard to tell if her tone was congratulatory or worried. “I’m...happy for you, Hicchan. Has she really accepted your condition?”

“Yes, she has accepted my condition,” I repeated, as if to clarify what I meant. “We’re taking it slowly, and I can’t say we won’t run into any problems in the future, but she has accepted my arrhythmia. And what could come with it…”

I said that last part with a bit of hesitance in my voice, which I hope my mother didn’t notice. Once again, I’m met with silence.

“Mom?” I said, unable to take her lack of a response.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, and I wondered whether she was sorry about the silence, or about the fact that she still couldn’t accept my relationship with Rin. Thankfully, I was given an answer almost immediately. “I didn’t mean to be so quiet. It’s just a lot to process…”

That made me hesitate about asking her about living with Rin, though I was still determined to do so. Just not at that exact moment.

“Mom, I know you don’t agree with my relationship with her.” It was hard for me to say that, and I could feel the grip on my phone tightening. “But I don’t think we’ll separate, not after all we’ve been through. I want to spend the rest of my life with her.”

“I know, Hisao. I know,” she said, sounding both resigned and accepting of what I said. “When we called each other during winter break, I could tell how sad you sounded. How lost you might have been, even if you were trying to hide it from me. It was because she wasn’t there for you.”

“Yeah,” I answered. “And I wasn’t really trying to hide it. I didn’t think I could.”

“Even so, I can already hear how different you sound right now. Livier and happier.” Mom sounded relieved, and even let out a rather loud sigh. “I’ve been talking to your father about it as well, and I’ve come around to his point of view somewhat. If she truly makes you happy, makes you whole...then I’ll support you. The both of you.”

Her words made me feel lighter, as if a weight had suddenly disappeared. I let out a sigh of my own, one of absolute relief as I rubbed my eyes to prevent a tear from coming out. “Thank you, mom. I know it couldn’t have been easy, and I’ll try my best to make sure you have nothing to worry about.”

“Thank you, Hicchan,” I heard her sniffle, and wondered if she was crying. Still, the happiness in her voice was more than apparent. “You’re right, it wasn’t easy. But nothing in life is. I will still voice my worries and concerns about how you two are doing, but you have my blessing. Always.”

“Yeah,” I responded, smiling as I looked out the window, my mental image of an apartment balcony coming up once again. With our conversation taking such a turn, it finally gave me the confidence to take that leap. “On that note, I’ve actually been meaning to talk to you about something.”

“About what?”

“...Well, finals are coming up,” I mentioned, trying to sound nonchalant. “And it’s fair to say I’ll pass with some amount of certainty.”

“You better,” Mom reprimanded, though her tone was more playful than threatening. “Otherwise I’d be the one having a heart attack, Hicchan! For all of our efforts only for you to fail…”

“I won’t,” I said in a serious voice. The thought of failing was something I didn’t even want to consider, not just because of what others would think, but also my own personal pride. While science might be my only subject of interest, I was never someone that could tolerate a failed score next to my name. “But after finals, I’ll be graduating along with everyone else. And then it’s off to college…”

“Right, and I trust you to find one that matches your passion,” Mom said, before adding. “But this isn’t about that, is it? It’s about finding a place to stay with Rin?”

“It is,” I answered. “Is your stance on that still the same?”

“Hicchan…” She was clearly uncomfortable about answering that question, though she managed to after a while. “I know she’s getting used to your condition, but I’m not sure if that means she’ll be that way if an emergency happens. Not to mention all the moving, and the maintenance that comes with having a home.”

“I know, and I actually have a solution for that,” I said calmly. “What if there was a third person staying there?”

“A...third person?” Mom seemed curious about what I had in mind. “You mean there’s someone else willing to stay with you? Someone more…”

She stopped right there, and I elected to ignore the last part of what she said. “I haven’t exactly asked her yet, but I believe she’d be more than amenable to it. It would mean there’s an extra pair of hands to maintain the place, not to mention someone else there in case anything happens.”

“I don’t think it’s that simple.” She sounded hesitant about it, though not as much as before. That was a good sign, or at least I hoped so. “There’ll need to be space allocation, not to mention assigning chores, and there’s no guarantee that it’ll be smooth sailing. People can be very different once you start living with them.”

“Would it be any more unnerving for you than if it was just Rin and I?” I countered.

“...No, it wouldn’t,” she admitted. “I’ll need time to think about it, alright? This all came out of the blue, and right after you and Rin reconciled It’s just a little much to take in.”

“I know. I just wanted to know how you thought about that arrangement,” I said. “Graduation is still some time away, so I just want you to consider it. I want to live with Rin, but I also want your approval as well.”

“Thank you for thinking about me like that,” Mom sounded extremely grateful, letting out another sniffle, though this one felt more exaggerated than sincere. “In the meantime, study well. If you get good grades on your exams, it might just help your case.”

“I will, I will,” I responded, rolling my eyes despite the fact that she couldn’t see it. If getting good grades would help sway her, then it would just be an extra benefit. “Anyways, I need to pack my stuff and buy dinner. Rin’s waiting for me.”

“Alright, have fun dear,” Mom said, adding in a slightly softer voice. “And tell Rin I said hello...and that I hope she’s doing fine.”

The last request caught me a little off guard, though I did find it a nice surprise. “I will. Love you, Mom.”

“I love you too, Hicchan.”

With those final words, she hung up the phone, and I quickly resumed my packing. While the call hadn’t taken too much time, I was still lingering in my room way longer than I’d intended. With all my medications and a few books in my bag, I sling it over my shoulder and exited my dorm room to buy some dinner.

My conversation with Mom stayed in my head a good while, as I couldn’t help but feel a little relieved that she was starting to support my relationship with Rin, even if it wasn’t the easiest thing to do. It made me feel extremely grateful to her, and I couldn’t help but thank Dad for contributing to that shift.

I should talk with him soon, to convey my gratitude and to assure him that I’m alright as well.

Once I exited the dorm building, I made my way to go find some dinner. A vending machine selling bread isn’t exactly a great dinner, but it was the only option I had besides cup noodles, which wasn’t really any better.

Just as I was reaching the courtyard where several other paths were, I saw Rin walking down the path heading from the girl’s dorm, catching me by surprise. The two of us looked at each other, freezing in place for a moment, before she silently walked up to me.

“Hello, Hisao,” Rin said in a tone that sounded like she was meeting me for the first time. “You’re here. I knew you were going to be here, but I didn’t know when, like knowing where the rain is but not knowing when. Except it rains everywhere, just at different times, like a TV that can only display different parts of the screen instead of the whole thing.”

“Sorry,” I responded, feeling guilty. “I kept you waiting.”

Rin simply shook her head, moving to stand by my side. “I wanted to see you. When I was in my room, I just kept thinking about you, like where you were or what you were doing…”

“Were you worried?” I asked.

“A bit, but it wasn’t why I wanted to see you. It was like that worry was a small cog in a larger machine whose purpose is for me to go out and find you.”

“Well, you found me,” I wrapped an arm around her shoulders, which she responded by leaning her body onto mine. “I was going to go buy some bread from a vending machine. Shall we go together?”

Rin nodded, and the two of us headed towards the vending machines, situated near the main school building. With only the light of a few lampposts guiding our way, our walk was slow as we took our time, neither of us feeling the need to rush.

“I actually had a call with my mother,” I brought up after a while, feeling the need to tell her. “We talked about a few things. She wanted me to tell you something.”

She flinched at the mention of my mom, her head moving very suddenly downwards before returning to its normal position, her expression uneasy. I squeezed her shoulder, hoping that would comfort her a little, which it seemed to do as she looked less tense.

“She wanted to say hello,” I mentioned. “And she hopes that you’re doing fine.”

“Oh…” Rin seemed genuinely surprised by that, and looked at me. “Am I doing fine, Hisao?”

“I don’t think I can answer that for you,” I said, looking right back at her. “It’s something only you can answer, Rin.”

She thought about it for a few moments, before seemingly coming to a conclusion. “I think I’m fine, but I’m not sure if I’m fully fine or only partially fine. Like a car that doesn’t know if it has a leaky water tank or not, but you can still drive a car with a leaky water tank.”

“I’m not sure how my mom will react to that answer,” I noted, trying to make it sound like a joke in order to not worry her further.

“If I said that to Mama, she’d probably laugh and hug me. Mama likes hugs,” Rin said in response before shaking her head. “Tell your mom I’m doing fine, since that’s what I think is the right answer even though it’s not entirely right, or there is no right answer.”

“Alright.” I hesitated for a few seconds before bringing up the other subjects my mom and I discussed. “We talked for a little while, and she said she’s going to support us from now on.”

Rin didn’t react to that statement, and there was an awkward silence as we continued to walk, only broken by Rin after a minute or so.

“What does she mean by support, Hisao?” she asked, sounding extremely curious. “Is it like the kind of support that charities give to hungry people, or the kind of support people give to beggars sometimes when they pass them by, or the kind of support you give to me when I need to grab something but I don’t want to use my feet?”

The question she posed was a tricky one, and this time I was the one who was silent, thinking on how to properly respond. None of the examples she listed quite fit in my head, but in the end I gave my own answer to her question.

“It’s the kind of support...a bank gives out,” I said, the analogy already sounding weird to me. “They let you borrow money, and you can use that money to help yourself. But they’ll also warn you when you need to pay back what you borrowed. It’s kind of like that, I think.”

“Oh…” Rin’s voice was neutral as she responded. “I think I understand that. Thank you, Hisao.”

“You’re welcome, Rin,” I responded as we finally made our way to the vending machine. I inserted some coins. “Anyways, we talked about after graduation, and us living together. She said she’ll think about it after finals, though I think she’ll say yes, especially after I told her about my plan.”

“You mean about having someone else live with us.” She stated, not even framing it as a question.

“Yeah,” I pressed the buttons on what I wanted, which was several curry and bean breads, and picked them up as they came down. With those in hand, I turn to Rin. “Shall we head back to your room?”

Rin nodded, and we made our way back to the girl’s dorm. The night was just beginning, and there were still some things that needed to be done.

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Once we got back to her room, we immediately ate. I hadn’t realized how hungry I was until I took my first bite of bread. We finished eating rather quickly, leaving us to simply indulge in each other’s company as I read one of the books I’d brought with me, with her simply lazing around in bed.

After a while though, I went to my bag and rummaged through it, taking out my medications. Rin noticed immediately, and she sat up on the bed.

“Is it time to take them?” she asked, to which I nodded. “I feel like it’s the right time, even though I’m not sure if it’s exactly the right time. Like knowing what hour it is but not what minute…”

“It is,” I answered as I took some of my pills out, putting them into my mouth as she watched intently. “The timing doesn’t need to be super precise, otherwise I’d feel paranoid about the time.”

Rin didn’t say much else as I took the rest of my medications, simply eyeing me with a kind of focus that I rarely saw from her. She didn’t seem quite used to it, but there wasn’t a trace of fear or worry in her either, which I found to be a relief.

“All done,” I announced as I took the last of my medications. “At least for today. I’ll still need to take these in the morning.”

“I’ll tell you when you wake up,” Rin said, sounding more like those words were to herself than me. “It’s getting easier, like slowly learning how to walk.”

“Good job, Rin.” I added, trying to encourage her as I went back to her bed, sitting beside her. “Well, is there anything else you want to do? Anything to talk about?”

Rin looked like she thought about it, but ultimately shook her head, laying back down. I took my book and resumed reading with her beside me, occasionally placing a hand onto her head and brushing her hair. The atmosphere was silent, but of a comfortable sort.

When I was halfway through my book, I glanced down at Rin to see that her eyes were closed, and I wondered if she was just in thought or if she was just sleeping. After a few more minutes, her eyes did not open, which made me conclude it was the latter.

I let out a yawn, feeling a bit of fatigue set in. I didn’t know how late it was, but something told me I should sleep regardless.

“Rin?” I softly whispered, getting no response. It seemed as if she really was sleeping, so I quietly went up and placed my book on a nearby table before heading to the door, turning off the lights.

The room was now dark, save for a bit of moonlight that came in through the window. Turning back to the bed, I saw Rin shiver a little, and quickly went back to lay down beside her. I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her close to me, which caused her to open her eyes.

“Hisao?” Rin called out, her voice extremely sleepy.

“Yes?”

“...I think...I’m fine. Even if I’m not completely fine, you’re still here. So I am.”

She immediately closed her eyes after saying those words, and I didn’t feel the need to respond. I closed my eyes as well, and much like Rin did, felt that everything was fine. It may not be in the future, but it would at least be for today.

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Razoredge
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Re: Rin Epilogue: The Long Road (Updated 15/10/2021)

Post by Razoredge » Sun Oct 17, 2021 7:04 pm

After reading this scene, I hate Hisao's mother less, even if I still don't like her that much, given her views about her son's relationships. I know parents can't always agree with their children's relationships, but being so disapproving about it is something I can't even understand, and I don't like her for that. This is a proof of how good your writing is, since you manage to make me love or hate some characters I didn't know I would love or hate, so that means you're doing an excellent job, and you should be praised for that.

I think I already know which person would be the third people to live with them, given what you wrote last year **cough**. And if it's not the case, well, you'll surprise me in the good way. But it's a really nice piece, it's nice to see that Rin and Hisao came to an understanding, I have hope for their relationship, and I hope they'll stay together and they'll be happy. I really love your Rin, her evolution is nice, she still says Rin at her Riniest, but what you write about her is a really good thing.

That was a really pleasant reading, as always. You, my friend, do a really good job, and you should be praised for that.
Lilly = Akira > Miki = Hanako > Emi > Rin > Shizune

Stuff I'm currently writing : Beyond the haze : A Lilly Satou pseudo-route, Lullaby of an open heart : A Saki pseudo-route & Sakura Blossom : A way with Hisao

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