Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route

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Talmar
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Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route

Post by Talmar » Sun Sep 29, 2019 1:13 pm

Hello, everyone.

First time poster, long time fan. I found KS a lot later than many of you veterans, but I found it nonetheless. Never thought that KS would be the one to lift me up from a lifelong depression, but here we go. But first, a bit of a summary about myself. Name's Talmar, or just call me Tal, like everyone else. I used to write a lot as a hobby, but not really a writer with published works, no no no. Just, a hobby. So I'm familiar with writing in general, and this is my first fan fiction for Katawa Shoujo.

I was born with severe atopic dermatitis of the whole body - in other words, my immune system thinks that my skin, the entire thing, is the enemy, in conjunction with asthma and rhinitis. While the latter two is easily manageable, the former had culled any form of attempts I have at forming a proper social life. I was scarred, like Hanako, but less collected and more scattered, and people often leave me alone, thinking I'm a ... for the lack of a better word, a weirdo, to say the least. I suffered from declining vision due to autoimmune attack on the the eyes, and over the years I noticed the pattern of increasing strength in my glasses' prescriptions. I suffered from declining hearing due to the very skin in my ear tubes decaying and scarring. I have been hospitalized once a year, and emergencies twice - one from a rampant herpes infection, the other an unknown paralytic septic arthritis. I thought that I was destined to live a lonely life, unable to see properly, unable to hear what other say, and made it a sole goal of mine to find a cure, and make it viable for the masses, so no one else can suffer this fate. That's why I'm here, in university, majoring applied biology with plans on immunology. Grand ambitions, right? I know, a bit too ambitious. I'm even reconsidering it, right now. Maybe.

And when I first started, I thought I could persist this lonely life. I mean, I had gone through 18 years alone, so why not now?

Halfway through the first year I snapped. I refused to go to class, I refused to eat, I refused to come out. I spent the days in my hostel, running around the Internet and reading stuff out of sheer chance, whatever seized my interest knowing I'll lose it the next five minutes anyway. I thought I lost it. I felt like, I can't go on. I felt lost, alone, in an environment I barely understood, far away from anyone or anything familiar. But somewhere along the way, while on a binge through TvTropes, I found this. Katawa Shoujo - a visual novel dedicated to the disabled. Curious, I decided to find a way to their website, download it, and play through, like many other games I found and played because I had little else to go on.

And here we are. Who would have thought that a crippled girl dating sim would teach me how to feel happy again. It took me a week to play through it all, and at the end, and finding so many others who loved this game and with similar predicaments as mine, I no longer felt alone. I felt like I found some comrades at long last.

Who is Ritsu Tainaka?

Originally an unmentioned side character named Aoi by the 4LS developers, in the middle of their development K-On! was aired and Aoi and Ritsu shared too much a likeness. So they cut the chase and made her a cameo of K-On! in Hisao's class. A 'retcameo', as one of the devs called it. On the classroom CG, she sits behind Misha and is diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. Officially.

So, why Ritsu?

"Can you move on to the next?"

Initially, I came to know of an existing Ritsu route written by SemisoftCheese, but he chose to take Ritsu as an original character entirely and rushed the ending, which resulted in undoing all progress made. In other words, going out with a bang instead of a whimper. But when I first found it, I figured, why not. At the time I was looking for a topic to start writing, as means to stave off the return of my depression (and after messing up my attempt at getting close to my crush, I kinda needed it; hey, I have zero experience, but at least I learned something, and am trying to move on), but as I worked around the details of this story, I felt that Ritsu deserved a story of her own, especially considering her background in K-On!

Ritsu is nothing if not ambitious. In K-On! she was an aspiring drummer, a cheerful and sanguine leader, if a bit lazy, a bit stubborn, but she does her best to keep everyone happy and entertained. But there was one thing that overshadowed everything; her dreams to perform on the big stage. It was the thing that made her form the band that K-On! was known for, Hokago Tea Time. That is, until she got caught up in her friends' shenanigans, slowing her progress to a crawl, but for those who watched the show, she did achieve it in the end. And all of sudden, she's here, in a school for the disabled, diagnosed with a crippling disability that forbade her from drumming again, lest she'll seize up and lose sensation of her hands entirely. Whichever dev gave her the carpal tunnel syndrome, he's one mean sadist, hahaha.

I'm not really a fan of K-On! to be honest. It's just that once during my depression I stumbled upon it and watched the entire season, both of them, in one go. After my reawakening, I noticed the contrast in Ritsu's expression in the classroom CG in Katawa Shoujo, and her natural expression in K-On!. All in all, I felt like she deserves a story of her own. A returning star rising, but must learn to restrain herself before losing this chance forever.

Is this going to be a crossover fic between K-On! and Katawa Shoujo?

I fully intended this to be a purely KS fanfic, but with Ritsu's background, it is inevitable that she will have to deal with her past at some point. Splitting Hokago Tea Time like this will be a product of angry words both wishes to take back, broken friendships both wanted to heal, and regrets and shame that keeps both sides apart. Ritsu had kept a lot of that suppressed. It's time for someone to take it off and let her heal properly. And I do intend to take things realistically, taking into consideration her relations with her old friends and the effect of her absence on them. Mio in particular. Overall however, I will try to make this as friendly and understandable to those who hadn't watched K-On! at all, but if you hadn't, don't worry. There's no spoilers for the show.

Great! Anything else?

I will be rewriting the entirety of Act 1, due to the different take Hisao has on his disability. I feel like the standard canon way Hisao understood his depression is, on one hand, overdone, and in the other, incomplete. I dislike how in most KS routes he simply places his attention at the girl he ended up with. That is unhealthy. Yes, I know, it was granted attention in the Hanako's Neutral Ending, but so far only that was given any attention. In Emi's, he simply focused on her, excessively even, so much that Emi had to physically remind him to take his medications. The same in Lilly's, to a destructive degree. Only in Rin's route Hisao had gotten over the initial shocks of his arrhythmia, and accepted himself as who he is now. So here I intended to pull him back a bit. By a bit, I meant the stage of depression he's in at the start.

And I know, there is a host of original characters here, so if anything sticks out as wrong, do point it out. I'm still trying to iron things, and I feel like the original characters are one thing I feel particularly weak on.

Well, any other questions I will try to answer properly. Oh also, I already written a lot of Act 1 beforehand, hence the almost complete list of scene titles down below, but I will post the continuations once I get some corrections on any errors I missed. Anyhow, thanks in advance for coming by, and I appreciate any criticisms given. Oh and I am completely a greenhorn when it comes to forum boards like Renai. Never touched 4chan in my life. So, I have no clue how to use this. But yeah, I am now under your care, any visitors ambling about in here, and I welcome any and all criticisms, corrections, and other comments!

And so we march, to a greater future!

Switching Dynamics
Act 1: Life Expectancy
0: Bundle of Hisao - [You are here]
1: Gateway Effect - Link
2: Enter Stage Left - Link
3: In the Nursery - Link
4: Late Induction - Link
5: Smalltalk - Link
6: Tryout - Link
7: Short Trip - Link
8: Lunch Evolution Theory - Link
9: Intermission - Link
10: Revival - Link
11: Downtown Dinnertime

Scene 0: Bundle of Hisao

It’s been four months since my first heart attack. In that whole time, I could count the times I had been left in this hospital room unsupervised with one hand. Four months is a pretty long time when you’re left alone with your thoughts, and even then I could barely remember the early days. Nevertheless, I had plenty of time to come to terms with my situation.

Arrhythmia.

A strange word. A foreign, alien one. One that you don’t want to be in the same room with.

A rare condition. It causes the heart to act erratically and occasionally beat too fast.

It can be fatal.

Apparently, I had it for a long time. Well, not exactly long time, but they said it developed from an existing thing that had been with me for a long time. That thing was the tinder, the heart attack the spark, and now the ash is the arrhythmia, and now I’m choking in it. They said it was a miracle that I was able to go on for so long without anything happening.

Was it really a miracle?

I guessed it was supposed to make me feel better, more appreciative of my life.

It really didn’t do anything to cheer me up.

My parents, I thought, were hit harder by the news than I was. They practically had two hemorrhages apiece. I had already had a full day by then to digest everything. To them, it was all fresh. They were even willing to sell our house in order to pay for a cure.

Of course there weren’t.

Because of the late discovery of this … condition, I had to stay at the hospital, to recuperate from the treatments. When I was first admitted, it felt as if I was missed … for about a week. For that time my room was a ward full of flowers, balloons and cards. But then the visitors soon dwindled and all the get-well gifts began trickling own to nothing shortly after. I realized that the only reason I had gotten so many cards and flowers was because sending me their sympathy had been turned into a class project.

Maybe some people were genuinely concerned, but I doubt it.

Maybe my friends were genuinely concerned, but I didn’t see much.

Even in the beginning, I barely had any visitors. By the end of the first month, only my parents came by on a regular basis.

Iwanako was the last to stop visiting. After six weeks, I never saw her again. We never had that much to talk about when she visited, anyway. We didn’t touch the subject that was between us on that snowy day ever again.

Maybe she was guilty for causing it, but at the time. I didn’t really care.

I lost everything. In a simple bet to see what she was up, within a single second. I had lost everything I knew.

The hospital? It’s not really a place I’d like to live in. The doctors and nurses felt so impersonal and faceless. I guess it’s because they’re in a hurry and they have a million other patients waiting for them. I could understand that. Nevertheless, it made me uncomfortable. For the first month or so, I asked the head cardiologist every time I saw him for a rough estimate of when I’d be able to leave. He never answered anything in a straightforward way, but told me to wait and see if the treatment and surgeries worked.

No one knew how much I missed being back in class when the only thing I had was idly observing the scars that those surgeries had done on my chest, slowly changing appearances over time.

In the months afterwards, I still asked the head cardiologist about leaving, but my expectations were low enough that I’m not really disappointed any more when I don’t get an answer. Or a reply. But the way they shuffles around the answer showed that there’s at least some hope.

At some point, I stopped watching TV. I don’t know why, I just did. Maybe it was the wrong kind of escapism for my situation. I wanted to do what I always did, but that’s out of options. Left with nothing else, I started reading instead. There was a small … library, for the sake of a better word, at the hospital. It looked more like a storeroom for books than a library though. I began working my way through it, one small stack at a time.

After consuming them, I would go back for more. I found that I liked reading, and I thought, maybe I got a bit addicted. Just like the first few days without my guitar, I felt naked without having a book in hand. But it helped. It helped putting my mind elsewhere, somewhere not here. That’s what my life was like, in those four months; scratching at the metaphorical wall, finding the only escapism I could in books.

The days became increasingly harder to distinguish from each other, differing only by the book I was reading and the weather outside, from what I could see in the windows. It felt like time blurred into a single gradient of tones that I was trapped inside, instead of moving within. A week could go by without me really noticing it. Sometimes, I’d pause in realization that I didn’t know what day of the week it was. But other times, all the things that surrounded me would painfully crash into my consciousness, through the barrier of nonchalance I had set up around myself. The pages of my book would start to feel sharp and burning hot, and the heaviness in my chest would become so hard to bear that I had to put the book aside and just lay down for a while, looking at the ceiling as if I was going to cry. But that happened rarely.

And I couldn’t even cry.

***

Today, the doctor came in and gave me a smile. He seemed excited, but not very. I could tell. It’s like he’s trying to make an effort to be happy on my behalf. On the other side, my parents were there. It had been a couple of days since I had last seen them. Both of them were even dressed up. Was it supposed to be some sort of special occasion? It’s not a party, that’s for certain.

There’s this ritual the head cardiologist had. He takes his time, sorting his papers, then setting them aside as if to make a point on the pointlessness of what he just did. There he casually sits down on the edge of the bed next to mind. This time, he looked at me in the eyes for a moment. “Hello, Hisao,” he said, clear and concise as usual. “How are you today?”

And like a ritual, I don’t answer him, replying with only whatever smile I could muster back at him.

Usually after this was yet another report on the recent “progress”. Something that usually comes in my right ear and out through my left. But this time, he cleared his throat, and started his part. “I believe you can go home; your heart is stronger now, and with some precautions, you should be fine. We have all your medication sorted out. I’ll give your father the prescription.”

The doctor then handed a sheet of paper to my father, whose expression turned wooden as he read it quickly. The only comment he could muster was, “So many …”

I took it from his hand to take a look at it myself, before immediately feeling numb. How was I supposed to react to this? The absurdly long list of medications staring back at me from the paper seemed insurmountable. They all blended together into a sea of letters. It was insane. Side effects, adverse effects, contraindications, and dosages were listed line after line with cold precision. I tried to read them all, but it was futile. I can’t understand any of it, and attempting to only made me feel sicker.

All this … for the rest of my life, every day?

“I’m afraid that is the best we can do at this point,” said the doctor. “However, new medications are always being developed, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see that list fade over the years.”

Years. What kind of confidence booster was that? I wanted to sit up and punch him in the face. What kind of a pickup line was that when it felt better if he hadn’t said anything at all? Before I could let my anger bottle up, he continued.

“Also, I’ve spoken with your parents, and we believe that it would be the best if you don’t return to your school.”

WHAT?!

Whatever expression I made, it reflected my anger perfectly as my father immediately stood up, alert. “Please, calm down Hisao. Listen to what the doctor has to say…”

Calm down? The way he said it told me that he knew full well I won’t like it. Am I going to be homeschooled now? Whatever my concern showed, it was ignored as the doctor cleared his throat again and continued.

“We all understand that your education is paramount; however, I don’t think that it’s wise for you to be without supervision. At least not until we’re sure that your medication is suitable. So, I’ve spoken with your parents about a transfer. It’s a school called the Yamaku Academy that specializes in dealing with disabled students.”

Disabled? What? Am I …

“It has 24-hour nursing staff and it’s only a few minutes from a highly regarded general hospital. The majority of students live on campus. Think of it as a boarding school of sorts. It’s designed to give students a degree of independence, while keeping help nearby.”

Independence? It’s a school for disabled kids. Don’t try to disguise the fact; if I want to be independent, I would go back to my own school. I was independent back then, as much as I wanted it to be. If this one was really that “free”, there wouldn’t be a ‘24-hour nursing staff’, and you wouldn’t make a hospital being nearby a selling point. But no matter what I thought, I couldn’t get a word out. It’s been so long that I felt like I forgot how to speak.

“Of course,” my father spoke up, “That’s only if you want to go. But … your mother and I aren’t really able to homeschool you. We went out there and had a look a couple of weeks back; I think you’d like it.”

I could only scowl at him. Who is he to decide if I like something when he was never at home except at night? But I couldn’t keep up the scowl for long. My shoulders fell and I stared back at the blanket lain on my legs. It really looked like I don’t have a choice.

“Compared to other heart problems,” the doctor speak up this time, “people with your condition usually tend to live long lives. You’ll need a job one day and this is a good opportunity to continue your education.”

It wasn’t an opportunity, I mumbled to myself. Don’t call it an opportunity. Don’t call it a goddamned opportunity.

Of course no one listened.

“Well, you should be excited at the chance to go back to school. I remember you wanted to return to school, and while it’s not the same one …”

A special school. When I said I wanted to go back to school, he knew perfectly well which one I meant. But this … it’s an insult. That’s what I wanted to say. It’s a step down. Again, the expression I gave made my dad speaks up again.

“It’s not what you think. All of the students there are pretty active, in their own sort of way. It’s geared towards students that can still get around and learn, but just need a little help, in one way or another.”

“Your father’s right,” the doctor said. “And many of the graduates of the school had gone to do amazing things. A person doesn’t have to be held back by their disability. One of my colleagues in another hospital is a graduate.”

I don’t care. A person doesn’t have to be held back by his disability? Isn’t that the definition of disability? It is, isn’t it. I really hated that something so important was decided for me. But what can I about it? A “normal” life was out of question now.

I wanted to protest. I want to blame this lack of reaction on shock, or fatigue. I could easily yell out something now - something about how I can go back to school anyway. But no, I didn’t say anything. The fact was that I know it was futile. I looked around the room, feeling very tired of all this. The hospital, the doctors, my condition, everything. I don’t see anything that would make me feel any different. There really wasn’t any choice. I knew this, yet, the thought of going to a disabled school .. what are those even like? As much as I tried to put a positive spin on this, it’s … difficult.

A clean slate wasn’t a bad thing, I know. At least I still have something; even if it was a “special school,” it’s something. It’s a fresh start, and my life wasn’t over just yet. But, no matter how much I tried to focus on the positive end of things, I just can’t. I built so much on the other side that I found it hard to let go.

But at the very least, I’ll try to see what this place is. Perhaps if I try to petition to come back, they’ll listen. Or maybe not. Maybe, if so, then I’ll find a way myself.
Last edited by Talmar on Sun Sep 29, 2019 5:32 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"They say, the best way to improve yourself is to believe in who you are. You are but a blip in the lives of many you pass by, so why worry? Be yourself - life is too short to worry about the minor altercations here and there.

"So, get out there. Break the chains that holds you back - and embrace the freedom ahead of you." - me

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Talmar
Posts: 11
Joined: Mon Sep 23, 2019 8:02 pm

Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route

Post by Talmar » Sun Sep 29, 2019 4:20 pm

Scene 1: Gateway Effect

The gate looked far too pompous for what it was. In fact, gates in general seem to do that, but this one was especially so. Walls made of red bricks, black wrought iron and gray plaster, assembled into a whole that didn’t felt welcoming at all. I wondered for a moment if it looked like what a gate for a school should look like, but I couldn’t really decide.

Probably no.

Of course, I didn’t want to get stuck on thinking about the gate for too long. The sun was already high up and my head was warming up from the early summer air. Trying to find shelter, I entered through it with a brisk pace, immediately entering the shade of a few dense trees. A bit more relieved, I walked some more. It felt good. Moving forward felt good. Well, not here, but moving forward on my own pace and will in general felt good. I pressed on.

I’m alone, as my parents took my stuff to the dormitories, wherever it was, and there was supposed to be someone around here waiting for me. The grounds here, I noticed, were incredibly lush, filled with green, and the walkways were light brown dirt going past the trees, wide enough to fit a car. I stood at a 4 way intersection, and above were the shades of evergreen trees, and all around me were the smell of fresh-cut grasses. It’s been a while since I walked out.

The front of the building up ahead that is this Yamaku Academy, or so I assumed, was built to almost surround you as you entered the main courtyard. Similar manner of architecture, red brick walls with grayish white plasters formed the exterior, reminding me of those illustrations of factories of the Industrial Revolution in history books. Flanking me are two wings of the main building ahead of me, where it sloped down to reveal another floor exposed by the large windows, each of them decorated almost as excessively as the gates. Not wanting to attract attention, I walked back to the courtyard, looking for the doors.

The place doesn’t really look like the kind of grounds a school would have. It looked more like a park, and the building up ahead a repurposed old building. Words like “clean” and “hygienic” pops in my mind. It made me shudder.

Stay open-minded now, it’s a new life. No matter how much I missed the old one, I can’t get back.

I stared at the main buildings up ahead. They seemed far too big, far too vast, for just a school. Everything seemed off; the unorthodox approach clashed with what I had as a standard for a Japanese high school; the architecture, the design, the sheer size. Even my old school weren’t this large, and what did the doctor said about how many students studied here? 200 or so? It’s an uncanny valley. Even though I was told this will be my new school, in the back of my head it didn’t feel like one. I wondered for a moment if the feeling was real or caused by my expectations of a school for the disabled.

Speaking of that, two hundred students and not a single soul were spotted. I would’ve tried to peer from the distance into the windows, but they’re tinted. It’s kind of eerie. It made me wish there was at least somebody around here so I can anchor myself to something tangible instead of having this feeling that I stepped into another dimension.

The trees up above hummed with the wind and the green hues flashing all around caught my attention. It made me remember the hospitals again, how they say operating rooms were painted green because green is a calming color. With that single reminder, all glad I had of stepping outside, dashed away, and the anxiety of coming to this strange new place took over. I stepped towards the haughty main building again, before stopping.

Now I realized it, why the gate unnerved me. It was the last chance I had at turning back, even if I couldn’t. I could’ve run, but God knows what that will do. They said running will demolish any chance of surviving with this condition. Not that I wanted to dwell on the idea. Its a hefty distance from any where I could go; had to take the Shinkansen to get up here. But still. After entering, there was absolutely no way I could go back any more. With a deep breath, I turned to one of the doors I noticed on one of the wings facing the courtyard, and pushed it in.

The first thing I saw was a tall man in a dark brown peacoat, standing up from sitting on a pillar’s base, noticing me. The way he stood felt awkward, as if the thinness became anorexic and he developed a bad posture trying to adapt to it. I stopped immediately after entering, surprised to see him there to begin with. Thankfully, he started. “You must be … Ni … Na .. Niki?”

“Nakai,” I corrected him.

He looked at a piece of paper in his hand, and back at me. “So you are. Excellent. I’m your homeroom and science teacher. My name is Mutou.” He extended a hand. “Welcome.”

I reluctantly accepted it. The handshake was neither firm or sloppy, but it didn’t seem to mind him. After a moment, he looked at the watch on his hand. “The head nurse asked you for a brief check-in visit,” he said, “but there’s no time for that now.”

I stopped. “Oh. Should I go later?”

He nodded. “Yes, afternoon is probably fine. We should get going and introduce you to the rest of the class,” With that he started walking, impatient. “They’re waiting already.”

Waiting for me? I don’t really like being the center of attention, especially when I know none of these people, but I guess it’s inevitable in a situation like this. I shuddered for a moment. I really don’t like the anticipation of meeting the fabled disabled students here, partly because I have no idea how to react.

Thinking of this, I almost missed what the teacher was saying. He was standing up ahead, waiting for me to catch up. “Do you want to introduce yourself to class?”

I thought for a moment. I mean, it’s standard after all. I shrugged as a reply. “Yeah, sure.”

“Hmm.”

I mean, it's better to do it now or delay it for another date. If anything, I should be the one to give the first impression of myself. I made an effort to follow the teacher behind, and quietly pondered on what exactly the first impression I wanted to make will be all along the way.



Scene 2: Enter Stage Left

It was when we reached the doors of the class I snapped out of it, and looked around, partly so I won’t have to meet the curious gazes of my new classmates. The classroom was pretty spacious; high ceilings, wider than usual spaces left over and in between desks. On the far wall, the wall-spanning blackboards and the high, old fashioned windows served to only make it seem larger.

The students’ desks on the other hand, were just standard wooden desks with a shelf underneath for books and wooden chairs with metal frames. Simple and efficient, but a stark contrast to the style the exterior of the building. Perhaps the whole re-purposed thing was on the mark.

I stopped in front of the classroom and face the other students. At a glance, they all looked normal, like students in any other schools. But if that’s the case, then why would they be here? It took a second glance to notice the various little … errors, for the sake of a sufficient word, like the girl in front of me seemingly missing an entire hand. It’s jarring, to say the least.

I heard Mutou cleared his throat, and was snapped back to reality. But I quickly tuned out his introductory speech, keen on keeping up my exploratory momentum. I noticed a flash of dark hair and saw that someone was looking at me, a girl with really long straight sat in the back seat. As she saw me looking at her, she covered her face with her hands, as if it’ll make her invisible. Besides her, a boy with a cane leaning against the lockers sat quietly. It was strange to see someone around my age already relying on a cane.

Turning slowly to the right, I noticed a girl making hand motions. Sign language? She peered at me over the rims of her glasses, and then goes back to whatever she was doing. I must admit, at the time I thought of her as cute. So was the cheery-looking girl with distinctive pink hair and drills. I didn’t really know how I missed her the first time. And behind her was another girl, with a dull yellow hairband, looking out at the window. She didn’t seem to be paying any attention at the class, let alone me.

Not that I minded.

“...and so please welcome our newest classmate.”

As Mutou’s speech came to a close with a clap of his hands, everyone broke into applause, except for the one-handed girl in front of me, and the hairband girl at the back. I didn’t have much time to ponder as muscle memory quickly took over, and I bowed in thanks to whatever caused the applause to begin with.

What followed was a collective silence, telling me that it’s my turn. I cleared my throat.

“... So, uh, my name is Hisao Nakai.”

It took me a few moments to consider what’s to follow.

“My hobbies are reading, playing guitar and uh, soccer. But I don’t really play that anymore. I hope to get along well with everyone, even though I’m a new student.”

I don’t know why I just stopped. Did I ran out of things to say? Or was I unsure on what else to add, without compromising my early standing here? Whatever it was, I was certain that I was at least missing something. Something interesting. I kept on goading myself to say something.

In the end, not another word. The teacher thankfully picked up from there.

On the flip side, it seemed that everyone was satisfied even with what little I said. A few of the girls were whispering to each other, throwing glances at me. I suppose it could’ve ended worse. In the meantime, the teacher kept on going about something, about getting along, while letting me continue looking around. Everyone seemed to be listening to him intently, aside from the sign language girls, and when he’s done, they’ll clap their hands again. This time though, the girl with the missing hand clapped as well, with her one hand against her other wrist that I noticed ended with a bandaged stump.

I felt a little bad.

“We’re going to do some group work today,” Mutou said, turning to me. “so that will give you a chance to talk with everyone. Is that okay with you?”

I nodded. “Yeah, it’s fine with me.”

“That’s good.” He looked around for a moment. “You can work with the Hakamichi. She’s the class representative, and can explain anything you might want to know. And who else would be able to do that better, right?”

I could only stare at him wordlessly as a reply. How was I supposed to know?

The teacher gave me a copy before working his way around to distribute the rest. Left behind, I made my way to the only empty seat available, next to the pink-haired girl. As I turned to ask, it hit me that I had no idea which one was Hakamichi. Slow, and dumb of me. Could’ve been across the class. The teacher noticed me floundering. “Oh right. Hakamichi is near you. Shizune Hakamichi.”

As he called out her name, the cute bubbly looking girl with the bring pink hair turned to the teacher, before turning back at me. I took it that it was her, and extended a hand. “Hey,” I said, “I guess you’re Hakamichi, right? It’s nice to meet you.”

She only laughed at me in response, catching me off guard.

“It’s nice to meet you too! But~! I’m not Hakamichi, I’m Misha!” She leaned back a bit to show the girl behind her. “This is Hakamichi, Shicchan~!” It looked like she had been staring at me the whole time. She nodded once nonchalantly to show that she acknowledged my presence. She had short, yet carefully, neatly brushed hair, a pair of oval-shaped glasses balanced on the top of a dainty nose, and dark blue eyes that seemed to alternate every few seconds between analytical and slightly bored.

I waved awkwardly. “Well uh, nice to meet you.”

She immediately looked at Misha, who smiled and made a few quick gestures with her hands. Hakamichi nodded and made a few gestures of her own. I started to wonder if the teacher was messing with me, saying things like ‘you’ll be able to talk to people’ and ‘who better to explain things to you’.

Misha looked back at me. “I can see you’re a little confused, right? Right? But I can understand why you’d think I was Shicchan! You see,” she said as she made more gestures, “she’s deaf, so I’m the person who translates things back and forth for her.”

She looked back at Shizune, and then back at me. “I’m like an interpreter~! She says it’s nice to meet you too!”

The blue-haired girl made some more, and Misha translated. “You’re the new student, aren’t you? Well, Shicchan, of course he is! If he wasn’t, he would’ve been standing up there for no reason, right? Right~!”

Now both of them looked at me. “He seemed like a very interesting person, doesn’t he~!”

I felt unnerved. First, the speed between her translation and the sign language obviously seemed almost superhuman, but the second was the attention. Misha’s voice is several octaves too high and I could see some eyes turned this way. She didn’t seem to have noticed it though, continuing to translate just about everything she’s ‘talking’ with Shizune so I could hear it.

“We knew there’s going to be a new student, but we didn’t know you would be here today. So soon! Hicchan, right?”

Wait what. Hicchan?

She nodded appreciatively at the sudden idea. “Yup~! It fits, doesn’t it?”

Did I say it out loud? It’s just a surprise, hearing it here while it was something my mother used to call me. I never liked that nickname. In the meantime, the two looked expectantly at me, but I didn’t really say a word in reply. I folded my arms to appear as if in thought. After a moment, Shizune tapped her fingers on the desk to get Misha’s attention, before exchanging series after series of hand gestures between them. Misha seemed a little overwhelmed.

“Shicchan wants you to know that she’s the class rep,” she translated, turning to me. “so if there’s anything you need to know, you can feel free to ask her.”

The dark-haired girl signed some more.

“Do you like the school so far? We can show you around a little if you haven’t had the time to walk around and … familiarize? yourself with it!” She was stumbling a bit over the last few words, making it a bit noticeable compared to the flawless interpretation so far. I relaxed a bit to let off the tension from my silence, and nodded appreciatively.

“Thanks,” I said, “that would be pretty helpful. And yeah, I just kind of came straight to class today.”

Misha laughed as she received another series from Shizune. “That’s no good! You should always try to learn as much as you can about where you’re going before you go there. Not just the school either~! Always!” She nodded some more. “Even to the convenience store! Really, Shicchan? Hahaha~!”

I stayed silent throughout that. I mean, it made sense to learn what’s up where you’re going, but I was in no mood to try. I came here at my parents’ and doctor’s behest, nothing more, nothing less. Needless to say, I wasn’t looking forward to getting dragged around by these two, but they seemed pleasant so far. But, reluctance and unwilling. Not a good combination.

After a while, Misha signed something that ended in a shrug. What was that? It seemed like something about me. I felt like slumping in my seat, really. Both of them were smiling, but that shrug hit me unexpectedly deeply. She looked at me more closely, concerned. “You look down, are you okay?” she asked, turning around to toss another series to Shizune, who promptly replied.

“Don’t take it the wrong way, please~!” Misha said, smiling again as she went back to her seat, “I hate it when people are afraid to ask questions! That’s how people learn things, by asking! Asking for help is perfectly normal, as much as needing help! Stop looking like you just failed a test!”

Misha laughed at the end of that, as if it would cheer me up a bit. I merely shrugged in response. “All right.”

Shizune signed something. “Ah, another thing,” Misha translated. “You don’t have to call Shicchan something so formal like ‘Hakamichi’ or ‘Class Rep’ all the time! Just call her Shicchan~!” She stopped, and then looked at Shizune, who was noticeably blushing. “Ahaha~!Okay, maybe that’s too casual. Maybe Shizune would be more appropriate?”

She nodded, and Misha continued. “Yup, yup~! Shizune is fine!”

I took a deep breath, and sighed. Perhaps being apprehensive earlier was a bit uncalled for. Both of them seemed friendly, and especially Shizune, who I assumed would be all business. Well, she still seemed like that, just less so, I guess.

Speaking of, she signed something. “Huh? Oh right, we haven’t even touched the assignment! We should start working right now, or Shicchan will get mad!”

I turned back to my table, and quietly brought out my stationery to start working, leaving the two to start working. Not a bad start, I suppose, for socializing with the students here, although something told me that it won’t be the same elsewhere. I quietly waved it away as I noticed the numbers on the clock, and paid attention to the assignment instead.

Still, we finished a few minutes earlier than anyone else in the class, I noticed, despite our late start. Although a partial credit can be reasoned by Misha’s overtly loud volume. But still, they’re quite different from those I usually hang out with. The class rep was as calm and professional as she looked, while Misha seemed more playful and girlish. Not to mention a little more easily distracted. And, to be honest, they did most of the work. I felt guilty about that.

Soon enough, the clock tower bell rang, signaling the end of the period. Time for lunch. Without knowing what else to do, I followed Misha, who was beckoning me into the hallway and down the stairs.
"They say, the best way to improve yourself is to believe in who you are. You are but a blip in the lives of many you pass by, so why worry? Be yourself - life is too short to worry about the minor altercations here and there.

"So, get out there. Break the chains that holds you back - and embrace the freedom ahead of you." - me

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Talmar
Posts: 11
Joined: Mon Sep 23, 2019 8:02 pm

Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route

Post by Talmar » Sun Sep 29, 2019 4:43 pm

Scene 3: In the Nursery

We descended further below the lobby where I met Mutou, down to the lowest floor. The architecture of this place seemed confounding to explain to outsiders, but if demonstrated, it’s a bit more easily accepted. Just like everything else in this school it seemed, the cafeteria was far too spacious and oddly modern contrast to the 1800s exterior. The big windows on one side open to the walkway earlier, and the other opens to a much larger, greener courtyard, where I could see several more isolated structures across the grass field. Maybe they’re offices? Dormitories? They did say students here live here.

Upon arrival, though, Misha strode in front of us and splayed her hands wide with a grin. “It’s the cafeteria~!”

Her unfounded enthusiasm of the statement of the obvious made some people around us to stare. Misha didn’t seem to care, so we proceeded to the queue. There was a rather long list of menu options, which seemed great until I realized that many of them were to accommodate students who needed special diets. The reminder of this likeness to the hospital seemed unnerving, for finding it in a school seemed like an unlikely probability if I didn’t take into consideration this is a special school. I mentally whacked myself for missing that, seeing how I always saw this back in the hospital, eating portions measured with scientific precision to meet the needs of the patient. I picked something belonging to the general course, and followed Shizune to the table, sitting opposite of her.

As I nibbled indifferently at the food I’d rather not eat, Misha poked me in the side to get my attention. I was about to give her a piece of my mind for poking me in the ribs like that, but she pointed to Shizune. The class rep girl proceeded to sign something at me, to which I only replied with visible confusion. She glared back, as if angry I didn’t get it.

I mean, I don’t understand sign, so the point escaped me. Maybe looking at the person who ‘talks’ to you is proper and polite? That was the general convention anyway, but doing it here doesn’t seem productive.

Thankfully, Misha spoke up. “Do you want to know something?”

“What?”

“About anything! We’re your guides, so you should ask if there is something~!”

I took a moment. “Hmm.”

Well, what is there actually I wanted to ask. I wasn’t so sure myself. I could’ve asked about the library, since reading had been a thing I picked up during the times lost. But now that I’m out, I felt like I should distance myself from things that remind me of it. They said I’m here for a new life, after all. As I pondered to myself, I looked out at the windows.There were bunches of students scattered everywhere, minding their own businesses in this lunch period. Although, my attention were focused at the sight of some of them still lingering behind classroom windows.

The idea escaped me for a moment before I remembered. Extracurricular activities is a thing, and it slipped my mind after all those months in the hospital. I wondered how for a moment before reminded the girls were still expecting something, turning to face them. “What are the clubs here?”

Misha blinked, before looking at me worriedly. Her hands were already interpreting my question for Shizune, who then fired back a volley of her own. In a moment, Misha turned back to me, occasionally looking back to catch more of her friend’s ‘speech’.

“Well, Hicchan,” Misha said as she stared at both me and Shizune, “There’s a lot actually. We have the literature club, the largest so far that they’re not in the clubhouse, but the library instead. We have the … Shicchan, what was that? Oh okay, we have sports teams like the archery club, the track team. You can ask the sports manager for that.”

No, none of them interested me. I was about to close my eyes, sigh, and go back to eating when Misha went on.

“Speaking of, there’s the music club …”

“Music club?”

She nodded. “Yep, it’s led by Saki, a friend of ours.”

Shizune seemed to frown at the mention of that name, but I dismissed it. I was about to ponder more on that choice when Misha interrupted again. “Hicchan, are you interested in music? I remember you mentioning that.”

“Interested?” I took a moment. I mean, I did say that, and at one point was so focused mostly on music that I and my old friend made a band of our own. We mostly were joking around though. I got to be the guitarist, spending a lot of time looking up on how to play the damn thing. Now that I’m here, should I pick it up again? It was something I missed sorely back in the hospital. I nodded indecisively, a mix with a shrug. “Maybe.”

Misha looked at Shizune, and then back at me, beaming. “Well, that’s great! I heard they’re open to newcomers, so if you want to, you can go today~!”

“Hmm.” Should I?

With that, the girls signed back and forth between themselves animatedly, throwing side-way glances at me. She refrained from translating however. Maybe they were talking about secret girl stuff, but I didn’t really care. More time for me to think.

***

Or maybe not. Just I finished swallowing the bland bread down my throat, the bell rang and Misha and Shizune dragged me back to class. We arrived in the classroom early, but we’re not the first. The dark-haired girl I noticed earlier was slumped over her desk at the last row. She jumped a little when Misha crashed into the room with the elegance of a rhino. She shrank deeper into her seat.

Misha could use a bit restraint, I thought.

I could feel her tension all the way from the front of the class, as if she would just turn into stone from our presence if she could. Misha and Shizune on the other hand didn’t seem to notice, or didn’t mind. Or didn’t care. They walked past her to their seats and began to converse seemingly picking up from where they left off.

Glancing behind me, I noticed that the girl with the yellow hairband hadn’t turned up to class. Before I could ponder where she might be, the teacher walked into the classroom to begin the lesson, and the missing girl disappeared from my mind.

***

Getting into the rhythm of school felt strange; it’s as if my brain remembers how this is done, but my body doesn’t. Every once in a while, I had to coerce myself to pull out the correct book, or go to the correct classroom. Granted I hadn’t had a good layout of the school in my head yet, but there was one point I had to remind myself to come along with the others, and another moment I seemingly forgot I was in Yamaku, and not my old school. Hospital time had seemed to sap a lot of the muscle memory away, and cast it off into the endless sea around me as I’m stuck on an island.

Toward the end of the day, I started yawning and counting the minutes left. Honestly speaking, I shouldn’t be this tired on my first day of school; hell I stayed up past 12 midnight on a regular basis, practicing my guitar back in the past, and went to school like nothing happened. Now, I felt physically weak. I didn’t like it; reminds me too much that I have this affliction, and that it’s staying. However, I’m not lifeless.

I have an idea. Perhaps reviving something from my past will help pass the time, I thought.

Before long, the final bell rang. School was finally over for the day. Beside me, Misha and Shizune were having a short conversation. Earlier in the class, the hairband girl came back, a little harried. I looked back at her seat; she’s absorbed in a book now. Where did she go in the meantime? The library? After a moment of deliberation, Misha waved her hand in front of my eyes. “Hey, Earth to Hicchan~, are you there?”

I pushed her hand away. “What is it?”

Misha pouted, before continuing as Shizune packed up her stuff alongside her own behind her. “Unfortunately, we can’t stay to show you the clubhouse today, Hicchan. We’ve got to hurry already, since there’s a lot of work for us to do.”

Work? What work? Seeing the haste the two were in, I dropped pursuit of the question and sighed. “It’s fine, I can give it a look tomorrow.”

She quickly recovered, turning to Shizune as she signed something, before back at me. “You’ll find you way around here, I’m sure of it!”

For a moment I thought which one was it that said that. Just as they started to leave after pushing their chairs in, I remembered a note from Mutou; about the visit to the Nurse. “Hey, wait!” I called out, quickly picking up my bag to catch up, “The teacher said I’d have to see the nurse. Where do I go?”

The girls stopped to allow me to tag along. “Oh that?” Misha said, looking at Shizune as she translated my question to her, back and forth. “We can at least show you that much~! Come on, the nurses have their own building, so we have to go outside.”

We joined the flow of students leaving their classes and down the stairwell, on to the outside. Misha offhandedly pointing out the class 3-4 on the way out. When we got outside, the girls made their way to a smaller building to the right of the main faculty. It’s built in the same 1800s American style of red bricks and white mortars, so it actually looked like a part of the main building in some angles. Just as we arrived at the side doors of this annex, Shizune stopped and sign something.

“This is the auxiliary building here~!” Misha translated. “There’s a lot of official and important stuff inside, like the Yamaku Foundation office and all the nurses’ office. They even have a swimming pool!”

I raised an eyebrow at the last comment. “How is that official?”

Apparently the comment wasn’t entirely welcomed as Shizune glared at me for a split second. Misha laughed instead, before catching up to her flurry of signs. “Don’t be silly, Hicchan! It’s for physical therapy of course. Anyway, all the nursing staff facilities are in there too. The head nurse’s office is on the first floor.You’ll be fine from here, right~?”

I nodded. Physical therapy huh.

“We’ll be going then! See you tomorrow~!” Misha waved as they walked back to the main faculty. I simply waved them back weakly, before turning inside.

An entire building, built for nothing that has to do with the actual education? I guessed it’s necessary for a place like this. I mean, it is a private academy, so the main office being here makes sense. But an entire independent medical wing? Sounds preposterous and unnecessary at first, but hey. School for the disabled. I don’t like it. Reminds me too much why I’m here.

Nobody really stopped me to ask what I’m doing, so I marched in. As I explored my through the building, occasionally walking down a curious hallway to see what’s there, I found what I supposed to be the head nurse’s office. A white door, with a green cross stuck on it, and the nurse’s name on its nameplate. A voice on the inside responded to my knock almost immediately, but I couldn’t quite make it out. It did sound like an invitation in though, so I invited myself in.

The room, or I suppose his office, doesn’t seem as large as the classes, or most of the campus, had been, and its smell reminds me of the chlorinated sterile halls of the hospital. A friendly-looking man turned around on his office chair to face me as I enter. His desk, sitting against a wall next to a cabinet of medical supplies, was neat and tidy, but the bin under the table was overflowing with wastepaper. And there’s a bunch of coffee-cup rings scattered around a corner of the desk.

“Hello there,” he spoke up, breaking me away from my study of the place, “What can I do for you today?”

Attention turned to the man, he’s a young looking man and sort of rugged, but the dimples on his cheeks washed away the impression as he grinned a disarming smile. Just to be sure, I went ahead and asked. “You’re the head nurse, right?”

His grin didn’t break. “Why, yes, I am. It says so on the door, right?” He took a moment to sip on a steaming cup, and put it down to stretch out a hand. “You can call me by my name, or just ‘the nurse’ like everyone else. I handle the general affairs.”

I shrugged, accepting the handshake and sat down on an open stool in front of him. “Right.”

“So?”

Oh right, yeah. “I’m a new student here, and my homeroom teacher told me to come and meet you. Name is Hisao Nakai.”

His eyes brightened at the mention of my name as he pulled out a clipboard from a drawer. “Oh, the new guy? Yeah, I just read your files. Something about chronic arrhythmia caused by a congenital heart muscle deficiency, right?”

I shrugged and nodded. I never really paid much attention to the doctors when they mentioned what went wrong that day; I didn’t want to hear about it. All I wanted back then was to get out and fix things. Maybe more on the former. So, one might say I got my wish, coming here. With that, he continued.

“Good. Well, you’ve probably been briefed about the school enough, so I’ll go over this quickly. We have all kinds of facilities available, mostly physical therapies and such. There’s always someone from my staff around, even at night, so don’t hesitate to call us if there’s a problem.”

Before I could shut up I remarked, “Oh right, the twenty-four-hour nursing staff. It’s like a hospital.”

I mean, it is.

He gave me a sideways glance and a raised eyebrow. “Well, not exactly. We don’t do surgery here for instance.”

That joke took me by surprise, enough to make me shut up for a moment to realize how mine also sounded abrasive compared to his. I tried to look away at the window behind him instead, feeling a bit guilty. Fortunately he noticed the sudden change in atmosphere and quickly changed gears. “You’ll get used to it.”

“Yeah, um,” I stammered. “It’s just that for a school, I didn’t expect this many medical staff.”

“Not so much a school than an entire Primary and Secondary level institute,” he answered. “So we have to cater to the young ones as well.”

Huh. So that might explain the separate buildings I saw in the cafeteria. With that, he stayed silent as he flipped through his clipboard, muttering to himself as he scanned the papers. “Now, let me find your files again … tch, wrong clipboard.” With that he stood up and turned to the drawers under his desk.

In the moment of silence, I let myself observe further at what else was in the office. It was, in general, the epitome of generic, reminding me a lot of the nurses’ office in my old school. The beige walls, the gray ceilings, dark gray laminated flooring; even the equipment here were largely the same, as well as those ridiculous educational posters posted all over the place - urging people to eat properly, three times a day, with all those food grounds in careful balance.

“Ah, found it.”

I turned back to the nurse, who kept his grin, now with a large binder in his hands. How many students did he had to sort through to find mine? He sat down on his stool and read off the binder, occasionally looking back at me every now and then. “So, you already have all the medications for the arrhythmia, just remember to take your pills every morning and evening. Or the doses said you should, or it won’t be much help. Apart from that …”

He shut the binder with a clasp. “Do you do any sports? Rash stuff, like … I don’t know, boxing?” He grinned at his own joke, but I only stared at him in reply.

“Not really. I played soccer occasionally, but that’s about it.”

His grin didn’t go away, but he did raised an eyebrow. “Alright, I’m afraid I’ll have to tell you to stop that. At least for the time being, got it?”

I kept myself shut, looking around. I was listening to him, but I don’t want to stare more than necessary. His own reminiscent image to the doctors of the hospital had exhausted me enough to not deal with unless necessary, and honestly speaking, I wasn’t really bothered with him forbidding from playing around with a ball in the field anyway; it wasn’t my thing. I’m just tired of doctors and nurses.

But this nurse continued still, now with a more serious tone. “Any kind of concussion might be very dangerous to your heart, and risking another attack is definitely not a good idea. Was the previous one caused by a sudden concussion to the chest area? There’s no mention of the cause in your papers.”

Ah.

That event.

I tried my hardest to forget about that, and thanked whatever deity is there to not make the doctors take a testimony from her. Or maybe she didn’t want to talk about it.

Makes sense. Do the deed and forget it.

I wasn’t sure how exactly I did it, but whatever expression I gave was enough to give him the cue to not stick to it.

“Okay, sure.” He frowned a bit. “Still, you need to keep your body healthy, so some exercise will be beneficial. We have physical therapies and such available, as I said, but I don’t think you really need such heavy measures. Just some light exercises regularly. Brisk walks, or even light jogging, jumping rope, that sort of thing.” He put down the binder. “Swimming maybe? There’s a pool here.”

“So I was told,” I said offhandedly.

He tilted his head in amusement. “You were? Very good. At any rate, and I’m sure you’ve been told this before, you just need to take care to not overexert yourself.” He wagged his finger to emphasize the point. No need really; I’ve heard this a thousand times already, and counting apparently. “Absolutely no risk. Take care of yourself.”

He finished off with a query. “Any questions?”

I looked up a bit, and off to the side. Maybe the music club have some warnings about loud stuff, since, well, they’re music. “One.”

“Fire away.”

“What about loud music? You know, like chest-thumping ones?”

“Oh that?” He chuckled at the thought. “No need to worry. Just don’t sit there for too long.” He went over my papers in the binder one more time, and closed it with a hand on, obviously content. “Good, that’s it then. Come meet me if you ever need anything else, alright?”

With that, I was quickly ushered out before I even realized it. He wasn’t kidding when he said it will be a quick visit , huh.
"They say, the best way to improve yourself is to believe in who you are. You are but a blip in the lives of many you pass by, so why worry? Be yourself - life is too short to worry about the minor altercations here and there.

"So, get out there. Break the chains that holds you back - and embrace the freedom ahead of you." - me

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Talmar
Posts: 11
Joined: Mon Sep 23, 2019 8:02 pm

Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route

Post by Talmar » Sun Sep 29, 2019 4:51 pm

Scene 4: Late Induction

The day was late, and I didn’t think anyone else will be loitering in the main building, let alone the clubhouse wherever it was, to bother checking around. With that, I ended up wandering around the greenery between the main building, the auxiliary, and the grand fences to the main gate I first stepped in, observing the surroundings as the setting sun slid down the sky. It’s the first real look I got at the other students, so I watched people coming out of the main building, splitting between the gates or the path to the dorms from under a tree. Either it’s just me, or everyone here doesn’t even look that special for being students in a school for the disabled. Then again, neither do I. Does that make me one of them? One of us?

I took a moment for a deep breath. No, I’m not. I know I’m not.

It was when the sky turned orange-yellow above that I realized I should be going somewhere, lest I get lost. Dinnertime was approaching, but I felt more exhausted than hungry. With that, I picked up my bag, and joined the throng of the crowd, walking along a red wall by the streets. The sign said the dormitories are this way.

It’s a little way away from the main faculty and the auxiliary, further in the campus grounds. The street first enters through the main road gate next to the pedestrian’s one, before immediately turning right and around the main building, which was bigger than I thought it would be, with an extension I didn’t see from the front courtyard. Is that the clubhouse? I thought when I saw it. The entire thing was built on a raised platform, so all along the street it was lined with a red brick wall. Down the street, I followed as it went tightly around the newly discovered annex, before I could see the dormitories across a small creek and its bridge.

I took one good look at the dormitories. Designated as the secondary school students’ residence, were 5 buildings in total, sitting on what I assumed to be one corner of the greater institute. The male dorms is the furthest one from the main faculty, overlooking a large expanse of grass acting as the divider between the secondary school and the primary. There’s a garden between the school and the dorms; shrubbery, flowers, and the overbearing smell of freshly cut grass that filled the atmosphere. It seemed to be everywhere here. And in between all this were

As I walked up to the building, I noticed something poking out of the side. Curious, I decided to take a look. Sitting below the raised platform the buildings sit on top of, it was a rudimentary stage under construction, with coils and wires and spotlights still lain strewn on the grass or in boxes, with planks of plywood stacked to the side. Only the metal skeleton of the backstage were set up. I wondered for a moment what the hell was this doing here, before drawn back inside by the dangerously setting sun.

As for the buildings themselves, they’re still built in the same ornate structure as the main complex. As I entered the main doors of mine, the interiors, as expected, was starkly new, functional, and frankly, boring. A similar scene to hospitals, with the halls and doors built wide to accommodate wheelchairs. The same goes for the elevators at the end of the hallways, which were built as if two T’s were attached at their legs. I poked my head in the common room door as I passed by, on my way to the elevators, out of curiosity. Inside, a few students - or should I say, flatmates? - were watching the television, ignoring the other scattered entertainments. One nodded and gave a quick wave at me when he noticed, before turning back to the TV.

Seemed like only the girls around here were sociable. Even then, some examples stuck out of my mind as not so. I supposed that’s perfectly fine with me.

I was about to head back down the hallway when I nearly crashed into a student carrying a really big rectangular box, deftly avoiding it by a hair. “Woah there,” I exclaimed. The student stopped right in his tracks, before I realized the damned box was blocking his vision ahead. “Oh! I didn’t notice you there,” he said apologetically, poking from behind the box. “Sorry man.”

The boy was almost as similar to many others I’ve seen with the exception of the dark, Prussian blue, ruffled hair, and a bandage over his left eye. Did he hurt himself somewhere? I took a step back to let him pass, but it nearly sent him tumbling. I quickly caught the upper end, gesturing him to change the orientation so it would be more horizontal. He seemed to have understood that and quickly changed hands. “Hey, thanks,” he said, grateful that he can now see forward.

“No problem,” I replied offhandedly. “Next time, hold it like that, or God knows who else you’re going to run into.”

“Hahah, I’ll keep that in mind.” He stopped. “I put it upright because there’s someone upstairs in a wheelchair. Figured I didn’t want to get in the way.”

“Ah.” Right, that’s a thing.

“Well, take care man.”

“Take care.”

With that, he stumbled onward down the hallway. I had half a mind to help him carry the thing, but frankly, I’m exhausted. Unnaturally exhausted, for reasons too many and uncertain. I quietly hoisted my bag up my shoulders before continuing ahead. The elevator dinged, and I pressed the button for the second floor. Likewise with the hallway, it’s also as wide as a cargo elevator here. I came out to one of the ends of the T-shaped hallways, and four doors.

“Room one-one-nine …”

Seeing no matches, I headed down the other side. Both ends seemed to hold four rooms, and in the connecting corridor between are two open doorways to the toilers and bathrooms. Seemed like I came to a rather empty floor here, as there were little to no activity in them. About halfway down the corridor, I spied the number 119 in a corner. The name plates on the rooms adjacent to mine were blank, while light shone from below the door of room 117.

I guessed there’s only just us two here.

Out of courtesy if anything, I knocked on the door of 117 with the intention of introducing myself to what would be my neighbour for the rest of my time here. After a moment of silence, I called out. “Hey, is there anyone home?”

From inside, I heard a few movements, then clicking of way more locks than I warranted doors of dormitories needed. After a moment, the door squeaked open a crack. A bespectacled boy was standing in the gap, looking at me very intently through those really thick eyeglasses, scanning me up and down. Certainly not a reaction I expected, and already I’m unnerved.

After some very long moments of being keenly stared at, he opened the door wide and finally spoke up. “Who is it?”

Is he blind or what? Wait, if he was, then why would he wear glasses. If I weren’t so concerned about my standing here, I would’ve taken his damned glasses off. Even more so now, when he leaned closer to me until our noses almost touched. His breath stinks of garlic. I pushed him back before finally getting my words in. “Hisao Nakai here,” I said briskly, “I’m moving into the room next door, and felt like I should introduce myself.”

His face brightened at the realization, and in an instant his attitude did a 180. He stood back, upright, thrusting his hand out in a smiling greeting, almost straight at my diaphragm. “Oh, ‘sup dude? The name’s Kenji.”

I gingerly took his hand. “Ah, hi.”

His hands were sweaty, but I was still rattled by the sudden change to behaviour and vehement welcome to try and pull it off in an instant. Before I could get another word in, he spoke up. “There were some suspicious-looking characters going in and out of your room earlier.”

Oh that. “It was probably my parents.”

“Your parents? You sure? ‘Cause they could’ve been some other people too. You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

Wait what. The out-of-place proverb took me a moment to register as it was left hanging awkwardly between us for yet again a few more moments.

“I … would say that they’re probably were here. I’d seen them off earlier.”

He shuddered, and made some exaggerated hand gestures. “You’re a brave man, Hisao. Me, I don’t think I’d trust my own memories. Who’s to say that they had planted them in your head?”

What. Who’s they?

“Then how sure are you that you’re not living a fake life too?”

He thought about my remark for a while, before nodding in agreement. I couldn’t tell if he closed his eyes or not, but if he did, it’d go with the faux thoughtful pose, one hand on his chin and another crossed under its elbow. He’s really starting to weird me out. “Hmm, good idea. Damn, you’re smarter than you look. Probably. What do you look like? I hope not smart.”

I could only furrow my eyebrows at that retort. He squinted his eyes to get another look at me, but I pushed him out of the way. At this point, I don’t care. Thankfully, he got the message. “Never mind probably doesn’t matter.” With that, he turned, fumbled around for a moment for the door handle, and slammed the door behind him.

Honestly speaking, I’m not sure what to say about him. But I could tell that he’s nothing but trouble. Something about him gave an air of a delusional freak, talking about things that by all likelihood aren’t real. Not that I mind it, but I do appreciate if they would stand a bit of a distance away from me. But with the given respite, I let out a sigh of relief as I slid the key into the lock of the door to my room. Room 119.

Bleak beige walls, white linen, a desk made of some light wood. Ugly drab curtains. It’s no one’s room; completely impersonal, like how my hospital ward was. The air was somewhat musty, but I reckoned it would’ve been worse if it weren’t for someone opening the window to let it out. My bags were sitting at the foot of my bed, looking a lot emptier than they did this morning. A closet, sitting in a secluded corner, was open, stocked with my clothes. Also it seemed that there were a number of school uniforms hanging there as well. A note was pinned to the sleeve of one of the shirts.
Hi Hicchan! We’ve unpacked your things and made your bed. They said if these don’t fit, then you should go to the office tomorrow. If you have problems, you can always call us. Love, Mom and Dad.
Well, at least I don’t have to worry about unpacking. I was sort of hoping I would have to, then there at least would be something to do.

I looked outside. It’s still too early. I put the note down on the desktop, and lie down on the bed, feeling drained. Lying there staring at the ceiling made me go over these last few long days. I don’t want to be here, yet here I am. They said I won’t survive in my old place after all that, that had happened to me. I know what happened, but it’s still so hard to believe. How? How was it that this condition laid hidden from me, from my parents, from Takumi, the others, everyone? I was an active kid when I was younger; running around with Takumi and others made a major part of my early childhood. Then followed by football in primary school. Sure, it was never an active part of my life, but it made evenings fun when my parents weren’t around. Which they always weren’t.

And then there’s senior high school.

A part of me regretted pining for Iwanako back then. She was the princess of her class; regal, honorable, faultless. Her close friends sheltered her from the vulturous eyes of the boys who sought for opportunities to ask her out. She always rejected them if they had the chance to even approach. Even Shin was shot down, and after that Takumi wisely advised to stay out, and focus on our own things. Little did I know, somehow my crush on her was answered and she had her eyes on me.

Me.

And thanks to her, I’m sent tumbling into a mess not one soul except for some deity with spite and a wicked sense of humor had foreseen.

I hated it. And back then, in the hospital, I hated her too.

But I couldn’t say a word.

Some spiteful part of me kept on repeating the same words over and over. It’s all a trick. It kept on repeating it in the dark corners of my mind all throughout the 4 months in that place, and every time it came up I shut it up. It doesn’t make sense anyway; how could she planned to sink me down with a heart attack if no one knew I had this … thing. My hand unconsciously traced the scar down the sternum of my chest; one constant reminder why I’m here.

I need to do something. Anything. How was it I wasn’t consumed by hatred back then? Reading? Right. Reading was a thing I picked up after the visits faltered and I spent days after days alone in the ward. I wondered if the hospital had conditioned me for wanting to at least have a book in hand when there’s nothing to do. The restless urge just kept growing until I had to stand up. Tomorrow, I’ll go borrow some books from the library at least. I know I said I wanted to distance myself from the habit, but I needed to do something in the meantime.

Yeah, I’ll do that. But for now…

I went over to the side table, where my bottles of medications were neatly arranged. If I ever needed another constant reminder why I’m here, it's this. I picked up one, and shook it just to hear the contents rattle inside, before reading the glued-on pharmacy label on it.

HISAO NAKAI

2 TABLETS TO STAY ALIVE

It doesn’t really say that exactly, but it could have, and it would mean the same thing anyway. It’s kind of twisted, having your life to depend on chemicals like this. I resented them, the fact I needed it, at least a little. I lost everything, and here is what I got in return. What choice do I have? Die? Get implanted with a pacemaker and forever loose my last link to my old life? With a sigh, I began my new daily ritual of taking the right number of pills from each bottle, being careful to check the correct dosages. With a mug of water, I downed them one by one.

17 pills in total. And an eye drop.

Ridiculous.

I lie down again, letting the hollowness and exhaustion to fill in. Anything to not let the hatred occupy everything. I kept on staring at the blank, unfamiliar ceiling for a while. It didn’t start looking any more familiar, not even after darkness fell and long shadows drew across my room like fingers. Where do I go from here? What do I do with my life? Semi-consciously I changed into my night clothes and wrapped myself in the neatly bed sheets. I raised my hand into the darkness.

The sheets felt slightly more comfortable, warm and nest-like against the chill that passes for room temperature this far north. Soon the lighter shade of darkness that is the ceiling looked like every ceiling does at night, and it became the only thing I recognize any more. The night beckoned me to sleep, and I felt the coldness of unfamiliarity and fear creeping up my spine once again.

I keep drifting further from the world I knew, starting today. And where do I go now?
"They say, the best way to improve yourself is to believe in who you are. You are but a blip in the lives of many you pass by, so why worry? Be yourself - life is too short to worry about the minor altercations here and there.

"So, get out there. Break the chains that holds you back - and embrace the freedom ahead of you." - me

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Talmar
Posts: 11
Joined: Mon Sep 23, 2019 8:02 pm

Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route

Post by Talmar » Sun Sep 29, 2019 4:55 pm

Scene 5: Smalltalk

I woke up early in the morning, still running off the internal clock from my time in the hospital. I half expected to hear the nurse calling out, “Good morning Hisao” from my right, if only to see a solid wall there now. Solid morning light shimmered against the light gray ceiling. I sat up, and saw the windows letting a full blast of a morning sun through. I cursed myself for forgetting to draw the curtains last night as I sat up straight, reaching for the bottles.

Turns out, against my hopes regardless how unlikely it was, one night wasn’t enough to make this new scene any more familiar. My room, as they said it would be, with its bleak walls and ceilings, bare concrete floors, still look alien. They’re supposed to be mine, but it definitely didn’t feel that way. But the bags on the floor, my clothes hung in the closet tucked away in the corner, told me this is definitely mine, and I moved here at some point in time.

By which, yesterday.

I stood up, gave my arms a stretch, and took a deep breath as I put on the new clothes. The artificial smell of generic detergent was strong, but the feeling of fresh clothes on my back was a good one. It felt like a school uniform, as it should, unlike the sweater vest and white blank T-shirt I wore yesterday. Not much different from what I used to wear. That goes for other things too; so far this place seemed more or less like any normal school. Except for the people, and the really extensive medical wing. I took a whiff of yesterday’s clothes, lain strewn across the floor. It stinks of sweat.

I made a mental note to gather them up for laundry once I get back.

As I joined the string of students coming out of the dorms and out to the open, I summarized what happened yesterday. The talk with Kenji, the short encounter with the Big Box Boy, Misha’s constant laughter and Shizune’s sweeping sign language gestures. Well, I met four students. Three of which I know the name of. Maybe they’re not that normal, but I’m sure the others are. Heck, Misha doesn’t even appear to have anything serious, and the character of Kenji was the epitome of class weirdo. Or perhaps, people like them are what passes for normal here?

I stopped in my tracks, and scanned the strings of students, friends walking together, the one wheelchair-bound student being pushed by a fellow girl. Three walked on crutches. Several doesn’t appear to have a variety of limbs. Some have canes, and others glasses or patches on their ears. Now that I thought about it, what does constitute for normal here? What do people do? The clubs? Hanging out with their friends?

I picked up my pace, suddenly aware of some glaring eyes at me for blocking the sidewalk. Misha told me there were clubs, lots of it. Maybe the Big Box Boy was carrying something for his? Although, doing so that late in the evening, either its dedication or the fact they’re late about something. Although I did interrupt Misha when she mentioned the music club. Probably should have let her continue.

Shoving my hands in my pockets, I was about to hasten my pace when I saw a familiar face up ahead. It was the hairband girl, staring at the gardens between the dormitories and the main faculty as she was walking like the rest. Curious, I looked at where she was staring, but aside from a couple of trees and what appeared to be a park bench next to the creek, I don’t see much. What’s she looking at? When I got back to her, she was already done and gone.

***

Second day of school and I was again besieged by the dynamic duo, eager to keep up with what I assumed was integrating me into the daily machinations of the school. I didn’t pay much attention to them though; all through class, the idea lingered in my mind. Maybe I should go ahead and check out the clubs’ half of the building, see what I can do. If there is anything to do anyway, besides interrupting already ongoing project with my sudden arrival. I was about to put my stuff away automatically when my token attention paid at the lessons brought me back to reality as the instructor handed me a packet, along with everyone else. “Now, everyone, get into groups, and do these as per the lessons we just covered.”

I frowned. I should have at least figured out what they were talking about.

Almost immediately I was swarmed by the enthusiastic Misha and the silent Shizune. The former decided to push our tables together and proceed to not do anything, preferring to sharpen her pencil to oblivion. The latter, as I expected, went straight to work. I myself only started writing the first half before giving up to the temptation, and turned to Shizune with a tap on her shoulder. “Hey, Shizune. What are the clubs up to? Seems like they’re rather busy.”

Shizune stared at me blankly, then confused, then glaring at Misha. I then remembered she was deaf, and if I could kick my past self right now I would. It took a moment for the pink haired girl to take the hint, breaking into laughter. “Ahaha~! Sorry, sorry, Shicchan~! Is there something you want from me? Oh~ … I see! Hicchan, what was it?”

I repeated my question. She stopped, and turned to Shizune. “Hmm … that’s a good question Hicchan. My first thought is that she means she doesn’t know, which is worrying. Maybe I’m being negative about it. Well, anyway, Misha, please don’t prove me right.”

It took me a moment to realize that was Shizune speaking, because Misha immediately realized what she had translated and pouted at Shizune, wanting to complain when the deaf girl fired another volley. Confused, Misha took a moment to translate to me for her instead. “Everyone is encouraged to join a club. I remember your question yesterday, and asked Saki about it. She said they’re busy setting up the stage for their performances, and you could go ask to help them if you want.”

I nodded in agreement. “Alright, thanks. Sounds like a good idea.” I picked up my pen to continue working when I realized something. “Wait what, a performance? A stage?”

Misha nodded. “Yep~! There’s a festival coming up~ and everyone’s busy setting up their stands and shops! You transferred at a busy time, so you should help out, Hicchan~! We really need the extra manpower!:

Oh so it belonged to them. “Sure, what’s the festival about?”

“...Wahahahaha~! I don’t know Hicchan. The truth is that it’s a local event, and I’m not from here, so …” She turned to Shizune, signing desperately to ask her to bail her out. Shizune adjusted her glasses at the end of an oddly grandiose flourish and started signing hard and heavy. Misha on the other hand looked completely stumped. When Shizune stopped, she turned back to me, before shrugging unconvincingly, puffing out her chest with a disproportionate amount of pride. “Um, oh who cares?!” Her reply was a few too many tones louder than usual.

I started seeing heads turning our way. “Not so loud …”

She didn’t pick up the cue. “Human beings evolve with each new generation! The ideals and beliefs behind a festival will inevitably change with time! Now its about delicious fried food and amusing little games you play to win prizes! Hahahaha~!”

The instructor cleared his throat very loudly in an attempt to get her attention, before batting his long wooden pointer against his other palm like a baton. Misha, understandably, stifled a yelp and quickly quieted down. Shizune doesn’t seem embarrassed at all though, brushing it off without care. I merely sighed at the situation and went back to my worksheets.

But Misha won’t stop, now translating what Shizune’s saying with a loud whisper. “We are in the middle of class, and should start working. That’s right, Shicchan~! What?That’s right~! Hicchan, are you asking because you’re interested in joining a club?”

It could’ve been my eyes playing tricks, but I thought I saw a suspicious glance exchanged between the two of them. Misha’s tone had definitely changed, although it does so every other words anyway, what with her taking the role of two persons in her head. “Yeah, thinking about it,” I replied nonchalantly, turning away.

At the edge of my vision, Misha and Shizune looked at each other again. I was about to ask what they have in mind when further back I saw a girl with long dark hair get up from her desk and slipped silently towards the doors. It didn’t seem like she was working in any group, and no one seemed to notice her but me. I glanced at the teacher; who was also looking at the dark-haired girl go. Why doesn’t he say anything?

“Hicchan, what’s wrong?”

Misha’s words brought me back to reality. Did I look as uneasy as I felt? Or was Misha looking at me looking after the girl who left? I muttered a response. “No, nothing.” It wasn’t an issue to dwell upon right now.

Shizune signed something, and Misha immediately translated. “Okay~! Well, like we were asking, you don’t have any plans for lunch today, do you?”

Wait, they were asking that? No wonder. I took a moment to consider. Last night I did want to pick up some books from the library, if there were some that interested me. Although, that could be done later. I shrugged. “Not really.”

“Do you want to have lunch together then?”

“Sure.”

Shizune signed something. “Yay~! Wahahaha~! Okay, Hicchan~! Perfect!”

I stared at them going back to the worksheets, and continued to finish up on mine.

The rest of the class passed uneventfully. The girl with the long hair never came back. Before I had any time to put up more thoughts into where she could’ve gone, the teacher stood up and informed us that it’s time to stop working. Shizune looked more than a little annoyed that we only just barely managed to finish all our work in time. I for one was glad we finished at all. It’s not like it’s a contest or anything.

Soon enough the bell rang, and I reached over to pick up my bag, quietly following the girls to the cafeteria.

***

I’ve noticed it before, but it’s kind of funny how Misha was always moving her hands and signing not only everything she says, but anyone else was saying at any given time. Obviously it must be so Shizune can understand it and not be left out. In hindsight, such dedication to sign language would have me amazed, but back then I was preoccupied with what to do.

Her eyes would dart back and forth between Misha’s hands and me. I don’t know who I’m supposed to be looking at. I would be talking to Misha, but that might be wrong; maybe I should face Shizune. In a normal world, you would look in the direction of the person you want to talk to, but here, Shizune can’t hear me, but it would be disrespectful to talk to her only through Misha. Then again, isn’t that what she’s doing?

No, she’s at least looking at me. It took me a while to get used to the duo. Or anyone else as a matter of fact that is deaf-mute.

“It’s not a contest,” I said, “because contests are competitions over a prize. If there’s no prize on the line, it’s not really a contest.”

Shizune’s eyes flashed dangerously with a competitive glare. We were talking about how she seemed irritated at the fact that we barely finished the assignments back in class, to which Shizune took offense at the idea. She stared at me, as if surprised that I’m challenging her. Maybe that was sort of a contest for her? I sighed, and took another sip of water. Either it's the atmosphere, or I don’t really like the food here.

She quickly signed something to Misha.

“Are you sure, Hicchan?”

“Very sure,” I replied offhandedly.

“Hahaha! You’re wrong, Hicchan, because~! I don’t want to be the slowest one in class. Therefore, what’s on the line is my confidence in my abilities, and the prize is the satisfaction of proving them. Wahahaha~!”

Shizune pushed her glasses up by the bridge of her nose in a very matter-of-fact way. At that point I just shut up and stared to the side, leaving the two to their own devices. Looking back, that could easily irritate Shizune even more, but to be honest, her argumentative outlook of the world was starting to dig on my nerves. I picked up the bun and start eating it, staring elsewhere for something to rest my eyes on. The summer sun shone brightly outside, and students frolicking in the grasses ate with their boxed lunches.

I used to like eating outside. In fact, I did in my old school, near the back of the building. It was a good spot, but I didn’t find it until near the end of my First year, and when the second year rolled in, it was taken by some other folks. I wondered if there’s some place similar here. I looked around at the cafeteria. With what seemed like half of the student body outside, the cafeteria was surprisingly not packed. Most of those who were here, at the stuff they’re handing out at the serving tables. Also, it surprised me to see the sheer disproportionate distribution of girls compared to guys; I saw only two guys in the cafeteria, and they’re chilling by themselves in the corner.

For a moment, I saw no familiar faces, until I saw the hairband girl sitting in the far corner, far away from the windows. She’s sitting alone, quietly eating her servings.

Like the black-haired girl from before, I wondered for a moment about them. Are they like me, who felt like they’re still lost on what to do, and now too far behind to catch up? The dark-haired girl seemed isolated from others, maybe not out of her own volition, but I couldn’t tell unless I ask. Then again, her scars might be something to unnerve others, with how severe it was. The hairband girl, though; with the two days I’ve been here and momentary chances to observe her, I had some thoughts. She seemed listless at best. In the momentary periods of boredom, I found myself curious as to why.

Since it’s the same as me.

The hairband girl looked cautiously at the people passing her. At least I thought it was cautiously; she was too far away for me to discern her expression. But I could tell some of them who walked by her were unnerved by her gaze. I picked up a hard bread and start biting it down when I saw her stand up with her tray, ready to leave.

That was when I saw a student ran into her, crashing everything onto her uniform. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but the offending girl seemed to be trying to apologize to her. The hairband girl however, after a moment of still silence, simply put the tray on a nearby table and walked out.

I wondered what could be causing it. Before I had the time to stand up and go after her, Misha dragged me back to reality. “So, Hicchan, you wanted to know about the clubs and stuff, right?, right~?”

Before I could reply in irritation, Shizune signed something. “Right, Shicchan! I guess it makes sense to ask first.”

Exchanging little nods of confirmation, they turned to face me again, and Misha straightened her posture as if she was about to deliver a speech. “Hicchan, do you have anything you’re really interested in? As in, right now?”

I took a moment to consider. “I used to play soccer, but I wasn’t really into it. Even if I am, I was told not to anymore.”

Misha crossed her arms thoughtfully, a finger tapping her puffy cheeks. “Yesterday you said you had some interests in music right?”

I looked at them for a good minute and shrugged. “Sort of.”

Misha tilted her head, confused. “You don’t feel like it anymore?”

“Not really.” I picked up a grape and swallowed it. “I didn’t do anything serious with it. Used to play the guitar and that’s about it.”

“Ah~.”

The conversation ended in an awkward note; one part in slight irritation, the other flustered on how to keep going after what I assumed they thought they broached a sensitive topic. I turned to the corner of the cafeteria again, hoping to see her one more time. She didn’t seem to return to handle her tray, which was left behind on a table whose occupants have no more idea than I do on what to do with it. In the middle of my attempted search I noticed that the two girls were now looking in the same direction as I was. “Hicchan~,” Misha asked, turning to me, “who are you looking for?”

“No, it’s nothing.”

She broke into a grin. “Wahahaha~! You found a girl you like or something, Hicchan you naughty!”

“What, no! I was just curious.” In an attempt to defuse the unexpected development, I shut up and finished my tray of lunch. The girls turned back to watch the situation on the other side as one of them volunteered to throw away the hairband girl’s abandoned tray.

Shizune signed something as she came back, to which Misha turned back to me and said, “The music hall is in the same building as the auxiliary you’ve been yesterday, Hicchan! If you want to head over today, you can go in the evening, after the classes.”

I nodded as thanks, and finished up the carton of apple juice. The girls had turned back to each other, with a look of worry written on their faces. Eventually, the bell rang, and we all put our trays on the tray return counter. I watched them signing to each other, before making a mental note to perhaps find dinner elsewhere tonight. The meatloaf had gotten stuck in my teeth far too often.
"They say, the best way to improve yourself is to believe in who you are. You are but a blip in the lives of many you pass by, so why worry? Be yourself - life is too short to worry about the minor altercations here and there.

"So, get out there. Break the chains that holds you back - and embrace the freedom ahead of you." - me

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Talmar
Posts: 11
Joined: Mon Sep 23, 2019 8:02 pm

Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route

Post by Talmar » Sun Sep 29, 2019 5:04 pm

Ah, I forgot to mention. I owed a lot to Eurobeatjester, and initially I had intended to sprout this fic off of the canon that is Learning to Fly, due to the similar predicaments - music club - but as I wrote on, I felt like I should depart from that. Still thinking on keeping the character names or not, which were the major references. Saki is definitely staying though. I now have my own interpretation of her.

Scene 6: Tryout

When we got back to class for the rest of the afternoon, I noted the hairband girl was already back at her seat, now wearing the school’s female jacket on top of her white blouse. She was still staring out of the window, listless. I pondered for a moment on asking her what’s up, but I got pulled back to my seat as Mutou strolled in the class earlier than expected.

Not that I minded; he quickly got the class back on track, and I pushed the notion for a later date. All I got in mind was checking out the clubs section of the auxiliary building as Shizune said there were, curious as to where exactly. Since yesterday, I hadn’t seen anyone coming out of the doors I exited from

***

When the last bell of the final class rang, I packed up and got ready to leave as Misha reminded me. “Be sure to ask them any way you can help with the festival, Hicchan~! It’d help us all a lot~!” I nodded an acknowledgement as I left.

Turned out, there’s a separate hallway from the doorway I entered yesterday, turning left. Up on the wall were signs stating the directions of various specialized classrooms and study halls such as art rooms, science labs, and the likes. I mentally smacked myself for being an idiot and not noticing that yesterday. No sign of the library though, so I assumed it was back in the main building. Embarking yet again in my exploratory curiosities, I walked down the halls of every floor, quietly scanning the activities inside. In almost all used classrooms were decorations, made and pasted over the years as clubs of various hobbies and activities grew and faded. I even saw a club dedicated to the study of Shinto mythology, sitting at the back of one of the hallways of the first floor.

I guessed Yamaku used to be way larger in the past. These classrooms appeared to initially planned to be just that, classrooms. When the number of student intake slowed down, they remade them into club rooms somewhere along the line, and with the evidence of sheer varieties of activities here, there’s no way a mere couple of hundred students can encompass. As I walked down the halls, I theorized that at least Yamaku used to hold, what, at least a thousand? Even combining the junior high and elementary schools the Nurse mentioned this institution having, I don’t think it could amount to the number of things I’ve seen here. Even my old school didn’t have niche clubs like mythology study, or occult investigations. I thought they’re just manga plot devices. And yet, here they are, at one point with their own classrooms.

And all of them right now were at least busy with students in their still living clubs, working on things they want to present in the festivals.

The astronomy club had built a rudimentary celestial sphere. An anthology club was setting up a stall with boxes of books I assumed they had printed for sale. I could hear the distant noise of a printing press, which I assumed was the newspaper club busy printing out the latest edition. Even in the far back, the least populated associations were hectic with activities. The hallways were filled with hurrying and loaded students carrying cardboard, plywood, hammers and nails, stapler guns, up and down, to and fro.

And here I am, strolling about as if I had nothing to do.

I’ll be honest, I felt useless walking around with my bag over my shoulders. I definitely drew some curious eyes, probably wondering what is this Third Year student doing out here and not helping his club’s activities and stall. Whatever guilt I had back then, I pushed them back with a simple reminder that I was there to check out the music club, and simply finding where the hell it is. But what if it didn’t pique my interests? What if they chose to do a different genre than what I was capable or helping with. I then realized I had no backup plan.

Nonetheless, when I got down to the lower floors, below the entrance I first came in, I found a set of double doors unlike others I’ve seen on the upper floors. I could hear various noises of instruments emanating from the inside, and gave one more look to check if I was at the right place. The door had a hastily written note stated in large letters, “Music Club in Practice - DO NOT DISTURB!” tacked on it. For a moment I was hesitant on knocking on the door, as I heard someone in there shouting directions and orders. An orchestra? Not something I’m fond of, but I could try to get involved. After a moment of deliberation and a deep breath, I entered the double doors.

Inside was a somewhat strange sight. It was like someone had taken two science laboratories, torn down the wall between them, and removed all the tables except for the instructor’s. In its stead were a group of students, each practicing as a team in each designated area with wide varieties of instruments. Or at least I think they’re practising; some of them were cleaning them instead. At the front of it all, by what I assumed to be the instructor’s table, was a tall woman in teal-colored duster, surrounded by a retinue of two girls, two of which caught my eye; one for the shoulder length black hair, and the other for the light chestnut colored hair and the thick wooden cane she holds in one hand. The tall woman was carrying her clipboard, occasionally looking up at the club members in front of her.

Upon entering the room, the door creaked a bit, alerting the tall woman and her retinue of my presence. Our eyes met awkwardly for a moment, before she said, “Oh hello there. What is it?”

I let go of the door handle. “Okay, uh, hi. I’m Hisao Nakai, and I’m a new transfer student here. I was thinking I could help you guys in some ways, maybe.”

I omitted the actual reason why I’m here, sensing it would be insensible. The chestnut haired girl looked at me in bemusement. “Eh, a transfer?”

I nodded. “Yesterday, actually.”

The tall woman set down the clipboard and asked, “Well, we could always use the extra pair of hands. Some of us are out --”

“Before we start though,” the black-haired girl interjected, bobbing up and down as she pranced over between me and the one with the cane. “Since you introduced yourselves, we’ll do our part. I’m Chisato, Chisato Souma. And the one with over there is Saki Enomoto, the class rep of 3-4.”

Saki tapped her heavy cane on the ground. “Also doubling as team leader of the music club. Welcome!”

I took a moment to register what just happened. “Uh, okay.”

The tall woman laughed, and sat down in her seat. “I’ll leave it to you two then. Just do it outside so you don’t disturb the rest!” she said as the rest of her retinue followed her, leaving Saki and Chisato approaching me, who promptly took me outside.

“So,” Chisato started, as I was thrusted back into the hallway. “What brought you here?”

“Here?”

“The music club. What brought you here?”

Ah. Well, I can’t say that it’s something to pass the time, can I? I scratched my temple for a moment to think of something, to which the two girls started staring at me with suspicion. Eventually I relented and fell back to my usual excuse. “Just used to be part of the music club before I got here. Figured I could do something with what I know.”

Saki nodded thoughtfully. “So, what did you use to play?”

“The tuba, when I was part of the orchestra.” Well, did. I split off from them with Takumi later that year. But you could say I was pretty good at playing the tuba at one point.

They looked at each other, seemingly transmitting thoughts wordlessly, before Chisato turned to me while Saki pulled out a notebook from her sling bag. “Ah, that,” Chisato said, uncertain. “Well, um, we’re kinda full on that role …”

Ah. Figured that might be the case.

“Hey, Saki.” She turned to her friend, her hand on her hip. “He could help out with the stage you know. We really need more helping hands.”

Oh right. But I’m not really sure if I can help out. I could barely lift a heavy box on my own. Saki though, seemed to be on my side, looking at me, and then at Chisato, the latter with a glare. “I was thinking of having him help out with the instruments transport. There’s only two guys on that list who volunteered.”

…And the alternative doesn’t seem much better anyway. “Well, Hisao,” Chisato said, turning back to me. “Right now we got two things for you. Either one of the ones we mentioned. Which one can you do?”

Hmm. Usually when I’m stumped for a choice between two things, I would start doing the ‘eeny meeny miny moe’ on two fingers, and pick whichever. But I don’t feel like I want to do that in front of them, not when it’s the first time we met. I bit my lip and raised my hands in defeat. “Well, I dunno really. I can help with either, but … not sure which.”

Saki laughed. “Hahaha, it’s fine. If you’re fine with working outside, then go with Chisato. But I’ll really appreciate it if you can help on my end.”

Chisato looked at her, crossed. “Hey! Where do you think your guys and girls are going to perform, huh?”

“You already have a lot under your thumbs, Chisato.”

She pinched her forehead in irritation. “Alright, fine. You’re dealing with the next time Itsuki has another breakdown, alright?”

Wait what, a breakdown? Saki looked somewhat worried for a moment, before composing herself. “It’s fine, I can manage.”

Chisato hung her head defeated, before sighing to herself as she went back inside the hall. Saki looked at her, before turning to me, looking somewhat sorry. “I really didn’t want to do that,” she started saying, putting the notebook back in her sling bag, “but my department had been asking for help for a while. Hope you can help out, Hisao.”

I nodded. “I’ll try my best.”

“Great!” She turned down the hallway and started walking. “Come on, we’re heading to the sports hall.”

I quickly tagged along, matching to her careful pace. I was in no state of mind to intervene in their argument back there, but I felt like I owe something in the result. Chisato looked really tired for a split second, before vanishing back in the room. But in all honesty, I was somewhat glad that I didn’t have to work outside. The gladness also compounded the guilt however. As I thought over my decisions, Saki noticed my silence and spoke up.

“Hisao, right?” she asked, “Or do you want me to call you Nakai-san?”

I shrugged. “First name basis seems to be the norm here,” I said, uncertain, “so just Hisao.”

“Alright.” The impact of her cane rhythmically reverberated through the hallway as we turned a corner to the right. “Hope you don’t mind having to carry a lot of boxes.”

“Like I said, it’s fine.”

“So I take it you’re in class 3-3?”

“Hmm?” The subject change seemed sudden. “Yeah, I’m part of that class.”

“How’s the school so far?”

“Eh, it’s fine.”

She looked at me, unconvinced. “Define fine.”

“Hmm …” I’ll be honest, I didn’t think of much on the school. For most of the time here I’m on autopilot mode. “Sort of what I expected, and at the same time, not.”

“Interesting.”

“I mean, I was told it’s a special school for the … um ... “ I was stumped on using the word disabled, or special. Either one doesn’t sound the slightest bit respectful, but I was out of words to pick. “Never mind. You get what I mean.”

She looked at me another time, but this time with a look of incredulity. She didn’t say a word though. I thought to continue after that, but that look gave me enough of a sign that I made a mistake somewhere. I mentally kicked myself for not thinking straight while she stayed silent for a few more before picking it up. “It’s been only yesterday and today, right, Hisao? I can understand.”

“Yeah … “

“Just a bit of advice. It’s fine to talk about our disabilities. After all, it’s just a trait.” She looked at me. “Right?”

I mean, is it? I nodded quickly so as to I can change the subject; it’s beginning to irk me. “Yeah, I suppose so.” We approached a door, and I went ahead to open the door. She nodded in appreciation as we walked outside, now behind the auxiliary, where the path ahead splits into two; to the left led to the main building, and further off, the dormitories and the stage. To the right, though, led to a large building, built in the similar design with the red brick and white mortar, but windowless. I noted the sign above its large double doors, with “Sports Hall” written in large white letters.

“So that’s the building, huh?” I said, as we walked down the steps. Saki took each step with considerable deliberation, as if being careful to not overstep and fall.

She nodded. “Mhm.”

“It looks pretty big. Why didn’t you guys just use this instead?”

She sighed sadly. “Well, we tried. Even with the President’s pleas, we couldn’t budge the Administration to let us use it. Plus the festival is over there, so it's pretty far away from where most visitors will come.” Saki pointed in the direction of the field across the dormitories, where I could see several stalls being set up. They weren’t there yesterday, I remembered. Either they set that up while classes were ongoing, or I was dumb enough to only notice the stage because by the looks from this far, I could see that it’s right in the centre of things.

I must have spent a bit of time trying to look at them, because I heard Saki called out to me. “Hey, come on hurry up.”

“Coming, coming.”

We went to the large double doors of the auditorium, where she took her time to open it almost as if making a grand entrance, pushing both doors with her hands. There’s no one inside to cheer though; it’s empty and dark, and the only light comes from the high windows near the ceiling, bathing the room in the evening light. Inside, the wooden flooring were outlined by the lines of a basketball court, along with its related paraphernalia. On the far wall though, was a large raised stage, complete with curtains and what looked like a backstage, by the gaps behind them acting as entrances. Saki continued walking, and I followed. The rhythmic reverberations of the cane echoed far louder here.

“Hey Saki.”

“Hmm?”

“How does the music club work here?”

“Oh that?” She looked back at me for a moment before turning ahead. “Before we became one club, there used to be various bands formed independently of each other. That was when Yamaku was a lot larger than it is now, or so they said. Somewhere along the line, the Administration said that it's a mess, so we combine all the bands under one club so we can manage the finances simultaneously.” She effortlessly started climbing the side stairs onto the stage, where her cane echoed even louder thanks to the empty interior under it. “So basically, we’re a group of bands confederated into one loose organization.”

“And you’re the President because …”

“Well, nobody else wanted the position. I don’t mind taking it.”

“You’re already the class representative though, isn’t it?”

She gave me a smirk as she pushed aside a curtain as we approached the backstage entrances. “I don’t mind.” Saki then turned to the darkness in the back, and called out. “Hey, Minami! Are you there?”

Nothing but silence replied her. She sighed. “Where could’ve she gone …”

I went ahead, spying a set of light switches on the wall, and quickly turned them all on. With a loud clack, almost all the lights up ahead lit up, blinding me temporarily. The backstage was a mess of stuff; various boxes were piled up at the back, and instruments of various kinds were arranged near the entrance. And last but not least, its dusty here. “Wow,” was all I could say, observing the room.

Saki ventured forth, and scanned the room in front of me. “Well, she’s not here, so I guess you and I need to do it for her.”

“Any idea where she could’ve gone?” Part of me wants some sort of assistance, and Saki looked like she depended on the cane for mobility, and I don’t want to make her do the heavy lifting.

She shook her head. “She told me that she’d be here, cataloging everything. But all I see here is her bag.” Saki pointed to a pink bag on top of a wooden crate in the corner.

I gave a half-hearted attempt to look back at the sports hall through the entrance. “Maybe she went back for a drink.”

“Maybe.” Saki sighed. “Well, come on then. Chisato’s waiting. If you don’t mind, Hisao, can you carry the drum set over there?”

***

In the end Minami never came back. The next few hours was nothing but the most amount of labor I had exerted since I was discharged. The first run required me a lot of stops and rests so I could carry on, but I managed in the end. Saki on the other hand politely waited for me to pick up my pace, never trying to rush me or anything. While she does say that disabilities might just be a trait, she’s a careful girl. Especially when I hadn’t told her why I’m here.

Every now and then, I had an idea of telling her why. But I kept holding it back, telling myself that if I told her I have arrhythmia, she’ll tell me to drop the job and let her do it herself. Seeing the heavy equipment in the backstage and the distance between the hall and the festival, I don’t want to do that. Or so I thought. Saki’s far more friendlier and inclusive than Shizune was, and I can see her doing that.

Whenever we arrived at the construction site, I took my time to observe the stalls. They were numerous, as if every class and every clubs had their own in each place. I wondered for a moment how that would work; since each student have their clubs and classes, then do they run back and forth from their classes’ and their clubs’ stalls? That’s a bit too active, I thought. I can’t do that.

Just as I set down the last box behind the stage construction site, I let out a sigh of relief after its weight was let go from my arms. Saki, who was nearby, noticed. “A bit too heavy?” she asked.

I nodded, took a nearby unopened water bottle for a drink. Blessed be those who distribute water.

Saki looked at the evening sun, and then at her phone. “By the way,” she said, “where are you going for dinner?”

I was too exhausted to think, shrugging as a response. “Cafeteria, I guess?”

“What.” I heard someone said behind me. It was a boy, who looked at me with an eyebrow raised. “Really?”

“I mean, I’m not really fond of the cafeteria food,” I started saying. “But …”

“Hey, Jun!” Saki said. “Got a paper or something?”

“Wait a sec,” said the boy. He put down the toolbox he’s holding and went to the retaining wall, where a line of bags sat.

“Jun?” I asked.

“Yep.” Saki put down the guitar rack. “But yeah, cafeteria’s not really my first choice if I were you. You know the town down the hill?”

I shrugged. “Saw it, didn’t think much.”

“There’s a couple of convenience stores down there.”

Jun arrived with a notebook and a pen, which he gave it to Saki. Unceremoniously he quickly left with the toolbox, while she looked at the pen, as if wondering if she should chase after him. But she sighed, and started writing, continuing as she goes. “So, basically down there they sold some of the ready cooked meals, which I think is a bit better than the options in the cafeteria.” She ripped out a piece of paper and gave it to me. “So, here it is.”

I took a look at the scrap of paper; it was a crude map drawn with arrows leading to something. Probably the store she talked about. “Thanks, Saki,” I said gratefully. “But yeah, I dunno if I wanted to go back to the cafeteria, so this is actually great.”

She smiled. “Glad to be of help.”

From behind the stage curtains, I heard Chisato suddenly clap her hands loudly and called out. “Alright, everyone! It’s getting a bit late now, so I appreciate all your help today! But for now, you’re all dismissed for the evening! Thank you everyone!”

I looked at Saki. “Well,” she started saying. “I suppose that’s it. You’re good, Hisao?”

I nodded, and stood up, stretching my arms.

She reached out for her cane. “That’s good. Thanks Hisao, for the help.”

“Nah, it’s fine.” I waved it off. “At least I can be of help in some way with the festival.”

I looked at her as she went the opposite of everyone else, going back to the field and down the path we used to get here. I had half a mind to reach out and ask where she was going, but perhaps its best to not push it. I picked up my bag, and followed the crowd back to the gates, now with something in mind.
"They say, the best way to improve yourself is to believe in who you are. You are but a blip in the lives of many you pass by, so why worry? Be yourself - life is too short to worry about the minor altercations here and there.

"So, get out there. Break the chains that holds you back - and embrace the freedom ahead of you." - me

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Talmar
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Joined: Mon Sep 23, 2019 8:02 pm

Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route

Post by Talmar » Sun Sep 29, 2019 5:09 pm

Scene 7: Short Trip

The sun was setting, and the construction crew had already disbanded for the night. I wandered for a moment, now not only exhausted but also hungry, and thought about returning to the cafeteria when I recalled Saki’s proposed alternative. Looking at my watch, I picked up my bag and went outside the gates for the first time since I came here.

I came here by the Shinkansen from Tokyo, and then by car, as my parents dropped me off outside the gates. I didn’t really paid much attention to the outside throughout the ride, only noticing a momentary blur of Sendai and then most was greenery. I was more or less occupied with what I’ll do with the time I will spend in this school for the rest of the year, to pay more attention. Now that I’m here outside the gates, I made a note of the realization yesterday, how the gate represented the final doors behind which is my now unreachable past life. It was strange to pass through it again, as I studied its byzantine crenelations and decorative patterns again, knowing it won’t turn anything back.

Perhaps its for the best, I thought to myself, that I’m now here, not at a hospital wasting away what was left of my psyche.

I put those thoughts on hold as I looked around to ascertain where I was. The road here goes both ways; to my right seemed to lead nowhere but even deeper into the hills, and perhaps another more distant town as a street sign seemed to imply. To my left it’s a constant walk downhill, but at least I could see the destination. I kept to the side overlooking the forest below as I made my way down, and the small town a bit further. Yesterday I thought I saw a large portion of students heading outside, so I figured today I would be joining the disparate lines of boys and girls heading down there. Today though, was silent. There was only me here, with each footsteps loudly reverberating into the winds.

Maybe I was just late. The sun was already beginning to set.

Two days in, and I’m already caught into some of this new school’s shenanigans, as much as I were reluctant to. Misha wasn’t kidding when she said they’re running short on time, and everyone was hectic to get their stalls done for the festivals this weekend. The music club was no exception; what with their grand project of performances for the festivals, I was at least partly relieved to be able to do something to help, even if it was late. Saki mentioned how they’re running on their own budget to build the stage since the auditorium was relegated for other things.

“It’s a shame,” she had said. “We could’ve saved a lot by just using the auditorium, but even with the President’s help the Administration wouldn’t budge.” They gave strange reasons why the auditorium was off limits, but sometimes there were things that even Shizune couldn’t win. Which might explain her grubby behaviour yesterday.

And that reminded me of Misha’s question. Why did I want to choose the music club? Ask me that time and I would say, I had some history with instruments and figured I could at least play something. I didn’t think the music club would be set in that structure, but then again, what other could there be anyway. My last school had split the music club into its various constituents, with the orchestra ending up the largest, but it’s still the same system. I figured that with the scale of students here, I thought it would be proportional. But to be honest, I don’t know other than just to pass the time. Even the band I and Takumi made after splitting from the orchestra club in rebellion against its president, from which we met Mai and Shin. From there, we had set forth on a path that none of us thought would split apart.

Until the heart attack, that is.

I try my best not to make Iwanako sound like the antagonist of my life, breaking apart the thing I and my close friends had going, but it’s hard. And then, it wasn’t solely her fault too. Maybe I held some of the blame. The others, they surely did. In the times I needed them the most, they turned their backs and left even earlier than Iwanako did.

I felt a whisper of a breeze blowing past me. Now the trio was over in Yokohama, and here I am in Sendai, in another school dedicated for the disfigured, the marred, the damaged and sometimes the unlucky. Even then, some of those who lived here looked like they could live elsewhere and be fine. Take Saki for example. Aside from her cane, she looked healthy as any other girl I’ve seen in my Second Year. Granted I hadn’t asked her what’s her … what’s the word for it, issue? - but I thought it’s related to that cane of hers.

And that’s another problem. How do I talk to people here about that? Using the term sounds disrespectful to me, as my two days here was enough to show me that they’re little different from anyone else, really. Even Saki insisted that they’re trivial unless stated not so. Take away their disabilities and they could fit in any other school. It’s just me. It’s nothing trivial for me; it’s not something they take it for granted as an inconvenience. For me it’s something that defined a certain point where my entire life had changed. And I don’t know how to take that trivially.

What if when I mention the reason why I’m here, I thought, they’ll laugh it off and say I’ll be fine? I would hate it. I had been told that for so long, for so many times by the head cardiologist, my parents, my old friends, Iwanako, I had grown to hate it. If they take it trivially, then it’s definitely something they would do. I wouldn’t be able to hold it off, after god knows how long I held it off in the hospital. I hated it when they told me I’ll be fine. I know I’m not fine and that’s alright. But don’t tell me I’ll be fine.

Don’t ever tell me I’ll be fine.

Because I won’t. That’s a fact. False hopes are something I resented, since they’re nothing but a lie made to please someone. And that line reeked of it.

It took me a moment to realize I had come across a crossroad. Here the roads were a bit busier, and I pressed the crossroad signal box to start the countdown. Only one or two cars passed by as I waited for the half-minute countdown to reach zero, and the town ahead was already turning on their lights. I looked at my watch. 6 and a half. Maybe a bit more time before curfew, I thought. As soon as the light turned red and the green man appeared above it, I walked across, and pulled out the scrap of paper containing Saki’s directions.

The forest gave way to a more developed part of civilization as her directions took me further deeper into the town, following the main street as I passed by the various little ramen and udon restaurants, stalls, and other miscellaneous establishments. Many of them had already turned on their lights, transitioning into their night shifts. Their lights began to dominate the sidewalks as the sun above dimmed in the evening sky. As I entered the more populated streets, I noticed a few other students of Yamaku milling about. No familiar faces though.

This town seemed to be more populated by those past middle age and leaning to the elderly; a great number of those I see were wrinkled in their faces, graying hairs, some holding canes. Sure, there were the occasional young mothers and their toddler children wandering, as well as students of the local public schools, as I noticed by the difference in uniform. But the crowds were predominantly the old and the retired, quietly sitting by their stalls with cups of tea in their hands gossiping, or watching the world pass by them. I paid them no heed as I occasionally look at the scrap of paper in my hand.

I found the store she told about after a few blocks down the main street. It was little different from any other convenience store I’ve seen back in Yokohama, stocked with the usual merchandise. Ambling down the narrow aisles scanning the products, I noticed how the staff didn’t even bat an eyelid at this student wandering at this hour. Considering how close Yamaku is, I guessed the staff were used to the students who lived there coming down here for a quick trip for groceries. I looked at the counter for a moment, but the cashier still minded her own business. Shrugging it off, I continued down the aisle, picking up various confectioneries. I reached the end of the aisle and found the lanes for ready-to-warm food section. I was about to reach for a package of precooked chicken bento when I noticed a hand reaching for it, and pulled back to allow them only for her to pull back as well.

I looked at the owner, and saw the hairband girl looking at me. For a brief moment, our gazes locked. Her hazel eyes glistened in the artificial light, seemed warm and inviting, familiar almost. Behind her expression was a sense of fatigue however. She seemed withdrawn, exhausted. I broke the lock by looking elsewhere. From the way she was acting today, I felt like I shouldn’t try to break the ice, but. Something beckoned me to at least give it a try.

“You can take it,” I said, trying to defuse the awkward moment between us. “I can take another.”

She stayed silent, before opening the fridge and taking it for herself, looking away. She herself didn’t move from her spot however.

As I picked up mine and closed it back, I gave another try, but withdrawn instead of trying to stare at those enticing eyes. “So, uh, … hey, I know I didn’t do much, but I transferred here the other day. You remember that?”

She stayed silent, but when I took a look she was staring at me from the side.

“I’m still trying to get used to the place, and figured I should try to get to know people. So, er, what’s your name?”

“Ritsu,” she replied. I got a distinct feeling she answered out of courtesy, but I kept it up. I want to.

“Ritsu, hmm.” I repeated to myself. I looked at the package in her hands. “Not feeling up for cafeteria food tonight?”

She looked at it, and away. “I felt like eating something else,” she responded. Indifferent.

“Only that though?” I said, pointing at the pack in her hand.

She furrowed her eyebrows, staring at me at the edge of her vision. It was then I realized I was being far too intrusive than I wanted to. Very smooth, Hisao. I opened my mouth to apologize, but she looked away instead. With a sigh, I took my package as I went over to the previous aisle for another chocolate bar. When I looked back as I headed over to the cashier, Ritsu had wandered elsewhere in the store. I was in the middle of paying for mine when she appeared behind me.

I quickly ran through my mind for ways to keep the conversation up, but with it ending abruptly like that, I couldn’t do much without adding more to the awkwardness. In addition to that, I could tell she doesn’t want to talk. Knowing what happened earlier today, I can understand that; even I would bear a grudge for the rest of the day. The cashier took my payment and promptly gave back the change.

I walked outside only to see the evening sun had already set.

Thinking about it, I realized why she wanted a convenience store dinner to begin with. Ritsu left the cafeteria with that passive-aggressiveness, leaving her tray for someone else to deal with, and it made sense why she doesn’t want to face them again if she doesn’t even want to talk with me. Talk about really bad first impression, Hisao, really nice of you, I thought to myself as I looked at the night sky above. I took out a chocolate bar to distract myself of the memory only to see her come out of the store. I had an idea.

With a chocolate bar in my mouth I took the other one out of my plastic bag. I had intended that for a snack tomorrow, but I don’t mind giving it to her if it could smooth over my mistakes, no matter how unlikely that is. I hand it over to her as she came closer. Ritsu looked surprised. “Here,” I said, “have it.”

Her expression quickly changed to a frown. “Why?”

I shrugged as I took my own bar out of my mouth. “Think of it as an apology.”

She looked at me as her frown softened, and gingerly took the bar out of my hand. As we waited for the road crossing sign to change, she stayed at a considerable distance from me. She was already eating it, quietly munching on the bar. I must say, I never really found most girls eating as something cute, but here’s an exception, with the softened frown and her hands clumsily holding on to the bar as well as her plastic bag. It only had the rice bento in it, I noted.

Now that I had a good look at her, Ritsu’s a good few centimeters tall, about as tall as Shizune compared to me. Her distinctive yellow hairband held up a considerable amount of her dirty walnut hair swept back behind her head, leaving behind her exposed forehead and two bangs to flank her overcast face. She still wore her uniform, but had taken off her jacket and tied the sleeves around her waist, like wearing a skirt over the initial skirt. And unlike Shizune and her black leggings, she wore none at at all, only a pair of socks to tie it off.

Her eyes still struck me in conflict. I don’t really know how it concerned me, but it did. I saw the incident back in the cafeteria, and by the reactions of the girls she left to deal with her spilled tray, she probably had made enemies, even in the past. But here, I don’t see the juvenile delinquent I had an impression of with little regard to the rules, nor a bullied toy who held on hope that one day things will go fine. Despite the brilliance in her eyes, I saw an exhausted and broken girl, distrustful, hated. She didn’t want to be here, but she was.

Like me.

I took a deep breath before continuing. “I saw what happened earlier today.”

Ritsu stayed silent.

“Sorry for annoying you like that earlier, with those questions.”

“I don’t mind,” I heard her mumble.

“And since you told me your name, I’m Hisao. Hisao Nakai.”

She merely nodded, finally tearing off all the chocolate bar’s wrapping.

A short moment of silence filled between us as we walked back. The crowd hasn’t lessened at all; instead as the night proceeded, they seemed to get denser. The sky above gave way to the dark night, lit only by the light from the stores’ and restaurants’ windows, display glasses and doorways. I looked back at Ritsu as she was jostled closer to me by the incoming crowd, our distance halting within an arm’s reach. I didn’t want to try to talk over the din of the night walkers, and I was certain I won’t hear her low volume as it was. So we kept silent on the way back, and not before long, we reached the crossroad.

The sign turned green, and walked at an even pace to the other side. I kept silent through the entire walk back to the academy, simply quietly immersing myself in the peaceful evening air. The notion of catching the curfew slipped my mind if we’re returning this late already. I was not sure if this was what I had in mind to spend my second day, but with Ritsu, I felt like I don’t mind. It’s a strange feeling, as if her presence was enough to convince me to lower my guards. I looked at her, and back at the sky above. It was liberating.

Down the sidewalk I could see the town below light up against the darkness of the night. Reminds me of Yokohama night when I was back at home.

Home.

As I took another bite of the chocolate, I pondered on that word for a moment. Home. The world I can no longer reach. Did I miss it, when I passed through the byzantine gates of that school? Perhaps the time in the hospital had wiped away any fond memories of my past life, with the few that remains I clung on to I still hold today. Hell, I forgot the reason why I even made that band with Takumi, aside from the rebellion and the single notion of trying to find a way to pass the time. For such supposedly fond memories, I thought only of myself. Without most of them, why would I miss Tokyo? Sure I might miss hanging out with Takumi, Mai, and Shin at that classroom, and I thought, maybe doing it again will help me remember, but anything else? They left me behind in that hospital, left alone for me to rot and fester in those depressive times. Why would I want any of them back?

Even at that time, I still held some contempt for them.

But looking down the hill, at the quiet town below, I felt that twinge. Two days here and I have already missed the constant bustling of that metropolis. Even at night I could hear cars outside, when in fact there were none. My own brain filled in the void, trying to make sense of emptiness and fill it with something familiar.

Do I want them back? Do I want any of them back?

I cast a glance at Ritsu, walking alongside me. She had kept quiet too, perhaps enjoying the silence. Maybe she’s comfortable with me, maintaining the silence. Maybe its the only silence she could afford, and back home she’ll be besieged by girls as loud as Misha. I couldn’t help but wonder. What about her? Does she miss her past life? Or maybe she lived her here most of her life, not knowing what it’s like outside. It occurred to me that I had no idea how long Ritsu had lived here in Yamaku. I looked at her to ask, but then shut up.

Perhaps its best I keep this up.

Perhaps the answers will have to wait. I have two days so far. Way too short of a time.

The silence felt somewhat comfortable too.

As we approached the almost-baroque iron wrought gates, the school was silent, aside from the streetlights and a single shining window on the main building. We went past the main faculty and made our way to the dormitories. I watched her as she went to hers, looked at me, and disappeared around the corner.

If I was in any shape to consider it, I would say at least it was a decent recovery of a first meeting. She had been present in my mind since I first saw her, and to reach out today? Not bad. I had no plans to either. I looked at the sky one more time, but the clouds had gathered now. A whisper of a wind blew past, chilling me somewhat. I sighed, and went back to my own room.

***

I put the cup of instant noodles on the counter, and pressed the button on the electric water heater. The pantry room of my building took some time to find; someone in the common room pointed out that it's the opposite of the laundry, but I had no idea where that one was as well, and asking again might make me appear a bit daft. So I left them to their own devices in front of their TV, and took to myself to wander the first floor of the dormitory building.

Turned out, at the other end of the fork in front of the entrance I first came in to, was where the laundry room as well as the kitchenette.

For a building with barely above 50 inhabitants, the male dorm can get quite loud, even at night. Up above, through the window in the pantry room I could hear someone typing on a keyboard, the squawking of a pet bird somewhere, and the holler of laughter of some guys playing a video game together. But the pantry itself was unexpectedly empty, which was fine by me.I had already changed into my night clothes, and meeting someone down here like this would be somewhat awkward. The impression from my almost botched encounter with Ritsu still lingered, and I don’t need another.

The heater clicked, and I poured it in the empty cup. As I waited, I took a look around the kitchenette; for a place designated as a shared cooking room for guys, it was both surprisingly clean and well-stocked. Last time I let Shin handle the kitchen in my old home we ended up having to clean up the spilled curry. There’s a toaster and a microwave sitting on the far corner, under and on a surprisingly ornate looking series of cabinets that stretched for the entirety of the far wall from the door, as well as half of the adjacent wall. It’s not a really big room; a bit larger than a typical cleaning closet, yes, but also a bit smaller than my own bedroom. A clock sits on the wall by the door, quietly ticking the moments past.

I walked around, keen on keeping up my exploratory momentum. Across the hallway was the double doors leading to the laundry room, closed. I went over to take a look. Inside were a couple of my neighbour flatmates from elsewhere, busying themselves with books, a phone, and other means while the machines whirred. One of them spotted me poking my head in and waved. I waved back, before noticing an unused washing machine at the back.

Oh right, I meant to wash my clothes today.

I looked back at the clock, and then at my cup sitting by the water heater. I decided that could wait a bit longer, as I walked back up to my room to pick up the laundry. Speaking of, when I got back, I barely even bothered with the stuff in my room; they’re still where they were, in addition to yesterday’s clothes lumped over on the floor. I put them in the basket I was given in the closet and went downstairs. Along the way I could hear almost inhuman noises from Kenji’s room, but seeing how he was yesterday, I figured it’s best to not disturb him.

When I got back down, the machine was already taken, and a new neighbour appeared; it was a familiar face, the one eyed boy I helped yesterday with the box. He was sitting on the benches, absorbed in a book. I put my basket next to his empty one by the machine, and went to get my cup of instant noodles before coming back to sit next to him. “Hey.”

He looked up and immediately backed off in an exaggerated manner, as if surprised. “Oh it’s you!”

“Yeah,” I said, taking a forkful of noodles and blew on it. He calmed himself down. “Was thinking of taking that machine before you took it.”

He looked at the washing machine ahead of him. “Ah,” he faltered, and grinned guiltily. “Sorry about that, hahaha.”

I waved it off. “No worries, I can wait.” I ate the forkful. “Speaking of, I didn’t get your name yesterday.”

“Oh right.” He closed the book between the palms of his hands. “It’s Shouhei, by the way. Shouhei Mizushima,” he said with an extended hand. “Thanks for the help.”

“Hisao Nakai,” I replied as I accepted it. He gave it a firm shake. “Again, don’t mention it.”

He looked curiously at me for a moment before speaking. “You’re the new guy they’re talking about, aren’t you?”

“Who, me?”

“Yep.”

“Who’s they?” I asked, partly curious and partly suspicious. I don’t like it when someone talked about me behind my back.

“You know, the top brass.” He splayed his hands as if to demonstrate a hierarchy. “Student Council folks.”

“Student Council?” I didn’t know there was one here.

He furrowed his brows as if I just crawled out from under a rock and asked what’s the year. “You’re telling me those two dragged you around and never mentioned it? Wow.”

Those two? Oh, could he meant the dynamic duo? “Shizune and Misha?”

He snapped his fingers. “YES, those two. They never shut up about getting people in the Student Council, you know? I guess when we heard you’re coming from a week earlier, those two were revving up to take the spot to give you a tour.”

“So, hold the phone,” I put my cup down on the empty seat beside me. “Student Council?”

He shrugged. “Never part of it, but I heard from Saki that it’s officially all class representatives put together. In reality though, it’s just those two who did the most work.”

Oh, so that’s what Misha meant by work when the two couldn’t lead me to the clubhouse. Now I felt bad. “Ah, what happened?”

“Dunno exactly. I came in at April, been here less than a year.”

“Hmm.” I picked up my cup to continue eating it.

Our conversation faltered as I thought of something to fill in the silence. Shouhei seemed rather friendly, compared to most other boys I’ve seen, who were either apathetic or outright refused to talk, or in Kenji’s case, a potential nutcase that I’d rather avoid. “Uh, hey, Mizushima-san,” I said, uncertain.

“Call me Shouhei,” he replied, turning to me from his book.

I shrugged. “Okay, Shouhei. Got a question.”

“Fire away.”

“What was in that box?

“Oh that? He flipped the cover of the book to show me. Advanced Guide to the Keyboard.

“A keyboard?”

“Yep,” he said with a nod. “You know, the musical one?”

The name popped up like a piece of partially buried landmark. I took a moment to dig up the memory, finding myself back in my old school’s clubhouse. Mai mentioned an instrument she wanted to play as part of the band. “Oh right, that one. The one that looked like an electronic piano?”

“Yeah, that one.” He took a moment to process it. “Wait, you know?”

“Used to be in a light music band back in my old school.”

“Oh nice!” He closed the book again to focus on me. “Any good songs you guys played?”

“Hmm.” I crossed my arms to sit in thought for a while. What did we play a lot back then? Other than the usual tuning practices, I couldn’t remember much. Just how much did my time in the hospital wiped out? “I didn’t really remember.”

“Been a while, huh?”

I shrugged, again. “Yeah.”

He turned back to his book, but now with a sigh. “What’s wrong?” I asked, concerned.

He looked alarmed at me. “No, nothing’s wrong. Just some troubles.”

“Uh-uh.”

For a moment, me pressuring him to talk doesn’t seem like a good idea, because he flattened his grin into a straight line and stared at nothing. But I didn’t like seeing issues when I thought I could help. In the end, he spoke up again. “Okay, okay. I’ve just … I’ve been having some trouble with the music club here.”

I recalled the hectic scene at the music club’s room and their stage outside. “I can see that.”

Shouhei folded the book, put it behind him before resting his arms on his knees. “Nah, not really related to the music club as a whole. Maybe it does. Not sure. Anyhow, it’s my issue now.”

“What’s it about?”

“Well, you see. The music club operates by -”

I raised a hand. “I got that introduction from Saki.”

“Oh you know her already?” He took a moment. “Okay. Well, my band, we’re meant to be playing in the performance for the festival. We’re a four man group, one lead guitarist, one bassist, one keyboardist, and one drummer. You’re getting this?”

I nodded. “Mhm.”

“Okay so you can guess I’m the keyboardist. We practiced a lot ever since we were accepted to play in the festival. Things were going well. But back in May, the lead guitarist came down with a fever, and proceeded to have a stroke. He had been hospitalized ever since.”

“Ouch.” I wasn’t sure what I can offer aside from that one word comment to that revelation. I did applied myself to listen to his problems, so I felt like I should put some effort in showing I was listening.

“Yeah.” He sighed. “That wasn’t the worst of it. The following April, the drummer received a call from her family; they’re moving overseas, permanently. So she vanished that month, leaving only me and Mao the bassist.”

“Ah, that’s definitely sounds bad.” I paused. “Any luck finding new guys?”

He shook his head with a wry grin. “No luck. Yamaku isn’t exactly a big school. Finding one that fits the bill, let alone talent, is a really hard job. I’ve been asking Mrs. Sakamoto every few days if there’s anyone who had an interest, if at all, but no such luck. And with the festival coming up just next weekend …”

“Before I could come up with a proper reply, his washing machine beeped, and he stood up to empty it. “Well, here’s your turn,” he said, both his hands carrying the basket and the book sitting in it. “Thanks though, I really needed that vent.”

“If you need to talk any more, I’m here to listen,” I offered. He grinned at it, before leaving.

For a few moments, I sat there with the empty cup in hand, now that he’s gone. Well, I thought to myself, at least that was something of an introduction. And so far the second guy sociable enough to talk to me. I stood up to put my load of laundry in, before pushing in the coins.
"They say, the best way to improve yourself is to believe in who you are. You are but a blip in the lives of many you pass by, so why worry? Be yourself - life is too short to worry about the minor altercations here and there.

"So, get out there. Break the chains that holds you back - and embrace the freedom ahead of you." - me

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Talmar
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Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route

Post by Talmar » Sun Sep 29, 2019 5:19 pm

Scene 8: Lunch Evolution Theory

It’s strange how quickly I’m getting used to this place. I woke up in the morning more tired than usual, seeing how by sheer chance managed to find one male friend and went down to town to talk with the hairband girl Ritsu at the same day. More strangely was how I got along with Shouhei rather quickly. I guessed it was the sense of camaraderie of being new students in the year, with the only differences being that he’s in the April intake while I’m a mid-year transfer. I sat up, unblinking, trying to get my gears running. My legs were still sore after the walk back up the hill, but I managed to push myself to at least stand up to go to bath.

As I locked the door to my room, I heard clanging behind Kenji’s door. Does he ever get out of there? My impression of him was still based on the first meeting, and so far the only day I had interacted with him, and despite how I hate concluding from only one data entry, I think I can write off Kenji as ‘weird’. Just as I was about to leave his door be, it opened with a blast that shook the floor, slamming right off its hinges. “NO MATTER!” I heard him scream. “I WILL CLEANSE MY MEMORY OF ANY FEMINIST TAINT!”

What I felt when I saw him was a mix of surprise, incredulity, and utter shock. He marched out of his door with a vast collection of paraphernalia attached to him, ranging from strange to downright absurd, like a bottle of milk or a carpenter’s stapler. Instead of the inch-thick glasses he was wearing a yellow, ridiculously shaped pair of ray-ban sunglasses, and he topped his head with a party hat. I could see a multicolored backpack strapped on to his green school vest. “OH! Who are you!?”

Apparently he spotted me, standing there in surprise. “Uh …” was all I could utter in reaction.

“Are you part of the feminist ambush team?!” he shouted at me. “No matter! I’ll break out. Get out of my way!”

With that he pushed his way past me, and ran down the stairs. I could hear the surprise of other guys he probably shoved his way aside.



I think I gave him an existential crisis with my last comment the day before.

***

On my way to the campus, I saw Ritsu walking ahead of me, in the thin throng of other students on their way, and like yesterday, alone. For a moment I considered calling out to her, but recalling my impression of yesterday, I felt like that would be a bad idea. I hastened my pace to reach her until we were walking side by side.

We walked quietly for a few moments. I was unsure if I should proceed to wave to alert her to my presence, seeing how she kept her eyes on the ground, or the trees above, at almost all times. I sighed. Perhaps she does enjoy the silence. I was about to surrender to maintain the silence when I heard her murmur. “Hisao.”

“Hm?”

She kept quiet for a few more moments before picking it up, keeping her eyes ahead. “Hisao, right?”

“Uh, yeah. That’s right.” I considered bowing slightly to hear her better, but this seemed sufficient.

“Thanks.”

A thanks? For what? Not before long, the two of us fell into silence again, and I don’t want to poke in her personal space by starting it up again asking what’s she up to, but instead I just gave a simple reply. “No problem.” Maybe it was for the chocolate yesterday.

“Hmm.”

The less words we speak, the better we get along, it seemed. Or so it seemed in my perspective. But if I’m getting it right, I can understand why she appreciated it. Or I could be getting her wrong entirely, since I never asked Misha or anyone else what they thought about Ritsu. But I can’t deny that I appreciated her appreciation of silence. It was relaxing to not have to think of what to say.

As we walked, however, the fact that I’m there by her side drew some eyes from the crowd. Usually if this was the case when I’m with Takumi, I don’t care. But this was Ritsu. I was unsure if she was comfortable with the attention, but right now she didn’t seem to mind. She strode on, like Caesar crossing the Tiber after the conquest of Gaul, never caring the declarations of the senators.

Or I could be getting it wrong. It’s hard to tell about her, honestly.


When I walked in, Shizune doesn’t seem to want to give any comments on my unexpected company, but Misha seemed excited. At the very least, until the teacher came behind us unexpectedly, shutting her up before she had the initiative to ask. A few classes later, we were given yet again another group assignment. Before I had the chance to move elsewhere, like with Ritsu for example, Shizune and Misha boxed me in. Both of them wore proud grins that reflected their sense of achievement. I took a glance at the window and saw the height; there’s no escape.

Misha quipped up. “Hicchan~! Looks like we’re together again! Yay yay!”

I winced internally at her unbridled volume and enthusiasm. Misha leaned over me while Shizune dragged their chairs and tables over to mine to form a line, with the pink-haired girl in the middle. Reluctantly I sighed as the two girls dumped their writing utensils over and Shizune started working. Misha however had other ideas.

‘So, Hicchan~!” she called out to me, despite sitting right next to my ear.

“What is it?” I said, complete with the intended irritation.

“What’s up with that this morning, Hicchan~? Why were you with Ricchan?”

Ah, she hadn’t forgotten about it. “No, it’s nothing. We just came at the same time.”

“Mhmm~, definitely, Hicchan …”

She definitely didn’t get my attempt to defuse the situation, that is. “It’s nothing really.”

“It’s rare for Ricchan to be with someone else, Hicchan~!” she said in an as-a-matter-of-fact way. “I find it interesting!”

I took a quick glance behind her. Ritsu seemed to be trying to sleep by resting her head on her arms, and haven’t appeared to notice Misha’s antics. “No, it’s definitely nothing, Misha,” I said, turning back to her. “And get back to work.”

“Alright then~!” Misha paused for a moment. “Oh! Right~! Have you been thinking about what you said yesterday,” she asked, enthusiastic as ever. “Because if it weren’t working out, you could join us in the Student Council!”

Wait what, the Student Council? Also what? “Wait, hold on,” I said with a hand held up to stop her for a moment. “I hadn’t said a thing yet.”

“Oh! Right~!”

“First off, where did you get the idea the music club wasn’t working out?”

“Oh we saw you leave the stage early yesterday!”

It was then I noticed Shizune looking at Misha alarmingly, as if horrified by something., before she put a hand on her shoulder and swiftly turned her to face each other. Shizune immediately launched a series of sharp gestures at Misha, who grew increasingly flustered by the moment. Even when I couldn’t understand what Shizune was saying, I could tell that she was a bit angry.

“Shicchan, I thought we were - But you really wanted to - Shicchan you don’t have to say that~, I’m really -”

Okay, a bit angry was an understatement. Even Misha was bewildered enough she didn’t have the time to translate what Shizune was ‘shouting’ at her.

“Ow, Shicchan, okay okay okay I’ll stop~!” With that, Shizune stopped signing, let out an exhausted sigh, and went back to work. Misha was unnerved and shook by the reaction, so much that she was jittery. I was tempted to wake her out of it, but I was getting a feeling Shizune might turn her wrath on me instead. So instead I turned my attention to the assignment.

When I looked at it, it was mostly just reading. In fact, there were only two problems to solve. I almost wanted to say something about her rush to get started seemed a bit much, considering the small amount of work. But two things come to mind; our interpreter was thrown out of whack, and two, I remembered her argument yesterday lunchtime about work ethics in general. In fact, it got me thinking, Shizune probably knew how little there were, and simply doesn’t care. Yeah, it seemed the workload doesn’t matter to her as the fact there is work; the actual amount was unimportant,. She approached everything with the same level of ambition.

A curious character, I must say. Never saw someone like her before.

Once I was done, I let my eyes wander around the room. I caught the dark-haired girl trying her hand to solve the problems. It seemed that she’s working alone. I couldn’t quite remember if she ever worked with someone else, but before my gaze could attract her attention I turned elsewhere.

Behind Misha, Ritsu was wrapped around in her own world. She was playing with a pen, twirling it around her fingers, while staring at it, but at the same time she seemed to stare at nothing, as if in a state of daze. Her worksheet remained where it was put, untouched. I thought for a moment to ask Misha about her, but seeing how loud Misha can get, it will certainly attract her attention. And judging from yesterday, attention wasn’t something Ritsu wanted.

I sighed, and slumped back in my seat, my back against the wall. Misha shook herself off of the surprise attack from Shizune and turned to me. “Hicchan~,” she asked, her tone several octaves lower than usual, akin to a loud whisper. “Are you done?”

I nodded. Not feeling like talking anymore.

Misha took the cue and turned to her own worksheet, before taking a peek at Shizune’s. For some reason the latter didn’t mind the former, especially when Shizune’s constantly flicking through a massive folder of papers in her lap. You would think Shizune, being the strict academic girl of the dynamic duo, would be Misha’s teacher of sorts, but no. She’s content with Misha taking her answers. Maybe it's the sign language thing sapping whatever was left of Misha’s mental strength. She did translate everything that was spoken around Shizune, after all.

I picked up my paper and started reading it again out of boredom when I spotted Ritsu stretching her arms and yawning. For a moment I caught a flicker of pain on her otherwise nonchalant face as she quickly brought down her arms and start rubbing her wrists, bending her fingers as if to check if they’re still functional.

It then occurred to me that I had no idea what was Ritsu’s disability. Was it something to do with her wrists? Arms? She seemed fine yesterday. I looked away before I could get her attention, but I was sure she was aware of it.

As we finished with time to spare, I spent the rest of the class listening to the quiet noises of scratching of two dozen pencils and erasers against paper when I remembered the next period was lunchtime. While Shizune and Misha started conversing in their silent hand gestures, I pondered for a moment on where to eat. Cafeteria food wasn’t the best of choices, and frankly I thought of the alternatives as a better option. I could get back to my dorm to warm up one of my refrigerated food I bought yesterday, but that’s a long trek. Could I somehow get down fast enough to pick up something else? No, too long.

Before I knew it, the bell had already rang. The duo was still caught in their conversation, and I don’t feel like interrupting them. I mean, sure, the last two days’ lunches had been with them, but I felt like I needed a change of pace. I looked over my shoulder to see Ritsu, still idle in her own world. I sighed, and stood up, figured I’ll just pick something different in the cafeteria, doesn’t matter if they all look tasteless. But then came an unexpected figure standing in the doorway when the flow of students outwards passed.

“Hey, Hisao!”

It was my one-eyed friend last night, standing there with a confident grin. I replied with a wave. “Yeah, what is it?”

“Figured I might take you along for lunch. You coming?”

I looked back at the duo. They’re still intensely conversing, and Ritsu was just getting ready to pick up her own bags. Other than that, the class was nearly empty. I thought for a moment about waiting to ask Ritsu if she wanted to come with us, but something told me that she’d rather not. After a moment, I shrugged. “Alright, let’s go.”

“Great.” With that we took off, not along with the crowd but the other way. I noted that as we walked down the hallway, this was heading to his class. And sure enough, he took off ahead of me calling out to a group of students idling by the doorway, chatting with one another. “Hey!” he called out, and their eyes turned to him.

“Oh, look who brought somebody along,” said one of them, a girl with short dark brown hair tied into a side ponytail.

“Now now, Tsubaki,” Shouhei chided her with a hearty slap on her back, to which she winced and glared for a short second. “He’s a new guy. Guys, this is Hisao.” With that, all four of them turned to me.

“Okay, um, hi. Yeah, my name’s Hisao Nakai, and I’ll be in your care,” I said with the bow.

One of them approached me. Even with my height, he seemed to almost tower over me, a wall of muscle and sheer strength. He almost gave an image of an ex-brawler if he wasn’t also wearing the uniform with the evergreen jacket worn like a cape. It didn’t help that he’s also bald, adding an air of a monk around him. He studied me with his almost closed eyes up and down, and nodded appreciatively before extending a hand. “Well met, Hisao,” he said, his voice baritone deep. “I’m Taichi Katou. First name basis is fine with me.”

The girl with the side-tail also extended a hand as she appeared by his side, or as I looked at it, what’s left of her hand. She appeared to lost several of her fingers somehow, and it felt awkward shaking it as her three fingers wrapped around my wrist. It was a little weird to say the least. “Tsubaki Ishikawa, same,” she said, before noticing my hesitation and smirked. “What, never saw a girl with three fingers?”

I pointed back at the hallway behind me. “There’s a girl with no hand in my class. Never talked to her though.”

She snickered, before pushing Taichi aside to introduce the last member, a girl with long turquoise hair and a large saddle bag on her shoulder. Just like Ritsu, her expression barely changed since I first spotted her. “She’s Chihiro,” said Tsubaki in an as-a-matter-of-fact manner, “Chihiro Maki. She doesn’t talk much.” At that remark Chihiro shot a glare at Tsubaki before returning to her apathetic composure. At the very least she had more expressions than the hairband girl. I was about to wonder why she hadn’t offered a hand when Shouhei appeared from behind and shoved us all forward in a large embrace, catching me by surprise. His grin was still plastered on his face. “Hey, come on! Let’s go!”

“Shouhei,” Tsubaki chided, her turn now as her brows furrowed in irritation. “Ever thought of just telling us to walk instead of pushing like that.”

He merely kept on grinning and kept us walking.

Eventually we found our pace and started walking on our own. Tsubaki and Taichi resumed whatever conversation they were having while Chihiro, now that I noticed it, just tagged along behind them, as her pace matched mine own reluctant stride. Third day here, and I got tossed yet again into another wholly different group of people. They seemed close to Shouhei, so they must have been his friends, or close classmates, and he probably thought I should join in. I sighed.

However, I hadn’t felt any resentment or confusion with them. In fact, I felt at ease for some reason.

Shouhei was about to intrude in the duo’s argument up ahead when he noticed me and Chihiro at the back, slowing his pace to match ours. “’sup?”

“You told them about me?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said with a nod. “Why?”

“No, nothing much.” I chuckled. “In fact, thanks though. Kinda reminded me of my old school.”

“Oh! Okay, that’s great.” Shouhei rested his hands at the back of his head as he walked, before charging ahead as if he spotted an opportunity. We approached the end of the hallway when the trio ahead of us slowed down to wait in front of the elevator doors. For a moment Chihiro flinched at something as Taichi quickly lent a hand, to which she grabbed onto to stabilize herself. As I watched, I wondered for a moment if she had something to do with her movements, still partially thinking about Ritsu’s own disability. Chihiro doesn’t seem to have anything physical, like Tsubaki over there, then again, so do I.

Shouhei stood by my side for a moment before his eyes lit up in realization. “Ah, right,” he said before turning around to a sprint.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” I called out to him. He was already halfway across a class.

“Forgot to pick up my lunch!”

What. How. I couldn’t help but laugh a bit to which he grinned as he started jogging backwards. For a split second though I saw his grin turned to a look of surprise as he stopped and called out, pointing to something to my left. “Hisao look out!” Just as I turned to see what it was, something hit me square in the chest with a force of a steam train. I heard someone scream as I fell on my back, my head slamming against the wall behind me with a brain-shaking concussion as my vision went black.

For a few long seconds everything was void.

But then I could hear voices. I heard panicked shouting and felt a thick hand lifting me up, but none of the voices were recognizable, as if someone put my head underwater and shouted at me.

“What the, what happened-- EMI!”

“Taichi get him up quick!

“Ah, sorry! It was my fault, I didn’t notice!”

My vision slowly returned when I felt a sharp sting in my chest.

Oh.

Oh no.

Tsubaki looked at me worriedly before noticing my hand clutching my sternum, and her expression quickly slipped to horror. “SHOUHEI CALL THE NURSE!”

I couldn’t focus. The repeated stings of pain felt as if it was accelerating.

I had to console myself to remember what to do, linking back the words together to find where that misbegotten memory had hid itself in the chaos. Deep breath, in and out. I closed my eyes in an attempt to alleviate the pulsing pain in my head as I inhaled, and exhaled.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Slowly. One by one.

Slowly, the pain in my chest receded and my head stopped burning. I blinked a couple of times to get the tears out, and could make out Tsubaki and Chihiro knelt down beside me, their expressions concerned and in full alert. On the other side I saw another person, her two long light brown ponytails draped over me as she had her hands flanking my face, hers hovering right over mine. I could see her green irises glinting slightly. “I’m … I’m fine,” I sputtered out , trying to reassure them. “It’s fine, just a flutter and a headache.”

“Oh thank god!” said the new girl as she sat back down, closing her eyes in relief. “I’m very sorry, I wasn’t looking where I was going and you just came out of nowhere! Sorry!”

“It’s …” I managed, “it’s fine. Lemme get up first.”

I felt a pair of hands pulling me off the wall on my back and sat me down. The pain’s aftershock lingered still, but now I managed to obtain the full damage report. The back of my head hurts like hell, seeing I was slammed against the ground like an unfortunate matador taunter slammed by a bull, but the wall was concrete and not canvas. Thankfully the bull wasn’t a similar pair of horns to skewer me. As I rubbed the back of my head, I could finally get a good look of the culprit.

She wore the PE uniform, sitting upright next to me. Her choice of clothing alone would strike me as strange, but first and foremost was the fact she’s not sitting on a pair of legs, but something of a metallic replacement. Prosthetics? But I thought prosthetics were meant to look like legs and hers looked like she could spring around on them like a rabbit. Which might explain the cause of the collision. I looked away from them to not attract attention and back up at her own concerned expression.

The girl named Emi looked very apologetic, in a similar manner a hurt puppy would look. While it did simmer down anything of an angry response from me, it didn’t work on the other two girls. Just as I was about to fold my legs and stand up, I heard Tsubaki launching a tirade. “E-M-I! How many times is it now? Don’t run in the damned hallway!”

“I’m really sorry, Tsubaki! I didn’t notice, honest!”

“IF YOU HAD HIT HIM ANY MORE HARDER WE WOULD’VE BEEN CALLING THE HOSPITAL! I didn’t even know he had a heart condition!”

Ah.

“Tsubaki, I’m being really honest, I was in a hurry …”

I need to stop this.

“You remembered the time you knocked Rika out cold right?! I was with her the entire time the ambulance came in to get her back up!”

She’s still seething. I need to stop this before it goes out of control.

“Tsubaki, I --”

“Tsubaki?” I said, interrupting them as I stood up, a hand raised between them to stop their arguments. “It’s fine. Emi, get going where you need to go.”

When I turned to look at Emi, she was halfway towards crying, but my interruption earned me a grateful smile. “Thank you!” she replied, standing up on her two metallic legs and bowed. ‘I’m really sorry - I’ll be back to give you something okay?” Before I could manage to say a word, she sprinted off down the hallway, just as I saw Shouhei about to turn around a corner and dodging her just in time.

“Hisao,” I heard Tsubaki say.

“What is it?”

She stood up, and I noticed Taichi behind me. Was he holding me back up then? “Emi had done that a thousand times already,” Tsubaki said with a glare down the hallway. “I know her since she’s in my class, and no matter how many times the class rep from both yours and mine lectured her, that rule never got in her head. Next time, -” she dusted herself “- don’t let her off like that.”

“It’s fine,” I said again. “Anyway, just got the wind knocked out of me, that’s all.”

“Y-you’re sure you don’t need to see the nurse?” said a timid voice. It took me a moment to realize it was Chihiro speaking.

I shook my head and gave an attempt of a disarming smile to calm them down. Taichi went around and clapped his hands to get everyone’s attention. “Well then, let’s get going. Chihiro?” The girl nodded and grappled onto his arm as he lifted her onto her feet. Tsubaki sighed as he called the elevator again with the button. This time Tsubaki went behind them, and I quickly caught up with her. Headache be damned, I could see the concerned look on her, and she’s still was. “Hey,” I said, trying to get her attention.

Tsubaki looked at me strangely, as if she realized she had broached an issue that someone doesn’t want to talk about. If anything, she was right; she did, and I didn’t want to talk about it. She guessed it right that I have a heart issue. In fact, of all the people who I had met, she was the first to figure it out, and properly. By the look on her face as I tried to get her attention, she realized she got it right. I guessed my worried yet dismissive expression, at least an attempt of it, gave it away.

I hoped that she won’t spread it around. I spoke up to her.

“His--” “Tsuba--”

Our words interrupted each others’ and we both shut up for the rest of the walk downstairs. I made a mental note to talk to her personally.
"They say, the best way to improve yourself is to believe in who you are. You are but a blip in the lives of many you pass by, so why worry? Be yourself - life is too short to worry about the minor altercations here and there.

"So, get out there. Break the chains that holds you back - and embrace the freedom ahead of you." - me

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Talmar
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Joined: Mon Sep 23, 2019 8:02 pm

Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route

Post by Talmar » Sun Sep 29, 2019 5:26 pm

Scene 9: Intermission

The three led me downstairs and back to the entrance hall, the first of Yamaku interior I had seen a few days ago in the first time I had been here, and turned to a hallway. I noticed that if this was the floor below, it would’ve been the cafeteria, but here a hallway connects this wing of the building to the next one, built in parallel of each other. Tsubaki rejoined Taichi as the two went ahead, leaving me and Chihiro trailing behind. Now that I have a closer look, Chihiro looked similar to the dark-haired girl, minus the brown scars.

Just as she noticed me staring, I looked ahead. It didn’t stop my mouth though. “Hey, uh, Maki-san?”

Chihiro stayed silent for a moment before replying. Her voice was just as timid and quiet as it was a few minutes ago, but again, minus the concerned tone. “Call me Chihiro like everyone else.”

“Alright. Chihiro?” I took a moment to look around. “Where are you guys taking me?”

“The common room,” she said softly. “We often have lunch there.”

“Common room?” Now that I realize it, I’ve never been here before. Three days passed before I bothered to explore the first floor of the main building, mostly wandering my own floor. The hallways was similarly populated with students, which I presumed to be those of the younger Years. Their respective classes also lined the hallways on the right, and on the left was primarily made of windows, lighting up the entire corridor.

I noticed that the younger students don't seem to mind our presence, if at all. If anything, they seemed used to us. Well, maybe not me since I’m new, and I felt some eyes trained onto me. Curious eyes. Even Taichi’s massive build didn’t seem to distract them from their normal routines. Some of them wore prosthetics like Emi upstairs, others more leg-like. Others don’t seem to have anything, until you notice a gait in the way they walk, minor movement patterns different than what you would expect. I saw multiple students chatting in sign language like Shizune upstairs, and others use canes to navigate. The more time I spend here, the more I became aware of the sheer diversity of people here.

Maybe one or two of them were just like me. Arrhythmic.

Even if there were, I don’t feel like asking. Besides, I’ll be here for just a year anyway.

Chihiro must have noticed me exploring as we walked by, because she had quieted down and pulled out a carton of milk from her backpack.

The end of the corridor led to a classroom door, albeit double instead of the standard single. “Oh, Shouhei,” I heard Taichi speak up ahead of us. Tsubaki stopped besides him and put a hand on her hip. “You got here early.”

I hurried over to see. Shouhei was holding on to a door frame, a hand on his knees, panting. A couple of students passing by looked at him warily, and I could only hold back laughing when I saw a second-year girl staring at him as if he smelled. Taichi went forward to lift him up a standing posture with ease, before I saw the sign above the door he’s sitting in front of. It was the common room she talked about.

“Well … haaaah …” he managed between gasping for air. “That was quite the marathon…”

“Did you actually went down to the auxiliary?” Tsubaki said, an eyebrow raised.

He gave an exaggerated nod. “Then I noticed he’s back up again, so I figured there’s no need.”

Tsubaki maintained her stare, before huffing as she headed in. Shouhei picked up his bag and followed the rest of us as we tagged along. Inside was nothing remarkable; it seemed like a re-purposed classroom thanks to its similar size. The tables were replaced with larger ones and only a handful of students were here. In itself, due to sitting at the end of the wing there were windows on three sides, bathing the room in afternoon daylight.

I wandered to one of the vending machines in the corner as the four settled down under one of the windows. As I picked up my melon bread, I saw Shouhei waving at me to hurry up as he dragged another chair to add to the original four. “So,” Tsubaki said as I sat down, The rest of them already pulled out their own homemade bento. Wait, homemade? “Hisao. How’s the school so far?”

I pulled open the packaging on mine. “What?”

“Mhm.” I heard Shouhei nodding in agreement, his mouth stuffed with rice. He took a moment to swallow them.

“Yeah, that,” Tsubaki said, again. She didn’t seem to want to repeat herself.

I sighed. “Well, pretty interesting so far. Like getting tackled by a girl with metal legs.”

Shouhei broke into a laughing grin. “Aside from that?”

I shrugged as I tore off a chunk. “Nothing much.”

Tsubaki raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

“Mhm.” I replied with my mouth full.

Tsubaki turned to her lunch, looking confused. “Hmm, I thought you had music club.”

“Wait hold on, how did you know?”

She snickered, and then I realized. She played me like a damn fiddle. “Heheh, knew it.”

“You’re part of the music club?” Shouhei said, surprised, before looking at his lunch. “Wait, you did mention Saki introduced you to it.”

Seeing no point in arguing over something pointless, I bowed my head with a sigh. “Yeah, I was part of it.”

“How was it?” Taichi asked. “Heard they’re rather busy these days.”

“Nothing much. Just helped around carrying stuff.”

“Thinking of joining?” Tsubaki said this time, as she brought a spoonful of rice to her mouth.

I shrugged. “Well, it’s something to do. The festival’s near and I’d rather be useful than sit around feeling useless.”

“Atta boy,” said Taichi.

“Now, my turn,” I said, putting my melon bread down. “What about you guys?”

“Astronomy club.” Tsubaki.

“Go-home club.” Chihiro.

“Go club.” Taichi.

“And music for me,” Shouhei said last, putting down his bottle after a swig.

“Go and astronomy?” I asked.

The ex-brawler nodded. “Been part of it for a while.”

“I think he’s saying that you don’t look the part,” Tsubaki commented with a snicker.

I had to suppress a laughter as Taichi replied. “I think he’s also surprised you can handle a telescope with your three fingers.”

“Hey!” She pointed at him with her fork. “At least I can pick them up. Your big fingers get in the way of picking up them Go pieces every single time I saw ya.”

He only gave a steely gaze. “Frustrated, Ms. Ishikawa?”

“Astonished, Mr. Katou.”

I swear I saw his eyebrow twitch. “You mean like how I am to you, five fingers?”

She gave him a glare and a smirk. “As always, brick wall.”

“Alright then!” Shouhei clapped his hands together. “My turn! Hisao -” he turned to me “-where are you from?”

“Yokohama. You guys?”

“Oh, I’m a local.”

“Hiroshima!” Tsubaki chimed up.

“Sapporo,” Katou.

“Same as you,” Chihiro said. “We’re practically from everywhere. No wonder you two don’t get along.”

That apparently earned Tsubaki’s wrath as she launched a tirade while Shouhei and I broke into laughter.

“Alright,” I said, after a moment to calm down. “My turn again. Why are you guys with me?”



It took me a moment before I realized I said it out loud. That question surprised them, and it took a few moments before Chihiro had to speak up. This time, her voice was for the first time as clear as day. “Ahem, Shouhei said you’re a new guy and you look like you weren’t really close with anyone yet. Tsubaki felt we should try to help out.”

Taichi laughed out loud as Tsubaki reached out to bring down a fist on her head, catching Chihiro by surprise. If this was an anime, she’d be fake crying and Tsubaki colored beet red. It wasn’t of course, but I couldn’t help but join in laughing.

“Right … Oh and uh, another quick question,” I said as Tsubaki was about to launch another tirade, pausing her.

“Fire away,” Taichi replied as he ate another mouthful.

“Never really been in this part of the school before. You guys are familiar here?”

He shrugged. “Well, my brother’s here, that’s one thing.”

“Decent guy,” Tsubaki commented, giggling.

“Other than that,” I heard Chihiro said, her volume back to a whisper. “They don’t mind us using their common room. So we’re kinda alone here. We have each other though.”

“Mhm” the other three said in unison.

I kept on biting off more of my melon bread as they resumed eating. Tsubaki suddenly spoke up to ask Shouhei about the festival and his band, to which he rubbed the back of his head, halfheartedly hiding the frustration he told me last night. Watching them converse not only from afar, but right here, was unexpectedly pleasant feeling of being at ease. What was it that made me feel right at home here with a group of strangers? The dynamic between them, the casual rivalry between Tsubaki and Taichi, the relative friendliness between old friends together for so long? I mentally tagged them with what I could approximately the old circle of friends I had back home.

Shouhei is Takumi, Tsubaki was me. Taichi is Shin, and Chihiro, Mai.

Where do I come in though? Almost everywhere I go, I felt like I shouldn’t be here. Even when a group of strangers were trying their best to help me fit in, I felt like that, a stranger. Honestly I felt bad about being here.

“Hey, Hisao?”

I snapped awake from my train of thoughts. “Uh, yes?”

“You sure you’re fine?” Tsubaki asked, concerned.

“Yeah,” Chihiro added. “That’s a lot of faces you just shown in a matter of seconds.”

“Nah nah, I’m fine.”

I’m not. But I don’t want to tell them that. Not about me feeling bad for being here. Not about my conditions. Honestly, telling them that, seeing how demanding it was to take care of it, seemed like asking them for a favor to keep a look out for me. And with so much they had done, I don’t feel like I should, even if they had been pretty friendly. But I’m aware that Tsubaki got something right when it comes to what led me here, and she’s aware that I’m aware, and she’s keeping it quiet. I finished off the melon bread before standing up. “Don’t mind me, just getting a drink.”

I left them to their own devices as I wandered over to the vending machine. Why did I not want to tell them? It’s just a favor. They went out of their way to bring me in, all because I helped Shouhei twice. Was I really that unnerved? I pushed the coin down the slot, and rang up the number.

Number.

My finger hovered over the number one on the keypad. It’s been only a day. Not even a day, a quarter of one. I’d rather hold off the decision until we both get more familiar with one another, that is if they were still willing to keep me in. Nevertheless, I felt bad for cordoning off a part of me from them. I picked up the oolong tea can, and picked off the lid. I’ll hold it off. If they want to know, then they’ll ask. Perhaps if I reveal everything to them on the first day together, they’ll lose interest, and I’ll be alone again. Not that I minded, but I could hear Mai snickering at my stupidity.

They didn’t press the matter when I waved it off. Tsubaki didn’t look like she would press it, although something was telling it’s biting her from the inside. Maybe that’s one of the unwritten rules here: don’t ask. Even if the people’s conditions were obvious, like Taichi there towering over everyone, there’s still bound to be a story involved. Everyone has things they don’t feel comfortable talking about, and I think everyone here recognized that. Hell, I have a story, and it broke my life in two.

But with what Saki mentioned yesterday, perhaps they just don’t mind. It’s nothing but a trait, after all. Just take the precautions, integrate them into their routines, and went about their merry way. Is that it?

You know, perhaps I should take some notes on them after all..

I sat back down with them and was about to take a sip when the bell rang.

“Oh, not now …” Shouhei complained irritably. “Well, time to pack up.”

The girls immediately packed up their lunchboxes quickly and quietly, while Shouhei took his time, obviously resenting the upcoming classes. Taichi, on the other hand sat there like a monk meditating, eyes closed, in complete silence. Slightly worried, I went over to poke his shoulder. “Uh, Taichi.”

“Don’t mind him,” Shouhei said offhandedly. “He needs some time to process things.”

Oh that. I shrugged and picked up my bag. The other three stood up and pushed their chairs in, leaving Taichi to his own devices. A part of me wanted to ask why, before I silenced the thought by reminding myself of my decisions and conclusions earlier about conditions in general. Perhaps something related to his. I brushed it off as I followed them back upstairs.

We fell into a similar formation, with Shouhei replacing Taichi in front of us helping Chihiro while Tsubaki and I trailed behind. It didn’t take long when we’re left alone for the awkward atmosphere to grow thicker, as we’re both reminded of the incident earlier. “Uh,” I stuttered, trying to break the ice.

“Yeah?” she asked, her side-tail swished behind her as she turned to me.

“How did you know I was in the music club?”

“Oh that?” She grinned mischievously. “I saw you leaving through the gates around the same time we’re leaving.”

“Ah.”

“Yeah. Oh, right. Hisao?”

“Hm?”

“If you’re kinda lost on what to do there, just ask to try out some things. I’m sure Mrs. Sakamoto won’t mind.”

I thought of the idea for a while. Maybe I could salvage what’s left of my guitar skills? Tuba was definitely long gone. After a moment I nodded sagely. “Perhaps.”

“Yep.” She turned ahead. “One more thing.”

“Hm?”

“It’s fine if you wanna keep it a secret,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper. “I won’t tell.”

Oh. Part of me was glad, but something didn’t sit well with me. But I didn’t want to risk it too much right now, so I just nodded. She, thankfully noticed despite staring ahead and not at me. But she continued regardless. “Just that I’m slightly worried.”

Why would you worry about me? I quickly restrained myself from snapping at her. That line. Not that line. I heard it far too often, and what followed was something I hated for so long that just the anticipation ignited a fiery anger. I quickly doused it this time. I need something else, some other subject to bury them.

“Hey, Tsubaki.”

“Hmm?” She turned back at me, curious.

“You know, I appreciated the lunchtime with you guys.”

She gave a thumbs up, or so much she could. “No problem. Wanna do it again?”

I shrugged. “I don’t mind.”

“Mhm.”

“I’ll bring my own lunch next time.”

“...mhm.”

We split off in front of their class. As I looked back as I stepped into the doorway of my own class, I saw Tsubaki chatting with some other girls from her class, and Emi was back. The two acted as if nothing had happened.

Feeling done, I entered my own classroom. The first thing I noticed was Misha and Shizune missing, one by the somewhat unfounded silence, second by their chairs still in place. Now that I remembered them mentioning student council, perhaps they were off in an administrative business? Then again, I had seen the dark-haired girl leaving class without so much a word from the instructor, so maybe it’s something to do with their own disabilities. Misha’s? Shizune doesn’t look like someone who would skip classes unless it’s something important.

The second thing I noticed was Ritsu, staring at me. But her expression, like last time, gave away nothing. When I reached my seat, she stopped elsewhere. What’s on her mind? It has been bugging me since we met yesterday evening. I was about to dare myself to turn around to take a look at her when the teacher came in to start the class. With a sigh, I pulled out my stationery.
"They say, the best way to improve yourself is to believe in who you are. You are but a blip in the lives of many you pass by, so why worry? Be yourself - life is too short to worry about the minor altercations here and there.

"So, get out there. Break the chains that holds you back - and embrace the freedom ahead of you." - me

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Talmar
Posts: 11
Joined: Mon Sep 23, 2019 8:02 pm

Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route

Post by Talmar » Sun Sep 29, 2019 5:32 pm

Scene 10: Revival

The day marched onward, and before I knew it, the bell tolled. I paid token attention to classes, and wasn’t fully aware of it until I heard the shuffling of feet and chairs being put inside. I looked outside, and still see the sun high up in the sky. Still a lot of time before going back to my room. For a moment, I considered finding Shouhei and join him wherever he’s going. He’s in the music club, so I could latch on and tag along. Bonus was Tsubaki being in the astronomy club, as well as Taichi in Go. I looked out the window again. Perhaps not. I could just head over to the music club myself.

It’s odd; at the hospital, I had 24 hours a day of free time, and the four months I spent there alone felt enough like eternity that I’m having trouble remembering what were my usual routines. But here? Here it felt considerably shorter. It definitely doesn’t help that I tended to switch to autopilot and drone over the classes. A lot of the material were stuff I already covered, and the rest were subjects I read during my time in the ward, out of boredom. And before I knew it, the class already emptied itself. I looked behind me; Ritsu was fast asleep, her head rested on her arms.

I picked up my bag, and went over to her. Should I wake her up? I felt like I should, but I don’t want to anger her or something like that.. I reached a hand to touch her light brown locks, feeling the momentary stray hairs before I was interrupted by a gruff voice behind me, making me jump. “Hisao.”

“Y-yes?!” I stood at attention, turning on my heels. It was Mutou, who decided to stay behind. How did I not notice him earlier?

“Don’t mind her. She needs it.”

“Ah …” Now I felt bad.

“As for you … “ He put his pen down. “Do you have anything to do?”

“Um, I was thinking of the music club like yesterday.”

He clacked the stack of papers against the desk twice, before putting them aside. He seemed very methodical and for a brief moment I was reminded of Shizune. He’s more unhurried and relaxed however, more of a routine than an enthusiastic challenger. “Music club?” he said, relaxed. “That’s good, finding something to do.”

“Yeah.”

“Well then.” He tipped his head towards the door. “What are you waiting for?”

I took a step for the door, but then I was reminded Ritsu’s here. For a moment I was torn between telling him that I wanted to wake her up so she doesn’t find the class empty, but then again, I did considered paying another visit to the music hall. “Uh,” was all I could muster, looking at her, the door, back at her, repeat.

Mutou noticed it, and said. “Don’t worry. I’ll be here all evening.”

I sighed. Looked like another chance to talk with Ritsu dashed. Defeated, I nodded and headed over to the door, and stepped into the hall.

As I made my way down, the thought remained in my mind. Why does he, and pretty much every other instructors and teachers, doesn’t mind her sitting listless all day? Did Ritsu do bad enough that they gave up on her? No, she doesn’t look like that kind of person, remembering how she was yesterday. If anything, she doesn’t want to talk a lot, and other people being intrusive was something of an irritation for her. But weren’t this school built for them to have a chance of a normal life, and I don’t think a failed student could accomplish that. At least, as normal as in have access to things you need without struggling with finances.

I kept stopping once in a while, indecisive on whether I should get back up and wake her up at least, or continue my way to the hall.

That says something about me. I lived pretty much on my own for most of my life, with only Takumi held close, and then with the trio in senior high. My mother and father worked all day, and usually left behind pocket money, or a meal if they had the time. But I never had to worry about finances. I didn’t, and still don’t mind the fact that they left me to raise myself if they’re the ones winning bread out there. I can understand that. Hell, Yamaku’s admission costed a hefty amount, and they still have enough to keep my personal finances afloat. That doesn’t mean I don’t mind; I do feel bad about it. But what can I do? Get a job?

Now that I thought about it, what can I do?

Who am I to lend a hand when I don’t even know how to help myself?

When I come upon the double doors of the entrance on the first floor, I stopped. I needed to get my mind out of that train of thought; less thinking on what I can do, and more thinking on what do I do. I know I can help with the festival, so that’s what I will do.

Then there’s that bugging voice at the back of my head. What’s next?

What do I do after the festival? I myself wasn’t sure. Music club is definitely a path I can take, but they seemed like they already stratified themselves into their personal bands. I would feel like an outsider annoying their routines and practices. Ask Tsubaki about the astronomy club? That’s something. I don’t mind her to be honest, and a part of me does like her without-a-care in the world attitude, but she does have an inkling about … that, and I don’t want to deal with it.

Wait, didn’t Shouhei was missing a guitarist and a drummer?

Maybe I should try that out. I don’t know if I can get it right. I mean, I did play the guitar back home, but the time in the hospital had demolished so much of my old life, maybe it also kicked out the muscle memory. But do I want to?

I recalled Shouhei’s rant last night. He does seemed desperate, and for all he had done today, perhaps I could just lend a hand. If I can get it right.

Loitering for a moment in the courtyard, my feet slowly but inexorably made my way back to the auxiliary. I don’t know. I’m not sure if I can do it. And I definitely don’t want to interrupt whatever they’re doing down there. But Tsubaki said I could just ask, they don’t mind. Who knows? I don’t. Maybe I never will, unless I actually get down there. Perhaps I should ask Mrs. Sakamoto if I can at least give it a try. I was sure as hell I hadn’t picked up the guitar since that day. If I managed to to play something, at least something, from just reading the sheets, then I’d consider myself applicable.

It isn’t going to work, so what’s the point.

And here comes that voice again. I tried my best to shut it up. Here’s a chance to replay Shouhei for lunchtime with me, if I can actually do it, and I don’t want to have second thoughts.

If you’re gonna get your hopes up, you’ll be disappointed. Like that time everyone leaves you.

Shut up. Inhale, exhale. Calm down, and keep moving on.

Suit yourself. Don’t come back crying.

I wasted some time hesitating at every step down the stairs. The people wandering around almost seemed to have concluded me as a nutcase, stopping every few steps. Nonetheless, I bit my lips and push. I need something to do, and this is one of them. As I turned around a corner, I ran into Saki and a group of girls. “Oh hi,” she said, surprised to see me. “Was about to head out. What are you doing here?”

“Uh …” I wasn’t sure on what to say. Thankfully she noticed and continued.

“Well, if there’s something to ask, then I can help.”

I took a deep breath. “Is Mrs. Sakamoto in there?”

She nodded, before tilting her head, confused. “Yes, she’s in. Why?”

I scratched my head. “Not sure. Just had an idea about something”

One of the girls behind Saki whispered something in her ear, and she nodded. “Well, we’re a bit busy, so I can’t help you directly …”

“It’s fine! It’s fine, I can handle it.”

“Good!” She smiled brightly. “Well, good luck!” With that, they went up the stairs and out of my sight.

I bit my lip. Well, I was uncertain back then, and I’m uncertain even more now. I took another deep breath and kept moving. I’m here already, might as well try. Arriving at the double doors, I knocked. I heard somebody inside telling me to come in, and figured, why not, and complied.

Mrs. Sakamoto was sitting at her desk, and there were lesser students here, probably to help out with the stage. Around her was similarly lesser in retinue compared to yesterday, down to just one. It was a girl with long black hair, and a white oval glasses. She’s holding a thick folder in her hands, and for a moment I thought she exuded the same air as Saki, the first time I met her at least. Purposeful.

Mrs. Sakamoto pulled me back to reality. “Oh, Hisao. What is it?”

Inwardly I thanked the missing students for being absent, because if this failed, I might as well gambled with my standing here. “Miss, I need to ask you something.”

“Well, go on.”

I looked around the hall. The few who were here were busy wiping down their instruments, or reading some musical sheets and other papers. Further to the back, there were racks along the wall, holding on to a variety of instruments. Scanning each one of them, I spotted my quarry; a guitar at the furthest wall, red in color. “Can I try out the guitar, once?”

For the briefest moment the glasses girl’s eyes lit up, before reverting back. Mrs. Sakamoto on the other hand, looked at the girl before nodding. “Sure. You need something to play?”

“Play?”

“A song, maybe.”

Oh right. I considered it. Smaller than usual audience, a song and tab attached. Enough, and any more will toss the balance back to retreat. I bit my lower lip and nodded as I headed over to the back to pick up the red guitar. “Sure.”

The weight of the guitar felt familiar in my hands, but not quite. My own was considerably lighter. Looking closer, somebody probably had chosen this for the cliched fire pattern along the lower body of the guitar, but it works for me. Hoisted the belt over my shoulder, I tried my fingers over the strings. D chord, C chord. E-minor. Seemed to be a steel guitar, with the strings sounding slightly different to my own nylon back home.

Everything seemed to be in order.

I looked back, and apparently testing the strings had garnered some attention from the students here, staring at me curiously. “Well …” I was about to say, when the glasses girl headed over to drag a stool to the front center, and a musical sheet stand in front of it. Oh dear, they’re going full throttle with this. “Uh.”

“Oh this?” she asked, noticing me staring. “Don’t mind it, I’m just setting it up.”

I scratched the top of my head. I really don’t want to make it seem like an impromptu performance, but at the same time, I have other ideas and one could also label my idea as an impromptu performance. Just hand me a couple of tabs on a table and I’ll just read off of it. The stand and stool was unnecessary. But I couldn’t say no. Reluctantly, I headed over to sit on the stool, and read a couple of pages of the given piece.

Stand by Me, Songbird. Pretty basic stuff, huh. I flipped some pages to the intermediate difficulty section. Stairway to Heaven, Good Riddance. English songs, all of them.

I looked back at the girl, who was standing there looking at me without so much an expression other than her friendly smile. I gulped, going back to Stand by Me. First time in a long time here; well, here goes nothing.

It started slowly at first, as I blundered to find my tune. In my memory Stand by Me was a fairly simple song, back when I first started it; took me a couple of nights reading up on how to play the chords, but afterwards its all by memory. Here, trying to dig that muscle memory back up was tough. But for a time, as if trying to awaken an aging machine long been in disuse, I found my beat, and then lost it after a chord changed patterns.

It frustrated me for a moment. I wanted to blame the song for changing the patterns out of nowhere, but I know I can’t. Not with the girl standing by my side. After a few discordant out of tune chords, I put the guitar pick on the stand, and took a deep breath. Calm down, I told myself, I’m just out of tune.

“Need help?”

The girl’s question brought me back to reality. She looked a bit concerned, but still maintaining the friendly smile. I shook my head. “I’m fine, just trying some things.”

Alright. Three mutes, ring on the thickest, middle on the second thickest, replace with the ring, and tap. Ring on the string, let it ring. Okay, I’m getting it, remembering the numbers, chords, where my fingers go on the tab. 1 is the index, 2 the middle, 3 ring, 4 pinkie. X on the tab is mute. Slowly but surely I found my way of reading the actual tabs, and I proceeded to play the rest of the song.

It was a strange feeling, sort of regaining something I had lost for a long time, but feeling it again for the first time all over again. Was that what they mean by reliving their first times? The flow, it came naturally as I strummed on to the song. At one point, I closed my eyes and let my fingers do the job. I was anxious to see if I’ll mess up, but the muscle memory came back, and I strummed on, tapping my feet to the chords while strumming on without the tab to look to.

It felt … liberating.

No sooner than it started, the song ended. Returning back to reality, the girl standing beside me was agape, almost surprised. Realizing I was staring, I looked away as she turned back to the teacher. “Uh, Mrs. Sakamoto,” she asked, “He’s new right?”

I looked at the teacher, who was also surprised. “Yeah.” She turned to me. “Hisao, correct?”

I nodded.

“Want to give some of the harder songs a try?”

I considered it. Things were coming back, and while I’m here, why not. I nodded. “Sure.” I flipped some pages through the tab sheets, now realizing it was a full book, to the page I looked before. “Stairway to Heaven?”

“Go on.”

The girl had gone back to the teacher’s side, holding on to the folder in her arms tightly. I took a moment to read the tab; ambidextrous. This will be a bit tougher. Finding a place for my other hand on the neck of the guitar, I started playing the song. The slightly more rapid pace of the song took em some time to play out, and I stumbled over a few chords, forcing me back to the start. Granted most mistakes were near the start, I didn’t mind. Like last time, I pushed on, picking away at the chords until the shovel became a drill, then a tunnel bore, plowing through the song as smoothly as I could.

If I could rate myself back then as I am now, I would probably give old me a 7 out of 10.

Once I was done, I put the guitar down on a stand beside me. “Well …” I started saying, before realizing I had no idea what to say now that I’m done. “Uh.”

Awkward.

I looked around, and it turned out most of the other students had mostly stopped whatever they were doing and looking at me. I lightly scratched the back of my head, unsure on what to do. “Well … thanks,” I said, turning back to Mrs. Sakamoto. “I just thought I wanted to give it a try …”

“Hisao.”

“Hmm?” It was the girl speaking. “What is it?”

“Just wondering. Why are you here instead of the stage?”

“Ah.” I rubbed the back of my head and gave an uncertain. “Well, not sure if I’m fit for that. And I heard a friend of mine really needed a guitarist in his band, so I thought maybe I should give it a try since its … been a long time since I last played.”

“Ah.” The girl tilted her head. “Is your friend by any chance Shouhei?”

Wait, she knew? “Um, yeah, actually. How did you know?”

She put down the folder. “I’m Mao. Mao Yukimura. 3-4. I’m the bassist in his band.”

Mao? Wait, the same Mao he mentioned yesterday? I honestly thought it was a guy, by the sound of the name. I was honestly surprised. Thankfully she picked up where she left off. “And, now that you’re here, want to take the job?”

“Ah. Hmm.” I put my feet on the adjustment ring under the seat. Should I? I mean, I just played two songs on the guitar, and I have no idea what will be the actual song they’re planning on playing. I noticed the other students were still watching me. “Uh, hey, don’t let me interrupt you guys,” I said, trying to change the subject.

“Hi-sa-o.”

I winced. There was only one time someone spelled out my name like that, and it was when I accidentally shattered my mom’s bedroom mirror and she came back to see the mess while I hid in the cupboard. “Uh, yes?” I asked anxiously, the girl now giving me a sterner stare.

“I mean …” I’m still not wholly on board with the idea. Do I want to get involved with a band again? I mean, last time had been a good run, and I have experience. In fact, it was one of the more brighter spots in my teenage life. But … I can’t find much of a counterargument. Tsubaki’s astronomy club seemed like a far offer now, and I don’t want to deal with her prodding into my stuff. Shouhei had been a nice friend so far, if a bit aloof, and he went out of his way to drag me to lunch with his own friends, because he cared. It’s not often I found someone who cared enough about me, and not too much to intervene in my affairs.

But I’m still uncertain.

“Y’know, I’m not really certain. Just came here because I can’t do the stage and heard about the missing guitarist spot.”

She sighed. “Well, we really need a proper guitarist here, and you’re the only we’ve found that fit the bill.”

“I mean, seriously? In the whole school, only I fit?”

She nodded sternly. “Yamaku’s Senior High section isn’t that big, 200 at most.”

I furrowed my brows in irritation. “I don’t know, really.”

“What about,” Mrs. Sakamoto intervened. “You join the band for the performance in the festival. And after that you decide if you want to stay or not.”

“Well. That sounds like a good idea.” I turned the stool to face them, hands on my seat.

“Great!” She turned back to Mao. “Now go on, show him what needs to be done.”

Mao seemed reluctant, then irritated, before letting out a sigh of relent. “Alright,” she said, picking up the folder and started walking toward the door. She noticed me not following, and turned around. “Well? Come on, then.”

I hurried up to follow her into the hallway, and we made our way upstairs to the top floor. All the while she maintained a composed atmosphere, silent and graceful. But I thought I somehow irritated her in some way. Was it the indecisiveness? Or just desperation, since she’s also in the band and probably the two of them were hard-pressed to find someone to replace their lost crew in such a short amount of time left. Nevertheless, she might be trying hard to keep the irritation suppressed, but I could tell, almost like a beautiful porcelain vase that has a small leak somewhere.

I was considering apologizing her for being indecisive and coming to report about my apparently still living guitar skills only three days in. But then again, that doesn’t sound nice, does it. If anything, I had no idea they needed a guitar player, and I came here by sheer luck of having an interest early on, purely out of boredom and need to do something. If anything, I could have gone upstairs and asked Tsubaki about her astronomy club. That was a likely choice at one point. Instead, I just shut up, hoisted my bag over my shoulder any time it slipped down as we walked up the stairs, and followed her to a rather out-of-the-way corner of the auxiliary.

In the middle of the third floor, she led me to another set of staircases that I forgot to notice in my first exploratory excursion. In this unexpected fourth floor, it wasn’t so much another hallway than just a bud, a half-hearted attempt at making use of the attic equivalent of a classroom annex. But here the small corridor led to three doors, and to the left was labeled in old marker pen, “Music Club Property - Backroad Burners”. Backroad Burners? Was that the name of their band? She knocked on the door, and I could hear the muffled reply in a voice I somewhat recognized. “Come in!”

It didn’t look like Mao heard it. After a moment of deliberation, I sighed and pushed the door open, to her surprise. Inside was something of a mess of stuff; right beside the door was a stack of boxes with various labels tacked on them. At the far corner, was a massive yellow drum set, complete with cymbals and their own boom stands. And the entire thing was surrounded by two musical sheet stands, with a box sitting besides it under a window. I noticed it was the same box as the one Shouhei carried the first day I was here.

And in the middle of it all was a primitive simple table made of a series of planks and plywood put on top of a bunch of boxes. Paper lain strewn all over the table, held down by rulers and other sort of extended stationery as a tall fan sat beside it, silently spinning despite the clear of anyone in here. Where’s Shouhei? Or at least I assumed the voice was his, since he would come here for club anyway.

“Ugh,” I heard Mao grunt, pinching her forehead. “I told him to clean up, and where is h--”

“I’m here!” the first voice called out, its owner bursting out from behind a corner. As expected, it was Shouhei, and he was surprised to see me here. “What the - Hisao? Why are you here?”

I was about to answer, albeit uncertainty, when Mao spoke up, putting her folder on the rudimentary table. “He came to the music hall asking to try out the guitar. To my surprise, he’s pretty good at it, so I offered him a place here as a new guitarist.”

“Well, actual--” I tried to say, but I was interrupted by a loud cheer.

“YES! Finally! And it’s you of all people, buddy!” He reached out to hug me, to which I just relented. To be fair, I did come here to help him in some way. After a moment, he let go, and realized the state of the environment around him. “Well, huh. You came at a bit of a tight time here.”

“Wrong time,” Mao commented, a hand on the folder on the table, as she stared at us both as if we’re misbehaving students and she’s a stern teacher. “And we’re running out of it.” She went and rummaged through a box of folders as Shouhei sneaked back to whatever was there behind the corner. “Hisao, we’re going to sing this song for the festival,” she said, handing me a couple of sheets. It’s a tab on a song called Sunset. Theirs? “Practice once you get back. You have a guitar in your room?”

I shook my head. “No, I left mine back in Tokyo.”

She furrowed her brows at me. “Really? Well, we’ll make do. Before you get back, ask Mrs. Sakamoto to borrow the red guitar you played earlier. It’s no one’s and had been sitting there for a while. Tune it correctly and do the maintenance. The materials should be there as well.”

Okay. She seemed really strict for an introduction, but I can see why. Shouhei on the other hand was nowhere to be seen. “As for you Shou --” she started saying as she turned around, finding him gone. “Where did he go?”

I pointed to the corner. She rolled her eyes and went over. Some moment to ponder at long last, I was about to reach for one of the stools by the table when I heard boxes crashing down. Alerted I dropped my bag and rushed over, only to find there’s a door leading to a store room around the corner. Mao was standing in the middle of a mess of paraphernalia, covered in dust, and Shouhei looked like he stared at death itself.

It didn’t take long for her to explode into a massive tantrum.
"They say, the best way to improve yourself is to believe in who you are. You are but a blip in the lives of many you pass by, so why worry? Be yourself - life is too short to worry about the minor altercations here and there.

"So, get out there. Break the chains that holds you back - and embrace the freedom ahead of you." - me

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Mirage_GSM
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Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route

Post by Mirage_GSM » Tue Oct 01, 2019 12:30 pm

Hello and welcome to the forums!
Always nice to see a new face, and it would really be nice to have a complete Ritsu route.

A couple of things about your story as far as I've read it by now:
First of all for the first couple of chapters you didn't as much "rewrite" Act 1 as you took the text and changed some minor stuff. I admit I only skimmed over those chapters because 90% of the text was what I already know and I didn't want to read it all again for the remaining 10%. It gets better once Hisao gets to the music club.
Another thing are the tenses. You write primarily in past tense - which is okay if uncommon for routes here. However time and again you have single sentences or even sentence fragments in present tense (especially in the bits that are not taken verbatim from the VN) which makes reading a bit hard. Personally I think a present tense story should be a bit easier to keep consistent if you are having problems with English grammar, but I understand if you want to continue the way you started. Just try to keep it consistent.
A good thing is the inclusion of secondary characters. Extra points if at least some of them are going to be male...
Some more specific things:
- Hisao mentioned playing the guitar when he introduced himself, but later in the music club it was suddenly the tuba...
- Hisao used the train and THEN his parents drove him the rest of the way? Why not drive him the whole way if they come to Yamaku anyway?
- Doing his laundry on the second day already?
- If Shouhei came "in April" that would be about two months - which technically is less than a year but still a strange way to put it.

So far I'm at scene 8. I'll comment again once I'm caught up.
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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

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Feurox
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Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route

Post by Feurox » Tue Oct 01, 2019 5:47 pm

Okay. So, before anything else, welcome to the Renai. I know you've been working on this for a while from your comments on the discord. Still, I think it's a good idea to go over the usual warnings I post for anyone attempting a route. It's not something to be undertaken lightly. Pacing will always have to be in your mind, as a rule of thumb, I'd recommend cementing your style of writing with a few one-shots. It really is worth the time, and it helps people get an impression of what you're going to be in for. There are authors on this forum, like Scroff for example, who have written a collection of short stories, and have thus built up enough good faith with me to know that should he start a longer project, he'll likely finish it. Plus, I know what to expect to some degree.

I'd recommend checking out the tips for fanfiction writers post, it's pinned at the top of the forum board. Furthermore, as said in Discord. Get a proofreader. 90% of your problems are coming from inconsistent tenses, poor grammar, poor word choice and otherwise missing words. I want you to look at this section from Scene 6, and tell me if you think it sounds good:

Not that I minded; he quickly got the class back on track, and I pushed the notion for a later date. All I got in mind was checking out the clubs section of the auxiliary building as Shizune said there were, curious as to where exactly. Since yesterday, I hadn’t seen anyone coming out of the doors I exited from
It should read:

Not that I minded, he quickly got the class back on track, and I pushed my thoughts away for later. All I had in mind was the elusive clubs section of the auxiliary building. Shizune said they existed, but I was curious as to where exactly. Since visiting the building, the day before, I hadn’t seen anyone enter or exit.
That’s not a perfect fix, but the initial one is just so hard to decipher that I’m afraid I can’t do better in a hurry. You really need a proofreader. Work up the nerve to ask for one. I’m not trying to be harsh, but a lot of sentences read like this.

Last tip. Have a few posts in the bank for later use. You could have done with easing on the trigger here, because as it stands, you've posted a lot, and much of it needs work - that's not a brilliant start for a route writer. I know, I've been there too, so trust me when I say you've made a problem for yourself. In future, ease off the gas, and take some time to wait for feedback (ideally from your proofreader), but also, write for you - not as service to someone else. Are you proud of this work? That should be your main question. Does it tell a story you wanted to tell? (Another problem with starting with a route, it's a long haul, so the didactic message is far away /always present).

Disregarding the problems with tenses, grammar, and some really damn awkward sentence structure. This story is rough around the edges. Hisao seems to lack a personality, (yes, in the VN, he's a shape to fill a lack), but you've prefaced this story with an intention to:
So here I intended to pull him back a bit. By a bit, I meant the stage of depression he's in at the start.
You haven't done this so far. I can't really see any difference between this Hisao, and the Hisao of the first act of the VN. The reason I find this who scenario curious, is because the first four scenes seem unnecessary – nothing really happens. By the time I actually started to find things interesting, we were well into scene 6. Even then, I’m not sure what’s exactly going on – Hisao stumbles into an orchestral practise, and meets Saki. He tells her of his Tuba practising days, (okay, but you mentioned earlier he played guitar, which is it?) and yet, he ends up settling to help out with manual labour. Something your Hisao has specifically been instructed to be careful of by Nurse.

By scene 7, Hisao’s internal monologue is becoming to become very redundant. ‘Iwanako ruined my life, but wait, she didn’t really’. It’s not an enjoyable read, but I can at least begin to see you’re trying to change things somewhat. What really saves the scene, is that the conversation (or lack thereof) between Ritsu and Hisao, is quite organic. Before I continue, here’s another example of where you really need to get a proofreader, or just read through this a few times carefully:
Ritsu’s a good few centimeters tall


I should hope so!

Anyway. The intrigue of Hisao feels quite natural. The awkward fumbling for what to say, two people who don’t know what to say one-another, it’s done well. Ritsu even comes across as quite interesting, why do people look at her that way in the cafeteria? I like the scene of them walking back in silence, shame we didn’t learn more about her. It’s taken way too long to get here with her. Also, in this chapter, one I just had to point out:
“Before I could come up with a proper reply, his washing machine beeped, and he stood up to empty it. “Well, here’s your turn,” he said, both his hands carrying the basket and the book sitting in it. “Thanks though, I really needed that vent.”
This first [“] make it seem like the next line is spoken dialogue. How did so many mistakes slip through the cracks? It really saps the readability. I’m sorry to harp on this, but uploading so much, with so much needing to be fixed, it really hurt the reception of this story.

Some good news is, you have some interesting premises – some of your original characters are quite fascinating, and as I said, Ritsu is pretty interesting too.

Back again, (had to have a little break from reading, lots of content.) Here in Scene 9:
“Did you actually went down to the auxiliary?”
And I’ve finished it. For how much you’ve uploaded, there’s a distinct lack of Ritsu. That would be fine normally, but the problems with grammar and spag make it quite hard to get this far. I would, however, say, that the scene with Ritsu, is really quite well done and I look forward to more of that. All in all, this needs some work.

Also, have some patience – a lot of these mistakes feel like you haven’t re-read this story. Take some time, re-read, and don’t lose faith.

I hope this has been helpful.

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Talmar
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Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route

Post by Talmar » Wed Oct 02, 2019 6:32 am

First of all, thank you for coming by!

Mirage:

I must admit I did exaggerated some details, with the largest changes being the replacing scenes that make up the precursor of this route's main body, and as for the rest, merely changing the format from VN narration to novel form. Or at least that's how I planned it to be, until I found out that the Renai didn't allow indents. A bit of an irritation, but something I felt like I could do without, despite the thematic impact they do. But yes, I am well aware that there are inconsistencies with the grammar and tenses; I preferred past tense due to experience, and doing the story in a present did not really allow me to plunge in and explore. Some limitations of mine.

Oh and there is a secondary character. Two in fact, and one of them is a guy. Just keep reading.

As for the other points, they would be explained as the story goes on. Just, bear with me. Reading the advices here, including the dissuasion of large info-dumps, I feel like I should expose the background as the story allows it, not with a dedicated chapter. So, yes, it will be explained further on. On a final note, it's a tic of his.

Feurox:

Thanks for welcoming me! I'll try to parse through all those.

I know and is well-aware of the scope of the project, especially so when its the very first work I'm doing in a forum I am completely new in. Nobody has any expectations of me, and there are probably some past events that can sour that even more, I presume. But you did raise good points: perhaps I should do some one-shots first, so you all could establish some things as to what to expect from me. ProfAllister presented with the Goodwill Theory a few days back to me and Dack, and I feel like I skipped some important steps. But if I were to start writing one-shots, should I stall this in the meantime? I feel like I'm more geared for long-term projects, and a lot of one-shots I had done in practice were things that I more often than not kept linking them all into a sort of a Frankenstein monster that deserved to be thrown into the deepest pit in the Eye of Terror thanks to my tendency to worldbuilding and constructing a unified fictional universe. A lot of my other stories were long-term projects and I feel like I'm more than well-prepared for a long story. But I could give it a try. I'm not sure if I should.

The second point is about the proofreaders. I must admit, I have some problems when it comes to asking people to help me. No, not out of pride or anything; it's just that I don't want to intervene in other people's routine, you know? I know you all are busy people, and I am a busy man myself at times, so I understand the mentality. If I were working on something and someone came up asking me to check his work, I would feel somewhat irritated that I had to hold off on my own work to help him. I would help him nonetheless, but the consequences of delaying my own work would be things I had not planned for and cause further irritations later on. So, yeah. But I'll try to ask my closer acquaintances.

Confidence.

Believe it or not, I actually had stopped writing this, opened a new document, and rewrite it as I read through, because the errors and holes kept piling up so high that I can't proceed. I had done this twice over the summer vacation. It's irritating to say the least, and demoralizing at most; I wasted three weeks on it, one week on the first rewrite, two weeks on the second. And still the errors pile up and continue to plague me. I will try to find a proofreader, one way or another.

As for Ritsu's first introduction in Scene 7, I should give the thanks to a friend of mine, who offered to play the role of Ritsu and use his depressed mentality to help me. Somewhat cruel, but he did appreciate being helpful to someone at least. He did mention that if someone like Hisao came up and start asking him about stuff after having a bad day, even he too would be irritated enough to refuse to talk. Ritsu's depression plays a large role in the early chapter, I can tell you as much. Just, bear with me. You'll find out why she's so reclusive.

As for the final point, I am well and fully aware about my mistake in posting all 10 scenes in one go. Somebody told me that I should go and do that, since I had done them all, and if this pseudo-route crashed because of him exploiting my anxiety of posting my work in public for the first time ever and my own naivety, I will personally go on a manhunt and have his head as a replacement trophy. I already forgot who it is, but I will find him. And I will give him hell. I initially had planned to just post Scene 0, and was pondering on combining Scene 1 and 2 into one post due to how short they were, and he suggested I should push a little further and post everything. But yeah. Mistakes are made, and I can't exactly take it back. To make matters worse, Scene 11 is a chapter I am stuck in, so the next update will be a bit of a while later as I find my way through and find proofreaders and all that. Not a good start, I must agree.

All in all, thanks for reading my work and offering criticisms and corrections. I highly appreciate it.
"They say, the best way to improve yourself is to believe in who you are. You are but a blip in the lives of many you pass by, so why worry? Be yourself - life is too short to worry about the minor altercations here and there.

"So, get out there. Break the chains that holds you back - and embrace the freedom ahead of you." - me

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Mirage_GSM
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Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route

Post by Mirage_GSM » Wed Oct 02, 2019 11:34 am

Well, it IS easier to keep up with a story if it is posted in small chunks, and it is also easier for the writer to have a bit of a buffer to be able to react to feedback, but it's not as if the story gets inherently worse by posting it all in one.
In fact once you get past the part that is mostly copied from the VN the story itself improves a lot. Charactrization, dialogues, scene direction - everything is good if not excellent...
Except for the grammar as mentioned before.
So if you are looking for a proofreader, I think I can still fit you into my schedule :-)
If you're interested just drop me a PM, and we'll work something out.
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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

ProfAllister
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Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route

Post by ProfAllister » Wed Oct 02, 2019 8:33 pm

All in all, it's a decent start, considering.

I'm going to second most of the comments from Mirage and Feurox.

Particularly, asking everyone to reread an act 1 that they're likely pretty intimately familiar with is a pretty hard sell. Even worse, the first few scenes are 90% the original text with added misspellings and awkward phrasings. Things get *significantly* less rocky once you start doing your own thing, but failure to grab your readers early can be fatal.

The spelling and grammar issues are so pervasive that they're pretty distracting. It reads to me like English isn't your first language - which is perfectly okay, but a strong incentive to get your work proofread by a native speaker.

Aside from the stylistic concerns, a couple significant plot issues reared their heads:

Why wasn't Hisao able to play his guitar in the hospital? You don't really give any explanation for that.

Shouhei says he arrived in April, and been there less than a year, but then mentions an incident in May, and, later, in April. Some wires clearly got crossed.


You've got something good here; it just needs another coat of polish before it's really ready for prime time.
Current Project: Misha Pseudo-Route

Discord ID: ProfAllister#9754

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