Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route (Properly)

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Talmar
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Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route (Properly)

Post by Talmar » Wed Nov 13, 2019 10:58 am

Okay, uh, first things first.

You might notice that there's two threads with the same title, and the same subtitle. By God I hate my past self for being so naive. It's essentially the same story, just with the corrections and proofreading done, and most importantly, ONE CHAPTER AT A GODDAMNED TIME. God, why did I trust that bastard who told me to just dump the entire thing in a massive sequence of chapters, limiting any form of response to each, and making it tedious to anyone who hadn't read it, which was literally everyone. I HATE my past self for being so naive. Second, I'll compile all the close parallels into two post, the prologue belonging here, so if anyone wants to skip them, they can do so with ease.

I must thank Feurox, Mirage, ProfAllister, and many others for helping me get here. Along with all their lectures, which is understandable. I can be dumb sometimes.

Here's the link to the old one, for posterity: Obsolete

Third, okay, proper introductions to anyone who hadn't found this yet. For those who had, skip down to the table of contents.

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 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 -
5: Smalltalk -
6: Tryout -
7: Short Trip -
8: Lunch Evolution Theory -
9: Intermission -
10: Revival -
11: Downtown Dinnertime -
12: Twilit Philosophy
13: Morning Blues

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 this thing for a long time. The doctors said it is a syndrome that had developed in me for a very long time, probably since I was born. That thing I had was the tinder, the heart attack was the spark, and now the ash is the arrhythmia, and 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 guess it was supposed to make me feel better, more appreciative of my life.

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

It felt like my parents were hit harder by the news than I was. They practically had two hemorrhages apiece. I had already had a full day to digest everything, but to them, it was all fresh. They were even willing to sell our house if that could pay for a cure.

Of course there were none to be had.

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 down 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 anything like it.

By the end of the first month, I barely had any visitors. Only my parents and Iwanako came by on a regular basis.

And after six weeks, she too was gone. I never saw her again afterwards, but at that point, I honestly don’t care. 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 felt guilty for causing it, but at the time, I didn’t really care.

I had lost everything in my life at that moment. In a simple bet to see what she was up to with that note, everything was torn away from me.

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 as it slowly change appearances over time.

In the months afterwards, I asked the head cardiologist about leaving every time he came, but at the time my expectations had sunk low enough that I wasn't really disappointed when I don't get an answer, or a reply. It didn't take long for the visits afterwards that he started shuffling around the answer, as if to shed light of some distant hope. Somewhere along the way, he must have had picked up I lost it already.

Eventually I just stopped asking.

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 wasn’t an option. Left with nothing else, I started reading instead. There was a small … library, for lack 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 had gotten addicted. Just like the first few days without my guitar, I felt naked without having a book in hand. But it helped. It helped put 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 escape 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.

***

After what felt like an eternity, the head cardiologist came in and gave me a smile. He seemed excited, but not quite, as if he was trying to put on some effort to look happy. Behind him were my parents, tagging along. It had been a couple of days since I had last seen them. Both of them were even dressed up, even more so than their usual suits and ties. I felt uneasy at the whole thing.

The ritual the head cardiologist doesn't put help either. He stood next to me, taking his time sorting his papers on the meal table next to me, and then set them aside as if to make a point on the pointlessness of his actions. At this point he usually ask the same question he always did. However, now, he dragged a chair over and sat down next to me. "Hello, Hisao," he said, clear and concise as usual. "How are you today?"

And like a ritual, I didn’t answer him, replying only with whatever smile I could muster back at him. This time however, the break in his ritual added more to the unease. And the fact he skipped the routine "progress" report, something that I listened with my right ear, and let escape through my life, made me shift. He cleared his throat, and started speaking. "I believe you can go home now," he said. "Your heart is stronger now, and with some precautions, you should be fine. We have your medication sorted out. I'll give your father the prescription."

The doctor then pulled out one sheet of paper from the pile by his side, and handed it over to my father. His expression turned wooden almost immediately, and the only words to come out 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, I thought; the side effects, the adverse effects, contraindications, and dosages were listed line after line with cold precision. I tried to read them all, but it was futile, alien. I couldn't understand a single part, and attempting to only made me felt sicker.

All of 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, drawing our attention. "However, new medications are always being developed, so I wouldn't be surprised to see that list fade over the years."

He said years. What kind of a confidence booster was that? I wanted to get off the bed 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 take hold of me, he continued. "Also, I've spoken with your parents, and we believe 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?' I wanted to snap back. 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? That's who I am now?' The word disabled felt alien. 'Is that who I am now?' I wanted to ask. But he kept on marching. “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 had forgotten 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 scowled at him. Who was he to decide if I liked something when he was never at home except at night? But I couldn’t keep up the scowl for long, knowing my predicament. My shoulders fell and I stared back at the blanket lain on my legs. It really looked like I didn’t have a choice.

“Compared to other heart problems,” the doctor spoke 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 …”

It's a special school, I completed in my head. 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 speak 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 do about it? A “normal” life was out of the question now.

I wanted to protest. I wanted to blame my lack of reaction on shock, or fatigue. I could have easily yelled out something - anything 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 were 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 knew, especially after how my old world left me be. At least I still have something; even if it was a “special school,” it’s something. It was a fresh start, and my life wasn’t over just yet. However, no matter how much I tried to focus on the positive end of things, I just couldn’t. I built so much on the other side that I found it hard to let go.

But at the very least, I had to try, to see what this place was like. Perhaps if I try to petition to come back, they’ll listen. Or maybe not. If so, then I’ll find a way myself.
Last edited by Talmar on Fri Dec 06, 2019 12:35 pm, edited 1 time 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
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Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route (Properly)

Post by Talmar » Mon Dec 02, 2019 2:45 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 not.

Of course, I didn’t want to get stuck on thinking about the gate for too long. The sun was already high above my head, heating up the air in its early summer blaze. Trying to find shelter, I entered through the gate at 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 at my own pace and will in general felt good.

I pressed on.

I’m alone, as my parents took my stuff to the dormitories in the meantime, 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 light brown dirt walkways going past the trees, wide enough to fit a car. I stood at a 4 way intersection. Above were the shades of evergreen trees, and all around me was the smell of fresh-cut grass. Come to think of it, it’s been a while since I’ve walked around outside.

The front of the building up ahead, I presumed, is this Yamaku Academy they talked about. It 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, 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, 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 wasn’t this large, and what did the doctor say about how many students studied here? 200 or so? It’s an uncanny valley. It has the looks of a school, but the numbers didn’t match. 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 which, two hundred students and not a soul to be seen. 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 hospital again, how they say operating rooms are painted green because green is a calming color. With that single reminder, all the joy I felt 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. I could’ve run, but God knows what that will do. They said running will demolish any chance of surviving with this condition. Or so I thought I heard. I didn’t listen to their lectures that well after the debrief that day. Regardless, it’s not like I wanted to dwell on the idea. It’s a hefty distance from anywhere I could go; had to take the Shinkansen bullet train 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 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, like an anorexic man attempting to fit in. 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 rather than delay it for another day. If anything, I should be the one to give the first impression of myself. I made an effort to follow behind the teacher, and quietly pondered on what first impression I wanted to make exactly.


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, but polite, word, like the girl in front of me seemingly missing an entire hand. It’s jarring to say the least.

I heard Mutou clear 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 hair 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 muted yellow hairband, looking out at the window. She didn’t seem to be paying any attention to the class, let alone me.

Not that I minded. It’s nice for a change that I wasn’t being treated like a test subject, or a statue to wish well to.

“...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 to say next.

“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 going on about something, about getting along, while letting me continue looking around. Everyone seemed to be listening to him intently, apart from the sign language girls, and when he’s done, they clapped 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 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 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 seems 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. However, I was reluctant and unwilling to keep it up. 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. 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 to come along, 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
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Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route (Properly)

Post by Talmar » Fri Dec 06, 2019 12:32 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 in contrast to the 1800s exterior. Windows as tall as the ceilings flank the mess hall. To my left was the walkway earlier. To my right they provided a view 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 live here.

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

Her excessive 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 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 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 business in this lunch period. My attention however was focused on 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 for a moment how I forgot, but was pulled back when I heard Misha clearing her throat to get my attention. “What are the clubs here?”

Misha blinked, before looking at me worriedly. Something told me that she wasn’t expecting that. 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 usually were joking around though. I got to be the guitarist, spending a lot of time looking up 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, mixing it 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 sideways 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, causing her to shrink 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 if I was 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; reminded me too much that I have this affliction, and that it’s staying.

Perhaps reviving something from my past would help pass the time a bit, and with it some of my old stamina.

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 your 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 guess 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 of why I’m here.

Nobody really stopped me to ask what I’m doing, so I marched in. As I explored my way 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 waste paper. 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 stop myself 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 groups? 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 have 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 as the doses said you should. The effects of missing them is less than pleasant. 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 would 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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