Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route (Properly)

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

Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route (Properly)

Post by Talmar » Thu Jun 11, 2020 11:52 pm

Thank you for dropping by and bumping up SD, you two! Now, to address the issues while Scene 7 is currently undergoing proofreading...
You have a very different take on Hisao. In the game he felt more depressed and bitter, but here he seems just straight up pissed off at the world. It's not a bad take, it just feels off from the Hisao we know. I suppose we can chalk that up to him actually having a friend that stuck around and "rubbing it in" rather than him just being left to his own devises to sulk like in the game. Either way, it does have the effect of making him come across as less likable.
You caught me at just before Scene 7, which is where he should appear more similar, if just as awkward, to canon!Hisao. At least, I believe it is. My friend who's doing content proofreading for that chapter is not particularly done yet, and he's having real life issues so I'm not going to press it. Sorry for the late upload though, but I'm not one to make people do things when its not out of their own volition.

And no, I'm not changing the plotline for the sake of keeping in line with the canon. It is just by coincidence that you stated your comment on this issue just before the scene where he would seem a lot less hateful and more wanting to seize control of his life again, albeit with difficulty. At least, that's the impression I'm hoping to achieve; I might be mistaken again, which is ... understandable to be honest, hahaha. I get things wrong often, and any criticism is highly appreciated, since they're ways for me to perfect myself and fix things.
(Adding playing guitar to his hobbies seems like a cheap way to get him involved with the story faster.)
Ah, this is wholly on me, hahaha. Whenever I read stuff about Hisao, I always felt like, "Dude, don't you have any sort of passion for anything, at all? Any sort of history? Like, fuck man, you're boring." I know, he has interest in physics, but ... that's it? He doesn't strike me as an academic, so that interest kinda got downplayed a lot. So I added a bit more to his background, just like how I added more to his friendships before the whole heart attack ruined it all. Yes, I know, in the gaming perspective, the fact he's a blank slate helps with the audience insert so they can feel more in line with Hisao and his actions, but I must admit, it always irked me a bit. Also, him playing the guitar doesn't really interrupt with the other canon routes in the game, so I bet its a non-harmful addition - like how he always end up in KS, he moves on from his past life. That could mean him giving up the guitar and look for other things.

And that, is one of the themes of SD. You'll see what I mean.
The amount of OCs trew me for a loop, but we have Rika ans Saki to feel more familiar and expand the setting.
Oh those names? Itsuki, Minami, Jun? Yeah, they merely serve as background characters and would probably repeat in the background whenever Hisao drops by the music hall and SD!Saki and SD!Rika gets involved, but they don't serve a direct role in the story itself. I use them to expand the world, so that the school doesn't feel empty, and also to demonstrate SD!Saki's and SD!Rika's outgoing and active personalities - being in leadership means you gotta be knowing a lot of people, y'know. And with the hectic mess that is the festival preparation, its inevitable that some background characters are referred to since these two manage everything the music club is doing.

In fact, I'm adding a new character to the Shizune/Misha soon. But that's a while later, like in the latter half of Act 1. But no, I'm not gonna do a Fragments and add, say, Ikuno, to the Student Council or anything. More like an admirer of Shizune's work ethics but had no penchant for politics so she tend to her own domain at Shizune's behest.

The fact that KS doesn't reference anything that isn't exactly directly involved with its storyline always irked me a bit. Like, for example, we know Emi is this friendly, outgoing girl, so she gotta have a lot of friends, right? Even if they're not really close friends (yes, I'm aware she pushes people away when they try to get too close, but hey, some people are fine with that and definitely good with just remaining friends), but friends nonetheless. Yet we don't see any other name in her route other than Rin, her mom, Misha and Shizune. Where are they? Why does the school feel so ... empty? 200 people is still a lot - not really a lot, but its considerable. And their inclusion could also demonstrate Emi!Hisao's character development; we know he grows to be more active and outgoing in her route, so its pretty easy to imagine him contacting Emi's friends. Heck, it could've been an opportunity to introduce Miki too, since she's in the track team alongside Emi. And yet we don't. And the school feels so empty as the result.

All in all, thanks for reading Switching Dynamics and sticking with me so far! I'll do my best strive for the upper echelons of the Renai, and with me writing this being the only barrier between me and sliding back into the abyss, I'm not gonna give up until it's done. The only question is time. So, bear with me; I got a lot planned. Still though, thanks a lot for dropping by!
"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 » Thu Jul 23, 2020 5:03 pm

I'm back! And I'm not dead! COVID-19 plus a lot of stuff like exams and prep had occupied large portions of my schedule, and toss in the usual behaviours of ideas, that is akin to cats - they never listen to you and laugh at how helpless you are without them above your heads, led to the rather ... well, I feel like its a bit extreme delay. Not like the delay when I was rewriting, no, but this is a chapter I had already written and just needed to get fixed. And its that bad still.

Shit.
I still have to watch K-on for this fic though
Shoot. I forgot to address this. Sorry! If there's one thing I feel like I can reliably promise and not forget, its to remove the requirement of you guys watching K-On for this. Ritsu will explain everything as the story goes; after all, Hisao doesn't know anything, does he? So yeah, I'll be picking up the slack and do the legwork. Y'all can just sit back and enjoy the show.

Speaking of enjoying the show, here's Scene 7! A two-parter, cuz it's long.

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

Scene 7: Short Trip

I ponder for a moment at the crossroad, considering if I should just go back to my room and hole up there for the rest of the day, or head out to the store Saki pointed out on the map I have in my pocket. I watch as the small crowd around me turns towards the dormitories, pausing under a tree. Well, when in doubt if I want to go or do something, I consider the practical approach.

I’ve got nothing in my room. No food. Only water, and even that is downstairs. At least I heard it’s there. I don’t know where, but if there’s not even a water dispenser then I doubt the prestige of this establishment. So if I head back there, after all--

rumble

I cast a glance at my stomach, before rolling my eyes. Well, that solves the question. I’ll be back later then.

The sun is already touching the horizon when I reach the gates.

Seeing those gates again makes me feel weird. It was just yesterday that I decided that the gate is a barrier between me and my now unreachable past. And now, here I am, coming back as if I’m looking for a second round. Maybe I should fistfight the bars? I purse my lips for an instant; that would hurt like hell. Instead I just pass through the gate again, studying its byzantine crenelations and decorative patterns, and I can’t help but hope at least a small chance that things will return to the way they used to be.

Of course it didn’t. Oh well.

I put those thoughts on hold as I look around to ascertain where I am. The road here goes both ways, right and left. To my right, it seems to lead nowhere recognizable except the fact it goes even deeper into the hills. But a street sign by the bus stop next to the gates seems to say there’s a town in that direction. I shake my head; I truly am at the edge of the world, huh.

To my left, it’s a constant walk downhill, but at least I can see the destination. Hoisting my bag up my shoulders, I keep to the side overlooking the forest below as I make my way down. It’s strange though; yesterday I’m certain I saw a large number of students heading outside, so I figured today I’d be among them heading down to this town I see. Today though, everything is silent. There’s only me here, with each footfall echoing loudly in the light evening breeze.

Maybe I’m just late. The sun’s almost setting, after all.

Oh well, whatever. It’ll be a quick in and out grocery run.

With only the winds accompanying me, I start recalling my actions here so far. Two days in, and I’m already caught in some of this school’s shenanigans. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, or a bad thing, but a part of me is glad I’m not squatting in my room all evening. I did something to help, and that’s a good start I suppose. And Misha wasn’t kidding when they said they’re running out of time, as everyone’s working frantically to get their stalls done for the festivals this weekend. The music club was no exception; with their grand project of a performance for this festival, as Saki explained to me when we carried the boxes of instruments over to the construction site, had been something planned since last year.

“It’s a shame,” she said, although the irritation in her voice betrayed her choice of words. “We could’ve saved a lot of our budget and efforts by just using the auditorium, but even with the help of the student council the school’s administration wouldn’t budge.” They gave strange reasons why the auditorium is off limits, but sometimes there are things even Shizune can’t win, she said. I wondered what Shizune has to do with this, but I didn’t ask.

I look down the road as it curves around the slopes of the hillside ahead of me. I don’t know. Why did I choose the music club? I know I wanted to do something with my life; hell, that desire had been bottled up for the last four months I was trapped in that prison of a hospital. I don’t want to be back there, never again. But, now that I’m out, I’m here in this strange place I’ve been put in. I’ve been given an unwanted chance to rebuild from scratch, and I start with the same thing I started my old life.

Music.

Arguably it was my first passion, a hobby that I took up on my own and something I voluntarily got good in for my own enjoyment, not my grades.

My old school had split their music club into its various constituents based on genres, with the orchestra ending up as the largest. Takumi and I became part of the orchestra, primarily because initially we just needed something to pass the time and the club requirement that school had. But after a while we discovered that we both prefered another entirely different genre, Takumi and I split from the orchestra club in rebellion against the president. Afterwards, we met and took in Mai and Shin, who were left alone in the aftermath of the dissolution of the music club.

It was fun, composing our own songs, playing them. Our performances were our own, made from Mai’s melodies, my songwriting, Shin’s proficiency in editing software, and Takumi’s social contacts. All of us played something, and all of us worked to make our songs a reality. Sure, there had been troubles here and there, but we pulled through all of them together.

I genuinely thought our path was where none of us would split apart. And I knew that they thought the same as well.

Until that heart attack came and ruined it all.

My fingers instinctively touch my sternum, above where my misshapen heart beats its erratic rhythm. It’s a little more irregular; maybe it’s from helping Saki carry those boxes to the stage. Well, the Nurse did say I should do light walks, and I reckon I have surpassed today’s quota walking all over the place with big heavy crates and cases everywhere.

I don’t know. A part of me wants to blame Iwanako for breaking apart what I thought was an unbreakable circle we had going. But I keep remembering that day; the day I blew up at the one and only friend I could count on. I’m at fault as well.

I shouldn’t have done that. Try as I might to justify my actions and thoughts, it all leads to me being a depressive idiot. I didn’t have anything to do to keep my mind off of the fact I’m disabled? Why in the world did I not ask Shin, or Mai, or Takumi even, to bring a pad of paper if I can’t strum a tab or two with my guitar in the ward? I wanted to ask for help getting out. I could have just told Takumi, even though he might not be the best person to ask. I can already see him blasting off at the poor receptionist, and chuckle to myself at the sight.

I had so many things I wanted to say, yet I didn’t say any of them. Why?

In a way, I guess I trusted them, or at the very least, him, enough to believe that they’d look up what it’s like to live through a heart attack, and ending up like this. But, when he said it, I felt betrayed. And I still am. Takumi and I, we’ve been together for twelve years, and I spent a lot of it listening to his troubles, his joys, his issues. What little time I had in between taking care of my own life in the absence of my parents I dedicated to figuring out what I could do to help. He and his family had helped me countless times when we were younger. My parents were there for me only during infancy. Afterwards they slowly faded out of my life, and I was left to fend for myself. At least that’s what they said to me. Anyhow, it was the best I could do to repay the favor.

However, when I needed him the most, he turned his back and left even earlier than Iwanako did.

A few days after the argument, she came back. Iwanako knocked on the door, stepped inside with a quiet nod of a greeting, and sat there on the couch. She didn’t do anything except sitting there. I did nothing either. But I didn’t care. Deep inside, I was spitting curses at her for driving me and Takumi to the point he didn’t even respond to my calls. I didn’t say them out loud, but eventually, she got the message. After an hour of silence, she left.

A whisper of a breeze blows past me, waking me from the memory. I look up, at the horizon. Now the trio is over in Yokohama, and here I am in Sendai, in another school. A school dedicated for the disfigured, the marred, the damaged, and sometimes the unlucky. They abandoned me here and decided to cut me off from everything.

Okay, setting aside all they had done and how I’m only partially at fault for this, say if they really want to drop me off at the end of the earth with little help, what should I do?

Well, I answered that question already; in a way, I’m now part of the music club here. But, what’s next?

Should I try to get to know people here?

Every passing moment here I feel like I’m walking on eggshells.

It’s pretty obvious why some of the students are here. That dark-haired girl for example; she obviously has some serious scarring. And the countless, faceless people with navigation canes and their conspicuously unfocused eyes, they’re the blind and that’s good to know. Same for Shizune; she has her sign language. Even then, some of those who live here look like they could live elsewhere and none would be the wiser as to their conditions. Take Saki, for example. Aside from her cane, she looks as healthy as any other girl I’ve seen in my second year back in my old school. Granted, I haven’t asked her what her… What’s the word for it... Issue? What her issue is. The word disability feels wrong, disrespectful. It leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth, sorely reminding me why I’m here myself.

And that’s another problem. How do I talk to the people here about that? If I am to rebuild my life here, I’ll need to know how to make conversation with the students here, or at least with the teaching staff. I can’t rely on letting them start things off; Misha and Shizune might have done that, yes, but even I can tell that’s not going to be the case with a lot of people here, going with the unlucky part of my definition of this institute. Who knows, they could be the same as I was when I was still back in the hospital...

Actually, I’d rather keep my distance from those kinds of folks.

Whatever it is, using the term disabled sounds disrespectful, at least to me, and from my two days here it’s enough to show that most of those who aren't full of themselves like I was four months ago they’re little different from anyone else, really. Even Saki insisted that these details are trivial unless stated not to be. Take away their disabilities, and they could fit in any other school, she said.

It’s just me.

It’s nothing trivial to me; it’s not something they take as an inconvenience. For me, this heart is something that defines a certain point where I’m no longer where I usually am, and now I’m in a place I’ve never been in before.

Sort of like being exiled, actually.

And I don’t know how to take that trivially.

I know I’m not fine.

The doctors themselves told me there is no cure. It’s not something where you can spend a couple of hours on the table and come out fixed. Yet, why did everyone I knew, treat it as a phase? For four months I had been told the same thing so many times - by the head cardiologist, by my parents, by my old friends, by Iwanako … and by Takumi too - that I had grown to despise it. If they, who never felt a single brush with death, told me that it’s nothing to worry about, then the people who do know what it’s like and dismiss it would definitely tell me the same.

If that happens, I won’t be able to hold it off. I already blew up at Takumi over it.

I know I’m not fine, and that’s alright. But don’t tell me I will be fine.

Don’t ever tell me I’ll be fine.

I stop myself just in time to realize that the concrete sidewalk has ended, and there’s asphalt ahead of me. Planting my feet on the ground, I look around to re-orient myself. I’m at a crosswalk now. I press the signal box to start the countdown so I can cross. Here are more definite signs of civilization; an honest-to-god town ahead of me and some cars passing by, already turning on their lights. I check my watch; it’s half past six. I still have some more time before curfew. As soon as the lights turn red and the green man appears above it, I cross over, pulling out the scrap of paper containing Saki’s directions.

The forest gives way to a more developed part of civilization as her directions take me further into the town. The familiar sight of concrete buildings reminds me a lot of Yokohama back home. I follow the main street, or at least what I assume to be it, passing by various little ramen and udon restaurants, hawker stalls and other miscellaneous establishments. Many of them have already turned on their lights, transitioning to their night shifts. Their glow dominates the sidewalks as the sun above dims in the evening sky. Among the crowd, I notice a few other students of Yamaku milling about. I don’t see any faces I recognize, though.

When I first saw the town and its modern concrete architecture, I thought the gate back there actually brought me back. For a brief moment, I thought I could find Takumi somewhere in here, as he usually spends his evenings out with his friends and me. It takes me another moment to realize that there’s no distinctly familiar sight anywhere; no landmarks that I recognize, no signposts that we mentally labeled as a place to regroup and depart from for the night. And most of all, unlike home, this town seems to be more populated by the elderly and those past middle age; a great number of those I see have wrinkled faces and hands, graying hair, and some are relying on canes, like Saki. Sure, there are the occasional young mothers with their toddler children wandering, as well as the students of the local national schools, made apparent by their different uniforms. There’s even a Shinto monk in his full garment, presumably on the way to his shrine.

I definitely don’t remember seeing a lot of that kind of people around, back in my locale. A lot of the crowd back there were working people, on their way back to their homes or heading to pubs to get drunk. There’s even one time Takumi and I saw a man in a typical white-collar suit in full drunken stupor, laughing at his similarly dressed friend, who was unconscious by a trash can. We didn’t really do anything to them, but the sight of them, and their incoherent mumbling, made us laugh a bit. The memory makes me smile, for a second.

The crowd here consists predominantly of the old and the retired, quietly sitting by their favorite hawker stalls with lightly steaming cups of tea in their hands, gossiping or watching the world pass by them. What a strange sight, so familiar yet so alien.

Everything feels so different.

I spot the store Saki told me about, a block down the main road, sitting in a quiet offshoot of a side-street. It appears pretty similar to the convenience stores I’ve seen and been to countless times back home, and the same company sign above the entrances makes me feel nostalgic coming here. Even the bell sounds the same as I enter.

I clap the sides of my head. Right, I’m here to look for some quick food for dinner, not revel in familiar sights.

Ambling down an aisle, I scan the products for things I can afford, or at least want. I notice how the staff didn’t even bat an eyelid at a student wandering in this late. Considering how close Yamaku is, and its status as a boarding school, I guess the staff are used to students who live there coming down here for a quick trip for groceries. Seeing how different the students of this school are, I’m half expecting the cashier to be sneaking a few furtive glances my way, but as I look at the counter, she’s still minding her own business.

I shrug it off. At least that’s one less pair of eyes watching me.

With a basket filled with some confectioneries, I find the aisle for the precooked boxed meals section. Just as I reach out for a package of precooked chicken rice, I notice a partially gloved hand reaching for the same thing and pull back. She pulls hers back as well.

I look up at the owner and see the hairband girl staring at me. For a brief moment, our gazes lock. Her hazel eyes glisten in the artificial light, and they seem warm and inviting, familiar almost. But in that same instant I can’t help but notice that behind her somewhat concerned expression is a sense of fatigue. She seems withdrawn, exhausted. I break the lock by turning elsewhere. From the way she was acting today, and what she has been through, a part of me insists on not breaking the ice, but. Here’s an opportunity, man. Go for it, I tell myself.

“You can take it,” I chip in, trying to defuse the awkward moment between us. “I can take the other one.”

She stays silent, before taking it for herself, looking elsewhere as well. But she doesn’t move from her spot.

As I pick up my meal and dump it in my basket, I decide to push it. “So, uh … Hey, I know I didn’t do much, but I transferred here the other day. You remember that?”

She maintains her silence, but the slight furrow of her brows and staring at me from the side of her vision suggest she’s probably trying to remember. I take that as a probable yes; she seems to be the quiet type. “I’m still trying to get used to the place,” I continue, with a hand scratching the back of my neck, “and I figured I should try to get to know people. So, er …” Should I ask?

Eh, screw it. I’m here already.

“What’s your name?”

“Ritsu.”

Okay. That’s the first time I had heard her voice, and uh, hmm. On the other hand, I have a distinct feeling she answered out of courtesy. Where do I, uh, go from here? “Ritsu, hmm,” I repeat to myself, stealing glances at her while trying to not get her attention. I notice she only has that package in her hand, and nothing else. “Not feeling up for cafeteria food tonight?”

She looks at the package in her gloved hand and turns away. “I felt like eating something else,” she responds flatly.

Is she not picking up anything else? If I’m her I would pick up something more. “Only that though?”

Her brows furrowed even tighter, and her sideways stare turns into an irritated glare. What, I was -- oh. I pull back, holding my hands up to my chest as I back off a bit. I want to apologize for being intrusive, but she turns away instead.

Very smooth, Hisao.

With a sigh, I take my package and walk over to the previous aisle for another chocolate bar. I honestly want to kick myself for that; what the hell was that attempt?! I get angry at people for not knowing what to say around me back then, yet I don’t even know how to talk to strangers. Did all those years I spent around Takumi erode my attempts at making new friends on my own?

Probably, actually.

This is quite the revelation. Looking back as I head to the cashier, Ritsu is a little behind me, arriving as I wait for the cashier to be done.

I quickly run through my mind for ways to revive the conversation and ways to keep it up, but with it ending as abruptly as it did, I can’t think of any other ways without adding more to the awkwardness. In addition to that, maybe she doesn’t even want to talk, knowing what happened earlier today. Which, I understand; even I would bear a grudge for the rest of the day, because that’s another set of clothes to wash. The cashier takes my payment and promptly gives me back the change.

I walk outside, only to see the blackness of the night sky above me. The sun has set.

I realized a bit too late why she wanted a convenience store dinner to begin with. Ritsu left the cafeteria with that sort of situation and passive-aggressiveness, leaving her tray for someone else to deal with. So, it makes sense why she doesn’t want to face them again if she doesn’t even want to talk to me. To add to that, who the hell am I to assume she’s only going to pick that package up and nothing else? “Talk about a really bad first impression, Hisao,” I say to myself, pinching my forehead in irritation, “real nice of you.” Looking for distractions, I pull out one of the chocolate bars I bought and take a bite, just as she exits the store.

Ah. I have an idea.

With a chocolate bar in my mouth I take the other one out of my bag. I intended that to be a snack for tomorrow, but I don’t mind giving it to her if it could smooth over my mistakes, no matter how unlikely that is. Unaware I’m there I hand it over to her as she comes closer, surprising her. “Here,” I garble around the chocolate bar in my mouth, “have it.”

Her neutral expression quickly changes to a frown. “Why?”

I shrug as with the other, plastic bag-laden hand I take the bar out of my mouth. “Think of it as an apology.”

She looks at me as her frown softens, and gingerly takes the bar out of my hand. As we wait for the road crossing sign to chance, she stays at a not so considerable distance from me. The girl’s already eating it quietly, taking bites off of the bar.

I never really found scenes of someone eating to be particularly cute, but I discover that this girl seems to be an exception: She clumsily holds the bar in her hands, both of which are enveloped in black wrist braces that limit her fingers’ movements and nibbles at the bar with a soft frown. All the while she tries to hold on to her plastic bag. Overall I find it very cute.

Now that she’s closer, I can finally take a good look at her. Ritsu’s somewhat shorter than I expected from the few times I spotted her in the distance - almost as short as Shizune. Her distinctive muted yellow hairband holds up a considerable amount of her dirty-walnut bangs, as her hair is swept back behind her head, leaving her forehead exposed. Two longer locks of hair at the ends of the hairband touch her shoulders, flanking her overcast face. She stills wears her uniform, but has taken off her jacket and tied the sleeves around her waist like a skirt. And unlike Shizune and her black leggings, she wears none at all, with only a pair of socks to tie it off.

Her eyes though, remain the most enticing feature. I don’t really know how it concerns me but it does. I saw the incident back in the cafeteria, and by her reactions to the girls she left to deal with her spilled tray, she probably made enemies in the past. But here, I don’t see a juvenile delinquent as my initial impression of her was, one I expected to have little regard for the rules. But I don’t see a bullied person either, who would hold on to hope that things will be fine one day.

Despite the brilliance in her eyes, I see an exhausted and broken girl. She doesn’t want to be here, yet here she is.

Like me.

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

Ritsu stays silent.

“Sorry for annoying you like that.”

“I don’t mind,” I hear her mumble.

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

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

A short moment of silence fills the emptiness between us as we walk back, surrounded by the din of the crowd. Speaking of that, the crowd hasn’t lessened at all; instead, it seems that as the night progresses it gets denser. The sky above gives way to the dark night, lit only by the stores’ and restaurants’ windows, display glasses and doorways. I check on Ritsu as she’s jostled closer to me by the denser mass of people, pushed together so that her shoulder touches my arm. I don’t pay it any mind, and by the looks she’s too preoccupied with the chocolate, or something else on her mind, to notice it either. I don’t want to try to talk over the din of the night walkers, and I’m certain I’m not going to hear her low volume as it is. So, we keep the silence on the way back, and before long we reach the road crossing.

The sign turns green, and we cut across at an even pace to the other side. Once we’re freed from the crowd, she steps away from me, pausing at an arm’s length. Every now and then, I catch her glancing at me, but there’s no intention other than suspicion in her eyes.

I don’t blame her to be honest. I did a bad back there.

Nevertheless, through our entire walk back to campus, I don’t try to strike up a conversation, mainly because of that awkward note earlier. I also just prefer to quietly immerse myself in the peaceful evening air. The notion of missing curfew slips my mind if we’re returning this late already, and to be honest, I’m not sure what I had in mind to spend the evening of my second day here. But Ritsu doesn’t seem to mind. Sure, she’s staring at me as if expecting I might come up with another insensitive quip, but she’s the first person in what feels like an eternity that doesn’t immediately try to make my issues an issue.

Everyone I can remember always tries to put up an apologetic face whenever they’re around me, and wishes me the best of luck in recovering. Pitying me. Shin told me to not be so full of myself. My parents told me I should wake up from this nightmare. Takumi told me it’s not that big of a deal.

Looking back, I’m getting an inkling of how Shizune and Misha tried to say the same by taking me off on a tour of the place. And what Saki said was undeniable; she thinks it’s nothing big either.

Ritsu’s the first person who doesn’t try to repress what I’ve been through, solely through her own decision to not speak.

It’s a strange feeling.

It is as if her presence and quietness alone is enough to convince me to lower my guard. I look at her and back at the sky above.

It’s liberating.

Down the road, I can see the town below light up against the darkness of the night. The hill upon which the campus sits on is high enough to tower over everything down there, and there are distant city lights on the other side of some far off hills. I presume it’s Sendai. It reminds me of Yokohama at night when I was back home.

Home.

As I take another bite of the chocolate, I ponder on that word for a moment. Home, the world I can no longer reach. Do I miss it, when I passed through that overly fancy gates of this school? Am I trading the prison that was the hospital room, for a much bigger prison the size of an academy? I don’t know. I don’t want it to be that way, but I don’t know if what I’m doing is against what I want. As the streetlights of the school up ahead light up, seemingly as if to invite me back, I can’t find an answer.

I will be here for only a year. But do I want to make it as comfortable as I can? I mean, why not. Any sense of semblance of a routine can get my mind off of the hell I have left behind.

Do I want to leave them all behind?

Perhaps the time in the hospital has wiped away a lot of the fond memories of my past life. All I can remember are the arguments and the gradual but inevitable betrayals before it. What were we doing before the heart attack? I can recall Shin mentioning a concert and him waving around tickets for all of us with a somewhat proud smirk on his face. And before that, only a few shattered remains, indistinguishable from imagination.

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 them in that classroom, and maybe doing it again will help me remember. Anything else though? They left me behind in that hospital, abandoning me to rot and fester as I tried to make amends. Why would I want any of them back?

They still hold a part of the blame. I know I’m responsible. I tried to fix things, but I can’t. Not without them.

But. Looking down the hill, at the now distantly quiet town below, I feel a twinge. Two days here and not even a couple of hours in the town, and I already miss the constant bustling of that metropolis I called home. The lack of the sound of cars I’ve always slept to back home feels hollow here. My own brain is trying to fill in the void, trying to make sense of the emptiness and fill it with something familiar, clashing with reality.

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

I cast a glance at Ritsu. She’s been quiet all this while, and has stopped casting glances at me. Perhaps she’s enjoying the silence as well. Maybe she’s comfortable with me so far, maintaining the silence. Maybe it’s the only silence she can afford, and back in the campus she’ll be besieged by friends as loud as Misha. I can’t help but wonder. Does she miss her past life?

If there is one, that is. Maybe she lived here for most of her life. I wouldn’t put it past what Yamaku is proclaiming to be; the Nurse did mention they had junior high and lower schools somewhere on campus, or maybe elsewhere.

I look to her to ask, but quickly shut my mouth. Perhaps it’s best if I keep this up.

If I can find her again later, I might be able to find out. Not sure why I want to know. Maybe it’s a sense of camaraderie I’m looking for?



The silence feels somewhat comfortable too.

As we approach the pseudo-baroque iron-wrought gates, the school appears unearthly still, aside from the minute fizzing of the streetlights and the single shining window on the main building. We walk past the main faculty and make our way to the dormitories. I watch her as she ambles her way to hers, turns around to look at me before nodding subtly, and disappearing inside.

Well, I don’t know if that’s the conclusion I’m looking for, but I guess I have no choice but to comply. It was honestly a bit clumsy; I recall being more capable of talking than that, but I think what followed was a good enough recovery. She has been present in my mind since I first saw her, and to reach out today? Not bad. I had no plans to either.

I look at the sky one more time, but the clouds had gathered now. A whisper of a wind blows past me, chilling me somewhat. I sigh, and walk inside.
Last edited by Talmar on Sun Nov 01, 2020 10:17 am, 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
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Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route (Properly)

Post by Talmar » Thu Jul 23, 2020 5:04 pm

*****

I put the cup of instant noodles on the counter, and press the activate button on the electric water heater. The pantry of this building I’ll be living in took me some time to find; someone in the common room pointed out it’s opposite of the laundry, but I had no idea where the laundry room was, either, and asking again might have made me appear a bit daft. So I left them to their own devices in front of the TV, and wandered the first floor of the dormitory.

Turns out, at the other end of the fork at which the entrance hall terminates, is where the laundry room sits, as well as the kitchenette, as the label above the door insists.

For a building with barely above 50 inhabitants, the boys’ dorm can get quite loud, even at night. Up above, through the small window in between the ceiling cabinet and the countertop as I reach out to take a look outside, I can hear someone typing loudly on a keyboard, some boys up there arguing quite vehemently at each other, and the holler of laughter of some guys playing a video game together. As for the pantry itself, it is unexpectedly empty, which is fine by me. I’ve already changed into my night clothes, and meeting someone down here wearing this would be somewhat awkward. Well, not for them, probably, but it will be for me; I’m only wearing a simple t-shirt and a pair of shorts. The impression from my almost botched encounter with Ritsu still lingers, and I don’t need another.

The heater clicks, and I pour the hot water into the cup. As I wait, I take a look around the kitchenette. For a place designated as a shared cooking room for guys, it is surprisingly both clean and well-stocked. Last time I let Shin handle anything in the kitchen back home we ended up having to clean up the spilled curry. From what his sister said, that, or some other mess, happens every time he walks into the kitchen. There’s a toaster and a microwave sitting in the far corner, on the surprisingly ornate looking marble countertop under the ceiling cabinets that stretches for the entirety of the far wall from the door. A cursory examination of them shows they’ve been in use before; the stove is a little dirty from usage - probably from noodle cups - but it’s not that bad. The toaster on the other hand is brand spanking new. Several boxes sit in the corner, one of which is labeled to contain a yet to be installed stove.

It’s not a really big room. Then again, I feel like comparing it to the kitchen I’m used to back home isn’t really fair play. But I can work something up here if I want to - if they get around to installing the stove, that is. A clock hangs on the wall by the door, quietly counting the moments as they pass.

I walk around, keen on keeping up my exploratory momentum. Across the hallway are the double doors leading to the laundry room. I saunter over to take a look. Inside are two who I assume to be my neighbours, sitting quietly as they wait while the washing machines whirr and rumble. One of them’s wearing a Walkman headset, and the other is reading a book. The former spots me poking my head in and waves. I wave back, before noticing an unused washing machine at the back.

Oh right, I meant to wash my clothes today.

I look back at the clock, and then at my cup sitting by the water heater. Well, that can wait for a while. I quickly head upstairs to my room and pick up the basket of dirty clothes in the laundry bag I was given in my closet and make my way downstairs. Along the way I can hear almost inhuman noises from Kenji’s room, but seeing how he was yesterday, I figure it’s best to not disturb him.

When I finally reach the laundry room again, the machine’s already taken, and a new neighbour appears; it’s another familiar face, the bandage-eye boy yesterday, now wearing a proper eyepatch. He’s sitting on the benches, absorbed in a book. I put my basket next to his own, which is empty, and go to get my cup of instant noodles before coming back to sit next to him. I know I didn’t want anyone finding me like this, but here’s one familiar face and it feels rude not to drop by to say hello. Well, here’s hoping he remembers me. “Hey,” I start.

He looks up and immediately backs off in an exaggerated manner, as if I materialized out of nowhere. “Oh it’s you!”

“Yeah,” I said, taking a forkful of noodles and blow on it to cool it off a bit. He quickly relaxes, resuming his previous posture. “Was thinking of taking that washing machine before you did.”

He turns to the washing machine ahead of him. “Ah,” he falters, and grins guiltily. “Sorry about that, hahaha.”

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

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

“Hisao Nakai,” I reply as I accept it. He gives it a firm shake. “Again, don’t mention it.”

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

Huh? “Who, me?”

“Yep.”

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

“You know, the top brass.” He shapes a triangle in the air with his fingers and point to the top as if to demonstrate a hierarchy. “Student Council folks”

“Student Council?” This is new. I didn’t know there’s one here.

In an instant he furrows his brows as if I just crawled out from under a rock and asked what’s the Imperial era right now. “You’re telling me those two dragged you around and never mentioned it?” Wow.”

Those two? Does he mean the dynamic duo? “Shizune and Misha?”

He snaps 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 a week ago, those two were revving up to take the spot to give you a tour.”

“Really.”

“Pink hair man. Not that inconspicuous.”

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

Shouhei shrugs. “Never been part of it, but I heard from a friend of mine called Saki it’s officially all class representatives put together. In reality though, it’s just those two who do most of the work.”

Oh so that’s what Misha meant by work when those two couldn’t lead me to the clubhouse annex. Now I feel bad. And it appears that he is Saki’s friend; this is news. “Ah, what happened?”

“Dunno exactly,” he answers with another shrug. “Heard there was a massive fight last year, and it had been this way ever since.”

“Ouch.” I pick up my cup to continue eating. “How big was it back then?”

“Pretty big. Saki said last year they pretty much had all class representatives as well as club presidents present. She was part of it the entire time.”

“The entire time?” I ask as I eat another forkful.

Shouhei stops, before nodding, looking elsewhere in a thoughtful pose. “She’s been here for years, for some condition she has. I dunno man, I don’t feel like asking unless she wants to tell us about it herself.”

I’m getting a feeling Shizune might be involved in the breakup. “Did Shizune join the Council last year?”

He pauses momentarily, before nodding uncertainly. “I think so? Not sure.”

Hmm.

Our conversation falters as I think of something to fill in the silence. Shouhei seems 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 I’d rather avoid. And he doesn’t seem to know much about the Council that I’m curious about to continue that conversation. My mind wanders for a moment to yesterday, when we nearly collided with each other. “Uh, hey, Mizushima,” I speak up, uncertainly.

“Call me Shouhei,” he replies, looking up at me from his book.

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

“Fire away.”

“What was in that box?”

“Oh that?” He gives me the book he’s been reading to show me. Advanced Guide to the Keyboard.

“A keyboard?”

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

The name pops up like a piece of partially buried landmark. I take a moment to dig up the memory, finding myself back in my bandroom. Mai mentioned an instrument she wanted to play as part of the band, but later gave up on it to Takumi. “Oh right, that one. The one that looked like an electronic piano?”

Shouhei looks at me with wide eyes, surprised. “Oh you know?”

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

“Oh nice!” I give the book back to him, and he puts it aside to focus on me, now with a brighter smile. “Any good songs you guys played?”

“Hmm.” I cross my arms to sit in thought for a while. What did we play a lot back then? Other than the usual tuning practices and the occasional original tracks we composed together, I don’t remember much. No, it feels more like I can’t. Just how much did my time in the hospital wipe out? I shake my head slightly, followed by a more confident one. “Sorry, can’t remember.”

“Been a while, huh?”

I shrug, again. “Yeah.”

“How long have you been with them?”

I raise two fingers. “2 years.”

He leans forward a little more. “Wait, so your entire senior high so far?”

I nod. “Yeah. Some of the best friends I had,” I answer, before smiling wistfully. If only they thought of me the same.

“What happened?”

I pause, before shaking my head. “It’s a long story.” Another pause. “What about you?”

“My current band or before I came here?”

Pondering on the choices, I pick the latter.

“Hmm.” He puts on a faux thoughtful pose, one hand under his chin and another crossed under the former’s elbow. “Was part of it for a couple of months, until I lost this eye.”

“You lost it?” What?

He snickers guiltily. “It’s a long story,” he says, mirroring me. I can’t help but chuckle.

Now that I notice it, it’s a little different bandage than yesterday. “So you’re here because of the eye?”

Shouhei nods, uncertainly, while also shrugging at the same time. “Sort of. Depth perception and all that can get messy.” He pauses. “What about you?”

“Huh?”

“Why are you here?”

I flinch, and shut up for a moment. Do I want to tell him? I mean, probably not. Yet, he’s so carefree about his sight issues. Saki’s influence? I’m not sure. “Just something involving my insides,” I say instead, hoping my response fills in the silence quick enough.

“Ah.” He gives me a strange look, as if he realizes he said something he shouldn’t have. I restrain the desire to scratch my head in irritation at the concept; he’s trying to be friendly and he hoped I’d reciprocate, but … I didn’t, and instead I put him in an awkward spot.

I look at him. He’s biting his lips, looking away. Okay, maybe I should. Maybe I should just give a hint of something at least. I look around for any spying eyes; the Walkman boy is still quietly rocking his head to the music he’s listening to. The book boy’s gone, but his basket is still here, and so is his laundry in the still-alive washing machine. I wave a hand to get Shouhei’s attention and tap on my sternum three times. “Here.”

“Ooooh, okay,” he says with recognition, before smiling awkwardly. I return my own smile. There’s no way he’d know exactly what my condition is, but if this school is what the doctor told me it is, then students with heart issues should be commonplace. Even if we are young. Maybe that’s why they’re here to begin with. I nod and lean back against the wall.

Shouhei turns back to his book, but now with a sigh. Hmm? “What’s wrong?” I ask, concerned.

He looks back at me, alarmed. “No,” he answers with a somewhat frantic shake of his head, “nothing’s wrong. Just some troubles.”

“Uh-uh.”

For a moment pressuring him to talk doesn’t seem like a good idea. But it doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t like seeing issues when I think I can help. If he really doesn’t want to talk about it, he’d know to tell me something else. To which I’ll comply of course. He flattens his grin into a straight line and stares ahead at nothing in particular. In the end, he speaks up again. “Okay okay, I’ve just … I’ve been having some trouble with the music club here.”

I recall the hectic scene at the music hall and their stage outside. “I can see that.”

Shouhei closes his book, puts it behind him in a pocket before resting his elbows on his knees. “Nah, not really related to the music club as a whole. Maybe it does. Not sure. Anyhow, it’s our issue, mostly.”

“What’s it about?”

“Well, you see, the music club operates by -”

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

“Oh you know her already?” He takes 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 nod. “Mhm.”

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

I grimace. “Ouch.” I’m not wholly sure what I can offer aside from one word comment to that revelation. A stroke? At our age? I guess this sort of thing can happen here in Yamaku.

He notices my reaction, and laughs awkwardly. “Yeah … you pointing at your sternum reminds me of it. He does that a lot.”

“He had a heart condition like me?”

Shouhei nods.

“That wasn’t the end of it,” he continues. “A few weeks later, the drummer got a call from her family; they’re moving overseas, permanently. Something about her dad got a job in Korea. So she vanished that month, leaving only me and Mao the bassist.”

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

He shakes 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 interested, if at all. But no such luck.” He looks up. “And with the festival coming up just this weekend …”

Before I can come up with a proper reply, his washing machine beeps loudly, and he heads over to empty it. “Well, here’s your turn,” he says, both hands carrying his basket. His book sits on top of the pile. “Thanks though, Hisao. Really needed that vent.”

“If you need to just rant about anything, I’m here to listen.” I offer. He grins at that, before leaving.

For a few moments, I sit there with the empty cup in hand, now that he’s gone. I smile a bit. Now that’s a bit better, compared to that mess with Ritsu. Now I’m wondering if I should get involved.

I stand up and 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

1003powerloki
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Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route (Properly)

Post by 1003powerloki » Tue Jul 28, 2020 9:56 am

First contact, established! Sorry for no commenting early, real life and all that.

It seems that a few we are setting up a parallel between Ritsu and Hisao, in order to pay off with them learning and growing from their similarities. K-on spoilers Of course the difference between the two should be noted since Ritsu used to be full of energy and probably in the future she'll recover her old self on a healthy manner (since, lets adimit it, she used to be very lazy about everything(which then again is not a bad thing)), as for Hisao, who knows if he'll want to reconnect with his old friends, since the experience jaded him in a cycle of internal bitterness and broke his relationships.

Anyways. I just hope we can get to see Ritsu and Hisao toguether and properly happy, after all it seemed that Ritsu didn't mind his pressence, so that is something. sorry for the ramble, great chapter
Achivements 1)Getting the scene 'Slow Recovery' without a walktrough. 2)Getting every good ending on first try. 3)Playing without spoilers. 4)Playing without knowing the game was an Eroge.
Endings in order: Emi(GE) Emi(BE) Shizune(GE) Shizune(BE) ACT1(BE) Rin(GE) Rin(BE) Rin(NE) Lilly(GE) Lilly(NE) Hanako(GE) Hanako(BE) Hanako(NE)

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

Post by Talmar » Sat Oct 03, 2020 8:52 am

Man, this whole COVID-19 thing is going a wee bit long, innit? Well, on my end things are recovering, somewhat, and college has been starting up so I've been a wee bit busy as of late. Not to mention I've also been trying to take motorcycle driving classes. So, aye, apologies for the slow delay. And PowerLoki, no worries about the ramble, man! It's honestly motivating to know that you've been following my fic, and I hope what I have in store will keep you, and many others I bet, interested.

And I've noticed new pseudo-routes popping up! Glad to see Renai is getting a bit more lively! I hope we can achieve great things together, as the new generation of pseudo-route writers, hahaha.

Speaking of great things, here's Scene 8, the beginning of quite an adventure. Also a two-parter, although asymmetrical. Really asymmetrical.

----------

Scene 8: Lunch Evolution Theory

I wake up - not to the alarm clock this time, but rather the lack of one, as I turn around to slam my hand on the side table where it usually is. The pain is enough to jolt me awake, and it takes me another moment of cradling my hurting hand to realize that there's no alarm clock to begin with.

Bleary-eyed, I stare at the side table and the mess of bottles my hand left behind. Right, I’m here. In Yamaku, the disabled school. Not back in the hospital. I am not sure why I was expecting to be back there; maybe it’s just the routine. The nurse obviously isn't going to be here, so I assume my mind went to the backup, which was that annoying alarm clock back in the ward. I pull the charger cord out of my phone one-handed since my other hand is stuck under me and check the time. It’s pretty early in the morning still.

Damned muscle memory.

I’m still tired. Ruffling through my hair to get the gears going, I lazily put the bottles back where they are supposed to be as I go through the doses, reviewing my memory as I do. By sheer chance, I managed to find one boy here who’s sociable enough to talk to me. Before that, I went down to town, remembered how it’s like back home and how it’s a distant memory. I stretch my fingers with my thumb as I sit up. Oh right, I met the hairband girl yesterday. Ritsu, wasn’t it?

Ah. I also messed up my first interaction with her. I shake off the memory; best not to dwell on it. I already tried my best to apologize.

Even stranger still was how I got along with Shouhei rather quickly, or so it seems. I guess it’s the sense of camaraderie of being new students in the year, with the only differences being him taken in at the start of the school year in April, while I’m a mid-year transfer. I blink the sleep out of my eyes. My legs are still sore after that walk back up the hill, but I manage to force my way to the showers and bathe.

As I close the shower hall door, a loud banging can be heard behind Kenji’s door. I stare at the moving shadows under the door as they flit here and there frantically. Does he ever get out of there? My impression of him is still based on our first time meeting two days earlier, and so far that’s the only time I interacted with him. Despite how much I dislike concluding from only one data entry, I think can write him off as ‘weir-’

In an instant the door flies open with an impact that shakes the floor, slamming right off its hinges. “NO MATTER!” he screams, “I WILL CLEANSE MY MEMORY OF ANY FEMINIST TAINT!”

I have to take a step back as Kenji marches 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’s wearing a yellow, ridiculously shaped pair of ray-ban sunglasses, and he tops his head with a party hat. I can see a multicolored backpack strapped on his green school blazer. “OH!”

Ah, he found me.

“Who are you!”

“Uh …” is all I can utter before he waves it off.

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

With that, he pushes his way past me and runs down the stairs. I can hear the surprised shouts of other guys he probably shoved aside.



I think I gave him an existential crisis with my last comment two days earlier.

*****

No.

There’s no way what just happened was real.

I wrote Kenji off as a weirdo, but that spectacle earlier in the morning proved me right. And he’s my neighbour. As I’m walking to the school building, all prepped and ready, I don’t want to look back, just in case he’s there waiting to shoot a gumball blow dart the moment I’m visible as I get up the stairs. That would be another bucket of issues, and I would need to wash my clothes.

Or my hair if it got in there.

I grimace at the thought. No, sir.

The crowd around me doesn’t seem as shaken as I am, though. Maybe they’re used to his antics? Come on, at least the boys would probably be shaken up by the sight, but they didn’t seem to mind. I sigh. I don’t suppose I can request a relocation of my room, can I? As I’m scanning the crowd, out of the need to get that sight out of my head, I see Ritsu walking ahead of me, her hairband even easier to spot now that I can tell it apart.

And like yesterday, she’s alone.

Should I call out to her? No, perhaps not. Remembering her yesterday, I feel like that would be a bad idea. I hasten my pace to reach her until we’re walking side by side.

We walk quietly for a few moments. I’m not sure if I want to try and wave in front of her to alert her to my presence, seeing how she keeps her eyes ahead, on the ground, or the trees above, or nothing in particular, but never focused on her immediate vicinity. Perhaps she does enjoy the silence. Oh well. I give up on the idea, but just then I hear her murmur. “Hisao.”

“Hm?” Oh, she is aware of me.

Ritsu keeps quiet for a few more moments, before continuing, keeping her eyes ahead. “Hisao, right?”

“Uh, yeah, that’s right.” Her voice is low enough that I’m considering bowing slightly to hear her better, but right now it’s alright.

“Thanks.”

A thank you? For what? But she doesn’t explain what she meant, and not before long silence falls between us again. I’m considering asking her about it, but another look at her makes me reconsider. Ritsu sighs a bit, before flashing a tiny, almost invisible smile and reverting to her default slight frown. Again, I can’t help but find her little tics to be somewhat endearing. Maybe my apology was accepted? I settle with that and instead reply simply, “No problem.” Maybe it’s for the chocolate yesterday.

“Hmm.”



The fewer words we speak, the better we get along, it seems. Or so it seems from my perspective. But I can’t deny that I appreciate her appreciation of silence. It’s a little relaxing not having to think about what to say. Loud, talkative people tended to get me confused, even before the heart attack.

How on earth did I get along with Takumi back then? The lad would babble on and on and on, his mouth running like the motor of a power generator.

As we walk, however, I can’t help but notice that we’re drawing some eyes from the passersby. Usually, if this was the case when I’m with Takumi, I didn’t really care. But I’m with Ritsu, this time. Why are they staring? Because I’m with her? I walk a bit forward to turn around and take a look at her as I walk backward. She notices me, and there’s some form of annoyed expression on her, but she doesn’t seem to mind.

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

I turn back around again to walk properly by her side.
Last edited by Talmar on Sat Oct 03, 2020 8:56 am, 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
Posts: 14
Joined: Mon Sep 23, 2019 8:02 pm

Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route (Properly)

Post by Talmar » Sat Oct 03, 2020 8:56 am

*****

When we walk into the classroom, Shizune looks at me and my unexpected company with a very obvious curiosity, going so far as to look at us above the rims of her glasses with an appreciative smile. Misha too seems excited, her eyes wide. I can’t help but raise an eyebrow as we pass by and quietly take our seats. Just as Misha is about to pounce on me the teacher walks in unheralded, shutting her up before she has the opportunity to ask.

Throughout the next few classes, I can’t help but wonder what’s going on with me and Ritsu that piqued their interest that much.

In our final class before lunchtime, we’re given yet another group assignment. Before I can even get the chance to move elsewhere, like to Ritsu for example, the dynamic duo boxes me in. Both of them wear proud grins that reflect their frankly unwarranted sense of achievement at my expense. I take a glance at the window behind me and gauge the height; nope, I can’t do it. There’s no escape.

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

I wince internally at her exorbitant volume and enthusiasm. Misha leans over me while Shizune pushes our table and chairs together to form a line, with the pink-haired girl in the middle. I’m half tempted to tell them that I’m looking to ask Ritsu if she wants to pair up, but at the same time, I don’t want to make them feel bad. Reluctantly I sigh as the two girls dump their writing tools over their tables, and Shizune starts working. Misha however has other ideas.

“So, Hicchan~!” she calls out to me, despite sitting right next to my ear. Her hands’ are signing automatically again, even when Shizune’s not watching.

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

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

Ah, she hadn’t forgotten about that. “It’s nothing. We just came at the same time.”

“Mhmm~, definitely Hicchan …”

She’s definitely not taking my hint, cheekily rubbing her chin like a detective interrogating his suspects. “It’s nothing, really,” I insist.

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

I take a quick glance behind her. Ritsu seems to be trying to sleep off the class by resting her head on her wrist braces and hasn't appeared to notice Misha’s antics. “No, it’s definitely nothing, Misha,” I say again, turning back to her. “And get back to work.”

She pauses, before flashing another defiant grin and turning to her table, as if to say ‘This is not over, I’ll ask again later!’ “Alright then~!”

Finally, some silenc-

“Oh! Right~!”

Please.

Misha turns back to me. “Have you been thinking about what you said yesterday?” she asks. Her enthusiasm hasn’t died down at all. “Because if it isn’t working out, you could join us in the Student Council~!”

Wait, what? The Student Council? Did Shouhei just set up that trigger last night to somehow remind Misha that they’re supposed to recruit me? “Wait! Hold on,” I stop her with my hands held up between her approaching face and mine. “I haven’t said a thing yet.”

“Okay~!”

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

“We saw you leave the stage early yesterday~!”

Shizune pops up over her shoulder, looking increasingly alarmed as if horrified by something. As Misha stops, Shizune immediately puts a hand on her shoulder and swiftly turns her on her chair so they face each other, before launching a series of furiously rapid and sharp gestures at Misha, who’s growing increasingly flustered by the moment. I look at the exchange without any idea of what they’re talking about, aside from Misha’s panicked response, but even then I can tell Shizune’s a bit angry by her stern frown and stare.

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

Okay, a bit angry is an understatement apparently. I can’t help but wince. Even Misha’s bewildered enough that she doesn't have enough time to translate what Shizune is ‘shouting’ at her.

“Ow, Shicchan, okay, okay, okay, I’ll stop~!!!” With that, Shizune stops signing, lets out an exhausted sigh, and goes back to work. Misha comes out of that unnerved and shaken up, so much that she’s jittery. I reach out to snap her out of it and ask what this was about, but just as my hand hovers over her shoulder Shizune snaps to look at me with a stern stare and a shake of her head, before pointing at the worksheet on my table. I don’t push it; it doesn’t help that Misha’s cry to make her friend stop has alerted some eyes around the class at us. I hold my hands up to my chest, hoping the “Okay…” in my mind gets across, before returning to my assignment.

What was that about?.

When I look at it, it’s mostly reading. In fact, there are only two problems to solve. I quickly finish them, reread the text again, and revise my answers. I honestly don’t get what’s up with Shizune and her obsession with work, especially with how little there is. But two things come to mind: One, our interpreter is thrown out of whack, and two, her argument yesterday makes another debate on the subject a lost cause. In fact, Shizune probably knows how little there is, and simply doesn’t care.

Well.

She cared enough to launch that volley at Misha, but I’m not sure about that. Misha looked like she was about to say something, but got rudely interrupted.

Looking at her, it seems as if the workload doesn’t matter to her as much as the fact there is work; the actual amount is unimportant. She approaches everything with the same level of ambition.

Actually.

With the same level of ambition to cut Misha’s apparent hiring advertisement for their two-man Student Council, now that I remember. Misha’s still out of it, made apparent by her seemingly having been knocked unconscious with her head on the table, staring at nothing in particular.

Poor girl.

Anyhow, I’m done now. With nothing else to do, I let my eyes wander around the room. The dark-haired girl is in her seat, trying to solve the sheet on her own as she sits very apparently alone. The one-handed girl in the boys’ uniform upfront has paired up with the sleepy one in front of Shizune, who seems to have slept through the entire debacle Misha caused right behind her as she’s resting her head, counting z’s in dreamland. On the far wall, three tables are grouped up as a boy turns around to ask the girl behind him about something. He apparently has a similar hairband as Ritsu, now that I notice it. I quickly turn away when he stops in his tracks, hoping my gaze didn’t get his attention.

I don’t know, really. I’m still wondering if I should even make an effort to get to know these people when all we have is one year together. No, scratch that; we got less than a school year, since I only came here three days ago. I slump in my seat, back against the wall, still uncertain. Slowly but surely Misha wakes up a bit and turns to Shizune to start talking in sign language again.

Behind her, Ritsu is wrapped up in her own world. I think she failed to sleep thanks to that especially loud performance by my neighbour, because she’s now playing with her own pen, changing it between her brace-bound hands while staring at it and nothing at the same time, as if in a dazed state. Her worksheet remains where the instructor put it, untouched. I consider asking Misha about Ritsu, but seeing how loud she can get, it’ll certainly get her attention as well. And judging from yesterday, attention doesn’t seem like something that Ritsu wants.

At least not at the moment. Looking back, I’m not so sure about my impression of her being similar to me anymore, simply due to how little I know of her. I don’t even know her surname.

I pick up my own pen and start twirling it between my fingers, partially out of boredom, partially thinking if I try to imitate her I’ll get an inkling of what goes on in her head. Somehow Misha notices it and turns to me. “Hicchan~,” she sings in a tone more faint than usual. “Are you done?”

I nod, not feeling like talking anymore.

Misha thankfully takes the cue and turns to her own worksheet, before taking a peek at Shizune’s. For some reason, the latter doesn’t seem to mind, as she is constantly thumbing through a massive folder of papers in her lap. Why aren’t you telling her to work on it herself, Shizune? I thought, being the strict academic and workaholic of the dynamic duo, she would be Misha’s teacher of sorts, but no. She’s content with Misha copying her answers.

I shrug. Maybe since Misha does translate everything that is spoken around her for Shizune, she gets a free pass.

I pick up my own paper and start reading through it again out of boredom when I spot Ritsu stretching her arms and yawning. For a moment I catch a flicker of pain on her otherwise indifferent face as she quickly brings down her arms and starts taking off one of the braces and rubbing her wrists, bending her fingers as far as she can as if to check if they’re functional.

Is that her disability? Does it have something to do with her wrists and those braces of hers? Or maybe arms. She seemed fine yesterday. I look away before I get her attention, but I’m sure she’s already noticed.

As we finished the paper with time to spare, I spend the rest of the class listening to the quiet noises of two dozen pencils and erasers against paper, wondering what to do in the upcoming lunchtime. While Shizune and Misha are busy conversing in their silent hand gestures, I ponder for a moment where to go. Maybe it’s a chance to eat alone, but that doesn’t sound like a good idea. It certainly won’t help how I’d look either. “Oh there’s the new guy, and he’s alone again. Maybe he just likes it that way, best not bother.” Seeing the passivity of this place, as I remember how the dark-haired girl went outside on my first day here without so much as a glance from other people, I grimace at the thought of being ignored out of assumed kindness. Or pity, really.

Well, what can I do? Cafeteria food isn’t the best of choices. I don’t know a lot of people I can ask to hang out with, and even then, I’m not so enthused by the idea. I check my bag; I have only one bread, and that’s it, with everything else I intended to bring missing I blame the scene Kenji made. Can I get back to the dorms, pick up something, and find someone I can spend the lunchtime with quickly enough? No, too long.

I tried that before. And it involved running.

Before I know it, the bell already rings. As the class bursts into noises of chairs being slid under the tables and chatting, I take one last look around. The duo’s still caught up in their conversation, and with Shizune’s temper, I’m less than willing to interrupt. I mean, sure, the last two days’ lunches have been with them, but I feel like a change of pace might be in order. Plus I need a break from Misha’s loudness and energy. I look over my shoulder to see Ritsu still idle in her own world.

Not much of an option, is there? Well, one day alone is fine, I suppose, with the tasteless cafeteria food to boot.

Just as I stand up and pick up my bag, a voice calls out to me from the doorway. “Hey, Hisao!”

It’s my eyepatch friend from last night, leaning against the doorway with a confident grin. I answer with a wave as I walk up to him. “Yeah, what is it?”

He grins with his eyes closed. “Figured I might take you along for lunch. You coming?”

I look back at the duo. They’re still intensely exchanging gestures, and Ritsu is just getting ready to pick up her own bags. Other than that, the class is nearly empty already. Should I wait a moment to ask Ritsu if she wants to come along?

Maybe not.

And this is a better deal than just eating alone.

After a moment, I shrug. “Alright, let’s go.”

“Sweet!” With that, we take off, and almost immediately we go against the flow of the crowd. I note that he’s leading me to his class; 3-4, the other class dedicated to the miscellaneous disabilities I was told about before coming here. And sure enough, he takes off ahead of me, running headlong waving at a group of students who are idling by the doorway, chatting with one another. “HEY!”

Wait, we’re joining them?

“Oh, look who brought somebody along,” says one of them. It’s a girl with short, dark brown hair, tied into a side ponytail. She’s taller than most girls I’ve seen, too.

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

Uh, shoot, what do I say?

“Okay, um, hi. Yeah, my name’s Hisao Nakai, and I’ll be in your care,” I state briskly with a formal bow.

One of them approaches me. Even with my height, he seems to almost tower over me, a wall of rippling muscle and sheer strength. With the evergreen blazer worn loosely around him, I can’t help but see the image of an ex-brawler around him. He’s bald, too. In fact, that reminds me more of that Shinto monk I saw yesterday evening. He studies me up and down with his almost closed eyes and nods appreciatively before extending an oversized hand. “Well met, Hisao,” he says finally, his voice baritone deep. “I’m Taichi Katou. First name basis is fine with me.”

The girl with the side-tail also extends a hand as she appears by his side, or as I look at it, what’s left of her hand. She appears to have lost several fingers somehow, alongside with parts of her hand, and it feels awkward as only her thumb and half an index finger wraps around my wrist. It’s a little weird, to say the least. To add to that, unlike most of the girls here she’s wearing the same green blazer as I am, making her stand out. The only difference is that hers is unbuttoned. “Tsubaki Ishikawa, same,” she says, before noticing my unease and smirks. “What, never saw a girl with barely a hand?”

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

She purses her lips for a moment before her contorted fist slaps against her likewise malformed palm of her left hand as she realizes. “Oh, that would be Miki!” she says and turns to me with an approving smile. “You should y’know? She’s pretty cool.”

Maybe later, but I didn’t say that.

Tsubaki then pushes Taichi aside to introduce the final member, a girl far shorter than anyone I recall seeing here in my Year, with long turquoise hair and a bag several sizes too big for her on her shoulder. Just like Ritsu she looks at me with indifference, as she’s more preoccupied with the book in her hand. “This is Chihiro,” says Tsubaki with a hand on her shoulder, before chuckling to herself. “She doesn’t talk much.”

At that remark, Chihiro shoots a glare at her friend before returning to focus on her book. Almost automatically I hold out my hand to shake hers, but she ignores it altogether. Before the situation can get too awkward, Shouhei appears from behind and throws his arms around us all in one large embrace before shoving us forward, catching me and Tsubaki by surprise. “Hey come on! Let’s go!”

“Shouhei~,” Tsubaki grates, as her brows furrow in irritation. “Ever thought of just telling us to walk instead of doing that?”

He merely keeps on grinning in response.

I don’t really mind it myself, but being caught by surprise like that, I can see why she’d be a bit angry. Nevertheless, it seems Tsubaki doesn’t stay angry very long. Eventually, as we find our pace and walk on our own, Tsubaki, Shouhei and Taichi resume whatever conversation they were having before my arrival, and Chihiro and I trail behind them, her pace matching my own reluctant stride. Third day here, and I get tossed into yet another wholly different group of people. They all seem rather close to Shouhei - Chihiro appears to be the outlier, but who knows why she’s here, - so they’re probably his friends here, or at least close classmates. And he thought I should join in.

I mean, seeing how friendly he was with me last night, a complete stranger, why am I surprised he’s hanging out with a lot of people?

Now that I look back at it, I’m not sure why I agreed to his idea so quickly. I mean, I get it. I want to take some time and get along with someone, at the very least. I know how to get along with one guy; my twelve years with Takumi proves it. But this is frankly the first time I managed to get myself caught into a group of girls and guys that, by all means, sounds and feels like a better alternative than the dynamic duo. I don’t want to be near a ticking time bomb, let alone one that keeps chasing me, and I don’t see a time bomb here.

The silence between me and Chihiro is getting awkward now. I should do something.

I look at her walking silently beside me, absorbed in her book. She doesn’t respond at first, but after a moment she notices and stares back at me, looking somewhat irritated that I got her distracted. I raise my hands as an apology.

Well, that didn’t go as well as I thought it would.

I spot Shouhei looking back at me in the middle of the other two seemingly arguing. He slows down his pace to match ours, ending up between us. “’Sup?”

“You told them about me?” I ask.

“Just that I’d bring a new exchange student with me,” he answers with a nod. He doesn’t appear to be planning anything. “Why?”

I wonder for a moment if I should say no and turn down Shouhei’s lunch offer after all, but I don’t want to reject their hospitality, not at this point where it’s pretty much beyond the point of no return. “No, nothing much,” I answer, shaking my head. “Just thought it was gonna be between the two of us.”

He throws his arm over my shoulder, grinning cheekily. “Hahaha, I don’t lean that way, sorry.”

“What?” I shove his arm off of me. “I didn’t mean that!” Where the heck did he get that idea.

He laughs a bit more, rests his head with his hands locked behind it as we walk for a moment, before charging ahead as if he managed to spot another opportunity to annoy the two. Well, uh, I didn’t expect that from him. I don’t know what to make of it.

Shortly we arrive at the end of the hallway, where they stop in front of an elevator. For an instant, Chihiro flinches, and Taichi quickly lends a hand, which she grabs on to stabilize herself. I watch, wondering if she has some problem with her balance. She doesn’t seem to have anything physically obvious, like Tsubaki over there, but then again, neither do I.

Shouhei waits by my side for a moment before his eyes light up in realization. “Ah, right,” he quickly utters before breaking into a sprint behind us.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” I call out to him. He’s already several meters away.

“Forgot to grab my lunch!”

What. How? I can’t help but laugh as I spot Tsubaki raising an eyebrow at his reply; apparently she didn’t expect that either, and to add to it he turns around to start jogging backward. “Just go get it!” Tsubaki shouts back.

He gives another challenging grin. In an instant, it changes into a look of surprise as he points to my left.

I turn to only see a flash of white as something hits me square in the chest with the force of a steam train, and both of us collide with the wall beside me as my vision goes dark.

For a few seconds, everything is void.

What the hell happened? It was so fast that I couldn’t even see, let alone register what it was.

From the black nothingness, I can make out muffled voices. Panicked shouting. None of them I can recognize, as if someone put my head underwater and shouts at me.

“What the- EMI!”

“Taichi, lay him down quick!”

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

I feel a firm hand lifting me up, and the soft impact of my head on what feels like the floor reverberates painfully slowly in my head.

The black inky void slowly fades. I blink, several times, to wake myself up, only to feel a sharp sting in my chest stabbing through everything.

Oh.

Oh no.

Tsubaki looks at me worriedly before noticing my hand clutching a fistful of my shirt, and her expression quickly turns into one of horror. “SHOUHEI, CALL THE NURSE!”

I can’t focus. The repeating stings hurt. It hurts.

What should I do? I can barely hear myself think as everything in my extremities starts feeling numb. Link back the words. Connect what I can remember. Come on, what do I do?

Deep breath. In and out.

I close my eyes in an attempt to alleviate the pulsing pain in my head as I inhale and exhale.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Slowly. One by one.

As my heart slows down, the stabbing pain in my chest recedes. God. That was a close one.

Was that a flutter? Like the doctor mentioned?

Good God.

I blink a couple more times to get the tears out, if there are any. I can make out Tsubaki and Chihiro kneeling down next to me, their expressions concerned and in full alert. On the other side, I see another person, her two long light brown ponytails draped over me as she has her hands flanking my face, hers hovering right above mine. Her green irises glint slightly. “I’m … I’m fine,” I sputter out, trying to reassure them. “It’s fine, just a headache.”

“Oh thank god!” the new girl exclaims, sitting back down and sighing in relief. “I’m really sorry! I wasn’t looking where I was going, and you just came out of nowhere! Sorry!”

“It’s …” I manage. “It’s fine. Lemme get up first.”

I feel a pair of hands pulling me up from the floor and sit me down. The pain’s aftershock lingers still, but I manage to do a full damage assessment. The back of my head hurts like hell, since I was slammed against the wall like an unfortunate matador taunter picking on the wrong bull, but the wall is concrete, not canvas. Thankfully the bull isn’t sporting a similar pair of horns to skewer me. As I rub the back of my head, I can finally get a good look at the culprit.

She’s wearing a sports uniform, sitting upright next to me. Her choice of clothing alone strikes me as strange, but the one detail that catches my eyes is the fact she's not sitting on a pair of legs. Instead, they look like something of a metallic replacement. Prosthetics? But I thought prosthetics are meant to look like legs and hers look like she could spring around on them like a rabbit. Which, looking back, might explain the cause of the collision. I look away, to not attract further attention and back up at her own concerned expression.

The girl named Emi looks at me with an apologetic stare, in a similar manner a hurt puppy would look. Well, shoot. I can’t get angry with her looking like that, can I? However, it doesn’t seem to work on the other two girls. Just as I’m about to fold my legs and stand up, I hear Tsubaki standing up and shouting at the prosthetics girl. “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 HARDER WE WOULD’VE BEEN CALLING THE HOSPITAL! I didn’t even know he has a heart condition!”

Ah.

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

I need to stop this.

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

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

“Tsubaki, I --”

“Tsubaki?” I quickly interject as I stand up between her and Emi, a hand raised at them both to stop their argument. My head’s still reeling, but I should be fine. “It’s fine. Emi. Get going where you need to go.”

When I turn to look at the girl she’s already half crying, but my interruption earns me a grateful smile. “Thank you!” she replies, standing up on her two metallic legs and bows. “I’m really sorry - I’ll be back to give you something, okay?” Before I can manage to reply she sprints down the hallway, just as I spot Shouhei coming back and dodging her just in time.

“Hisao,” I hear Tsubaki say.

“What is it?”

She sighs as I notice Taichi behind me. Was he the one who helped me up back there? “Emi has done that a thousand times at this point,” Tsubaki says sternly, casting a glare down the hallway as Shouhei rejoins us. “I know her since she’s in my class, and no matter how many times the class reps from both your and our class lecture her that lesson never gets in her head. Next time, ” she dusts herself, “don’t let her off like that.”

I shake my head. “It’s fine,” I insist. I don’t want to deal with that right now. “Anyway, just got the wind knocked out of me, that’s all.”

I mean, that was the first flutter, and I was scared as hell. But I don’t feel like I want to tell them. It’ll only make them worry unnecessarily.

“Y-you sure you don’t need to see the nurse?” says a timid voice. It takes me a moment to realize it’s Chihiro speaking.

I shake my head again and make an attempt of a passably reassuring smile. Taichi walks around and claps his hands once to get everyone’s attention. “Well then,” he says firmly, “let’s get going. Chihiro?” The girl nods and grabs onto his arm as he pulls her to her feet. Tsubaki looks at them with some worry as she calls the elevator again.

This time, she walks behind them as Shouhei joins the other two, talking about why he came back early. I quickly grab my fallen bag and catch up with her. Headache be damned, I can see the concerned look on her. “Hey,” I say, trying to get her attention.

Tsubaki looks at me strangely, as if she realizes she broached an issue that I don’t want to talk about. If anything she’s right; she did, and I don’t want to talk about it. She guessed correctly that I have a heart issue. In fact, of all the people I have met here, she is the first to find out by sheer coincidence without me telling her. By the look on her face as I try to get her attention, she realized she got it right. I guess my own worried yet dismissive frown - or at least my attempt of it, gives it away.

I hope she won’t spread it around. I speak up.

“His--” “Tsuba--”

Our words interrupt each other, and we both shut up for the rest of the trip downstairs. Tch. I guess I have 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

1003powerloki
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Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2015 6:11 am

Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route (Properly)

Post by 1003powerloki » Sat Oct 03, 2020 4:34 pm

Intresting Chapter, it seems like Hisao's condition is goin to be know by all, that no good for him.
Also I think he hasnt met the other girls right? wonder if that is goin to happen, or even just mentioned real quick?
Okay, cant wait to read more
Achivements 1)Getting the scene 'Slow Recovery' without a walktrough. 2)Getting every good ending on first try. 3)Playing without spoilers. 4)Playing without knowing the game was an Eroge.
Endings in order: Emi(GE) Emi(BE) Shizune(GE) Shizune(BE) ACT1(BE) Rin(GE) Rin(BE) Rin(NE) Lilly(GE) Lilly(NE) Hanako(GE) Hanako(BE) Hanako(NE)

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Chatty Wheeler
Posts: 43
Joined: Mon Aug 24, 2020 5:56 pm
Location: Pacific Time Zone

Re: Switching Dynamics - A Ritsu Pseudo-Route (Properly)

Post by Chatty Wheeler » Sat Oct 31, 2020 4:13 pm

Good day to everyone reading this! I've had this story on my radar for the past month, but only now have I had the chance to sit down and read it! I spent about a week getting myself fully caught up, taking notes and analyzing as I went. There's a lot that I want to discuss, so I'm going to run through each scene and then wrap up with a reflection at the end. Here goes!

Prologue

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Right off the bat, this prologue is brilliant on a conceptual level.

In the main KS visual novel, our opening scene is the classic meeting between Hisao and Iwanako. We, as an audience, think that we're about to get a typical, cheesy confession scene, only for that trope to be completely subverted when Hisao has his heart attack. Our expectations are thrown for a loop, and that's what makes the scene such an effective hook. So, when we come into Switching Dynamics, Talmar could have chosen to repeat the Iwanako confession scene, but if he had done that, it would not have been an effective hook. Hisao having his first heart attack no longer throws our expectations for a loop, because now are expectations are that Hisao does have a heart attack. Instead, Talmar made the wise decision to skip past the confession scene and subvert our expectations in a new way. In the main visual novel, Hisao explains through his narration that his friends and family "abandoned" him in the hospital—this story makes it easy to sympathize it Hisao.

However, as the prologue of Switching Dynamics reveals, Hisao may have been embellishing his story. Come to find out, rather than everyone abandoning Hisao, it would seem that that Hisao was the one who pushed everyone away through his fits of anger, frustration, and apathy. However, Hisao is so lost, angry, and bitter that he doesn't even realize that he's the one pushing them all away. His only method of making himself feel better is to blame others for his losses and frustration, even though it's clearly any of their faults. Ironically, he takes his anger out on the ones he cares about the most.

Woah, right? Suddenly, that foundation of sympathy that we feel for Hisao is shaken up, because he is no longer innocent and squeaky clean. Hisao has a little bit of grey in his character now—he's far from being a perfect self-insert. Our expectations have been subverted, and Talmar has given the reader a new, powerful hook. I, for one, was very eager to continue reading the story upon finishing the prologue.

Basically, Talmar is deliberately taking what we know about Hisao from the visual novel and using it against us, and I love it.

Okay, I've spent some time talking about the overall purpose of the prologue. Now, let's talk a bit more about what I noticed in the text itself.

The story opens with Hisao two months into his stay at the hospital. He's in the process of pushing Takumi—the last person who has "stuck around"—away for good. Hisao is clearly holding a double standard: he resents people for "leaving" him and "burdening" him, but he's the one that keeps pushing them all away. Particularly, Hisao holds extreme resentment toward Iwanako, which I found particularly interesting. There's absolutely no logical sense to Hisao's accusations against Iwanako. She didn't "give" him his disability—he was born with it. She didn't "abandon" him—he pushed her away. And even though Hisao is angry that Iwanako confessed to him on that snowy day, he should know deep down that he wanted her confession. He had a crush on her, after all. It's clear that Hisao is trying to rationalize an irrational disability that he's been burdened with—his only way of doing so is to blame others.

The irrational double standards just keep coming in. Hisao takes pride in being independent, yet he says that he doesn't want to be alone. He extensively and brutally berates Takumi (and presumably everyone else) for not understanding him and for not knowing what he needs, but Hisao also admits to himself that he's not even sure he needs anymore, himself.

As all of the irrationality and anger coming out of Hisao's mouth continues to escalate, it was good to see Takumi stand up for himself in the end. Although I had never found Hisao to be outright unlikable in this prologue, I was almost exclusively on Takumi's side for this entire prologue. Aside from a few points where Takumi lets some insensitive comments slip, I think he's in the right most of the time: Hisao needed to receive a kick-in-the-rear after months of wallowing in self-pity. Takumi gives him quite the kick, and it's this kick that sets Hisao on his slow, painful path to growth.

The writing in this prologue was quite good, and Talmar's prose is noticeably subtler than a lot of other stories I've read. Sometimes I had to go back and reread certain bits so that I could connect the dots in my head. On multiple occasions, Talmar leaves it up to the reader to figure things out for themselves. This is good, because it forces the reader to be actively engaging with the story rather than passively observing the story.

This is a magnificent opening to the story, and after reading it, I was very eager to read Act 1.

———————————————————



Act 1: Reconstruction

———————————————————

Scene 1: A Chance

For the most part, this seems to be a fairly straight retelling of scenes from the visual novel, though it may have been—I'm afraid to say—a bit too straight of a retelling. I really adore the prologue to Switching Dynamics because of how much Talmar subverts our expectations with original content. I can tell that Talmar tried to shake up this scene a little bit by giving us a more jaded and bitter Hisao, and by giving us rewritten descriptions of Hisao's surroundings, but I ultimately found this scene to be way too similar plot-wise to the scene from the visual novel to be truly engrossing. I was hoping for some new plot to keep me engaged. Despite my disappointment, it's understandable why Talmar had to structure the first few scenes the way that he did. After all, Hisao has to be introduced to Yamaku, Mutou, Shizune, and Misha in the same way throughout every fan story. It's hard to really change that around without skipping stuff all together.

With all that said, let's get into some of the new, interesting things that I noticed from this scene!

Talmar wrote:
Mon Dec 02, 2019 2:45 pm
“We believed that it would be best if you don’t return to your old school.”

Almost immediately I ball up my fist and try to take a swing at that bastard’s face.
Good grief, Hisao actually tries to punch the doctor!? Wow. This is the first—and only—time that Hisao did something that made him seem unlikable. However, I'm sure Talmar intended all of this. Again, Hisao is taking his taking his irrational anger out on the people who surround him.

Talmar wrote:
Mon Dec 02, 2019 2:45 pm
...The majority of the 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?” What the hell do you mean, doc? It’s a school for disabled kids. What kind of a word usage is that? I want to shout at him; don’t give me that bull.
As someone who takes pride in his independence, having the doctor tell him this must have been a serious slap in the face for Hisao. It’s as if all of his previous years of being independent have just been invalidated. It’s no wonder that Hisao wants to shout.

Later on, Hisao admits that he feels extremely guilty over what happened with Takumi. Hisao has had two months to stir on their argument, so I'm glad that he came to this realization, and his guilt gives Hisao a logical reason to give Yamaku a hopeful chance.

———————————————————

Scene 2: Enter Stage Left

This scene is largely another repeat from the visual novel, this time being a retelling of Hisao's first day in class—including his first meeting with Shizune and Misha. Once again, I found this scene to be a little too similar to the visual novel for the same reasons that I talked about in my analysis of scene 1.

Something caught my attention. As soon as Hisao enters class his classroom, he tunes out Mutou and starts thoroughly scanning his classmates, trying to figure out their “errors.” When he lands on Ritsu, he notices that she’s not looking at him, and internally remarks with appreciation that “it’s nice for a change that I’m not being treated like a test subject…” Okay. Wow. If that isn’t the most hypocritical thing I’ve ever heard, considering that Hisao has just spent that last couple minutes scanning his fellow students as if they were test subjects. This is the second time where Hisao seemingly holds a double-standard, so I’m willing to wager that this won’t be the last time—this is probably going to be a recurring character flaw for him. Hisao needs to bridge the gap between his "beliefs" and his actions.

Hisao meets up with Shizune and Misha, but this time he's more pessimistic and anxious around them. It's almost as if he can't trust them. Remember this, I'm going to bring it up later.

Ritsu, er- sorry, "hairband girl" only gets mentioned twice in this scene, and both times it’s about how she ignores everything around her. The way she seems to disappear into the background of the classroom is similar to Hanako, but instead of that coming from shyness, it’s coming from apathy. Interesting... Very interesting...

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Scene 3: In the Nursery

By this point, I think it's safe to assume that another of Hisao's recurring character flaws is his severe trust issues. The way that he seemingly tiptoes through each day and tiptoes through all of his conversations with others is something that he will need to overcome if he wants to be happy. I imagine that these trust issues come from his feelings of betrayal at the hands of his previous friends, but let's hope he can find some new friends soon. For what it's worth, Hisao is lucky that Shizune and Misha have a lot patience for Hisao to warm up to them and the school.

Ah! It's good to hear that Hisao might be interested in joining the music club! With that said, let's talk about K-On! for a little bit. I'm a huge fan of the films made by K-On!'s director, Naoko Yamada, but I must admit that I've only seen a few episodes of the show. However, even watching a few episodes made it clear that Ritsu has an extremely upbeat and socially active personality. Despite this, the Ritsu from Switching Dynamics is perhaps the polar opposite of her show counterpart. This Ritsu is apathetic, quiet, and doesn't really seem enthused about anything around her. It makes me wonder: what the heck could have happened to bring Ritsu from such enthusiasm (from the show) to such depression (in this story). It must have been something major, something huge.

I can't help but notice how similar Ritsu is to Hanako. Both are quiet, both have truant tendencies, and both go almost completely unnoticed by their classmates. But while Hanako's character traits are borne from her anxiety and fear, Ritsu's appear to come from her apathy toward her situation.

You know who else Ritsu reminds me of? Hisao. Ritsu seems an awful lot like how Hisao was at the very beginning of the story—especially in the prologue. We know that Hisao's personality has undergone a severe shift ever since he had his heart attack, lost his friends, and was plopped in an alien setting with nobody he knew. Bringing this back to Ritsu, it would appear that Yui, Mio, and Mugi (and Azusa? Is that her name? I didn't get that far in the show...) are nowhere to be found, making me wonder if Ritsu had a falling out with her friends similar to how Hisao had a falling out with his friends. Since Ritsu has carpal tunnel syndrome, her ability to drum has probably taken a severe hit—another sacrifice that Ritsu has made since coming to Yamaku. Maybe all of the bad things happening to Hisao have also have been happening to Ritsu. I wonder... Time will tell!

Below is another piece of subtle writing that I appreciated:
Talmar wrote:
Fri Dec 06, 2019 12:32 pm
He’s a young-looking man and sort of rugged, but the dimples on his cheeks wash away the impression as he flashes a disarming grin. I felt a slight twist in my stomach when I note how familiar it looks.
Talmar doesn't tell us why the grin feels familiar, or who the Nurse's grin reminds Hisao of; he lets us make guesses for ourselves. Personally, I would have to guess that this here is a reference to Takumi, but that is admittedly a guess with no evidence to back it up. :D

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Scene 4: Late Induction

Alrighty, we're starting to see glimmers of new plot threads being introduced. It seems like we've gotten beyond the first few introductory scenes of this story, so now each scene from here on doesn't need to be a strict retelling of events from the visual novel. We meet new characters, have new conversations, and a lot of other stuff that made me more engrossed in this scene than the last three! Let's get to it.

Talmar wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 3:00 pm
Most of them don’t even look like they belong here, except for the occasional cases like that girl with a pair of crutches, or the guy in a wheelchair. Then again, neither do I. Does that make me one of them? One of us?

I take a moment of deep breath. No I’m not. I know I’m not.
Yikes, the quote above reveals that Hisao certainly has a lot of growing to do. Going hand-in-hand with Hisao's trust/acceptance issues is his inability to accept himself and his condition. Hisao is so obsessed with not seeming "fragile," "weak," or like a "broken toy" that he is willing to do things that actively keep him away from others. At least, that is what I thought was the case until this happened...

Talmar wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 3:00 pm
I quickly catch the upper end as it tilts, gesturing him to change the orientation so it would be more horizontal. He seems to understand that quickly enough and changes hands. “Hey, thanks,” he says, grateful that he can now see forward by the sigh of relief he lets out.

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

“Haha, I’ll keep that in mind.” He stops. “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 stumbles onward down the hallway. I have half a mind to help him carry the thing, but frankly, I’m tired for the day.
This short little exchange—where we meet Shouhei for the first time—doesn't add much in terms of plot progression, but I'm really glad that it was included anyway, because it lends a ton more character progression and character depth to Hisao. This is the first time that Hisao has had a natural, stress-free conversation with anybody in this entire story, let alone the first time that Hisao has reached out to someone to provide help. Even though Shouhei has an obvious disability, Hisao still feels compelled to help out this stranger and participate in a friendly conversation with them afterward—actions that are at complete odds with Hisao's earlier statement that he would never allow himself to become labeled as or associated with "one of them." Once again, Hisao's internal "beliefs" and his external actions are somewhat paradoxical—a fact that I find quite interesting.

Having this discussion with Shouhei injects a substantial amount of greyness into Hisao, because now we don't really know whether Hisao's internal "beliefs" or his external actions are representative of his "true self." Are his beliefs a façade? Or are his actions a façade? When reading this bit with Shouhei, I couldn't help but think that Hisao acts a lot like the more selfless and optimistic version of himself from the visual novel, which has me curious... We've seen glimmers of Hisao acting like himself from the visual novel, so is it possible that that version of himself still exists within him deep down? It seems to me that Hisao's positive personality traits from the visual novel have been buried under ten feet of sand in Switching Dynamics, and that Hisao's journey will involve shoveling all of that sand away. As time goes on, I predict that we are going to start seeing Hisao act more selfless and kind like himself from the visual novel rather than the anxious, distrustful, and jaded Hisao that has been depicted in Switching Dynamics.

Anyway, Hisao meets Kenji in a similar way to the way that he met him in the visual novel, but where Hisao in the visual novel is somewhat passive when dealing with Kenji's antics, Hisao here is a lot more distrustful and resistant toward Kenji. This is more consistent characterization for Hisao.

Talmar wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 3:00 pm
17 pills in total. And an eye drop.
Dang. That’s a good line. If 17 pills wasn't bad enough, the eye drop is an extra slap in the face to Hisao. Short and effective. Good job, Talmar.

———————————————————

Scene 5: Smalltalk

Awesome! Starting with this scene, we are in completely uncharted territory—no retreads from the visual novel in sight.

At the beginning of this scene, Hisao sees Ritsu looking at the greenery in between the dormitories. Sound familiar? Hisao also found himself absentmindedly looking at the campus greenery in Scene 4. Maybe this means that both Hisao and Ritsu are similar in that they don't have much to do, so they wander around campus...

From what I recall, this is the third scene that mentions Hanako in some form. Once again, Hanako is being compared to Ritsu. With how similar these two seem to be, and how often Talmar seems to mention Hanako—despite the fact that he has neglected to mention Lilly, Rin, or Emi—makes me wonder if Hanako is going to play a larger role in the story. I wonder...

Talmar wrote:
Fri Apr 24, 2020 12:20 am
The hairband girl, though... I’ve only had a couple of chances to observe her in the two days I have been here. She seems listless at best, and I can’t help but be curious as to why.

Because it feels as if we’re both in the same situation.
Oh heck yes. My prediction was correct!

Talmar wrote:
Fri Apr 24, 2020 12:20 am
How did they not hear the distant murmur of the crowd that gathered there earlier?
Uhhh… Maybe it’s because she’s DEAF, ya bum! :lol:

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Scene 6: Tryout

This has easily been the best scene so far in Act 1. Now that we’re in the territory of completely original plot, I’ve found myself more engaged than I ever have been.

Talmar wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 5:53 am
Even my old school didn’t have niche clubs like mythology study, or occult investigations. Aren’t they just manga plot devices?
Cute line. As someone who has read and watched my fair share of stories with those kinds of niche clubs, I found this line quite humorous.

Around this time is when Hisao should be going to the library for the first time to meet Hanako, but this time around, Hisao decides against going to the library and chooses to head straight to the music room. I guess that means we won't be seeing much of Hanako from here on—it looks like my prediction was incorrect in that regard.

Hisao eventually finds his way to the music club. His introduction to the rest is so awkward and I love it. There, we meet Rika, Saki, and Mrs. Sakamoto. Rika seems quite energetic, while Saki seems more sensitive to the feelings of others. I noticed that Saki especially went out of her way to make Hisao more comfortable. In a way, Saki is trying to do what Shizune and Misha have been trying—help ease Hisao into his surroundings—but Saki is going at it in a more gentle way, which seems to resonate with him more. Despite this, he is still resistant to what Saki is saying, especially with regard to how to handle his disability:
Talmar wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 5:53 am
And here is this new girl I barely even know just telling me to be upfront about it. But I don’t want to.

I just don’t. It’s… painful.
Yup. It looks Hisao still doesn't see himself as one of "them." Despite the kindness everyone has showing him, he needs some time to warm up to the idea, I guess.

The two of them get to the stage and Hisao begins to help with carrying stuff and other physical labor. Even though doing labor is somewhat dangerous for him, he doesn’t tell Saki about his heart condition because he doesn’t want to be coddled or feel like he’s “useless.” He genuinely feels that keeping his disability a secret is the best thing for him. Interesting... Let’s hope he changes his mind soon.

And finally, on a personal note, I just have to say... Holy frick! Hisao is a tuba player!?!…

I'm a tuba player...

Yup. That settles it. Talmar’s interpretation of Hisao is no doubt the greatest Hisao to ever exist, no question, absolutely, one-hundred percent. Tuba Hisao is best Hisao. :wink:


———————————————————

Scene 7: Short Trip

Interestingly, Hisao states that music was his first passion. He notes how strange it is that as soon as he gets to Yamaku, a place for him to reinvent himself, he immediately goes back to something from his old life. Is it that weird, though? This seems perfectly in line with Hisao’s character, right now—he wants to hold on to his old life with all of is will. Jumping ahead a bit, if Hisao ends up moving on from his past life, then does that mean that music has to go along with it? Will he have to abandon the tuba and the guitar in order to move on with his life?

Hisao seems to instinctively touch his scar a lot. Given how cagey he is about his arrhythmia, I am willing to bet that he’s going to end up accidentally giving his disability away by accidentally touching his scar in front of others rather before he can tell them directly. I mean, if I were to see someone constantly touching their chest to check their pulse, I would probably figure out that the person has a heart problem, so Hisao isn't exactly being very subtle, here. Haha!

Hisao thinks back to his friends with fondness and with guilt. It’s clear that he is putting less and less blame on his friends and feeling more and more guilt for what he did to them. Perhaps this means he’s growing. With how guilty Hisao feels about his friends, I am willing to bet that eventually—perhaps in Act 3 or Act 4—that Hisao will have to reach out to his friends and apologize. Hisao blames his friends for not understanding him, but at least they tried. Hisao never tried to help them understand him. Hisao just assumed that everyone would understand him.

Talmar wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 5:03 pm
Who knows, they could be the same as I was when I was still back in the hospital...

Actually, I’d rather keep my distance from those kinds of folks.
Oh, wow. This is an interesting line. So now Hisao knows how much of a jerk he was being back in the hospital.

Talmar wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 5:03 pm
If they, who never felt a single brush with death, told me that it’s nothing to worry about, then the people who do know what it’s like and dismiss it would definitely tell me the same.

If that happens, I won’t be able to hold it off. I already blew up at Takumi over it.

I know I’m not fine, and that’s alright. But don’t tell me I will be fine.

Don’t ever tell me I’ll be fine.
This whole bit has me curious. Is this foreshadowing? Is it a warning? Or maybe Hisao needs to learn how to grow past this mindset. I suppose Hisao's mindset can't debunked outright—after all, it's his opinion—but I can't help but feel like the way Hisao treats his own disability is just not very constructive or helpful to anyone, including himself. Hisao doesn't want people to dismiss his disability, but he also can't stand it when he's treated like a fragile doll or someone who needs any help whatsoever. Instead of just "blowing up" at people when they don't treat him how he wants to be treated, maybe he could just, you know, tell them how he wants to be treated. Believe it or not, people can't directly read Hisao's thoughts, so they don't know what he wants out of them. Again, Hisao's demands out of people are just not reasonable, constructive, or fair. He needs to figure some of this out if he wants to make close friends once more.

After Hisao gives us more internal monologuing, we eventually go inside the convenience store. Hisao meets Ritsu when they both reach for something at the same time… Despite how cliché the start of their meeting is, I think the rest of the meeting serves its purpose well. We learn about Ritsu’s personality, which is very unique compared to the rest of the main heroines from KS, and we also get to see Hisao have his hypocrisy come back to bite him when he thinks the following:
Talmar wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 5:03 pm
I get angry at people for not knowing what to say around me back then, yet I don’t even know how to talk to strangers.
Hisao is properly introduced to Shouhei Mizushima, the Big Box Boy. The two have a very friendly conversation about laundry, student council politics, and music! Shouhei is learning to play the keyboard. Their conversation goes well until they start to talk about their disabilities. Hisao asks Shouhei if he’s in Yamaku because of his eye, to which Shouhei confirms completely without any reservations. It would seem that Saki is right: most people in Yamaku are willing to talk about their disabilities openly. However, when Shouhei reasonably flips the question back on Hisao, Hisao resists, failing to see the hypocrisy in doing so. Luckily, Hisao eventually realizes that Shouhei is friendly and ends up giving Shouhei a hint about his disability.

Something interesting to note is that Shouhei is also a fairly new student to Yamaku, only a few months newer than Hisao. However, Shouhei is taking his new disability far better than Hisao has taken his. I wonder if Shouhei is going to be able to fill the role that Takumi previously filled for Hisao, but this time, hopefully Shouhei should know how to help Hisao in the way that Hisao needs it.

Shouhei talks about the predicament of their band—about how their lead guitarist and their drummer have been unavailable due to circumstance. I’m willing to bet that Shouhei, knowing that Hisao was in a light music club, told Hisao about all of this not just to vent, but to see if Hisao would be interested in filling one of the roles. At the very least, Shouhei was hoping to sew that idea into Hisao's subconcious.

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Scene 8: Lunch Evolution Theory

Right off the bat, I love how Hisao instinctually slams his hand on his bedside table thinking that his usual alarm clock is there, only to see the alarm clock replaced with pill bottles. Brilliant imagery. We’re already off to a good start in this scene.

Talmar wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 8:56 am
I take a glance at the window behind me and gauge the height; nope, I can’t do it. There’s no escape.
Haha! Ouch.

Misha then proceeds to grill Hisao about why he was walking with Ritsu. Hisao successfully evades the questioning, and Shizune eventually bails him out by furiously signing at Misha. What was she so furious about? Misha seems really shaken after it's all said and done. What could Shizune have possibly said to her? Again, this is subtle writing. Talmar doesn't give us all the answers. He lets us figure out thing for ourselves. If I had to guess, I would say that Shizune didn't want to scare Hisao away by letting Misha grill him on his third day, and the only for Shizune to ensure that Misha stays quiet is to break her spirit.

Hisao ends up eating with Shouhei and his friends: Taichi, Tsubaki, and Chihiro. Hisao is a little bit nervous around Shouhei’s friends at first, which makes sense, given that Hisao has serious trust issues in this story. Meanwhile, Shouhei is just the most friendly guy to ever exist.

Then, something very interesting happens. Out of nowhere, Emi accidentally rams into Hisao. This seems pretty similar to what happened in the visual novel, right? But this time, Talmar decides to actively subvert that scene from the visual novel. In the visual novel, Emi ramming Hisao is seen as a comedic, cute way for the two to initially meet. In this story, Emi ramming Hisao is seen as a tense and dire thing to happen. Hisao is put in serious danger, and Tsubaki just completely goes off on Emi. She mentions that Emi does this sort of thing all the time, and even sent Rika to the hospital because of a similar incident.

You know how I said that I adore the prologue of this story because it subverts expectations? I adore scene eight for the exact same reason. We expect the meeting with Emi to be fun and comedic, but instead we get a tense standoff that becomes very aggressive at the end. Congratulations Talmar, you successfully made Emi seem like the "bad guy" in this scene, a feat I didn’t think was possible. At the very least, you successfully shed some light on one of Emi's negative character traits that went largely unnoticed in the visual novel.

I was very happy to see how much Shouhei’s friends came to Hisao’s aid when he is in danger. Everyone seems to chip in when Hisao goes down. Earlier on, Hisao was having trouble trusting these folks, but after all the help they have given him in his time of need, I’m willing to wager that he’ll be a lot more willing to trust them from now on. I’d say they’ve more than earned his trust by now.

Interestingly, Hisao is the one stops Tsubaki’s rant against Emi. I was initially surprised that Hisao wasn’t more angry with Emi, but after thinking about it, it makes a lot of sense: Hisao doesn’t want to be treated as a “patient,” or someone who is “fragile.” Tsubaki’s rant must have made him feel pretty weak, so he wanted to stop her as soon as possible.

Yeah, this is probably the best scene in the entire story so far. Just edging out the prologue with its better pacing—this scene has really good pacing, in my opinion.

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Reflection:

I want to preface everything by saying that I found the prologue extremely compelling. However, I must admit that when Act 1 began, I was somewhat disappointed that the first few scenes were by and large retreads of scenes from the visual novel. I was hoping for some more new stuff to get me engaged in the story. However, that prologue was sooooo good that I was willing to keep going—knowing that original content was bound to be up ahead. Sure enough, Scene 4 started giving us new plot threads, and I felt my engrossment in the story increase. Afterward, it was smooth sailing. Scene 5 through Scene 8 are completely original and excellent—particularly Scene 6 and especially Scene 8. Scene 8 had me so engrossed that I actually felt some regret that I couldn't immediately jump into Scene 9. That's a good sign for me—it means that I'm enjoying reading this story.

If there one piece criticism that I do I have—although this is a matter of personal preference—it’s that the monologue-to-dialogue ratio seems somewhat lopsided toward the former. When I say that, I mean that sometimes we get paragraph after paragraph of Hisao thinking about things, and while this way of dealing out exposition can provide us detailed insight into Hisao's character and feelings, it can feel eventually feel tiring listening to Hisao monologuing for such long, uninterrupted sequences. I noticed this especially in the first half of Scene 7, where Hisao is doing nothing but walking and thinking. Personally, I like it when stories break up long bouts of internal monologue with actions or dialogue—this sort of thing improves the pacing of the story. In one of Talmar's Discord messages, he mentioned that giving lots of detailed internal monologue is an intentional style he's chosen to go with, so I can't exactly argue against that, but that doesn't change the fact that I sometimes felt tired while reading Hisao's internal monologuing when it stretched out for several paragraphs. When this happened, I couldn't help but find myself waiting for the next dialogue scene.

I didn't really know where to fit this in, but I wanted to quickly mention the symbolism in this story. First off, the obvious symbol that Hisao repeatedly refers to is the "broken toy" symbol, which I thought was quite clever and made sense given the context of the story. But also, I wanted to talk about the symbolism of the hand. More specifically, Ritsu's hands. Hands are usually seen as symbols of action, since we can perform a seemingly infinite number of actions and tasks with them—one such action being drumming. However, Ritsu's carpal tunnel syndrome is limiting her use of her hands, and if the disability progresses, she may lose complete control of that hand (at least, that's what I understand about carpal tunnel syndrome, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong). If we're taking this into account, Ritsu metaphorically losing her hand lines up with how she is losing her ability to be an active individual. After all, Ritsu seems completely absentminded throughout this story, and we hardly see her do anything that we make her seem like an active person.

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Phew! I'm finally done writing this... I must say that I'm quite exhausted, but it was a labor of love! I very much enjoyed reading this story, and I can't wait to see where it goes next. You can already bet that I'll be there to read and analyze the next scene when it comes out. Until then, take care, everyone!

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