Took a few extra days to get out with how busy the holidays were this year, but I managed to finish my contribution to this little shindig I look forward to every year!
I drew the one and only ProfAllister as my victim.
Prompt: The Winter Solstice is the Feast of Sol Invictus, "the unconquered sun". No longer retreating, the sun goes on the offensive, the days getting progressively longer from this point on.
Write a story about one of Yamaku's unconquered suns
This idea was kicking around in my head for a while and I replayed Emi's route to get a feel for it. Prof, I hope you (and others) enjoy it!
Emi never did like wearing sweatshirts, especially when running on the track. The cooler weather made it a necessity however, along with the heavy cotton shorts she was wearing. It was a small price to pay to be able to keep up her routine, and one she was happy to.
Her breath came to her in ragged puffs, her lungs sucking in air and expelling it into small clouds that trailed behind her in the cold evening air. The sun had just dipped below the horizon, taking with it the feeble temperature that passed for warmth during the shortened days. A few months ago and there’d still be plenty of daylight left, but with the year coming to a close, she found herself on the track earlier in the evenings than she usually ran.
The blades made a steady cadence on the track, harmonizing with her breathing as she rounded the last corner and put on another burst of speed. She reached the line and soared across it, feeling good about the amount of time it took to run the last mile of the day - as good as she could feel without a stopwatch, anyway.
One more lap to cool down should do it, she thought to herself.
She was the only one out on the track this time of day, as it was on most days. With exams over and most of the other students either going home or choosing to spend their winter break relaxing, she had the entire thing to herself. As she finished her final lap, a voice called out to her, startling her.
“You’re gonna catch a cold if you keep up like this, you know.”
Emi turned to see Nurse leaning against the fence that separated the track from the bleachers, holding a steaming cup and smiling at her as he watched. She rolled her eyes in mock exasperation and walked up to him, hoping that she wasn’t in for another scolding.
“I was just finishing up. Besides, these shorts you gave me do a good enough job of keeping me warm!”
Nurse laughed. “Glad to hear it, even though all I did was cut the legs off a pair of sweatpants and have Yuuko hem the edges.”
Emi walked through a gap in the fence and sat down on the front row of benches, looking quizzically at the older man. “What are you doing out here? You normally go home by now.”
Nurse smiled back at her. “Well, I had to stay a bit late to finish up. I figured since I was here, I'd swing by to check up on you. How are you doing?”
“Never better!” she replied, reaching down to slide the hem of her shorts up, revealing the line where her flesh ended and the plastic began. “Wanna see?” With practiced ease, she swung both of her legs up onto the bench next to him as he sat down next to her.
“We can do this inside, if it’s warmer.”
Emi shook her head. “No, this is fine. It’s not that cold yet.”
Nurse nodded and placed a hand on her thigh, using the other one to twist her right blade until it gently slipped off. Emi reached down and took off the short stocking that covered her stump, leaving it exposed. They had done this countless times before, and the routine was no different; it only took about thirty seconds to check the flesh for any signs of irritation or damage, and another minute to inspect the other leg in a similar fashion.
“Everything looks good, but it looks like your blades might need to get the rubber changed out pretty soon.”
“Ahhh, yeah,” Emi agreed, rubbing the back of her head and looking sheepish. “I was kind of putting that off until the break started...”
“It might have been better to do it while the exams were going on. It only takes a week for the company to retrofit these things,” Nurse mentioned, pursing his lips as Emi put her stockings back on. The girl looked at him in abject horror at this suggestion.
“Are you kidding? Running in the morning was the only thing keeping me sane through the last two weeks!”
Nurse laughed again. “I can take them tonight and mail them off tomorrow morning. They’d be back here by the time classes start again.”
Emi paused for a second. “Um, can you pick them up when you come for Christmas? You’re still coming over, right?”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world. Will your boyfriend be joining us?”
She pouted. “No. Hisao’s parents really wanted him back to visit, but he promised me he’s going to be back here in time for New Years!”
“That’s good news, at least. So do you two have anything planned?”
“Yep! We’re going on a date in the city. There’s a concert I want to see and he owes me.” Emi twisted her second blade back into place and stood up briefly to test the fit. “Besides, we can get front row seats without paying for them!”
“So what does Hisao owe you for this time?” Nurse asked, smiling.
Emi put her hands on her hips and proudly jutted her chest out. “Just being my awesome self, of course! And getting him into shape. He said he’s healthier now than he ever was before he came to Yamaku.”
“Well I don’t know that for sure, but I know he’s never been better for the last few months, anyway. You haven’t done too bad yourself.”
“Are you implying that I wasn’t always this amazing?” she asked, her eyes narrowing.
Nurse threw his hands up in defense. “Not at all! But if I may say so, he’s been really good for you. And not just in helping you keep up a running schedule either.”
“He really has been. He makes me happy,” Emi confessed, sitting down next to the older man on the bench. “Took a lot to make him that way, you know.”
“Eh, between the two of us, I think he did just fine, don’t you?” he asked, placing an arm around her shoulders.
“Yeah. But you know, he’s not the only one I have to whip into shape,” Emi said, her voice starting to turn ominous. She leaned back a bit so she could turn her body to face Nurse, and crossed her arms. “You and I need to have a serious talk, mister.”
Nurse smiled. “Oh? And what did I do this time?” he asked, picking up his coffee and bringing it to his lips.
“When are you going to make an honest woman out of my mom?”
Nurse did a spit take, coughing as the sip he was taking exploded out of his mouth. It took him a few seconds to regain his composure, and even then it wasn’t very coherent.
“When am I what?”
Emi smiled slightly at his reaction, but didn’t let up. “You’ve been dating off and on for years now. She loves you, you know she does. So. When are you going to make it official? She’s not going to wait forever for you, you know.”
Nurse finally managed to set his coffee down, wiping the liquid off the front of his jacket. “Aren’t you direct this evening.”
“I’m serious. I want to know why you haven’t."
Nurse sighed and looked out over the track, seeing the long shadows the goalposts on the inner field cast as the lights above the bleachers flickered to life automatically, bathing the track and field into a harsh artificial glow. This was a conversation he knew was going to happen eventually, but now that it was here, he wasn’t quite sure how to begin.
“Your mother and I tried to get close before, but...the timing didn’t work out. We thought we might want to try it again someday, but...”
“This doesn’t have anything to do with what Nomiya did at the exhibit opening, does it?”
Nurse was taken aback. “You knew about that?”
“Mom told me about it. What exactly happened?”
Nurse paused again, reliving the memory of visiting the 22nd Corner that night. The three of them - himself, Emi, and Meiko - had gone to show support for Rin, who had a section dedicated to the art that she had made. “He didn’t say anything at the time, but he joked the next day in the staff lounge about how nice it must be to be dating an older woman.”
“Jerk. I don’t see how Rin can put up with him,” Emi said, clenching her fists in empathy.
“He has a very...distinct...personality.”
“Well, who cares if you’re closer to my age than my mom’s?” Emi bristled, her voice rising in indignation. “That’s only to be expected, right? I’ll be old enough to drink in three months, you know.”
“Heaven forbid,” Nurse said, shooting her a glare that made her deflate.
“Well, just because I can doesn’t mean I will. I don’t really like the taste too much anyway.”
“And just how would you know what alcohol tastes like, hmm?”
Emi shook her head emphatically. “Nope. I’m not letting you blackmail me.”
“I might just have to tell your mother anyway.”
“You’re an asshole, and blackmail only works if you’re covering up a good reason, which that isn’t.”
Emi crossed her arms again. “So, what else ya got?”
Nurse leaned back, clearly uncomfortable, something that Emi only rarely managed to make him. “Did your mother put you up to this?”
She winked. “You don’t think you’re the only
one I conspire with, do you?” She dropped the playful demeanor suddenly, looking at him with concern. “But seriously. I really need to know.”
“It...wasn’t so much the age thing, but something else that Nomiya made me think about. You know, it might be seen as inappropriate for one of the Yamaku staff to date the parent of one of their students.”
Emi pondered this for a moment, turning it over in her head. “If you’re gonna use that as an excuse, you better follow through on it.”
“What’s this now?”
“You were part of our lives years before I came to Yamaku, and we both know that hasn’t stopped you from trying in the past. And I’m not going to be a student here anymore in a few months, so that’s reason number two
that doesn’t work. Try again.”
Nurse rubbed the back of his neck, his feeble attempts to stall or ward off the true issue of the conversation spent. “Well, if I’m honest, it’s, um...it’s you.”
“Me?” Emi asked in surprise.
“Not just you, but your mother,” he stammered out. “No, that’s not right either. It’s, well...your father.”
Emi was even more confused at this statement. “What do you mean, my father?”
Despite the chilly night air, Nurse felt uncomfortably hot. “I care deeply about both of you. You know that...but there’s a part of me that feels like I would be...overreaching?”
Emi’s brows furrowed as she heard this, before her eyes went wide with understanding. “Seriously? That’s
what’s been holding you back? The idea that you wouldn’t be able to replace my dad?”
Nurse hung his head and rubbed at his temples. “Sounds stupid when you say it out loud, doesn’t it?”
Fully engulfed in a head of steam, Emi put her hands on her hips again and didn't relent. “You’re damned right! You’re one of the smartest people I know and that has to be the dumbest
thing I’ve ever heard you say in the eight years I’ve known you. If I had a week
I wouldn’t be able to tell you all the ways you’re wrong.”
think you’re overstating what I-”
Nurse was cut off by Emi giving him a fierce hug, crushing the wind out of him with its intensity. “Shut up,” she mumbled into his chest. “You’ve been here for me and Mom. More than anyone else. You’re family.”
shut up. I love my dad. I miss him. I’m always going to,” Emi said, pulling back a bit to look up at him. “But you know what? He would have wanted more than anything to see the two of us happy again. You make us both happy, and we wouldn’t be who we are today if we didn’t meet you.” Tears started to form in the corner of her eyes, and her voice became small. “I already lost one dad. I don’t want to lose another one.”
Nurse’s heart started pounding hard when he heard that, hammering away at his doubts. He returned the hug, wrapping his arms around Emi’s frame. “Do you really mean that?”
He felt her nod against his chest. “I mean, after all this time...don’t you see me as a daughter? At least a little bit?”
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t.”
Emi’s embrace only got tighter at his answer, and the two of them sat undisturbed for several minutes.
“There,” she said, pulling away to look up at him. “So it’s settled.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that. I’m not telling you to propose to her, but...you guys need to give it a serious shot, okay? Mom loves you, and I...I really want it to work out.”
Nurse laughed, a huge weight being lifted off his shoulders. “You sure you’ll be able to put up with my nagging?”
Emi beamed up at him. “The last eight years has been good practice.”
Another bout of cleansing laughter shook Nurse, and Emi joined in, both of them shedding the anxiety and fear that the conversation had built up.
“Well, I guess your mom and I are going to have to have a talk when I come over in a few days, won’t we?”
Nurse hugged her again, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, letting go of all the apprehension that had built up over the last few years.
“Thanks for being so stubborn.”
Emi giggled. “You saw how I was able to turn Hisao onto running. You really didn’t think I’d ever use that on you, did you?”
“No, but I’m glad you did. Thank you, Emi. I can’t think of a better Christmas gift from you.”