Running Away To You (A Post Lilly-Neutral Story) (Updated 15/8/21)

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Joined: Sun May 12, 2019 11:19 pm

Running Away To You (A Post Lilly-Neutral Story) (Updated 15/8/21)

Post by MoashLannister » Fri May 15, 2020 8:00 am

(So, for a quick backstory on the conception of this story...

It honestly started as a joke idea, a one shot that I intended to write in order to explore a very unlikely scenario. However, the writer in me realized that I can't satisfactorily write this as a one shot, so I decided to split it into two chapters...and then three. Eventually it morphed into something I honestly didn't expect, and I've been committing my time and dedication to this story for the better part of a year, writing this concurrently with The Long Road, my other major writing project.

Right now, it's just as long as the aforementioned project, if not slightly longer. This is a writing project I'm proud of, that I'm glad at the fact that it has changed so wildly from my initial idea, and that the private feedback I've received has been mostly positive. My hesitation to uploading this project to a more public platform boiled down to several factors: the fact that it needed to be beta-read and refined, the concept of the story itself, fear of its reception, and admittedly a large bout of laziness.

Even now, I know this project will be far more contentious than The Long Road, in both its inception and execution. But I still feel like this is a story worth sharing, and I'm sure a lot of people with "out-there ideas" feel the same. Regardless of how you view it, I'm happy that people will take the time to just read these ideas taking on a life of their own

Credit to Lap for Proofreading, and Oddball for coming up with the title.)


Act 1: Stop and Go

Chapter 1


The annoying whine of my alarm clock makes me sit up on the bed, groaning all the while. I immediately slam my fist on the off button to shut it up. As helpful as that thing is in making sure I’m awake on time, I refuse to grant it any mercy for dragging me out of my sleep kicking and screaming.

Another day, which first means another round of medication to take.

I go through the process, taking my pills and applying the rest of the medications one by one. It is a routine that I’ve been forced to take for a better part of a year, though that makes it no less tedious.

After that’s done, I check all the other things to do off my morning routine. I eat breakfast, which today consists of the leftovers from last night’s dinner and some juice from the fridge. I change from my sleeping clothes to much more presentable long pants and a collared shirt, and I brush my teeth and wash my face.

Finally, I pack all my notes and textbooks into my bag, which I sling over my shoulder. I open the door and immediately grimace at the thought of breathing the air here, which smells faintly of smoke from the neighbouring apartments. Looking back, I can see my apartment room in its entirety.

It’s a small area consisting of the main room that doubles as a bedroom, and the bathroom, with a fridge and a kettle in the corner beside the faucet—the closest thing to a kitchen I have. The walls are dull yellow, and the window leads to a balcony that I can barely fit onto. Sometimes, when it rains heavily, the left corner of the ceiling will leak drops of water.

It is uncomfortable, a little sad, and disappointing. But it is my home, for better or worse.

Deciding not to ruminate too much on my depressing residence, I close the door and quietly walk out of my apartment building towards the bus stop. I honestly want to just run the whole way, as if I’m trying to escape my own home, but my defective excuse of a heart would probably kill me for that.

Though these days that idea is less horrifying than it used to be, and the fact that I think that somehow makes it even more horrifying. A paradoxical statement, but true nonetheless.

I arrive at the stop just as the bus arrives. I quickly get in and squeeze myself into the multitude of bodies inside. As always, the bus is more packed than a can of sardines. Some days I would be lucky enough to snag a seat just as someone leaves, but today is not that day, as I endure each and every stop standing.

It isn’t long before the bus approaches my stop, I work my way out of that steel tomb and quickly walk the last stretch of my daily journey. Looking at my watch, I see it’s currently 8:30 a.m., an hour before class begins.

Yeah, I can probably take it slow for a bit. I have time, way too much of it.

Looking around, I can see other people walking down the sidewalk. This isn’t a particularly busy street, but there were still enough people that go through here, either to college or to the large company buildings nearby.

Some people I vaguely recognize from the college, either looking at their phones or walking with their hands in their pockets. I see a couple holding hands as they engage in what I assume is either an interesting conversation or mutual flirtation, as couples often do.

I wonder how long they’ve been together, and whether or not they will stay together. I realize I’m speculating about people I don’t know, but thinking about anything but myself was a good enough reason to.

Eventually the college area comes into view. It is a pretty sight, though the charm has long since worn off for me. Two large dormitory buildings stand opposite each other, and behind them is a building that towers over them, a monstrosity of a structure that takes up nearly half the college area. On the very top of the main building are two large flags waving in the wind, with Japan’s national flag on one, and the college logo on the other.

The walls are pristine, a mix of metallic and concrete surfaces. The sunlight reflecting off them gives them a slightly yellow hue, and at sunset the orange tint on the building is very much a selling point of the campus’s visual image, at least as far as marketing is concerned.

A beautiful campus, to be sure. And I’m sure someone more into architectural aesthetic can truly admire it. As for me, it’s simply something to look at as I enter and exit the compound, mildly impressive but otherwise unremarkable in the grand scheme of things.

No, the true value of the campus is what was inside; its facilities are what draws me to this place. The sterile classrooms feature some of the best educational materials currently on the market, the library takes up an entire floor of the main building, with more than thirty thousand books, and finally the research labs where students can do independent experiments, so long as they don’t blow something up.

Those things are some of the reasons that I chose this college to further my physics studies, and I currently have no reason to regret that choice.

I head through the gate, the security guard giving me an acknowledging nod as I pass, and walk up the steps towards the main building. No other student greets me on my way, and I do not greet them in return. Some of them had their own cliques, while most didn’t know me.

And some, I suspect, are like me. Wanting nothing to do with anyone or anything else but themselves.


I’m the first to enter classroom, as usual. The lecturer, Mr. Tatsunagi, greets me with a casual wave as I take my seat at the back of the class, being accustomed to my early arrivals at this point. Today’s topic is going to be about the effects of extremely low temperatures on atoms, which is a subject that I’m not particularly excited about, but at least it isn’t something that will put me to sleep.

The other students start trailing in soon thereafter, either by themselves or in groups of two to five. They all take their usual seats, with a redheaded girl sitting to my left and a portly guy sitting to my right. I didn’t know their names and don’t care to find out, and judging from our month-long silence towards one another, it goes both ways.

Once the lecture starts, I immediately focus and begin listening attentively to what he says, scribbling down what I think is important on my notepad. I can probably be lax on that, seeing as I’m ahead on both my studies and have solid grades, but it isn’t like there is anything better to do.

I can vaguely hear the slight whispers of conversation below me, and I grit my teeth at the distraction. The three in front of my seat are always chattering during lectures, and given how Mr. Tatsunagi often glares at them when he hands out assignment results, I get the feeling that they aren’t exactly star pupils.

Still, just because they revel in their failure doesn’t mean they should drag me down by distracting me.

“Hey, are we going to the movies tonight or...?” One of them says to the other two. As much as I don’t want to hear them, I can’t completely tune them out.

“Yeah, I’ll bring Takahashi and Saito with us,” one of the other two responds. “It’ll be fun, for sure.”

The three continue on and on as I scribble down my notes. Looking down, I notice that I am also accidentally scribbling down their conversation as well. Damn it! Having no time to erase, I simply try my best to ignore what they are saying, to little avail.

“So, we going for the horror movie or the romantic one?”

“Oh, definitely the horror one. Especially since Takahashi likes to cling to you when she gets scared.”


Mercifully, the lecturer starts to notice the three talking and points to them, an angry glare on his face. “Ito, Yukishiro, Arita. Feel free to leave if you think this class is of no importance to you.”

The trio immediate shut up as he resumes his lecture. Though it doesn’t last for long, as they just speak in quieter voices while his back was turned. I’m seriously beginning to wonder if I’m the only one here who seems to care. The other students can either tune them out better than I can, or they simply didn’t care.

After two aggravating hours the class, and my patience, is finally over. The trio immediately stand up and walk out of the class, their loud chattering still audible even from a distance. The rest of the class slowly but surely starts to trickle out as well, leaving me to go over my notes.

Mr. Tatsunagi didn’t leave, and from the corner of my eye I can see that he is walking up to me, a genial smile on his face.

“I see you’re as diligent as ever, Nakai. I wish that you could rub off that diligence onto certain other students,” he says wryly as he walks up to me. “Since I have some time before my next class, is there anything you wish to speak about?”

“No, sir, I think I got most of what you taught in my notes, and I can always search the library on what I missed.”

“Independent, too. Good lad.” He gives me a pat on the shoulder. “I may not express it openly Nakai, but you are one of my favorite students. I have high hopes for how far you can go in this field. Very high hopes indeed.”

“Thank you, sir," I say. It feels nice to have someone acknowledge my hard work. “Is that all you wish to say?”

“Straight to the point, eh?” Tatsunagi lets out a slight chuckle as he pulls something out of his pocket. It was a business card, which he slips onto my desk. “I used to collaborate with a research company that an old friend of mine owns. If you’d like, I could have you recommended for an internship. You might even get some pay.”

I examine the card for details.. The location is maybe a few bus stops away. And it seems like a good opportunity to get some hands-on experience. The pay is irrelevant, mostly because I don’t need to buy things beyond food. The benefits of a frugal lifestyle.

“Gotta tell you though, it can be real tedious. Especially for an intern.” He makes a slight groan. “Those horror stories you hear about working, they’re every bit as real as you think they are. If you take it, prepare to lose a lot of your free time.”

If only he knew that free time is something I have way too much of.

“Thank you, sir. I’ll consider it,” I respond as I gather up my stuff, finally preparing to leave. It isn’t like I wanted to actually consider the option, as the choice seems very clear to me. I just don’t want to seem desperate for something to fill my time. “Just go to the office and mention your name?”

“More or less. Contact me before you decide to go, though, I still need to make the call.” With a final nod, he walks away from me. With nothing else to keep me here, I leave to find myself some lunch.


For as much as I appreciate the college’s facilities, the cafeteria still leaves something to be desired. Across the campus is a cafe that sells a decently cheap set lunch, which is where I head. While I’m not exactly picky when it comes to my choice of eateries, I do maintain a slight preference towards cafes, thanks to my many visits to the Shanghai.

And besides, a college student spending his free time in a cafe feels apt. It is a stereotype, but stereotypes are usually founded on genuine patterns.

Opening the door, the familiar scent of coffee welcomes me. The cafe is a modest place with obvious Western influences. Old Victorian lamps hang on the walls, bathing the place in golden light. On the far end wall is a large painting depicting a group of old soldiers bearing muskets, and all the seats are like those you’d find in an elderly man’s home. Capping it all off are the walls, in stripes of dark blue and bright red, which flakes of gold added in specific places.

Visually, it is very different from the Shanghai, but also pretty in its own way. It also happens to be absolutely full with students, businessmen, and other customers. Shifting my way through the crowd, I take my place in line and order lunch with a side of tea. When my meal arrives on a tray, I take it and look around for a seat.

And then I see something I never thought I’d see again, like a memory that’s playing tricks on my current mind.

She’s sitting at a corner table, the seat across her empty. She looks very much like the last time I saw her. Short blonde hair, a snazzy black suit, and crimson eyes. She takes a sip out of her cup of coffee before noticing me, and judging by the faint look of surprise in her eyes, I can see that she still remembers me.

Akira Satou.

I freeze there for a good few seconds, unsure of what to think. Akira seems to have no problem recovering as she takes a quick look around the busy cafe before motioning over to her table. I slowly move forward, wondering if any of this is actually happening.

If Akira has come back to Japan, does that mean that…

No, no, don’t think about that. Lilly’s gone, and whatever relationship we had is more than over already. I take the seat opposite her, trying not to look awkward as she flashes me a quick smile.

“Hey there, Hisao,” Akira says. “Gotta say, today’s been really surprising, but I think meeting you here takes the cake.”

“Yeah, no kidding,” I respond, trying to sound casual. I don’t know what to say, or even if I should say anything. What do you do when you’re sitting with your ex’s big sister?

“Hey, come on. Try to sound a little more surprised, will you?” She teases with a light chuckle. “I know we didn’t exactly leave as best friends or anything, but a little conversation wouldn’t hurt, would it?”

“I guess.” I take a bite of my rice, uncomfortable with looking her in the eye. “How are things over in Scotland?”

“Oh, same old, same old,” Akira says without hiding her contempt, her smile gone. “For a place that’s supposed to be a completely new set of opportunities, the work environment sure is the same.”

“I see.”

“How are things going with you? You’re in college, right?”

“Yeah, it’s actually the campus across the road. The facilities there are great.”

“Seems like you’re on track to making something of yourself. Always nice to hear.” Akira takes another sip of her coffee and says nothing more, allowing me to eat my meal in relative silence.

As I eat, I get the feeling that she’s waiting for me to ask her about something. I probably have an idea on what she wants me to ask her, but I’m not going to. The past is in the past, and I’m not going to look back on old times.

Maybe she realizes this, because after a while she starts talking. “’s Hanako? You two still in touch?”

“Not really. After we graduated, she and I went to different colleges. Last I heard, she’s making new friends and doing fine, but that was a long time ago.”

I try really hard not to sound bitter, but I could hear it clearly in my voice. It’s been a long time since I had to hide my emotions from anyone, so maybe I’m out of practice. Regardless, what I just said was the truth. Hanako has her own life now, and I have no right to be in it unwanted.

“I see,” Akira says, and gives me a sympathetic look. “I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m here, and it’s strictly business. Company wants to maintain good relations with its overseas branches, and what better person to send than someone who’s worked here half her life.”

“Sounds reasonable,” I agree.

“Yeah, you’d think.” She lets out a frustrated huff, her face twisting into a scowl. “Except now the branch is treating me like some sort of stranger. Intracompany politics are a pain in the ass, let me tell you. Doesn’t matter if you’re technically on the same team or if you worked there, the moment you leave you’re dead to them. And don’t get me started on…”

Akira finally seems to realize what she’s saying before stopping, looking a little abashed. “Sorry. Things just haven’t been easy lately, here or back home. I’m sure you didn’t come here just to listen to me bitch.”

“Well, it’s definitely not why I came here,” I say as I finish my rice and take a sip of my coffee, “But I can leave any time I want to, and yet I’m still here for some reason. Maybe it’s the food.”

“Smart-ass,” she quickly quips back, a slight smile returning to her face. “Things have been too serious. I need a little bit of humor, even if it’s at my expense. So thanks.”

“No problem. Thanks for offering me a seat.” I’m not smiling, but this is probably the closest to cheery I’ve been all day. “How long are you staying here?”

“A week, give or take,” she says, before taking a final swig of her coffee. “Though with how shitty things are, it might be a month for all I know. Which reminds me, I gotta run. It’s been fun seeing you.”

Akira stands up at her chair, though she looks at me for a few seconds. She’s probably waiting for me to say goodbye too, and I probably should.

“Are you coming here tomorrow?”

I don’t know why I ask that. I’d just planned on saying goodbye to her, and yet the question just came out of my mouth. Did I want to see her again? Why would I?

Akira doesn’t seem to react to my question at first, but she eventually gives me a little chuckle and says, “Maybe. Are you coming here tomorrow?”

I shrug. “Maybe.”

“Then maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.” She gives me a final smile before turning and exiting the cafe, leaving me alone again. With nothing to do here, I simply stand up and walk out as well. Afternoon lectures are going to start soon anyways, so I might as well get a head start on that.


Afternoon lectures came and went. The subject wasn’t particularly exciting, and the lecturer isn’t nearly as good as Mr. Tatsunagi when it comes to explaining things. But I still try to focus and take down all the notes I can. I’m almost through with filling another notebook with tips and reminders, and I’ll probably have to buy another one before the week is out.

But now that lectures are over for the day, I’m conflicted on what to do. The library seems like a reasonable option, but I surprisingly don’t have the energy to keep on studying today. A very rare occurrence, given my penchant for studying until I’m unconscious if it was necessary.

So with nothing particularly motivating me, I decide to take a walk in the city. For once, I have no particular direction in mind, simply walking to this street and that one, looking at the shops. It feels very much like when my parents weren’t home during my childhood, and I would simply go out and enjoy the city’s nightlife.

That seems like an eternity ago, back when I didn’t have to think about college, or my heart condition, or even where I was going with my life. If I could go back to those days, I would probably treasure them more than I ever did when I was a child.

I don’t like looking back at the past. It reminds me too much of how many things I’ve lost along the way to the present. But every so often, I can’t stop myself from reminiscing about the events back then, of how things were and how different they could be.

As I cross the street, I happen to wander into a busier part of the city. Performers are singing and dancing on the sidewalk, causing passerbuys to throw money at them in appreciation. Bars and restaurants fill the plaza, with many people in business suits entering them in groups.

I wonder if that’s what awaits me in the future. An entire day of work, and a drink with my co-workers afterwards, with barely any time to myself. There is some talk about how that kind of schedule was utterly miserable, and that it contributes a lot to why Japanese workers didn’t have time for stuff like families.

I personally don’t mind that. That kind of lifestyle just seems like the next natural step to go to after college, just like my parents. It isn’t a life that I find exciting, but it’s a productive one at the very least. Fulfillment is a nice feeling to have; it means you accomplished something with your time.

Though I would probably have to refuse or severely limit any sort of alcohol. My medications seriously limit what I can potentially indulge in, another fact I’ve learnt to live with.

I walk past all the bars and see a cinema. Even before college, I’d never been big on movies. Not that I don’t enjoy the occasional show, but going to see movies was never something I placed a high priority on.

However, as I get closer to the ticket booth I notice three familiar faces lining up for the movies. It’s the trio that sits in front of me, and I can’t help but feel annoyed that I’m bumping into them outside of school. There are two other people with them, and from what I can see they’re talking rather passionately as they wait in line.

I stand still there for longer than I would like to admit. Seeing them happily conversing, playfully jabbing each other, and overall having a good time, brings me a whole slew of emotions. One of them turns his head and sees me, but he doesn’t seem to know who I am and simply returns to talking with his companions.

I quickly walk away from the theater, not wanting to see them anymore. I hate the feeling of frustration that envelops me as I keep my head low, the desire to see the sights long gone. It’s been a long time since I’ve done something like this, and all I have to show for it is nothing but pointless thoughts and disappointing results.

There are many reasons why I like science, but lately one of the reasons is that everything makes sense. Sure, there are things that humanity has not yet grasped, but progress is being made every day. It may not be in my lifetime, especially with how short it might be, but one day we’ll crack the secrets of the universe, and everything involving the world will make sense.

Humanity itself, and especially the emotional side of humanity, is anything but rational. Sometimes emotions make us do stupid things, and sometimes it make us feel things that are the opposite of what the situation actually requires. I dislike feeling things I logically shouldn’t, knowing that it isn’t anyone’s fault, yet feeling the need for someone or something to direct my anger at.

That’s why I’m studying so hard, or at least that’s what I tell myself. Science is where emotions don’t factor into anything; where pure logic dictates any and every action, as it should be.

I realize that I’ve almost walked past the bus stop while lost in my thoughts, and stop and await the bus. It isn’t long before it arrives, and thankfully much emptier than the morning buses.

By the time I return to my apartment building, it’s well and truly night. I walk up the stairs, the smoke filling my nose as I reach my door. Opening it, I turn on the light and see that my apartment is just as I left it. Neat, organized.


Only now realizing that I have not eaten dinner today, I open a cabinet and rustle up a bowl of cup noodles and toss it on the table. I then pour some tap water into the kettle and turn it on, waiting for the water to boil.

As I do, I decide to open the curtains that lead to the balcony. Looking out, I can see that the city is completely lit up by lights, with several large buildings towering over the landscape, trying to reach the star-lit sky above.

It’s a pretty sight, and one I should really look at a little more, considering how easy it is. I let out a sigh as I look at the thousands of little red and white lights moving below, like glowing ants.

The sound of the kettle whistling tells me to turn it off, and I do so and pour the boiling water onto the cup. After a few minutes, I finally begin to eat them. The taste of it is good, especially without putting the terrible garnish onto it.

Once I finish, I look at my alarm clock. It’s only eight, and I already have nothing else to do tonight. Letting out a groan, I take the business card out of my pocket. As I think about it, the job really is perfect for me, as I have no social life to get in the way, and no other obligations that could mess up my schedule.

And besides, it’s a head start on the type of life I’ll be living after I graduate. Long hours, overtime, eating all my meals in the workplace just to meet the deadline. More than filling up my time, this job will help me acclimate to the rest of my foreseeable future.

Such an opportunity should not go to waste.

Unable to think of any objections, I promise myself to apply at the earliest opportunity. I spend the rest of my night changing into my sleep clothes, taking my medications, and laying down on the bed. The idea of studying is there, but there’s no desire to act on it.

I don’t know when I finally go to sleep, but eventually I feel my eyes start closing and never opening up again. Sleep is mostly blissful, though with the mildly annoying realization that I have to wake again. My final thoughts before I drift off is, oddly enough, my chance encounter with Akira.
Last edited by MoashLannister on Sun Aug 15, 2021 7:20 am, edited 8 times in total.

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

Re: Running Away To You (A Post Lilly-Neutral Story)

Post by MoashLannister » Fri May 15, 2020 8:02 am

Chapter 2

“Well, I’ll admit that you came to a decision much faster than I expected, Nakai,” Mr. Tatsunagi says as I walk up to him after class with business card in hand, his face looking rather tired compared to yesterday. His eyes have black circles under them, and it’s clear that he didn’t have the time to shave today from the stubble on his chin.

This isn’t the first time that he’s done a lecture looking so haggard, and I wonder what he’s doing that is tiring him out so much. Of course, the other students’ reactions on those days is to call him “Ghosteyes,” like the immature children that they’ve supposedly grew beyond.

“It wasn’t a hard one, really,” I admit, trying not to sound extremely desperate for something to do with myself. “It gives me experience, it gives me stuff to do, and it pays. What else is there to think about?”

“The workload, Nakai. The workload.” Mr. Tatsunagi groans as he rubs his temples, sounding much more hoarse than he usually does during his lectures. “You have been ahead on all of your assignments so far, and the other lecturers confirm as much. However, if you are to take this internship, you know that it is no excuse to slack off on your college work?”

“I understand, Mr. Tatsunagi,” I say, meeting his eyes directly. “I’ll make sure to balance both equally. I have the time.”

He looks at me for a moment, his eyes piercing into mine for...something, I’m not sure what. He eventually lets out a sigh and says. “Nakai, may I ask you one thing? Not just as a lecturer, but as someone who cares for your well-being.”

I give a slight nod, and he continues. “I’ll not be hypocritical and say that I equally value every student that comes into my lecture hall, as each is different in both their capacity and ambition. From the very first time I saw your work I knew you have the capacity to shine, and your diligence really does you credit. Of that, you have no worries from me. However, there is the matter of ambition. Not that you lack any, as you certainly seem eager to throw yourself into the world of physics, but the purpose behind the ambition.

“I will not claim to know you as a person Nakai, but I do know that you’re always here early in the morning, and always alone when you do. You never express pride or happiness when given praise, and you do not seem to allow yourself any sort of interaction to either your peers or your lecturers beyond the strictly professional.”

I take the time to process his words. What he says is absolutely true, and I make no attempt to object his claims. When it comes to my ambition, that much is very clear cut: to get a job at a physics department somewhere and make a good living for myself.

However, there is a difference between having ambition and having a passion for it, which Mr. Tatsunagi seems to realize as well.

It’s not something I’m really trying to hide, but it’s also something that I don’t feel like saying. My aim in college is to be unnoticeable from a social angle, to focus on my grades and eventual work environment, which so far is turning out just fine.

Mr. Tatsunagi seems to take my silence as acknowledgement and gives me a reassuring smile. “Do not take this all as criticism, Nakai. Merely as an assessment from someone who has walked a path similar to yours. I’ll make the call today. You should be able to start this afternoon, if you really want to. Though I will warn again that they will be very demanding of your efforts.”

I bow to him. “Thank you, Mr. Tatsunagi. I’ll make sure not to squander the opportunity you’ve given me.”

Mr. Tatsunagi just waves absently. Taking it as my cue to leave, I open the door and start to walk out, only stopping when I hear his voice once more.

“Under professional circumstances, it’s Mr. Tatsunagi. If we happen to be off the clock, feel free to call me Hisato.”

Those words stop me in my tracks, for both how unthinkable the request is and the plain way he puts it. An extreme breach of professionalism, especially between a student and a lecturer. But behind his words, I feel that it’s almost more like a plea than an outright request, which just confuses me further.

I turn to look at him one last time, and he gives me another reassuring smile. I return it with a smile of my own, even if it isn’t as genuine as his is. After that brief exchange, I walk out of the hall and make my way out of the campus building.


As I walk to the sidewalk and wait for the traffic to stop, I gather my thoughts about Mr. Tatsunagi. Even before the job offer, I found him to be a good lecturer, someone who clearly has passion in what he does and is eager to teach others. It reminds me of what I thought I wanted to be: a teacher who helps others soar to new heights.

That seems like a pipe dream nowadays, as the desire to teach seems very much gone. Most likely it was a product of who I was with at the time than any real dream on my end, and the person who would have pushed me down that road is long gone as well.

The traffic finally stops and I cross the road. I’m not particularly looking forward to meeting Akira there, especially since we never explicitly promised to meet, and yet here I am all the same. If nothing else, I’ll get my usual cheap meal.

I spot Akira even before I enter. She’s sitting on a window seat, taking a sip out of her coffee cup. As I enter, she spots me as well and waves at me. I nod in acknowledgement before ordering my meal, grabbing it and walking towards the empty seat opposite her.

“Hey there, big guy,” Akira teases as I sit down. “You gotta always frown like that when you see me? I’m not that hard to look at, am I?”

“Sorry,” I say as I look at her more closely. She seems like her usual self, smiling brightly at me. “How’s work?”

“You really gotta ask?” Her smile fades into an annoyed glare. “Not good, as you can no doubt tell from my wonderful face. Bureaucratic bullshit is in full effect, which means I get to sit on my ass and do nothing while they deliberate over things.”

“You know, some people would kill to get paid for doing nothing,” I remark between bites of my meal, earning a wry smile from her.

“Yeah, and I’m sure you’d also like it if a billion yen suddenly dropped down into your lap, huh?” she says as she gives me a wink. “Nah, doing nothing isn’t that bad. But I have to report about the deliberation to the higher ups back in Scotland, and they’re demanding that I force a settlement. As if I had that kind of power, even before I moved away.”

“Mmm, sounds like you’re caught between two sides looking for a scapegoat,” I say sympathetically.

“Heh, you have no idea.” She lets out a sigh and takes her coffee cup, having another sip of it before putting it down on the table. “Damn, I really wish this was Scotch right about now.”

“A little too early to drink, isn’t it?” I try not to frown, and attempt a playful smile, or at least as playful a smile as I can manage.

“It’s never too early to drink,” Akira declares as she downs the last of her coffee. “Especially when you’re in the shithole that is my job. But enough about me, what’s been going on with you?”

I shrug. “Nothing much.”

“Oh, come on, I’m sure you have something to say.” Akira points a finger at me, giving me playful smirk. “I’ve been to college, and let me tell you, I know how wild things can get during that time. So, spill it.”

“Seriously, it’s been pretty standard. Studying, doing assignments, all that. I don’t really do anything else besides that.” I take a sip of my tea as I continue, noticing that her smirk is gone, an attentive frown taking its place. “I’m applying for an internship this afternoon, and if it goes through I’ll be working, sort of.”

“Going a little fast there, aren’t you? College AND a job?” Akira raises an eyebrow at me. “You in some financial hole that I don’t know about?”

“No, I’m perfectly set as far as money goes.”

“Then why rush to get a job so soon?” Akira asks. “At least when I had to get a job that early, it was to support someone else. You’re young and free, and I might sound like an old woman here, but you shouldn’t take that freedom for granted.”

“I need something to fill my time,” I say, though that doesn’t seem to convince her. “I’ve been ahead in all my studies and I’ve got nothing to do. Getting a head start on my career seems like the logical answer.”

“Urgh, you sound like my dad,” she mutters bitterly before leaving the table, returning soon after with another cup of coffee. “Don’t you have any friends you hang out with? At all? I’m sure you must have gone out with someone at least once. Using your college life like that seems like such a waste of time.”

I frown, and I quickly pull my cup up and take a sip, hiding my expression from her. I feel like she has no right to pry into my social life, but I also can’t bring myself to be openly angry at her for it.

Akira seems to catch on though, and drops the question entirely. We both take long sips of our drinks, the tension growing as we both look away from each other. She’s the first to break, letting out a frustrated groan.

“Hey, where are you going to be working, by the way?” she asks as she sets the cup down on the table. I turn back to face her and see that she’s absently stirring her coffee, looking back at me as well.

“Why do you want to know?”

“Oh, you know…” She gives me a sort of pleading look, before finally giving up. “Ah, fuck it. There’s no use being subtle with you. Wanna hang out after you’re done working? We can catch up some more, and it sure beats just sitting in some cafe.”

The question doesn’t totally surprise me, but it’s still unexpected. “Aren’t you too busy with work to hang out with me?”

Akira gives a sarcastic huff. “Oh yeah, I’m real busy. Got plenty to do, like looking over the same file for the billionth damned time, or trying to make sure my bosses don’t tear out each other’s throats. Real busy work.”

She suddenly looks at me, and that pleading stare returns. Except this time it’s much more intense. Akira looks almost desperate as her crimson eyes bore down on me. “Seriously, I’ve got nothing to do tonight, and I need the company. Please? It’ll be my treat.”

Usually that sentence would be said in a friendly manner. Not this time, as Akira sounds as monotone as I have ever heard her talk, like all the life has been sucked out of her.

“All right," I say, though not very enthusiastically.

And just like that, Akira’s back to her usual cheerful demeanour, flashing me a wink. “I knew that’d work, guys are a sucker for the old pleading look.”

I doubt that, considering the way she looked just now. Those eyes that are now seemingly so full of energy seemed so hollow a few seconds ago, a kind of look that’s hard to hide and even harder to fake.

I pull the card out of my pocket and hand it to her. She picks it up and chuckles. “Wow, that’s actually not that far away from my office. What a coincidence. Any idea when you’ll be done working?”

“No, not really. I assume it’s going to be pretty late, though.”

“If my internship was anything to go by, probably.” She pulls a pen out of a pocket and scribbles something on the card, handing it back to me. “Call me as soon as you’re done, and we’ll go to a bar or something. You have a phone, right?”

I give her a nod, at which she immediately stands up. “Good. Now I’ve got to go deal with some really nasty guys in suits, so if you’ll excuse me…”

“Wait!” I shout after her as she starts to leave. “Why me?”

Akira doesn’t even bother to give me a verbal response, simply waving as she walks out of the cafe.

I look at the number on the card, and wonder if I should throw it away and forget this ever happened. This conversation definitely feels like a weird dream that I haven't come out of, given the unlikely circumstances of us meeting here, let alone a second time.

With nothing else to do, I walk out of the cafe not long after with the card in my pocket.


From the outside, the research building is intimidating, towering over the surrounding buildings. On the top of the building is a large sign that says “Yatagarasu Research Corp.” with a giant three-eyed raven acting as the logo.

Taking a deep breath, I open the glass doors and enter. The interior is a sterile white and silver, from the walls to the furniture to even the flowers, which are actually made of some sort of metal. It gives off a futuristic kind of vibe, which makes sense for a research corporation.

There isn’t anyone in the lobby apart from me and the woman behind the counter, who is eyeing me like I’m an intruder. I walk up to her and give her my name. “I’m here under recommendation from Mr. Tatsunagi.”

The receptionist picks up a phone and starts chatting with someone, though I can’t make out what she’s saying. After a short while, she puts the phone down and says. “You’re hired, workstation is on the third floor.”

“I-I’m hired?” I say in surprise. With all the talk about how hard it is to get a job, here comes this receptionist whose first words to me are that I’m immediately hired.

“Yes, you’re hired,” the receptionist repeats robotically, though her face indicates that she’s annoyed at my incredulity. “Workstation is on the third floor. Please go there immediately.”

Not knowing what to say, I immediately take the elevator to the third floor. When I arrive, the place I see is less of a research lab and more an office space. Sectioned off into cubicles, with barely anyone walking around. However, one of those few moving also happens to be walking towards me.

He is a behemoth of a man, easily taller than me by a head. The peach suit he’s wearing feels like it’s constricting his large frame, and the parts of his arm that’s exposed shows an almost beastly amount of hair. His face is equally hairy, with a full moustache and beard covering his mouth.

“So, you’re the guy Hisato recommended,” the guy says in a booming voice, and for a moment I question whether or not the research corporation was really a front for something else. This guy definitely looks the part of a Yakuza boss.

“U-um, yes sir. My name is Hisao N-”

“Nakai, I know. My name is Masaaki Kurosawa, the head of the financial side of Yatagarasu Research Corp. And you’ll be working here.” He gives me a smirk, showing a gleaming white set of teeth. I’m not sure if he’s trying to reassure me or terrify me, but I’m definitely feeling much of the latter. “You expected to work at the research lab, didn’t you?”


“Ha! That’s sad to hear, boy. But this is the accounting and finance office.” Kurosawa slaps me on the shoulder, a surprisingly gentle slap at that. “You might get there if you work here long enough, but for now you’ll be working here, moving files, getting coffee, and generally doing what you’re asked to. Now get started on that; coffee machine’s on the corner over there and your cubicle is right next to it if you need it. Your shift ends at seven.”

He then takes the elevator and leaves, and my safety is all the better for it.

I immediately head over to the coffee machine, with a cubicle smaller than the others right next to it with a large stack of paper on it. Sighing to myself, I place my bag on the table and start pouring coffee. I don’t know who I’m giving it to, or even if that person likes black coffee, but it’s something to start.

I walk around the office floor, looking at all the people typing in their cubicles. I pick one at random and offer him some coffee, which prompts a strange look from the man. Nevertheless, he takes it. So far so goo-


A sudden voice makes me turn around, and I see a hand rising up on top of the sea of cubicle walls. Quickly heading there, the man looks at me impatiently and immediately hands me a big black binder. “Send this to cubicle 3-B. Now!”

I nod in acknowledgement and run off to find the cubicle he mentioned, not even knowing how to differentiate between them. Eventually I find a map on the wall that tells me the cubicle layout, and I quickly dash to the one that’s marked as 3-B.

“Here’s a binder for yo-”

“It’s about time! You interns get slower every day,” the woman says, not even facing me as she snatches the binder from my hand and hands me another one. “7-C.”

Without missing a beat, I quickly head over to 7-C. However, several of the people who pass me start ordering for coffee. I make my way over to deliver the binder, thankfully not getting one in return, and head for the coffee machine to make as many cups of coffee as I can.

I start giving coffee to the people that requested them, only for several more coffee orders to show up, and a couple of raised hands as well. Slowly but surely I begin to tend to their needs, only for more to spring up like a hydra’s head. One more done, two more pop up.

Eventually, my mind stops working altogether as I begin focusing on the mountain of tasks being assigned to me. Coffee to 5-D, Binders to 4-D and 3-A, 7-C need a refill. Binder, coffee, binder, coffee. Repeating all of that ad nauseam.

I begin to see what Mr. Tatsunagi said about the workload, but I chose this for myself. This is simply something to get familiar with. After all, I doubt my first days of having a real job will be all too dissimilar to this. Gathering my resolve, I resume with what will the first of many days working here.


Eventually, 7.p.m rolls around. Time during my shift was both blisteringly fast and excruciatingly slow, and by the end of it I feel like a week’s worth of energy has been drained out of me.

Additionally, I’d been informed halfway through my shift that I had to go back to my cubicle to sign some papers regarding confidentiality and other such things, and that I had to sign them before my shift was done. Miraculously, I managed to find the time to do that, in between delivering files and coffee and receiving snide remarks for the trouble.

Regardless, my shift is over and I can rest until next time.

Do I want there to be a next time? Oddly enough, my answer is still yes. Being tired is still preferable to having nothing to do.

“Heh heh, you’re much more resilient than I expected,” I hear a voice calling to me, and I turn to see Kurosawa standing at the elevator, apparently holding it for me. “Come on, I’m not going to hold the thing forever.”

I silently enter the elevator with him.

“So, how’s your first day on the job?” He asks. “More than you bargained for?”

“About what I expected, actually,” I reply. He actually seems impressed by my response.

“Not everyday you see a kid not complaining about his first day. I guess Hisato still has an eye for talent after all these years.” Kurosawa chuckles and pats me on the back. “Keep this up and maybe you’ll get a taste of our research division. Maybe. Now get out of here, kid. Your next shift starts in three days.”

Right on cue, the elevator opens and we both walk out. Kurosawa stops to have a friendly chat with the receptionist while I just make my way out of the building, any interest I had in the architecture completely worn down by my fatigue.

Don’t I have something else to do? Oh right, Akira. I wearily pull out my phone and call the number on the card. A few seconds of buzzing later and I hear her voice.

“Satou. What’s up?” She sounds crisp and business-like.

“It’s Hisao.”

There’s a moment of silence before she finally responds, sounding more human, “Oh, you’re not someone from work. Thank god.”

“That bad, huh?” I say, feeling more sympathy for her than I had previously, now knowing how exhausting work can really be. “For all I know the place I’m working at could be related to your branch of the company. Want me to find out?”

“Shut up and wait for me, smartass. I’ll be there in a few minutes.” With that, she hangs up.

I wait just outside the building entrance, noticing people walking out of the building. I’m sure some of them were people on the same floor as the one I worked at, but they don’t seem to care and neither do I. Some of them come out in groups, talking fervently about how tiring their work is, and what they should eat for dinner.

At least they got to sit for more than a few seconds.

As the sun starts to fully set and the street lamps start lighting up, I find it getting colder. It’s not winter, but I probably should have worn or brought a jacket. Something to consider for next time.

“Hey there, Hisao.”

I look to my left and see that Akira is standing just a few feet away from me. She isn’t dressed in her black suit, instead going for a more casual attire of a white shirt and jeans with a brown leather bag strapped around her shoulders. It feels weird not seeing her in her usual attire, but she looks good in what she’s wearing, and her chest looks much larger than the previous times I’ve seen her.

Of course, that last thought shall strictly remain in the deepest confines of my mind, never to be mentioned.

“Man, you look like hell,” she says, letting out a chuckle as she moves closer to me. “That’s definitely the ‘I survived my first day of work’ look.”

“I’m sure you know all about that,” I mutter, even the mere act of speaking taking effort now. “So, where do you want to go? And it better not be anywhere too far, or you’ll need to carry me there.”

“There’s a place just a street away,” Akira says, pointing to where she came from. “The alcohol there is pretty good, and the food’s all right too. You think you can manage, or do I really have to carry you?”

I say nothing, but simply walk in the direction she pointed, and she falls into step beside me. There’s a silence between us, but from the look on her face Akira seems quite happy. Despite the fact that I’m hanging out with someone I’ve never seen in more than a year, it makes me a little happier to see her smile, but maybe that’s the fatigue talking.

She seems to notice I’m staring, and gives me a playful glare. “What’s wrong, Hisao? Been a while since you’ve been out with a girl?”

“No. Well, yes, it’s been a while,” I admit, feeling no shame in that. “I’m just more surprised in seeing you in something other than a suit.”

“I own more than one set of clothing, you know,” Akira retorts. “I happen to have some dresses as well. I bet that blows your mind, doesn’t it?”

“It does, actually,” I respond playfully, and we both laugh. It feels weird for me to laugh, as I’m not even sure when’s the last time I actually did so. Still, there’s a nice familiarity to that feeling, like picking up an unfinished book after a long time.

“Ah, man. It’s been a while since I had a good laugh," Akira says as she gives me a quick wink. “Thanks, Hisao. It’s been a rough business trip, and I need someone to just hang out with.”

“No friends here?” I ask.

“Nah, all of my contacts here are work-related. And I’d rather eat lead than ask any of those people out for dinner. They’re either suckups or they hate my guts. We’re here, by the way.”

Akira goes ahead of me down a staircase between two other stores. I follow her as she opens a green wooden door.

Inside, the sound of a piano fills my ears. The place is dimly lit, though not to the point where it’s hard to see. I see a long bar to my right, with perhaps a hundred different drinks shelved behind it, the bartender flashing us a smile before mixing a drink for someone sitting there.

Several tables are set out neatly, with plain wooden stools. At the very end is a stage where a man in a hoodie is currently playing the music I’m currently hearing, a very nice tune despite the fact that I can’t figure out the genre. All in all, the place has a really soothing feeling to it, which I can appreciate given the wringer I’ve been put through.

Akira is already sitting at a table, motioning me over. I go over and take a stool opposite her, placing my bag down on the ground. A waiter comes and hands us a menu, patiently waiting for our orders.

“I’ll have a steak and a glass of the house cabernet," Akira says. The waiter turns to me.

“Uh...I’ll have the salmon, and some water please.”

The waiter writes our orders down and goes, and I can see that Akira looks disappointed in me for some reason. “You know, people usually come here to get a drink. You really so uptight that you don’t drink alcohol?”

“I literally can’t.” I point to my chest, where my faulty heart is currently beating normally...for now. “I take more than a little sip, and it can end with me going to the hospital, or the morgue. Better safe than sorry.”

“Huh, that must suck,” Akira says as our drinks arrive. She takes a sip of her wine. “I can’t imagine going without several drinks a night, especially nowadays.”

“Things are really that bad for you to need to drink so much?”

“Well, I have my old man and his cronies breathing down my neck,” Akira says as she takes another sip of her wine, a scowl on her face. “AND the Japanese branch breathing down my neck. I don’t have time to myself, and when I do I don’t know how to spend it other than drinking. My relatives mostly just praise my dad and how hard he works for the family name. You want me to go on?”

“Must be hard to have all that on your shoulders,” I say, feeling just a bit sorrier for her than I did before.

“You say that as if you know what it’s like,” Akira mutters bitterly as she finishes her wine, waving for the waiter to refill her glass. “You don’t, by the way. Whatever you had to deal with during your first shift, I have to deal with that and then some, six days a week. But that’s what you sign up for when you’re an adult.”

As the waiter refills her glass, she immediately takes another sip. “That’s why I say you should enjoy your college years. You’ll never get them back.”

“I don’t have anything to do besides studying,” I admit, sounding more gloomy than I intended to. “You asked me if I ever hung out with anyone. I never have, mostly because I don’t see the need to. Why hang out with people who you’ll never see past graduation?”

“For the good memories. I never speak to anyone from my college days, but I still have some fond memories of doing stupid shit with them. They’re worth something.”

“Not to me,” I say, letting my bitterness really leak out. It feels weird opening up my dark thoughts, which I always kept to myself for due to never having anyone to express that particular side of me. “Memories are just things to make you feel sentimental when you don’t want to. They don’t mean anything in regards to the future, other than to look back upon.”

“That’s a very cynical way of putting things, Hisao,” Akira notes, looking at me with a frown on her face. It isn’t an angry one, but she looks as if I’d done something wrong but doesn’t wish to reprimand me for it. “I guess you’re at that age, huh?”

Age really has nothing to do with my cynicism, but I don’t want to go into further detail at all. No need to ruin what was supposed to be a relaxing dinner.

“Well, I am cynical,” I say as our food arrives. I take a bite of the salmon and find it to be very good, well cooked with pleasant spices. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy some things in life, like this fish. It’s very good.”

“Yeah, I know this place from back in the old days," Akira says as she takes a bite of her steak, looking around the bar. “It feels really nice coming here again, especially since I’m not coming here alone.”

Conversation slowly dies down as we both eat our meals, wordlessly enjoying each other’s company. At some point, Akira straight up orders an entire bottle of wine, and I start to wonder if she’s going to make it back all right with how much alcohol she’s consuming.

By the time we’re done, I’ve given up tracking how much wine she’s consumed. Her cheeks were bright red, though she doesn’t seem to act any differently than before. I don’t know why, but I had expected that a drunk Akira would be extremely rowdy, and probably cause a bar brawl or two.

“So," Akira says, her voice a higher pitch than usual. Well, the alcohol is definitely kicking in, at least a little. “What do you want to do after this?”

“I don’t know. Go home? I’m pretty tired.”

“Oh, don’t be such a wuss,” Akira exclaims. “We’re here to have fun and be irresponsible, and that means we go out and do stuff.”

I hesitate, but then she gives me that stare she gives me back at the cafe. A sad and hollow look that chills me to my core. It’s hard to say no to that look, fake or not. “All right, all right. What do you have in mind?”

Her answer is to pull out her wallet from her bag and slam down some money on the table. Akira quickly gets up and grabs my hand, and we exit the bar and onto the street. Even out here Akira doesn’t let go of my hand, which admittedly feels very nice.

“Come on. Let’s just walk around like we have nothing to worry about,” Akira says as she turns to look at me, a sad smile on her face. “I want to feel that way for a while.”

Looking at Akira smile at me like that, I could do nothing but nod.


We walk a way until we hit a busy part of the city, people crowding on the sidewalk as cars flood the roads. We don’t talk as we wander around, neither of us seeming to be in the mood to at the moment.

Akira stops at a storefront, and in the windows I see displays of movie posters and DVDs. She stares at the store intently, looking a little sad.

“I wanted to be an actor when I was a kid,” she says quietly. “When I was young I saw all sorts of movies with my grampa, all in black and white. I was a rascally kid, always pretending I was this movie star or that. I even took up acting classes, because I was so into it. But then reality finally hit me, and I quit before I even finished high school.”

I don’t know why she’s telling me this, but I listen closely. Akira turns to me and gives me another sad smile. “People rarely get what they want. Sometimes they just have to settle with what they’re given.”

“I know.”

“You really do, don’t you?” She starts to walk away from the store, with me trailing closely behind. “You know what it’s like to feel screwed over by things you can’t control.”

“I had a heart attack when a girl I liked confessed to me,” I mention, recalling the day that set in motion the chain of events that led me to Yamaku, to today even. In many ways, I feel as if that day was the beginning of the end for me. “I was forced to go to an entirely new school, leaving my parents and my friends behind.”

“I can imagine how much that sucks,” Akira says as we walk across the road, going to wherever our legs take us. “Let me guess, at times you’ve wondered why all the bad things always seem to happen to you. Why everyone gets to be happy and you’re the one getting screwed over. Am I getting close?

“Sort of. I never try to blame anyone for what happened to me. But that means I have no one to blame but myself.”

“Yeah, either you kick yourself down, or everyone else. And both options are utter shit.”

We say nothing more as another silence takes over. We continue our wandering in the city, occasionally stopping by to look at this place or that. I don’t know how long we are at it, but I notice that the crowds have started to thin out, and eventually there is barely another passerby as we slow to a halt. Either we’re in an unpopular part of town, or it’s way later than I thought.

We reach a bench and Akira sits down, patting at the space beside her. I oblige and sit down next to her, and we both let our mutual frustrations hang in the air for a bit.

“Sorry I’ve been doing nothing but bitching, by the way,” she says. “It’s just that I don’t get a lot of opportunities to do this. You’re a real patient guy to put up with all my bullshit.”

“You’re patient for putting up with my bullshit too, but you’re welcome," I say with a slight smile, feeling an odd sense of satisfaction despite how sullen the conversation has been. I look at my watch and see it’s ten. Time really seems to be flying today. “It’s getting late. As enjoyable as this is, I got to head back.”

“You know, you don’t have to…”

I turn to look at Akira, who’s looking straight back at me, a hint of bashfulness in her expression. Our gazes are riveted on each other, and I can’t find the will to stand up.

“I can call a cab can crash at my hotel room,” she says casually, though the look on her face is anything but.

Her offer takes me by surprise, and I am unsure of her intentions. I take a long hard look at her, trying to see any sort of playfulness, any indication that this is all some elaborate joke. But I can’t, all I can see is a subdued smile.


“I’m not going to pull your strings or beat around the bush. It’s exactly what you think it is.” She moves her face closer, and I can smell the whiff of alcohol on her breath. “Maybe it’s the wine talking, but I want this. This last year of my life has just been me going through hell without a break, things never letting up. Now that I feel free for the first time in what feels like forever...I don’t want it to end, Hisao. At least not yet. If you want to go, just go and we can pretend this all never happened.”

I feel as if time is starting to freeze, and hold my breath as I start to really think about this. It’s true that tonight has been the best night I’ve had in a long time, but do I really want to go that far? Will this have any unforeseen consequences?

She said it might be the alcohol talking, but she sounded surprisingly sober as she made that offer. What am I supposed to think about this?

“If I say yes,” I say, feeling my throat getting tighter, “It won’t mean anything, will it?”

Akira shakes her head. “It’s just to let off some steam, nothing more.”

With that final hurdle out of the way, I finally give her a quick but committed nod. She gives me a grateful, “Thank you,” to my answer and pulls out her phone, calling what I assume to be a cab.

In just a few minutes, a cab pulls over to our bench. Akira opens the door and gets in, turning around and giving me a wink and a smile like she usually does. “Come on, what are you waiting for?”

Deciding to push my inhibitions to the side, I stand up from the bench and get in the cab. Tonight isn’t over yet.

Hanako Fancopter
Posts: 302
Joined: Fri May 25, 2018 6:27 pm

Re: Running Away To You (A Post Lilly-Neutral Story)

Post by Hanako Fancopter » Fri May 15, 2020 1:22 pm

ayyy it's this story. You know I'm a fan and that I think it's long past time it was uploaded. I'll look to give a re-read sometime and leave some more detailed feedback. In the meantime, I hope others find it and enjoy. I don't think it's really even an "out-there" story concept.
An Unusual Friendship (Misha x Hanako Route)
Riposte (Rika Mini-Route)
One-Shots Thread (Random Smut/Meme Stories)

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

Re: Running Away To You (A Post Lilly-Neutral Story)

Post by MoashLannister » Mon Jun 15, 2020 10:09 am

Chapter 3

After about ten minutes, the cab drops us off in front of a hotel. From the outside, it’s clear that the place is very lavish, and very expensive. They even have those doormen that open the door for guests, and I wonder how much it pays to just open doors for strangers all day.

Akira gets out first, and I slowly follow after her. We didn’t say anything during the cab ride, too caught up in what we’re about to do. I don’t know when it started to happen, but there’s a different air about her, drawing me in without thinking. Is it just lust, or something else?

We enter the lobby and make our way to the elevator, still silent. Akira presses a button before looking at me, an amused smile on her face. “Getting cold feet?”

“No,” I respond, looking away from her. “I just didn’t expect my day to end like this. You know, with what we’re about to...”

“That makes the two of us,” she mutters as our elevator stops and opens. “Just so you know, I’m not the type of person to sleep around like this. So you better not make any dumb assumptions of what I do in my free time.”

“Are things really that bad?” I ask as we move ever closer to her room. It feels like we’ve been around that topic a lot, as if trying to compare how bad our lives have gotten.

“That I have to sleep with someone to get a kick out of my life? Maybe.” Akira gives me a sly smile before stopping right in front of a door, pulling out a card key and opening it. “Come on in, it’s getting pretty late already.”

I hesitate for a moment before entering, knowing that doing so means there’s no turning back. A part of me wonders why I’m even worrying, knowing that this has no strings attached at all. This all means nothing, so why should I worry about how it affects the future? It won’t.

I listen to that voice and step in the room, Akira closing the door behind us. We both take off our shoes, with the silent realization that there’s probably no turning back now.

The room is as lavish as the lobby, and makes my apartment look even more like a makeshift basement. A large TV hangs on the wall opposite a queen-sized bed, and in the corner of the room is a table with several cans of beer on it, all unopened. The windows are covered by curtains, but I have no doubt the view from there would be a breathtaking sight.

I notice the lights dim, and I turn to Akira, who’s playing with the knob right next to the door. She gives me a wink as she turns it, dimming the light further. “Just setting the mood.”

She walks past me and stands right beside the bed, giving me a playful smirk as she throws her leather bag to the side and her hands grab on the bottom of her shirt. She pulls it up, showing me her bare torso and a plain black bra.

I never thought of Akira as being particularly attractive before, though I certainly thought she had an androgynous charm to her. But seeing her like this now leaves me awestruck as she casually tosses her shirt aside, letting out a giggle as she motions me over with her finger. I’m immediately captivated by her seductive gesture, my will in the palm of her hand.

“Are you going to just stand there or am I going to have to drag you into my bed?” she asks. Her voice rings in my head, compelling me to stop thinking for the moment.

Without speaking a word, I throw my bag to the side and make a move towards her. She reaches her hand out to grab my cheeks, pulling me into her. Our lips touch and I feel any lingering resistance melting away as my hands find their way to her waist, caressing her smooth skin.

We pull our lips apart only to catch our breath before kissing again, my head drowning in the sensation of our actions. She grabs my shirt, and we part again so that she can take it off, tossing it aside as she takes a good look at me. She places a hand on my chest, her finger sliding down my scar.

“Surgery?” Akira asks as she looks at me, desire evident in her eyes. “It looks manly on you, you know.”

“Yeah, probably the only manly thing about me,” I mutter, feeling oddly anxious as I stare back at her, our gazes conveying the desire for one another.

Akira grabs my hand and pulls me to the bed, pushing me down onto it. She gets on top, straddling me. Her head leans down and she whispers in my ear with a soft but seductive giggle. “We’ll see about that.”

I wrap an arm around her to find the back of her bra, undoing the hooks so it falls off her. She lets out a moan as my other hand reaches for her breast, giving it a light squeeze. Her hips starts moving back and forth against my torso, and I sigh in pleasure as her lips meet my neck.

I feel like a fool for ever considering walking out on this. The future I have planned for myself is so bleak and boring, why shouldn’t I have a little fun right now? Akira’s didn’t want this night to end, and at the moment, neither do I.

“I was wondering if I was getting rusty.” Akira whispers, almost shyly. “It’s been a long while, you know…”

“You’re not the only one…” I reply as my hand pinches her nipple, getting a louder moan from her in response. “Feeling all right?”

She sits up and lets out a playful laugh, her hand moving to cup my cheek. “If I had to ask that question at this point, I’d just kick you out of my room.”

She pulls her body away from me, sitting back on the edge of the bed as she starts to take off her jeans, throwing them aside. Her black panties accentuate her curves nicely, and I can’t help but stare at her naked frame, my eyes savoring every part of it.

“You’re enjoying this a lot more than I thought you were going to,” Akira says cheekily as she remains where she is. Despite only being a few seconds, I already miss the touch of her body on mine. “You were pretty antsy back in the cab. It almost felt like I was pushing you into this.”

“Well, you sort of did,” I admit, feeling serious for a moment. “I just had to think about whether I really wanted to do this or not. But you’re right, I need to blow off some steam too.”

“Not going to regret it afterwards?” she asks, also looking serious for a moment.

I shake my head in response. “No. This doesn’t mean anything. We aren’t doing anything wrong, and we deserve a bit of a break with how empty our lives are.”

“Damn right, so stop talking about it and just relax.” Her playful smile returns as she crawls back over to me. She immediately puts her hands on my pants, grabbing both them and my underwear, pulling them down with one tug and leaving me completely naked. “We’re having fun here, so no killing the mood.”

She sighs and stares at me for a moment, a hint of pleading in her eyes as she crawls further up my body. “Let’s just forget all our problems tonight. Yours, mine, all of it.”

I nod silently as she guides my hands to her waist, pushing it down so that I’m touching the only piece of clothing left on her body. I slide it down her legs as she starts to position herself on top of me, breathing deeply. She places her hands on either side of my head while she looks down at me in anticipation.

She lowers herself down onto me, letting out a satisfied groan as she sinks down. I feel an intense wave of pleasure and let out a soft moan in return. My hands grab on her hips to help her as she starts moving up and down on top of me, my fingers enjoying the returning feeling of her skin.

As she moves, my mind completely sinks into the pleasure of the moment. Whatever worries I have completely fade away as the feeling of Akira on top of me, around me, completely overwhelms them. I thrust my hips up just as she pushes down, both of us moaning. We move our bodies in sync, our eyes never breaking away from each other’s gaze.

Akira eventually starts to pick up the pace, moving faster as she presses her hips down on me. I eagerly try to keep up with her, the concerns over my heart forgotten as we continue to pick up speed, the look on her face showing that she’s fully enjoying this.

I feel my body tense as the last of my endurance starts to run out, and I call out to her. “I think I’m...close…”

“…” Akira says as her grip on the bed sheets tighten and she pushes herself down on me one last time. My mind goes completely blank, and I hear her cry out on top of me as we both reach our peak, letting the feelings wash over us.

Eventually the high gives way to exhaustion as I lay limp on the bed, energy completely spent. The look on her face tells me she feels more or less the same, then she gets off of me and lays down on the other side of the bed, turning away from me as she covers herself with the sheets, saying nothing.

Feeling a little awkward, I turn to face away from her as well and pull on my pants, deciding that it’s too much effort to go and pick up my shirt. I didn’t feel like covering myself in sheets and simply close my eyes, trying to sleep.

Unfortunately, sleep doesn’t find me, and I open my eyes in annoyance. I don’t know how much time has passed, and I don’t feel like disturbing Akira. So I simply lie still, waiting for my mind to eventually tire out and-

“Can’t sleep either?” I hear a tired sounding voice ask me.

I turn around, and see that Akira is still facing away from me, her bare back covered by sheets. “How can you tell?”

“Call it a hunch," she says as she lets out a loud yawn, apparently too tired to even put a playful bite to her words. “We’re lucky today’s a Saturday, or we’d be going out there into the world, working even though we’re tired as hell.”

Oh right, tomorrow is a Sunday, which means I have absolutely nothing to do that day. The thought of that further dampens my mood as I ask “Did you consider that when you asked me to crash here?”

“No, but it’s convenient timing.” Akira shift a little in her bed, pulling the sheets up further. “If you can’t sleep, you can always take a shower to clean yourself up. I’d usually go for one, but today’s been tiring.”

I consider her idea for a moment before closing my eyes again, trying once again to let sleep claim me. “I’ll do it tomorrow. Too tired.”

She lets out a sarcastic laugh at that. “Imagine how I feel, I had to do most of the work.”

I feel my cheeks flush and try not to respond to that jab, feeling my energy for talking rapidly draining from me. All I could mutter out was a quiet. “Thank you.”

I hear nothing more from her, and take it as a sign that conversation for the night is over. Eventually, the feeling of sleep finally takes hold, and my thoughts grind to a halt as I drift off into unconsciousness.


Unlike most days, I’m not awakened by the sound of an alarm, but rather the sound of a shower running. I open my eyes to see that Akira is missing, and I let out a soft groan as I get up, sitting on the bed.

The lights in the hotel room are still on, though I could see some sunlight making its way through a gap in the curtains. I get out of bed and lazily try to find my shirt, picking it up from the floor and putting it on. Now for my…

Oh crap. I forgot about my medications.

A spike of worry hits me. I didn’t take my medications last night either, as I didn’t expect to stay over here. It feels completely alien to me not doing the things that’ve been ingrained into me ever since graduation, and yet here I am only thinking about it afterwards.

I can only hope that I can survive a single day of irresponsibility. I’ve been cautious and careful about it for so long that I deserve at least some sort of exception. Of course, life never works that way, and if I have a heart attack because of it, I’ll have no one but myself to blame.

As always.

After a few minutes of silent worrying, I hear the shower turn off, and soon after the door to the bathroom opens to reveal Akira in a bra, a towel wrapped around her waist. It isn’t the same one that she wore last night, being white instead of black, but the sight is eye-catching all the same.

It feels weird to think that last night was probably the first time I ever thought of her as an actual woman, as awful as that sounds in my head. I blush a little as I enjoy the sight of her half-dressed body.

“Morning, big guy,” Akira says in a casual tone, as she walks past me to the wardrobe. As pleasant as it is to stare at her, I’d rather not make a habit out of it, so I look away. “Your snoring kept me up last night. You seriously need to tone it down a few notches.”

“I d-did?”

“Nah, I’m just messing with you,” she says with a chuckle. “Honestly, I probably snore louder than you, if past experience has told me anything.”

I say nothing as I walk into the bathroom, closing the door as I take off my clothes. Looking around, I see both a bathtub and a shower. The bathtub is probably the more comfortable option, but I decide to go for a shower instead. As accommodating as she’s being, I doubt Akira will want me to stay here for any longer than is necessary.

With the water set to a comfortable temperature, I get in the shower and let the water rain down on me. As I start to wash myself, I finally let the events of last night fully play out in my memory as I try to assess how I feel about it.

It isn’t something I would say I was completely on board with at first. The feeling of hooking up just like that was a very foreign concept, even if it is with someone I know. I’m not much of a romantic nowadays, but I thought that in the astronomically unlikely case that I ever had sex again, it would be in a romantic setting rather than a casual one.

But afterwards...I’m not exactly remorseful or even against what transpired. Playing over last night’s events in my head gives me a feeling of release, oddly enough. A temporary absence of my responsibilities. It was definitely a fun experience, though one I’m not eager to repeat.

Feeling clean enough, I turn off the shower and dry myself with one of the many white towels before putting on my clothes. Opening the door, I see the curtains are open, with Akira looking out the window. She’s wearing her usual black suit and pants again, talking with someone on the phone. From the tone of her voice, it sounds like a business thing.

“...all right," she says in that monotone voice that I still find hard to hear before closing the phone and turning around to face me. Her face immediately perks up, though I wonder if that’s her actually being happy to see me or her simply being courteous. “Shower’s fine?”

“Yeah, definitely beats the one I have,” I say, feeling a little awkward. What exactly do you do the day after you do something like this? I think of nothing and can only ask, “Uh…do you want to talk?”

“Yeah, actually. I would like a little chat,” Akira says as she sits down on the bed. She turns her head back to the view beyond her window. Even from where I’m standing, I can see the view is amazing, with a clear shot of most of the city.

“So…” she says uncertainly. “...Still standing by that ‘No regrets’ thing?”

“Yeah,” I respond as I muster my courage and walk up to the window. It’s funny that a simple act can make me so jittery around her all of a sudden. “You?”

“Definitely,” she states with a bit of cheer in her voice. “Like I said, I’m not the type of girl to sleep around. But last night was probably the most fun I’ve had in a long time, and I don’t mean the sex.”

Feeling slightly offended, I ask in a semi-joking tone, “I’m that bad in bed, huh?”

She laughs rather loudly at that question. “God, I honestly can’t tell if you’re actually worried about that, or if you have some extremely high performance standards. You were fine last night; I’m just saying that the bedroom stuff wasn’t the only thing I enjoyed about yesterday.”

Well, glad to know I’m not completely disappointing in that aspect.

“Still, ‘most fun in a long time’ seems like a bit of a stretch. You seemed pretty down last night,” I note, recalling how sad she looked sometimes during our night out. Thinking about it some more, I wonder if even her smiles were genuine or not. I want to believe they were.

“Well, ain’t you calling the kettle black?” Akira points out, before saying in a more serious tone, “But yeah, it was pretty sad last night, wasn’t it? And you know what, that’s why last night was great, because I could be sad. You wanna know how bad things are in the my world? Show one ounce of that crap, and everyone will remember it as a weakness, and they’ll never let it go. Never. Even the ones who’ll offer you coffee or take you out to the pub after work.”

She almost hisses out those last few sentences, with a genuine venom in her voice that I never thought I would ever hear from someone like her.

“You’re a really good listener, Hisao,” she continues, her voice getting calmer. “You’ve put up with me whining and bitching and just being angry about things. I honestly feel bad for making you listen to all of that…” She quiets down for a moment before adding, somewhat playfully, “I didn’t ask to sleep with you to make up for any of it, by the way. Just in case you got any dumb ideas.”

I don’t know how to respond to that, so I simply settle for looking out the window without saying anything. There’s a slightly awkward air between us, a feeling of not knowing what to do.

“Got any plans today?” Akira asks conversationally, breaking the silence. “I’m thinking about heading down and grabbing something to eat. Hotel food is always nice.”

I shake my head. Sundays are pretty much the days I look forward to the least, contrary to other people. It’s the day that I always have nothing to do with the time I’m given. No classes, assignments, or anything like that. Most of the time I just eat, read and sleep, maybe shop and do some chores when they’re required. The most mundane schedule I could possibly conceive for myself, but one that I take for lack of better options.

“Come on,” she says as she stands up and walks away from the window. “It’s free food, and you can accompany me before I have to go to work. That is, if you can deal with my bitching a little more.”

Well, listening to a woman six years older than me complain more about her life is certainly what I would consider a better option. That thought, although sarcastic in nature, hurts just a little bit with the fact that I consider it to be somewhat true. I put on my shoes and follow her out of the room. If nothing else, this Sunday is already off to a better start than most.


After having a light breakfast with barely any conversation, we head out into the city. I continue to worry about my medication, and as much as I’d like to go home and dump all of it down my throat as fast as possible, it’d also mean that I’d have to cut short my time with Akira, the only thing of interest today.

She didn’t say where we’re going as we walk down the street. It’s a busy Sunday, with many people walking past us at a fast pace. While some are in work attire, the majority seem to be in casual wear, most likely meeting up with friends or some such. I try not to feel envious at that thought, only for that attempt to fail.

After a while, Akira stops outside a pharmacy. She turns to me and frowns as she says, “You know why we’re here, Hisao?”

I shake my head, making her glare at me. I suddenly feel like a student who’s been caught cheating on a test. “I...uh…”

“Forget it.” Akira shakes her head, half amused and half disgruntled. “I’m going in by myself, so wait here. This one time the blame will be on me, but for the sake of any girls you plan on hooking up with in the future, remember. Protection. Always.”

Oh. Right. That.

I suddenly feel like even more of a jerk as she enters the pharmacy, leaving me temporarily alone. That’s definitely something I should have thought about, but it’s been so long that it completely slipped my mind. If Akira hadn’t thought of it, the potential consequences of our forgetfulness could have been rather bad.

With nothing to do, I look around the street to see if anything captures my interest. Unsurprisingly, nothing does. It’s just other people going about with their lives. Mothers with their children, a group of friends, the occasional lovers holding hands. I suddenly feel as if time is slowing down, allowing me to see more things that I don’t want to see.

The sense of melancholy within me rises, and I find it hard to not simply look on blankly, focusing on nothing in particular. It’s perhaps a rather arrogant comparison, but in this moment I feel like an observer of life rather than one of its participants. Someone looking through another’s eyes, never fully experiencing what makes life so wonderful, yet knowing that it’s supposed to be.

A tap on my shoulder immediately brings my thoughts to a halt as I turn to face Akira. She gives me a quizzical look. “Something wrong, big guy?”

“Nothing beyond the usual,” I respond, trying to force a smile. “Got what you need?”

“To make sure we both don’t end up regretting what we did? Yep.” She chuckles a bit before saying. “Well, what do you want to do now?”

“Didn’t you say you had work to do?”

“Well, yes. But you know how I feel about that,” she notes with disgust. “And I don’t have work till way later anyways, so we have time. Unless you’ve finally gotten tired of me?”

She gives me a stare remiscinent of a puppy dog, except not nearly as convincing. Well, at least I know this look isn’t real. “No, I surprisingly haven’t gotten tired of you. How odd,” I retort, much to her amusement. “Any idea on where you want to go?”

At that, her eyes light up in excitement. “Follow me.”

Akira grabs me by the hand and drags me the next couple of blocks. I don’t question where she wants to take me, as I’m perfectly fine with her dragging me around, even if it turns out to be some ploy to make me do her errands or something. At least it’s something.

We finally stop at a street corner, where Akira looks into a karaoke joint. It looks like a decent place, with several people entering and exiting it, but I admittedly have very little interest in singing. The very few times I’ve gone was with my old friends back in middle school, and that was an eternity ago.

We go to the counter, and she orders a room for us for as long as we want. We make our way to the designated place and go in. It’s fairly big, as far as karaoke rooms go, though still no larger than a small bedroom. Akira immediately goes to play with the TV, picking out a song.

“You like singing?” I ask, in an attempt at conversation.

“I don’t often get the chance, but it’s nice when I get to,” she responds as she selects a song. She pulls out two microphones and a remote from the nearby table and hands one of the mics to me, giving me a wink as she asks, “Ever sang before?”

“Very rarely, and very awfully,” I say as I reluctantly take a mic from her. With a click of a remote, the song starts and we say nothing more, waiting for the lyrics to pop up. It’s an English song, so it’s all I can do to imitate the sounds as best as possible. I may be biased, but I feel like my attempt at singing is nothing more than blurting out words I don’t know as off key as possible.

Akira, on the other hand, is faring far better. Her voice, while not as high as the other girl’s, is still very nice to listen to. She seems to be familiar with the song, as she immediately sings without reading the lyrics. Her tone is downbeat to match with the song’s mood, and if it isn’t for the fact that I have a mic in my hand, I would like nothing more than to sit down and listen to her sing the rest of the songs.

We finish a song, only to immediately go to the next one. This time the song is far more cheery, and with a far faster pace. I struggle to even keep up with the lyrics, outright stumbling and singing out nonsense while Akira lets out the occasional laugh at my expense. Still, I manage to retain my pride long enough to finish the song. And then on to the next.

After seven songs, we’re finally done. I feel both a mixture of embarrassment and tiredness as I take a seat on the sofa, and somewhere through the third song Id just given up entirely and mumbled my way past, my attention focused more on Akira’s voice.

No matter the tone of the song, no matter its beat or rhythm, she managed to sing along with it near perfectly, her singing voice having an enthralling element to it that I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s like listening to a musician at a club; not the most professional of stages, but pleasing to the ears all the same.

“Ah, that’s how you do it,” Akira says as she sits on the sofa beside me, a wide grin on her face. “That was a lot of fun, but my throat is killing me. Drinks?”

I nod, and she steps out of the room and returns with two cans of soda. Handing one to me, we open them and quickly drink them. Akira lets out a giggle as she looks at me with a playful smirk. “You weren’t half bad there, for a guy who didn’t know the language he’s singing.”

“Are you kidding?” I ask incredulously, feeling mildly annoyed. “I was pretty bad, especially in comparison to someone like you. Your voice is something else.”

“Nah, you’re too hard on yourself, but I appreciate the compliments to my voice.” Akira sighs and looks at the TV. I wonder if she wants to go another round of singing, but she grabs the remote and turns it off, looking at me for a quick second before turning away.

“Something wrong?” I ask her, feeling a little worried.

“Nah, it’s fine,” Akira says, though still refusing to face me. “Just thinking about how much I missed this. It really has been a long time since I’ve had fun like this, so I kinda wanted to savor it a bit. Girl’s gotta have a moment, you know?”

“I see.” I inch myself closer towards her and reach out a hand, only to pull it back. No need to break any boundaries. “Uh...well...I’m glad you’re having fun.”

She finally turns to look at me and I see that she isn’t smiling. In fact, the face that she’s showing me now can only be described as vulnerable. It almost looks like she’s about to cry, but no tears fall from her eyes. Is she holding it back because she doesn’t want to cry? Or because she can’t cry?

“I really don’t know what to say, Hisao,” she says, her voice wavering. “I want to just let loose and hit you with everything that I hate about my life, but right now I can’t even find the strength to bitch about something. Maybe it’s because I’m used to all the misery that I can’t seem to even be as angry as I should. Ain’t that a terrifying thing? Getting to the point where you just give up?”

“I know,” I reply quietly, as I feel the sudden urge to reassure her. Despite that fact that she’s far stronger and more independent than I am, it seems that even she has her moments of weakness. “But maybe you should be angry. That way you can still feel that you aren’t resigning yourself to that kind of life just yet.”

Akira stares at me for a moment before giving me a small smile and closing her eyes. “Heh, are you sure you’re in college?” she asks sarcastically. “Guys your age never spout shit like this, they just act all macho to try and get into some girl’s pants.”

“I like to think I’m made of smarter stuff,” I respond, then smirk, “Besides, I already got into your pants, so I don’t really need to act macho.”

At that, she lets out a laugh. I can’t help but chuckle along with her. “Oh god, that sounded like a shitty pick up line. But I can’t exactly say you’re wrong, either.” She tilts her head up, her smile widening. “Seriously though, thank you Hisao. You’re a really good guy to have around, despite the sour statements .”

I nod and smile. She seems to accept this as she takes a deep breath, preparing for what I can only assume is something important.

A loud beeping noise coming from Akira’s bag immediately breaks the mood.

“Urgh, you have got to be shitting me,” she groans as she immediately takes her phone out of her bag. “Satou... Yeah?... Yeah... All right.”

She’s using that voice from earlier again, the monotone voice that she only uses when talking to what I assume to be business associates. As she continues her conversation with whoever it is on the other end of the phone call, she almost sounds like a different person entirely. Gone is the feisty girl who’d take every opportunity to verbally jab at me, replaced by a person that looks and sounds cold and aloof, a person who isn’t interested in conversation so much as she is getting things done.

“Yeah, sorry. I’ll be there right away.” Akira gets off the phone and turns to look at me. Her face is apologetic, though traces of the emotionless stare she had on the phone still remain. “Hey, sorry to cut this short, but I just got an emergency call from work and I have to bail.”

I sigh. It feels so odd to be disappointed about something, much less something this insignificant. Perhaps it’s because my pessimism hasn’t allowed me to feel disappointed in anything for a long time, or maybe it’s the fact that I’ve simply forgotten that this was bound to end eventually.

I silently curse the fact that I’m feeling this way. Akira’s work obviously takes priority over some silly outing, and I have no right to be opposed to that fact. But human nature can be very irrational, and so very, very annoying.

She notices my disappointment and gives me a guilty look, making me feel even worse. “Come on, don’t give me that,” she says, looking away from me. “I’ll make this up to you, I promise.”

“It’s fine. Work is work, after all,” I respond, not sounding convincing in the slightest. My inability to hide my frustration is only making this worse. “Don’t worry about me.”

That last sentence sounds more commanding than reassuring, and I kick myself for having so little tact. Akira doesn’t say anything, an awkward frown on her face as she leaves the room, leaving me alone. It’s a familiar feeling, yet one that stings harder given how long I’ve gone without it.

In hindsight, this is probably how it was going to end regardless. Nothing lasts forever, and we must all eventually move on with our separate lives and deal with our own tribulations. This morning, as well as last night, was a temporary suspension of that. But it was just that: temporary. To be enjoyed in the moment, and left behind as we march on to our futures.

It’s an easy sentiment to think, a harder one to swallow. But if anything, I’m used to swallowing hard truths these past two years.

Feeling like whatever enjoyment I could have had today is now over, I exit the karaoke joint not long after she leaves and find the nearest bus stop. I want to head home and immediately take my medications, and then…


Much like most Sundays, I can’t think of anything to do beyond that. In defeat, I simply resign myself to another routine day of studying and takeout, then having an early rest. There’s college tomorrow, and work in two days. At least I can look forward to those in the coming days, and perhaps I’ll see Akira again tomorrow and apologize for how inconsiderate I was just now.

I realize that I’m doing a horrific job of cheering myself up, and I try to shut my thoughts off for a while, at least until my stop arrives. But I keep getting distracted by the murmur of conversations among the passengers. As I continue on towards home, a tiny part of me wonders what it would be like to have something to genuinely look forward to again.

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

Re: Running Away To You (A Post Lilly-Neutral Story) (Updated 15/6/20)

Post by MoashLannister » Sat Aug 15, 2020 8:04 am

Chapter 4

Yawning, I open the door to the empty classroom. Mr. Tatsunagi isn’t here, which probably means he’ll be running late to this lecture. I walk up to the back of the room and take my usual seat. With nothing to do, I simply take out my notes and read over them for the billionth time, hoping that the billionth and first will somehow change my perception of them.

It’s a new day, and yet my head still wants me to go back to the weekend. I grumble at no one and push back against any attempt to think about it, trying to focus on my notes. Unfortunately, my thoughts seem to have a will of their own, as I can’t force myself to focus on them.

To say that I want to forget those two days ever happened would probably be false. Despite the harsh way it ended, I enjoyed those two days more than any others in recent memory. But I feel like ruminating on it will just cause my thoughts to wander into things I’d rather leave alone, so it’s best just to treat it as something that happened and move on.

And yet, I wish to recall those memories all the same. To acknowledge that I want to have more memories like that. To smile, to talk, to be happy, without any burdens tying me down. It all feels so childish to me, but perhaps it’s because I want to feel childish.

My thoughts are interrupted as someone else enters the class, and to my surprise it’s not Mr. Tatsunagi. It’s the girl who usually sits next to me. Her long red hair is tied up in a ponytail, with square glasses on her face. She’s wearing a gray hoodie and long black jeans, and the tired look on her face tells me she’s either had a really unpleasant night or she simply isn't used to coming here this early.

She takes a look at me and fidgets a bit before taking her usual seat beside me. At any other time our presence wouldn’t really be all that noticeable to each other, but being the only two people present makes things feel awkward.

“U-um...hi,” she says with a shy look, adjusting her glasses. “Do you have any notes from last Thursday’s class? The one about molecules in a vacuum?”

“Yeah,” I answer, trying my best to sound cordial. I shuffle through my stack of notes until I find the ones she’s referring to. Like all my other notes, they’re very thorough on what the professor taught that day, as well as additional notes through researching on my own.

I hand them over to her, and she bows in appreciation. “Thank you. I wasn’t there because I, uh…was out…”

Well, glad to know she’s as good at conversation as she is with making excuses.

“It’s fine, just give them back once you’re done,” I say as I turn back to my notes. My eyes wander across the pages, but my brain refuses to process the information. This is really starting to get on my nerves.

“U-umm” she says awkwardly. “My name is Sayumi. Sayumi Saito.”

“Hisao Nakai,” I respond, turning back to look at her. She doesn’t seem to shy away from my look, which probably means she’s more awkward about this situation than actually withdrawn. “How do you know I have notes about that class anyways?”

The question was mostly rhetorical; my quiet reputation as Mr. Tatsunagi’s star student isn’t exactly a secret, not to mention the fact that someone who sits so close to me had probably noticed me scribbling notes like a sleep deprived writer.

“I always see you taking notes, so…” she answers, confirming my guess. “And the class talks about how you always seem to be the best student here.”

“I wouldn’t say I’m a prodigy or anything, I just study very thoroughly," I say with a hint of annoyance. “Everyone else here doesn’t seem to give it their all, or they prefer to talk about unrelated topics during class. That’s all.”

“Yeah, I guess.” Sayumi looks slightly guilty for a bit before passing the notes back to me. “Thank you for the notes, I think I memorized most of it.”

I say nothing as I place my notes back to where they belong in the pile, neat and organized. A silence takes over us as I don’t feel the need to speak about anything. What even is there to talk about in this situation? I simply did her an inconsequential favor.

“Uh...I really should pay you back for this. You really helped,” Sayumi says in an uncertain tone. “Is there anything you would like? Anything at all?”

And here I thought I could simply wait things out until the rest of the students come. “Nothing that immediately comes to mind. I’m not a person who wants anything in particular.”

“Oh, that sounds rather…” Sayumi trails off, probably because she doesn’t want to offend me.

“Boring? I agree," I say casually, feeling just a little amused by the look on her face, obviously completely caught off guard. “I’m a very boring person. That’s why my grades are so high.”

“I wouldn’t exactly say that.” She lets out a forced giggle, and still seems to want to continue this conversation. “Actually, me and a couple of friends are thinking about going to the arcade tomorrow night. If you’d like, you can come and we can play a couple of rounds. Tokens will be on me.”

I stay silent for a moment, considering her invitation. I have a shift tomorrow, but I could still catch up with them immediately after I was done. The question now becomes whether I actually want to spend time with people I don’t know.

“I’ll think about it,” I say half-heartedly, not feeling rude enough to decline outright.

“All right. Thank you again for the notes," Sayumi says, and it finally seems like she’s had her fill of talking.

Eventually, the other students start to flow in and take their seats, and still no sign of Mr. Tatsunagi. It isn’t until quite literally the last minute before he rushes in, looking as disheveled as I have ever seen him. His hair is a mess, and his bloodshot eyes coupled with the wrinkles on his face eyes clearly indicate that he hasn’t been sleeping in a while.

Still, he starts the lecture with his usual professionalism. “Apologies for my tardiness, I had some last minute business to attend to. Regardless, today we’ll be discussing molecules in a state of complete stasis.”

I immediately focus and begin listening, taking notes as he speaks. Considering how worn out he looks, the fact that he manages to lecture with as much detail and energy as he is currently doing just makes me respect him more. Of course, he isn’t completely fine. He occasionally loses track of whatever he’s saying, and sometimes even lets out a yawn mid-sentence, but he still manages to compose himself enough to continue on.

“Hey, what do you think’s up with Tatsunagi?” I hear a voice whisper out. It’s coming from the seat just ahead of me. Those three again.

“Beats me. Maybe Old Ghosteyes had a little too much to drink yesterday,” one of the others whispers back, giggling slightly. “Or maybe he was out getting laid.”

I feel myself getting angry at their talking, and even more that they’re referring to Mr. Tatsunagi so disrespectfully. I try to shove that anger down and focus on taking my notes, only for their comments to rile me up further.

“Heh, I wonder if Ghosteyes is going to fall asleep in the middle of class,” the third one whispers, leading to hushed giggles from the other two. “It’ll mean less lecture time for us.”

Without even thinking, I say, “Hey, can you three shut up?”

The words came out of my mouth before I can even think, loud and clear. Part of the class turns to me, the three of them included. Some of them give me curious stares, as if they’re hearing my voice for the first time. Others simply look on with boredom, as if I’m some source of entertainment. The trio’s expressions range from surprise to annoyance to amusement.

“Nakai, is something wrong?” I hear Mr. Tatsunagi call out, sighing in a tired voice. Embarrassed, I say nothing and sink down into my seat. The lecture continues as if nothing happened, and the trio in front of me continues to talk, though in a volume quiet enough for me not to hear any of it.

God, that was mortifying. So much for going through college completely unnoticed.

I try to focus on taking notes, scribbling down quickly as I try to follow Mr. Tatsunagi’s words to the letter. I try to lose myself in the lecture. Like a lot of times, I just want to stop thinking about anything not science related. About the future. About the past. About everything.


The class ends without further incident, with the students eagerly walking out of the class. None of them give me a second glance, my little outburst completely forgotten. I go over my notes one last time and pack my things. I’m leaving much earlier than usual, but I don’t want to stay here any longer.

I stand up and turn to walk out, only to notice Sayumi is still in her seat, reading a physics book. She gives me a wave as I walk past her, smiling slightly. I wave in return, feeling a bit awkward. So this is what having a college acquaintance is like. Can’t say I enjoy it all that much.

Walking down the steps, I see Mr. Tatsunagi rubbing his temples at his desk. I approach him and ask. “Are you okay, sir?”

He takes a moment to look at me before rubbing his temples again. “Rhetorical question, Nakai. If you ever speak to your boss, try to avoid asking those. They might just fire you on the spot.”

“Sorry," I say , feeling embarrassed. “I-It’s just that it’s the first time I’ve seen you so…”

“Tired?” Mr. Tatsunagi finishes for me, letting out a long and frustrated sigh. “Well, I had quite the night yesterday. Adult troubles and all that. It’d be best if you try not to end up in the same situations that I did, when you eventually get to my age.”

He finally moves his hand away from his face and looks me in the eye. “Anyways, you had your first day of work a couple of days ago. How was it?”

“Exhausting,” I admit. It’s odd how something supposedly monumental as my first working day could be so casually forgotten, but perhaps it’s simply because something more surprising happened that very day. “But fulfilling. It definitely eats up my free time, that’s for sure.”

“Not often someone doesn’t complain about the workload.” Mr. Tatsunagi eyes me with a look of curiosity. “Did you happen to meet my colleague Mr. Kurosawa? He’s the contact responsible for your job, and an old friend from my researcher days.”

“Yeah, I’ve met him. He’s kind of hard to forget with how he appears.” My mind recalls the moment I met the thuggish looking man, with a face that looked like he’d seen his fair share of brawls and fistfights. “He seems nice enough though.” I add diplomatically.

“Sounds like him. Don’t worry though, he just looks like he’ll break your neck; doesn’t mean he’ll actually do it.” He lets out a light chuckle at that statement, a nostalgic look in his tired eyes. “Well, unless you steal his sake. Then he might actually punch you through a wall.”

I nod in acknowledgement. “Um, I have to go to lunch," I say, bowing politely to him. “Thank you, Mr. Tatsunagi. For everything.”

“It’s Hisato, I insist.” Mr. Tatsunagi gives me a bright smile, even as he yawns once again. “Go. I wouldn’t want to keep you here unnecessarily.”

I walk towards the doorway, turning back to see Mr. Tatsunagi looking at his desk, his eyes staring blankly at a peculiar black folder, his face an icy visage. I can’t help but feel like I’m looking at a reflection with how uncaring he seems to appear. I almost want to turn around and ask him about it, but ultimately decide not to. He might see it as unnecessary prying, and I wouldn’t even know how to approach whatever problems he had regardless. Some burdens can only be handled by the people who carry them.

With nothing more to say, I take a deep breath and walk out the door, immediately heading for college’s exit.


I’m not exactly making a full sprint towards the cafe, but I notice that I’m walking at a faster pace than usual. I feel unusually anxious about going to that place again, though I certainly know part of the reason why. After how horribly we parted ways yesterday, particularly on my end, I feel as if I should apologize to Akira about how I acted.

Of course, there comes the question of whether that’s the only reason I’m feeling anxious. Anticipation isn’t something I’m used to, so it’s hard to say how much I’m looking forward to seeing her again. All I know is that, despite my reservations about it, I do want to see her again.

As I approach the entrance, I can’t see Akira in the cafe. Entering the building itself only confirms my fears. She isn’t here. I immediately feel my mood deflate as I walk to the back of the queue, buying lunch only because I just happen to be here. I think about how annoying it is to feel disappointed, even more to feel disappointed two days in a row.

Perhaps my mind is simply trying to make up for not having anything to be disappointed about for a long time. It’s a stupid thought to have, but then again it’s also stupid of me to look forward to meeting Akira here. She didn’t promise or even say anything about coming here yesterday, so I only have myself to blame for assuming that she’d be here.

I order my meal and take a seat near the corner of the cafe, eating my food while trying not to mope about the whole thing. The meal tastes good, though I’m not really in the mood to savor it. It’s a good thing I have afternoon lectures to attend to, otherwise I’d be asking myself what to do with my free time again.

In the middle of my meal, I suddenly feel something buzzing inside my pocket. I pull out my phone and see that it’s an unknown number. Reluctantly, I answered it. “Um, hello?”

The voice that’s on the other end is a surprising one, though not unfamiliar. “Hey, Hisao,” Akira says in a cool and collected voice. “How are things?”

I instantly stop eating, my mouth slightly agape in surprise. “Akira?” I ask, as if it could be anyone else that has that voice. “How did you call me?”

She laughs at my question. “You called me a few days ago, remember?” she points out. “I have that number on my phone log, so I figured I should call you now that I’m having my lunch break. You talk about stuff.”

...Right. I suddenly feel extremely nervous, and I can feel my hand shaking slightly. “You didn’t need to do that,” I blurt out, though I immediately want to take those words back. Why do I like to shoot myself in the foot so much.

“Yeah, but I want to. Beats hanging out with all the office flunkies,” Akira mutters, sounding slightly annoyed. “Besides, we didn’t exactly end on a high note yesterday so...”

Feeling immediately guilty, I quickly speak before see can say anything else. “About yesterday…” I begin, trying to think of the right words to say. “I’m sorry I acted the way I did. I shouldn’t have been mad when you had something so important to deal with.”

A silence follows soon after I’m finished, and I wonder if I said something wrong. Thankfully, she eventually responds. “No worries. Honestly, I’m glad you were disappointed,” she says, half-playfully and half-seriously. “It means you really had a good time back then.”

“I did," I say, as if confirming to myself rather than her. “Still, you had work to do. I shouldn’t have acted so immaturely when you were about to leave.”

“Fuck work,” Akira snaps loudly and angrily, catching me off guard. “Sorry, had to get that out of my system while I could. But yeah, don’t worry about it. We had a great time and it was ruined by shitty work protocols, and that’s that. Nothing more to it, right?”

“Yeah, I guess that’s that," I say as I resume picking at my meal, feeling just a bit better about the whole thing. Being familiar with having unfinished resolutions when it came to past social issues, having one actually be resolved feels good, no matter how minor the problem actually is.

“So, where are you right now?” Akira asks. “Eating lunch?”

“Yeah. I’m actually in the cafe opposite my college. The one where we met.”

“Oh? You seem to really like that place.” Akira giggles before continuing. “Or were you hoping to catch me there for a third time?”

“I was, actually,” I admit after a long pause. “I mean the food is great, the price is cheap and the environment is nice and all. But I really was just hoping you’d be here so I could apologize about yesterday. Sounds really stupid in hindsight.”

She doesn’t respond for a moment, and for a second I’m afraid she might just hang up. “Well, you know…” Akira says in an offhand tone. “I appreciate you trying to apologize, at least. Not many guys are really interested in talking to a girl after sleeping with them.”

“I assume you’re speaking from personal experience?” I asked as I take one last bite of my meal, feeling a little less anxious.

“Like I said, my college years were pretty wild,” Akira says and I can’t tell if she sounds fond of those memories or not. “I’d give you the specifics, but I probably won’t even get close to halfway before my break ends. Maybe when we have more time, out in the city or something.”

“Is that an offer?” I ask, failing to hide the anticipation in my voice.

“Well, I did say I’ll make it up to you yesterday,” she answers in a thoughtful manner. “Got a time and place?”

“Not really. I have afternoon lectures, so I’ll be free around six," I say, looking at a clock hanging on the cafe wall. I’ve been sitting here longer than usual. Normally I’d be on my way to the lecture hall by now, but I didn’t want this call to end. I often complain to myself that I have too much time on my hands, so I might as well make use of it now.

“Hmm, my shift ends a little later than that. Assuming the higher ups don’t suddenly come up with a new way to give me more work.” Akira grumbles, most likely due to having had it happen before. “Still, I think I have a place where we can mope for a few hours. You like playing billiards and darts?”

“Not particularly.” I haven’t really played much of anything since I started college. Part of it because I didn’t have anyone else to play with, another part of it because I saw no need for it. Games don’t earn money or improve your grades, so they were irrelevant on a practical level.

“Well, too bad, because that’s what we’ll be doing. Hope you like losing,” Akira says with an audible smirk. “I’ll text you the exact time and location later. My break is just about done and I have to enter the pit of snakes again.”

“All right, good luck.” I feel this conversation reaching its end, and decide to say what I thought. “...I’m really glad you called, Akira.”

It feels a bit cheesy saying that, yet I feel that I need to say it nonetheless. It takes a few seconds before she responds, but I think I can hear a bit of cheeriness in her voice as she does. “Well, I’m glad I called too. Talk to you later.”

With that, the call ends and I immediately stand up. Exiting the cafe, I make my way to college, feeling a strange sense of satisfaction welling up in my chest.


The bus stops and I exit the vehicle, finally feeling as if I could breathe again. I make my way down the street, my destination not that far away. It’s 6:45, about fifteen minutes before the specified time, but I’m nothing if not overly punctual.

A storefront with a mirror stops me as I look at my own reflection. I’m not particularly well dressed, though I did take the extra effort to look a bit sharper than usual. My clothes, my face, they all look the same. So why do I have the feeling that I look different? What’s changed?

Putting aside my irrationality, I resume my walk. Perhaps I’m simply overthinking things, much like how I’m overly thorough with my studies. I took the effort to make myself a little more presentable, nothing more. And yet I feel as if that isn’t the answer to my question, if there is one.

After a bit more walking and contemplating, I reach the specified location. It isn’t anywhere in particular, but an empty bench on the sidewalk indicates that this is the place. I take a seat and pull out my phone. 6:55. Another five minutes and she should be here.

With nothing to do, I simply lean back and look at my surroundings. It’s currently a very busy hour, with the roads full of cars and the sidewalks full of people. I try to focus on one thing at a time, trying to see if I can find anything of interest. I see an angry looking businessman, walking down the street in a hurry. I see two people talking to each other dispassionately, their eyes giving me the impression that they don’t even like the other. I see a lady walking a dog with a look of annoyance on her face, and she tugs the leash violently whenever her pet slows down.

I seem to be specifically targeting negative views, much to my own annoyance. Trying to look for more positive sights, I can see several friends hanging out, as well as several couples that seem to be on dates. Unfortunately, looking at them doesn’t actually improve my mood.

After a while, I check my watch. It’s 7:05. Akira must have gotten an extra workload, or at least that’s what I tell myself. I look at my surroundings some more, waiting for time to pass by. The multitude of people that makes up humanity, filtered down to the specific individual. What was the worth of a single person nowadays? I suddenly find the question popping up in my head.

With billions of people in the world, a single person’s life seems so...miniscule. Even worthless. Everyone is expendable in society, easily replaced by someone who can do a good enough job. Even to friends and family, a person is just someone who happens to share the same blood or have the same interests. Throw that distinction away, and what worth is that person in their eyes?

There are exceptions, of course. People adopt children who aren’t even remotely related to them, all for the sake of giving that unknown child a home. People can form friendships despite their massive differences. But I still find myself wondering about my eventual worth to society, and about my worth to my old friends, or rather my lack of it.

Assuming I get a job as a researcher and make myself exceptional, what value can I offer? Even those that are of above average capacity aren’t indispensable to society, so long as there are people that can take their place. If I happen to lapse in my ability, how long will it be until I’m swept aside to be replaced by someone else? Would all my previous work be invalidated, just like that?

I realize that my thoughts stem from my past, and my experiences that have led me to this point. As much as I would like to distance myself from it, my past is what drives me forward. It’s also what’s holding me back, providing yet another proof of the paradoxical nature of human thought.

I notice the sky getting darker and take another look at my watch. It’s 7:30. I feel my mood deflate even further and wonder how much longer I should wait before calling it quits. Perhaps I can call Akira and say that it’s alright if we cancel. Sighing, I slowly start to get up.

“HEY! Hisao!”

My head immediately turns to the source of the shout, and I see her. Akira is in her ever familiar black suit, running down the sidewalk and waving at me. She finally stops as she reaches the bench, panting and giving me an apologetic smile. “Sorry I’m so late," she says, trying to sound as composed as possible.

Suddenly, my mood takes a complete 180. It obviously took a lot of energy to get here, judging by how heavily she’s breathing. I wonder if she left right after work, but either way I can’t help unreasonably but feel a little touched at her effort. Something about her chasing after me is...not exactly a bad thought. Not at all.

“You didn’t have to shout, you know," I say, trying to make it sound like a casual joke, but that was partially a lie. Hearing her voice was probably what kept me here. “You look a little...tired.”

“Heh, what tipped you off?” she responds sarcastically, fully turning back into her usual confident self. “The fact that I had to run all the way here, or the fact that I had to rush here without a change of clothes?”

“Work?” I ask rhetorically, giving her a genuinely amused smile.

“What else?” Akira makes an explosion gesture with her hands, which I find oddly childish for someone like her. “Things blew up at the last second, the two branches are tearing each other a new one, and I have to just sit there and take it from both sides like some corporate punching bag.

“It’s…” She gives me a hard look, her lips turning into a tired frown. “You know what? Forget it. It’s already bad enough I’m late, no need to trouble you with my shitty tales about work.”

“You say that as if I don’t enjoy seeing you blow up,” I tease, earning a giggle from her. “But we can save that for after we get something to eat. The place you got planned have any food?”

She nods before moving away from the bench with me in tow. “Nothing I’d call dinner worthy, but it beats starving," she says. “Anyways, like I said on the phone, hope you can get used to playing billiards and darts. ‘Cause that’s most of what you’re doing tonight.”

I raise an eyebrow at her. “And you’ll be…?”

“Getting drunk while playing billiards and darts, of course," she says with a chuckle. “I’m pretty good when I’m sober, but I bet you won’t even get a shot in when I have alcohol in my system. I used to earn good money when I played back in the day.”

“Well, hope you don’t mind winning nothing as a prize.,” I respond, my hand nervously reaching for my wallet. “I’m not a betting sort of man.”

“Oh? That’s no fun,” Akira says as she runs ahead a little and turns around, a fierce glint in her eyes. “Tell you what, let’s bet something other than money.”

“Such as?”

“Answers,” Akira responds. “Whenever I win, I get to ask anything I want out of you. Whenever you pocket a ball in billiards or get within twenty points within my score in darts, you can do the same. Seems fair?”

“Fair?” I ask incredulously. “Seems like I have a huge advantage over you.”

“And that’s where you’re wrong, kiddo.” Akira says with an edge in her voice, her expression turning into one of fierce competitiveness. “Trust me, you’ll need those handicaps if you’re ever going to ask me anything tonight. I’m not the kind of gal to hold back and let someone else win out of pity.”

I suddenly get the sense that she isn’t exaggerating in the slightest, and also that I probably won’t be asking a lot of questions. Akira simply leers at me a little before turning back to where she’s heading, humming a happy tune.

After a few minutes we reach our destination, an inconspicuous building with a sign that says ‘Zanki Bar’ Akira turns around and points at the entrance. “Here’s the place.”

“It’s a lot less seedy than I imagined,” I note. “I was kind of expecting one of those dirty bars you see in gangster movies.”

“Eh, once you get drunk enough they all start to look like that,” Akira replies with a shrug, her hand on the entrance. “Especially the number of guys that try to hit on you. Well, me, anyway. Now get in here so I can get some alcohol in my system already.”

She enters without waiting for me. With only a second’s hesitation, I open the door and enter the bar. The place definitely looks sketchier on the inside than the outside, though still not as much as I imagined. The spacious interior is mostly empty, with just a few patrons sitting in their seats. Most of them were alone, drinking their alcohol with looks ranging from melancholy to giddiness.

Akira sits on a barstool, already ordering a drink from the bartender. I slowly make my way over to her, and take a seat beside her. “I already ordered some Yakitori for us. Hope you don’t mind,” she says as the bartender sets a mug of beer down in front of her. She takes the mug and downs it like her life depended on it, drinking half of it with a satisfied gulp.

“So…” I say, feeling just a bit lost as far as conversation topics go. “Would you like to save all the questions for when we play?”

She thinks about it for a moment before letting out a sigh. “Nah, that’ll take too long. Might as well get the boring ones out of the way. So, how’s college today? Anything interesting?”

“Not really,” I reply, the memory of this morning already becoming hazy to me, save for one thing. “Someone invited me to play at the arcade with her friends, but I sort of turned her down.”

“Oh?” Akira takes another chug of her beer, finishing it and waving at the bartender for a refill. “Why? Seems like a good opportunity to make some friends, not that I wouldn’t be flattered if you ditched them to hang out with me.”

“I don’t know her,” I answer as the Yakitori comes out, still steaming. I take a stick without thinking and start to take a bite, only to immediately regret it as I feel the inside of my mouth burning.

“Well, that’s why you hang out with people. To actually get to know them,” Akira says as she takes a large bite out of her stick, seemingly eating it just fine. It’s either the beer helping her manage the heat or she has an iron mouth. “Seriously, you should make some friends.”

“Like you with your co-workers?” I jab back, daring to take another bite. The food doesn’t burn anymore, though the taste isn’t anything remarkable. “Or is this an example of ‘do as I say, not as I do?’”

“Heh, were you always this much of a smartass?” Akira mutters as she takes another stick, downing her refilled mug before devouring it. “I swear you were a nicer kid back then.”

“Well, people change," I say, feeling a little melancholy at that statement. Akira seems to agree with the sentiment, judging by the look she’s giving me. “Some people just aren’t who you knew them as in the past. I’m sure you weren’t always like this back when you were my age.”

“Like what?” Akira asks curiously, as she downs some more of her beer.

“Well, I guess...more of an adult?” I venture, which only makes her raise an eyebrow. “You like to say how wild your college days were, or how much your current life is hell. I figured that’s what being an adult means; to put up with the fact that you don’t have any freedom any more, and hating it.”

Akira doesn’t respond immediately, only giving me a hard look. “Right, no more words out of you," she says in a demanding fashion. “Not until we’re full and I’m well and truly buzzed, then I’m kicking your ass until I’m satisfied.”

It takes a while before “well and truly buzzed” happens, way past the point where we finish our food. There’s only silence between us as she keeps drinking an inordinate amount of beer. Eventually, though, she slaps money down on the counter, and says in a slightly slurred voice, “All right, big guy. Time for the main event.”

I don’t even get to answer before she drags me to the corner of the bar, where a dartboard hangs on the wall with six darts sticking out of it, three blue and three red. Akira grabs them and shoves the three red ones into my hand. “All right, you go first," she says, the slur in her voice persisting. “I wanna see how bad you are.”

Sighing, I take my position facing the dartboard. On the corner of my eye I notice Akira looking on arrogantly, almost leering at me. With a look like that, I might as well try and prove her wrong, however unfruitful that may turn out to be. Without hesitation, I throw them in sequence, not stopping to see where the previous one landed.

The darts all stick to the dartboard, one of them landing on the green circle just outside of the bullseye. The other two stick to the ones indicating twenty and eighteen points. I figure that’s at least an admirable score, at least for someone who’s only played the game perhaps once in his life.

Akira however, seems unimpressed as she walks up to the line beside me. Without taking any time or preparation, she casually throws a dart and it lands dead centre on the bullseye. Any pride I had at my score is instantly crushed as she flashes me a confident smile, throwing the other two darts. They struck the inner circle of the dartboard, in the areas marked eighteen and thirteen.

“Sixty-three versus one hundred forty-three. That’s a win for me,” Akira shouts, jumping up in an uncharacteristically childish manner. “Man, I’ve really gotten rusty.”

“If this is rusty, I don’t even want to play anymore,” I groan.

“Oh, come on. Just keep going, and pray I slip up one of these rounds,” Akira says as she jabs me in the shoulder. “Anyways, a bet is a bet. What’s the real reason you didn’t want to hang out with that student you mentioned?”

She glares at me expectantly, unable to let me worm my way out of her question. Looking away, I simply respond. “I don’t see the point. Even if I accept her offer, there’s no guarantee that it’ll be a fun time for the both of us, or even if we’ll hang out again in the future.”

I went to take the darts from the board, turning to look at her. Judging by the mild look of disappointment, she’s probably unsatisfied with my answer. “That seems like a lame excuse," she says as I hand her the blue darts.

“I never promised it would be a good one,” I retort, as she silently throws her darts. As expected, all of them hit in high scoring areas. “I’m probably not going to get a question in.”

“Depends on how you play your cards," Akira says in false reassurance as I throw mine. As expected, my score can’t even touch hers. “You might get off a question or two during billiards. You know what you’re going to ask?”

Honestly, I didn’t. Not because I don’t have any questions to ask, but because there’s too many. Despite hanging out and knowing certain aspects of her life, the woman known as Akira Satou is still enigmatic to me. What made her the way she is now? How deep do her feelings of misery go? I want to get more details of her life,simply because I want to know more about her.

Still, no need to vocalize those thoughts. “Not really,” I lie. “Anyways, you won again. Hit me.”

“I just did, smart guy," Akira says, giggling a bit at my befuddlement. “Come on, get the darts already.”

The rest of the rounds quickly go by, with predictable results. No matter how carefully I aim, my score is always miniscule compared to hers. I can see how she could earn money from this, and am doubly glad that we’re betting in questions, and not anything of monetary value.

Surprisingly, her questions are all very mundane. What’s your favorite food? Any place you wanted to travel to? Do you prefer cold or hot weather? After the first question, I was expecting something more...heavy in topic, but she seems content getting very insignificant information about me, and I can’t help but wonder why.

“All right, that’s enough of darts," she says after about ten or so rounds of her doing nothing but reminding me of my ineptitude. “Let’s move on.”

We leave that particular corner of the bar and go to the very back, where a single pool table sits, most of the balls placed haphazardly from an unfinished game. Akira goes and gets two cues, tossing one over to me before arranging the balls. She seems more energetic than when we got to the bar, both in her movements and her expressions.

“Having fun?” I ask offhandedly. She gives me an annoyed look that makes me feel like I’ve asked her something stupid.

“Well, I’m not exactly bored out of my mind," she says sarcastically. “Though I would prefer an actual challenge this time.”

“You wanna go first?” I ask as she places the cue ball.

She gives me that same look as before, so I guess I’m two for two for stupid questions. “You want to actually pocket a ball tonight?”

Responding with silence, I simply walk up to the table and take up my position. The cue in my hand feels good, and I take a breath before taking my shot. The white ball flies forward and hits the triangle of colored balls, sending them scattering.

I see one of the solid balls inch closer and closer to a corner pocket before finally falling in. I can’t help but feel a bit of pride at that small victory. If Akira is as skilled at this as is was in darts, not getting clean swept is the best I could ever hope for.

“Not bad, not bad," Akira says, clapping softly. “Well, you’re not going home without winning anything at least. So, what’s your question?”

I take a moment to consider, deciding between whether to ask her something personal or something mundane. In the end, I decide on a question that’s perhaps a bit of both. “Why didn’t you ask anything more...important back when we were playing darts?”

“Hmm?” Akira raises an eyebrow, looking slightly amused. “Who says they’re not important? You gotta get the small stuff out of the way before you go for the heavy shit, you know? Consider it advice whenever you meet another angry woman on a business trip to Japan.”

“Consider it noted, I guess.” I move to take my second shot. I take aim and notice that she’s staring right at me for some reason. I strike the ball towards another solid ball near a pocket, and manage to sink it.

“Nice," Akira says, sounding genuinely impressed. “You might actually win a round.”

“What happens if I win?” I ask. “We never really specified that.”

“You really want that to be your question?” she responds, a smirk on her face. I silently nod.

She gives me a teasing wink, her freehand tugging at the collar of her suit. “I’ll make it worth your while if you win," she says, her voice suddenly turning seductive. “Trust me.”

I feel my cheeks heating up, uncertain if that incentive will motivate or distract me. Regardless, I line up another shot and strike. It barely manages to hit my target, and certainly doesn’t hit it hard enough to pocket it. Akira lets out a rather loud laugh, and suddenly I feel as if someone hit me right in the stomach.

“Don’t feel bad, big guy. You’re not the first person I’ve used that trick on," Akira says as she takes moves over to take her shot, giving me an apologetic smile before bending over forwards. “Now let me show you how to really use a cue.”

A fierce look in her eyes, Akira lines up her cue before slamming it into the ball with a loud crack. The ball flies and bounces off the edge of the table twice before slamming into a striped ball, sending it directly into a pocket. Once again, her skill only confirms that I lost the moment I stepped into the bar.

“You ever considered playing professionally? You could probably do it," I say, awestruck.

“Nice try, smart guy. Unless you’re pocketing balls, I’m not answering that no matter how hard you flatter,” Akira responds with a smile as she moves over to take another shot. Like before, it’s a powerful one as the ball is sent flying and bouncing all sorts of directions. This time, she manages to pocket two in one go.

Unsurprisingly, she continues with her onslaught of pocketing all of her balls, leaving the eight ball remaining. She lets out a grunt and shoots, the white ball striking it. The black eight ball rolls towards the corner pocket, but bounces off, eliciting a curse from Akira.

“Well, guess you still have one more go," she mentions. “Make it count.”

Nervous, I grip my cue tightly as I consider how to strike the ball. There isn’t any obvious angle that’ll allow me to pocket a ball, so I’ll have to rely on bouncing off the edge of the table, angling the shot just right to make it bounce the way I want it to. A practical exercise in motion and geometry, I suppose. Taking a deep breath, I aim my cue at the ball. If all goes well, it’ll bounce off the end of the table and hit one of the solids balls towards a side pocket. Feeling extremely hesitant, I fidget around with my cue, trying to play the ideal scenario in my head.

“Hey," Akira says, tilting her head slightly and giving me an effortless smile. “Just take your shot already, big guy. Waiting won’t do you any good.”

She’s right, I guess. Waiting for things to happen has never done me much good in the past, so I take my shot without a second thought. The ball bounces off the opposite end of the table and hits the solid two ball in the side, causing it to roll into the side pocket.

Without thinking, I let out a satisfied sigh. It feels nice when something you plan comes to fruition.

“Now that’s one hell of a shot.” Akira remarks. “Not the best I’ve seen, but still pretty good. So, ask away.”

“Why do you hate your life so much?” is the question that suddenly comes out of my lips, almost without thinking. And just as sudden is the realization that I’ve probably killed the mood.

Akira’s smile fades instantly. She gives me a stare, though it’s neither sad nor angry. “Man, you really know how to ask a girl something personal, huh?” she says, trying her best to sound like she’s joking. “And we were having so much fun, too.”

“If you don’t want to answer..," I say, immediately trying to backpedal. “I can probably think of something else to ask.”

“No, no,” she responds calmly as she leans on a wall for support, letting out a rather loud sigh. “You just caught me off guard, that’s all. But I guess after all we’ve talked about over the past couple of days, you would want to know more. Wouldn’t you?”

All I can give in reply is a slow nod.

“Well…” she says flatly, taking a deep breath. Any signs of her drunkenness immediately vanish as she looks at me, her stare a sad and sober one. “To make sure we’re not here all night, I suppose I can narrow it down to a few things. I hate my job, you already know that much. But my family is just as much of a pain in the ass as well, especially my shitty excuse for a dad.” She lets out a growl at that last word, the hatred in her voice apparent.

“He tries to run my life like I’m his property or something,” she continues, the grip on her cue tightening as if she’s trying to snap it in two. “He forces me to do things his way, he always overrules whatever I have to say, and he always makes damn sure that everyone in the family will take his side. Mom, all my aunts and cousins, even…”

Akira cuts herself off, looking at me as if she doesn’t want to speak anymore. I feel guilty, but find myself unable to turn away from her gaze. “I’ll continue talking about it after this game is over," she says in a dismissive manner, shaking her head slightly. “Think it’s time we bailed on this place anyways. Go ahead and take your shot.”

Feeling like I passed a boundary I shouldn’t have, I say nothing further and simply move to take my next shot. I don’t really feel like playing anymore, which predictably means my next shot completely misses and doesn’t even hit anything.

I look at Akira, and notice that her smile has returned, if only just a little. I wonder what can make her smile in such an awkward situation, but I decide not to think about it too hard.

She pockets the eight ball with ease and lets out a sigh. “All right, I won," she says in a disappointed tone. “Well, only fair I ask you something serious too. No clamming up now, you hear?”

“Yeah.“ She doesn’t turn around to face me.

“Why do you hate your life so much?” she asks, mirroring my exact tone when I said it. “Not having friends, taking up a job when you really don’t need to, all that kind of stuff. It seems like you’re punishing yourself for no reason, and don’t give me any bullcrap about focusing on studies. I managed to do both just fine back in my college days.”

I take a minute to process her question, and to question myself as to why I ‘m walking down the road that I am. “Well, I wasn’t lying when I said it’s for studies. An internship is good for my resume, and friends can prove to be a distraction,” I say, which only seems to get her to turn around for a brief moment, scowling at me. I know that isn’t the only reason, or even the main one, but it’s hard putting those other reasons into words. “But I guess another reason would be that I’m...trying to catch up.”

“Catching up, huh?” she says as she moves to put her cue back on the rack.

“Yeah," I say, recalling days I wish I could simply leave behind. “When I graduated and got back home, Mom and Dad were pretty doting on me for a few days. They even canceled work to hang out with me, but after that it just...stopped.” I find it easier to let it out as I continue talking, though the memory stings all the same. “They barely come home, and when they do they’re too tired to even give me the time of day. All they used to talk to me about before I left was getting into college and finding a good job, nothing else.”

“I tried to reconnect with my old friends, but by now they’ve become completely different people from what I knew. They were nice and all, but it’s pretty clear that I’ve become an outsider to their new social circles, so I pretty much stopped seeing them after the first encounter. The only person I talked to with any sort of frequency was Hanako, and well…”

At the end of my little rant, I feel mentally drained. Akira gives me a rather sad look and I immediately turn away from her. Pity isn’t something I ever need or want. “It just feels like everyone is moving ahead and leaving me behind, and all I’m doing now is catching up to where they’re currently at. I feel like that’s all I’ve been doing since I got to college.”

There isn’t another word spoken for a good while. I move to put my cue back on the rack, still unwilling to face her.

“You never mentioned Lilly," Akira says with a surprising amount of casualness. Perhaps at another time I would have reacted with shock, but in my current state, all I can do is tiredly sigh.

“I don’t think that needs an explanation,” I reply sarcastically as I finally face her. “Especially to her sister.”

“Heh, yeah," Akira says with a bit of a smile, though that quickly fades into a very bitter frown. “Well, I’m not sure if this’ll make you feel any better, but she definitely isn’t the same little sister I know anymore. I barely talk to her nowadays, and when we do it always ends up in an argument. One time Dad and I got into a really big fight, and all Lilly did was chide me for being out of line. Isn’t that great? The sister I raised for over a decade, taking the side of the man who basically abandoned her. She’s definitely a prim and proper Satou lady now.”

Akira doesn’t say another word as she walks away from the pool table. I follow her, feeling just a bit awkward as we attract the eyes of several bar patrons. Perhaps we were a little louder than we thought.

We exit the bar and head back into the now-empty street. Akira finally stops to look and me, and without prompting, gives me a quick hug. For a split second I’m left speechless as she rests her head onto my shoulder for just a moment before parting.

“I don’t think I have it in me to talk about it anymore," she says, giving me a cold stare. “But at least we ended this better than we did at the karaoke place, huh? After all, I didn’t bail out on you this time.”

“Yeah…” I respond, trying my best to give her a smile and wondering if that answer was genuine or not. And if it was, whether or not I feel the same way. “Thank you. I had a good time.”

“I did too. Don’t let my frown tell you otherwise.” She forces out a chuckle, trying her best to seem fine. “I’ll probably sound like a massive hypocrite when I say this, but try to embrace your life a little more, eh? Things aren’t always as bad as they seem, and just because you get knocked down a lot doesn’t mean you just stay on the ground.”

It seems like sound advice, and contrary to what she says, the fact that it’s coming from her lends more weight to it.

“I’ll try," I say, unable to think of anything else to respond with. “Gotta take advice from my elders, right?”

“Smartass,” she grumbles out before turning around, waving a bit as she stumbles a bit. “Goodnight, Hisao. Talk to you later.” Akira walks off, her image shrinking as she walks down the street with a slight spring in her step.

I look down the street as she walks away, my thoughts feeling decidedly...conflicted. After she’s out of sight I finally decide to move on, and catch one of the last buses back to my apartment, the passage of time doing nothing to answer the questions in my head.


Reaching my apartment, I open the door. Like every other night, there’s no one to greet me or even acknowledge that I exist in here. And yet tonight of all nights, that fact is somehow more pronounced then it used to be, at least in my head.

As I take my nightly medication and then immediately lay on my bed, Akira’s final words to me rang out in my mind. “Embrace my life, huh?” I mutter to myself.

The idea of hanging out, making friends, and having a social life seems...alien to my current mindset, and yet also something I feel like I want. That I have wanted for a while, but I simply ignored it up until now in favor of things that I deemed to be more necessary.

Until Akira came and reminded me how much I wanted it in the first place. Our time together has made the fact that I dislike being alone, no matter how much I can (or think that I can) endure it, the forefront of my thoughts tonight.

Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad to giving social life another shot. Despite my rapidly dwindling lucidity, I resolve to at least give it a try as my consciousness slowly drifts away.

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Re: Running Away To You (A Post Lilly-Neutral Story) (Updated 15/8/20)

Post by Xeraeo » Sun Aug 16, 2020 3:51 pm

Another ongoing story on here! First of all, I have to say you have an awesome talent for creating interesting settings, and intermingling the dialogue with actions. I feel like most of my dialogue is 90% just the characters talking, with little else happening other than their expressions and body language. You're making me want to do better.

Regarding your concern about this being an "out there" story, I agree with HFC. It's believable enough. I always find any Hisao x Akira pairing a bit unlikely because of the age difference, and particularly in a timeline where he and Lilly were a thing, but if any circumstances could make them getting together in any way believable, you're certainly pulling it off here.

I'm also trying to write a fairly depressed Hisao, but I think I'm too unsubtle with it compared to you. You're doing an amazing job here of making me feel the utter grayness of his life.

I think your side characters are interesting as well. Mr. Tatsunagi in particular. Really want to know what's up with that black folder now.

Altogether, I'm hooked and just hoping that you're able to continue the story to wherever it takes you. Great work, man. Keep it up.
Girls: Emi=Hanako=Lilly>Shizune=Rin
Routes: Lilly=Emi>Hanako>Rin>Shizune

(Name is pronounced "Zero". Stole it from Quake, I think)

My projects here:
To Miss the Mark - An OC Pseudo-Route (Hitomi)
Rebound - A Post Lilly NE Epilogue / Iwanako Story (On Hold)

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Re: Running Away To You (A Post Lilly-Neutral Story) (Updated 15/8/20)

Post by MoashLannister » Sun Aug 16, 2020 7:49 pm

Xeraeo wrote:
Sun Aug 16, 2020 3:51 pm
Another ongoing story on here! First of all, I have to say you have an awesome talent for creating interesting settings, and intermingling the dialogue with actions. I feel like most of my dialogue is 90% just the characters talking, with little else happening other than their expressions and body language. You're making me want to do better.

Regarding your concern about this being an "out there" story, I agree with HFC. It's believable enough. I always find any Hisao x Akira pairing a bit unlikely because of the age difference, and particularly in a timeline where he and Lilly were a thing, but if any circumstances could make them getting together in any way believable, you're certainly pulling it off here.

I'm also trying to write a fairly depressed Hisao, but I think I'm too unsubtle with it compared to you. You're doing an amazing job here of making me feel the utter grayness of his life.

I think your side characters are interesting as well. Mr. Tatsunagi in particular. Really want to know what's up with that black folder now.

Altogether, I'm hooked and just hoping that you're able to continue the story to wherever it takes you. Great work, man. Keep it up.
Thank you very much for the feedback. I can only hope future chapters will be worth the investment you're giving to this story.

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Re: Running Away To You (A Post Lilly-Neutral Story) (Updated 15/8/20)

Post by Hacksorus » Mon Aug 17, 2020 2:12 am

I like it! Can't really think of much else to say at the moment. If you keep writing it, I'll keep reading it.

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Re: Running Away To You (A Post Lilly-Neutral Story) (Updated 15/8/20)

Post by Oddball » Tue Aug 18, 2020 11:45 am

Pretty good so far.

Usually Akira/Hisao doesn't work at all, but by moving them ahead some years, I think the age difference is less of a factor than the stories that try to hook them up while in Yamaku.

I was wondering why Lilly was never mentioned, not even in passing, up until you're reveal that she's become even more prim and proper, which is kind of sad to hear. Speaking of sad, Hisao feels like even more of a sad sack than he ever did at Yamaku. To contrast that Akira comes off as more immature than her game appearances. I'm not sure if that was intentional or not. On one had it does serve to sort of even them out, but on the other it makes them feel just slightly off.

I also think you may have jumped into the sex a bit too quickly.

Other than that though, it's been a nice read.
Not Dead Yet

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Re: Running Away To You (A Post Lilly-Neutral Story) (Updated 15/8/20)

Post by MoashLannister » Tue Aug 18, 2020 11:58 am

Oddball wrote:
Tue Aug 18, 2020 11:45 am
Pretty good so far.

Usually Akira/Hisao doesn't work at all, but by moving them ahead some years, I think the age difference is less of a factor than the stories that try to hook them up while in Yamaku.
It's really the only feasible scenario for them to hook up like they did. It definitely would be weird if that was a thing that happened during Yamaku.
Oddball wrote:
Tue Aug 18, 2020 11:45 am
I was wondering why Lilly was never mentioned, not even in passing, up until you're reveal that she's become even more prim and proper, which is kind of sad to hear. Speaking of sad, Hisao feels like even more of a sad sack than he ever did at Yamaku. To contrast that Akira comes off as more immature than her game appearances. I'm not sure if that was intentional or not. On one had it does serve to sort of even them out, but on the other it makes them feel just slightly off.
Well, as I've revealed in Chapter 4, Hisao hasn't exactly had it good after Lilly dumped him to go to Scotland. His old friends have all moved on from him and his parents largely ignore him nowadays. Akira is in a similarly depressing situation, but she's also now far away from her family, which gives her a degree of freedom that she's never had during her time in Scotland. So she's using the opportunity to act in a way that she rarely could under normal circumstances.
Oddball wrote:
Tue Aug 18, 2020 11:45 am
I also think you may have jumped into the sex a bit too quickly.

Other than that though, it's been a nice read.
Perhaps, but I also wanted it to showcase how bleak and boring it is for both of them that they would consider hooking up like that. Some fun for the night with no strings attached.

I appreciate the compliment, and hope to keep this kind of quality going forward.

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Re: Running Away To You (A Post Lilly-Neutral Story) (Updated 15/8/20)

Post by CrowArmbrust555 » Tue Oct 06, 2020 9:46 pm

I made an account just to reply to this.

I never really expected to read something like Hisao x Akira, but man, this was really good. Not sure if there are any other stories like this on here, since I haven't really looked, but I think this one set the bar a bit too high. Great work.

Makes me want to actually properly continue my own Misha route that I only sort of started on.

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Re: Running Away To You (A Post Lilly-Neutral Story) (Updated 15/8/20)

Post by MoashLannister » Thu Oct 15, 2020 7:19 am

Chapter 5

I hate tests.

It seems no matter what my age may be, my disdain for questions printed on sheets of paper continue to persist. Whereas before I dislike them for being nerve-wracking and making me second guess every question, with my exam subjects narrowed down to one of my choosings, the reason shifted to it being not only boringly easy, but simply redundant, as most of the questions are simply recycled or restructured ones from earlier classes.

Am I inflating my own ego when it comes to my studies? Possibly. But that still doesn’t change the fact that this exam does nothing to enhance my learning experience, only enhancing my sense of boredom.

As I finish the last of the questions, I place my pencil down and look at the rest of the class. An invigilator eyes at me with a look of approval, giving me a barely noticeable nod before walking to check on another part of the class. In just ten minutes I’ll be allowed to leave early, but for now I’m stuck here waiting. Not exactly a feeling I’m unfamiliar with, at least.

After going through a quick double check of my answers, I stare at the clock hanging on the wall as if it holds the mysteries of the universe. While my eyes track the ticking of every passing second, my mind wanders off to yesterday night. In particular, the final moments before I fell asleep.

How does one go about having a social life? To some, the answer might be rather obvious, but for me it is very much a question that I haven’t considered answering in a while. Does one simply go up to someone, ask them to hang out, and that’s that? Something as simple as making friends shouldn’t be so hard to think about, yet here I am.

Perhaps it just goes to show how much I’ve isolated myself when even the process of making friends has become so fuzzy to me. Hell, calling it a “process” might be an indicator in and of itself.

The clock tells me that the time to escape has finally arrived. Packing my stuff, I call for an invigilator to hand my papers to. Once that’s done, I sling my bag over my shoulder and walk down towards the exit.

Once I’m out, I immediately head for the stairs. It’s still far too early for lunch, so I might as well burn the rest of my morning hours in the library. As much as my pride myself on my knowledge, there’ll always be some gaps in the vast stores of information my memory contains, gaps that I hope to fill if at all possible.

The life of an aspiring researcher is one with an endgame that’s always out of reach. To know everything isn’t the goal, but simply to know more than what was known before. It is one’s duty to always look forward and build off what the previous generation discovered, and to improve and succeed where they had failed. And when we inevitably fail, it is up to the next set to take up the mantle and solve the challenges we provide.

Never ending, but never futile. Another reason why I decided to pursue research, because I’ll be able to leave some mark on the world before my life ends. It may not be game-changing or even relevant to humanity as a whole, but at least I’ll be able to say that I left some sort of legacy behind.

But who knows? Maybe I won’t make any sort of discovery, and simply waste away recycling and re-researching old information. The thought of that terrifies me more than it has any right to, but the idea of leaving absolutely nothing behind to the world isn’t one that I relish.

As my train of thought ends on that depressing note, as it often does, I find myself at the entrance of the library. Entering, I’m hit with a slight pang of nostalgia for my final days in Yamaku. Those days weren’t exactly what I would call a pleasant farewell to a school I barely knew, but one of my few fond memories of that time was sitting in a chair, reading a book without a care in the world. A place where for a few moments I could stop thinking about things.

Quickly going to a random bookshelf, I sift through some books until I find something that catches my eye, a record about the current speculations and discoveries of string theory. Not exactly a page turner, but good enough to at least go through.

I take a seat at an empty table and begin to read. Some of the stuff is familiar information to me, but there’s a ton of things that aren’t. I go through each section carefully, searching for any possible detail that I might have missed. In science, everything comes down to the most miniscule of details, and even a microscopic error is the difference between a grand revolution and just another failed experiment.

“I see you’re as diligent as always,” a voice calls out to me, breaking my concentration.

I look up to see Mr. Tatsunagi greeting me with a warm smile. He looks tired, though far less so than the disheveled half-wreck that he was yesterday. He’s holding a rather large black binder, and his eyes hold a sense of sadness that I’ve never seen from him before.

“No classes today, Mr. Tatsunagi?” I ask politely.

“I’m off today. I’m here because it’s preferable to...other options," he says rather monotonically. Slamming the binder down onto the table, he sits down and eyes me. “Are you working today?”

“Yes. Afternoon shift,” I say, recalling my first day on the job. “There should be no problems.”

“I see,” Mr. Tatsunagi responds in an awkward manner, and I get the feeling he’s trying to tell me something. “Would you like to know what’s in this binder, Nakai?”

“I’m not sure," I say, closing my book. “Do you want to tell me?”

“Yes, for my sake, more than yours.” He opens the binder and looks down towards it, his eyes moving as he reads the small lines on the papers attached to it. “These are papers that are related to my divorce settlement.”

It’s all I can do not to stare at him in shock. “Oh…” is all I can say as I look back down at my book, trying my best not to make this awkward.

“Heh, no need to be so quiet,” Mr. Tatsunagi says with a bitter chuckle, flipping over a page in his binder. “While the students are mostly unaware, the school faculty knows about the falling out I have with my wife and son. It’s why they let me stay here overnight most of the time.”

“Nakai…” He begins in a thoughtful tone, the tone of a man who has seen and experienced far more than I have. It’s a voice that’s trying to tell me something important, and as such I give him the attention he deserves. “I was once a researcher and recruiter at Yatagarasu, thanks to my college connections. One of their brightest stars, or so I was told by my superiors. In fact, I was part of the crew that put that company on the map, as our magnum opus shook the foundations of science itself.

“I had what a lot of what people my age desired: money, respect, reputation. If you go to one of the floors in the Yatagarasu building, you can still see a picture of me hung up on the wall with an honorable title. To say I’ve left an impact on both the company and the research industry at large would be an obvious statement, and one I’ve heard many times.

“What I can definitely say I do not have is a good home life. I married and had a son fairly early in my life, and for a time we were happy together. But once my responsibilities within the company increased, I started to spend less and less time with them. There were some days where I wouldn’t so much as greet them before heading to bed.”

He sounds more and more regretful with every passing word, and I can almost hear him choking up at some points.

“It naturally caused a lot of fighting with my wife, and a lot of distance between me and my son. The strife became too much for us to bear, and so my wife filed for divorce. She’s even battling for full custody of our son, and I honestly think she should have it. But I’m still fighting with her over that issue because I refuse to never see my son again, as selfish of a request that may be for a father who’s missed a majority of his childhood.”

Mr. Tatsunagi seems to finish talking, and all I can do is take in his words. We maintain our silence for a good while before I gather the will to speak. “I’m... sorry to hear that.”

“I used to justify it,” Tatsunagi says. “‘I have a duty to the company,’ ‘I’m securing our future,’ ‘I’m advancing human understanding,’ ‘I’m providing for our son.’ I said those words time and time again to my wife, but it only seemed to make her angrier every time I said them. Looking back at those times, those excuses eventually started to make me angry too. Maybe that’s why I got sick of my job and left the company.”

“Is that why you became a lecturer?” I ask, no longer able to look away from him.

Mr. Tatsunagi is rubbing his eyes again, though this time it’s obvious that he’s trying to wipe away tears. He looks truly remorseful about what happened, and I can’t help but feel sympathy for him.

“Part of it,” he admits, giving me a smile after he’s done wiping his tears. “They offered me a rather lucrative contract, given my reputation. But I turned it down in favor of a normal one that didn’t require me to talk about my previous work. I didn’t take this job to earn money anyways, as I already have quite a bit saved up.”

“Then why?” I ask again, unable to fathom the idea of working again under those conditions.

“Mm...I suppose it’s to chase after a passion I once had,” Mr. Tatsunagi says in a wistful tone, sighing. “I was very serious when I said I walked a path similar to yours, and if there’s any benefit to having gone down that road, is that I may warn the next generation against the errors they may commit in pursuit of their goal.”

“I...understand,” I respond, feeling as if I’m in one of his lectures again. With Akira and now Mr. Tatsunagi lecturing me about my life choices, perhaps I’m giving off some sort of vibe that I’m simply not noticing. “But I’m not married, and I don’t have a child. I don’t have anyone to care for.”

“But you do have a duty to take care of yourself, Nakai,” Mr. Tatsunagi says almost immediately. “You’re not the first student who thinks he has nothing to tie him down. But there is one responsibility that all humans share, and that is the task of one’s own well-being. A responsibility that our best and brightest often choose to ignore, to their own detriment.”

He almost seems like he wants to continue, but simply shakes his head. “I’m sorry, I’ve been told that I get long-winded during my lectures, whether personal or professional.”

“That’s because most of your students don’t really have much of an attention span,” I say wryly, causing us both to laugh a little. “Thank you for the advice...Hisato. I really appreciate it.”

“You’re welcome...Hisao,” he responds with a hint of gratitude. “My domestic situation isn’t something I have the chance to talk about often, so I’m glad I was able to share a little about myself. Of course, said information is strictly between us.”

I gave him a curt nod, which he seems to accept. We spend the rest of our time in the library focusing on our separate tasks, with no further conversation between us. I feel the need to tell him something, and it’s not until I’m done reading my book that I gather the will to speak to him again.

“Hisato,” I call out softly, closing the book and looking up at him. Mr. Tatsunagi still seems to be focusing on his divorce documents, seeming to regard me with barely any attention.

“Hm? What is it, Nakai?” he asks, not looking up from his papers.

“Would you like to...hang out sometime?” I ask awkwardly. Why is it so hard to ask someone for a social outing? Am I really that out of practice? “Not today, but…maybe once the semester is done or something?”

Mr. Tatsunagi doesn’t seem to react to it though, as he simply looks at me with a calm smile on his face. “Well, I doubt the faculty would care if I showed SOME favoritism on one of our best performers. But, I do have one condition," he says, and his smile widens just a bit. “Only at a place with some very strong sake. I’ve been in the habit of drowning my sorrows recently.”

I nod in response, and he goes back to his papers. Feeling as if there’s nothing more to do here, I go to put the book back in its original place and exit the library, feeling only mildly satisfied that I managed to acquire some sort of social contact, even if it isn’t exactly the most appropriate kind.


The college hallways are particularly busy at the moment, so I have to squeeze my way past large groups of people at points. I don’t really have a destination in mind, though the rumbling in my stomach immediately drives me towards wanting to eat something as I turn the corner.


I feel something crash into me, like a hammer slamming into my chest as I fall down to the ground. I instinctively clutch my chest, feeling a sharp sensation coming from within and worrying that I might suffer a heart attack. Mercifully, that feeling doesn’t persist and is gone within moments, though it still serves as a concrete reminder of my fragile state of being.

Heart problems. If given the choice between the metaphorical kind and the physical kind, I’d choose the former and never look back.

Slowly getting up, I see that I recognize the person that collided with me, though we’ve never talked to each other. Wearing black jeans, a blue shirt with a red jacket, and a beanie that covers most of his hair, which seems to be dyed a rather garish shade of green, he’s one of the students who often annoys me in class, along with his two friends who sit just a row ahead of me.

He’s also someone who I explicitly and rather publically told off yesterday, so here’s hoping that he’s forgotten that by now.

The person seems to recognize me as well, eyeing me while looking slightly ashamed. “Sorry, man," he says in a gruff tone, brushing the back of his hair. “Are you all right?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.” I respond in a neutral manner, not giving away any emotion. Honestly, I want to chide him for being so reckless, but that would probably end badly for all parties involved.

“Hisao?” A voice calls out from behind him. Looking back, I see that it’s Sayumi, wearing a rather simple black dress. She quickly walks up to me and gives me a concerned look. “Are you ok?”

“Yes," I say, feeling redundant as I repeat the same statement twice. “I’m fine.”

Sayumi immediately goes and points a finger at the other guy. “That’s what happens when you run, Toshiro,” she reprimands angrily, making him flinch. “What the hell were you thinking?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Toshiro says, sounding as if he’s heard it a million times before. He smiles and sticks out his hand. “Toshiro Ito.”

“Hisao Nakai,” I respond, accepting his handshake. Unsure of what to do, I simply stand there waiting for the two of them to say something.

“You left class really early, Hisao,” Sayumi says, having a much cheerier attitude then when I first talked to her. “That confident in your exams, huh?”

“It wasn’t anything we haven’t been taught.” I try not to sound arrogant as I say that, merely truthful. “How about you?”

“I think I did all right," she says, and eyes Toshiro with an annoyed scowl. “This guy, on the other hand, probably didn’t even know what half of his questions meant.”

Toshiro says nothing to deflect that claim, simply ignoring Sayumi’s stare. “Listen, me and Sayumi are going out for lunch with some friends. You wanna join us?”

I stare blankly at him for a few seconds. “Why do you want me?” I ask. “No offense.”

To my surprise, he doesn’t take offense to that statement and simply smiles. “Do I really need a reason?” he replies.

Looking at Sayumi, it seems to me she wants me to say yes. I can’t possibly fathom why. It’s not like either of them owes me anything.

Despite my confusion, I say, “Yes.” Regardless of their reasons, they seem to want me around. I shouldn’t ignore that, especially since I’d just been thinking that I need to be more social. They seem happy at my response, and again I wonder why my approval matters to them.

“Come on, they’re probably waiting for us,” Sayumi says, more to Toshiro than to me, before walking back in the direction I came from.

Toshiro lets out an inaudible grumble as follows her, with me trailing behind them. “They?” I wonder to myself. Who are we meeting?


I’ve only ever been to the college cafeteria once before, and it hasn’t changed much from that time. It’s as pristine as the rest of the building, though the occasional spilled food makes it slightly messier. A long line of people are lining up to get their food, with workers frantically trying to appease wave after wave of hungry students, teachers and employees. All of the tables are currently occupied by people eating their food like starved animals, and I feel several students bump into me, rushing out of the cafeteria with food in hand.

I follow the two more closely as we wade our way through the ocean of bodies. Apart from our initial encounter, I’ve mostly kept silent and simply follow them. Thankfully, they don’t seem to mind the fact that I’m playing the part of a mute, simply engaging in conversation while occasionally acknowledging that I exist in the same space as them. Somehow, I find that fact both pleasing and irritating.

We make our way to a table where four people are currently sitting. There are three boys and a girl, and they’re talking to each other while making rather animated gestures all the while. As we approach them, they look at Sayumi and Toshiro with welcoming eyes, though when they see me that welcome is replaced by surprise and then mild confusion.

Well, at least I’m not the only one feeling that. I feel as if today’s sole purpose is to make me feel just a tiny bit awkward.

“This is Hisao, from our class,” Sayumi says, glancing over to me. “Is it all right if he eats with us today? Toshiro sort of...roughed him up.”

“Hey! Don’t make it sound worse than it is,” Toshiro grumbles, much to the amusement of the group. The four at the table nod almost simultaneously, and I take a seat next to one of them, still maintaining my silence.

“All right, we’ll get lunch for the three of us," Sayumi says, looking at me. “Anything you want? It’s on Toshiro’s wallet.”

As Toshiro looks incredulously at her, I simply shake my head. Cafeteria food is cafeteria food, regardless of what shape, size or supposed flavor it comes in. They seem to accept my answer and head off. Once they’re gone, I realize that the four remaining at the table are all staring at me.

I take a good look at them for the first time. Two of the guys are wearing identical black T-Shirts with a skull on them, though one is taller and has blonde hair while the other is shorter and has dark brown hair. The third guy, who’s also blonde, is wearing a sleeveless shirt that’s actually pretty gaudy, with fake jewels encrusted in the form on the word “JT”, while the girl with short black hair is wearing a fairly normal pale blue blouse.

Well, if I learn nothing else about them today, I at least know that they have very different ideas on what is considered fashionable.

“I’m Kazuma Narumi,” the guy with the sleeveless shirt says as he starts to point to the other three. “Sora Yukishiro, Takeshi Arita, and Daisuke Takahashi. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Hisao Nakai,” I respond with as much affability as I can. “It’s a pleasure to meet you all too.”

“I hear your grades are pretty damn good,” the short brown-haired one, Takeshi, points out. “Like, you’re top of the class. How do you do it?”

“Lots of studying. Lots of note-taking," I say bluntly, using the most obvious answer. “I pay a lot of attention during lectures.”

“Yeah, we know,” Yukishiro says, flashing me a sly smile. “You sort of made it clear yesterday.”

So they do remember what happened yesterday. “Sorry about that," I say, feeling slightly embarrassed. “I didn’t mean to cause a scene.”

“No worries," she says, surprisingly calm about the whole thing. “It’s all in the past.”

“So, what do you like?” Takeshi asks. “Sports?”

“Not really,” I respond. “I’m not much of a sports guy.”

“Oh. Video games?” he asks again. “Cooking?”

“No,” I respond again, feeling like I’m in some sort of interview. “I don’t really have any...interests besides studying.”

It feels a bit sad saying that to a group of people, like I’m admitting that I’m less human than them. Still, it’s the truth. The four of them don’t seem to see it that way, simply giving me weird looks. “Oh, really committed to your studying?” Kazuma says as he bites into his lunch. “Sounds like hard work.”

“Well, you’re top of the class and the teacher’s favorite. So you’re definitely doing something right,” Sora grumbles, a tone that’s somewhere in between sarcasm and admiration.

Sayumi and Toshiro comes back with three trays of food, handing one of those trays to me. “I’m paying for this,” Toshiro points out with a grumble as he sits down beside me, Sayumi sitting opposite him. “Better eat all of it.”

As I eat my lunch, which consists of rice, vegetables, and some sort of soup, conversation between the six of them starts to liven up. The subjects are varied and honestly incredibly uninteresting to me, ranging from what they bought a few days ago to what the new fashion trends are. Still, they seem to be having fun, so I keep my silence so as to not spoil the mood.

“Hisao?” Sayumi says suddenly, and I stop eating as I realize that they’re eyeing me for some reason.

“Is something wrong?” I ask, putting my hand on my face to check if any food’s sticking on it.

“You’ve been pretty quiet,” Kazuma says, sipping from a plastic cup. “You all right?”

“I just don’t have anything to say,” I confess. “I’m not sure what I can say about fashion and stuff like that. I don’t buy a lot of things, either.”

“Well, then what do you want to talk about?” Takeshi asks. “We’re all ears.”

It feels weird, being noticed like this and being asked to talk about something that I enjoy. A part of me wants to ask why do they care about what I have to say, but it would no doubt come off as rude even if that isn’t my intent. So far, my attempt at socializing with peers hasn’t been successful, if it can even be called an attempt in the first place.

“Physics,” I blurt out suddenly, the pressure of their looks getting to me.

The group gives me another weird look, and I’m half tempted to just finish my lunch and walk away in shame. “Sure,” Sora says nonchalantly, much to my surprise. “I was actually going to ask you about something.”


“On the last question on the multiple choice part of the test.” Sora gives me a look of curiosity. “The one about Time-Space relativity. What was the answer?”

Without hesitating, I immediately answer. “The answer was that it’s affected by the rotation of a large body, like a planet.”

“Shit,” Sora curses, looking away in annoyance. “Could have sworn it was something else. Guess I was wrong.”

“Hey, I got it right,” Kazuma says, sounding slightly smug. “Guess that means I’m smarter than you, Sora.”

“As if,” Sora retorts, glaring at him. “I bet you five hundred yen that I did better than you on the writing portion.”

The two start to bicker as Toshiro looks at me nervously. “Uh, hey," he says as he eats his food. “So how much is the writing portion of the exam worth again?”

I can only stare at him as he asks me what is, frankly, an idiotic question. “Fifty percent," I say blankly. “It said so on the test paper.”

“Oh…” Toshiro lets out a dejected sigh and sinks down on his seat a little.

“There, there,” Daisuke says, giving Toshiro a reassuring pat on the back, all while his face is anything but reassuring. “This is what happens to the slackers of the world. They eventually meet a test and they crumble into pieces. You’re not the only one who failed at basic preparation.”

“Fuck you, Daisuke,” Toshiro spits out softly, sinking further.

“Hey, I actually studied for my test. I have every right to be smug.” Daisuke flashes me a creepy smile, making me feel uncomfortable. “Isn’t that right, Hisao?”

“Y-yeah…” I respond weakly., In an attempt to change the subject, I ask, “You’re not part of our class, Daisuke. What are you majoring in?”

“I’m glad you asked, Mr. Nakai,” the man says in a loud exuberant voice, like some sort of game show host. I hear the other five groaning, which probably means I’ve done something wrong. “I’m part of a very rich family, far richer than one of your station could possibly hope to match. As such, I have been granted privileges that you lowly commoners can hardly afford.”

“Therefore, lowly peasant,” he continues, his voice sounding snootier by the second. “I shall endeavour to enlighten you to the fact that I am in a far superior program than yours, one that will someday discover the very edges of our spatial boundaries.”

It’s really odd how he manages to go from mildly creepy to extremely punchable in mere moments.. The temptation to punch someone was not something I thought I’d feel today, much like many things that happened today, and yet the idea of landing a hit on this guy is rather appealing at the moment.

Of course, that’s all it is. A temptation. I know I’m not actually going to hit the guy...probably.

“He’s studying Astrophysics,” Sayumi interjects with a groan before Daisuke can get another word in, to which Daisuke lets out a short huff.

“Aw, you’re not going to let me finish my speech?” he says, sounding dejected. From creepy to punchable to...whatever I’m feeling right now. I’m starting to wonder if my past is really the sole reason why I’ve isolated myself from other people.

“Nobody likes that speech, dumbass,” Kazuma says in annoyance. “Don’t let him get to you, Hisao. He’s not like that most of the time, only when he feels like showing off how rich and smart he is to the rest of us.”

“Well, that’s because I’m what people may call ‘a rich prick’” Daisuke says, his voice once again sounding snooty and obnoxious. “When I’m given a reputation such as that, by my very own friends no less, why should I not act like one?”

“Because it’s like nails on a chalkboard,” Takeshi says, sounding the most annoyed out of all them. “And I have to deal with that shit every day, living with you.”

“Who pays for your accommodation again?” Daisuke retorts with malicious glee in his voice. “If you do not wish to deal with me, then live on the street like the lowlife you are.”

It eventually devolves into a back and forth between Daisuke and the other four as they hurl snide comments at each other, with Sora simply eating her lunch while looking on with a mild look of annoyance, probably because she’s seen this scenario one too many times. Deciding to follow her example, I silently finish what’s left of my lunch, letting the verbal fight play out.

“All right, all right. Shut up, all of you!” Sora eventually says, sounding completely done with their bickering. Surprisingly, they all listen to her and proceed to quiet down, even Daisuke. Turning to me, she gives me a sympathetic glance. “Sorry if we’re freaking you out. This is just how we usually are.”

“It’s fine,” I respond awkwardly as I take the last bite of my meal. “I’m just not used to talking to so many people at once.”

“I can understand that. Sometimes I wonder why I hang out with any of these people, with how stupid they can be sometimes,” Sora says bluntly. “Anyways, are you free anytime soon?”

I take a look at my watch and realize that my shift is going to start soon, which means it’s probably time to leave. “Not today,” I respond, getting up from my seat. “I’ve got a work shift in a few hours.”

“Work, huh?” Takeshi asks. “Wait, don’t you have to work at your dad’s place today, Toshiro?”

“Shit!” Toshiro curses as he looks at his watch, his face immediately looking panicked. Without another word, he stands up and rushes out of the cafeteria in the style of a man desperate to stay alive. I can hear the others laughing at his misery, and wonder if I should laugh as well.

“Toshiro works at his dad’s bakery,” Kazuma explains. “They sell really good donuts, so we drop by there sometimes. Free stuff is always appreciated.”

“Will you be free tomorrow evening?” Sayumi asks again. “We’ll be heading out to dinner and an arcade, and I did say the tokens will be on me.

“Wish you’d be so generous to the rest of us.” Takeshi mutters under his breath.

Sayumi brushes off his comment, eyes still on me. “What do you say?”

They all look at me expectantly. I feel an invisible force compelling me to accept their offer. The concept of peer pressure has never quite been so obvious to me as it is now, as I look at each of them, smiles on their faces.

Then again, what else do I have to do tomorrow? More studying? I might as well.

“All right,” I finally respond, still wondering if I accepted their offer because I want to or because I feel like I had to.

After a brief exchange of phone numbers, as well as an agreement to meet up after afternoon classes, they say goodbye as I exit the cafeteria.

As I walk, my thoughts on Sayumi and the others were conflicted, but overall positive. They had a tendency to be loud, which I found grating more often than not. Daisuke in particular is the type of person I can definitely see annoying me constantly.

Couple that with my reluctance for socializing in general, and unpleasant past experiences, there’s definitely some hurdles to go before I can consider them anything close to friends.

Still, they welcomed me warmly and invited me out without so much as a complaint from one of them. That’s as good of a start as anyone can hope for, and I shouldn’t really squander it. If nothing else, us hanging out tomorrow will show if we really want to be involved with one another in the future.

I can’t help but compare it to some sort of social experiment, with me as a self-designated guinea pig, designed to gather relevant data and draw my conclusions from there. I wonder if all scientists see social outings in this manner, or if I’m simply odd. My guess is on the latter.

Deciding to roll with my weird analogy, I start to think of past experiments of a similar nature, particularly my attempts to reconnect with my old friends. They all had invariably failed, much to my disappointment. And yet I’m trying again, hoping for a different outcome with similar factors. Logic dictates that it should fail, as all the others have.

And yet, there’s still a chance for success because human nature is in play, and that’s ultimately an unquantifiable variable in the equation. As as scientist, I dislike irrationality and unpredictability, and yet those factors are the very things that give me hope that this might work out, when all other attempts have not.

I feel a mild headache trying to process my thoughts, and decide to stop thinking for the time being.


The first floor of the Yatagarasu Office building looks exactly like when I first came here, empty and lifeless save for the lone receptionist behind the counter. I pass by her on my way to the elevator, neither of us bothering with acknowledging the other’s existence.

It isn’t long before I reach the third floor. As I head to my little cubicle to drop my stuff, I notice that Mr. Kurosawa isn’t here. Considering his position, he’s most likely in some meeting or other.

“Intern! Coffee!” a brash voice calls out. And so it begins.

It isn’t long before more orders start to pop up, asking me to send something or to serve them coffee. I quickly dig in and try to fulfill their requests, zipping around the entire office floor like I’m in need of a straight jacket. At some point, my feet just start moving on their own as my head tries to process the mountain of orders I’m receiving, with no end in sight.

While my opinions during my first day here were sort of a blank, my second trip here is starting to give me a more solid feeling about this internship.

And that feeling is that I hate it.

Maybe because I needed the extra time to let it sink in, maybe it’s because today’s ordeals are busier than the last time I was here, or maybe it’s some other factor altogether. All I know is that a feeling of frustration is slowly starting to creep up on me as I continue working. Not enough for me to quit, but enough for me to grit my teeth on occasion.

Of course, the less than pleasant environment probably has something to do with it.

“Sorry about the delay," I say as I hand over a folder, to a person I don’t even know. All I know is that he’s being unreasonable and yet I’m the one having to apologize.

“Hmph!” The employee says coldly as he yanks the folder from me, his animosity plain on his face. “I wonder why they hired someone as slow as you. Interns are getting more and more useless nowadays.”

I’m not given time to even process that blatant insult as I move quickly to complete the requests of the other employees, who either give similar comments or silently accept my aid, trying not to notice me. No compliments, no quick “thank you”s or a quick nod, sometimes not even so much as an acknowledgement that I helped in some way. The people here are either extremely crass or robotically dispassionate.

Still, it’d be stupid and pointless for me to voice my frustrations, so I simply shut my mouth and endure it as I work. My perception of time seems to be trying to torment me further, as what feels like several hours of work is simply an hour in actual time.

At some point, the requests start dying down, allowing me to slow my pace just a bit. I’m sweating, my legs are extremely sore, and I can hear myself pant a little from all the constant moving. Miraculously, the requests stop altogether, allowing me to truly rest and recuperate at my own cubicle for a little bit.

“Tired already, eh?” a gruff voice calls out to me. “You lasted longer during your first shift.”

I see the large frame of Mr. Kurosawa towering over me, though his face remains fairly genial. “The work finally catching up to you, boy?” he asks.

“Nothing I can’t handle,” I lie, trying to put up a bold front to him. “Just having a little break since no one wants anything from me right now.”

“But I do, boy,” he replies, chuckling in a deep voice that I suspect is trying to be disarming but is instead unnerving. “I need ten cups of coffee sent to the top floor. All different blends. Now.”

I almost groan, but manage to suppress it just in time. Nodding, I begin to stand up when he suddenly lets out a deafening laugh. Once again I’m barely able to prevent myself from putting my hands to my ears, but instead I force myself to listen to his rather long-winded laugh, displeasurable to my ears it may be. The fact that the entire floor doesn’t react to him at all means that either they’re entirely used it by now or their ears are made of steel.

“To think you’d take me seriously. You’re really naive, boy," he says once he finally stops laughing. “Learn how to take a joke, that’s an order!”

“Yes, sir,” I respond, almost letting out a sigh.

“But I do need something from you. Come with me," he says as he walks away. I get up and follow him to the elevator, where he thankfully holds the door for me.

“How’s Hisato?” Mr. Kurosawa asks, almost out of the blue. “As his student, I hope you may know. It’s been ages since we’ve been in proper contact.”

“He’s managing himself,” I reply, not wanting to reveal any of his issues, even if it’s to someone who’s supposedly an old friend. Kurosawa lets out a disapproving grunt at my answer, but presses no further.

The elevator stops and the doors open, revealing a hallway with several branching paths. The walls and floor here look extremely polished and regal, with several picture frames hanging on the wall. At the end of the hallway is a large wooden door that, despite its simplicity in comparison to everything else here, still manages to be the most eye-catching thing here.

We step out into the hallway, Kurosawa wasting no time as he walks at a brisk pace. On our way, I stop and look at some of the photographs. Each shows a different person, with a small metal plaque just below it.

Near the end of the hall, one of these pictures make me stop to examine it more closely. The person in it looks young, wearing a lab coat that doesn’t quite fit his frame. His black hair is extremely disheveled, and his eyes have bags under them. He’s smiling, but it’s forced, overly formal, and not at all genuine.

Of course, there’s a chance that I’m wrong about that last one. But I’ve seen this person smile before, and he looks almost nothing like the man I’m looking at now, apart from his appearance.

I look down at the small plaque below it. It reads: Hisato Tatsunagi. Lead Scientist in Project 3-4LL7. Nominee of the Blue Planet Prize. Honored employee of the Yatagarasu Research Corp.

“Boy!” I hear a loud voice call out, and my head turns to see Mr. Kurosawa at the end of the hallway, the door already opened. “I do not pay you to be distracted, I pay you to follow orders.”

Right, got a job to do. Even if, despite what he says, I’m not being paid at all. I quickly catch up to him, and he gives me a rather inquisitive glare before entering the room. Feeling like I’ve been chided by that simple glare alone, I enter the room as well.

“I expect you to be impressed, boy.” Mr. Kurosawa says the moment I take one step in. “It’s my office, after all.”

The office room is indeed impressive, and extremely spacious. It feels almost like a fancy hotel room than an office at first. The entire floor is carpeted and one part of the wall is entirely composed of glass, allowing for a massive view of the cityscape in which this floor towers over. A large black desk rests at the far end, with a throne-like chair behind it.

“Hmph! Don’t stare too long. I didn’t pay you to gawk, either,” Mr. Kurosawa says with a soft chuckle, moving to sit on the chair. He places his foot on the desk and leans back, looking like he’s on vacation. “Do you know why you’re here?”

“To do what you ask,” I reply. Every word coming from his mouth leaves me just a little more exhausted.

“Good!” he roars back, pointing to his right. I turn my head to see a smaller desk with large stacks of papers. “My secretary is currently undergoing a medical operation and is unavailable. Sort these papers by category, and maybe I’ll let you work at our research division.”

That last sentence feels like bait to keep me working more than anything, but I make my way to the desk. Even before sitting down, I notice that the piles of paper are much bigger than I first thought. In fact, they are nothing less than massive, like large towers overlooking a small village.

Does he really expect me to go through all of this in a matter of hours? With just a little bit of hesitation, I take the top paper from a random pile and look at it. It seems like some sort of financial agreement.

“How do you want me to sort them?” I ask.

“Am I the secretary here?” he grumbles, doing nothing but relaxing at his table. “Sort it!”

I give up trying to get any more specifics from him and decide to sort it how I see fit, though even that proves to be a little difficult as I don’t even know what half of what these papers are supposed to be. Some of them have words that I’m unfamiliar with, some of them refer to corporate entities I don’t even know, and a few of them aren’t even in Japanese.

Still, I sort them to the best of my abilities. Anything involving money, most of it being in amounts of which I will probably never earn in my lifetime, I put into one pile. Research matters go into their own pile as well, as well as correspondence and personal documents.

The last pile is reserved for documents I can’t make heads or tails of, which turns out to be a rather staggering amount, as that pile ends up being the biggest pile of the bunch. I’m starting to wonder if this amount of disorganized clutter is what Kurosawa’s secretary has to deal with on a daily basis.

If so, I can’t help but feel a pang of pity for the poor person. Having to deal with both Kurosawa and this amount of tedious sorting must take an inhuman amount of determination, or perhaps an almost masochistic sense of dedication.

As I continue to sort the papers, I hear Kurosawa call out to me, “Hey, kid. That photograph you were staring at. Reminded you of anyone?”

I honestly can’t tell if he’s joking or not. “It’s Mr. Tatsunagi, sir,” I respond, still focusing on my task. “Though he looked different than he does now.”

“He does, does he?” he asks, a curious tone in his voice. “I wouldn’t know. Haven’t seen the man in ages, and out of the blue he calls me to give you a job. If I didn’t happen to owe him a favor, I’d go to his college and knock the daylights out of him. Such gall for someone who left the company so disgracefully!”

“How did he leave, sir?” I ask, trying to press him for more information.

Unfortunately, he seems to catch on. “Did you come here for an interrogation, boy?” he barks again, glaring at me with the eyes that wouldn’t look out of place on a seasoned killer. “Or did you come here to work for me?”

I say nothing further in an attempt to spare myself further apprehension, looking down and continuing to sort out the papers.


“You’d better be done, boy.”

After such a long period of silence, Mr. Kurosawa’s sudden order breaks me out of my concentration. I immediately look up and see that he’s approaching me, his face as stern as ever. “Those papers," he says again. “You had better be finished sorting them.”

“Uh…” I mumble as I quickly stand up. A lot of it has been organized, more or less, but there is still a large amount of papers that are unaccounted for. Honestly, the fact that even a fraction of the papers are now organized is still an impressive feat, at least to me.

Of course, I can’t exactly tell him that. “No, sir," I say, trying to sound ashamed. “I’m sorry, there’s still a lot of papers that are unaccounted for, sir.”

“Bah, if only my secretary were here. She’d be finished by now.” Mr. Kurosawa grumbled, though he oddly didn’t direct any of that frustration towards me. In fact, he seems to just be giving me a sideways glance. “Regardless, your shift is done. Your work is mediocre, but that’s to be expected. Perhaps I’ll have you clean up faeces at our biological lab next, it’ll suit you better.”

I can’t tell if that’s a promotion or punishment. Either way, it brings me closer to what I really came here for, so it works out nonetheless.

Being able to see researchers do their work firsthand. I should feel excited, and I still am to a certain extent. But why don’t I feel as thrilled as I expected? This is what I’m working towards, the path that I choose to go. And yet all I feel is a mild sense of anticipation, not an overwhelming sense of catharsis.

“Oh, and two more things,” Mr. Kurosawa says as he hands me a small paper and a single 5000 yen note. “Give this note to that fool Tatsunagi. The money is payment for your services. Spend it responsibly, or I’ll wring your neck.”

I take the money and paper and shove them into my pocket. “Thank you, Mr. Kurosawa," I say, the genuine appreciation in my voice surprising me. “I’ll make sure to give it to him.”

“Give him a fist to the stomach while you’re at it," he says before letting out another of his bellowing laughs, though I’m not sure if he’s really joking or not. I glance at his rather large hands and morbidly wonder how many bones this man has broken in his life, and whether or not mine will be among them. “What are you still here for? Scram!”

I quickly get out of the office, only looking back to see the orange skyline through the office window. Once again, working here feels like time messing with me, somehow being dreadfully slow and unexpectedly fast at the same time.

Before heading to the elevator, I take a look at the portrait of Mr. Tatsunagi. Giving it a more thorough examination, it definitely looks like a different man than what he is in the present. He looks almost soulless, the face giving me the impression of a mannequin rather than an actual person.

The more I look, the more it unnerves me with how hollow the picture feels. After a while, I can’t bear to look at it anymore, and continue down my way towards the elevator.


The sky is already dark as I exit the building. Once again, several people are exiting the building as I do, often in groups. I overhear a conversation about going out to drink, though they sound more like they’re doing it out of habit, not out of fun.

I feel a little bit of nostalgia, looking at the street lights turning on. I pull out my phone and stare at the screen, wondering if I should call Akira. Maybe talk a bit, ask if she’s free, go out for dinner…

Probably not a good idea. She’s most likely busy with something, and it’s probably presumptuous of me to expect her to spend time with me every day. With reluctance, I put my phone back in my pocket and walk towards the nearest bus stop.

On my way back, I feel something gnawing at the back of my mind. A faint but persistent voice, telling me to reconsider and call her. As much as I want to listen to it, the more rational part of me shuts that idea down.

Or at least, that’s what I’d like to think is the case. And yet the voice is still there, whispering in my ear. I try my best to ignore it, though I notice my hand is in my pocket, dangerously close to touching my phone. But as time passes I find it hard to resist, and eventually I relent, and pick up my phone once again.

I guess a simple call won’t hurt. What’s the harm in just saying hi?

Placing the phone near by ear, I eagerly wait for her to pick up. Thankfully, it isn’t long before she does so, though the response I get is just a very tired sounding, “Hey…”

“Bad time?” I say, immediately wondering if this is a bad choice after all.

“Depending on who you ask, it might actually be the perfect time," she says, her sarcasm undercut by her exhausted tone. “It’s been a long day, and I still have a lot to do. In fact, I’m probably staying at my office the whole night, so sorry if you had any plans for us tonight.”

“No, that’s fine. I didn’t really have any to begin with,” I respond. They way she casually mentions “plans for us” makes me wonder if she had the same idea I had. “Feel like talking about it?”

“Man, you really must be a masochist. Listening to someone complain isn’t a good habit to pick up, you know. It’ll just make your life shorter,” Akira jokes, though without her usual chuckle. “But yeah, I’d like to talk about it. Just not right now, for obvious reasons. How about tomorrow night?”

“I’ plans tomorrow night,” I mention hesitantly. “Hanging out with some people from my college.”

“Oh? Finally taking my advice, huh?” Akira replies. If she’s actually disappointed that I’m not available, she’s definitely doing a good job of hiding it. “Good, you listened. You’d be surprised how many people don’t follow obvious advice.”

“Yeah, figured I’d try this whole social circle thing again,” I say, noticing how awkward I sound. In contrast to Akira, I’m definitely letting my disappointment at the situation show in my voice, much to my chagrin. “Sorry…”

“Hey, no problem," she says. Once again, I hear no disappointment in her tone, and that upsets me more than is probably logical. “Have a good time, you hear? Try not to spoil your own fun, but don’t get too wild. Also, if a girl decides to latch on to you, remember: use protection.”

“I doubt that’s happening,” I dryly note as I reach the bus stop, and hear her giggle a little on the other end. Even that sounds more tired than usual. “But the day after that, you want to go out? Assuming you’re free, of course.”

“Sure, assuming the corporate hounds will let me," she says, sounding slightly more energetic. “Though I hope you have something planned. Can’t have me calling all the shots.”

“I will,” I respond. I don’t really have a place in mind, but I have two days to think about it. Plenty of time. “I’ll try not to make it too boring for you.”

“You’d better. Thursday’s the last day of my trip, so you better make it count.” I hear a vague noise in the background, just loud enough to be heard. It sounds like shouting, and judging by Akira’s sigh, it probably isn’t anything good. “Goddamnit. Listen, I need to go. Call you later.”

She hangs up the phone before I can even make another response. As I take a seat on a surprisingly empty bus, her final words are only now starting to dawn on me.

She’s leaving on Thursday. Akira mentioned it with such unimportance that I almost missed that fact. Of course she’s going back to Scotland, she told me that the first time we met.

I feel an eerie sense of familiarity, and certainly not one that I welcome. In two days, she’ll be gone. And it’ll be who knows how long until she comes back, if she comes back at all. Just like that, a newfound sense of misery and starts to well up inside me, sapping away any happiness that the call had given me.

I can’t believe that I could forget the fact that she’s leaving. No, it isn’t the fact that I forgot. I just got so caught up in events that I simply let it slip my mind until it hit me right in the head. Either way, I feel like a complete idiot for only now realizing that all our time spent together meant nothing in the end.

A few days ago, that would have been completely acceptable. Yet now the idea of it vexes me. What happened? Did I really change that much over so short a time?

Not that it matters. I can’t make her stay even if I wanted to. What right or reason do I have to make her defy her job? Her family? She makes it clear that she dislikes both of them, but they’re a necessity to her. I’m just...I don’t know. A temporary stopping point. Something that isn’t meant to last. Something easily forgotten.

Like Lilly, like Hanako. Like my old friends. That’s all I was to them. Is that all I am to Akira?

In my bitterness, I notice that a bus came and went. Cursing slightly under my breath, I can do nothing but wait for the next one to arrive. In the meantime, my thoughts start to sour further. I feel as if the past is repeating itself again, and once again there’s nothing I can do but let events play out like they should.

And for me to watch helplessly as another person moves forward with their life, leaving me behind.

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Re: Running Away To You (A Post Lilly-Neutral Story) (Updated 15/10/20)

Post by Xeraeo » Thu Oct 15, 2020 1:40 pm

At last! Been waiting for this for a while now, Detective. Good chapter, all in all.

I was glad to learn more about Mr. Tatsunagi, although I'll admit I expected something more mysterious than a divorce. That answer makes a lot more sense though, and fits what you seem to be going for with the various people in Hisao's life helping direct him away from the miserable path he seems so set on.

Really liked the diverse and interesting cast of OCs you introduced us to! I thought Daisuke was just being ironic with his whole speech, but either I was mistaken, or Hisao just didn't get it. Either way, I like the guy. If he's actually a prick, then I'm just reading it wrong.

Hoping to see a lot more with these characters, though I know they aren't the focus of the story.

Mr. Kurosawa is a little confusing. I can't tell yet what my opinion of him is. Generally, he just seems kinda over the top and both likable and unlikable going back and forth. Hard to get a real read on him. Hoping we get a bit more info on him soon.

And, sadly, we only got a little bit of Akira. I know the chapter wasn't focused on her, but I still would have liked to see more interaction between her and Hisao, or at least had him thinking about her a little more throughout the chapter. Not a criticism though; I think how you wrote it makes more sense. That being said, Hisao's reaction to realizing she'll be gone and likely out of his life in a few days was powerful, and I'm glad to see him realizing that he actually cares about something. Maybe this will get his ass moving, for once.

Only found a handful of grammar mistakes across the whole 9,000 words of the chapter, most of them minor. One thing that stood out though was this sentence:
MoashLannister wrote:
Thu Oct 15, 2020 7:19 am
But I’ve seen this person smile before, and he looks almost nothing like the man I’m looking at now, apart from his appearance.
Not a grammar mistake, but a bit of a contradictory statement. Not sure how someone can look nothing like someone else, or their past self, "apart from his appearance." Might want to reword that one a bit, lol.

Aside from that, I have no gripes with your writing. It's very, very good, and the fact that you can create this large set of different settings and original characters to fit our canon characters into is impressive. I struggle with my few OCs or reworks of existing characters in the canon KS setting as it is, so this level of creativity is impressive to me.

Very much looking forward to the next chapter, even if it's another two months from now. I'll be around. Good work, man.
Girls: Emi=Hanako=Lilly>Shizune=Rin
Routes: Lilly=Emi>Hanako>Rin>Shizune

(Name is pronounced "Zero". Stole it from Quake, I think)

My projects here:
To Miss the Mark - An OC Pseudo-Route (Hitomi)
Rebound - A Post Lilly NE Epilogue / Iwanako Story (On Hold)

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Re: Running Away To You (A Post Lilly-Neutral Story) (Updated 15/10/20)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Sun Nov 15, 2020 5:56 pm

Another very good new route...
...and I don't really consider it an unlikely scenario.
You're probably aware that there has been another Akira route before, and *that* was an unlikely scenario several times over.
It has been mentioned before, but setting this a few years later makes some obvious problems like the age gap disapear.
The story itself is what Rin would describe as simply gray. Just like a look out of the window at this time of year. It makes for a fitting catalyst for the relation between Hisao and Akira.
Towards the end I think you exaggerated Hisao's anti-socialness a bit: We do know from the VN that he does have past experience with human interaction, but reading that scene in the cafeteria one could doubt it...

The one about molecules in a vacuum?
I think that girl needs to brush up on the definition of "vaccuum"... 8)
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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

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Re: Running Away To You (A Post Lilly-Neutral Story) (Updated 15/10/20)

Post by MoashLannister » Tue Dec 15, 2020 8:05 am

Chapter 6

“Man, that class was boring,” Toshiro yawns as he limps forward like a zombie, all the energy taken away from him. The hoodie he’s wearing is currently obscuring some of his face, making him look even shadier than yesterday.

Unamused, Sayumi smacks him in the back of the head, causing Toshiro to flinch in pain. “Why are you even in class if you’re just going to daydream through all of it?” she demands. “You know how your father is going to feel!”

“Eh, my old man can shove it,” Toshiro grunts, looking even more tired than before. “He’s the one who wants me here, not me.”

The two proceed to bicker, and I proceed to tune out their argument as we walk down the hallway. Honestly, I’m in agreement with Toshiro that today’s classes were pretty dreadful to go through. It was a chore just to take notes, though that also can be attributed to an overall more sullen attitude on my part rather than the class itself.

“Hey, you all right?” Toshiro asks. “You’ve been looking pretty grim the entire day. Something happened?”

“It’s nothing. Had a pretty bad breakfast,” I lie. Whether they buy my excuse or not, they simply let me have my silence and continue to argue with each other. Yesterday’s shift in my mood persists, making even mundane tasks feel aggravating to accomplish.

I wonder why I even bother to go with these two in the first place, as I’m not in much of a mood to hang out. Coming up with an excuse or even saying I can’t be there wouldn’t be difficult, yet I can’t muster the will to tell them that I’m simply not up for it.

Perhaps it’s better this way. Unlikely as it is, maybe hanging out with them will distract me from thinking about Akira’s departure. Even acknowledging the thought makes me feel a little more annoyed, both from the thought itself and the fact that I’m even annoyed about it.

“Where are we meeting them?” I ask offhandedly, feeling I’ve been out of the conversation for too long. “I know Daisuke is from another class, but Takeshi and the others left from a different exit.”

“They’re going to do some last minute assignment preparations," Sayumi says, giggling a bit. “They like to finish assignments like that, which is still better than not doing it altogether. Right, Toshiro?”

The last sentence was delivered far more maliciously to him, which only makes him sigh loudly. “Get off my case already, Sayumi. I already get enough of that at home.”

“Anyways, we’ll be meeting at Toshiro’s dad’s bakery," Sayumi says to me, more cheerfully. “Maybe we’ll get some drinks before heading out. Oh, and donuts. Especially donuts.”

I simply nod as we exit the college together. It feels weird coming out of this place with company by my side, almost as weird as the idea of me having company in the first place. I turn to Toshiro and ask, “So, your dad is a baker? Do you bake as well?”

That question seems to reignite some of his enthusiasm, as a smile returns to his face. “Damn right I bake. Though donuts aren’t baked, they’re fried," he announces proudly. “Donuts are easy. Cakes, loaves, cookies, all kinds of delicious stuff. Hell, I can even bake pastries that look like your face, if you want.”

“I’ll pass,” I respond, causing Sayumi to giggle a little. “So you’re really passionate about baking, huh?”

“Damn right," he repeats, like he’s declaring it to the world. “My dream was always to take over my old man’s business. But then one day he said I needed to go to college for some goddamn reason, said I should get a job that pays well.”

His face suddenly turns from enthusiasm to anger, showing more emotion than I’ve ever seen from him. Most of the time, he usually looks like he couldn’t care less. The face he now wears is the complete opposite of that. “Screw that,” he grumbles. “Why can’t he just let me take after him? Stubborn old man.”

“He’s just thinking about your future," Sayumi says in a placating manner as she walks ahead of us. “Come on! We can still catch the next bus if we hurry.”

Without warning, the two of them break into a sprint towards the college gate. Surprised, I try my best to catch up to them, my hand clutching at my chest as if to make sure it’s beating correctly. I’d call them to slow down, but they’re too far away. Their forms are slowly getting smaller as the distance between us increases.

I get the sudden urge to stop and walk away from them, a feeling of paranoia and suspicion welling up inside me. From the corners of my mind comes a voice, telling me that those two are going to leave me behind, just like everyone else. Just like Akira soon will.

Even as I acknowledge how illogical that voice is, it angers me nonetheless. It angers me that I’m even heeding that irrational part of me, making me think things that defy common sense.

Pushing that urge aside, I quicken my pace and run even faster after them. Childish as it may seem, I don’t want to be left behind for amount of time. I know how risky it is for my heart, but that concern is oddly missing from my mind as I feel the air blowing back against my face.

When I eventually catch up to them, it takes me a while to force my body to stop instead of simply running past them. No heart murmurs, no attacks. That’s fortunate, though my legs still feel like they’re on fire and chest feels like it can burst out. How can a short run be so exhausting?

“Slowpoke,” Toshiro teases, looking unwinded. “Can’t handle a little race?”

“Yeah well, you’d be surprised how little I can handle at all,” I retort, sounding more angry than I’d meant to. “I have…”

I shut myself at the last second, almost giving my condition away to them. They’re still acquaintances, so they don’t really need to know about my arrhythmia until we get to know each other better. Or so I’m trying to tell myself.

“Nevermind,” I blurt out as the bus arrives, the three of us boarding it. Thankfully, they don’t press the issue despite some curious looks. The way they’re looking at me almost makes me want to talk about it, but my more rational side takes hold and prevents me from doing so.

They don’t need to know about it. After all, a life threatening condition isn’t that big of a deal.


Sayumi and Toshiro get off after several stops, and I follow suit. We walk down the sidewalk of an unfamiliar street. As I look around, my overall thoughts on this place is’s old.

That isn’t meant as a derogatory comment, merely a factual statement. The shops here all look very traditional, with most of it appearing to have wooden walls instead of concrete. The commodities are mostly physical craft: furniture, souvenirs, traditional japanese clothing. There’s even a smith here, with someone banging on an anvil with a hammer. The shopkeepers that run these places are mostly old men and women, and the ones that aren’t look so out of place that they might as well be foreigners.

Even the pedestrians are mostly comprised of elderly folk, making the three of us feel out of place. It’s like someone transported us to a different time period, before the sleek and cold designs of the modern era.

“Never been to this part of the city?” Sayumi asks, and it’s only now that I’m noticing that she’s looking right at me. I shake my head, which leads her smile to widen for some reason. “This is where a lot of the old people in town stay or visit in their off time, which is why it looks the way it does. Won’t see a lot of people our age around here.”

“My parents aren’t that old,” Toshiro mentions, as if I had that question in my head. I don’t, but I guess it’s nice to know he wasn’t born while his parents were in their fifties. “The bakery was started by my Gramps, but since he died, my dad’s taken over the business.”

“Oh…” I say, finding myself unable to form a comment or opinion.

Sayumi and Toshiro stop in front of a building that seems very similar to all the rest, the sign saying “Ito Bakery”. The three of us enter, which causes someone to yell a very loud, “Welcome!” at us. The scent of freshly baked bread immediately fills my nostrils, as well as a variety of other pleasant aromas.

The bakery consists of several benches with customers filling some of the seats, several posters and newspaper clippings hanging on the wall, as well as rows of freshly baked bread and pastries to one side of the room, along with trays and tongs to grab them. Despite the antiquated aesthetic outside, the inside looks surprisingly modern. There’s even a TV screen hanging in the corner, broadcasting some sort of drama show that several of the customers are watching.

A wall with a large glass window is at the very back, and through it I can see the multitude of multi-level ovens, glowing red with different batches of bread within. There’s someone back there kneading dough, a woman who’s currently wearing enough clothing to obscure most of her features.

“Toshiro!” The voice that had welcomed us shouts out, coming from a very large and rotund man wearing a white apron, sweat glistening from his body. “And Sayumi! Welcome back!”

“Thank you, Mr. Ito," Sayumi says, bowing respectfully. Toshiro simply looks away, apparently not wanting to address his father apart from a quick nod.

“Oh? And a newcomer?” Mr. Ito says, looking at me. Despite his size, he has a genial aura about him. “Are you one of Toshiro’s new friends?”

I nod politely despite the fact that “friends” is a very generous description, and his expression softens even further. “Hisao Nakai. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Well if you’re hungry, there’s always bread here,” Mr. Ito says with a bit of a laugh, motioning to the trays. “Since you’re a friend, first one of the day is on the house.”

Admittedly, the smell of so many bread nearby is starting to make me hungry. It’s not an overpowering type of scent either, more a subtle aroma that’s akin to someone gently tugging me instead of forcefully dragging my body.

I realize that Sayumi is already at the food trays, eagerly deciding which bread to take. Toshiro doesn’t seem hungry and has already sat down on an empty bench. Mr. Ito glances at him for a quick second before turning to look at me. “How is he?” he asks casually.

“He seems fine,” I respond, unsure of what he’s trying to get out of me specifically. When he doesn’t inquire any further, I quickly went over to grab myself a tray and tongs. Moving alongside Sayumi, I notice her tray is quite stacked with bread. She’s even managed to stack it all into a neat little tower.

“They’re for the others," Sayumi says immediately after sneaking a glance at me, too quickly to be anything other than an attempt to excuse the excessive amount of food. “Get one of their donuts, they’re really good.”

Heeding her advice, I grab a simple chocolate donut and make my way over to the bench where Toshiro’s sitting. Mr. Ito immediately heads over to us and asks. “Drinks? Today’s been a good business day, so it’s on the house as well.”

“Water, please," I say as I take a bite of my donut. It tastes good, really good. The sweetness of the chocolate is in that fine line, neither being too faint or too overpowering, on top of complementing the crunchy texture. Without thinking or finishing my first bite, I immediately take a second. And a third. I'd take a fourth, except for the fact that my mouth is already full.

“Cola," Sayumi says, sounding a bit unsure.

“You need to lay off the soda, Sayumi. You’re my favorite customer, but I’d hate to see you grow too round.” Mr. Ito teases, causing her to blush and him to laugh. “But then again, I’m one to talk. Boy, would you like anything?”

“Depends,” Toshiro mutters. “Can I work today? Or are you going to stop me again?”

Mr. Ito’s face immediately shifts into a reproachful frown. Sighing, he asks, “That depends, have you been studying well?”

Toshiro keeps his silence, which ironically enough makes his answer all the more apparent. Mr. Ito lets out another sigh, sounding tired. “When are you going to realize that I’m not trying to punish you by forcing you to study?”

“I don’t need to,” Toshiro complains, his voice cold. “I can just bake here. Don’t need a fancy diploma for that.”

An awkward tension fills the air as Mr. Ito opens his mouth to speak, only for him to shake his head in defeat. “Fine, go say hello to your mother. She’ll decide whether you’re worthy of working here today.”

Without saying a word, Toshiro stands up and immediately walks away from the bench, his expression harsh. Mr. Ito gives us an apologetic glance, more to Sayumi than to me, before walking away to deal with other customers.

“So…” Sayumi says as she nibbles on a piece of bread from her pile. “That wasn’t exactly a smooth introduction, was it?”

I nod in agreement as I finish my donut. My mind, or perhaps my stomach, is urging me to go get another. With reluctance, I fight off that urge. “Seems like a very personal argument.”

“Mr. Ito just wants him to consider other options," she says as she turns around to look at the window. Inside, Toshiro is having a conversation with what I assume is his mother. “They don’t want him railroaded into being just a baker, and he has a talent for physics. But…”

“His grades aren’t doing well?” I finish for her. It’s a story that I’m not entirely unfamiliar with. “Because he doesn’t put in any effort?”

“Enough to barely pass, and sometimes not even then.” Sayumi takes another piece of bread and shoves it in her mouth wholesale. “Before I go on, tell me when there’s only five pieces of bread left on my tray. They’re for Toshiro and the others.”

I raise my eyebrow at her, and she pointedly doesn’t look at me. “I sometimes get...carried away when eating here. I really like the bread.”

“I can see why," I say, still fighting off the urge to go get another donut. “You seem to know a lot about them. Toshiro and his dad, I mean.”

“We may not exactly look or act the part sometimes, but Toshiro is my boyfriend, and our families have known each other since before we’re born. I’m usually the one trying to tell him to improve his studies, since he likes to tune out his dad,” she responds quietly, before cracking a wry smile at me. “Sorry if that disappoints you.”

“Not really," I say with as much nonchalance as I can. “You’re down to five pieces of bread, by the way.”

“Wait, seriously?” Sayumi looks down at her tray and lets out a groan. “They always disappear so fast…”

“You can always eat those,” I point out, speaking in a slightly conspiratorial tone of voice. “What they don’t know won’t hurt them.”

“And who says they’re for anyone else?” she retorts, a playful edge to her voice. “I could just be taking them home to savor later.”

“Because they’re right behind you?” I say, trying to sound casual.

Sayumi’s eyes widen as she turns around. Sure enough, Takeshi, Daisuke, Sora and Kazuma are approaching us. They immediately greet us and take their seats, Sora and Takeshi sitting beside Sayumi, while Kazuma and Daisuke sit beside me.

“Oh, you didn’t eat our bread this time,” Sora points out as they each snag a piece of bread from her tray, laughing a little at Sayumi’s look of embarrassment.

“Sorry it took us so long,” Takeshi says after the laughter has passed, nibbling on his bun. “We had to stay and have a little chat with the lecturer.” He finishes that last sentence with a defeated sigh, followed by Sora and Kazuma.

“As expected, the slothful fall prey to their own incompetence,” Daisuke says smugly, attracting annoyed glances from the other three. Sora makes a hand gesture with bread hanging from her mouth, as if she’s threatening to strangle Daisuke if he utters out another word.

“The assignment wasn’t that hard, was it?” I ask, recalling my early submission. It wasn’t the easiest assignment in my curriculum, but one I managed to complete well in advance, just like all the rest. “You just need to research subatomic particle movements and write down what you research. It’s essentially telling you to copy what someone else has found.”

It’s funny how so many assignments are just churning out other people’s data and spinning it as your own. In essence, plagiarism without being caught.

“Yeah, well, we were busy with another assignment,” Kazuma says, sounding defensive. He leans over to me and asks. “Seriously though, how do you manage to get all of it done? And so quickly?”

I shrug. “I have a lot of time on my hands.”

“Think you can help me with our assignments?” Sora says as she finishes her bread. “I mean, we’ve been meaning to create a study group to help improve our grades, but…”

“...You’re too busy shopping, or playing games, or generally not caring about getting a well paying job,” Daisuke interjects mockingly. “Of course, if you’d bothered to put in effort to your assignments, you wouldn't need a study group.”

“Oh, shut up already,” Takeshi says, startling some of the customers. “Before I forcibly shove something down your throat.”

“The privilege of having better grades, and a better social standing, is that I can mock you for having neither,” Daisuke says nothing more, though the cocky look on his face persists.

“Seriously though, it’d be really nice to have your opinion on things,” Sora continues. “We’ll pay for every meal you’ll ever have with us if you say yes. So...please?”

She, Takeshi and Kazuma all give me a pleading look, making me feel as if I’m being backed into a corner. There really isn’t a reason for me to decline their request, but at the same time it feels just a little insulting to simply be treated as a shortcut to better grades.

“How long did you plan this? Asking me, I mean.” I ask as I take a sip of my water, trying not to sound like I’m accusing them. “Did you want me to help you ever since we first had lunch?”

“Well…” Kazuma says, sounding just a bit guilty. “After you left, we sort of talked about it and figured to ask you.”

“And if I say no?” I say, my voice tensing. It’s hard to get over the fact they’re effectively making use of me, for lack of a better term. Pragmatically speaking, it’s not something to hold against them, but at the same time it still feels like their attempts of befriending me are simply a means to an end.

Once again, thoughts of paranoia fill my head. If I decline their offer, they’ll most likely never want to hang out with me again, pretending to be busy with other activities as an excuse to distance themselves from me. Am I really only worth keeping around because I happen to useful? That question makes me instinctively scowl at the prospect.

“It’s all right if you say no,” Sora says, probably noticing my scowl. “We won’t hold it against you.”

Again, my paranoia tells me that she’s lying simply to placate me. My suspicion towards them isn’t comforting, but it’s something of a safety net. A precaution against having the rug pulled out from under me yet again. Better to be rational and prepared for trouble than to blindly rush into it, however blissful it may be.

As they stare at me in silence, I continue to think about whether I should accept or not.

“All right," I say at last, breaking the tension. “I’ll help you guys out, but I’ll need to decide when we meet. Does that seem fair?”

The condition is mostly irrelevant, given how much free time I usually have. Still, I want to at least have some control over this relationship, or at least the illusion of it.

“Yeah, that’s fine,” Takeshi says with a smile. “Thank you, Hisao. This means a lot to us.”

I shrug in response, feeling neither happy or excited. Without thinking, I quietly mutter, “Of course it does. It’s your grades after all.”


Once we finish our bread and a rather dejected looking Toshiro returns, we exit the bakery and make our way to a more familiar looking part of the city; first by bus and then on foot. I’m not sure where exactly we’re heading, considering it’s not quite time for dinner yet, but I don’t care enough to ask.

For the most part, I simply keep my mouth shut and listen to them chatter at one another. Now that I know that Toshiro and Sayumi are a couple, it makes sense in hindsight why they seem to talk to each other with such familiarity. Takeshi and Daisuke tends to bicker with each other while Sora and Kazuma seem to be able to talk to everyone at once. Despite focusing on some people more than others, the six of them really act like they’re all friends. Like they all belong.

Despite tagging along, I feel like I’m an intruder. It’s not their fault, but I can’t help but feel like I’m simply being allowed to walk alongside them. I’d speak, but I don’t know what to say. So I simply continue my silence.

“Hisao?” Kazuma breaks me from my reviere, glancing at me. “Are you all right? You seem a bit down.”

“It’s nothing.” I respond in a neutral tone. “Sorry if I worried you.”

He seems unconvinced, but presses no further. I could have told him how I really feel, but it probably would just alienate him further.

We enter an arcade on the corner of the street. It’s not a particularly big one, but it does house quite a few arcade cabinets as well as an air hockey table, which we immediately make our way towards.

“Tokens are on you, Daisuke,” Sora says.

“Naturally,” Daisuke says as he pulls out a leather wallet with gold trimmings. “Any chance to show how I’m more affluent than you all is a chance I’ll take. That aside, who’s picking teams?”

“Well, there’s seven of us.” Takeshi points out as Daisuke goes to exchange his cash for tokens. “One of us will need to sit out.”

All of them stay silent, unwilling to be left out. This goes on for a few seconds as they uncomfortably shift about, glancing at one another and eventually to me, making me feel even more like I’m an outsider. Unsurprisingly, I’m probably going to be the one to sit by the sidelines. Nothing new as far as I’m concerned.

As I began to speak up, I feel someone clapping me by the shoulder.

“I’ll sit out,” Daisuke says as he throws some tokens toward Takeshi, who catches them. He gives me a quick wink before continuing on. “I’ve been meaning to beat my high score at Ikaruga anyways. Have fun, peasants.”

“All right. Have fun, asshole,” Kazuma says as Takeshi walks away to an arcade cabinet. “Hisao, want to me on my team?”

He calls my name so earnestly that it’s almost shocking. “You sure? I haven’t played air hockey in a long while.”

“That’s fine.” Kazuma flashes me a confident smile, and I nod in response. “Great. I’ll take Sayumi as well. Which means Toshiro, Takeshi and Sora on the other team; first two out of three wins.”

“I’ll go first," Sayumi says as she goes for the red side of the table, eagerly holding her striker. “Bring it on.”

“I guess I’ll go,” Toshiro says as he goes to the opposite end, flashing his opponent a confident smile. “I won’t make this easy on you.”

“You never make things easy for me,” Sayumi retorts as she leans back, almost like she’s preparing to pounce. “Only this time, it’s not because of your laziness.”

“If you two lovebirds are done with the trash talk, the round’s going to start,” Takeshi says dryly as he inserts the tokens.

The puck dispenses and immediately the two of them start going at each other, swinging the strikers wildly. The puck becomes a blur as it bounces from one end to another and back again, never seeming to slow down as the two players mercilessly bat it back and forth.

The others seem to cheer for their teammates as Toshiro and Sayumi continue to fight to a stalemate, defending their goals from any possible angle. Eventually, Toshiro manages to bounce the puck in the goal, scoring one point right as the timer hits zero.

Sayumi curses, her face twisting into an angry pout. Toshiro walks over and casually gives Takeshi and Sora a high five. “Heh, guess I distracted her with my charming face.”

“As if, jerk,” Sayumi mutters as she walks away from the table. “You two better win this, or he’ll never let me hear the end of it.”

“All right then, I’m next,” Kazuma says with quiet confidence as he steps up to the table. “Who’s taking me on?”

Takeshi walks over to the opposite end, looking rather relaxed as he puts his hand on the striker. I hear his teammates let out a quiet groan, with Sora mentioning, “Well, might as well get it out of the way…”

The moment the puck hits the table, I immediately realize what they’re talking about as Kazuma immediately scores a goal, making it look effortless. Takeshi hardly reacts to it as he moves his striker without any urgency at all. Within seconds Kazuma immediately lands another puck in through his defense, and another one right after that.

“For someone who can do fifty hit combos in fighting games, you’d think he’d be better at this,” Sayumi mentions offhandedly as Kazuma scores yet another goal. “The sad thing is he’s actually trying.”

The round ends with a seven to zero win. Surprisingly, Takeshi actually manages to score a goal. On his own side of the table. Judging by the reactions from the others, which range from dejected acceptance to pity, this isn’t exactly the first time he’s suffered such a loss.

Takeshi doesn’t seem to mind as his expression isn’t all that angry or sad, simply walking away from the table with his lips in a flat line.

“Decider,” Sora says as she saunters to the table, stretching as if she’s preparing for a much more strenuous sport. “Ready, Hisao?”

I quietly move up to the table and place my hand on the striker. Eyeing my opponent, she seems rather relaxed as she looks at me with a slight smile on her face. “No hard feelings if I win, right?”

“Yeah,” I reply, expecting to lose regardless. It’s been ages since I’ve played anything like this, and given my condition I probably shouldn’t even try that hard. The thought of getting a heart attack by playing something as mundane as this would have depressed or irritated me, but it’s a part of me that I’ve come to accept at this point.

The puck slides onto the table and Sora immediately goes on the offensive, hitting hard and fast. Thankfully she doesn’t seem to be all that skilled so I’m able to block most of her strikes, though eventually one gets through and sinks into the goal. The game becomes a back and forth as we both score goals, tying it up until the final few seconds.

The puck slowly slipping back towards my side of the table, I give it one last hit. It bounces off the side of the table and into the goal, giving me the victory. Kazuma and Sayumi cheer for me, and I feel mildly pleased as Sora and I shake hands.

“You’re not half bad,” she points out with a smile. “How about you and me be on the same team next time?”

“Sure,” I reply, a slight smile on my face.


The rest of our time in the arcade consists of playing with the various games. Sometimes we fight with or against one another, and sometimes it’s just us grouping around someone trying to beat a tough boss or their previous high score.

I begin to get familiar with their individual quirks when it comes to their preference in games. Sora and Sayumi are extremely competent at rhythm and dancing games, Sora apparently due to a history of dancing competitively. Daisuke is extremely competent at shooters, apparently having the high score for all the shooting cabinets in this arcade, something he’ll constantly bring up to annoy the others.

And, as Sayumi alluded to earlier, Takeshi is extremely talented at fighting games. In fact, talented is an understatement when it comes to the sheer dexterity of his hands when piloting a fighting cabinet. When fighting against all of us in a “king of the hill” structure, it takes three of us to even land a hit on him and all six to finally take him down.

These all seem like minor things to take note of, and they are, in the grand scheme of things. But it also makes me feel more familiar with them, and less like a stranger who happens to be tagging along. I’m unsure if they’re intentionally feeding me this information, but I’m nevertheless appreciative of what I’ve learned, if only a little.

As I continue to play with them, I feel myself...acting differently. It started subtly, with a cautious smile here and there. But then I start to talk more openly, adding in a snide remark or an encouraging cheer, things I let out without prompting every once in a while. I even manage to laugh along with them, something that feels so strange to me.

Slowly but surely I let my reserve slip, letting myself indulge in the friendly atmosphere, starting to genuinely enjoy myself. When was the last time I’d been so carefree?

Perhaps inevitably, my suspicions starts to surface again. My mind wanders into a scene from my past, nearly identical to this one in its tone and actions. The only major difference is in the people playing those actions, the ones in the past being my former friends. In the end, despite the fun times we had, it ultimately amounted to little in the end. No lasting connection, merely a fragile friendship that broke at the first instance of trouble.

What makes me think that my budding friendships in the present will be any different? I’m determined to take that chance, and yet I find myself expecting it to fail all the same.

And, as it so often does in recent days, my mind turns back to Akira. The time we spent together was undeniably enjoyable, even more so than the time I spent here. But she’s going to leave for Scotland, again putting into question the worth of the time we spent together.

In the past, I would have probably been all right that it meant nothing. I recall saying as much to her, and the fact that I’m having second thoughts is probably the main reason why I’m so frustrated that she’s leaving. It means that, despite knowing that she’s leaving, I’ve become attached to her to the point where I don’t want her to go.

The irrationally of that baffles me. For all my talk of logic, I ended up doing something incredibly stupid because of my emotions, and now I’m paying the price for it. I don’t even know if I want to hang out with her tomorrow, knowing that it’s her final day.

“Hisao?” Sora calls out, causing me to realize that I’ve probably been silent for an uncomfortable amount of time. “We’re going to do one last game before heading out to dinner. You in?”

“No thanks,” I respond, trying not to look troubled. “I’ll sit this one out. You guys have fun.”

The rest of them rush over to a far away cabinet to play their final game with the exception of Daisuke, who seems content standing right next to me.

“Not joining them?” I ask politely.

“I’m not fond of the game they’re playing. It’s rather idiotic, if I’ll be completely honest,” Daisuke admits with an exaggerated shrug. “Besides, I’d rather get to know you better. You’re the one person I haven’t gotten a handle on, though I’ve picked up on a few things about you.”

“What do you mean by that?”

He looks at me and gives me a knowing smirk, shaking his head for no apparent reason. “It’s in my nature to know about the people in my social circle. I’m a rather inquisitive person at heart, and there’s nothing that raises more questions than other people. What are they really like? How do they feel towards me, or my friends? So on and so forth.”

“I’m the opposite honestly," I say, leaning against a wall for support. “Not really that interested in other people, and scientific questions are the ones I prefer finding answers to.”

“Sounds like you aren’t exactly the social type,” Daisuke notes as he moves closer to me, leaning on the wall as well. “Let me guess: past experiences haven’t gone so well, so you decided to shut yourself off from such things. Perhaps because you see them as being superfluous. Am I hitting the mark?”

“Something to that effect,” I admit with a bit of a sigh.

“I’m not surprised, considering how often you brood when you think we aren’t looking. I sometimes need to convince myself that you aren’t some marble construct brought to life, stiff and unfeeling.”

He yawns and shakes his head some more. “Word of advice, being too quiet and too distant is tantamount to shouting to the world that you have issues. If you really want to hide it, try to smile when you’re spoken to, and try to butt in when you aren’t expected to. It helps sell the illusion that you’re just like anyone else.”

As if to emphasize the point, he gives me a smile. It isn’t his normal smirk, which is laced with arrogance. It’s just a simple, almost sheepish smile that makes his face look just a bit brighter. “Just like that," he says, returning to his usual smirk almost instantly. “It’s not that hard to pull off, just curve your lips slightly upward. Think you can manage?”

I try to replicate what he’s telling me, but his look of dissatisfaction immediately makes me drop it altogether. “Too crooked. Too wide. You want it to be subtle, so as to give the impression that it’s natural. The more expressive you try to be the more it works against you.”

“Why are you telling me this anyway?” I ask, curiosity mixed with frustration.

“To see how you would react, and because I can," he replies, letting out a huff. “We all have our ways of getting amusement.”

“I fail to see how this can be amusing,” I note dryly. He’s oddly rude enough for me to notice but not rude enough for me to push him away.

“Ah, you’re such a bore. That makes you a perfect fit for the rest of them. Assuming you want to, that is.” He eyes me with a smile before looking up at the ceiling. “I can never get the idea of choosing to be a solitary person. Other people are what makes life worth living, if for nothing else than to see their annoyed expressions whenever I want to.”

I stay silent. While it doesn’t seem like he’s patronizing me, it does feel like he’s prodding me for something that he wants, though I don’t know what.

“Well, if you ever need to talk…” Daisuke says after realizing that I don’t intend to give a response, and proceeds to say nothing further.

Despite the fact that the others are taking a while to finish, I feel oddly more relaxed with just him around. I can’t put my finger on it, but it probably has something to do with the fact that he more or less knows my reason for not being comfortable with others without thinking any differently of me for it. Among the group, he’s the only one I’ve had a truly personal conversation with, even if it’s mostly him doing the talking.

“Are we friends?” I ask, almost without thinking.

“That depends," he says, the snobby attitude dropping entirely. “What do you consider a ''friend?''

“I don’t know. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to think about friends, let alone having them,” I admit, feeling fatigued.

“Well, if we aren’t friends, we’re close enough to be the next best thing," he says with an air of finality before stepping away from the wall. The others are approaching us. “It seems they’re finally done. Try not to frown too much, it worries them whenever you do. Not that they’d tell you.”

“Sorry we took so long!” Sayumi chirps, a sense of satisfaction in her voice. Judging by the annoyed expressions of some of the others, I get the feeling she was the ultimate winner in whatever game they played.

“Well, I was certainly getting used to doing nothing,” Daisuke says sarcastically, his attitude returning to normal. “In fact, I actually quite like it when it’s just me and Hisao. Go on and play for another few hours if you’d like to, I certainly wouldn’t mind the peace and quiet.”

“You all right, Hisao?” Takeshi asks. “He didn’t drive you crazy, did he?”

“No, he didn’t,” I reply, attempting a slight smile. “He’s all right, actually.”

“All right, stop there before we think you’re crazy,” Kazuma interjects, which causes the others to laugh, even Daisuke. “How much did you pay him to say that, Daisuke?”

“I paid with my wit and charm, which I have plenty of, unlike you all,” Daisuke says, slicking his hair back to emphasize the point. “Now then, what should we have for dinner? The dinner that I’ll pay for, by the way. Just wanted to point that out.”

After a bit of an argument, they agree to go to a steakhouse not that far away from here. With that decided, the seven of us head out. As we make our way there, I start conversing with the others instead of keeping to myself, following Daisuke’s advice of blending in.


The steakhouse, which is currently mostly full, doesn’t look all that fancy or elegant. In fact, it looks rather plain, with barely any effort put into the decor. We take a seat near the window as the menus are handed out to us, and I can’t help but raise my eyebrows at the prices, which were definitely outside of my comfort zone.

“You sure you want to pay for all of us?” I ask politely, looking at the menu again. The food on display does look rather good, but nothing that I’d sell an organ to get. Then again, people paying ludicrous sums of money for a simple meal is something I never understood in the first place.

“This amount of money is child’s play,” Daisuke boasts as he puts the menu down. “Besides, I wanted to do something nice, considering we’ve added a new member to our little clique.”

“What he means is that he wants to show off how rich he is,” Kazuma whispers conspiratorially to me. “Go ahead and order whatever you want. I once ordered over ten thousand yen worth of food to call his bluff. Needless to say, I was very full that night.”

“It is the privilege of the rich to provide for the poor,” Daisuke says with a smirk as he calls for the waiter, who arrives to take our orders. Going against what Kazuma said, I order the least out of all of us.

“I never understand why you take steak well done, Sora,” Takeshi comments after we finish our orders. “You know that’s the worst way to eat it, right?”

“Hey, I just like my food properly cooked,” Sora responds in protest. “Last time I ate steak medium, I got food poisoning. Not taking any chances.”

“Oh, that reminds me of when an associate of my father was poisoned while eating a poorly prepared fish of some toxic nature,” Daisuke comments with a chuckle. “He was saved in time, but he never looked at my father the same way after that.”

“So, your dad likes to poison people?” Toshiro comments with a yawn, his head firmly resting on the table. “That explains the time you let Kazuma eat that expired cup of ramen.”

“Wait, what? You knew it was bad?” Kazuma asks incredulously, glaring at Daisuke. “You son of a…”

“In my defense, it was only two days pass its expiration date. And if you want to blame me, you should also,” Daisuke says, sounding unapologetic and just a bit sadistic. “They knew, and yet they didn’t try and stop you. How sad.”

Kazuma looks at everyone at the table, who either look away in guilt, or let out a giggle in Daisuke’s case. “I hate you all so much," he grumbles. “I was sick for three days. I couldn’t even get out of bed.”

The waiter returns before anyone can say anything further, a bottle of wine and several wine glasses in his hands. Distributing the wine glasses among us, he starts pouring wine into all of our glasses.

“Uh, no thanks," I say, preventing him from pouring into my glass. When he leaves, I notice that only my glass is empty, making me feel a little awkward.

“Don’t like alcohol?” Sayumi asks as she takes a sip, the rest following suit.

“Can’t take it," I say as the waiter returns with water, which I’m grateful for as I take a sip of it. “I have a condition.”

“A condition?” Takeshi says. “What kind of condition?”

They eye me with curiosity, and I let out a quiet sigh. Telling them about it won’t hurt me, but at the same time revealing it out loud isn’t exactly something I enjoy doing. I can refuse, but if I’m ever going to see them as genuine friends, it’s best for them to know about it.

“I have arrhythmia. It’s a heart condition," I say, surprised at how easy it is. “If I drink too much alcohol, I’ll probably have a heart attack.”

“Oh…” Kazuma says, sounding worried. “How long have you had it?”

“Since I was born, but it never really affected me until I was in high school.” Before I can continue, the food arrives and is served to us. With how many people are here I had expected it to take longer, but perhaps that’s how this place got its reputation.

The meal consists mostly of them asking about my condition, which I only slightly mind. The questions are ones that I’ve come to expect: “does it hurt,” “Is there anything you can’t do,” and the like. Nothing I find offensive.

Though when Toshiro asks if it affects my sex drive, it forces a chuckle out of me. Along with a vague and somewhat sarcastic answer. “Probably not, at least I’d like to think so.”

I answer as much as I can in between bites of my steak, which is admittedly extremely delicious. It almost makes the ridiculous prices make sense. Almost.

“If you guys are quite done...” Daisuke interjects as Sora is about to ask another question. I notice that his plate still has a lot of food despite him not asking any questions at all. “All this chatter about his condition is making me lose my appetite.”

“Right,” Sora says, turning to me. “Sorry. It must have been annoying to answer all of our questions.”

“Only a little., I admit, letting out a shrug. “It’s just something I have to deal with.”

“We all have our problems,” Daisuke says, his voice surprisingly understanding. “You have your condition, while the others all have faulty intelligence.”

“Hey!” Toshiro protests, his mouth full with food.

“Regardless, we all deal with it as best as we can,” Daisuke finishes as he takes a sip of his wine. “That’s all we are able to do.”

All of us nod in response, causing Daisuke to adopt a wide smile, standing and raising his wine glass. “Now then, if there are no objections, I’d like to raise a glass to the newest member of our little band of merry men...and two women.”

“You really have to single us out like that?” Sayumi says, though the smile on her lips gives her away as she raises her glass as well. “To Hisao.”

The rest of the raise their glasses, turning their heads over to me. I feel a little at odds with being the one thrust into the spotlight, but something about this feels...nostalgic. Their warm smiles, the playful banter, all of it reminds me of something I sorely missed, though only recently fully admitted.

“To Hisao!” “To Hisao!”

As they cheer for me, I notice Daisuke giving me another wink. I smile back at him in gratitude, and stand up straight to face them, raising my water glass to meet theirs.

“Thank you," I say with sincerity. “I hope we can be good friends, now and in the future.”


The slight smile that Daisuke advised me to show persists as I open the door to my apartment room. Turning on the lights, I stretch a little and let out a tired sigh. The meal was long and full of conversation, leaving me exhausted. And yet, I don’t mind it at all.

I take my nightly medication with the acknowledgement that my mood is overall better than it was at the start of my day, thanks to them. With plans to meet up in the future, either to study or simply to have fun, I can say that my friendship with them is growing ever more promising.

Granted, I’m not completely optimistic on the prospect, still maintaining some wariness of the possibility that we will inevitably fall out of touch with one another. But until it happens, I’m willing to count my blessings while they’re still there.

I open my window and go out onto the balcony, which is barely able to contain me. Looking out at the view, I lean on the railing and let the cool autumn breeze wash over my face, wondering about tomorrow.


Tomorrow is my last day with Akira, and that fact alone dampens my mood a little. The thought of not seeing her occurs to me, but I quickly brush it aside. Not only would that not resolve anything, but Akira deserves a better goodbye than that at the very least.

My mind flashes back to the night we spent together in her room, promising that it meant nothing. It should mean nothing, as we both knew that her time here is temporary. What we did, for that night as well as the days after, was simply to get away from the fact that our lives aren’t what we wanted them to be.

And yet, I find that promise hollow now. Why is that? I feel a slight apprehension at what the answer may be, almost refusing to consider it.

The days immediately following Lilly’s departure for Scotland were awash in bitterness, though I did my best to hide it from others. It was initially anger at feeling cruelty abandoned, but after that was arguably something even worse… it was regret.

Regret that I didn’t do anything. That I didn’t even try to stop her, even if it wouldn’t have worked. For as much as I resented her for hiding the truth, eventually that resentment was redirected at myself. My lack of a voice ultimately proved that she was right in leaving.

And now I’m feeling similar things in the present, about her sister that I’ve spent even less time with. Truly, my irrationality knows no bounds. If I won’t be remembered for any achievements in physics, perhaps I’ll be remembered for my incomprehensible emotions.

A ring sounds and a buzz in my pocket breaks my wayward thoughts. Pulling out my phone, I realize that it’s way later than I initially thought. I can only really think of one person who would call me at this hour.

Well, might as well get this over with.

“Hello?” I say as I put the phone to my ear, speaking as if I had no idea who’s calling me.

“Hey there, big guy," Akira says casually, though she immediately let out a tired yawn right after. “I was afraid that you’d have already gone to bed.”

“Well, most nights I would have,” I admit, trying to keep the conversation as relaxed as possible. “But I guess you’ve called at a special time.”

“I always seem to. Starting to wonder…” She lets out another loud yawn in between her words.
“...what you define as special. Sorry about that, been working all day without a break.”

“Company really has it out for you, huh?” I say, letting out a quieter yawn in response. It’s past midnight, and yet I lack the urge to sleep right now. Logically, I should head to bed so I can rest for tomorrow’s classes. And yet…

“Let’s not talk about work, please,” Akira pleads before letting out another yawn. “At least for tonight. Bad enough I have to sleep on a chair here, assuming I sleep at all.”

I suddenly imagine Akira sitting in a chair at a workspace not that different from where I have my internship, looking utterly exhausted as an endless horde of people continually give her orders, similar to my situation. If anything, she must be going through even worse conditions, so I decide to accept her request.

“All right, but I make no promises about tomorrow.” I hesitate a little before adding. “We’re still meeting tomorrow, right?”

“Why do you think I’m calling right now?” Akira responds, sounding mildly annoyed.

“To make sure you won’t die of boredom?” I retort, chuckling a little. It’s funny how we’re able to talk like this, despite her dread about her work and me dreading her departure. I wonder if it’s because we’re unconsciously stalling, unwilling to acknowledge our grievances until it inevitably arrives.

Or maybe it’s because we’re simply able to be so comfortable around one another despite all that. If so, it might honestly make the loss of her even harder to bear.

“All right, you got me there. I’m pretty bored, and angry, and tired, among other things,” Akira concedes, letting out a giggle. “Seriously though, have you thought of a place yet?”

“I was actually thinking about taking a walk around the city,” I respond as I look up at the night sky, the moon currently obscured by the clouds. “Like we did last Saturday.”

Akira stays silent for a minute, but I eventually hear her voice again. “Sounds to me like you couldn’t think of anything. Can’t you take me to a nice place? Just this once?” She says in a playfully accusing voice. “I’ll let it slide if you pay for dinner. Drinks included.”

“Deal," I say, letting out a quiet sigh of relief. “Where should we meet up?”

“Honestly…” I hear Akira pause, as if she’s in deep contemplation. “Mind meeting me outside of the company building? around seven? I was thinking of freshening myself up a bit before we go, but I’ll probably sleep the moment I open the door to my room. Fair warning, I’ll look like absolute garbage, but it’s a cross you’ll have to bear.”

“That’s fine by me. Seven sounds like a plan,” I respond, closing my eyes.

I feel as if I should say something else. Something more...substantial. But the words fail to form in my mind, so I simply say whatever my current mental state is able to manage. “I’ll even bring a can of beer along so you can get a head start on your drinking.”

“You’re a real lifesaver, I hope you know that," Akira says, letting out another yawn. “God, there’s still so much to do. So many things to check and so many people to deal with...”

She doesn’t sound resentful or even tired during that last sentence, just...bitter acceptance. Almost immediately, I open my eyes and form up a response. “It’s going to be all right.”

That single sentence is probably the quickest lie I’ve ever said, and yet I feel as if I need to say it. False as it may be, the way Akira sounded just now prompts me to reassure her, however meaningless my words end up being.

Thankfully, she seems to accept it. “Thanks, Hisao," she says softly. “I needed that, and I can’t exactly ask someone to give it to me.”

“You’re welcome,” I respond, my voice equally as soft, as if we’re trying not to catch anyone’s attention. A childish thought, but one I don’t find all that bad. “It’s not exactly a bottle of fine wine, but...”

“What, you’re feeling inadequate now?” Akira teases, reverting back to her casual demeanor. “All right, it’s getting really late. I got work to do and you need to get some sleep. No need for both of us to look like shit tomorrow.”

“Yeah," I say, not wanting this conversation to end. In a rare moment of complete self-honesty, I admit that I never want it to end. “Goodnight, Akira.”

“Night, Hisao.” Surprisingly, the sound I hear next isn’t the call coming to an end, but rather a set of words that immediately struck with me. It’s barely a whisper, but it rings so clearly in my mind.

“I’m going to miss this.”

Despite her suggestion, I do not head straight to bed. Instead, I continue to gaze at the night sky, the last words she uttered repeating in my head, adding even more confusion to what I should do. The feelings I try to distract and bury begin to fully surface, demanding to be heard.

As time passes, I start to wonder if there’s nothing I can do but to play my part and wish her goodbye. As painful as that choice is, any possible alternative would logically end in disaster.

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