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

Posted: Fri May 15, 2020 8:00 am
by MoashLannister
(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.)


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Act 1: Stop and Go

Chapter 1


BEEP!! BEEP!! BEEP!!

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.

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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.”

“Jealous?”

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.

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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. “So...how’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.

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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.

Empty.

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.

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

Posted: Fri May 15, 2020 8:02 am
by MoashLannister
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.

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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?”

“Y-yes?”

“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-

“Intern!”

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 and...you know...you 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…”

“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.

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

Posted: Fri May 15, 2020 1:22 pm
by Hanako Fancopter
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.

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

Posted: Mon Jun 15, 2020 10:09 am
by MoashLannister
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…”

“Same...here…” 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.

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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.

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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…

Nothing.

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.