Shiina 2020

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Shiina 2020

Post by LordDarknus » Thu Jun 25, 2020 2:48 pm

Silence... the streets outside are quieter than usual, as I lie in bed, slowly waking up...

I reach out to hold her, but Hanako isn't beside me; my hands catch only the ghost of her warmth...

Lazily, I lift my head, and look at the clock... and realise it's going to be afternoon soon if I don't get out of bed.

So I force myself up, take a deep breath, and start my day.

* * *

It's been months, though it feels like years, since Covid-19 forced everyone to stay apart from each other, and all non-essential businesses had to close down or limit their operations.

Even Yamaku Academy, despite having an excellent medical staff of its own, had to shut down, in fear of the virus infecting our students, especially those with preexisting conditions.

Being a school for children with various types of disabilities, the risks we were facing were a lot more serious than a typical school, so every student had to be sent home, or... for some, a hospital, where they could be safe and properly cared for.

I was very unhappy at first, and I thought we were overreacting. I even suggested that those who weren't vulnerable to diseases could just stay in the dorms, and that we were going to enforce social distancing rules for only a month or two.

But the children's health and well-being comes first, no matter what. So, to keep everyone safe, Yamaku Academy was swiftly closed. And now it's... late June? And still our medical staff and advisors are telling us not to reopen. The pandemic is still making it too dangerous to bring people together. ... A lot of the world is still struggling under quarantine.

Hanako and I, Yamaku's librarian and sign language teacher, are struggling under quarantine...

* * *

I emerge from my room and head into my tiny kitchen, letting out a tired yawn as I walk into the afternoon sunlight. I mumble a soft but cheerful "Good Morning~!" to Hanako, who's already wide awake and sitting at the table as she uses my laptop, with "The Sound of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel quietly playing.

I grab a slice of bread and start nibbling it while I take out the butter. Hanako doesn't seem to notice me at all.

"Did you eat breakfast already?" I ask as I sit down beside her. "Err, I mean, lunch?"

I slowly eat and gobble up my delicious slice of buttered bread, wondering what Hanako is so focused on at my laptop that she doesn't answer me.

I lean and peek at the screen, and I instantly understand.

"They... they've hung another person..." Hanako finally says, her voice unsteady. "How could they? They're- They're... lynching people."

I quickly drag the laptop away and grab her shoulders; her eyes are wide with shock, and tears start falling, as she looks to me and asks, "Why?"

"Hanako, enough!" I yell at her. "I told you to stop feeling like this! It's not your fault! You didn't do anything wrong!"

She looks confused, as if she doesn't understand me. "Why are they killing innocent people?" she asks, terrified.

I try to say something, but tears start clouding my eyes as I struggle to find the words.

Memories of my time in the U.S. flash through my mind, back when I was studying sign language there. All the amazing places I visited, all the good people I met, all the wonderful times I've had...

"I-I don't know," I stammer, holding back from crying. "I just don't know!"

I let go of Hanako, and wipe away my tears.

I reach for my laptop, close the horrible news, and angrily change the music.

I play one of our favourite songs instead, "Rainbow" by Meja.

I force myself to smile, and happily say, "Don't worry about what's happening out there, okay? We're here, the two of us. We're both together... we don't have to be scared. ... Things are going to be alright. Okay? The world is going to be alright, Hanako, you don't have to be afraid..."

Hanako looks like a confused child, as if the world has instead become some strange nightmare to her.

"Those people..." she says, "they're innocent... they're innocent people being evicted, being infected, dying... beaten, ran over, shot at, arrested to become prison labour."

"Hanako, please..." I plead with her, trying not to think about my kind American friends... the marginalised and vulnerable ones who may be starving or abused... the idealistic, outspoken ones who could be violently hurt or imprisoned... if they are even still alive...

"They hurt children too..." Hanako says as she sobs and trembles. "Children have lost their parents... why?"

"Hanako..." I say, still forcing myself to smile, "bad things happen, when bad people take power... But good people will always speak up, and stand for justice... don't forget that, don't ever forget, that there will always be good people..."

Hanako nods... ever so slightly...

I smile, genuinely now, as I say, "Don't forget that I'm here... that I'll always be here for you..."

Hanako looks down, and cries...

She sobs... and I embrace her...

We hold each other, as our favourite song plays...

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"No one has ever become poor by giving." - Anne Frank

Post by LordDarknus » Thu Jun 25, 2020 3:00 pm

If you'd like to help, but don't have enough money to make a donation, that's okay, you can still click the above link and stream a playlist; the money from those advertisements will be donated.

In addition, you might try asking one of the many corporations that have expressed their solidarity and commitment to, Please Help More.

Who knows? They might make further, more generous donations and help spread awareness. Maybe not. But they would certainly have to respond at some point if the entire internet very persistently, and respectfully, keeps asking them to Please Help More, through every social media contact they have.

What do I think? Well, I think people have to be taken care of. I think it would be great if cultural charities like The Okra Project could feed and help the most vulnerable of us.

I think it would be great if small businesses were protected, and people didn't lose their livelihoods and homes due to circumstances beyond their control. I think a responsible government could help.

I think it would be great if a corporation that has expressed its dedication to ending social injustice, would Please Help More, by saving the U.S. Postal Service, and help fund every local community's right to vote by mail.

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Re: Shiina 2020

Post by Oddball » Fri Jun 26, 2020 10:02 pm

Something about using current events for KS rubs me the wrong way. It's not that the story was bad or anything, it just felt awkward to me.
Not Dead Yet

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Voting is a human right that decides all other human rights

Post by LordDarknus » Sun Jun 28, 2020 9:27 pm

Oddball wrote:
Fri Jun 26, 2020 10:02 pm
Something about using current events for KS rubs me the wrong way. It's not that the story was bad or anything, it just felt awkward to me.
I see... well, at least it wasn't bad... though, honestly, I'm not really sure how you can write a story that takes place at this point in history without mentioning what's been happening.

And if we're going to mention such serious events, with the long centuries of systemic injustice behind it all, I think it's only right to properly acknowledge the issue, with all the weight it deserves, and point towards a solution.

And Hanako herself, who knows what it's like to be judged because of her appearance, and who has lost her own loved ones, would probably deeply empathise with innocent people getting hurt and killed.

On top of other terrifying atrocities, e.g. Syria, Yemen, Hong Kong, China's internment camps, the Australian bushfires, Covid-19, climate crisis, etc. Hanako's fears and past traumas would also resurface and end up overwhelming her.

Or at least... that's what I think... in any case, thank you for your reply, Oddball, and good luck with the Yamaku Book Club!


For anyone interested, here's an index of all my other related "Shiina" posts and stories:


- Shiina 1 -

- Shiina 2 -

- "Comments" on "Sweet Voice" by Silentcook -

- Shiina 3 -

- Hanako's Birthday -

- Shiina 2019 -

- Shiina 2020 -

- "Comments" on "Queens of the Land" by Silentcook -


Black is beautiful
Queer is colourful
Love is powerful
We're all wonderful

Happy Pride Month and Juneteenth 2020

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10th July, 2020

Post by LordDarknus » Sat Jul 11, 2020 3:38 am



Dear Father,

Thank you, for wishing me a happy 20th birthday.

Although, I am sorry to say that your letter didn't reach me in time back in 2009. Don't worry, please, it wasn't your fault at all. In fact, it should be me who must apologise for waiting this long to reply to you.

As I'm typing this in the kitchen at night alone, on Misha's ancient laptop, "rescued" from Yamaku's Student Council room, I find myself constantly struggling to find the words. I'm so stupid. There is so much I want to say to you, so much I have to share, and yet it takes me an hour just to get this far.

But it's my 31st birthday, and 30 years since you wrote your letter. You and Mother may no longer be with me, but maybe by writing back to you now, we can finally "talk" to each other, one last time.

But where do I even begin?

The world today is not like it was in 1990. Capitalism has poisoned hearts and minds with greed and selfishness. I fear we won the Cold War not for freedom's sake, but for corporate profits. Governments are doing less and less to prevent global warming, instead, they're committing more and more atrocities. The world is drifting further and further away from morality in the pursuit for individual wealth.

That is probably not what you wanted to hear about though. Maybe I should be looking back at the past. As much as I fear the shadows behind me, I know that in the end they are only just painful memories, and I think less frightening than the looming nightmare of apocalypse by capitalism.

1990... you're right, I don't think I remember anything from that year. My earliest memories are probably from much later. I remember crawling towards you. I remember trying to walk with you and Mother holding my hands. I remember having to leave for kindergarten, and I was secretly crying because I didn't want to go.

I remember being teased a lot, because I was taller than all my classmates, and I looked just slightly different than them because Grandfather was Irish-English. I was always picked on for that. A lot of the other children didn't want to sit close to me, and called me cruel things. "Stupid tall girl." "Big idiot." "Half-breed daughter."

But a few of them didn't mind me being slightly less Japanese than them. They were the ones whom I invited to come visit. Do you remember them? I think they were fascinated with you after you told them Grandfather was actually a secret British spy like James Bond. You kept making up wild stories like that every time I brought them over. I knew none of it was real, but I acted like you were telling the truth, and that it was a secret only me and my closest friends can ever know.

You were probably just trying to help me make more friends, and maybe practising your writing skills a little. But we went too far, didn't we? I still remember how furious Grandfather was, when I led my friends into his room and played with his "secret agent gadgets". I think we accidentally broke the typewriter, the family treasure that belonged to Grandmother, and that you typed your letter to me on, and the angry face Grandfather made as he scolded us must have scared my friends so much that they didn't want to come over and play anymore.

I remember how you and Mother tried to cheer me up after that. You taught me English by reading wonderful books to me, starting with "The Lord of the Rings". Mother cooked so many warm and delicious meals for us, and held me in her arms as you read until I fell asleep. Grandfather also tried to apologise by playing games with me, mostly chess, but sometimes other more "James Bond" games like blackjack or poker.

I don't think I remember Grandfather as much as I should. My fondest memories of him are when he let me stay up late into the night watching television with him. He would go over the English shows that he loved so much, and explained anything I asked about, even though I've forgotten most of it.

I remember Mother often dragging me off to go to bed, almost always when a billiards show was starting. As I closed my eyes, I always heard Grandfather cheering or laughing with you.

Those are the times I remember and cherish, the times I wish had never ended.

I wish, that the fire never happened.

When I recovered, and was allowed back to school, my friends, just, weren't my friends anymore. I spent too long in the hospital. I had to live in an orphanage. No one came to visit me. No one thought I was alive.

My friends all left me behind, and the harder I tried to be their friend again, the more horrified they were of me. They couldn't see me as anything but a monster.

It was as if I was a different person with the same name, or I was some kind of creature impersonating their dead friend. My closest friends, the ones I invited to our house and played with, even pushed me down the stairs, screaming how they "couldn't stand the sight of my half-breed face."

For the sake of the other children, the teachers tried to keep me separated from them as much as possible. My classmates would often get upset, and the boys would yell angry words at me, or the girls would start crying.

It was always, troublesome, whenever I was around.

I tried hard to avoid people, so they wouldn't be inconvenienced by the sight of me and have their day ruined. I stayed away from anyone, everyone, so they wouldn't have to feel sick or disgusted just talking to me.

I walked to school alone. I sat in class by myself. I studied and played in a corner.

No one would have to know I existed.

I let the world pass me by, year after year.

When it came time for me to choose a high school, I ended up going to Yamaku Academy. It's a school for disabled children, meant to help them adapt and function in normal society.

I spent the first year alone. I couldn't help but run away whenever the other students tried to introduce themselves. I didn't want to be friends with anyone, even if they had their own disabilities and past troubles. I was tired of being a problem to other people. I just wanted to be left alone.

In my second year, I met my first love. Her name was Lilly. She was like me, a half Scottish, half Japanese girl. She was blind but she was very beautiful. Her older sister, Akira, is also very cool.

Their fully Japanese cousin, Shizune, is deaf, and she was my Class Representative and also the Student Council President. Lilly was Class Representative for her class too, and she joined Shizune's Student Council after Shizune drove everyone away from it. Shizune is known for being too forceful at times.

Lilly and Shizune recruited Misha, a non-disabled student who was learning sign language, to help, and the three of them formed the new Student Council. To prove themselves capable of anything, they even organised a soba stall for the school festival. I think it was the proudest moment between the three of them. Akira took a picture of them, capturing the happy memory in a polaroid.

But Lilly and Shizune disagreed on a lot of things, and they fought about it, arguing with Misha as their interpreter, almost every day, until eventually, Lilly decided to leave the Student Council. Misha almost left as well, after Shizune rejected her confession.

I heard Misha crying in Lilly's dormitory room, just next to mine. And I almost ran away when Lilly invited me in. But Lilly was so soft-spoken and polite, I decided not to. I trusted Lilly, and I wanted to help Misha feel better. The two of them became my first friends, since the fire.

I don't know if Lilly could ever return my feelings for her. I never confessed. I was too afraid she would reject me, as her cousin did with Misha. I let her take care of me, even treat me like a useless child. It hurt. But I didn't want her to leave me.

Misha drifted apart from us, and stayed in the Student Council with Shizune as her best friend.

In my third and last year at Yamaku, I met my husband, Hisao. He was very handsome, kind, and gentle. He transferred in after a long stay in the hospital, and he was struggling to cope with a severe heart condition.

Lilly helped him get used to Yamaku, and I did what I could to cheer him up. I even cooked some tasty meals for him, although, the first time I did, I messed it up when I got the lid on the rice container stuck. Luckily, Lilly brought some bread to replace the rice.

Like Lilly, Hisao didn't think of me as anything more than a broken child at first. Still, we became close friends and started spending time together. We slowly learned more about each other, and he was always patient and nice to me, no matter how difficult I was to be around with.

We got along well. I realised that we had a lot in common, and we even shared parts of our painful histories. One day, while we were playing a game of chess, I realised, that I loved him.

I didn't confess my feelings, not until after we shared our first night together. I surrendered myself without a thought. I was afraid he was drifting away and I wanted to change how he saw me. I wanted to be like a normal girl to him. I wanted him to love me the same way I loved him.

When I told him, he admitted that he loved me too. We both broke down and confessed our love for each other. In that beautiful moment, I felt as if we had left our pasts behind us, and we were walking towards a future together. I dared to give him a kiss, declaring to the world how happy I was to be his girlfriend.

That summer, was also the summer when Lilly and Akira left. They had to follow their family to Scotland, and leave everything and everyone they knew in Japan behind. Hisao and I didn't want them to go, but we had to. We couldn't hold Lilly and Akira back from their family and their new lives together in Scotland.

Before they left, we had one last karaoke outing, where we drank the best from Akira's wine collection, and we sang all our favourite songs. Hisao was surprised and happy to finally hear me sing, and in English too, despite my accent being more noticeable than Akira's or Lilly's. We saved "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" by Aerosmith for last.

In the days before they left, Lilly and Akira's father suddenly called them, and asked for me to speak with someone. An old man, named Hayao. He was the shopkeeper of Othello's Antiques, the store where Hisao and Lilly bought their presents for my birthday.

I was surprised that he wanted to talk to me, and I was utterly confused when he offered me an apprenticeship. He said that I reminded him of his last apprentice, and if I was interested, I could come to his shop during the summer holidays and learn about antiques. Hisao was also more than welcome to join me.

Since Hayao was a friend of Lilly and Akira's father, and Hisao and I had no real plans for the holidays, we decided to accept Hayao's offer, which I could tell made him very happy even as he tried to hide his smile.

On the last day of school, all of us, Lilly, Akira, Shizune, Misha, Hisao, and I, slowly walked down the hill from Yamaku, and reluctantly said our farewells at the Shanghai, a nearby teahouse where the school's librarian, Yuuko, also worked part-time.

Coincidentally, our fellow schoolmates, Emi and Rin, were also there, and joined us in wishing Lilly and Akira good luck in their new life in Scotland. Akira brought out her camera to take a picture of all of us, but in her excitement, she accidentally tripped over Lilly's cane and broke her camera.

It was the third time she dropped that old polaroid camera, she said with a small chuckle. The first time was when she was young, after her father took a picture of Akira and Lilly with their puppy, and Akira dropped it trying to photograph their family. The second time was during the festival in the year before, though she managed to take that photo before Emi ran past and accidentally crashed into Akira.

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Emi apologised again for the accident, even though she still ran about a little carelessly. Akira told her not to worry about it. Instead, she said it was kind of perfect, since each time it broke, it was always Hayao who fixed it. So, Akira's old polaroid camera would become my first lesson in repairing and restoring antiques.

I didn't think the camera was really old enough to qualify as an antique, but Hayao treated it as if it was very valuable, and was heartbroken to find it once more returned to him, needing to be repaired again.

Patiently, Hayao taught me how to take it apart, replace the broken components, and glue back together a broken piece of the outer covering. It wasn't actually too complicated, but Hayao used the opportunity to teach me about genuine antique cameras and how they work. How to spot real accessories from fake ones. What types and models to look for, where to find a market or a trade, the kinds of people who might be interested, and so on.

It was all fascinating to learn, and Hayao was a good teacher. Hisao thought the same, even if he wasn't as enthusiastic as I was.

Soon, we had the polaroid camera fully repaired and working again. Even though I made mistakes in the glueing process and misaligned the covering to the frame, causing the camera to look half cracked and somewhat haphazardly put back together.

Hayao said it didn't matter because I learned a lot from it, and that such a repair job was rather nonstandard to begin with. He told me to keep and treasure it, as it once belonged to his son-in-law. Akira may have asked me to give it to Shizune's brother, who was interested in collecting cameras, but Hayao insisted that I keep it instead.

Akira didn't really mind either way, and she was happy to hear that I completed my first antique repair project, even if it's not really an antique.

I thanked Akira, and kept my treasured camera. Hisao used it to take a polaroid of me during Tanabata. I was wearing the brand new yukata he gave me, and the night was quiet and beautiful all around us.

Hanako Tanabata (night).jpg
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Our love helped to change me, little by little. I was less afraid, and grew to trust myself a little bit more. I became friends with Emi and Rin. And at my classmate Naomi's urging, I even joined the newspaper club, contributing through graphic and layout designs, some editing, printing and distribution, but most of all, through my camera.

I went to one school event after another, mostly dragged around by Naomi, and took pictures of whatever she thought was interesting. She trained me to snap polaroids instinctively whenever I spot anything out of the ordinary, no matter how small or trivial it might be.

As much work as the newspaper club was, I found it all kind of interesting, at times even exciting and rewarding. Naomi had certainly taught me how to seek out stories and find the objective truth in them.

With her encouragement, I even asked Hayao to talk about his experiences, and how he believed major historical events, like the Anpo protests and the 1964 Olympics, had changed the city and shaped the nation as a whole.

And to my surprise, he even told me his personal story, about his father, Harold, an Irish-American, who was a high ranking soldier. The Second World War had brought Harold to Japan, where he fell in love and married a Japanese maiden.

Harold also had a close friend, Othello, who was African-American. When they were growing up in the U.S. during the Great Depression, Othello had taken a brutal beating for something that Harold did. The two of them became friends over it, after Harold felt guilty and did everything he could to make up for what happened.

Harold arranged to bring Othello to Japan, and invested in Othello's dream of running an antiques shop. Othello had to struggle to adapt at first, but soon his business flourished, and he firmly established himself as a well-connected man in the city.

Hayao, Harold's son, grew up learning about the antiques business, and saw how Japan changed rapidly through the decades. He felt the country was moving too fast and changing too much in a single lifetime. He always longed for the calm, old-fashioned, traditional days, even when the city around him was swiftly modernising.

Like Othello before him, he didn't marry, but instead adopted a young Japanese girl, and raised her to inherit Othello's antiques shop. With the modern world developing all around her though, she didn't grow up with the same mindset as Hayao did.

When she became a young woman, she rejected everything Hayao wanted for her, and ran off to marry a young man that Hayao did not approve of, especially because Hayao did not like that young man's father, whom may have let his wife overwork herself to death, and Hayao greatly feared similar mistreatment for his daughter.

But she refused to listen, and never spoke to Hayao again. So, Hayao carried on, heartbroken, continuing to manage Othello's shop throughout the years, alone amidst his delicate antiques while steel and concrete sprouted all around into taller and ever taller city buildings.

Until, he met me, and offered to take me as an apprentice.

I agreed. I promised Hayao that as soon as I graduated from Yamaku Academy, I would be his loyal student, and learn what I can from him. And if I'm able, I would carry on Othello's Antiques well into the future.

I told Hisao about my decision, and he agreed completely. He would join me for a while, at least until he can get into university. He wanted to study to become a science teacher. Maybe even come back to Yamaku to teach.

I smiled and promised to support him throughout our future journeys, and gave him a kiss.

As graduation neared, we noticed Misha was having more and more trouble with Shizune. They would often bitterly argue with each other for the smallest of reasons, before becoming so upset that they just stop talking.

We tried cheering them up, and asking what's wrong, but they wouldn't say. Eventually, to my surprise, Shizune came to knock on my dormitory door, and asked me to give Misha a present. It was a Zune mp3 player that she won in a lottery, but had no use for.

I agreed to do as Shizune asked, but, surprising myself as much as her, I said I would only help on one condition. I wanted her to sit down with Misha, and patiently listen to her. Shizune hesitated for a while, but she nodded and agreed.

So, on a bright sunny day, after giving Misha the mp3 player, Hisao and I led her to the bench where Shizune was waiting. We stayed to make sure Misha wouldn't just make up another excuse and run away from Shizune.

Misha had no choice but to sit beside Shizune. But not knowing what to say, and with tears in her eyes, Misha instead took out her mp3 player, chose a song, and offered one ear bud to Shizune.

Shizune, though confused, decided to accept it, and put the ear bud into her ear. Smiling, Misha started playing her music, and interpreted the lyrics she was hearing.

Shizune didn't understand what Misha was trying to do, until she realised that Misha was "singing" to her in sign language. Misha was singing "You've Got A Friend In Me" from Toy Story.

Shizune nodded with a sad smile, and patiently "listened".

Reflexively, I reached for my camera, feeling that it was a moment that needed to be captured, as if Naomi were right beside me, yelling at me to "Snap! Snap! Snap!"

I fumbled as I pulled my camera out from my bag, accidentally pressing the button and scaring myself as the flash went off. I shrieked as I dropped my treasured antique on a stone, and watched it broke apart into flying pieces.

My heart felt just as shattered. My beloved camera was smashed beyond repair. Hisao, Misha and Shizune all tried to console me. But I could only pick up the polaroid off the ground, and wordlessly give it to Misha.

Misha Shizune share mp3 - Mike Inel.jpg
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10th July, 2020 (continued)

Post by LordDarknus » Sat Jul 11, 2020 3:39 am

After graduation, Hisao and I became full-time employees at Othello's Antiques. I spent months learning and practising my knowledge. Hayao was incredibly forgiving and kind, despite my many mistakes.

Hisao constantly tried to convince Hayao to modernise his shop a bit, arguing that they could attract more customers with at least a website and some online advertising.

But Hayao was slow to adopt Hisao's suggestions, even refusing to buy a computer until Hisao found an incredibly old and cheap model that appealed to Hayao.

The days became weeks, and weeks became months. Before I knew it, years had passed us by. Hisao was leaving for university soon, but he wanted me to go with him. He stumbled across a job opening near the university, it was fairly simple office work in a small company, and they were willing to hire me, despite how I look.

I felt, torn. Hayao wouldn't stop me, but I could tell he didn't want me to go.

After calculating Hisao's living expenses, it still only made sense that I accept the job with its higher salary. The profits from selling antiques wasn't entirely stable income.

Knowing full well what my decision was going to be, Hayao didn't say a single word to stop me. He just quietly accepted what was best for Hisao and I, and wished us good luck.

One night, before we left, I saw Hayao smoking by himself. He didn't seem sad or angry. Just, deep in thought.

Adjusting to working in an office took me a long time. I found it extremely difficult to cope with the way people were glancing at me, whispering about me. Their constant unease around me was making it difficult to suppress my feelings of panic.

Hisao, yet again, managed to stumble across a solution. He decided we should take up dancing. It'd be good exercise for his heart, and it'd help build up my confidence around other people.

And it worked. Dancing did help me alleviate a lot of my fears. All I had to do was follow where the music was taking me, and my mind and body would relax. I moved my feet, feeling the rhythm and beat, and just danced. The world around me disappeared as I hum along to the song.

But, the world didn't stop turning while I was dancing.

Hayao became very ill. I had to drop everything I was doing in the office and rush back. Hisao was accompanying a professor overseas and couldn't book a flight back in time.

By the time I reached the hospital, Hayao's condition had worsened. He wasn't likely to make it past the night. His lungs were failing.

I sat beside his bed, holding his hand as he struggled to breath.

He wanted to say something to me, to tell me so much, but couldn't even whisper a word.

I told him I was sorry for leaving him. There was still so much more I wanted to learn, so many memories that we should have made, so much time lost.

I cried, wishing I could hear his voice.

Hayao simply shook his head, and with all his strength, reached up to my face, and gently wiped my tears away.

He smiled, weakly, but with all the kindness in the world.

After a moment, I slowly nodded, and smiled too.

I stayed beside Hayao, until he breathed his last.

He didn't fight the moment when it came, he just closed his eyes, and let go of my hand.

The nurses led me away as the doctor covered Hayao under a sheet.

Lilly, Akira and their family came back to Japan for Hayao's funeral.

After tearfully catching up with them, Lilly's father had something to show me. It was an old polaroid, of a mother and her infant child, and a typed letter, dated 10-July-1990.

It was your letter, Father. I was the infant in the polaroid, and Mother was Hayao's daughter.

I was spending time with my grandfather, for every clock that I cleaned, every old book I dusted off, every little thing I did in Othello's Antiques.

Hayao was my grandfather.

I watched my grandfather smoke his life away, and I said nothing.

I could have stopped him, I could have said something.

I could have saved him.

Lilly's father told me that Hayao never wanted me to know who I really was to him out of shame, and the fear that I might hate him, for not reconciling with Mother and Father, for never acknowledging my birth, until it was all too late.

Some kind of legal confusion happened, or else Hayao would have been notified of the fire sooner, and that I survived.

Father, you too accidentally dropped your camera when you took the polaroid of me and Mother, and you sent it to Hayao for repairs, along with your letter and picture to make him think of me.

But why? Why didn't Hayao just say something?


Othello's Antiques couldn't be passed down to me, due to legal problems that would take years to unravel.

We had to let the shop go. It was the last remnant of traditional architecture in a modern city. While we may regard it as a hidden treasure, landowners were labeling it a costly eyesore. They would probably have fought us if we tried to keep it from being sold off and redeveloped. Money, money, money.

I gave away everything inside the shop to Shizune, who was running an online auction business of some sort. She was having trouble and needed help. I told her she didn't have to pay me back anything, but she promised to extract maximum value from all my stock and take just 20 to 30 percent.

She managed to make some money, though not much.

Hisao and I returned to our university and office work.

Our usual routine returned, and we repeated them, day after day. Study, work, dance. Study, work, dance. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

We grew older. The years moved slowly. And we grew older.

We decided to marry, but without ceremony. We had no money.

Hisao had to stop dancing with me, and concentrate on his studies. His focus started to suffer, caused by insomnia from his medications, or too much stress.

He had to undergo surgery, due to his condition suddenly worsening.

I was at work, when he was about to undergo the operation.

He called, and asked me to sing him a song over our phones.

I hid in a closet in the office, and softly sang "One Call Away" by Charlie Puth.

He thanked me, and we promised to see each other tomorrow.

I woke up that night, when the hospital called.

The operation failed.

Hisao was gone.

I collected his clothes, shoes and belongings.

Our phones, identical models, different colours.

I signed the documents. My Father-in-law chose a coffin. My Mother-in-law cried.

I went through the funeral for my husband, unable to feel anything.

I'm sure I cried. But I can't remember it.

I don't know how long I lived like a ghost, but I'm thankful for my Mother- and Father-in-law.

I became like a useless child again, but they took care of me, and kept me safe. I didn't know how I could ever repay them.

I looked up Othello's Antiques. It became part of a larger store.

For no reason, I looked up Yamaku Academy, and was surprised that it needed a librarian. I wonder where did Yuuko go in life.

I travelled there, asked and answered questions, and secured a job and a temporary place to stay.

And to my great surprise, I found Misha there, teaching sign language. Just like Hisao would've wanted to do with science.

Misha and I walked up and down the hill, to and fro Yamaku Academy, every day.

We became close, just talking about work, the school, the students, staff, and so on.

It's hard to imagine we used to be those same children that we were caring for and nurturing.

But we've changed, so much. Even though I still call her "Misha".

By chance, I stumbled across a poster for a club nearby, and decided to see if I could still dance. I invited Misha along too.

As soon as she saw me, she confessed her feelings for me, just like that.

I smiled and dragged her onto the dance floor. And before she could stop me, I gave her a kiss, and followed the music to wherever it might take me.

Misha and I fell in love, just like that. With a single dance.

I moved into her tiny apartment, and she reminded me not to let anyone know we were a couple, lest it cause problems. And I smile, wondering when did Misha become so cautious and aware.

We were happy though. Even if we had to hide our love from the world.

I never imagined returning to Yamaku could bring back so much happiness into my life.

I took an interest in the current generation of the newspaper club, and was saddened to see none of the strict pursuit for objective truth that Naomi would have demanded. The current members were just looking to keep the student body informed, and didn't go out looking for stories.

Well, it wasn't important, I thought. There was enough bad news happening in the world as it was. Brexit. Trump. Hong Kong. Then the Australian Bushfires. Global warming.

Lilly and Akira's family had to leave Scotland because of Brexit destroying their future prospects. Their father had to follow their company's headquarters being relocated to New York.

And then Trump was elected president, shocking them, and the rest of the world.

Sometimes, bad luck seems to follows us.

I know it does for me.

I heard from Akira that Lilly was sick from Covid-19.

She passed away in a coma.

I collapsed and cried. All the grief I couldn't feel when Hisao left me, I felt it overwhelm me as I sob and gasped for Lilly.

Misha kept herself composed. Yamaku's teachers are trained well to deal with death, and how to control grief. She pushed all her thoughts and memories of Lilly out of her head and followed her training to calm me down.

I couldn't do anything like that, no matter how hard I tried.

I was just a useless girl.

A half-breed daughter.

A katawa shoujo.

It's morning now, Father.

I am tired.

I miss you.

Love, Hanako

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Re: Shiina 2020

Post by Hanako Fancopter » Sat Jul 11, 2020 10:09 am

Oddball wrote:
Fri Jun 26, 2020 10:02 pm
Something about using current events for KS rubs me the wrong way. It's not that the story was bad or anything, it just felt awkward to me.
I'm willing to say it was bad. More than bad, even. Working COVID-19 into a KS story could be interesting, but this one didn't do much with it besides to say "hey, the virus exists and it's pretty bad." The second part, though, where Hanako is glued to her computer screen watching people be lynched in the streets in the United States in an overwrought reference to contemporary racial politics? Seeing KS characters co-opted to serve as cheap mouthpieces for a political ideology, that's honestly one of the most off-putting things I can possibly think of. It's lazy, it's self-righteous, and it's a perversion of the source material; KS was great in part because it was *not* political, it was a universal story that anyone could relate to.
An Unusual Friendship (Misha x Hanako Route)
Riposte (Rika Mini-Route)
One-Shots Thread (Random Smut/Meme Stories)

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Re: Shiina 2020

Post by NuclearStudent » Sat Jul 11, 2020 1:40 pm

With regards to the first story:

I'm personally indifferent about the topic of politics in stories. As long as a topic is properly supported and justified, good writing can make any premise work. However, that justification is lacking here.

For starters, there's no real continuity between the first and second halves of the story. The first half is about quarantine, and the second is about Black Lives Matters, but there's no necessary connection between the two. There's no plot connection, no symbolic connection, and no thematic connection. Frankly, you've mentioned both simply because they exist, and not because it makes for a real story. If this were to be hypothetically reworked, I'd try to just merge them into one coherent section.

With regards to the characters, there's barely any setup for the emotional payoff. As mentioned, the first half has nothing to do with Hanako or her emotions, but the entire conflict and climax of the route is "Hanako looks at the news and then cries." A story has emotional weight when tension is built up and then released, and that wasn't done. Instead, Hanako's personal connection to the subject was given in a one-line flashback after the waterworks had already started. You could have replaced Hanako or Hisao with any other generic name and the story would be almost exactly the same. Why is this a KS story at all?

I understand that this is a topic you care deeply about, so if you write more political stories in the future, please pay more attention to proper buildup of narrative tension.

With regards to the second story:

It's definitely random that one of the katawas is suddenly big on anticapitalism. This isn't implausible, but it needs proper setup, or else it feels like you're jamming your politics into the mouths of the katawas again.
I remember being teased a lot, because I was taller than all my classmates, and I looked just slightly different than them because Grandfather was Irish-English. I was always picked on for that. A lot of the other children didn't want to sit close to me, and called me cruel things. "Stupid tall girl." "Big idiot." "Half-breed daughter."
...where is this even coming from? Canonically, nobody mentions Hanako looking foreign in the slightest. I mean sure, she could be, but this feels like an arbitrary add-on. Isn't it enough that she has the disability of being burned? Does she has to be part-white? At least the revelation that Hanako was secretly in love with Lilly makes some degree of sense, given how shy Hanako is about discussing her feelings.

You put in a lot of twists, mostly centered around current events or politics. I do appreciate Lilly dying of COVID, but the story reads more like a trainwreck of tragedy rather than a well-constructed story. There ought to be some symbol or theme that links together events into a coherent narrative.

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