To Miss the Mark - An OC Pseudo-Route (Hitomi)

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Xeraeo
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To Miss the Mark - An OC Pseudo-Route (Hitomi)

Post by Xeraeo » Thu Jul 30, 2020 5:50 pm

New idea hit me while I was editing my other story Rebound, and I couldn't help but start on it. This is a route for an OC named Hitomi Nomura, another recent transfer student. Several things made me want to tell this story, and I'm trying to frame and pull it all together as the story evolves.

As much as I love KS, one of the primary themes in most of the routes was something like 'difficulty opening up'. Whether it was Emi opening up to Hisao, or Hisao to Lilly, or Hanako opening up in the wrong ways, that theme was covered consistently. I didn't want to rehash it, so I thought I'd try to focus on something different and have the characters open up to each other more easily.

I considered just starting with an Act 2 like many people do, but ultimately settled on incorporating existing scenes from Act 1 into the route. They start off more or less the same as how they take place in the VN, but as each scene is more affected by the differences in this particular AU things split off more and more, and of course, Hisao becomes yet another alternate version of himself. For better or worse.

So without further explanation, here is Act 1. I have yet to name the scenes, so for now they will just be titled by the day they take place until I'm inspired enough to come up with appropriate names.

Edit: Inspiration is for suckers; I just brute-forced my way through it. All scenes now come with free names at no additional cost to the reader.

Table of Contents:

Act 1 - Life Expectancy


1-1: Unconditional Surrender
1-2: A Work in Progress
1-3: A Chance Meeting
1-4: Reflections and Regrets
1-5: Aim Small, Miss Small
1-6: The Thundering Abyss

Act 2 - Stance

2-1: A Half-Lively Pair
2-2: Spiral and Recover
2-3: Musings, Stutters, and Uncomfortable Questions
2-4: New Places, New People, Same Old Problems
2-5: Intel
2-6: Concerns
2-7: Connections
2-8: Contradictions
2-9: Derailment
2-10: Convergence, and Something of a Watershed
2-11: If I Go Down to the Depths...
2-12: ...Still You Are With Me

Act 3 - Draw

3-1: writing (55%)
Last edited by Xeraeo on Sun Nov 08, 2020 4:58 pm, edited 17 times in total.
Girls: Emi=Hanako=Lilly>Shizune=Rin
Routes: Lilly=Emi>Hanako>Rin>Shizune

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

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

User avatar
Xeraeo
Posts: 76
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2020 5:48 pm
Location: Chicago(ish), United States

Unconditional Surrender (1-1)

Post by Xeraeo » Thu Jul 30, 2020 5:52 pm

Act 1 - Life Expectancy

How the hell did I end up here?

Somehow, I let the most overbearing girls in my class get me to agree to play a game with them I'd never even heard of before. Admittedly, they're also the only girls in my class I've actually spoken to, but something makes me doubt that any of the others are quite so pushy. I should have known that no matter what game was chosen, Shizune would somehow be an expert at it. I only met her yesterday, and even though it's hard to get a full impression of someone's personality through an interpreter, I could tell pretty quickly that she was extremely competitive. It shouldn't come as a shock that I'm losing badly.

I spent the first half hour or so of our game just figuring out how everything really works, while Shizune took advantage of my slow and hesitant strategy. Misha's tutorial had been more confusing than enlightening, but I feel like I managed to get the hang of it eventually, pushing Shizune's forces out of both Australia and South America while keeping her at bay in Asia and North America. Unfortunately, she managed to kick me out of Europe completely early on in the game, and has held that continent firmly ever since. I expect her to attack Australia and South America next, or maybe my lone army in Madagascar, but she surprises me by instead focusing her next turn on a two-pronged attack from Alaska and Greenland, quickly sweeping across my armies all the way down to Central America.

She gives me a self satisfied smirk as, almost as an afterthought, she takes Madagascar too, cementing her hold over three continents. The turn passes to me, and I check my watch for what feels like the twentieth time since we started, making no effort whatsoever to hide my increasing disinterest in the game. It's not like I can't also be competitive, but I could tell from the start how this game was going to go and didn't get all that invested in winning. Fortunately, I never agreed to any ridiculous stakes like me joining the Student Council if I lose. Shizune and Misha are basically the only students I've met so far at Yamaku and while they're nice enough, they're far too pushy for my liking. I can't imagine how exhausting it would be to hang out with them after class like this every day.

I'm just starting to consider how to place my meager forces for my next turn while wondering how much longer this is going to drag out, when a sharp knock on the door draws my attention as well as Misha's. Shizune notices our distraction from the game after a moment, and follows our gazes to the female student walking in without waiting for an invitation. Our eyes meet momentarily as she approaches, but I don't recognize her. She's definitely not from our class, although she looks about our age.

She's fairly short, maybe just a centimeter or two taller than Shizune, I'd guess. The girl is dressed in the same green skirt and white blouse as every other female student I've seen here, but her bow is missing and the top few buttons of her top are undone, giving her a less professional look than the uniform intends. She has dark brown hair that flows down well past her shoulders, seemingly unstyled beyond maybe being brushed. Her deep, forest-green eyes sweep over our game with a look of mild disinterest that matches my own, and her only reaction is a sharp exhalation through her nose, as if our activity is somehow amusing to her.

Misha, as always, is quick to break the awkward silence. "Hitomi! Do you need help with something?" Her voice is the same friendly, lilting tone that I'm starting to realize is just the way she talks to everyone, but her question seems a little more direct than normal. The girl locks eyes with Shizune, who I notice has grown pretty still and looks ready for an argument. It's weird how tense the two girls seem to be in each other's presence, considering neither has spoken (or signed) a word yet.

"I lost my dorm key. My class rep said to ask you for a new one." Her voice is soft and just a bit lower-pitched for a girl, and she speaks so quietly and evenly that after Misha's painfully loud question, I have to pay close attention to really hear her. Despite her lack of volume, however, there's no hesitation or apparent shyness in her rather direct request. She stares the president down without blinking.

For her part, Shizune goes from looking confrontational to annoyed, and begins to sign in quick, sharp gestures, never taking her eyes off the new arrival. Misha immediately begins to translate, her sing-song voice at odds with the expression on Shizune's face, though the meaning of the words is clear enough. "You lost ANOTHER key, Nomura? How many copies do you think the administration keeps on hand, anyway? It was a hassle getting a replacement the last time, and that was less than three weeks ago!"

Nomura begins to respond, looking entirely unconcerned by Shizune's annoyance, but whatever she says is drowned out as Shizune/Misha continue. "We understand that you're still new here, but as accommodating as Yamaku is they still expect the students to act responsibly!"

I can see Nomura's face harden a bit at that, her deep green eyes filled with some dark emotion, but her voice remains quiet and even. "I've made my request to the council. I don't need a lecture. I'll come back later in the week for the key."

Her statements are spoken one after the other in a near monotonous rhythm, as if she couldn't be bothered to show any interest beyond the bare minimum required for the situation. Not waiting for a response, she turns and walks out of the room. Shizune looks infuriated at being treated so dismissively, and I can't help but laugh a little internally at seeing her so flustered. Most students seem to try to avoid getting into confrontations with her, but this Nomura girl didn't even bat an eyelash.

"Tell Satou that she can file the request herself!" Misha calls after the girl, who doesn't slow as she exits the room. It's clear that Shizune means this as a frustrated last-ditch attempt to exercise some semblance of control over the situation, but when it's projected from the ever-bubbly Misha the effect feels somewhat lost.

"Is this how Student Council work generally goes?" I ask Shizune, allowing a touch of sarcasm into my tone that I'm sure Misha filters out of her signing. Assuming there is such as thing as signing sarcastically? Judging by what I've observed of Shizune, I'm sure there is.

"Plenty is demanded of the Student Council, and we have many responsibilities over a large portion of the student body's activities, but most students at least know how to pretend to be polite about it." Shizune responds via Misha. She's clearly not used to being treated so disrespectfully, and it's thrown her off her game.

"So what was her problem? I don't think I've seen that girl before."

"Hitomi? Oh, she's just new, Hicchan! I mean, not as new as you, but she also transferred in this year, and-" Misha stops as Shizune snaps her fingers with a harsh glare directed her way. Having been reigned in, Misha resumes her translation duties while Shizune repeats whatever she had been signing in response to my question.

"Nomura isn't one to think about anyone but herself. It's why she doesn't have any friends here yet- Aww, Shicchan… and probably won't until she learns how to talk to people properly. Some transfer students take longer than others to get used to attending here."

That doesn’t really answer my question, but I guess it would be rude to ask what her disability is. I don't even know why Misha's here, come to think of it, and I haven't told anyone about my own… condition… either. Even if I wanted to ask more about the intriguing girl, Shizune's attention is already back on the game between us, her eyes scanning as she plots world domination, or whatever.

I start to look back over the board myself, but find that I really have no interest in continuing the game. Checking my watch again, I realize that I likely don't have a lot of time left if I want to visit the library still. After spending all of yesterday evening staring at my new ceiling, I really need some new books before I head back to my room.

"Look, Shizune, this has been fun and all, but we both can see where the game is going. I surrender."

Immediately, her annoyance is focused completely on me. "Surrender? The game is supposed to go until only one player holds all the territories. You still have two whole continents, right? Right, Shicchan!" Evidently Misha is less familiar with the concept of rhetorical questions than the president and I.

"I got that, but honestly at this point it's obvious you're going to win, and I have other things I need to do this evening." I try to be somewhat placating, knowing it's annoying when people leave a game just because they're losing, but really I do need to get going. Besides, she was the one that pushed so hard for us to play something.

"You lost when I- ah, Shicchan, I mean- took North America. Still, it's a bit disappointing to see you giving up so easily. Aw, that's not very nice to say, Shicchan…"

I shrug, not really interested in pretending to care at this point. Maybe Nomura's visit emboldened me, but I'm not exactly keen on being pushed around like I've been allowing Shizune to do just because I'm new here. She leans forward, looking at me intently as she continues signing.

"I wonder if you'd even be any good for the Student Council…"

I laugh a little at that, this time not bothering to hide it. If that's intended to be some kind of reverse psychology, it's not working. Two can play at this game.

"Well, I guess I don't have to worry about joining then."

"Giving up just like that? I expected more of you." Misha looks increasingly uncomfortable, apparently sensing the growing tension between Shizune and I. What's this girl's deal, anyway? Does she really think she can taunt me into joining the student council? It's just my second day here. What the hell does she expect from me?

"I just transferred here. I don't really understand why you're expecting anything." I try to keep my eyes locked on hers like Nomura did, but her stare is too intense for me and I keep glancing at Misha whenever she talks.

Shizune rolls her eyes at me. "Transfer students are always more trouble, but I had hoped that you would be different- I still think he is, Shicchan!"

I stand up, making it clear that I'm done with this conversation. "Thanks for the game, Shizune. Misha. Is the library closed yet?"

I can tell Shizune isn't happy about me just blowing her off like this, as she gestures to Misha, leaving it up to her to answer my question as she starts to clear the pieces from our game back into the box with swift, definitive motions.

"Um, I think the library is open. It's on the second floor. Do you want us to show you where it is?"

Considering the way the girls escorted me into this room like a prisoner, I think I'd rather take my chances going it alone this time. I didn't mind their company yesterday, thinking it was good to get to know some of my classmates, but I'm starting to get the impression that knowing these two isn't exactly the best way to make friends around here. Misha's been plenty nice, if a bit obnoxious, but Shizune is quite a bit more overbearing, and I just don't have the energy or desire to keep up.

"No thanks, it's okay." I try to put in a bit of a conciliatory tone back into my voice, not wanting to offend too much. "See you both tomorrow."

"Bye bye!" Misha responds cheerily. Shizune continues to ignore me, so I turn and leave the student council room.

As I make my way to the stairwell, I wonder about Nomura, and why she was so rude to Shizune. Maybe she's just used to the way Shizune is, and doesn't have the patience to deal with her like I've been doing? Or maybe that's just how she is? Shizune seemed to tense up the moment she saw her, so I'm guessing this is how they usually interact.

I reach the second floor, and immediately run into problems.

-----

Next Chapter

Wordcount: 2,151 / 2,151
Last edited by Xeraeo on Sat Oct 03, 2020 6:08 pm, edited 8 times in total.
Girls: Emi=Hanako=Lilly>Shizune=Rin
Routes: Lilly=Emi>Hanako>Rin>Shizune

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

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

User avatar
Xeraeo
Posts: 76
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2020 5:48 pm
Location: Chicago(ish), United States

A Work in Progress (1-2)

Post by Xeraeo » Thu Jul 30, 2020 5:53 pm

It's been a couple days since I walked out on my game with Shizune, and she's been much less persistent about trying to get me to join the student council since then, although I doubt she's fully given up just yet. Classes just got out, and I'm walking back from checking the cafeteria with Hanako after unsuccessfully searching it for Lilly. The next and most obvious place to look is in Class 3-2, of course. Come to think of it, I wonder why we didn't start there to begin with.

I only just met Hanako and Lilly the other day, after that fateful Risk game, but I already feel a bit more comfortable with the two of them than I do with Shizune and Misha, although I can't say the same goes for Hanako. After Lilly and Shizune's bizarre argument this morning, I'm just glad that I'm likely to be spending the evening with the person that seemed happy with me at the end. Not that I think Shizune would have been inviting me to hang out today anyway.

She moves to hide behind me as we begin passing another group of students on the stairs. I'm caught a bit off guard by her using me for shelter, and the students don't even seem to be paying any attention to us anyway.

"Hey, are you all right?" I ask her, wondering what this is about. I know she's shy, but is she really hiding from people that aren’t even looking at her? I guess I'm glad she's at least comfortable enough with me to use me as a shield. At least it's a step up from running away from me like the other day.

"J-just keep going…" she replies, so soft I can barely hear her over the chatter of the other students. Once they're past us, she moves back to my side, but the little bit of ease she seemed to gain from our short conversation in the cafeteria is gone now, apparently.

Even as we climb towards the third floor, she doesn't seem to relax. It isn't as if I've never known a shy person before, or even shy girls, but Hanako seems to be pretty far beyond what I'd call normal in her fear of other people.

I continue to think about Hanako and her relationship with Lilly as we make our way to Class 3-2. As we approach, I can hear the many voices of the students working inside.

"Well, I guess we found her…" I wonder if Hanako came here earlier, but was intimidated by the noise and came to me for backup. The thought warms me a little as we step inside the noisy room, Hanako again behind me.

Inside is a hive of activity, seemingly every student in the class talking at once as they work hurriedly on their separate tasks.

---

"Would you be able to help the students painting the main banner? It's a big task for just the two of them, but nobody else can help." Lilly's request is perfectly reasonable, but I'm starting to regret my offer to help. I try not to let it come through in my voice though.

"Kenji? Sure."

She seems surprised that I know him. I can't really blame her.

After a brief discussion, Hanako and I approach Kenji and the student working beside him. Kenji is crouched, painting the letters on the banner with slow, methodical strokes. It takes me a moment, but I realize that the other student is Nomura, the girl I… well 'met' isn't exactly the word for it… in the student council room a couple days ago. She's working on an intricate pattern around the border of the sign, using a combination of blues and purples to produce an almost ocean-wave effect.

Before I have a chance to say anything, I see Nomura's hand twitch, the brush making an irregular stroke that clearly messes up whatever design she was intending.

"Dammit!"

Her voice, while not particularly loud, comes out rather harsh and clearly very upset. Abruptly she stands up, dropping the brush and turning towards the classroom door. Her eyes pass over me as she spins, but if she sees me she doesn't act like it. She starts towards the door, bumps into a desk, mutters something in frustration, and makes a swift exit from the room, her hand sliding along the wall of the classroom before disappearing beyond the doorframe. Hanako and I are left staring after her, wondering why she got so frustrated by just a small mistake.

I see Lilly facing the doorway as well, before turning in our direction. "Ah. I take it that was Nomura?"

"Y-yes…" Hanako responds from beside me.

"I'd best find her then." Lilly clears her throat, and though the noise isn't particularly loud, the students working and chatting around their various projects all quiet down and face her.

"Everyone, please continue working. We still have a lot to finish here, and I would like us to be done before dinnertime. I'll be back in a few minutes." Lilly unfolds her cane from her bag and exits the room while the students resume their work after a moment of watching (or listening to?) her leave.

I glance at Hanako, but if I'm looking for an explanation on what just happened, I should know I'm not going to get it from her. Kenji, for his part, seems completely oblivious to the whole incident.

"Uh, hey, Kenji."

No answer. He continues dragging his paint-soaked brush along the large half-painted kanji that's sketched on the sheet in pencil.

"Kenji?"

---

After a short discussion on the division of labor, Hanako and I get to work on the border, picking up where Nomura left off. Hanako manages to convert the smudge where Nomura messed up into a rather nice-looking accent that adds to the overall wavy effect of the border. I do my best to make my side look as good as hers, although I think I lack some of the delicacy that she's applying to her work.

My confusing conversation with Kenji aside, the work is fairly relaxing, and being beside Hanako without her wanting to run or hide is a nice change of pace. I'm guessing that she's less uncomfortable in here because Class 3-2 has fewer students that could notice her scarring? Whatever it is, it's nice to see her loosen up a little, even if we're not really talking.

Lilly returned a while ago, while most of the other students seemingly finished their tasks and left for the day. Kenji finished the letters on our banner a bit ago, and went to work on a smaller sign off in the corner. When Hanako and I are done we make our way to Lilly to let her know and see if there's anything else she needs help with.

I clear my throat to get her attention. "We've finished the banner. I guess that's all that needs to be done?"

She nods, and offers thanks, but I dismiss it with a comment that this beats studying alone. There's been something else on my mind since we arrived in here.

"That other girl, Nomura. Is she okay?"

Lilly seems to hesitate, but then gives a polite nod. "She's having some difficulties, but she's well enough, for the moment."

I press a little. Something about the way she left bothered me. "It's just that she seemed really upset before, and I'm not sure why. She only made a small mistake on the banner."

I see something click on Lilly's face, but whatever it is, she doesn't seem to want to go into it. "May I ask why you're so interested? Forgive me, Hisao, but it's not really my place to discuss my classmates' issues, especially without their knowledge."

I realize I'm being nosy and rude, which to someone with manners as well-developed as Lilly is probably a cardinal sin.

"Ah, sorry. I was just a bit confused by it all. I'm glad we were able to help."

Hanako nods, but says nothing. Kenji walks by us, giving me a small wave as he leaves, which I return instinctively, even though he probably can't see it. With his departure, I'm left with just Lilly and Hanako.

---

When we reach the dorms and bid each other goodnight, Hanako starts to head inside, but Lilly hesitates.

"Go on ahead, Hanako. I'll be in momentarily."

Hanako looks at the two of us, and for a second I think she's going to protest, but then she turns and enters the female dorm, leaving me and Lilly outside. Lilly turns to me after the door closes behind Hanako.

"Hisao, I apologize for earlier. I didn't mean to be rude or dismissive when you were asking about Nomura. I'm sure you were just worried about her."

I'm a bit taken aback- after I dropped the subject we had spoken about her argument with Shizune, and the upcoming festival, but nothing else about the mysterious girl.

"Ah, no, it was my fault, really. I was being nosy."

She gives a respectful nod to acknowledge my words, but presses on. "To be honest, I've been doing my best to reach out to her, but it seems that she's not interested in my help. She only transferred here a little over a month ago, and despite the best efforts of many of my classmates, the transition has been hard for her."

Wow, she's sharing a lot more information now. I wonder if she was hesitant to before because of Hanako? But why would she be telling me then?

"Um, well I definitely understand what that's like. I've been having trouble adjusting here too, even with everyone trying to help."

Lilly sighs, looking down at the ground between us… well not looking at it, but facing it at least. Her normally composed expression is replaced with one of… exhaustion? It's only momentary, and then her mask of politeness returns as she faces me again.

"Forgive my frankness. It's been… frustrating, and not just for me. I hope you are able to adjust more easily than she has been."

"Uh, thanks?"

She giggles a little. "Regardless, thank you for your help today, Hisao. Really, my class and I appreciate it."

After a few more pleasantries like that, we bid each other good night and head off to our separate dorms. Before dozing off, I remember the nurse's nagging words, and set my alarm to wake me early enough to go jogging again. I told him what he wanted to hear, but honestly I don't know how long I'll be able to keep it up. I was practically dying this morning after just a few laps.

-----

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter

Wordcount: 1,789 / 3,940
Last edited by Xeraeo on Thu Nov 26, 2020 6:49 pm, edited 8 times in total.
Girls: Emi=Hanako=Lilly>Shizune=Rin
Routes: Lilly=Emi>Hanako>Rin>Shizune

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

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

User avatar
Xeraeo
Posts: 76
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2020 5:48 pm
Location: Chicago(ish), United States

A Chance Meeting (1-3)

Post by Xeraeo » Thu Jul 30, 2020 5:57 pm

I managed to drag myself out of bed and down to the track, despite my body's protests. Emi was there before me, just like yesterday, and wasted no time getting me running. She sets a slow pace that I can keep up with, but I can tell that it's bugging her jogging at such a low speed. Compared to how I've seen her run, I know this must be little better than walking.

We're just starting our second lap when Emi apparently runs out of patience and begins to pull ahead of me. For a moment, I'm tempted to try to keep up with her, but I know from seeing her run there's no way I'm going to be able to do that in this sorry state. Soon, she's halfway around the track again in the time it takes me to cover just a couple dozen meters.

Is this even worth it? It sucks feeling just how weak my body has become in just a few months. And this isn't helping me stay motivated to get healthy. If anything, this is the most discouraging thing I could do to myself.

Emi passes me long before I can complete the second lap, shouting out an overly-cheerful encouragement as she flies by that falls on deaf ears. To hell with this, I decide. I'll find another way to keep healthy. Running is not my thing. I slow to a walk, breathing heavily, and start to turn back towards the dorms, but a light breeze rustling the trees behind me makes me pause.

I've spent most of this week in my room or in class, and other than a few instances like the game in the student council room, I've yet to see more of the campus here. After a moment's thought, I shrug to myself and change course, heading for the trees beyond the running track. There's no way I'll be going back to sleep after getting my heart rate up like this, but I still have some time before classes start. I figure I might as well get some kind of exercise if I'm not going to even finish my run.

I notice a narrow path as I approach the tree line and change course towards it, making my way into the woods. Glancing back, I see Emi watching me with her head tilted slightly, so I give her a little wave. She doesn't return it, and I snort, guessing at the look of disappointment on her face as I go deeper into the woods. I can't exactly blame her, but she shouldn't be expecting anything from me. It's not like we really know each other, and I didn't make any promises.

The forest is quiet, and I'm surprised just how far back this wooded area goes. Is this all still the school's property? I think I've gone several hundred meters now, and looking back the buildings are no longer in sight. The wind rustles the leaves of the canopy above me, and the scents of grass and deadwood and wilderness all seem to hit me at once. I stop walking, just taking it all in, my eyes closing for several long seconds. I feel like I just stepped into a different world.

An odd sound reaches my ears. It was momentary, and not very loud, but it was somehow different from the rest of the noises of the forest around me. Unnatural. I open my eyes, looking around, but nothing presents itself as immediately obvious.

I'm about to dismiss it and continue up the path, when I hear it again. A distinct… twang? It's hard to locate it, but this time I can tell that it's coming from further up the path, so I proceed, my eyes sweeping back and forth for the source of the noise.

I hear it several more times as I walk further, the path gradually shifting to an uphill climb. The noise is spaced out irregularly, with perhaps half a minute or more between each occurrence, but it's definitely getting louder as I walk, so I must be getting closer to the source.

The next time I hear it, as I'm approaching the top of the hill, I hear another sound as well; a soft thud, moments after the first sound. Both sounds are loud enough to hear clearly at this point, but I still have no idea what they could be. I crest the hill and stop, taking in the sight in front of me.

Just over the top of the hill, the path leads into a small clearing, maybe 20 or 30 meters across. The grass is uncut and wild, nearly a meter high in places, and at one end of the clearing a massive, fallen oak tree lies sideways, covering a large part of the expanse with its broken limbs. It's clearly been down for a long time, because I can tell even from a distance that the wood is rotten and hollow, with many holes and gaps throughout the once-great trunk.

The most distinctive sight in front of me, however, is not the fallen tree. Across from it, on the side of the clearing near to where the path emerges stands a lone figure. Even though she's facing away from me, I recognize her immediately this time.

Hitomi Nomura.

Her long, dark brown hair is tied back in a side-tail that falls along her left shoulder and down her back. She's not wearing her school uniform this time, instead dressed in loose black pants and a green tank top that leaves her arms bare. Her left forearm, however, has some kind of leather pad or bracer that covers most of its length from elbow to wrist. She's wearing a matching fingerless glove on her right hand as well, and the overall look is somehow archaic.

I notice all of this several seconds after I reach the clearing, because the very first thing I see is the tall bamboo bow in Nomura's hands. Having grown up in the city, I don't know much about Kyudo, but I've seen it on TV a few times. The height of the bows always surprised me. Hers doesn't look quite as big as some of the ones I've seen, but it's still impressive, perhaps a quarter meter taller than Hitomi herself is. As I watch, she raises the bow high above her head, nocking an arrow to the string, and then lowering and drawing the bow in one smooth motion.

The wind seems to die down. For a precious few moments, all is quiet, save for the irregular beating of my heart.

Twang!

Thud!

With a motion so small I can barely detect it, Nomura releases the bowstring, and a shaft of bamboo flies across the clearing and embeds itself firmly into the rotten wood of the oak trunk. Seeing where it strikes, I notice several other shafts sticking out of the trunk as well, all within an area that's maybe the size of my torso.

Wow.

I look back to Nomura, and unlike the other few times I've encountered her, her expression isn't one of apathy or frustration. She's smiling, and not just a small smile like I've occasionally seen on Hanako, but a wide, satisfied grin. Gently, she lowers the bow, placing it delicately in the grass at her feet, and then walks towards the oak, perhaps to check her shots up close? She crosses the clearing with a swift, confident stride, and when she reaches the tree she spends several seconds just looking at her work before deftly plucking each arrow out of the rotten wood.

When she turns around, her eyes lock onto me, and even at this distance, I can see her tense up. I considered hiding, but it seemed a bit childish, so I just stand my ground, waiting for her to say something. After a few seconds of this, she walks back to where she left her bow, glancing at me sideways every now and then.

"What?" Her voice is challenging, but still soft enough that I only just hear it from this distance.

I don't know how to answer such a direct question. Slowly, I approach her, suddenly nervous. Why am I nervous?

"Um, sorry. I didn't realize anyone was out here."

She lets out that snort again, like she did in the student council room when she saw me playing Risk with Shizune and Misha. Like I'm amusing, but only slightly.

"That's the point of coming out here. Nobody does." She unstrings her bow as she says this, a motion that takes a surprising amount of technique. I watch for several seconds without responding, unsure what I can even say to that.

Nomura closes her eyes for a moment, and takes a deep breath. When she opens them, I'm a little nervous that she's about to tell me off, but then her eyes meet mine, and her face softens.

"Sorry. I just like the quiet. You're new here, right?"

"Uh, yeah. Hisao Nakai. I'm in 3-3." Stupid introduction, but I'm lost for what else to say.

"Hitomi Nomura. 3-2. Yes, that's the blind class."

Now I'm really lost for what to say. I know some students in 3-2 are only partially blind, like Kenji, but after what I just witnessed, I seriously doubt Hitomi falls into that category. Hell, her eyesight is probably better than mine.

"So, Hakamichi's class, huh? That must be tons of fun. She rope you into the student council yet?"

I laugh awkwardly, thankful for something I actually can respond to. "No, uh, she tried for a bit, but I told her it wasn't gonna happen. Actually, thanks for the other day."

Now it's her turn to be unsure about what to say, or at least it looks like it for a few seconds.

"I don't understand." It's not a question, and yet it is. She looks right at me, expectantly.

"When you showed up after classes, when she had me playing a board game. Your interruption helped me get out of there."

Nomura nods. "Hakamichi isn't that hard to deal with, if you know how. Just don't let her push you around."

"I'll keep that in mind. Thanks."

Another awkward pause, this time with neither of us really knowing what to say. She bends down, picks up her bow, and looks at me again.

"We should probably head back if we're going to make it to class."

I glance at my watch; she's right. At my pretty limited walking pace, by the time I can get back to the dorms, shower, change, and head to the main building, I'll just barely make it before the bell.

"Right. Uh…"

She walks past me, either not understanding the reason for my hesitation or not caring. I follow, quickly catching up to walk alongside her, although at a comfortable distance. I guess walking back together isn't something that bothers her.

I struggle to think of something else to talk about as we walk through the woods, but everything I come up with sounds so lame in my head that I can't force the words out. The only thing I really want to ask about: why she's in Class 3-2, is probably not exactly appropriate. For her part, Nomura seems entirely comfortable with the silence, so after several minutes I decide to be as well.

We reach the edge of the running track in less than 5 minutes. As separate and otherworldly as the clearing felt, it really isn’t all that far from the school. I notice with a bit of relief that Emi is gone now, likely getting ready for class like everyone else. Nomura and I continue on towards the dorms, still without conversation. As we cross the campus, the silence grows uncomfortable again, at least for me. Something about the woods made it feel more natural, but now that we're clearly at school, it's just awkward.

When we reach the dorms, Nomura pauses, and turns to me.

"Thanks for the company, Nakai. It was less unpleasant than most."

"Hisao." I blurt out before I can stop myself.

Shit, that was dumb. Quick, need to backpedal…

She smirks at my flustered face. "Hitomi, then." She gives me a quick nod, then turns and enters the girls dorm without another word, leaving me standing outside feeling like an idiot.

As I rush into my own dorm to get ready as quickly as I can, I recall the speed she moved when retrieving her arrows, and again just now when entering the girls dorm. I think back to when I first met her as well, and how swiftly she entered and left the student council room, in and out in less than a minute. She doesn't waste time, moving with a sort of quiet efficiency that's not unlike Shizune. In fact, every time I've seen her move, it's always with a mixture of speed and grace. It's probably the most distinctive thing I've noticed about her.

Except just now, when we were walking back together, she matched my pace.

-----

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter

Wordcount: 2,183 / 6,123
Last edited by Xeraeo on Mon Oct 12, 2020 11:45 pm, edited 6 times in total.
Girls: Emi=Hanako=Lilly>Shizune=Rin
Routes: Lilly=Emi>Hanako>Rin>Shizune

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

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

User avatar
Xeraeo
Posts: 76
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2020 5:48 pm
Location: Chicago(ish), United States

Reflections and Regrets (1-4)

Post by Xeraeo » Thu Jul 30, 2020 6:00 pm

I head back to my dorm, the half-day of classes we finally finished somehow still feeling like an exhausting amount of time. I don't know why I'm so tired. Maybe it's just the whole week coming down on me, but I just feel overwhelmed by it all. I'm looking forward to a quiet evening, and maybe doing something fun at the festival tomorrow.

As I make my way back I pass dozens of students rushing one way or another, likely in preparation for the festival tomorrow. I didn't see Hanako ahead of me after I left the classroom, so I'm guessing she went to the library as she always seems to. Briefly, I consider turning around and checking if she's there, but decide against it. I'm sure she'd rather be alone anyway.

I set my bag down and start to pull off my uniform with a long sigh. It's barely the afternoon, but it feels like evening already. I had intended to go for another walk after classes since I woke up too late to do it this morning, but now I just want to read something. Maybe later.

After changing into something more comfortable, I prop up my pillow against the wall and lean back onto my bed, pulling a book from the stack on my bedside table. It's an older sci-fi title, one I hadn't heard of before, but apparently is considered a classic. At least, according to the back cover it is...

I crack it open and try to lose myself in a world apart from my own, as has become my habit. Escaping into the lives of fictional characters has become a welcome distraction from my own unpleasant state, and even though I'm no longer in the hospital, I still like to get away sometimes. Soon, I'm in a universe of star-spanning empires, millennia-long wars, epic romances, and…

---

I sit up with a start, my neck aching badly from the way my head was hanging sideways. It takes me a few moments of blinking and shaking my head before my consciousness returns enough to take stock of my surroundings. The book is lying face down on the floor beside my bed, apparently having fallen from my hands. I must have dozed off while reading. It's not shocking, considering how tired I was. Daylight still streams through my blinds, so it couldn’t have been that long, right?

My watch tells me that I must have been out for well over two hours. Not a bad nap, even if I took it sitting up, but I'm left with the problem of what to do with myself for the rest of the day. I pick up the book again, but quickly realize I have absolutely no idea what page I was on when I knocked out. Nor do I feel like trying to figure it out. Frustrated, I close it again and drop it back on top of the stack. I'll try it again later, I tell myself. It did seem interesting; I was just too tired to get into it.

Standing up, I stretch for a few seconds, thinking about how to spend the rest of my day. If I'm not gonna read, or sleep, there's nothing to do in my dorm room. I pretty much finished all my homework earlier, so that just leaves finding something to do outside. However, I'm way too tired to deal with people right now.

I peek out my blinds, and see that the area from the main building and the dorms, including the park between them is abuzz with activity. Students and faculty rush back and forth carrying bits and pieces of stalls, decorations, furniture, and other necessities for tomorrow's various activities like a hive of worker bees. Right below me, several students are setting up what looks like a portable stage with rows of chairs under the supervision of a female teacher I don't recognize.

Part of me feels guilty for not doing more to help out with the festival. Other than helping Lilly's class with their stall banner on Thursday, I really didn't contribute much. I only arrived this week so it's not like there was a whole lot I could have done to help, but I'm not used to being so useless and the added feeling of guilt only makes that worse.

Maybe I could go out there and find something to do? I'm sure someone I've met so far has something even I can help with. Surely Shizune and Misha would appreciate it if I offered to help out, even this late into the preparations. I consider the idea for a few moments.

Nah.

Ultimately, the guilt I'm feeling right now is unreasonable. I just transferred in. Nobody expects anything from me just yet, except maybe Shizune, but I don't care about that. Right now, I need to focus on settling in here. I can't help it that the festival was the week I arrived. I'm sure that I'll be able to help much more for the next big school event.

Assuming you live that long.

Shaking that thought out of my head, I throw on my shoes and head outside, still unsure what exactly I'm going to do, but knowing that lying in bed thinking is probably the worst option. Even walking around thinking beats that, as I learned in the hospital.

God, I need to STOP thinking about the hospital…

I emerge from the male dorm, nodding at a younger-looking student I don't recognize as he rushes past me and through the door. This whole area is swarming with people, but there's plenty of Yamaku that I have yet to see. With seemingly everyone concentrated around here, maybe now is a good time to explore a bit. I meant to get a walk in, anyway.

I smirk to myself as I start to walk. Yeah. I'm just getting my exercise in, like the nurse told me to.

Picking a random direction, I try to keep a brisk pace as I leave the dorms and the sound of busy students behind me.

---

Yamaku is massive. Maybe if I had done like Shizune said I should have and actually looked the school up at some point, I would have realized that it sits on a far bigger area of land than any normal high school. The campus dominates the top of the hill, with various educational and recreational facilities, open walking areas, living quarters, and undeveloped land stretching across an area the size of several city blocks. Many of the buildings I passed such as the performing arts center and the gymnasium had students occasionally going in and out of them with various odds and ends, likely bringing additional last-minute supplies to the festival grounds. I avoided entering any of those particular buildings, figuring that was the best way to avoid running into someone I know.

I did manage to find the pool that Misha and the Nurse mentioned on my first day, as well as a room of various equipment I assume is used for physical therapy. Luckily for me, my condition only requires me to get simple exercise, so at least I'll be spared the indignity of having someone hold my hand through basic motions again. Despite the rarity of human interaction during my hospital stay, I dreaded the physical therapy sessions. Having a condescending nurse telling me to raise and lower my arms twenty times in a row is about the most humiliating thing I've ever gone through.

After checking out a few more buildings I end up wandering the grounds at random, getting lost in my head yet again.

I've been here a week now. Well, technically six days. I didn't know what to expect from this place, but I guess it could be worse. After being the focus of attention for a long time whenever I saw another person, being able to at least try to blend in again has been good. That being said, I haven't been doing the best job of it. Mutou asked me yesterday how I've been settling in and I told him I was doing okay, but honestly I'm not really sure. Am I?

Have I at least started to make any friends? Back at my old school I wasn't the most popular kid or anything (which was fine with me) but I had a few pretty close friends. Shin, Takumi and Mai were all cool and it really sucked when they stopped showing up to see me. I get it; I was probably no fun either, but still, it hurt. I think back over the various students I've met so far over the last week.

On my first day here, Shizune and Misha were really the only other students I talked to. At first I thought they were just trying to be friendly, but pretty quickly they made it clear they were just trying to get me to join the student council. Still, I could probably have turned them down and still hung out with them sometimes, instead of just blowing them off like I've been doing. We really only talk in class now, and while Misha seems just as friendly I get the feeling that Shizune doesn't really care for me.

Emi was friendly, but I think I might have pissed her off a bit when I ditched her at the track yesterday morning. She still invited me to lunch, but it was kinda awkward, and I doubt she'll be doing it again. I know I could have been nicer to her. Even if nurse had assigned her to it, she was just trying to be helpful.

There was that girl without arms that's Emi's friend. Rin. I actually told her about my condition, but despite that I don't think we'll ever be friends. She seems so odd, and the impression I got was that having a conversation with her is more like trying to interpret a piece of abstract art than actually talking with a person.

Hanako. We've interacted a few times now, and I get the feeling that she's not as uncomfortable around me as she was when we met, but that's hardly enough to call us 'friends'. She still seemed awkward after class today and left without saying anything to me, so I doubt there's any chance of much happening there. Too bad, really. She's kinda cute, even with the scars.

There's Lilly, who of everyone I've met here so far has perhaps been the friendliest to me, but I can't help but feel like she sees me as some poor lost lamb that needs to be taken care of. Well, not 'sees' me, but… yeah. On our way back up the hill from town yesterday with Rin, she noticed my breathing and immediately asked me about it. I brushed her off; honestly, why would I tell her about my heart after only meeting her a few days ago?

Every group of people has at least one asshole. If the group you're in doesn't: the asshole is you.

That little snippet of 'wisdom' that I heard from Shin years ago (he said it was from his dad) suddenly pops into my head. Maybe I'm the one who just sucks at getting along with people? Everyone's been at least somewhat friendly to me this week. I'm just getting offended too easily and blowing people off. If I want to actually take advantage of this fresh start I told myself I was here for, I should probably get my shit together and make some friends.

There is one person I've met, though, who I didn't feel like wanting to be alone after hanging out with her. Hitomi. It’s weird: I've probably spent less time with her than anyone else I've thought of just now. Hell, even Kenji and I have talked a lot more, though that was far less enjoyable. But something about her actually interests me, and I can't place why. Is it her placement in the blind class? The way she talked to and about Shizune? Was it the Kyudo thing?

I look up from my feet, and laugh aloud as I realize where I am. I've just stepped into the clearing that I met her in yesterday. It's empty, as I assume it usually is, but I'm immediately brought back to the sight of her smiling with satisfaction after hitting her target. The memory makes me smile as well.

She's really cute, but is that all it is?

Most of the girls I've met here are pretty attractive, in one way or another. Lilly might be the most beautiful girl I've met in person. Comparatively, Hitomi is cute, but not in a way that stands out from the others. That can't be all there is to it.

So why am I so drawn to her?

I find that the path continues beyond the clearing, and keep walking down it, wondering how far it goes before it ends or turns back. No point in dwelling on this right now. Maybe it's just because she acts so differently, or because she's another transfer student, like me. She's a mystery, so that makes her interesting. Yeah. That must be it.

The trees have been thinning ahead of me, and suddenly the path ends abruptly as they part, revealing an overlook. To the side, an old wooden bench faces out over the view. The hill drops steeply ahead, not straight down or anything but too steep to comfortably walk up or down. Further down, the town that sits under Yamaku is spread out and visible, the lights of the various shops and homes just starting to come on as the evening light wanes. Beyond the town, many kilometers further out, I can see the taller buildings of downtown Sendai and the sprawl of urban mess surrounding them. I haven't visited the city yet, but I think I'll need to do so soon to gain some semblance of familiarity. It's not Tokyo, but it's the closest thing I'm gonna get to it around here.

I consider sitting on the bench for a while and enjoying the view further, but I realize that the sun will be setting pretty soon, and I don't have any source of light with me besides my cell phone. Navigating these woods alone and in the dark is probably not a good idea for anyone, particularly someone like me who's been out of the hospital for less than a week.

Regretfully, I take one last look out at the distant skyline, then turn back and begin the long walk to the dorms. Hopefully I'll be able to sleep better tonight.

-----

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter

Wordcount: 2,450 / 8,573
Last edited by Xeraeo on Sat Oct 03, 2020 6:09 pm, edited 5 times in total.
Girls: Emi=Hanako=Lilly>Shizune=Rin
Routes: Lilly=Emi>Hanako>Rin>Shizune

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

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

User avatar
Xeraeo
Posts: 76
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2020 5:48 pm
Location: Chicago(ish), United States

Aim Small, Miss Small (1-5)

Post by Xeraeo » Thu Jul 30, 2020 6:04 pm

That was a close call…

I walk out of the dorm and into the ongoing festival, glad to be alone.

For some reason, I decided to ask Kenji what he was doing for the festival. I don't know why I bothered; he went into a panic and started ranting about how terrible everything was, and that we needed to hide out for the whole thing. The scary part is that for a minute there, he started to make sense. I almost agreed to go up and build a fucking fort with him on the roof of the school when common sense got the better of me.

If Kenji is starting to make sense now, you need to get away and do the opposite…

Making a bad excuse that I had forgotten something important, I managed to get away without promising to help him with his fort. As bizarre as the guy's mind is, something tells me he'd remember a broken promise. Still having no idea what I wanted to do today, just knowing that I didn't want to do that, I made my way outside, and here I am.

I wander around for a while, not really talking to anyone. There's an interesting mix of people in attendance, made up of students' family members and what I assume are residents of the town, most of whom are older. I watch a few of the games at the stalls from the various classes and other vendors, but none of them interest me enough to try. At one point I spot some of the stalls being manned by my own classmates, and make sure to avoid them, glancing over my shoulder for the student council every few minutes.

Somewhere along the line, I buy some takoyaki and take a few minutes to sit on a bench and eat it. Across from me is a stall with one of the vendors that come in for the festival but aren't part of the school. An older man with loose, greying hair and dressed in a tattered western-style suit is manning the booth, which looks to be a shooting game involving pellet rifles and stacks of empty soda cans. A few children and a couple Yamaku students try the game while I watch and eat my food, but only one of them manages to score well enough to win a prize; a small stuffed dog that I vaguely recognize from an anime, although I can't remember which one.

I get up and throw away my paper plate in a nearby trash bin, and am about to continue my wandering when I hear a sharp whistle. The stall owner is looking at me, and he gestures me over. Not having anything better to do, I meander up to him, raising an eyebrow.

"Hey, kid. You look like a decent shot. Care to try it out?" His voice is a bit rough, but his eyes have a gentle appearance that puts me at ease. The guy seems a little weird, but friendly enough. Figuring I might as well play at least one game at the festival, I give a noncommittal shrug and pick up a pellet rifle after paying the small fee, while the vendor explains the rules to me.

There are three stacks of three cans, nine in total, each arranged like a small pyramid. I only get five shots to knock over as many cans as I can. Thinking it through, the most I can manage is probably 8 out of the 9, even if I make all 5 shots. I guess part of it is just the luck of how the cans fall down. I try to get a feel for the rifle, but I've only used one of these things once or twice, so I'm not exactly confident. It's one of those that you have to pump a lever between shots, which means 5 shots actually might take me a while.

The vendor tells me to fire when ready, so I take careful aim, and fire my first shot. I miss the can I was aiming for, but luckily hit the one beside it, knocking over both it and the can that was above both of them.

"Good shot."

It was a little left of where I was aiming, so after pumping the rifle I adjust and aim for the same can again. This time, I hit it, and the can bounces away with a ping!

"Three more. See, I knew you'd be a natural!"

Feeling pretty confident, I pump the rifle again and start to line up my third shot when a softer voice over my shoulder suddenly addresses me.

"Not bad. I'd aim a bit lower than that, though."

The timing is unfortunate, because I recognize the voice barely a moment before I fire, and my shot goes wide. This time, I miss the cans completely. I turn to see Hitomi giving me a smirk, and I'm about to complain that she messed up my shot, but the words die in my throat. She's wearing the same green tank top as yesterday morning, but she's traded out the longer pants for some denim shorts, and she looks good. Seeing her up close in clothes like this, I realize that she's in remarkably good shape.

"Sorry, probably should have let you finish first."

Shit, did she realize I was checking her out?

"Ah, it's okay. I still get two more tries."

She just nods for me to go ahead, so I turn back to the booth and take aim again. My concentration is in tatters now, and I manage to knock over only one can with each of my last two shots for a total score of 5. The vendor pretends to be disappointed, but I'm sure he does that for everyone who fails at his game.

"Ah, not enough, I'm afraid. Care to try again?"

I turn back to Hitomi, who's still watching me with an expression I would best interpret as mild curiosity.

"Want a turn?"

"At this?" Her eyes briefly skim over the prizes behind me before returning to mine. "Not particularly."

A voice suddenly intrudes on our quiet conversation with the subtlety of a herd of elephants. "Hicchan! There you are! We've been wondering if you were even at the festival!"

I turn to Misha, who as usual is accompanied by the student council president. While Misha is addressing me, Shizune is entirely focused on Hitomi, who for her part looks unsurprised by the sudden arrival of our elected representatives. Or benevolent dictators. I haven't quite gotten the read on which it is yet.

"Uh, yeah, hey Misha. Having fun?"

"Yup! We’ve been- Oh, sorry Shicchan, um-" she cuts herself off as Shizune begins signing, still focused on Hitomi. I wish Shizune would at least let Misha finish her own sentences before commandeering her voice like this. It's confusing enough as it is understanding who is speaking when.

"I see you're enjoying the festival, Nomura. It's good you don't mind taking advantage of the hard work of others. I'm not sure I could handle attending myself if I hadn't done so much to prepare for it, but I guess we can't all care so much for the student body."

For someone who claims to be mute, Shizune sure has a big mouth. I expect Hitomi to respond with something biting, but she simply nods along as Misha translates, apparently unconcerned with Shizune's passive-aggressive remarks.

"Okay."

Her deadpan acceptance of the diatribe takes Shizune off-guard, which I take more satisfaction in than is probably healthy. She tends to take every interaction as a challenge, from what I can tell, and Hitomi seems to be a challenge she can't figure out the rules to. Her eyes dart around, apparently searching for something, then fall to the pellet rifle I'm still holding.

"Hisao, were you showing Nomura here how to shoot? I'm sure I could add a few tips. Really, Shicchan? I didn't know you knew how to shoot!"

"No, actually, I-"

"Yeah. He's pretty good. Got 5 points." How Hitomi manages to cut me off with such a quiet voice is confusing, but for some reason I feel like I should stop talking the instant she starts.

"Ooh, interesting! Think you can do better?" Now Shizune's eyes are practically sparkling, and not in an alluring way.

Hitomi just shrugs, but then she turns to the vendor behind us and takes out a small wallet, pulling out the amount for a round of the game. Shizune moves forward and does the same, so Misha and I step to the side to watch while the older man retrieves a second rifle. Each girl takes one and looks it over. I notice Shizune inspecting it thoroughly, particularly looking at the rear sight. I wonder if I was supposed to do that too. Hitomi only gives it a cursory once-over, before tucking the stock into her shoulder in a way that looks a lot more natural than it felt when I did it.

"For a competitive round, each of you lovely ladies gets five shots." The vendor explains with a smile. "The winner is the one with the most points, although you need at least 15 points for a prize, even if you win."

I'm confused how that's supposed to work with only 9 possible points, but then I see him adding several more cans to the stacks. Now there are three pyramids of 9 cans, for a total of 27 possible points, although how anyone could get more than maybe 12 I don't really know.

The girls both simply nod, not that I expected either of them to say anything. As they each raise their rifles, I glance at Misha, wondering why she's been so quiet. She's staring intently at Shizune, watching her face as she lines up a careful shot, and it makes me wonder what it is that causes Misha to put up with her.

"Fire when ready." the vendor drones.

Shizune fires immediately, hitting the can furthest to the bottom right and causing two cans above it to tumble down as well. She turns to Hitomi, who hasn't fired yet, and I can see the smirk of triumph on her face- but then Hitomi fires with the same result on the leftmost pyramid, immediately pumps the rifle, and fires again, taking out the remaining cans of the pyramid, and pumping again.

Shizune's eyes widen, and she turns back, pumping her rifle and firing again, knocking over two more cans just as Hitomi's third shot strikes the corner can of the center pyramid, bringing her score to like 11 or 12. Shizune tries to rush out her shots, but she only manages to get to her fourth a few seconds after Hitomi's last shot has been fired, which took out the lone remaining can from the second pyramid, the first having been devastated in the initial two shots. Shizune has one shot left, but all cans have been knocked down in the space of just a few seconds.

With a silent cry of frustration, Shizune drops her rifle to the counter and turns to glare at Hitomi, who, for her part, lowers her rifle calmly and hands it back to the vendor, who looks about as shell-shocked as I feel. It took her less than 10 seconds to fire all five shots, and she didn't waste any of them.

"Ah, well, that's uh…" the vendor scratches his head while looking over the fallen cans. "Looks like 18 to 9. That's enough for one of the bigger ones, my dear." He removes a larger version of the stuffed anime dog from the shelf behind him, and hands it to Hitomi. She looks at it for a moment, then turns and offers it to Shizune.

"Want it?"

Shizune practically growls at her in response, but then seems to compose herself, before gesturing to Misha to translate for her. Misha looks about as stunned as the rest of us, but a few quick snaps from Shizune get her attention.

"It is your prize. Had I known this was a competition of speed, perhaps things would have gone differently."

Hitomi just shrugs, but Shizune continues.

"You can give it to your boyfriend- what? Oh, Shicchan, don't tease poor Hicchan like that! Aw, look, now he's embarrassed…"

She's not wrong. I'm trying to play it cool, but the boyfriend comment came out of nowhere, and I've always been a blusher. I clear my throat and then, in a voice I intend to sound manly but instead comes out kinda squeaky, say "I'm surprised, Shizune. I assumed you'd at least score more than half of what Hitomi did."

That seems to take the wind out of her sails, because she straightens herself up and begins to walk off, signing while looking at me impassively. Misha translates as she starts to follow.

"There will be fireworks later. I hear they'll be better this year than last, so you should stick around until dark, Hisao. Enjoy the festival. Really, have fun, Hicchan!"

"Uh, thanks, Misha. Shizune. You too."

As they disappear into the crowd, I turn back to Hitomi, who's watching them go as well with a satisfied grin. It's nothing like the one she had when I found her with her bow, more like a 5% version of it. Just barely there, but you can see it if you're looking. She turns to face me again, and I feel myself flush a little as she raises the stuffed dog again.

"I guess I won this for you." Her deadpan expression as she says that makes me laugh, but she doesn't lower the dog. I take it, slowly, and she smiles at me.

"Thanks... That was really amazing, you know."

"Yeah." And without another word, she turns and starts to head off in the opposite direction of Shizune and Misha, leaving me standing there watching her go like an idiot. After a few steps, she looks at me over her shoulder.

"Coming?"

The question seems so innocent, yet somehow it makes me incredibly nervous. She wants me to come with her? I nod and move to catch up, squeezing the stuffed dog hard to dispel some of my anxiety. When I reach her, she continues walking, but she's moving slowly again. At the pace I normally walk. The realization makes me blush again, and I'm glad that she's not really looking at me, instead facing ahead and looking around at the various stalls and other festival activities around us.

"Where are we going?"

She just shrugs, but we keep walking and I realize that I don't really care either, so I don't ask again.

-----

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter

Wordcount: 2,455 / 11,028
Last edited by Xeraeo on Sat Oct 03, 2020 6:35 pm, edited 6 times in total.
Girls: Emi=Hanako=Lilly>Shizune=Rin
Routes: Lilly=Emi>Hanako>Rin>Shizune

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

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

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Xeraeo
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Location: Chicago(ish), United States

The Thundering Abyss (1-6)

Post by Xeraeo » Thu Jul 30, 2020 6:08 pm

Hitomi and I wander around the festival together for a while, settling into a comfortable rhythm. Neither of us speaks, and neither of us questions it. Sometimes she seems to be the one choosing the direction we walk; sometimes it's me steering us, but regardless, we walk beside each other. A few times we stop and watch while someone plays a particularly interesting game, then keep walking before the vendor can try to call us over.

At some point, I'm starting to feel a bit worn down from the exertion of walking so much, and as embarrassing as it is I steer us towards an unoccupied bench to rest for a bit. I expect Hitomi to say something, but she just sits beside me, glancing at me before returning her attention to the crowd around us.

She's so confusing; normally when a girl acts like this, quiet and stealing glances, you would think she was nervous, but if she is she's not showing it in any other ways. I get the feeling that she's just comfortable and doesn't feel the need to intrude on that with conversation. I can be that way, at times, but this is to a whole new level. There's something about it that's not making sense to me though.

"Hey, Hitomi?"

She turns to me, her eyes penetrating mine. "Yes?"

I blink; going from occasional glances to a full stare is unnerving. "Um, you said before that you liked the quiet. You know, being away from people." She just nods, so I continue. "Why is it that you don't mind being here, in the crowd?"

"Being in a crowd is like being alone." she answers immediately, turning to face forward again. "When people are everywhere, they don't see each other. They just see a crowd."

I sit back and think about her confident statement. I guess there's logic to that. When you're with a few people, you notice all of them, but in large groups your mind tends to pay less attention to them. I've certainly felt alone many nights wandering around the streets of Tokyo when my parents were working late, and I was surrounded by people. I guess for Hitomi, crowds wouldn't be a big deal then.

"Huh. I guess I never thought about it that way, but I think that's true."

"Why?"

As usual, Hitomi's blunt and somewhat vague question catches me off guard, and I have to think about what she means before I can answer her. "Well, I've been around crowds my whole life, but there's been plenty of times I felt like I was totally alone. Like nobody around me really was seeing me. I just didn't really put it together like that."

She nods, glancing at me, then back out again. Her expression is still calm, but maybe she is nervous after all?

"I see you, though."

The words are out of my mouth before I can stop them.

What the hell? Seriously?

Hitomi glances at me again, but this time she holds my gaze for a second or two before looking away, as if she was evaluating my statement. "I know. I don't mind."

I take a moment to process that.

"Are you hungry?"

Again, her question takes me by surprise. "Uh, yeah, I guess I could eat. What do you want?"

She shrugs as she stands up, and I follow. We start to wander again, but this time with a purpose: finding food.

We pass several stalls serving various low-quality dishes before coming to one I recognize; the stall from Hitomi's class. It's a lot larger than many of the others, and the banner Hanako and I helped with is hanging along the top of it. Behind the counter, I see several of the students from her class, including one particularly tall blonde that I know.

---

After a brief conversation with Lilly and ordering enough miso soup for both me and Hitomi, I retreat back to where she's standing, looking around at the surrounding people passing her by.

Like an island in a storm.

She hesitated as I approached the stall so I went on ahead and ordered for both of us, and since she waited for me I guess it was the right call. We wander to a nearby empty area of grass and sit down to eat our meal.

"You didn't want to go to your class's stall?" I ask between spoonfuls of soup. She just shakes her head in reply.

"Why?"

I try one of her questions, open ended and straightforward. Maybe she'll appreciate it?

She seems to consider it for a few long seconds. "I helped them out earlier today. Opening packages of noodles and stuff, mostly. I didn't really want to go back to doing it now though."

I'm a bit embarrassed at the realization that even Hitomi helped out with her class's stall, despite how disconnected from everyone she seems to be. I don't even know what my classmates are up to. Not wanting to question her further on it, I change the subject. There's something I've been wanting to ask her, but I'm a bit worried at how to do it in a way that's inoffensive. To her credit, Hitomi doesn't seem to be easily offended.

"So, why did they put you in Class 3-2 anyway? I thought it was just for blind students."

She takes another mouthful of soup, and takes her time enjoying it before swallowing it down and looking at me again. She holds my gaze, and I force myself to not look away. After several seconds, she finally replies.

"Because I'm going blind."

I blink, suddenly much more worried that I offended her, but she doesn't seem upset. Then again, I don't know her well, and she's expressed very little emotion that I've seen, so how would I know? I had assumed that since she's obviously not blind the answer was administrative, like there wasn't room in another class for her, or something.

"Oh. I'm sorry."

She nods. "Yeah. Me too."

I look away, expecting the conversation to end there, but she continues.

"A few months ago, I was in an accident. Just a car accident, nothing too serious from what they told me. But I hit my head pretty hard, and when I woke up I was blind. They did a bunch of tests, tried to figure out what was wrong, but they said my eyes were fine. Something got messed up in my head, I guess, and it was making me blind."

I try to take that all in, but there's a rather large hole in her story. Not that I'm going to question her. This is the most I've ever heard Hitomi talk by far, and I'm not going to interrupt her.

"After a few days, my vision came back. They said it was a miracle. I went home, went back to school, and everything was fine. Until a week later, it happened again. Blind."

I can't help myself. "Like, completely blind? Like Lilly?"

She nods. "Not even black. Just… nothing. It happened when I was sleeping; I woke up and I couldn't see. My mom came when I started screaming." She says this all in a perfectly calm, flat voice, but her eyes are no longer focused on me. She's staring off into the distance, recalling the experience, and I recognize that look. It's the same vacant stare I've seen in the mirror in the months since my heart attack.

I try to imagine what that morning must have been like for her. Thinking that she had recovered, only for the thing she had thought she escaped to return like that. I vaguely remember that my great uncle recovered from lung cancer when I was much younger, and then it came back and killed him almost 5 years later. It was a shock to my whole family. How terrifying must that have been? Is that anything like what Hitomi felt like?

"My vision comes and goes now. Sometimes I can see fine for a whole week again. Other times, I lose it almost every day. When it's gone, it can last a whole day, or for just a few minutes. No way to know."

"And the doctors, they don't know…?"

"Nobody does. They had a specialist do scans of my brain, but he couldn't tell what was wrong. They said they've never seen this before." She smiles slightly, and I realize it might be because she recognized what she just said. "Since there's no reason to think I'm getting better, though, they think that eventually when it happens it won't come back."

So every time Hitomi loses her vision, for all she knows it's the last time she'll ever see?

"Jesus…"

"Come on, let's give them our bowls back."

Her sudden change of topic throws me less than the other times, and I go with her to the stall. This time she doesn't hesitate to approach, and we give Lilly our bowls together.

"Ah, Hitomi, thank you for your help earlier. I take it you and Hisao have met, then?"

"Yes." Lilly waits for more of a response, but doesn't get it.

"Well, that's nice then. Make sure to enjoy the rest of the festival. I hear the fireworks will be lovely this year."

"Thanks, Lilly." I reply. "We'll be sure to find a good place to watch them. What will you be doing?"

"Ah, well, I think I'll go find out what Hanako's been up to. You haven't happened to see her around anywhere, have you?"

"No, I haven't but if I had to guess I'd say she's probably in the library."

Lilly nods. "That's the first place I'll be checking when I can get away for a bit. Thank you anyway, Hisao. Hitomi."

We leave the stall and go back to wandering in silence, but this time I have far more on my mind. I thought my condition was unfair, but Hitomi… I can't imagine what it must be like for her. At least I get some signs that an attack is coming, and there are ways to deal with it. From what she just told me, it sounds like she doesn't even get warning signs. How can she really do anything, knowing that her eyes might just turn off at any time?

---

At some point, by unspoken agreement, we ended up wandering away from the festival and towards the woods. Despite the growing dark I don't mind too much, since we're able to see enough to follow the path to the clearing. When we reach it, Hitomi finds an area of shorter grass and lies down on it, facing the sky. I lie beside her, keeping a respectable distance.

For the last hour, we've barely spoken a word, but I can't get what she told me out of my head. Considering how quiet and withdrawn she seems, it was a bit shocking that she would tell me so much about herself so easily. Maybe I misjudged her. Just because she's quiet doesn't mean she's shy, right? She certainly acts quite differently from, say, Hanako. Even Shizune doesn't seem to intimidate her.

"Hey, Hitomi?"

"Yes, Hisao?"

I realize that's only the second time she's actually used my name. I've never particularly liked my name, but hearing her voice saying it somehow makes it much better.

"Do you want to hear why I'm here at Yamaku?"

She pauses, and for a moment I'm afraid that she's going to just shrug indifferently.

"Yes."

Relief floods me, and I start talking. I tell her about Iwanako, about the note and the meeting in the snow, and the confession. About passing out, and waking up in the hospital. As I talk, she makes occasional sounds as she shifts position in the grass, or sniffs, or clears her throat, but each noise is tiny and does nothing to interrupt me as I spill everything. Finally being able to just talk through all of this is like a weight finally being lifted off my shoulders. I didn't even know that I needed this so badly. I've been bottling it all up for so long, and now that I have a chance to go through it all from beginning to end, I can hardly slow down.

I tell her about my friends slowly leaving, about the last day Iwanako visited, about my bad reading habit, and about how the days seemed to flow together. I tell her what the doctor told me that last day, about my medications and how maybe someday I'll have to take less, and then how I ended up here.

When I finish, I realize that two things have shifted in the time I was speaking. The first is the sun, which has now well and truly set. Above us, stars twinkle dimly, their majesty somewhat tainted by the nearby lights of Sendai, yet still breaking through the haze to tell us they're still there.

The second is Hitomi, who has closed most of the distance between us. I had laid about a meter from her, but now she's right beside me. I don't even know when she moved. Did she slide over to me gradually, or just move at once?

"So, you're going to die, but you don't know when?"

It's the first time I've heard her voice in over an hour, and despite the harsh reality in her words, I realize just how beautiful it is.

"Pretty much. My odds of living longer are better if I'm careful, but yeah. Anything could be enough to set it off."

She's quiet again for several long seconds.

"I'm sorry."

I chuckle a little, choking back a sudden urge to cry. "Yeah Hitomi. So am I."

Somewhere in the distance, a dull thump breaks the quiet of the night, followed by a bright flash of blue suddenly bursting high above our heads. A deep boom follows it moments later as the sound reaches down to us, and then the fireworks show begins in earnest. As several more rockets follow the first, I feel Hitomi's hand brush against mine. I turn to look at her, but her eyes are staring upwards, two pools of green as dark as the forest around us, each of them reflecting the bright colors above. I take her hand and give it a gentle squeeze, and she smiles faintly.

We watch the show for a while in silence, our hands gently grasping the other's.

"They were right. It really is a beautiful show, huh?"

No response. I turn back to Hitomi, and am surprised to see her eyes pooling with tears now. Her face, normally a mask of impassivity or mild amusement is scrunched up in a concentrated effort to stifle sobs. Even as I notice her crying, Hitomi lets out a soft sob.

"Hitomi!?"

She sniffs hard and closes her eyes, forcing the tears to streak down the sides of her face. After letting out a long breath, she slowly opens them again, and this time, I see it. She's still facing the sky, but there's no… focus. She's not tracking the colors as they burst, only looking near them after the sound reaches us.

She's blind.

I'm still holding her hand awkwardly, and now I have no idea what to do. How long ago did her vision cut out? Did it just happen? We've been laying here a long time…

The finale explodes in a thunderous crescendo, then dies off just as quickly as it arrived, plunging the clearing into a blanket of oppressive darkness. High above us, a gibbous moon provides just enough light for me to make out Hitomi lying beside me, her vacant eyes reflecting its pale light in rippling waves of tears.

"I was really hoping to see one firework tonight. Just one."

Her tears come back, and this time she doesn't try to hold back, sitting up and hugging her knees to her chest while sobbing softly. I move to sit beside her, and hesitantly wrap an arm over her shoulders. What do I say to her? How can I possible relate to what's happening to her?

She's pretty cold. Not freezing, but her soft skin is definitely chillier than mine. I move closer, holding her body against mine instinctively, and she surprises me by laying her head on my shoulder, continuing to cry softly.

We stay like that for a while, her crying and me trying to comfort her without words. It's hard to tell if it works, but after a while she settles down, raising her head to look up at the sky again. I pull her a little closer, and she rests her head back down against my shoulder again, breathing slowly and deeply.

"I'm sorry, Hisao, I shouldn't-"

"Hitomi. Don't apologize."

She nods, and stays there for a while longer, taking long, slow breaths. It's so strange seeing her like this. She's so confident and calm most of the time. Is that all just an act?

No. No, I think that that's who she really is, and this is what the blindness is doing to her. But if she's going to eventually stay blind, does that mean that this is who she'll become?

Who am I, now that I know I'm going to die younger? Am I a different person than I was before my heart attack?

Hitomi nudges against me, and I give her a little room. She wipes her face, and slowly stands up. Compared to the way she normally moves, she looks so… tired. I get up and move close to her, clearing my throat so she knows I'm there.

"I was hoping… hoping that it would only last a few minutes…" She takes a deep breath to steady herself. "But I still can't see."

I truly have no idea what I can do for this girl. Her condition is something so strange, I almost feel relieved to have my Arrhythmia instead. The self-pity I've been so consumed with for so long feels cheap in the face of her suffering.

I do know what I can do for her right now, though.

"It's okay, Hitomi. I'm here. I'll just see for both of us."

I take her hand again, and this time she squeezes mine back.

End of Act 1

-----

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter

Wordcount: 3,050 / 14,078
Last edited by Xeraeo on Tue Nov 24, 2020 9:55 pm, edited 8 times in total.
Girls: Emi=Hanako=Lilly>Shizune=Rin
Routes: Lilly=Emi>Hanako>Rin>Shizune

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

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

tbone
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Aug 02, 2020 10:41 am

Re: To Miss the Mark: An OC Pseudo-Route (Hitomi)

Post by tbone » Sun Aug 02, 2020 10:44 am

Good work so far. Interested to see more.

PKMNthiefChris
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Joined: Sat May 12, 2018 9:35 pm

Re: To Miss the Mark: An OC Pseudo-Route (Hitomi)

Post by PKMNthiefChris » Sun Aug 02, 2020 12:10 pm

This seems very promising. Excited for the future.

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BristerXD
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Location: Pennsylvania

Re: To Miss the Mark: An OC Pseudo-Route (Hitomi)

Post by BristerXD » Tue Aug 04, 2020 1:54 pm

This is such an intriguing piece! I really love how you're setting up Hitomi here, this more boorish and frank personality isn't one you see often in other OC girl pieces. She character in general seems to be very well rounded and has a lot of appeal in my eyes. At least enough to keep reading. Though I couldn't help but ask myself the question, "If she is fine being this frank and honest with people, I have trouble imagining why according to Lilly it's been hard for her and a lot of other classmates apparently to get her to transition properly." Now I assume that it's because Hitomi isn't one for coddling and Lilly is just making it out worse than it actually is given that's her character. Or that even Hitomi isn't allowing many people close though I don't feel comfortable thinking that given it just took a walk for Hisao to get to first name first base with her. Admittedly this isn't a real big issue in the slightest, I still bought into her as a character, but it was a question I had. Maybe take it into consideration as you continue to flesh out her character. Like I said not the biggest deal in the world.

There is one thing I have a true niggle with and that's with her disability. Not the actual concept of it, I know people who have fallen or have just woken up with weird conditions that are just unexplainable. My problem is in a narrative context where I fear you will just use the disability to serve the plot when you need it. An accent mark to tighten drama or create some when there is none. It often makes the actual disability feel cheap and unrealistic. Now it occurring during the fireworks is really powerful and actually got me a bit emotional so good on you for that. It's just another thing to consider in the future of this story that might have actual consequences for your piece here.

Also, I thought Shizune was just a bit too mean to still be in character. I mean I would get it if it was Lilly but here it seemed like a bit much. I'm not even the biggest fan of her character it just felt like it was laid on pretty thick. Not a deal-breaker for me though.

As for your actual writing, it's pretty spot on from what I've managed to comb through. Good sentence variety, consistent tense usage, nice pacing especially considering the juggling you're having to do with alteration of the first act, overall a stellar display. And I'll have to leave it there, I really am enjoying this piece so far and can't wait to read more from you. I'll have to check out this other story you're working on.

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Xeraeo
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Location: Chicago(ish), United States

Re: To Miss the Mark: An OC Pseudo-Route (Hitomi)

Post by Xeraeo » Wed Aug 05, 2020 12:20 am

BristerXD wrote:
Tue Aug 04, 2020 1:54 pm
This is such an intriguing piece! I really love how you're setting up Hitomi here, this more boorish and frank personality isn't one you see often in other OC girl pieces. She character in general seems to be very well rounded and has a lot of appeal in my eyes. At least enough to keep reading.
Thanks! I had the initial idea for her personality very suddenly, but she's been sort of fleshing herself out more as I write her.
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Aug 04, 2020 1:54 pm
Maybe take it into consideration as you continue to flesh out her character.
Yes, that apparent contradiction was something I have thought through a bit, because I have a vague idea of how Hitomi's interactions with her classmates have been based on her personality, and the direction I intend to take her, but how well I handle actually writing it is a different question altogether. I'm glad you pointed it out; it tells me I have to pay special attention to how I resolve or explain that later on, so thank you.
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Aug 04, 2020 1:54 pm
My problem is in a narrative context where I fear you will just use the disability to serve the plot when you need it. An accent mark to tighten drama or create some when there is none. It often makes the actual disability feel cheap and unrealistic.
Yes, I've seen this done well and poorly in various fics, and it's something I think every KS fanfic writer needs to contend with. I wanted this first instance of her disability being actually witnessed by the reader to be in a powerful narrative context, and I'm glad you found it effective, but I don't intend for it to be used that way exclusively. On the other hand, I really don't want her disability to be the primary focus of the story, but rather a part of who she is and what makes her unique. I think one of the primary points throughout KS was the characters not being defined by their disabilities, but learning to live with them. One thing that makes that more important for Hitomi than the canon KS characters is that her trauma, like Hisao's, is recent. She's just learning how to deal with it now, unlike Emi or Hanako who suffered their accidents years ago and are dealing with after effects, or Lilly, Shizune and Rin who have lived that way their whole lives and are barely hindered by it. For Hitomi, learning to deal with the sudden change in her life will be a larger part of her story than it was for the main cast.
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Aug 04, 2020 1:54 pm
Also, I thought Shizune was just a bit too mean to still be in character. I mean I would get it if it was Lilly but here it seemed like a bit much. I'm not even the biggest fan of her character it just felt like it was laid on pretty thick. Not a deal-breaker for me though.
I have a bit of backstory for the nature of the tension between Shizune and Hitomi in mind, but it's still not formed well. However, keep in mind that much of what you're seeing of Shizune in this story is Hisao's perspective of her, not her objective actions. There are some things you see her doing that may seem mean, but Hisao in my story is going to have a more negative view of her than she necessarily deserves, both her true character and the version of her in my story, which I intend to be as identical as possible given the slight difference of experiences she's had with Hitomi. That all being said, I may have gone overboard a bit and will keep a closer eye on it in future interactions with her character, so thank you again.
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Aug 04, 2020 1:54 pm
As for your actual writing, it's pretty spot on from what I've managed to comb through. Good sentence variety, consistent tense usage, nice pacing especially considering the juggling you're having to do with alteration of the first act, overall a stellar display. And I'll have to leave it there, I really am enjoying this piece so far and can't wait to read more from you. I'll have to check out this other story you're working on.
This is immensely reassuring, thank you! I do a lot of technical writing for work, but I haven't actually had anyone read anything narrative I've written since high school. Sorry for such a long response to your comment, but it's the first serious feedback on my narrative writing I've had in a long time. And thank you again in particular for the potential problems you see in the story. It really will help me know what to watch out for as I progress the plot. I have a general outline of where I want things to go and the themes I want to address, but very little idea of how precisely I'll get there. Each scene develops as I write it, and often ends up quite different than what I intended. Originally, Hitomi was going to encounter Hisao during the festival on the rooftop as he's drinking with Kenji, and avert that disaster by scaring Kenji away, but things didn't turn out that way at all as I wrote the scenes for Saturday and Sunday.
Girls: Emi=Hanako=Lilly>Shizune=Rin
Routes: Lilly=Emi>Hanako>Rin>Shizune

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

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

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Xeraeo
Posts: 76
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2020 5:48 pm
Location: Chicago(ish), United States

A Half-Lively Pair (2-1)

Post by Xeraeo » Wed Aug 05, 2020 1:05 am

Thanks for the feedback so far. After finishing Act 1, I had a better idea of the characters I wanted to include and the journey I want both Hisao and Hitomi to take, so I was able to sketch out a rough outline of what I want to do. That being said, I'm still writing scene-by-scene and letting the story develop itself. We'll see where everyone ends up. This next scene I did absolutely no planning for and just let it play out as it came to me, but it does serve the overall narrative, so I'm good with it.

Act 2- Stance


"Hey, new guy!"

I'm a little bit ashamed that I respond to the shout from behind me, as if I had accepted the 'nickname'. Of course, since I'm already turning to face the speaker, it's a little late to pretend I didn't hear or didn't know that I was the one being addressed. Several other 3-3 students I still haven't met are exiting the classroom alongside me, presumably to rush down to the cafeteria or another place to enjoy the brief lunch break, but I know she's not talking to any of them.

The girl who I assumed had called my name, a taller student with long, dark hair and a bandage wrapped around what must be the stump of her left wrist, waves me over from down the hall. I vaguely remember seeing her trying to clap with that stump during my introduction last week, and the memory makes me glance away as I walk over to see what she wants.

"Nakai, right? You've been here a week, and I don't think we've ever actually met. What gives?"

I'm a little caught off-guard by her manners (or lack thereof) but I reach to give her a handshake while trying to give a warm smile, though I'm concerned that it may look more pained than anything.

"Uhh…" She looks down at my extended hand, and I realize that as my right hand was currently occupied with my bag, I had unconsciously offered her my left. Any hope that I had of maintaining my fake smile evaporates in a cold shiver, and I hastily swap my bag to my left hand and offer my right.

"S-sorry. Yeah, I'm Nakai. Hisao is fine." I stammer nervously.

"Miura. Miki is fine." She's still staring down at my hand uncertainly, her face an unreadable mask of seriousness. I feel myself beginning to sweat, despite also feeling cold. How did I fuck this up so badly?

I start to lower my hand, but suddenly she grabs it with a wide grin and an enthusiastic shake.

"Relax, dude. I've always been a righty anyway. Even before this-" she waves her stump in a vague gesture. "Sorry for messing with you, but your face was too priceless!"

Behind her, another girl snorts with mild amusement. My awkward encounter with Miura… no she said to call her Miki… had distracted me so thoroughly that I hadn't even noticed the smaller girl. I recognize her as the one who sits in front of Shizune, and often sleeps in class. She offers me a hand as well.

"Suzu Suzuki. Yeah, it's a mouthful. Just Suzu works."

I shake her hand as well, chuckling nervously. I really need to stop being so awkward around the other students here, especially my own classmates.

"It's good to meet you both. Sorry I didn't introduce myself earlier."

"Ah, it's fine." Miki waves her stump again dismissively. "I was just teasing you anyway; transfers always have a harder time settling in. Trust me."

I just nod, not really knowing what to say to that. Fortunately, Miki saves me from further awkwardness by continuing.

"So, what were your plans for lunch? Meeting the fastest thing on the roof again?"

I sigh, rubbing the back of my head ruefully. "No, I think I pissed her off last w- hey wait, how do you know about that?"

She rolls her eyes at me. "It's a small school, Hisao. Word gets around quick, especially when the new guy is involved. I have my sources."

"Yeah, like Emi telling you herself, you mean." Suzu says with her own eyeroll. Miki gives her a glare, but she ignores it, facing me with a look that's part amusement, part exhaustion, I think. "They're on the track team together."

"Oh." I wonder just what Emi told her.

"Anyway, my point is that if you don't have plans, you can have lunch with us!" She… poses? Yeah, poses is the best word I can think of for it. Her stump on her hip, looking like she wants to seem impressive, I guess. I mean, they're both kinda cute, but she says it like having lunch with them would be the highlight of my day.

Come to think of it, it probably would be…

I pause to consider. My 'plan' had been to stop by 3-2 during lunch break to check on Hitomi. After making it back to the dorms after the fireworks and guiding her to her room (227, I made sure to remember it), I had gone back to my room and spent half the night thinking about her situation. I felt awful for her, but the truth was I was a little grateful to have something to think about to distract me from my own situation. Still, it had kept me up for hours, and I had wanted to check on her as soon as possible to make sure she was okay.

"Uh, Hisao. You in there?" Miki waves her stump in front of my face. Apparently I was thinking too long about it. "You know, when a couple cute girls invite you to sit with them for lunch it's not super smooth to just freeze up, right?"

I smile nervously. "Yeah, sorry, Miki. I was just trying to think about what my plans were. I should be free."

"Great. Then let's go!" She turns and starts towards the stairwell, Suzu and I trailing behind her at a slower pace. I glance back towards the doorway to 3-2, where several of the blind class's students are trickling out for lunch, but I don't see Hitomi among them. I'll have to look for her after classes end, I guess.

---

"So, first week. What do you think?"

I take a few moments to chew and swallow my food before answering Miki's somewhat vague question. The cafeteria is bustling with subdued energy, the student body still recovering from yesterday's celebration. I hear a loud "Wahaha" that makes me duck my head instinctively to avoid being noticed as Misha and Shizune enter the cafeteria and hop into the line to order. Miki smirks at my reaction.

"That bad, huh?"

"No, sorry. People have been friendly, mostly. I just-"

"It's cool. Mikado and Hakamichi are a bit much for most people. For a couple days there, we thought they'd actually get you on the student council."

"You thought that, Miki." Suzu mumbles from between her arms, which she's resting her head on on the table in front of her. "I told you he didn't look like the type."

Miki shrugs, not that Suzu can see it with her face buried in her sleeves. "Yeah, right, I forgot. Guess you called it. What made them stop the whole recruitment drive, anyway?" her attention turns back to me as she asks.

"Well, I kinda told Shizune flat out I wasn't interested after she got me to play that board game with her."

"Oh, Risk, right? Yeah, she does that with everyone. Evaluating their merits, seeing if they have what it takes, or whatever. Personally, I think she'll take anyone she can get. Uh, no offense."

I laugh a bit at that, finally starting to relax around these two. "Nah, it's fine." I glance over towards Shizune and Misha, but of course they can't hear me. Misha's chatting loudly with another girl in line I don't recognize, and Shizune- well… yeah.

"Plus, I sort of got caught up in an argument between Shizune and Lilly a couple days after that, and I may have taken Lilly's side. Pretty sure there's not a spot on the council for me now even if I wanted it."

Miki's eyes widen at that. "Satou? Yeah, that would do it. Not sure that sucking up to her cousin is the best way to avoid problems with Hakamichi, though."

"Huh?"

"Satou. You know they're cousins, right?"

That baffles me. Shizune and Lilly are related? I've heard of sibling rivalry before, but I guess it could apply to cousins too. Still, they seemed to really resent each other, from the few interactions I'd seen them have.

"Uh, no, I didn't. New guy, remember?"

"Right. Anyway, at least you avoided the weeks of recruitment attempts. I swear, I had to tell her no like 20 times. And I don't even look like a nerd." She adds that last part a little smugly, but before I can protest, she changes the subject. "Hey, you think Mikado ever doesn't translate some stuff you say?" She glances over at Suzu, but as far as I can tell the other girl is no longer conscious. I wonder how someone can sleep so much in class and still be this tired at lunch. Maybe she's on medication that keeps her up late too?

I shrug. "I mean, how could you tell if she did?"

Miki just shakes her head. "I know I couldn't. I can barely keep up with her as it is."

I take another bite of my food, which is fairly unappetizing. Not as bad as the hospital food was though, so I really shouldn't complain. Still, I can't help but feel that I just upgraded from one medical facility to another, slightly more expensive medical facility. I know that's not really the case, but it's hard to argue with the pit in my stomach every time I notice another parallel to the hospital.

"So, Emi was too much for you, huh?" Miki smiles playfully as she says this, but I still almost choke on my food.

"Yeah, it's more that the running was too much for me, although Emi's certainly something…"

Miki laughs. "Yeah, don't sweat it. She's more intense than most of us. Probably why she wins most of her races."

I nod, remembering the speed at which Emi flew past me as I tried desperately just to maintain my slow run. How someone her size can move like that is incredible enough, even not accounting for her legs.

"Still, she seemed really bummed out that you ditched her."

I still feel a little guilty about that, but it's not like I stood her up or anything. I just left when it got to be too much for me.

"Yeah, I'll apologize when I get a chance. I just couldn't keep doing it, you know?"

Miki holds up her hands… er hand and stump… in a defensive gesture. "Hey, no judgement here, dude. I barely go to the regular practices as it is, let alone Emi's extra runs."

"Not that you need it…" Suzu mumbles, sitting up and stretching her arms lazily.

"Morning, sunshine! And thanks, I think."

"So you're a fast runner too?" I guess, hoping I'm not way off base.

Miki makes a face that I can best interpret as falsely modest, but Suzu answers before she can. "If she actually put in the work, she'd be beating the Fastest Thing consistently."

"Wow. Impressive. Why don't you then?" I mean it, too. If Miki can compete with Emi with little practice, she must be very talented.

She shrugs. "I'm not really in it for the competition. I just like running, and the track team are cool to hang with, as far as the clubs at this school go. Besides, I think it might kill Emi if she started losing now after all the work she's put in. She deserves to win, more than I do, at least."

That last part she says a bit quieter, while staring at her plate. After a few seconds of awkwardness, she goes back to eating her food, leaving me to do the same. I hate leaving the conversation on such an awkward note, but I don't really know how to continue it from there, and before I can think of anything good the bell rings, warning that classes will be starting again shortly.

As we clean up, I get Miki's attention. "Hey, um… thanks. This was nice."

She gives me a cheeky smile, and a light punch on the shoulder that makes me wince. Not that it actually hurts, but I'm a bit over cautious about impacts these days. "It's just lunch, dude. Don't sweat it."

"Still. Thanks."

"You two about done? I need to get back to my desk for my afternoon nap." Suzu says with a smile.

Miki laughs a bit more than I do at that, and we head back to class. As we leave the cafeteria, I can't help but look around one more time for Hitomi. Although, come to think of it I've never seen her in the cafeteria before. If she was in here today, I never saw her.

I really hope she's all right…

---

When the bell finally rings to release us from our captivity in the classroom, Mutou only momentarily glances up from the scientific journal he's been engrossed in for the past hour. I quickly pack the rest of my stuff in my bag and head out, hoping to avoid getting caught up with any of my classmates again. We'd been assigned group work for much of the afternoon, and while most of the groups seemed to see it as the opportunity to relax a little after the festival that it was probably intended to be, Shizune had insisted that we commit ourselves to it fully. Not wanting to argue with her, I went along, but I doubt I really contributed much. My mind had been elsewhere. Several times, Shizune's snaps had pulled my attention back to the work when Misha's voice had somehow been insufficient.

I really need to sleep tonight…

I make it to the door of 3-2 just as the first of that class begin to emerge from the room. Considering that mobility among the visually impaired students is somewhat more limited than many, but not all, of the students in my own class, it's little surprise that it takes them a bit to get moving after the bell. I try to stay out of the way while checking each person that comes out, but I have to duck to the side when Kenji emerges. Fortunately, if he sees me at all he takes no notice, rushing past the rest of his classmates and down the hall with a nervous look on his face. I guess his face usually looks nervous though. At least, in the time I've known him. Damn, when did I start thinking about Kenji so much?

Oh, right, just now when he came out of the classroom. Wow, I'm tired.

The last student emerges from the room, and to my disappointment it isn't Hitomi, but rather, Lilly. I suppose I can ask her, although given her reaction the last time I did I'm a bit hesitant.

"Um, good afternoon, Lilly."

She turns towards my voice, but doesn't seem particularly surprised. "Good afternoon, Hisao. I was wondering if that was you."

That throws me off. How could she have guessed that? Can she tell who I am just from my breathing? I hope it's that, and not my smell. I have to stop myself from sniffing my clothing; surely she'd hear that. "Yeah, sorry, I was looking for someone."

Her polite smile falters momentarily, but returns as she replies, "Yes, if you were wondering about Miss Nomura, she wasn't in class today. I suspect she spent the day in her dorm, though I can't say I know that for a fact."

That worries me far more than I thought it would. I'm about to ask if Lilly thinks I should check on Hitomi, when I realize how that might sound. We barely just met a few days ago, after all. I think for several seconds, grateful for Lilly's patience, even if it's just her usual politeness at work.

"Do you think you could check on her when you get back? She seemed a little…" crap, I don't know what Lilly knows about Hitomi's condition. Obviously she has to know something, since they're in the same class and all. "…down, last night, and I haven't been able to see how she's doing today."

Ah, dammit. 'See'. I have to stop doing that.

Lilly's smile broadens a bit, and she nods. "My, my, Hisao, it's good to hear that you're connecting so well with your fellow students here." I blush a little, then wonder if she can sense it somehow and blush some more. "I was intending on checking on Miss Nomura shortly, right after I speak with Hanako. Would you like to accompany me?"

For a moment, I think she means to check on Hitomi, but then I realize that she probably just means back to Class 3-3 for Hanako, and perhaps back to the dorms. I'm reminded that Hanako often waits for Lilly after class, even after everyone else has left for the day.

"Ah, yes, that would be fine. Thank you." I'm not sure what I'm thanking her for, other than checking on Hitomi, but I fall into step beside her, matching her slow pace down the hall as best I can. Considering the speeds I tend to move at these days, it's really not much of an adjustment.

We retrieve Hanako, who looks at me with a combination of curiosity and apprehension, as usual, and then continue on in the direction of the dorms. We walk in near-silence for a couple minutes before I work up the courage to ask Lilly about what's pressing on my mind.

"Lilly, um, so Hitomi, did she-" I stop. Lilly arches an eyebrow, waiting for me to continue. "Did she say anything to you?"

A look of confusion passes over her face before she hides it behind her usual smile. "No, I haven't yet spoken with her, Hisao. I only knew she was in her room because I went to check on her at lunch, and her door was locked at the time. I could hear that she was inside, but she didn't respond to me."

I nod, then add "Okay" meekly as I realize the futility of the gesture. I'm torn between my surprising level of concern for Hitomi and my unwillingness to share any information about her with Lilly, or anyone, for that matter.

"Is there anything you'd like me to tell her when I check on her?"

"Yeah, just tell her I asked how she was doing, I guess?" It's lame, but it's the truth, and nothing else I can think of would be a wise message to have Lilly pass along. My only other real option is to just wait until tomorrow to try and talk with Hitomi, but I'd rather she not think I'm ignoring her. After our strangely intimate moment last night, the walk back had gotten increasingly awkward, and neither of us seemed to know what to say when I left her at her dorm room. As much as I hate to admit it, I had been pitying her, and I know she knew it too.

"Very well." We've arrived at the entrance to the girl's dorms again, and this time Lilly and Hanako enter together after saying our goodbyes. I set off for my own room, determined to get at least a small amount of homework done before passing out for the night.

-----

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter

Wordcount: 3,205 / 17,283
Last edited by Xeraeo on Sat Oct 03, 2020 6:36 pm, edited 7 times in total.
Girls: Emi=Hanako=Lilly>Shizune=Rin
Routes: Lilly=Emi>Hanako>Rin>Shizune

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

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

tbone
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Aug 02, 2020 10:41 am

Re: To Miss the Mark: An OC Pseudo-Route (Hitomi)

Post by tbone » Wed Aug 05, 2020 9:51 pm

Another good chapter. Can't wait to see more of Hitomi so we can learn more about her.

One question, did Hisao swear in any of the other routes? I think he has but I don't think he's ever said "fuck".

Who cares though, Hisao has multiple personalities throughout the different routes.

SuzuSuzuki_bestgirl
Posts: 9
Joined: Sun Jun 21, 2020 7:29 pm
Location: Victoria, Australia

Re: To Miss the Mark: An OC Pseudo-Route (Hitomi)

Post by SuzuSuzuki_bestgirl » Thu Aug 06, 2020 7:58 am

Haven't gotten around to reading what you've got so far here yet, but I just wanted to say it's so awesome to see people starting new fics in here still :D
I look forward to reading over this coming weekend

User avatar
Xeraeo
Posts: 76
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2020 5:48 pm
Location: Chicago(ish), United States

Re: To Miss the Mark: An OC Pseudo-Route (Hitomi)

Post by Xeraeo » Thu Aug 06, 2020 1:54 pm

tbone wrote:
Wed Aug 05, 2020 9:51 pm
Another good chapter. Can't wait to see more of Hitomi so we can learn more about her.

One question, did Hisao swear in any of the other routes? I think he has but I don't think he's ever said "fuck".

Who cares though, Hisao has multiple personalities throughout the different routes.
He says it in his internal monologue when he's down about his relationship with Emi in her route, but I don't think he ever says it out loud in KS. The quote is something like "What am I to her, just friends who happen to fuck?" Not word for word, but more or less that meaning. Other than that, I don't think he swears that much in KS, and definitely mostly in his head, but Hisao in this particular route is, at least for now, distinctly more negative than in the canon routes. You'll see more on that as we progress.

And I can't wait to learn more about her either, man. She's slowly emerging as I write her, and I'm enjoying the process of getting to know her.
Girls: Emi=Hanako=Lilly>Shizune=Rin
Routes: Lilly=Emi>Hanako>Rin>Shizune

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

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

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