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

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

Post by Chatty Wheeler » Mon Aug 31, 2020 3:56 am

I just thought of something: does Hitomi have a cell phone? This seems kind of random, but I was thinking about a hypothetical situation in which Hitomi had an incident with her blindness alone at the clearing... If she had a phone, she could just call someone to come guide her back to the dorms... Couldn't she? That is assuming that she keeps her phone in her pocket while practicing archery. If this were the case, Hisao really wouldn't have had anything to get so worked up about—this would make Hisao's actions in the last scene look even more impulsive than they already were.

Huh... I guess the question would be whether she would even have a phone. Cell phones were still new—and expensive—in the late 2000's/early 2010's... Hmmmmm... But considering how far away Hitomi is living from her parents, would they want her to have a phone so that they could all stay in touch? Hmmmmm...

If you're reading this, Xeraeo. Please don't answer the questions that I posed above; they were just rhetorical questions. I want to keep the answers to those questions a surprise for when I'm reading future scenes!

Hehe... I need to go to bed or I'll be up all night making posts... :lol:

Xeraeo
Posts: 48
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 » Mon Aug 31, 2020 11:29 am

Chatty Wheeler wrote:
Mon Aug 31, 2020 3:14 am
Should "and are talking quietly between them," be "and are talking quietly between themselves?"

Great work, once again, Xeraeo! I had fun reading and analyzing this one. Looking forward for whatever's coming next! :D
Actually not sure either way, so I just simplified it to: "Suzu and Molly are moving a bit slower and talking quietly." Thanks!

And thank you, I had fun writing it. Me too. I generally have an idea of the arc of the next two to three scenes, but I have to modify it every time I complete a scene. Next one shouldn't take too long, hopefully.
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:
Rebound - A Post Lilly NE Epilogue / Iwanako Story
To Miss the Mark - An OC Pseudo-Route (Hitomi)

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

Intel (2-5)

Post by Xeraeo » Sat Sep 05, 2020 1:06 am

This one was a bit faster, but a lot of fun to write. Enjoy!

When we reach the point between the dorms that we normally part ways, Hitomi surprises me by continuing towards the male dorm, tugging my hand to keep me from stopping. I suppose it's still a couple hours until curfew, but I'm not sure what her intention is. Maybe she just wants to see me get to my room safely? The thought annoys me a little, but I can't really assume her motives. A little confused but not willing to argue, I let her lead me.

Of course once we're inside I have to take the lead, since she doesn't know where my room is. As we silently move up the stairs and down the hall, I keep thinking she'll turn back at some point. Maybe when we reach my hall, or my door…

"Well, this is my room…"

She simply stands beside me, waiting, so with a shrug I fish my key out of my pocket and start unlocking my door.

A familiar clattering sound behind me causes me to drop my key, and I hurry to scoop it up and put it in the lock.

Please, no…

Just as I get my door open, I hear the door behind me swing open as well, along with the clattering of what must be several chains.

"Hey, man. You were out pretty late there- AH!"

With a sigh, I turn to face my hallmate, who apparently only noticed that we aren't alone at the end of his sentence. He's looking at Hitomi with a shocked expression- but to my surprise he quickly recovers and smooths his hair back with one hand in a way that he probably thinks looks suave. It doesn't.

"Hey, Kenji. It's really not that late, you know."

Hitomi, for her part, is looking back at Kenji without apparent concern, although since that's pretty much her default expression, I'm not sure what she's thinking.

"Uh, Hisao? Aren't you gonna introduce us or something, bro?"

Is Kenji seriously lecturing me about etiquette?

"…Sure… Kenji, this is Hitomi. Hitomi, Kenji. I'm pretty sure you're in the same class…"

"Wait, what?" Kenji leans in closer, and to her credit, Hitomi holds her ground, the faint hint of a smile gracing one corner of her mouth. Then, to my utter shock, Kenji suddenly smiles and slaps a hand onto Hitomi's shoulder.

"Agent Nomura! I didn't recognize you out of the field. Hisao, you didn't tell me the two of you had made contact!"

I stare at him in absolute disbelief, my mouth hanging open slightly as I struggle to form a coherent thought. Hitomi glances at me, and I swear gives me a wink before returning her attention to Kenji and finally speaking.

"We thought it would be better to keep our collaboration as quiet as possible. Don't want to attract any unwanted attention."

Kenji nods in apparently deep understanding, retracting his hand to stroke his chin thoughtfully- almost as if he thinks he has a beard there.

"That was very logical of you, Nomura. You can never be too careful around here. But since I have you both…" Kenji looks up and down the hallway, even though one direction is just a dead end.

"Not here. Come on, I need a report." He backs into his room, leaving the door open as if he intends us to follow.

Nope. This is too far.

"Hey, Kenji, actually-"

"Afraid we can't, sir. I just got some intel that your room is compromised."

I turn to Hitomi, who's looking at Kenji with a very grave expression.

"My room is- Oh!" Kenji looks around in fear, suddenly quiet. Hitomi nods, and makes some vague gesture with her hands that I don't really understand. I'm sure if I can't see it clearly, Kenji can't either, but he nods, and shuts the door quietly. Behind the door, I can hear Kenji shuffling around, apparently searching his belongings for a bug or something.

Shaking my head, I turn around and enter my own room, with Hitomi following behind me. I shut the door, and sit on my bed, suddenly very conscious of the girl in my room. This is the first time I've had anyone in here, actually, but the fact that it's Hitomi makes it all the more important. It's a good thing I keep it clean- although this is more due to the lack of stuff I would need to keep straightened, since I've barely done anything with the room. The walls are still bare, the bedspread is the same generic one that the room had when I moved in, and the only things of mine present are the clothes in the closet and my books and pills on the desk.

Hitomi glances around, a look of mild curiosity (I think?) on her face, before settling on the pill bottles. She takes one, reading the label for a few seconds, then puts it back with a shake of her head.

"I can't imagine having to take all of those every day. How do you even eat breakfast?"

I chuckle, but without any real humor. "Sometimes I don't. It just depends on the- hey wait, hold up a second, Agent Nomura!"

She gives me a teasing smile, but it quickly returns to a neutral expression. "I made the mistake of letting Kenji talk to me my first week here. His desk is next to mine. After the first few conversations, I realized that it's easier just to play along. Probably." She shrugs. "Anyway, it's fun, and you can shorten the rants if you feed him intel."

I laugh, shaking my head. "That really works? Usually anything I say just leads to more ranting."

Another shrug. "Depends what you tell him. I had to experiment a bit."

"Well, uh, good luck in the war against the feminist forces, I guess?"

Hitomi walks over and sits beside me on the bed, which causes me to immediately tense up. "Yeah, we'll have them on the ropes soon." She says that completely deadpan, before breaking into a mild grin again.

A not-so-comfortable silence falls between us, and she returns to looking in the direction of my pill bottles. Sitting so close, I can practically feel the warmth coming off her body next to me.

"Uh, Hitomi? Why did you come here?"

She looks sideways at me. "I already told you about that."

"No, not Yamaku. I mean, the dorm. My dorm."

I know the question could be interpreted badly, but honestly I'm more concerned that she just didn't want to leave me alone after what happened in the woods. The thought that she would feel the need to walk me back to my room after that because she was worried I'd drop over dead or something kinda puts a pit in my stomach.

"I wanted to see it."

Oh. I guess that's fine…

"And you said you were looking for me earlier."

"…Right."

I was looking for her because I was worrying about her: exactly the thing I'm now annoyed that she might be doing. Damn, I'm a hypocrite. What do I tell her?

I scratch the back of my head, thinking how to explain myself. I'm not gonna lie to her, but I have to be careful what I say…

"I talked with Lilly today. Actually, she invited me to lunch via Hanako, but yeah. She talked to me."

I glance at Hitomi for a reaction, but none is forthcoming as she continues to stare absently at my pill bottles. I nearly reach out to wave a hand in front of her face before catching myself.

Shit, that would have been dumb…

"Uh, anyway, she was worried about you. Said you wouldn't accept her help, or whatever, and wanted me to try to get you to talk to her, or something."

She looks at me, clearly still able to see. Glad I didn't try to check…

Her deep green eyes seem to search mine, and I force myself not to look away. After several long, tense seconds, she asks, "Are you going to?"

I blink. "Uh… what?"

"Are you going to try to get me to talk to Lilly about helping me?" Her voice is icy, not flat like it normally is. It's still calm, but there's an underlying tension to it that's hard to miss.

"No, I told her I wouldn't do it. I just figured you should know." I deliberately don't add, 'And it made me worry about you a little too.'

Several more seconds of staring, and then Hitomi's face seems to relax a little, although she's still not smiling. She looks away again. "Lilly means well, but she should focus on the other students more."

"She said the administration specifically asked her to keep an eye on you- er… you know what I mean."

She closes her eyes, taking a long, deep breath. "I'm aware. It's unnecessary." When she opens them again, she gives me a defiant look, almost as if she's daring me to disagree. I'm not about to, of course.

"Okay."

This time, she really does seem to relax. Her whole posture slackens a bit, and as she goes back to staring straight ahead, her hand once again finds mine. I give hers a gentle squeeze.

"Thank you." she mutters, almost too soft for me to hear even from right beside her.

"Well, the Nurse tried to get Emi to do the same thing for me, but I think I pissed her off too much for her to care now anyway. Maybe you could try that with Lilly?"

She smiles a little, and it makes me smile as well.

"I'm not sure I could do that. She's really nice. Just too… motherly, I think."

I laugh, realizing how appropriate the word is for the girl. Hell, she acts more like a mother to Hanako than a friend, from what I've seen.

I realize we're still holding hands, and for some reason I'm not the least bit uncomfortable with the fact. Even though we only met less than two weeks ago, I can't help but feel a real connection with Hitomi. It's something I haven’t really had since before my attack. Before all my friends abandoned me.

A chill goes through me as I recall the last day Mai and Shin visited, and the awkward expressions on their faces as they left. God, losing them sucked.

"You okay?"

I look at Hitomi, who gives my hand another squeeze. I squeeze back.

"Yeah. This is just nice, you know?"

She smiles, and leans towards me slightly. Suddenly, all I can see is her face.

"You know what else is nice?" Just her eyes, deep emerald pools, and her lips…

Suddenly, she gives me a quick hug, and stands up. "Sleep. I need to be up early."

She walks to my door, opens it, and steps into the hallway. "Night, Hisao."

"…Uh… goodnight?"

She gives me a smile, and- was that a wink? And then closes the door- and I'm alone. And extremely confused.

Was that… flirting? Did Hitomi just flirt with me?

---

I guess my medication is back to messing with my sleep…

After several hours of tossing and turning, I managed to drift off. Only to wake up again far earlier than my alarm, and unable to get back to sleep. It's not a lack of tiredness, either. My brain just refuses to shut off.

These goddamn drugs…

I glare at the row of pill bottles. Nurse said I was lucky to only be dealing with insomnia. Clearly, he's never had it himself if he thinks there's anything about this that's lucky.

Several more failed attempts to get back to sleep later, I roll out of bed and force myself to get dressed. Might as well walk around for a bit, if I have to be awake this early anyway.

It's Saturday, so maybe I can catch a nap after classes end early, I figure. I walk out and start wandering the campus a bit aimlessly. With a chuckle, I remember that I did the same thing last Saturday as well, thinking about my failures to make any friends here, among other things. I guess I've made a little progress since then. Mostly with Hitomi, but also with Miki and Suzu, and even Molly and Taro.

I realize that by default, I apparently was walking towards the running track, no doubt because of the forest path beyond the track. What brings me back to paying attention to my surroundings is the odd sound of Emi's running prosthetics as she does her morning laps. It’s a pretty distinctive noise.

I hesitate, considering turning back before she sees me, but decide against it. Our last conversation may not have gone well, but I can't just avoid her.

Taking a seat on the bleachers, I absentmindedly watch her run. It’s impressive how rapidly she covers so much ground, even if you don’t take her lack of legs into account. It makes me question the validity of Miki's claim that she could beat Emi if she practiced more.

If Emi has noticed me, she doesn’t give any sign of it, continuing in lap after lap for several more minutes. Then she rounds the corner by the starting line, and suddenly takes off in a ridiculous sprint, flying the 100 meters from my left to right in a tiny amount of time. When she crosses the line, she slows, bounces a few times, turns around, and then sprints back to the starting line at nearly the same speed. She repeats the process a couple times.

The look in her eye when she's about to sprint reminds me of the look Hitomi has when she's about to release an arrow. I guess it's the same thing, really. A focus on a goal: a goal that's valuable to the person eyeing it. Meaningful. It makes me wonder if I ever get that look in my own eye. Probably not. Honestly, what do I even find meaningful anymore?

"Hisao?"

Emi's noticed me, and apparently was approaching while I got lost in my depressing thoughts. It’s really getting to be a habit for me, I guess.

"Hey, Emi."

"You here to run?"

"No, I just couldn't sleep, so I figured I'd go for a walk."

She nods, taking a seat beside me with a grin. "If that's what you want to do. At least you're doing something."

I just nod back, not really sure what else to say. Luckily, Emi has no trouble filling a silence.

"Hey, um, I'm sorry I got so mad at you the other day. I don't know what you've been through, and I shouldn’t have pushed you so hard."

I can appreciate that. It's not like I know what she's been through, either. "It's okay, Emi. I'm fine, really."

I doubt she believes me, but she gives me a cheerful smile anyway. Then her smile broadens, and the look in her eyes turns mischievous.

"So, word around the school is you and Nomura are a thing. Not bad, Hisao!"

I blush, of course. "We're just friends. Who told you that?"

She shrugs. "There's not a lot going on around here, so people talk about anything remotely exciting. Transfer students are rare, so getting two of them so close together, and then they start hanging out, and they're both so cute… well, word spreads fast, I guess."

I wonder if Hitomi knows people are talking about us. If she did, would she even care?

"Wait, cute?"

"Hey, I'm not the one who said it. Anyway, you sure you're just friends? Cause if not, I think you'd be kind of a hero around here."

"…What?"

Emi laughs: a bubbly sound that's mostly pleasant, if just a bit annoying. "Come on, Hisao. Hitomi is like, super mysterious, or whatever. Everyone's been trying to figure her out since she got here, but nobody can seem to even get close to her. You've been here what, like a week?"

"Two weeks, almost."

"Right, so if in two weeks you manage to not only start hanging out with but actually get into a relationship with the most interesting girl at Yamaku… well, you'd be like a legend."

I really wasn't aware that people took such an interest in Hitomi, but I guess it makes some sense. She's definitely been the most interesting person to me, and a lot of that is because of her odd, aloof manner. But despite that, it hasn't been a huge challenge spending time with her or anything. She opened up pretty easily, and half the reason we’re hanging out is because she invited me to.

So am I the only person she's been so open with? Based on what Lilly told me, and now what Emi is saying, that must be the case. I recall Shizune telling me the very first time I met Hitomi that she doesn't think or care about others, but that hasn't been my experience with her at all. Is it because I also transferred in? Because even here, at a school for kids that don't fit in, I'm still an outsider? Is that how she sees herself, too?

"Uh. Well, it's not like that. Not really. At least, I don't think it is."

Is it, though? I'm certainly attracted to Hitomi, no question there. And I've been thinking about her more and more the past few days. And what was that whole thing last night?

"Well, if it ever is like that, Rin will owe me 500 yen. Tell you what. Make it happen, and we can split the money."

I stare down at the little girl in disbelief. "You really are trouble, aren't you?"

Emi jumps up, evidently unable to sit still for more than a minute. "Yup. Later!"

And with that, she's gone in a flash, leaving me to wonder about what I just learned. Not just about how people here view Hitomi, but about how I do.

Do I really want a relationship so soon after Iwanako? Am I even ready for something like that? It seems like a part of me does, that's for sure. But even if it is what I want, is it what Hitomi wants? Does she open up to me because she sees me that way? Or is she just looking for a friend, and would I ruin that by trying to take it further?

I sigh. Just another thing to overthink, I guess. Like I need another one of those. Still, compared to the other crap I've been dwelling on lately, thinking about Hitomi is far more fun.

With a deep breath, I force myself to get up. Classes will be starting soon, and I still have to go back for my books before they do. If I start walking now, I won't risk being late.

-----

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter
Last edited by Xeraeo on Tue Sep 15, 2020 12:36 am, edited 2 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:
Rebound - A Post Lilly NE Epilogue / Iwanako Story
To Miss the Mark - An OC Pseudo-Route (Hitomi)

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Chatty Wheeler
Posts: 15
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Location: Pacific Time Zone

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

Post by Chatty Wheeler » Sun Sep 06, 2020 1:04 am

Oh, my! Scene names and a table of contents have been added. How fancy... :D

This was another very solid chapter, in my opinion. I don't have quite as much to analyze this time—this chapter felt like a welcome palate cleanser after all the stress of the previous few. I noticed a lot more humor this time around, and most of it landed for me! I'll run through some of my highlights...

——————————
Xeraeo wrote:
Sat Sep 05, 2020 1:06 am
"Agent Nomura! I didn't recognize you out of the field. Hisao, you didn't tell me the two of you had made contact!"
This whole scene was a lot of fun. The image of Kenji hopelessly searching around his room for hours to find a bug that isn't actually there gave me a real good laugh. If there was anybody who could keep up with Kenji's antics, it would probably be Hitomi. :lol:

——————————
Xeraeo wrote:
Sat Sep 05, 2020 1:06 am
"Uh, anyway, she was worried about you. Said you wouldn't accept her help, or whatever, and wanted me to try to get you to talk to her, or something."

[...]

"Are you going to try to get me to talk to Lilly about helping me?" Her voice is icy, not flat like it normally is. It's still calm, but there's an underlying tension to it that's hard to miss.

"No, I told her I wouldn't do it. I just figured you should know." I deliberately don't add, 'And it made me worry about you a little too.'
It's relieving to see the Hisao is being open to Hitomi about this sort of issue—it's a good sign. However, that last sentence reveals that Hisao does feel the need to hide some things from Hitomi. Even though Hisao doesn't want to admit this to Hitomi—or himself—he's worried about her. It seems like Lilly's warning is slowly gaining more credence in Hisao's mind—even if he doesn't show it on the outside. The question now is... how long is he going to keep this up?

At the very least, Hisao seems afraid to approach Hitomi about this issue for fear of starting a confrontation—and judging by how uncharacteristically tense Hitomi feels about this issue, Hisao's fear of an argument breaking out is not unfounded. Right now, I feel like if Hisao tried to express his worries about her condition, she'd flip the issue right back onto him and point out that Hisao's hypocrisy—even Hisao realizes how hypocritical he's been these last few chapters.

All that being said, even if Hisao harbors some unspoken worries about Hitomi's safety, he still seems to be mostly on Hitomi's side rather than Lilly's side of the argument. I don't think Hisao is going to try and press Hitomi on this issue unless something big happens which forces either Hitomi or Hisao to start taking their conditions more seriously. I don't predict that this "big" event is going to happen any time soon, judging by the fact that we just saw Hisao have a bout with his arrhythmia, but I'm willing to bet that Xeraeo has something in the works that will come into play down the line... :)

——————————
Xeraeo wrote:
Sat Sep 05, 2020 1:06 am
"Well, the Nurse tried to get Emi to do the same thing for me, but I think I pissed her off too much for her to care now anyway. Maybe you could try that with Lilly?"
Huh... I never noticed that parallel... That's actually quite interesting. I wonder if it'll come back up, later.

——————————
Xeraeo wrote:
Sat Sep 05, 2020 1:06 am
I laugh, realizing how appropriate the word is for the girl. Hell, she acts more like a mother to Hanako than a friend, from what I've seen.
If only he knew... *Flashbacks to Developments and Sisterhood*

——————————
Xeraeo wrote:
Sat Sep 05, 2020 1:06 am
She walks to my door, opens it, and steps into the hallway. "Night, Hisao."

"…Uh… goodnight?"
Come on, Hisao! Was that the best you could come up with? As if I could have thought of anything better to say in the heat of the moment.

——————————
Xeraeo wrote:
Sat Sep 05, 2020 1:06 am
But despite that, it hasn't been a huge challenge spending time with her or anything. She opened up pretty easily, and half the reason we’re hanging out is because she invited me to.

So am I the only person she's been so open with?
Hisao brings up a point here that also has me curious. Why did Hitomi seem to get along with Hisao so well? Even more curiously, why hasn't she gotten along with other folks at Yamaku? I've said before that Hisao and Hitomi seem like kindred spirits, which made them fast friends, but how come she hasn't made any other normal friends? I get the feeling we're going to find out the reason later... I have a guess as to what that reason might be, but I'm going to hold off on making my prediction at least until the next chapter is posted. I want some more info before I start posting my crazy theories.

——————————

Finally, the chapter ends with Hisao contemplating the idea of a relationship with Hitomi. Is he ready for it? Is she ready for it? Personally, I think neither of them are really ready for it.

Judging by how things are going between them (they hold hands and hug quite comfortably, by now), we might be in for a relationship sooner than I think. Perhaps, them rushing into a relationship this early will be a significant part of the narrative—they'll have to realize that neither of them were really ready to take that next step, yet. Remember, Hisao—and by extension the reader—doesn't really know much about Hitomi, just yet. Hisao is still depressed, Hitomi is still silently struggling with her condition, and both of them have a lot of growing to do before they should be getting into a relationship. But then again, these are teenagers we're talking about, so they might be willing to take that risk, anyway. We'll have to wait and see, I suppose!

——————————

Okay! Only a couple of typos, this time...

Xeraeo wrote:
Sat Sep 05, 2020 1:06 am
I chuckle, but without any real humor. "Sometimes I don't. It just depends on the- hey wait, hold up a second, Agent Nomura!
There appears to be a missing quotation mark at the end of the sentence, above.
Xeraeo wrote:
Sat Sep 05, 2020 1:06 am
Everyone's been trying to figure her out since she got her, but nobody can seem to even get close to her.
I think "...trying to figure her out since she got her..." should be, "...trying to figure her out since she got here..."

——————————

Keep up the good work, Xeraeo! I'm looking forward to the next scene. Take care!

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

Post by Xeraeo » Mon Sep 07, 2020 2:55 am

Typos fixed, thanks!
Chatty Wheeler wrote:
Sun Sep 06, 2020 1:04 am
Xeraeo wrote:
Sat Sep 05, 2020 1:06 am
I laugh, realizing how appropriate the word is for the girl. Hell, she acts more like a mother to Hanako than a friend, from what I've seen.
If only he knew... *Flashbacks to Developments and Sisterhood*
This implies that you've read Sisterhood already...

Which begs the question, Chatty....

Why are you commenting on my dumb story if you haven't finished your homework? I demand a giant essay (minimum 6 pages, 11pt font, single spaced) on Sisterhood so I can remember why I liked it so much.

Seriously, though, it sounds like you're consuming these fics nearly as fast as I did- which while understandable is not exactly good for your mental health. Not that they're bad, quite the opposite, but there's only so many feels the brain can handle per week.

For perspective, I read both Sisterhood and Developments within one week... One week for them both together, not for each. I think I broke something in my head.
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:
Rebound - A Post Lilly NE Epilogue / Iwanako Story
To Miss the Mark - An OC Pseudo-Route (Hitomi)

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

Post by Hacksorus » Sun Sep 13, 2020 1:52 am

Finally got around to checking this one out. I'm really enjoying it so far! This is probably one of my favorite implementations of OCs on this forum, her presence in the world and interactions with existing characters feels natural and engaging. I like how you're handling Hisao's struggles as well. They did seem a bit downplayed in the source material at times (although perhaps this was intended in some cases, to keep the focus on other plot events), and I think you've taken some strong steps towards a more comprehensive exploration of his awful situation.
I go by Snowman in most places now (SnowmanSSB if I have to sometimes). If you run into me somewhere in the internet feel free to say hi!

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

Post by Chatty Wheeler » Mon Sep 14, 2020 10:36 pm

Okay, I finally have some time on my hands to write a response!
Xeraeo wrote:
Mon Sep 07, 2020 2:55 am
Why are you commenting on my dumb story if you haven't finished your homework? I demand a giant essay (minimum 6 pages, 11pt font, single spaced) on Sisterhood so I can remember why I liked it so much.
Uhhh... Dang. You totally caught me red-handed. The truth is that I haven't actually finished Sisterhood: True Edition, yet. :oops:

Sisterhood was the first story that I read from these forums, and it looks like I kind of did what you did, where I read through Sisterhood as fast as I could (which was still relatively slow, to be honest), and sort of ran out of steam after a while. I ended up stopping at the end of the original eighteen chapters—deciding that I would take a break. I then started reading Developments, and you know the rest...

I know that I'll get to Sisterhood eventually, but in the meantime, I am making the fool's journey of trying to read multiple other stories simultaneously. I am currently jumping between Mean Time to Breakdown, Gravity: A Molly Pseudo-Pseudo Route, Avenues of Communication, and To Miss The Mark. The fact that I'm doing so much switching means that it's taking me forever to finish any of them. Well, I actually tried to just focus on Gravity, only to find that... it isn't finished. Now I'm stuck between whether or not I want to analyze it now or wait until it's finished! I hope it gets finished, because I really adore it. :D

Goodness, I got way off track! Anyway... Dang, you sure read fast. I definitely could not have handled all those feels in one week. You're an absolute mad lad for taking on both Sisterhood and Developments back-to-back. Respect.
Last edited by Chatty Wheeler on Fri Sep 18, 2020 1:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

Xeraeo
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Concerns (2-6)

Post by Xeraeo » Tue Sep 15, 2020 12:35 am

"Kapur, what is the third variable in this reaction? I haven't written it on the board yet."

I had been prepared for Mutou to call on me, as he often does when facing this side of the classroom, but in this case it was Molly he apparently was targeting. She looks up from her textbook, but from my seat behind her, I can't tell if she's having trouble. After a few moments of near silence, interrupted only by the quiet noise of Misha and Shizune signing back and forth beside me, Molly answers hesitantly.

"Since these are gases, I guess the volume of the container?"

"You guess, or is that the answer?" Really, Mutou?

"That's the answer…" She doesn't sound any more sure, though.

Mutou smiles at Molly. "Correct, Kapur. The volume of the container will directly influence its pressure and temperature. Excellent job."

Molly glances over at Suzu with a smile, but Suzu isn't fully with us, although Miki gives her a thumbs-up. Then she looks back at me, and I flash a quick smile as well.

I glance at the clock on the wall, groaning internally. Normally science classes seem to pass quickly, but today it feels like it's just dragging on and on. Maybe it's because I'm struggling to stay awake again, or maybe it's because I'm having so much trouble focusing on the work. It doesn't help that Mutou seems about as interested in the subject material today as the rest of us, droning on and on in that same, flat monotone. Does he seriously expect us to be able to follow what he's saying when he does that?

Of course, another reason I'm having trouble focusing is that my mind keeps drifting back to my conversation with Emi earlier, and of course, the main subject of that conversation.

Hitomi.

It didn't take a whole lot of thinking to realize that I like her. Not just as a friend, even though that in itself is a new development, but as more than that. All the time I spend with Hitomi, I enjoy. I feel like I can relax, be myself, and just enjoy her company without being questioned on how I'm doing or pressured into doing things I don't want to. After four months of doctors, nurses, and even my own parents saying little to me beyond asking after my condition or instructing me on how to deal with it, I guess I just needed something beyond that. Hitomi has been that for me and more since we started hanging out.

On top of that, it seems fairly obvious to me that she likes me as well. Clearly, from the beginning she hasn't minded spending time together, even initiating it herself, which from what I've heard she doesn't do with anyone else here. Despite the concerns it brought up, my conversation with Emi did confirm what I already suspected; I'm Hitomi's only real friend here. Clearly, she sees me differently from the rest of the student body.

Why exactly that is, I'm still unsure of, but she's been open and friendly to me in ways that seem clearly uncharacteristic of her. So either the way she's acting with me is her natural state, and she's simply uncomfortable with everyone else here, or that's natural for her, and with me she acts differently for some reason. Either way, the way she was flirting with me last night shows that she sees our friendship as something more as well, since obviously she doesn't act that way with anyone else.

So what's the next step? Should we just keep spending time together and get to know each other better, hoping that things progress naturally? Or is she expecting me to make a move, somehow? As close as I feel with Hitomi, we really only just met recently, after all. Maybe I should-

"Nakai?"

Mutou calling my name rouses me from my thoughts, and I look up at the board quickly, hoping that I can figure out his question without asking him to repeat it. I blush slightly as I realize that most of the class is watching me curiously as well, but I try to shut that out and focus on the equation. It's complete, so let's see…

I make my best guess as to the question. "Looks like an endothermic reaction, so the container would be cooled by the process."

The whole class laughs, and even Mutou chuckles awkwardly. "Very good, Nakai, but I'm afraid we already covered that. I was asking if you would be alright partnering with Kapur and Suzuki today, seeing as your usual partners are absent."

Embarrassed, I glance to my side to see that indeed, Misha and Shizune are gone. More laughter, though by now most of the students have moved on to pulling desks together to begin working on the problems written below the equation on the board. Molly gives me a sympathetic look, while Suzu sits up and stretches gingerly. I realize that Lezard, who normally sits between them, is also absent.

I start pulling my desk forward, but then think better of it and just take my stuff with me to Lezard's desk instead as Molly and Suzu move closer. Once we're situated, I look over the assignment.

"Hey, you okay?" Molly whispers. I'm not sure why; we're supposed to be working together anyway. If anything, whispering will draw more attention, assuming that's what she's trying to avoid.

"Just perfect. Looks like this won't be too much trouble." I reply, hoping to shift the focus back to the work.

"Normally I'd think working with you in science would be an advantage, but today I'm not so sure." Suzu remarks.

Declining to answer her, I get to reading the assigned text, and Molly and Suzu quickly follow suit. When we're all finished, we start working on the problems. I don't know what the normal dynamic is when they work with Lezard, but apparently they're both more comfortable with me taking the lead. I'm accustomed to Shizune doing so via Misha, so it's a bit awkward at first, but we make reasonably quick progress.

As we work, every now and then I catch Suzu giving Molly and I both odd glances. She immediately goes back to looking at the work whenever I think I notice something odd, but occasionally Molly looks back at her, and I can't tell what's going on between them. Is there some strain in their relationship or something?

I don't really know how good of friends the two girls are, just that they're in the same friend group, and usually work together in class. Though honestly, I can't say that I care all that much if they are having some sort of disagreement. What I can't figure out is what it has to do with me.

To my surprise, when we're nearly done with the assignment, Suzu suddenly looks to Mutou and asks "Sir, may I be excused? I'm not feeling well."

Mutou frowns, likely considering that it's an odd request when classes are nearly over anyway, but he nods and waves his permission. "Just make sure to get that assignment back on Monday, Ms. Suzuki."

Suzu gives Molly a sharp look as she gathers her things and leaves. Her early departure garners only mild attention from the rest of our classmates. And then I'm left alone with Molly.

We complete the last problem fairly quickly, and turn in our assignments. Another glance at the clock tells me we still have a few minutes before the bell rings. Most of the other students are still working.

"So, any plans for the weekend?"

The questions takes me aback a bit, although I'm not sure why. I guess having never really talked in class with her before, I'm not expecting questions from Molly.

"Not really, no. You?"

"Actually, yeah. I'm gonna go see my family tomorrow." Molly gives a shy smile.

"Oh, you said they live in the city, right?"

"Yes." She appears to consider for a moment. "Well, my mother and sister do. My father is visiting tomorrow, though, so I'm going to see him."

"Ah." That likely means her parents are divorced, then. I'm still a bit curious about her nationality, though her lack of an accent tells me she's native to Japan. Probably not a good idea to ask about it under these circumstances, though.

Of course, that leaves us with an awkward silence.

"Do you have any brothers or sisters?"

"No, only child. My parents were never home a lot either, so I mostly hung out with friends."

"Oh."

More silence. I glance up at the clock again. Just a few more minutes. I like Molly, but neither of us seems capable of having a normal conversation right now, apparently. It's obvious that I'm not the only one feeling the awkwardness, either. Molly keeps glancing vaguely in my direction, then going back to staring ahead absently, or down at her desk.

The bell finally, mercifully rings, and Molly and I both get up and gather our things.

"Have a good weekend, Molly."

"Yeah, you too, Hisao." Another shy smile, and a quick nod, and we both depart the classroom with the rest of 3-3.

I watch Molly make her way down the hallway, wondering why that felt so weird. Following the others down the stairs, I begin to think about what to do with the rest of the afternoon when I'm suddenly intercepted.

"Hicchan!"

I suppress my initial reaction to run- really unfair, considering Misha has been nothing but kind to me- and turn to see what she wants.

"Hey, Misha."

She walks up to me- or I guess bounces up to me would be more accurate. A few of the others from our class that are still in the lobby glance our way, but nobody seems particularly interested.

"Do you have a few minutes? Shicchan and I wanted to talk to you!"

I bite my lip, wanting to say no, but not really having a valid excuse. Plus, Misha looks so hopeful right now, denying her would be like kicking a puppy.

Which was probably why Shizune sent her alone…

"Yeah, I suppose I can talk. Where is Shizune, anyway?"

"What a silly question, Hicchan! You know where the student council room is!"

I suppose that was a silly question. I merely nod, and follow Misha the short distance. Before we enter, however, she pauses at the door and turns back to me.

"Hicchan, it took me a while to convince Shicchan to have this conversation. Be nice, okay?"

Misha convinced Shizune to talk to me? Why?

I tilt my head, unsure how to answer. "…I'll do my best."

We go in. The room looks similar to the last time I was here- minus the active game of Risk on the center tables. Shizune is seated at her desk in the back of the room looking over some papers, but when Misha and I enter she looks up and sets them aside. She gives me a nod of greeting, and gestures to the chair across the desk, which I take a seat in after a moment of hesitation. Misha grabs another chair from along the wall and places herself by the side of the desk, where Shizune can see her while facing me. Giving me a long, analytical look, Shizune slowly folds her hands in front of her for several seconds, before finally glancing at Misha and beginning to sign.

"Thank you for coming, Hisao." Hearing Misha use my actual name is strange, but I suppose she's not really the one doing it. Although normally when Shizune says my name, Misha still says 'Hicchan', so maybe there's some more significance to it this time?

I give her a polite nod.

"I asked you to come for two reasons. This shouldn't take too long. First of all, I need to apologize."

I blink a few times, not sure how to respond. Shizune pauses and watches me, possibly to gauge my reaction. I make no attempt to hide my surprise. Eventually, she continues.

"You've now been here for two weeks, and aside for a few attempts during your first week, I have not done enough to help you become acclimated to your new environment. As your class representative, it is my duty to assist every transfer student with this process."

I notice that for once, Misha doesn't seem to be adding anything or changing what Shizune is saying. At least, not that I can tell. Maybe she's taking this conversation very seriously? It certainly looks like it, judging by her body language. I realize I'm still looking at Misha more than Shizune, even though my conversation is with the president. I force myself to give her my attention.

"I understand that my attempts to recruit you to the council were a bit premature…" She seems to consider here, almost as if she's not entirely sure about what she's saying, which is quite odd for her. "…and I'm sorry if it made you uncomfortable. My intention was to provide you with something to occupy yourself, and hopefully get your mind off of whatever circumstances brought you to Yamaku."

I stare at her in disbelief. She was trying to help me by forcing me to help her with her work? That doesn't really add up. I open my mouth to interject, but Misha gives me a pleading look. Reluctantly, I close it again and gesture for Shizune to continue.

"I've learned that you've found your own friends here, and that you seem to be getting along well enough. That's good, although I admit that I am a bit disappointed."

She gives me a smile, and it feels genuine, although with Shizune, it could just be calculated and well-practiced.

"All that is to say I'm happy you're doing better, and I'm sorry I wasn't more help to you." She gives me a bow. It's quick and shallow, but still, for Shizune, it's probably significant.

I suppose it's my turn to talk. "Uh… thank you, I suppose."

Both girls smile, and Misha replies "You're welcome, Hicchan!"

Then Shizune becomes serious again, and resumes signing. "That being said, there's another concern I believe needs to be addressed. I've been told that you've been spending a lot of time with Ms. Nomura this past week."

I tense up, immediately ready for a confrontation. After the way Shizune acted with Hitomi at the festival, I've assumed there was some conflict between them, and this is doing nothing to disprove that…

"Yes, we're friends. Why is that a concern to you?" My voice is a little sharper than necessary. Hopefully Misha filters that out a bit.

Shizune seems to take her time before replying. "I'm sure you've noticed that Yamaku has a certain culture, like any school. Nearly everyone is here for a medical reason, and one result of that is that the student body is unusually accepting of one another. You've experienced this, right Hicchan?"

I nod slowly, not sure where she's going with this. "Yeah, everyone's been pretty nice…"

"Not every student acclimates to this culture as quickly as you seem to be. Some take a bit longer to get used to… accepting others as they are. Ms. Nomura, sadly, seems to be one of those who has more trouble with it."

What?!

I feel my face flushing with anger as I begin to get defensive. "Hitomi is not like that! She's been friendly with me since I met her. What are you talking about?"

Shizune does not back down. "Why do you think that is?"

I stop, thinking about it for a second. I told Hitomi about my condition not long after we met, nearly a week ago now. She didn't seem bothered by it, other than being compassionate towards me. At least, that seemed to be her reaction. If she accepted me, why not others?

I take a moment to formulate my response. "She knows about why I'm here. More than anyone else does."

Shizune is not deterred. "That may be the case, but outwardly, what diff… diff-er-en-ti-ates… you from most of our classmates, Hicchan?" Misha stumbles a bit at the larger word, so it takes me a moment to fully understand the question.

"I guess… I don't look disabled?"

"Precisely." Shizune stares at me for several seconds. "Ms. Nomura has been cold at best to most of her own classmates. As overly understanding as Satou is, even she has been struggling with dealing with the situation."

Hearing Shizune give Lilly any kind of sympathy tells me that she really does take this seriously.

"My concern, Hisao, is that Ms. Nomura may influence you to view the other students in the same way she seems to."

I shake my head. "I don't have any problem with anyone here, Shizune. Like you said, I'm making friends. I don't believe Hitomi does either, even if she has trouble opening up to her classmates. You should give her the benefit of the doubt."

She sighs, seemingly tired of this. "I did, Hisao. For her first few weeks here. We all did. It is Ms. Nomura who needs to give the benefit of the doubt to us."

I look at Misha, but she just watches me, mirroring Shizune's dead-serious expression with a somewhat lesser version, but by her standards, it's practically a calculating look. Does she really see things the same way Shizune does? If not, she's not saying anything.

I stand up. "Thank you for the apology."

Shizune and Misha stand as well, and after a moment of hesitation, Shizune bows. Signing once more, she adds one last thing before I leave.

"If you can, perhaps encourage Ms. Nomura to be a bit more open-minded? She could make a lot of friends here, if she was willing to try."

---

I walk back to the dorms alone, the unexpected conversation with Shizune playing over in my mind. I'm still a bit skeptical about her supposed intention to help me last week, but I guess I should give her the benefit of the doubt if I'm going to ask her to do the same for Hitomi.

Which brings me back to my main worry…

Shizune seemed to imply that Hitomi is judgmental towards the other students here, or at least uncomfortable with their disabilities. Other than Kenji the other day, I haven't seen her interact much with anyone here, but I never at all got the impression that she feels that way. And with Kenji she was fine, if perhaps just a little mean by pranking him.

Not that I can blame her. I think dealing with Kenji is entirely different from dealing with people's disabilities.

Something hits the top of my head, and I'm broken from my thoughts long enough to realize that it's beginning to rain. The overcast sky slowly darkens further as a second drop hits me, then a third. Hurrying along, I approach the dorms, and hesitate before entering the female dorm. Several younger girls are hanging out in the common room, but they only glance momentarily at me before returning to their conversations as I pass them and make my way to the stairwell.

If Hitomi really does have a problem with people here, and is only friendly to me because I appear normal, that's awful. That's what Shizune seems to believe, but I have a lot of trouble swallowing that as the truth. Most likely, Hitomi just gave Shizune a bad impression early on, and her general aloofness has caused her to be seen as judgmental. How ironic, that the students here would judge a girl as not being accepting without really getting to know her.

Of course, I'm just doing the same thing by assuming that…

Shaking my head, I decide the best thing to do for now is to just continue spending time with Hitomi, and letting this all sort itself out naturally.

As I come to that conclusion, I reach her door. Room 227. I knock twice.

…Nothing. Maybe she's not here?

I knock again, clearing my throat. "Uh, Hitomi? It's Hisao."

Still quiet, but just as I'm about to give up and look for her elsewhere, I hear shuffling behind the door, then a muffled thump. Muttering, some more shuffling, and then the door opens slowly.

"Um… hey."

The sight of Hitomi strikes me on two fronts. First, she's dressed only in her denim shorts, a grey sports bra, and nothing else.

I've never seen this much of her, and I can’t help but look at her body. She's not muscular or anything quite like that, but very toned. My eyes keep darting to her exposed midsection, and the enticing curve of her hips…

But as exciting as seeing her like this is, the feeling is overshadowed by the second thing I notice. She's not looking at me, instead staring in the general direction of my torso. Her green eyes, usually so full of life, seem dull and empty, somehow.

She can't see me.

I hesitate, unsure of how to proceed. I had been intending to just hang out with her, tagging along with whatever she was planning on doing, but now… I don't know if she'll want the company. She looks miserable, her normally brushed hair a mess of tangled brown falling all about her head.

But if she really didn't want me here, she wouldn’t have opened the door, right?

"…hey."

She looks up towards my face after hearing my voice, and just a hint of a smile tugs at her lips. It's so brief, I barely notice it at all. Then, she steps to the side. "Wanna come in?"

Slowly, I step into her room, and she closes the door behind me.

-----

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Last edited by Xeraeo on Fri Sep 18, 2020 1:15 am, edited 2 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:
Rebound - A Post Lilly NE Epilogue / Iwanako Story
To Miss the Mark - An OC Pseudo-Route (Hitomi)

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

Status Update (Both Stories)

Post by Xeraeo » Tue Sep 15, 2020 11:16 pm

Okay so here's where I'm at:

I started Rebound on a single idea: Hisao re-reading Iwanako's letter in the light of losing Lilly, and gaining a new perspective as a result. The 9 chapters that followed grew organically from there.

Less than a week after I began posting my chapters for that story, the concept of Hitomi as a character came into my head, and I quickly decided she deserved her own work, and began writing To Miss The Mark.

For a while now, I've tried working on both stories simultaneously, with limited success. However, increasingly I've found that nearly all my creative ideas since beginning these two works have been related to the second. Particularly while trying to write the latest chapter in Rebound, I've found my mind continuously wandering back to Hitomi and her story.

The result of this is that both works are being slowed down and limited. I feel guilty whenever I do more work on To Miss the Mark when I still haven't made any progress on Rebound. I shouldn't feel guilty for making progress; I should feel satisfied.

Beyond this, I have a decent map of how I want To Miss the Mark to play out, all the way through Act 4. There's plenty to fill in as I go, but the overall story concepts and conflicts are there. For Rebound, I still only have the general idea of the conflicts I want to address, and those are subject to change as that story progresses.

The bottom line is this: I'm putting Rebound on hold for a bit while I focus on To Miss the Mark. I'm hoping this will allow me to make progress in that story more quickly and effectively, while freeing up the guilt I keep getting dragged down by. That being said, I have no intention to abandon Rebound; that's a story I still very much want to tell. I'll come back to it once I've made more significant progress in To Miss the Mark, or when sudden inspiration strikes me again like it did when I began that story.

I know it's likely that some of you have only read Rebound, and if you are more invested in that story, I apologize for the delay in its next update.

I'm posting this in both threads so readers of either story know what to expect.

If any of you more experienced writers have any advice for how to handle this type of thing, I'd love to hear it. Creative writing is still relatively new to me: particularly in a form where others are reading a story as it's ongoing.
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:
Rebound - A Post Lilly NE Epilogue / Iwanako Story
To Miss the Mark - An OC Pseudo-Route (Hitomi)

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

Connections (2-7)

Post by Xeraeo » Fri Sep 18, 2020 1:14 am

Already reaping the benefits! I feel like I can write freely within this story now. Hope this one is enjoyable.

Glancing around, I realize that even though I've been here before, I didn't really pay attention to Hitomi's room. It's not unlike my own. The layout is a bit different, but like me, Hitomi apparently hasn't bothered to do much to make it personal to her. I wonder if that's just how she is, or if it's just a symptom of her having transferred here fairly recently.

Her bedspread and curtains are the same generic ones that I have in my own room. Clothes hang in the closet- both school uniforms and her more casual attire. A few schoolbooks are strewn across her desk, along with what appears to be a partly completed homework assignment.

One thing that stands out is her bow, which hangs prominently on the wall above her desk, unstrung. It looks like she mounted a pair of hooks to rest it on. In the corner of the room, her small quiver is propped up against the wall with a dozen or so bamboo arrows sticking out.

Unlike my room, however, hers doesn't seem quite so neat. The way her papers are scattered on her desk appears to have no real order to it. A school uniform sits in a heap on the floor beside the bed- along with one of her tank tops and a pair of black athletic shoes.

I realize that I've been looking around without saying anything, which under the current circumstances might be confusing to Hitomi. I turn back to her, but she's not looking at me. Not that it matters, I guess. Before I say anything, she takes a few careful, slow steps away from the door, her right arm extended slightly in front of her, until she finds the edge of her bed and sits back on it delicately.

Something about her movements seems… off. I guess I've never seen her trying to navigate without her sight, other than the night of the festival. But that time, I was there to guide her.

The memory of Lilly walking with me from the tea room to my class to check on Hanako comes to mind, and I ask the question that comes into my head before I can think too much about it.

"Do you have a cane?"

Hitomi, who's now sitting with her hands in her lap and facing the floor in front of her, grimaces slightly.

"No."

Sensitive topic? Or is it just anything related to her blindness that bothers her?

Not wanting to be presumptuous, I take a seat in Hitomi's desk chair rather than on her bed. She turns her head faintly in my direction at the noise, but says nothing.

The silence between us grows in length and depth. Normally, when we sit together without talking, there's a comforting air to it. That's completely gone right now. It's not awkwardness, exactly, like with Molly earlier. It's… deeper than that. More oppressive. Like we both know something we do not want to talk about, even though I'm not exactly sure what that is.

Why did she invite me in, if it was going to be like this? Or maybe she was hoping it wouldn't be? Maybe she wanted me to talk to her, to be here with her, so that it wouldn't be quite so depressing in here? What can I say, though?

It doesn't help that I'm continuously distracted by Hitomi's exposed body, either. As down as she seems right now, she doesn't appear to be ashamed at all of me seeing her in this state of undress. I wonder if she even realizes the effect she's having on me. Nothing in her demeanor indicates shyness or embarrassment.

As the silence continues to stretch on, I find my mind wandering frantically for something to talk about. Anything. Hitomi's lack of clothing and my earlier conversation with Shizune are the only two things I can think about, and I don't want to bring up either subject right now…

Scrambling, I open my mouth and just start talking. "Ah, Molly mentioned that she's seeing her family this weekend, and I realized I don't have anything planned. Did you have something you wanted to do?"

Hitomi doesn't react for several long, tense seconds. Eventually, she shakes her head slowly.

"No. Molly?"

"Oh, sorry. A girl from my class. We got paired up to work together, since Shizune and Misha were absent. Well, actually, it was the two of us and Suzu, another girl from my class, but she left early as well, and…"

I trail off as I realize that I'm rambling about stuff I seriously doubt Hitomi would care about even under normal circumstances, much less right now. She shows no reaction to the stream of information, other than closing her eyes. For another few long seconds, we sit in uncomfortable silence.

The energy, the motion, the sheer life that Hitomi normally exudes is absent, and it's absolutely killing me. It's like she's a completely different person right now. Still quiet and soft-spoken, I guess, but her confidence and strength are just… gone. It's terrifying.

Her shoulders begin to shake gently, then with more force. A quiet sob slips from her lips, and I realize that she's crying. I see her eyes well up with tears before she lowers her head, her messy hair obscuring her face.

Just like last week…

Compassion and instinct override my propriety, and I move quickly to sit beside her on her bed, putting an arm around Hitomi's shoulders. She doesn't seem to react, continuing to cry quietly for several minutes while I try to be as comforting as I know how. Finally, she acknowledges me.

"Hisao, what if-" She swallows. "What if this is it?"

I squeeze her shoulder gently. "What do you mean?"

"What if it doesn't come back?"

Hitomi continues to cry, and I pull her closer, feeling my own eyes well up with unexpected tears. She allows herself to lean on me, her head against my chest. She's cool to the touch, I realize. As if the energy she normally gives off just isn't there. A tear falls down my own cheek, though I'm careful to contain myself enough that Hitomi won't sense that I'm crying too. She needs me to be strong, right now.

What am I supposed to say? She might be right. This might be it.

But what good is it to think like that? It's scary, and could be the truth, but it also might not be, right? I take a long breath to strengthen myself, and begin to speak, forcing myself to believe the words even as they leave my mouth.

"You can't know that, Hitomi. You have to just believe it'll come back. It has every time so far, right?"

She swallows, and nods against me.

"Then it will this time too."

I hold her for a while, and her crying gradually falls to a soft whimpering, and then finally to silence. She remains still beside me, so I make no move to change position either, giving her time to recover.

As much as I'm sharing in her fear and grief, I realize that I'm also feeling a sense of warmth from being able to comfort her like this. Even if I'm totally helpless when it comes to her actual problem, at least I can help her deal with it in this small way.

That thought makes me smile.

"Hisao?"

I look down to find that Hitomi is looking up towards me, although her eyes are still unfocused.

"Hmm?"

"I should probably put a shirt on."

I chuckle slightly.

"I mean, I don't mind…"

That earns me a genuine smile- and a playful slap on the arm- but she gets up anyway and kneels on the floor, sweeping her hands back and forth across the carpet around her. Quickly, she grows frustrated, so I kneel down as well and grab the black tank top I assume she's looking for. She mutters a faint 'thanks' and pulls it on over her head quickly. Then she grimaces, pulls it back off, turns it around, and puts it on again, this time facing the correct direction.

I take her hand and guide it back to the bed, but rather than getting onto it again, Hitomi just sits on the floor and leans back against the bed. I try not to think too hard about it as I sit beside her, taking her hand in mine. The silence doesn't feel quite so oppressive now. If anything, it's relaxing…

---

I'm lying on my back, in my bed. Beside me, Hitomi is snuggled up beneath the sheets in just her underwear, one arm draped over my chest. Her slow, rhythmic breathing tells me that she's still asleep. Faint sunlight streams through my curtains, but I don't think we have to get up just yet. Content, I pull her closer, just happy to be here with her.

Opening my eyes lazily, I glance around at the posters on the walls, thinking that I've kinda outgrown all of this. It feels like a lifetime ago that I called this place 'home'. Come to think of it, I haven't seen my bedroom since the day of my first attack. Even though it all looks exactly the same, it feels different now, somehow.

I can't quite make out any of the posters; the images seeming too blurry to discern any details. Then, as I focus on one, it becomes clear- but it's just a generic reminder to eat three meals daily and from all the food groups. Not exactly great interior design there, Hisao.

A familiar voice is telling me to make sure I'm getting my exercise. I turn in my chair to look at the man in the white medical coat, but can't seem to make out his face. Nurse? Yeah, this is his office, after all. In the chair beside me, Hitomi laughs at something Nurse said, but I didn't hear whatever it was. I'm struck by her laughter though- it's possibly the most beautiful sound I've ever heard in my life. I stare at her, and her bright, emerald eyes stare back at me as she smiles broadly.

"Did you see that shot, Hisao?"

I turn towards the fallen oak tree across the clearing, and though the fading light of the evening makes it hard to see, I can make out an arrow stuck right in the knot at the center of the ancient trunk. Hitomi lowers her bow, her eyes searching mine for something. Encouragement? Approval? I pull her into a tight embrace, and she giggles into my chest.


"Hisao?"

She pushes against me, shaking my shoulder. I grin down at her. Even though I'm way bigger than her, this girl is still strong enough to move me, and she knows it! She puts her hand against my arm and shoves harder, giving me a good shake.

Blinking, I look at Hitomi sitting beside me as she shakes my shoulder with a concerned expression on her face.

"Hey, you okay?"

I blink a few more times, trying to get my bearings. Right. Hitomi's room. I'm sitting on the floor, leaning on her bed. I came here to talk to her, but she couldn't see, so I was comforting her.

As reality slowly reasserts itself in my mind, the memory of the dream rapidly begins to fade. Recalling the amazing feeling of Hitomi beside me, I desperately try to remember what we were doing together, where we were- but the details fade from my mind no matter how hard I try to hold on to them. I feel a pang of loss as they slip through my mental fingers.

Hitomi is still looking at me with a worried expression. Her hair is neat and brushed now, not a tangled mess. Her eyes are locked onto me, a pair of piercing emeralds that seem to draw me in. I shake myself fully awake.

"Uh, yeah. Guess I drifted off there, huh?"

Hitomi grins at me. "Yep. For like two hours."

I blink in surprise. "Seriously?"

She nods. "At least, I think it was that long. I couldn't exactly check the clock at first."

I realize two things at once. If I've been sleeping here all this time, did Hitomi just stay seated next to me? For how long? She must have gotten up at some point to brush her hair, I guess. But much more important than that…

"You can see?"

Her smile broadens.

"Yep."

Without thinking about it, I pull her into a tight hug. She laughs gently, returning the gesture only briefly before pushing me gently off of her.

"Wanna go do something?" she asks, unusually chipper.

Really, I'm still super tired, but after how down she was earlier there's no way I'm rejecting her offer. I just nod.

Hitomi stands, and offers me a hand. I let her pull me to my feet, an action that seems to take her surprisingly little effort. I'm impressed- until I realize that I lost a ton of weight in the hospital, and likely nearly anyone could lift me without too much trouble.

Let's not dwell on that right now.

Hitomi is pulling her shoes on- and I realize I'm still in my uniform.

"Hey, mind if I go get changed?"

She shakes her head. "Meet me by the crazy mural?"

I nod and agree, walking to the door and exiting Hitomi's room without thinking about it. To my surprise, I nearly run into Hanako, who's entering the door across the hall from Lilly's room. I recall Lilly mentioning that Hanako and she were assigned rooms in the same hall, but for some reason I had forgotten until now. Hanako stares at me coming out of Hitomi's room in shock, then blushes and quickly rushes into her own room, shutting the door.

I sigh. That will no doubt lead to an awkward conversation. Or several…

---

"…hell are you wearing?"

I only catch the tail end of Hitomi's question as I approach her at Rin's mural, having changed into my casual attire before rushing back outside to meet her. She's wearing her hoodie and jeans as well, so I guess we both prepared for cooler evening temperatures.

I look from her arched eyebrow down to my sweater vest and slacks, then shrug. "It's practical. Casual, but formal enough for most situations."

Hitomi shakes her head, turning to begin walking towards the school gate, and I move alongside her.

"This is practical." she gestures vaguely to her hoodie. "That is…" she glances over at me again, smirks, then shakes her head, not bothering to finish the thought.

We make our way down the hill in relative silence, only speaking occasionally and about nothing in particular. As usual, Hitomi keeps the pace relatively slow. I don't tell her how much I appreciate that, but I hope she knows.

The quiet is broken when we reach town and I realize I have no idea where we're going. "Hey, um, are we heading anywhere in particular?"

Hitomi shrugs. "Not really. I like to walk around town sometimes. Helps clear my head."

I nod in understanding. I do the same thing at Yamaku, though walking this far from the campus alone would be pretty irresponsible for someone like me. Then again, with her condition, it's probably not a great idea for Hitomi either- but I'm not gonna be the one to tell her that. Somehow, I doubt she'd appreciate being reminded of her limitations.

"You come down here a lot then?"

Another shrug. "Sometimes."

I smile at her. "You mind giving me the grand tour? I've only been down here a couple times myself."

She smiles back and takes my arm in hers, adopting a more formal tone that I suspect is partly out of playfulness, and partly intended to mock my attire.

"To your left, sir, you will see the local Aura Mart. It is the cornerstone of the town's economy; a true economic marvel."

Hitomi continues to give overly fancified descriptions of each location as we pass it, including the local park, the Shanghai teahouse, a small hairdresser, and several other local businesses we pass as we stroll casually through town. I find myself laughing more than her humor really calls for, though it is pretty funny to hear the tiny town given such a dramatic tour, as if we were in Kyoto itself. Something about just hanging out with Hitomi, getting to see this side of her, is putting butterflies in my stomach.

When she's practicing archery, Hitomi has this strange intensity to her. Since most of our time together so far has been centered around that activity, I've grown accustomed to seeing her act that way. Getting to see her joke around and act more like a kid is fun, even if it does change my perception of her a bit. As different as Hitomi seems at times, in the end she's just a kid my age. Same as the rest of the students.

"And here, we have the finest noodle shop in the whole city." She gestures dramatically at the shop I visited just yesterday with Miki and company, and leads me towards the front door, dropping the act all at once. "Seriously though, it's not bad. You hungry too?"

I chuckle and enter alongside her, nodding to the older woman who looks up as we find a table. She quickly moves to grab a few menus, and comes to see what we want. If she recognizes me from yesterday evening, she doesn't give any sign. I guess Yamaku students likely make up the bulk of the customers for this place.

We each order a bowl of noodles and some coffee. Naturally, Hitomi and I sit across from one another in the small booth, but we find quickly that silence is far more comfortable when you're sitting side-by-side, with something to look at other than each other. We're both pretty much just looking at the table, glancing at each other occasionally. It's not all bad, with half-formed smiles and occasional conversation mixed in, but it's still pretty awkward.

Thankfully our coffee comes quickly, giving us both something to look at between our short bouts of speaking. Still, this is going to get uncomfortable if I don't find something for us to talk about. The first few subjects that come to mind are not ideal, but I settle on one that shouldn't be too bad.

"Hey, have you ever met Emi Ibarazaki?"

Hitomi wrinkles her brow slightly, then slowly shakes her head. "Don't think so. The one trying to get you to run with her?"

I nod. "Short, kinda bubbly, runs into people in the halls? No legs?"

That gets a smile and a nod of recognition "Yeah, I've had to dodge that one a couple times. What about her?"

"I ran into her this morning- well, not literally- and she mentioned that there are a lot of rumors going around lately..." I leave off what they're about, wondering if she's heard the same. If not, it might be safer to downplay it, after all.

Hitomi nods, undisturbed. "About you and me."

I arch an eyebrow, leaning forward over the table. "Your class too, then?"

"Some. Probably more when I'm not there." She takes a long sip of her coffee, her expression even.

I wait, searching her eyes for a reaction, but none seems to be forthcoming. "So, that doesn't bother you at all?"

She shrugs, sitting back. "Why should it? It's a school. People talk. Whether or not what they talk about is true usually doesn't matter."

I sit back as well, mirroring her posture instinctively. "So, it's not true, then? What they're saying?"

Yet another shrug. "Who can say?" A ghost of a smile plays across her lips, and she takes another drink of her coffee.

I'm trying to think of a clever reply, with just the right amount of flirting mixed in, when we're interrupted by the sound of the restaurant door opening- and two familiar voices. Surprised, I turn in my seat to see that indeed, the voices belong to Miki and Suzu. Seeing as we're the only other customers here, they spot us immediately. Miki smiles, and makes her way over, Suzu following her with a more neutral expression.

"Hisao! You liked the place that much, huh?" Not waiting for an invitation, Miki plops down in the booth beside Hitomi, who moves to make room for her. I do the same as Suzu catches up and eases herself into the seat on my side of the table. I look at Hitomi, who of course seems unfazed by this development, and nod in her direction.

"Hitomi, this is Miki Miura, and Suzu Suzuki, both from Class 3-3. Miki, Suzu, this is Hitomi Nomura. She's in 3-2." I gesture at each girl as I make introductions.

Miki gives a friendly grin, and extends her good- and only- hand to Hitomi in greeting. "Good to finally meet you!" Hitomi takes her hand and gives it a single, firm shake, muttering a quiet response. Suzu simply nods at Hitomi from across the table.

Thinking quickly, I blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. "Hitomi is from up north too, Miki."

"Aw, no way! What part?" Miki turns from me back to Hitomi excitedly, asking several questions before Hitomi has a chance to respond. When she does, however, Hitomi actually seems at least somewhat engaged in the conversation, talking briefly about the region and village her family is from. I don't recognize the names, but apparently Miki does, and pretty quickly the girls are trading stories about childhood exploits in the countryside. Well, mostly Miki is, but Hitomi adds an anecdote or two of her own.

I turn to Suzu, who to my surprise doesn't seem to be paying attention to the conversation, and is instead looking at me. As soon as our eyes meet, hers narrow.

"What happened with Molly today?" she whispers.

I blink at her in confusion for several long seconds. "Sorry?" I match her low volume as well, glancing at the two girls across the table. They don't pay us any attention.

"After I left."

I rub the back of my head, trying to figure out where this line of questioning is supposed to lead. "We finished the assignment. Why?"

She rolls her eyes, but doesn't say anything further. Mentally shrugging the odd question off for now, I return my attention to Hitomi and Miki.

"Anyway, he only had like second degree burns on his legs, but his parents were pissed."

Hitomi shakes her head. "Fireworks are fun, but not if you're stupid about it."

"Are you kidding!? They're the most fun when you're stupid about it!" Miki retorts. Both girls laugh at that, Miki loud and long, Hitomi soft and quick. I give a forced laugh as well, but on the inside I'm cringing.

These girls seriously like to mess around with fireworks?

---

At some point our food comes, and Miki and Suzu order as well. Most of the conversation is on Miki's side of the table, but Hitomi, Suzu and I each engage with her at different times. One thing that becomes increasingly obvious is that Suzu does not talk to Hitomi directly, or even seem to acknowledge her. I don't pick up on it right away, since Hitomi is pretty much just responding to Miki's chatter anyway, but we're all talking to each other to some degree. Except Suzu to Hitomi. If Hitomi notices, it doesn't seem to be bothering her, but it's not like she'd show it if it did.

When we finish eating, Hitomi and I pay for our meals, make our excuses, and move to leave, and the other two exit the booth to let us out. Miki gives us a friendly wave, while Suzu merely nods in my general direction. I sigh internally.

Great. I'm probably gonna have to ask her what that was all about.

In stark contrast to when we entered the town, our walk through it back to the hill is made in dead silence. I'm caught up in my thoughts about Suzu's behavior, and Hitomi seems uninterested in talking as well.

Glancing up at the dimming sky, I realize that we've been out a pretty long time. We'll have to walk at a good pace to make it back by sunset.

As we pass the last few buildings and start up the road, Hitomi finally speaks.

"Suzu doesn't like me."

It's a statement, not a question, and made without any inflection or indication that the fact bothers her. Still, I feel a need to respond to it.

"…yeah, I picked up on that."

She glances at me, seemingly uncomfortable, but doesn't say anything else. Uncertain, I continue.

"Sorry, I'm not sure what her problem was. Does it bother you?"

She shakes her head. "Not particularly. You?"

"It was more confusing than anything. I just don't understand what her issue was."

"If it bothers you, you can just ask her. She's your friend."

I take a moment to think about that statement. Is Suzu my friend? I suppose, to a small degree, the term could apply, but among all the Yamaku students I've met now, Hitomi is the only one with a real claim to the title.

"I guess."

We don't say anything more on the subject, but the silence we settle into now that we've talked that over is much less tense. It seems that as long as there isn’t some unspoken awkward topic between us, Hitomi and I are comfortable together now. The thought makes me happy, I realize. I like being comfortable with her.

And I suspect that the feeling is mutual…

We eventually reach the top of the hill, then the gates, then the mural, and finally the place between dorms where we usually part ways. I stop, and Hitomi does as well, neither of us in any hurry to separate.

"I had fun today." I say, giving Hitomi a warm smile.

"Me too." She looks down at her feet, an expression that's damn near bashful. Seeing her act like that gives me an unusual surge of courage, and I press forward before I can talk myself out of it.

"Want to do something tomorrow? Maybe in the city?"

Hitomi looks up at me and returns my smile. Hers is so cute, I think I feel my heart skip a beat.

"I'd like that."

Then, she stretches up onto her tippy-toes, and gives me a kiss on the cheek. Just a peck, an instant in time, but I feel the blood rush to my face and sweat start to bead on my forehead all at once at the momentary contact. It paralyzes me, my mouth half open with whatever follow-up comment I had been about to give entirely forgotten.

"Night, Hisao."

And with that, Hitomi turns and walks to the female dorms without a backward glance. I had gotten accustomed to the leisurely pace we had been using all evening, and her sudden departure reminds me yet again just how much I slow her down.

This girl is gonna kill me, isn't she?

Finally shutting my mouth, I make my way towards my own dorm slowly, the kiss replaying itself over and over in my mind.

I guess there could be worse ways to go.

-----

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

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