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

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

Post by NuclearStudent » Tue Sep 22, 2020 5:15 pm

Took some notes. Notes here.

On the whole, very favorable showing. Enjoyed this significantly more and rate higher on technical talent than popularly respected works such as Sisterhood or Learning To Fly. Generally good sense of pacing and characterization. Only real weakness is I felt it could have used more buildup as to why Nomura is interested in Hisao.

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

Post by Feurox » Fri Sep 25, 2020 3:41 pm

It's a good thing I'm commenting now, rather then when you first started as I initially planned too. I don't need to give the usual warnings and welcomes, your writing surpasses most in technical ability, but I fear that sounds as If I'm accusing your writing of being somewhat 'impassionate'. That is not the case by any means. I fear this story leaves me a bit dumbfounded, because honestly, I want to see how it all pans out before I really sink my teeth into it at least on a technical and more analytical level. Despite that...

Hitomi is utterly fascinating. As I've said of much of Brythain's writing, she has this most 'Stevie Smith' Kissable of Philosophies. There's something so vulnerable and yet coarse to her (Hitomi, not Brythain) language, but even to her disability as a whole - its a personality and a condition defined by suddenness. She foils Hisao a bit, who has his usual adrift thinking (though a touch too mopey at times here, especially early on), but actually what I think attracts me to your version of Hisao is that he's slightly more *restless* than you usually see. There's a purposefulness to it, Hisao isn't so focused on Hitomi (a feat impressive given the tour-de-force we go through meeting a large cast), because he wants to be, it's because he has to be.

That is to say, I'm invested in this story - because the central characters are hanging by this tight thread; it's enthralling.

The weirdly artsy stuff aside, its good to see Molly and the gang getting some love her - and i'm loving the discussions this route is prompting. Nuke's thoughts were very interesting, and your attention to the threads of this story are not going unnoticed. I look forward to more eagerly.

Thanks!

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

Post by NuclearStudent » Sat Sep 26, 2020 4:52 pm

Was looking forward to Feurox's response.

I view this route of as a fairly well-engineered product, and I think of that statement as a compliment. I've already judged it, and judged it positively, as much as I really care to judge anything on a technical and analytical level. I don't think what exists now necessarily has bearing on what we'll see in the future. The beauty and terror of doing anything on a live basis is that it can all be grue, with pleasant qualities transforming into something awful. It all depends on the creator and the faith we have in them as people and as technicians. It'd be dreadfully poetic for xera to metaphorically go blind all of a sudden.

Not that I'm rooting for anyone's failure! Not as such. But I'm going to be honest about my motivations. I'm not interested in fanfiction because of tightly wound character arcs bound in tight threads. I'm interested in the possibility of wild failure or drastic change that doesn't exist in established and professional work. Anything could happen. The parameter space is open. The archers are amateurs and could shoot into the audience. Xera clearly has talent, and it takes talent and passion to really be unpredictable.

I don't find Hitomi herself to be interesting. I don't think she really needs to be. What interests me is the relationship between Hisao and Hitomi, because of the distance and buried volatility involved. Same with the other moving parts. I don't actually care about Molly or her feelings towards Hisao, or Miki's mysterious guilt, or the nonsensical power struggles of the student council. In real life, I tend to find human beings interesting, but their relationships dull. In fiction, I value the opposite. I value all the little setups ready to spill into an utter mess, and the way these moving parts interact.

All I really want to do with my life is stare at trainwrecks.

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

Post by Chatty Wheeler » Sat Sep 26, 2020 8:58 pm

BristerXD, Nuclear Student and Feurox,

I got a real kick out of reading all of your thoughts and insights regarding this story. After I found this story in late August, there were a couple of weeks where not many other folks were posting on this thread. It's nice to see some more opinions and thoughts from minds more seasoned and experienced than my own popping up. All of you brought up some interesting topics, and for the sake of discussion, I felt like responding to some of them!

————————————————————

BristerXD
——————————
First off, thank you—your latest post made me laugh more than I'd like to admit. Going from my typically sterile and dry form of analyzing scenes to your humor-infused writing style was a real treat. I don't know if you're intentionally trying to be funny, but I was certainly laughing, if that's worth anything to you. :D

You mention Hisao's hesitance to open up to others, which is probably indisputably true at this point in the story. However, you bringing it up got me thinking about Hitomi. Hisao hasn't really opened up to anybody except for Hitomi, and when he did, it clearly lifted an immense burden off of his shoulders. Since then, he hasn't been able to share his story with anybody else at the school, but I have the sneaking suspicion that he really does want to be able to open himself up to people other than Hitomi—even if it's a subconscious desire. Hisao wants to fit in, he wants to be accepted by those around him.

However, and this is if Shizune's theory is to be believed, Hitomi is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Hitomi doesn't want to fit in, she wants to be left alone, and she would rather have people not accept her because it would mean that she may have to bare her burdens to others. But by tightly trapping all of her burdens in her own mind, there is clearly a lot of pressure weighing her down. Sometimes, despite her best efforts, her pain does leak out in front of Hisao, but it's only in front of Hisao. Why does she only let this side of her show around Hisao? Because at the beginning of this story, he didn't seem to care as much about fitting in or being accepted by everyone, just like she did. But as the story has gone on, Hisao is slowly starting to change, and the now the following question is at the forefront of my mind: are Hitomi and Hisao growing closer together or farther apart? Time will tell, I suppose.
BristerXD wrote:
Sun Sep 20, 2020 1:45 am
Will admit, when I first read it I wasn't buying Shizune being the apologetic type. At least not to this Hisao. I thought it was just a bit too convenient just so you could insert the whole seed of doubt thing inside Hisao's head. I thought that and then realized how reading things at 3 am could negatively affect my perception of them. Now I realize that the apology is completely in line with Shizune's character she truly just wants to do her best by people and will do anything to do it. Even if it means admitting her mistake with aims for a bigger fish.
To respond to your quote from above, I actually had a different takeaway from Shizune's apologetic behavior. I think Shizune was trying to lull Hisao into a sense of comfort and friendliness, so that he might be more willing to listen when she started talking about Hitomi, which Shizune knows is a touchy subject for Hisao. I don't think Shizune's apology was completely disingenuous however, because what you're saying is true—her self-proclaimed duty as class representative and student council president is to ensure that everybody gets along well and is successful at Yamaku, so if apologizing is the way to repair her shaky relationship with Hisao, I don't think it's out of the question to say that she would.
BristerXD wrote:
Sun Sep 20, 2020 1:45 am
...I'm guessing love triangle between Molly, Hitomi, and Hisao with Suzu actually taking a liking to Molly who while wanting her attention has to notice that she may like Hisao and so doesn't want to see her hurt by him picking Hitomi thus making her hostile to her by proxy but I'm sure it's deeper than that.
Woah. What a neat prediction! I'm with you on there being a love triangle between Hisao, Hitomi, and Molly, but with Suzu in the mix, we'd have a love square—if that's what you'd call it. Honestly, I didn't really get the sense that Suzu had any romantic feelings for Molly, they seem more like good friends to me, but if there is some romantic tension between Suzu and Molly, it could definitely be a compelling twist. From my point of view, Suzu isn't in love with Molly, but she knows that Molly is in love with Hisao, and as any true homie would do for another homie, Suzu is trying to help Molly get with Hisao. Suzu left the classroom in scene six to give Molly and Hisao some "alone time," and when Suzu meets Hitomi in chapter seven, she notices the sparks between Hitomi and Hisao, which makes her a possible rival to Molly. I think that Suzu doesn't like Hitomi because Hitomi is Molly's rival, and given that Suzu and Molly are friends... well you can figure out the rest.


NuclearStudent
——————————
I read through your extensive collection of notes—all of which was very well articulated and detailed. A lot of the things that you noticed were things that I noticed as well—for example, the whole thing about Hisao thinking back to the hospital as a form of characterization—it's good to know that I'm not forming my analysis out of thin air. Hehe.
NuclearStudent wrote:
Tue Sep 22, 2020 5:15 pm
A bit too much of an anglization, I think. Lilly is the only one who canonically swears.
Ummm... I think you might be forgetting a couple of characters. *Points to Emi and Kenji*. :wink:

Hisao also drops an F-Bomb in his internal monologue during Emi's Route.
NuclearStudent wrote:
Tue Sep 22, 2020 5:15 pm
I am currently questioning the purpose of our diversion into a Taro/Suzu/Miki adventure.
When you are reading through the "Taro/Suzu/Molly/Miki adventure" for the first time, it's placement in the story doesn't make sense. However, when you reach the end of that scene, I the purpose of having that trip into town makes a whole lot more sense. The relationship Taro, Suzu, Molly, and Miki on display during their excursion into town are meant to directly contrast that of Hisao and Hitomi. We spend the first three-quarters of the scene with Miki and the gang; learning about them, learning they talk amongst themselves, and most importantly, learning how they handle their disabilities. We spend the last quarter of the scene with Hisao and Hitomi, where we see just how different Hisao and Hitomi are compared to Miki and the gang. I made a much longer and more specific analysis of this scene right after Xeraeo posted this scene, so you can refer to that post if you want to hear more of what I had to say about this scene. To sum it up: Miki, Suzu, Taro, and Molly all have their disabilities under control (and are perfectly comfortable with supporting each other when their disabilities cause problems), while Hisao and Hitomi don't have their disabilities under control, and immediately get defensive and upset when either of them tries to bring up that subject.
NuclearStudent wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2020 4:52 pm
The beauty and terror of doing anything on a live basis is that it can all be grue, with pleasant qualities transforming into something awful. It all depends on the creator and the faith we have in them as people and as technicians.

[...]

I'm not interested in fanfiction because of tightly wound character arcs bound in tight threads. I'm interested in the possibility of wild failure or drastic change that doesn't exist in established and professional work... Xera clearly has talent, and it takes talent and passion to really be unpredictable.

[...]

In real life, I tend to find human beings interesting, but their relationships dull. In fiction, I value the opposite. I value all the little setups ready to spill into an utter mess, and the way these moving parts interact.

All I really want to do with my life is stare at trainwrecks.
This entire post is really thought provoking. When you talk about pleasant qualities transforming into something awful, I assume that you are referring to the characters of the story. If this is the case, I agree. I think that the pleasant qualities that Hisao and Hitomi show on the outside are slowly being peeled back to reveal a good bit of hypocrisy, unreasonable behaviors, and whole swath of issues normally found in teenagers. It's only a matter of time before one of the characters finally addresses the elephant(s) in the room, and that's when we might see these relationships turn into the "trainwreck" that you are yearning for.

To Miss the Mark, to me, has always came across as a more somber and dark reimagining of Hisao's time at Yamaku, definitely not Mean Time to Breakdown dark, but still pretty melancholic. In the beginning of this story, Hisao is horribly depressed, defeated, but lucks out when he meets Hitomi by chance. This story, moreso than any of the main visual novel routes, puts the primary focus on Hisao. I'd almost call To Miss the Mark a "Hisao" route instead of a "Hitomi" route, because Hisao has a more fleshed arc here than I've seen in any other KS-related story I've read.

I bring all this up to say that Xeraeo clearly has not—and I'm willing to wager that he will not—shied away from exploring some of the darker aspects of Hisao, of Yamaku, and its students. Hisao is depressed, Hitomi is in denial, and both of them don't seem to be able to fully accept the presence of others (Hisao less so, and Hitomi more so). It also seems we might be exploring the topic of anti-disability sentiments in the coming scenes, which is something the original visual novel didn't even touch, if I recall correctly.

Xeraeo clearly has a lot of passion for these characters, and he has clearly taken great care while setting up Hitomi and her arc, but I don't think that means he's unwilling to put his characters through the wringer. We'll just have to see.


Feurox
——————————
Feurox wrote:
Fri Sep 25, 2020 3:41 pm
...what I think attracts me to your version of Hisao is that he's slightly more *restless* than you usually see. There's a purposefulness to it, Hisao isn't so focused on Hitomi (a feat impressive given the tour-de-force we go through meeting a large cast), because he wants to be, it's because he has to be.
Yes! I am in complete agreement with the above. I won't say any more out of fear of repeating what I have already said to BristerXD and NuclearStudent. You basically summed up what I said in five paragraphs using two sentences. Haha!
Feurox wrote:
Fri Sep 25, 2020 3:41 pm
That is to say, I'm invested in this story - because the central characters are hanging by this tight thread; it's enthralling.
Once again, I second this, and I would say more if I wouldn't be repeating myself from what I said to BristerXD and NuclearStudent.

————————————————————

Looking forward to the next scene! Take care, all.

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

Post by Xeraeo » Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:25 pm

Okay, just got back from a trip and got a bunch of work done. I can respond here.

Brixter and Chatty, thank you as always for your interesting commentary, and for being so invested in my story. It's humbling. I'm gonna try to avoid responding to specific commentary on plot points so I don't affect how you interpret things, and don't spoil anything for you or anyone else. But you certainly give me a lot to think about (and watch out for) as I go.

Nuke, thanks for reading through it all and providing notes! I know we talked a bit during the week, but now that I have time I do want to address a few things you brought up. First off, I'm flattered that you consider my writing as good or better than other major works on here, although we'll have to agree to disagree on that. I'm just flailing around on my keyboard compared to GuestPoster and EBJ. That being said, your notes seemed to focus mostly on what you liked and didn't like, particularly when it came to tropes. I'll admit having not read all there is to offer on these forums by a long shot and being new to the community, I was not aware of many of these. That being said, I don't mind occasionally rehashing old themes if it forwards the story.

Some things you seemed to point out frequently were that your favorite parts were those centered around Hitomi/Hisao, and you seemed to like the other scenes and characters less. I get that, since the focus of the story is the relationship, of course, and Hitomi is the new factor in my fic that isn't already present in canon KS / other fics. That being said, the large cast play an important role both in progressing the story between our two protags and in the larger themes/lessons I intend to convey over the totality of the work.

Each of the canon routes focused primarily on the girl; Hisao learning her strengths and weaknesses, and then assisting her with the latter in some way, I think (there's more to it than that, but that kinda sums it up.) In my story, I want Hisao to grow and learn just as much if not more than Hitomi does. They're on this journey together. Other characters will play a pivotal role in that growth. Beyond that, I found the other characters just disappearing after Act 1 to be a little odd in the VN, and as I've seen in many other works, I prefer to include more of the beloved characters from the VN in my writing.

One other thing I'll say, and this is not to just Nuke now; I'm not a big fan of love triangles. I think they're generally a cheap form of drama, and far more common in fiction than real life. As much as I loved Developments, I think the amount of time the drama dragged out among Emi/Hanako/Hisao until it finally tilted one way was perhaps my least favorite part of the fic as a whole. I still enjoyed it, don't get me wrong, but only because it was masterfully done. Hitomi is the focus of my story, and simple relationship drama will not be the main thing she deals with.

Feruox, I'm glad to hear you're invested, and that Hitomi as a character interests you. From what I've seen, OCs are somewhat tricky, so I'm glad I'm at least off to a decent start with my own. Thank you for reserving judgement until the story is further along. As much as I've posted, we're still not out of Act 2 yet, so the real conflicts are only just being set up for now. I hope that when things are closer to their conclusion and the primary themes of the work are clearer, you still find the characters and writing as interesting as you do now.

Your thoughts on Hitomi are interesting. I think that because she's still a mystery to me, reading what others are feeling and speculating about her actually has an influence on how she forms as a person in my mind, and eventually my writing. Thank you for contributing your own small bit of her, though I'm certain that was not your intention.

Back to Nuke; I hope to disappoint you on the trainwreck idea, though I fear it's more than likely. I'm about a third of the way into a cliff dive right now with little idea of whether the water below me is a mile deep or a few feet. Time will tell if I survive the execution.

Aaand back to Chatty for one more thing:
Chatty Wheeler wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2020 8:58 pm
Xeraeo clearly has a lot of passion for these characters, and he has clearly taken great care while setting up Hitomi and her arc, but I don't think that means he's unwilling to put his characters through the wringer. We'll just have to see.
Passion, yes. Wringer, undoubtedly. Taken great care? Uh, well, let's just say... no... I came up with the concept of Hitomi in about 5 minutes, originally, wrote the entirety of Act 1 in one 6 hour sitting the following night, and still have only a vague idea of who she is and where she's going. Her arc(s) do have a vision through Act 4, but it's still vague and blurry from back here. We'll see if we make it without hitting too many roadblocks, getting diverted by too many tangents, or if we'll end up on a different path entirely. Regardless, the ride itself is a lot of fun.

Oh, and Brixter, I swear I'll get to reviewing your draft tomorrow night! I may not have my reply ready for you until Monday night, but it's next on my to-do list. Looking forward to seeing you posting stuff on here for real sometime soon, bro!

Alright, response written. I may have been gone this week, but I did not stop writing. So, without further ado:
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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Xeraeo
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Derailment (2-9)

Post by Xeraeo » Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:29 pm

"Is this your first time coming to the city?"

Kind of a dumb question, but if we're spending the day together, I need to find something to talk about. We took the bus from Yamaku down to Sendai, and though sitting beside Hitomi for that long was thrilling in its own way, I don't think walking around in silence all day is the best use of our time.

"Yes."

Hitomi glances at me as she responds, but for the most part her attention seems to be occupied by the structures around us. She looks up at a particularly prominent office building, her eyes a tad wider than usual. I glance up at it as well; it's nothing special. Maybe 12 stories of glass and steel. I suppose it's got a nice aesthetic, but it's nothing compared to what I'm accustomed to from walking around in Tokyo.

It's likely that for Hitomi, Sendai is an impressive city. I don't really know how much she's travelled, but judging by the way she seems almost mesmerized by the buildings around us, I'm guessing not a whole lot.

As usual, her short answer to my attempt to make conversation leaves me wondering yet again what to say. We pass a few stores - nothing too noteworthy - and I notice that Hitomi seems to pay very little attention to the storefronts. Her eyes are fixed on the larger sights.

If she's not going to talk much, I guess I'll tell her about home. Wandering the streets like this is making me nostalgic anyway.

"I used to walk around the city like this all the time, back in Tokyo."

She glances up at me momentarily before returning to looking around us. To acknowledge that she's listening, I presume.

"My parents both work a lot, so it was between that and sitting at home. Most of my friends didn't live too far away, so we hung out downtown a lot. I always liked looking at the skyscrapers going up. The new tallest one was just being finished before I ended up in the hospital. I think it's around 250 meters tall."

That gets a raised eyebrow. "Seriously?"

I look further down the street to what looks to be the tallest building in the city, and point.

"About twice as tall as that one, I think."

She stares up at the impressive tower, which looks to be close to 30 stories. I think maybe she's trying to imagine what something the size of what I'm describing would look like. After a few long moments, she finally starts to talk.

"There's an old government building in a larger town near my village. It has a third floor, so it's the tallest building in the area. My friends and I called it 'the tower' when we were younger, because it was the highest thing we knew of." Hitomi speaks in her usual soft, even voice, but there's an undertone I can't quite place. Maybe, like me, she's missing home.

---

"Okay, that's really impressive."

Following a guide I picked up from a tourism stand, we made our way a kilometer or so north to see what has to be the tallest statue I've ever seen. We caught glimpses of it as we got nearer, but just a moment ago we finally broke free of the urban sprawl and reached the park the statue is located in, giving us a full view of it.

The thing is massive, 100 meters tall from what the guide tells me. Built of some sort of white stone or plaster, from the look of it, the statue depicts a goddess holding the Wishing Gem in her right hand. As we approach the base, Hitomi gazes up at the titanic white structure in amazement.

I look at the sign near the entrance, which appears to be an elaborate dragon's head set between the goddess' feet; there's a small fee to go up inside the statue.

"Want to go inside?"

Hitomi shakes her head absently, seemingly lost in thought.

Shrugging, I find a nearby bench and sit, grateful for the chance to rest for a little while. All this walking around is pushing my body harder than I'd care to say. The statue captures my attention again, and I have to admit to myself that I was being a bit arrogant with the way I was taking in the sights earlier. Just because I'm from Tokyo doesn't mean the rest of the country doesn't have stuff I've never seen before.

Hitomi doesn't join me on the bench, staying where she is and gazing upwards. Suddenly she turns and walks over to me.

"Hey, give me a minute?"

I raise an eyebrow. "Yeah, okay…"

"Thanks." She turns without another word and walks towards the base of the statue, where a large pool of water sits between the feet and below the entrance. I watch her go, curious as to what she's doing.

Without me to slow her down, Hitomi strides to the water pool with confidence. She reaches it in no time at all and stares up at the goddess from directly below, then gazes down into the pool.

From this distance, I can't make out exactly what she's doing. Other tourists or city residents walk by her, some stopping by the pool as well, others climbing the steps to the dragon's mouth entrance. A child cries out, and her mother quiets her down. An older couple approach the statue's base together, arm in arm. The noises of the city, of the people, seem to slowly die away as I watch Hitomi.

She's so still, standing alone in a sea of humanity, head bowed. I don't know if she's praying, or looking at her own reflection, or what, but for a long time she doesn't move.

My chest tightens, and for a moment I start to panic, but I realize quickly that my heart is beating as normally as it can. I was just holding my breath: just like I do when I'm watching Hitomi holding her bow, waiting for that moment of release. I didn't even realize I was doing it. Just like that, the moment is gone and as I refocus on her, I see Hitomi walking back towards me, though her pace is significantly slower than before.

She seems to be lost in thought, her eyes on the ground in front of her, hands tucked into her hoodie pocket. Despite her slower pace, I'm not worried about her vision; she still moves with a confident grace that seems to disappear whenever her sight does. The breeze picks up slightly, and a few loose strands of her hair blow sideways, though her knot holds up just fine.

I'm struck with conflicting feelings as I watch her move. Hitomi has become something I didn't expect to find at Yamaku; a source of comfort and warmth. Familiarity. When I'm with her, hell, even when I'm just watching her, I feel somehow at peace with who and where I am.

Yet, at the same time, I don't know if I provide a similar comfort to her, or if being around me and my condition puts her on edge. For that matter, I don't really know all that much about her. I know how she makes me feel, I know that like me, she's struggling to fit in at our school, and I know that she's as lost as I am when it comes to dealing with the reasons we're at Yamaku in the first place. I know a few snippets of information about her life before all this, and I know that I want to get to know her more.

Hitomi looks up at me as she approaches my bench, and a faint smile graces her face. A thought, unbidden, intrudes on the moment in ugly fashion.

Does she only like me because I appear normal?

I shove it out, not willing to let that kind of thinking ruin our day. That's something to figure out another time. Another day. Somewhere and sometime that it won't ruin what we have going right now, whatever that is.

"Hey."

"Hey." Her smile broadens as she sits beside me. "Thank you. I needed that."

I consider asking what she was actually doing, but decide to leave it up to her if she wants to talk about it. It seemed like something deeply personal or private.

A family of four walks past us, heading towards the statue. The older child, a boy who looks to be maybe eight or nine years old, locks eyes with me. I give him a smile and a quick wave, but he doesn't return it, clinging slightly tighter to his dad's hand as they walk away. I frown, wondering if my smile is really that bad.

A quiet snort beside me tells me Hitomi noticed the interaction. I glance at her, and she shakes her head.

"You shouldn't scare children like that." Her voice is serious, but her expression is playful. Teasing. I chuckle, and-

My phone vibrates in my pocket, interrupting my train of thought. I pull it out with a frown, wondering who it could possibly be.

A text message?

I almost never get calls on this thing, much less texts. My parents got it for me not long before I had my heart attack, but I rarely ever use it. Really, I think they just wanted a way to check in on me while they were at work, in case I wasn't home. It would be nice if one of them would actually give me a call once in a while. I haven't heard a word from either of them since they dropped me off two weeks ago.

Hisao, see me after classes tomorrow. -Nurse

I don't think I gave Nurse my number, but I guess my parents must have included it in my info when I was transferred.

"Everything okay?"

Hitomi is looking at my phone curiously, though she makes no move to actually try to read what's on the screen.

"Yeah, just Nurse checking on me."

"Oh." She goes quiet again, looking down at her feet. I snap my phone shut and stuff it back in my pocket. Suddenly, it occurs to me that I should probably use this opportunity to ask Hitomi for her own phone number, assuming she has one.

"Hey, do you have a cell phone?" If we're going to keep spending time together, it makes sense for me to get her number so we can communicate without having to actually go looking for each other. My panicked search for her the other day would have been unnecessary if I could have just called her.

Hitomi grimaces, but nods with some apparent reluctance. "Yes, but I don't usually keep it with me. It's in my room, somewhere."

"Ah." I guess it won't help much after all. Still, it can't hurt to ask. "Mind if I get your number?"

"Sure. Although…" She looks up at the sky, tilting her head. "…I don't actually remember what it is."

I chuckle a little. I've only got a few numbers memorized myself: my parents', our house, and my friend Mai's. I guess it makes sense that if Hitomi rarely uses her phone, she might not actually have bothered to memorize her own number.

"Why is the nurse texting you?"

The question gives me pause, and I look sideways at her. She looks back, holding my gaze without flinching.

"I don't know, really. He wants to see me tomorrow, so it can't be an emergency."

Her eyes narrow slightly. "You did go see him yesterday, right?"

I blink, wondering what she's talking about- then remember that after my… incident… in the woods, I told her I would see Nurse the next day.

Totally forgot about that…

Rubbing the back of my neck guiltily, I make an apologetic face.

"Ah… no, actually."

"Hisao!"

"I forgot, okay? I'm still not used to all this."

Her face darkens, and I realize I've never seen Hitomi actually angry before. Even when dealing with Shizune, she was pretty much calm, if somewhat cold. Now, though, she's obviously mad. It's a little scary. Despite being barely half my size, she seems to loom over me.

"You told me you would go see him. You can't just 'forget' about stuff like that!"

I feel my own face growing hot. Of all the students I've met, who is she to tell me how to deal with my condition?

I hear the bite in my voice as I reply, "Hey, it's not like you're all careful about your blindness! Cut me some slack."

Her eyes narrow again, her mouth hanging open, then she stands up suddenly. Without a word, she walks away, back towards the statue. I watch her go, immediately regretting my words.

Dammit…

I'm so sensitive about this stuff, I'm apparently willing to say something like that to her? When I'm with Hitomi, I don't want to think about my condition. I know that feeling is mutual. We both crossed that unspoken line just now.

She doesn't completely leave me here, instead stopping before reaching the statue, then turning and walking another direction, her pace quick and furious. In contrast with her aggressive body language, her face is an unreadable mask, eyes focused on nothing but the space ahead of her.

Back and forth she paces: not looking at me, but not leaving either. I watch her, trying to figure out how to apologize. We stay in this pattern for what feels like forever, although in reality it's probably no more than five or ten minutes.

At last, she slows down, turns, and meanders back towards me. Her eyes don't meet mine, but she approaches calmly and sits down. She says nothing, but clearly she wouldn't be sitting by me if she didn't want to.

"Hitomi." She glances in my general direction, but doesn't look me in the eye. I continue.

"I'm sorry. That was totally out of line."

No response.

I'm not sure what else to say. I shouldn't have said what I said, but neither should she. I thought there was an unspoken understanding that we wouldn't push each other like this. We certainly get enough of it from other people…

Finally, Hitomi gives me a curt nod, still not looking at me directly. "Can we go back now?"

I grimace, and nod back. It's not that late; I had been hoping to spend a lot more time with her today, but I suppose the mood is ruined now.

Wordlessly, we make our way back to the bus stop and wait. Fortunately, it isn't too long before the next one arrives, and we board. She still sits beside me, but not nearly as closely as before.

The ride back feels a million times longer than the ride down here did. Hitomi stares out the window, and I look down at my feet, occasionally glancing at her. I don't really think she's doing that thing girls sometimes do, where they make sure you know they're ignoring you. She's just not willing to engage with me right now. I can't say I blame her.

---

The bus drops us off, and we approach the gates side by side, still without a word. A few other students are milling around the grounds, moving between the academic buildings and the dorms, or sitting on the grass chatting in the early evening sun. Some distance off, I see Lilly's distinctive hair as she walks carefully alongside another female student I don't recognize. Both are using canes to navigate, but the other girl seems far less sure of herself. I can see that Lilly is speaking to the girl, though from this distance I can't hear what she's saying.

Hitomi and I reach the dorms. In fact, we're standing in the same place she gave me that kiss yesterday. It hasn't even been 24 hours, but things somehow feel so different now. It feels like whatever it is that's been rapidly growing between us is now buried under the discomfort of our confrontation. Neither of us says anything as we stop, but I take comfort in the fact that she doesn't just keep walking to her room, leaving me without a word. Instead, she turns to face me for the first time in over an hour, looking up at me with those piercing eyes.

"I'm sorry too."

What?

"I shouldn't have been so harsh. It's not my business, anyway."

I nod slowly, though in truth I don't really like the sound of that. Hitomi continues, her voice still flat and even.

"I enjoyed today, Hisao. Really, I did."

"So did I."

Despite our words, the atmosphere between us still feels off. The shadow of our earlier argument seems too thick to just brush off with quick apologies.

Deciding that we'll have to just make it work, I lean forward and give Hitomi a quick hug. She returns it, though only briefly, and we say our goodbyes. She turns and walks into the dorm. This time, though, she glances back at me, an uncertain expression on her face.

When she's gone, I sigh. As far as first dates go, if indeed that's what today was, things could have gone much better. Although, I suppose it could have ended worse. At least we're still on speaking terms, if a bit distant.

I take a couple steps towards my own dorm, but decide I don't want to go sit in my room just yet. I'll just end up thinking endlessly about what happened. I am pretty worn out from all the walking around I've done today, but I guess a bit more won't kill me. Probably.

As I turn around, I see Lilly and the other girl she was with nearing the dorms as well.

"Really, Akari, you're doing quite well. Just keep practicing, and you'll be fine on your own in no time."

Even though the other girl likely can't see it, Lilly's wearing that trademark pleasant smile as she encourages the younger girl, who thanks her quietly before Lilly orients her in the direction of the dorm entrance and sends her on her way. After giving them a moment, I approach Lilly.

"Hey, Lilly, do you have a minute?"

Her head tilts, as if she's trying to place the voice. "Hisao. Yes, I suppose I have time. What can I help you with?"

I'm amazed that she can so quickly tell who I am from just my voice, but thinking about it, I suppose that I can recognize dozens or hundreds of people from seeing their faces. For Lilly, it's probably the same thing with voices.

I move beside her, and we walk towards the gardens at a leisurely pace as I begin to talk.

---

"It sounds to me, from what you've told me so far, that you have reached a similar position with Hitomi as I have."

"…uh, what?" I didn't go into all the details, but certainly I've told Lilly enough about my relationship with Hitomi for her to infer that there's at least some romantic interest there…

She giggles lightly, apparently catching the misunderstanding. "Meaning that, when it comes to dealing her condition, Hitomi is unwilling to discuss it with others in almost any detail. I think she has yet to come to terms with her situation herself."

"Ah." Well, that does seem to be the case, in my experience. Hitomi did tell me how her condition came about not long after we met, but beyond that, she seems reluctant to really talk about how she deals with it, and at times almost hostile.

Our meandering walk eventually took us to a secluded bench, where we both sat for a short rest. The evening light is slowly waning, and I'm momentarily reminded of when Lilly and I met last week.

"Pardon me if this is too forward, Hisao, but I don't think Hitomi is the only one with this problem."

I tense up instinctively- then realize how hypocritical that is. Am I really going to react this way every time somebody mentions my own problems? Isn't that exactly what caused this rift between Hitomi and I? My shoulder slump a bit, and I nod, though the gesture is likely lost on Lilly.

"I suppose you have a point." I can't argue with Lilly on that, but I'm not about to pour out my own struggles to her either. I came to her for advice on Hitomi, since she seems to be one of the few students here that ever really speaks to the isolated girl.

Few other students seem to be around, but even as I think this, a pair of younger female students walks by, giving Lilly and me odd looks. I don't recognize them, but then again I don't really know any of the younger students. They whisper to each other, but keep walking. I turn to Lilly, who has her head tilted with an odd look of her own.

"Ah. Forgive me, Hisao, but it would probably best that I go clear up a misunderstanding."

I look around, but there's nobody else nearby. Was she able to hear what those girls were saying?

"Okay. Thank you for talking with me."

We both stand, Lilly brushing her clothing briefly before taking up her cane again. It must be a habit for her.

"Of course. Do consider talking more with other students here, not just the staff." She pauses, facing me. "You're going to be okay, Hisao."

I'm surprised by my own reaction to this small encouragement. Her words affect me more than I can explain, and I have to swallow hard to keep myself from tearing up.

"Thanks."

She nods politely, then turns and makes her way out of the garden in the direction the two girls just went. I briefly consider helping her find them, but I guess if she needed help, she would have asked for it.

Turning back towards the dorms, I realize just how tired I am. It's been a long day, and I have classes in the morning. If I'm able to, I need to get a full night's sleep.

Of course, the odds of that aren't looking good right now…

-----

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter

Wordcount: 3,716 / 47,232
Last edited by Xeraeo on Sat Oct 03, 2020 6:40 pm, edited 3 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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BristerXD
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Location: Pennsylvania

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

Post by BristerXD » Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:53 am

I said I'm getting ahead of the chapters now and god damn it is my drive to avoid doing any more fucking spreadsheets for stats compelling me to stick to my promise. And plus these are too spicy to keep on the back burners of my mind. So, with no regards for my academic well being or the blood vessels in my eyes ready to burst like a suicide bomber trying to make mozzarella sticks for the first time, let's get on with the critical analysis.

2-8: Alright, first pitch of the at-bat, the ever-winding screwball that is Kenji interactions. I think it was the conversation prone wagon spokes (Chattywheeler) that pointed out that your interpretation of Kenji was significantly more mellow than his VN counterpart. I can say for certain that while he's one the money with that read, I also agree that it isn't a bad thing. I found this little scene rather amusing and it's clear that you changed his character to better fit your more grounded and straightforward writing style. However, I can't help but feel that it exists for no other reason than to serve as a break from the action or main plot. That was what their original purpose was in the VN of course but I feel those Kenji scenes worked so well because Kenji was just so fucking bat shit. He forced his way into the reader's mind with lines like "Thwart snipers" and others so absurd that when they ended it was a harsh mouth wash to cleanse the pallet. They also doubled as gauges to how Hisao's character changed in his particular routes with his reactions to Kenji being crazy. He was gaining depth through a means other than the main girl. So with this significantly tuned down Kenji and your expansion of the Miki fun parade who thanks to being your own creation basically fit far better in your style of writing, it kinda feels like Kenji has lost his place in the story. Is this whole thing a deal-breaker? No. I'm sure it was fun for you to write and you're happy you wrote it so that's all that matters in the end. We do this shit for fun. I just have this idea that you can do that while still giving those scenes and purpose deeper purpose and that as writers to improve we always should seek to strive for those standards.

And I just realized that only the first paragraph and I still got the rest of this chapter and another waiting for me so let's move on before my nervous system starts going on the fritz. Onto the first section of the track scene. I love it when stories have clear sections, helps the brain from uncoiling like damp yarn. Now with this section, I don't really have many complaints or praise to lob your way. I felt like the description was a bit too stop and start for my taste, never really felt like there was a constant rhythm to Hisao's thoughts and so it read in my head like how spies in old movies would read secret telegrams with big STOP's after every sentence. It wasn't a big issue though and I feel this is another style thing. I did like how you brought back up the Miki not trying situation. It certainly is a subplot I'm excited to see play out. And the following scene with Rin is just a nice little touch, a farewell to what will probably be the last cannon event you will mention for the VN. Or there's one I'm forgetting about but I can't access right now because it's stored in the part of my brain currently pushing up against my skull.

Ignoring that ticking time bomb, the scene in the library... whatinthefuckisthislittlesecretIswearitiseatingmeupinside Very real feeling awkwardness that made me tighten up just a little bit first time reading. It doesn't say too much but says enough, another thing I'm certainly looking forward to being paid off, way to go champ.

And to top it off the ending. That is the character recognizing and sitting with the shit they have experienced good structural and pace awareness stuff I love. The fine layers of this tiramisu finally coming together. A perfect ending for that chapter, I love it. But as one closes, another opens... in an already readied tab just to the right of this one... a bit less dramatic than a page turn I will admit. Even weaker a transition.

2-9: So as we follow our pairing the city I have to say-wait a minute... *Opening back up the tab for chapter 2-8* she has a fucking tonto blade as a hairpin!? I hope that isn't the set up to anything down the line. Hisao getting mugged and Hitomi swooping in to save his life but being scarred by the need to take another human life is not what I'm expecting to say the least... But maybe that's exactly what you want me to think-

Alright, stopping that rabbit hole of thought-which I assure is being caused mainly by sleep deprivation and is also how I came up with my now admittedly crackpot love triangle with a rusty third wheel prediction-our main couples first official date.

I really like this beginning with the comparisons of hometown definitions of a skyscraper is a really understated demonstration of just how different these characters are. There's still this air of inherent hesitation between them of opening up to each other, not sure what the next right move it. Seeing this little give and take is now that I think about the only moment they've had with each other that wasn't spurred on by dramatic outside events. The closest thing in my memory is them sitting on the bench to watch fireworks but even then that moment was sadly punctuated with Hitomi's blindness kicking in.

Of course this is followed up with a genuine moment of Hitomi attending the shrine and Hisao watching. Faith is a tricky thing to pin down in Japanese culture and isn't touched on in the slightest by anyone in the VN so it's another nice way Hitomi is differentiated from the main cast. Certainly is another realistic way her disability influences her decisions and thought process. It's another piece to this growing background of her traditionalism, with everything from the archery to the bloody knife in her hair. It's certainly shaping up to her having an interesting home life that I'm sure we'll see eventually. We'll see just how well that hick statement sticks.

Speaking of sticking... the act of Hisao snapping back at Hitomi really sticks in my craw. I mentioned before the natural awkwardness present in the beginning that reflective of their current relationship status in my mind. Of how they seem to tiptoe around each other because they are so unsure of where they can solidly place their feet. This outburst from Hisao feels just so out of left field and not at all his character has been reading like in my mind. I remember saying a similar thing regarding his snapping at Emi in an earlier chapter. How that felt like cheap heat just to move the needle a little bit. This now feels way too rushed in and still out of character with what was set up not only in the VN but in this very story.
Xeraeo wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:29 pm
"Hisao!"

"I forgot, okay? I'm still not used to all this."

Her face darkens, and I realize I've never seen Hitomi actually angry before. Even when dealing with Shizune, she was pretty much calm, if somewhat cold. Now, though, she's obviously mad. It's a little scary. Despite being barely half my size, she seems to loom over me.

"You told me you would go see him. You can't just 'forget' about stuff like that!"

I feel my own face growing hot. Of all the students I've met, who is she to tell me how to deal with my condition?

I hear the bite in my voice as I reply, "Hey, it's not like you're all careful about your blindness! Cut me some slack."
Alright, I realize that the scene with Emi now served a purpose. It was to illustrate how Hisao has developed a bit of an itchy trigger finger when it comes to his own disability which is sort of an opposite to his general depression from it in the Hanako route. While I still heavily disagree with this characterization, it's a consistent choice that I have to applaud. But even swallowing all that, this entire section feels like a slap in the face and not in the good intentional kind of way. We never get to even dip into the anger Hisao is feeling, I feel completely divorced from his experience. I have been yelled at for something completely reasonable and yet have reacted irrationally. But usually, that comes from taking a position and putting on your eggs in that basket when someone just effortlessly pokes a hole in it, pointing out its fault and in an act of desperate self-defense you fall into the trap of "well you aren't so much better" defense. Tū quoque is the Latin name for this fallacy. But this feels more like Hisao jumping the gun. If Hitomi just kept badgering him about it after not buying his excuse, even going so far as to poke the same kinds of holes Hisao could use to illustrate her own harmful behavior, then that's something. There's a dramatic scene. There's a slow ramp up that gets me heated with the person I'm following. It may just be your understand writing style again but I can't help but feel this is like a bad one-act play where two characters are just having a casual chat about sports or something, one person drops a mug, the other gets rightfully pissed, and the original person head butting in response. It's this sudden spike that then just goes straight down with the follow-up
Xeraeo wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:29 pm
Her eyes narrow again, her mouth hanging open, then she stands up suddenly. Without a word, she walks away, back towards the statue. I watch her go, immediately regretting my words.

Dammit…

I'm so sensitive about this stuff, I'm apparently willing to say something like that to her? When I'm with Hitomi, I don't want to think about my condition. I know that feeling is mutual. We both crossed that unspoken line just now.
There is no emotion in this segment. For something as messy as that outburst to happen for Hisao to them seemingly immediately go "well let's break down why that exactly happened" like he's a politician reviewing his own speech for improvement just feels alien. There's no flurry of emotion that would be clouding his judgment, no confliction from both Hitomi being right but also feeling valid in his own emotions. Nothing here says that he's just the slightest bit out fo control or in dire need of say, the counsel of Lilly later. He literally says here we both crossed a line but in the interaction with Lily he says after having the fucking obvious pointed out to him,
Xeraeo wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:29 pm
I tense up instinctively- then realize how hypocritical that is. Am I really going to react this way every time somebody mentions my own problems? Isn't that exactly what caused this rift between Hitomi and I?
You already did Hisao, in like literally the first few seconds of you doing it. In fact this is the second time you are needing to learn this session. Why are you so fucking surprised by it now that the blonde says it!? Either you realize that you are having emotional problems that you need to actively work through and that sometimes despite what you want you still fall into the same old traps like say a recovering alcoholic, ooooorrrrrrrr, you are so emotionally inept you can't understand how you are in the wrong and while you have the basic human kindness in not your heart to not want to hurt the person you like you're so at odds with yourself that need a sensible person to point out how exactly you're being a dick. I assume you're going for the first one Xeraeo but the Lilly conversation is really sending me some mixed signals.

Alright... time to decompress. I had to rewrite that entire thing at least three times to get it sounding right and even then I feel like I'm not getting across everything I want. I just need to know, does anyone feel or at least see what I'm trying to say? I guess if I had to sum it all up, it would be that this crucial scene lacks the setup and space it deserves. You're writing style once again is very direct and straight to the point but it seems now that it is hindering your ability to give emotional scenes that need that bit of pageantry and presentation they need to really invest the reader. I warned about this with the early scene with Hisao in the bathroom right before meeting Rin with the wet pants. Now I feel it's come roost.

To not end on the note of me feeling like an over critical piece of shit, the way you build that Hisao and Hitomi delayed apology and acknowledgment of their shared good time despite everything. Again, it's an understated beauty that I can just picture in my mind in a movie like before sunset in pairs. Even with everything I said, I want to see how not only their relationship plays out but all the things surrounding Hisao. You still have me hooked, it's just that you've dragged me through a particular jagged patch of rock. I hope you found this helpful and that others can build or break it down to give their own thoughts. Have a nice day.

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

Post by Chatty Wheeler » Tue Sep 29, 2020 8:16 pm

BristerXD wrote:
Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:53 am
...the conversation prone wagon spokes...
Oh heck, I've been summoned. :D

All in all, I think that this was another very solid installment to the story. The narrative development and progress tucked into this scene was exciting, Xeraeo's consistently strong prose and dialogue continues to shine, and the future ramifications that this chapter hints at are intriguing to consider.

I originally planned on waiting until the next scene was posted so that I could make an analysis of both at the same time. However, I woke up this morning to see BristerXD's comment, and now I want to throw my hat in the ring. I was pretty shocked when I read through BristerXD's comment—it has forced me to do some critical thinking and change up my notes. I'd like to applaud BristerXD right off the gate for writing such a detailed and thought-provoking analysis. I'm going to be referencing both my thoughts on the scene itself and my thoughts on BristerXD's comment as we go along. Alright, let's get this "wagon" rolling!

—————————

The scene in the city was quite lovely—with lots of flavorful bits of characterization for both Hitomi and Hisao. Hisao accidentally scaring off the young boy was a charming and relatable little bit, but it also reminded me of how haggard Hisao is supposed to look in this story, so this bit is more bittersweet on second thought.

Given that the clock is ticking on Hitomi's vision, it makes perfect sense for her to be so prone to gawking at the city—trying to take in as much of the world as possible before she loses her eyesight for good. This has the unfortunate side affect of leaving Hisao to awkwardly try and make conversation with the completely distracted Hitomi. I've mentioned this in a previous post, but this cycle of Hisao trying to get Hitomi to speak in more than one-sentence (or one-word) answers is something that has happened before. At this point, it might just have to be something he needs to get used to—but the question is whether he can get used to it.

Given that Sendai is a real city in Japan, I wonder if the statue from this scene actually exists in real life... Maybe Xeraeo could shed some light on this? Either way, it's a very distinct set piece that lends a more unique image to the scene. Seeing Hitomi feeling so profoundly moved by the sight of the statue—something far taller than anything she has ever seen—was a very believable moment that further helped fleshed her character out in my mind. She's got a bit of childlike wonder in her—who would have guessed?

—————————
Xeraeo wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:29 pm
Does she only like me because I appear normal?

I shove it out, not willing to let that kind of thinking ruin our day. That's something to figure out another time. Another day. Somewhere and sometime that it won't ruin what we have going right now, whatever that is.
This same question had plagued Hisao for the last three scenes, but he just keeps putting it farther and farther off. I don't blame him for not wanted to talk about this subject during this date, but his attitude about the whole situation makes me feel like he's going to just bury his worries until it's too late. And as we're about to find out, "too late" might be coming up sooner than we think...

——————————

On my first read, I had a much more positive outlook on the "argument" than BristerXD. I thought that the argument was cleverly constructed because both Hisao and Hitomi are correct, while at the same time both of them are being hypocrites. Hitomi rightfully grows angry with Hisao for forgetting to touch base with the Nurse after his heart flutter, but not even a minute ago, she admitted to forgetting her phone number. Hypocrite. Next, Hisao rightfully points out that Hitomi doesn't exactly handle her own disability in the most thoughtful way either, but this statement is just as true for Hitomi as it is for himself. Hypocrite. Both characters are right, neither is wrong, but both are angry, which is exactly what happens when you try and suppress your problems like Hisao and Hitomi have.

Although I'm hardly qualified to speak on this matter, the portrayal of Hisao and Hitomi's shaky relationship feels eerily realistic. When two people become too singularly attached to each other, blocking out all other people in the process, they can be more willing to apparent disregard the personality flaws that they see in each other. They allow minor annoyances to lay dormant, but soon they start to pile up, annoyances become grudges, grudges become resentments, and eventually, the relationship collapses in a fit of uncontrolled catharsis. Usually, both parties are left wondering why they had never said anything before. Thankfully, we have not gotten even remotely this far with Hisao and Hitomi. I'd say they that their problems are still at the "minor annoyances" level, and nothing more for now. But if these foundational problems continue to fester without being addressed, Hisao and Hitomi have some bad times up ahead.

Anyway, the argument ends, Hisao apologizes, Hitomi doesn't, she instead asks to return to Yamaku, I begin to worry to Hitomi might never apologize, but then she does when they get back. Phew. I would have been pretty upset if she didn't apologize. Then the two of them says there goodbyes, and we're left with things being okay between Hisao and Hitomi, but certainly a lot of uncertainty thrown into the mix.

——————————

Suddenly, a friendly neighborhood Lilly makes her presence known, and we get a helpful conversation between the two of them.

Xeraeo wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:29 pm
"Pardon me if this is too forward, Hisao, but I don't think Hitomi is the only one with this problem."
Yes! Good! Tell him how it is, Lilly. He definitely needs to hear this.

Xeraeo wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:29 pm
I'm surprised by my own reaction to this small encouragement. Her words affect me more than I can explain, and I have to swallow hard to keep myself from tearing up.
Similarly, this fills me with so much joy. Sometimes we need to step back, acknowledge, and accept that things aren't working out. But despite that, sometimes we just need to be told that "everything is going to be okay," because it will be, as long as you are willing to accept that things aren't okay in their current state. Thanks Lilly.

——————————

With these warm feelings, I closed the forums, finished writing my notes, and carried on with my day. Then this morning, I stumbled upon BristerXD's rather critical comment, and the security that I had for my opinions on this scene was thrown out the window. I wouldn't say their comment changed my overall outlook on this scene, but they certainly pointed out a fair amount of things that I hadn't considered before, and I suddenly had a lot more to chew on. So, here are my thoughts on your thoughts, BristerXD!

——————————
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:53 am
This outburst from Hisao feels just so out of left field and not at all his character has been reading like in my mind. I remember saying a similar thing regarding his snapping at Emi in an earlier chapter. How that felt like cheap heat just to move the needle a little bit. This now feels way too rushed in and still out of character with what was set up not only in the VN but in this very story.

[...]

Alright, I realize that the scene with Emi now served a purpose. It was to illustrate how Hisao has developed a bit of an itchy trigger finger when it comes to his own disability which is sort of an opposite to his general depression from it in the Hanako route. While I still heavily disagree with this characterization, it's a consistent choice that I have to applaud.
Is the outburst from Hisao painful to read? Yes—as I'm sure Xeraeo intended for it to be. Is the outburst from Hisao out of character? In my opinion, no. Throughout this story, Hisao's inner-monologue has consistently revealed that he has a quick temper when it comes to his disability. He is very easily annoyed or angered when someone makes light of his or Hitomi's disability—like that bit with Emi that you mentioned. The reason that this outburst is different from the rest is that, this time, nothing or nobody is there to stop Hisao from snapping before he does.

In Act 2, Scene 6, Hisao comes close to snapping at Shizune when she explains her motivation for trying to recruit him to the student council, but Misha stops him with her... feminine charm? Or whatever it may be:
Xeraeo wrote:
Tue Sep 15, 2020 12:35 am
"...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.

In Act 2, Scene 2, Hisao nearly snaps at Rin when she, admittedly tactlessly, addresses his "heart thingy."
Xeraeo wrote:
Thu Aug 06, 2020 10:02 pm
"Did your heart thing get better?"

THAT stops me in my tracks. I whirl on her, temper flaring, but she takes no notice as she continues staring out the windows at the sky. I grit my teeth, and force myself to answer in a level, if cold voice.

In Act 2, Scene 4, Hisao nearly snaps at Molly in the restaurant when she continues to ask him if he's okay:
Xeraeo wrote:
Sun Aug 30, 2020 2:14 am
"You're really okay?" Molly asks again. I feel myself becoming annoyed, but I suppress the urge to snap and just nod quietly...

Those are all the examples I thought of off the top of my head, and there are probably more that I can't recall right now, but they are indicative of Hisao having a short temper when it comes to his disability. From my perspective, Hisao's outburst in this scene was the next logical step from the three examples I just listed. I can totally see why the outburst might have bothered you, but this might be the only time where I have to plainly disagree with your take.

——————————
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:53 am
But even swallowing all that, this entire section feels like a slap in the face and not in the good intentional kind of way. We never get to even dip into the anger Hisao is feeling, I feel completely divorced from his experience. I have been yelled at for something completely reasonable and yet have reacted irrationally.

[...]

If Hitomi just kept badgering him about it after not buying his excuse, even going so far as to poke the same kinds of holes Hisao could use to illustrate her own harmful behavior, then that's something. There's a dramatic scene. There's a slow ramp up that gets me heated with the person I'm following...
I must admit that these thoughts never crossed my mind on my first read but after thinking about it... I might be inclined to agree with you. I recall that you've reported this same issue in multiple previous scenes. The first instance the comes to mind was when you took issue with the bit in Act 2, Scene 4, where Hisao rushes to the clearing to find Hitomi. You explained that there wasn't enough time for the panic to build up in Hisao's—and therefore the reader's—mind, and that the lack of a build up made the payoff ineffective. In that instance, I didn't... disagree. But here, in this scene, I can't help but find your proposal of having Hitomi "just [keep] badgering [Hisao] about it after not buying his excuse" to be a pretty appealing idea. It would have added some weight and tension to the whole exchange. Edit: Not to imply that there wasn't any weight or tension in the exchange! My whole body was completely tensed up when reading this part of the scene. I was just trying to say that BristerXD's idea may have lended even more weight to the scene.

——————————
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:53 am
Xeraeo wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:29 pm
Her eyes narrow again, her mouth hanging open, then she stands up suddenly. Without a word, she walks away, back towards the statue. I watch her go, immediately regretting my words.

Dammit…

I'm so sensitive about this stuff, I'm apparently willing to say something like that to her? When I'm with Hitomi, I don't want to think about my condition. I know that feeling is mutual. We both crossed that unspoken line just now.
There is no emotion in this segment. For something as messy as that outburst to happen for Hisao to them seemingly immediately go "well let's break down why that exactly happened" like he's a politician reviewing his own speech for improvement just feels alien. There's no flurry of emotion that would be clouding his judgment, no confliction from both Hitomi being right but also feeling valid in his own emotions.
Again, you have a real point here. Hisao returning to a calm state happened pretty quickly, and I can totally see you making the argument that it was too quick. Having Hisao analyze the outburst directly having it happened may have also been too quick. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate for that whole analyzation segment to occur while Hisao is on the bus ride back to Yamaku—when he would reasonably have plenty of time to contemplate what had just transpired between him and Hitomi. Where I don't agree with you is where Hisao's mind is at directly after the outburst. I don't really think that Hisao was experiencing a "flurry" of emotions during the outburst. He literally only shouted one line:
Xeraeo wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:29 pm
I hear the bite in my voice as I reply, "Hey, it's not like you're all careful about your blindness! Cut me some slack."
I don't really buy the idea that he's experiencing uncontrolled rage in this moment. He's definitely emotional in this instance, but the whole argument was so short that I don't think he's out of control. This is why I'm more willing to buy the idea that Hisao returned to a calm state faster than you thought was reasonable.

—————————
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:53 am
Xeraeo wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:29 pm
I tense up instinctively- then realize how hypocritical that is. Am I really going to react this way every time somebody mentions my own problems? Isn't that exactly what caused this rift between Hitomi and I?
You already did Hisao, in like literally the first few seconds of you doing it. In fact this is the second time you are needing to learn this session. Why are you so fucking surprised by it now that the blonde says it!? Either you realize that you are having emotional problems that you need to actively work through and that sometimes despite what you want you still fall into the same old traps like say a recovering alcoholic, ooooorrrrrrrr, you are so emotionally inept you can't understand how you are in the wrong and while you have the basic human kindness in not your heart to not want to hurt the person you like you're so at odds with yourself that need a sensible person to point out how exactly you're being a dick. I assume you're going for the first one Xeraeo but the Lilly conversation is really sending me some mixed signals.
Yeah, I'm going to assume that first one, as well. I think it would be pretty cheap if Hisao all of a sudden was cured of his insecurities regarding his disability. He's not even comfortable with his disability around Hitomi, so why would he be any more comfortable around Lilly? For Hisao, it's just a habit, a habit that he needs to break. Habits don't break with the snap of your fingers, and let's remember that these events are happening all within a short time. Despite us readers only getting a new scene each week or so, the last four scenes have all taken place in the span of two days for Hisao. A depressed individual can't "snap out of it" in two days. An individual who's been through a life-changing event can't come to terms in two days, And if you want to tie this back into KS, someone like Hanako can't be expected to show the other half of her face to Hisao in two days. We don't even see Hanako show the other half of her face to Hisao at all in the main game.

I totally see your point here. It might be frustrating as a reader to see Hisao and Hitomi repeatedly fail at coping with their issues, but maybe that's not a bad thing. Maybe we should feel frustrated at Hisao and Hitomi. In fact, one of the first things Xeraeo ever said to me when I was still a newbie was this:
Xeraeo wrote:
Sat Aug 29, 2020 1:51 am
...Although I wouldn't mind the reader getting a touch annoyed with him at times, as that would be consistent with the VN Hisao, whom I wanted to slap upside the head a couple times.
——————————
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:53 am
Alright... time to decompress. I had to rewrite that entire thing at least three times to get it sounding right and even then I feel like I'm not getting across everything I want. I just need to know, does anyone feel or at least see what I'm trying to say? I guess if I had to sum it all up, it would be that this crucial scene lacks the setup and space it deserves. You're writing style once again is very direct and straight to the point but it seems now that it is hindering your ability to give emotional scenes that need that bit of pageantry and presentation they need to really invest the reader. I warned about this with the early scene with Hisao in the bathroom right before meeting Rin with the wet pants. Now I feel it's come roost.
Alright... time for me to decompress. I'm really glad that you wrote this comment—it challenged me in numerous ways and made me think even more critically than normal. I had a good time figuring out where I agreed and disagreed with you. Likewise, I hope that you know that I'm always happy to hear where you agree and disagree with me. These kinds of discussions are some of my favorite things to partake in. I can't just be a passive reader anymore, I have to engage, form my own opinions, and be willing to have them challenged by other, smarter people.

For what it's worth, I have a prediction: this "outburst" in scene nine isn't going to be the outburst. I get the feeling that scene nine is only a teaser for what's to come. I mentioned that the argument in this scene felt quite short, but maybe this was Xeraeo's intention all along. Maybe the real falling out is yet to come. This is only Act 2, after all.

As always, I'm psyched to see where this story goes next, and I enjoyed reading this scene! Take care, everyone.
Last edited by Chatty Wheeler on Wed Sep 30, 2020 1:27 am, edited 6 times in total.

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

Post by BristerXD » Wed Sep 30, 2020 12:22 am

You guys are in real trouble now... I'm writing this a slightly more reasonable time of night than before. And not only that, I've taken headache medicine. Call me the fucking Rasputin of this generation because I'm about to earn a lot of influence by being completely batshit. Here is how Chatty is a stupid piece of shit and why Xeraeo is and even bigger and STIPUDERER PIECE OF-

And that's exactly when my want for humor fails to supersede my fear someone actually taking that seriously.No in all honesty I'm making this post because this whole city argument segment has been sitting in my for a while now. As I said in my original post I spent some time trying to rewrite my explanation for my problem because even after reading the chapter several times over I felt like I could not place exactly why it was such a bother for me. Even after posting, I knew there was something I was missing.

Then came our love friend, talk box but instead it's actually in the shape of a circle. Not only did he once again have a stellar breakdown of the many elements at play in the story and the implications they have for the story going forward, but he also gave me a eureka moment. See, what I've realized is that the thoughts from Chatty in the others often scratch an itch I can't. Pointing out the good in the writing on just a story level. My brain automatically goes into deep construction and the theory behind what makes a story good. On the why it works. Rarely do I touch on the how it makes me feel. I'm sure there are many worrying psychological implications to that, but let's keep those in between me and my therapist.

I set this because the first amendment I would like to make to my original assessment is that this outburst from Hisao is not from out of left field. It is more than just a consistent choice. It is deliberate and excellent characterization. The many examples that Chatty excellently quoted prove as much to me. I can not comfortably call this interaction a fault on the premise of inconsistent characterization. That of course made me ask myself, where the hell did that assessment come from? Why did it pop into my head as the obvious fault here? Well, Chatty points it out himself for me here:
Chatty Wheeler wrote:
Tue Sep 29, 2020 8:16 pm
Is the outburst from Hisao painful to read? Yes—as I'm sure Xeraeo intended for it to be. Is the outburst from Hisao out of character? In my opinion, no. Throughout this story, Hisao's inner-monologue has consistently revealed that he has a quick temper when it comes to his disability.
Thoughtout this story. That is the rock in my shoe. I am still trying to compare this Hisao to the one in the VN. This once again goes all the way back to the thing I said about the Emi confrontation. I remember stating that I felt Emi was acting a bit out character in the scene, just snapping at Hisao the way she did. That her character at that point in the story would have not done such a thing and while there is a liberty in character interpretation I felt as though there was not enough delineating in her story to justify that response. In a way, I still feel that. But I realize now that I'm trying to apply the same logic to Hisao in this story. My own idea of Hisao's character is still tied to how I personally believe that Hisao would evolve given the new situation this story presents. An evolution that is dependant on my own reading of the character. That is admittedly unfair and not just cause for criticism. I've been missing the forest for the trees having my nose stuck in the mechanics of all your writing that while all the pleasant scenes that appeal on a fundamental level to me don't trigger any adverse reaction, as soon as conflict arises I'm getting pissy. The Hisao I think I know wouldn't do that. It's like an architect going to Disney World. All he sees is blueprints and math equations to improve everything around him. It takes the eyes of his child (Chatty I'm sorry to put you in this position but the metaphor needs to work) to show him the magic of the place already standing in front of. Going from no on, I will view this story with new and open eyes...

There is still a fundamental problem with this scene though. My grinch heart may have grown three times its original size but I'm still a grouchy little green fuck. At least when I feel like I still have a point to make. It now becomes obvious to me that while my character-driven problems involving this scene have their significant cracks enough to sink the entire argument, my other points on the structure of things still has ground to stand on. It is just unfortunate that I had to marry these two points like they actually supported each other. Oh, the naivety of youth gone on by... in that I look back at my own writing and feel like it was written by a toddler.

But yes, while I take tremendous pride in the fact that Chatty saw what glowing E brained 3 am me saw with the structural problems I took with the scene, reading his agreement brought up another point in my mind. A problem or rather option I didn't even consider with the scene. This comes from Chatty's repeated explaining of my own intent by saying there needed to be more weight to the scene. Another bother I had with my original analysis is that I felt like I gave too narrow a list of options for you, Xeraeo, to take in hopes of remedying this perceived fault. While I gave many variations, they all revolved around adding "weight" to the scene by giving more to the scene. More back and forth, more space, more emotion, you get it. However, I like to remind people a lot that less is often more. And I feel you go by wholeheartedly with this idea, you've already heard me describe your tactile style. So while ultimately I think you will need to "add more" to the scene to make it work better on all levels, there is a smaller thing you can change to make this scene immediately better that I think will better inform your decision in the writing process down the line.

Amendment two, add more OR change the phrasing of Hisao's outburst so that it is more in line with the rest of the scene's mood. What I mean is, I feel that the current wording of Hisao's big break,
Xeraeo wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:29 pm
"Hey, it's not like you're all careful about your blindness! Cut me some slack."
does not fit the understated tone of the rest of your writing. It feels like high drama when high drama is not what we have been primed to expect. For example, let's call back to your toning down of Kenji's character. You made the most ballistic bat-shit character in this whole universe sound just like a paranoid 4chan user. And like I said there, I go with it because I feel that interpretation plays into your strengths as a writer. You set up that stuff well and pay it off even better. This line, the way it is delivered in my head while reading, feels like it would only work in a show with an already elevated sense of drama like say The Punisher. Loved that show, was completely ballistic bat-shit in both a metaphorical and half literal sense. Even if the show claimed to be a "gritty, grounded interpretation of the character" it still carried itself in a powerful, punctual way that clearly showed its comic book roots. Your writing in my mind coincides more with courtroom dramas. Characters that are both powerful and punctual but in almost underhanded ways. That know that speaking outright would be a death sentence for them. I'm not saying what you're writing here is exactly like that, what I'm trying to get at is that your style lends itself to this style of drama building more.

What does that equate to? Well, it's the phrasing of what Hisao said. It's explosive, brash, and sudden. It's realistic in the way of "yeah I can see how a person would do that in real life" but it doesn't feel realistic in the sense of it just doesn't match the rest of the story in a deeply presentational sense. What I would think would fit more is just Hisao saying something almost by mistake. "Hey, I don't see you caring this much about your own disability," or "Well it's not like I'm the only one here dodging help." I feel these lines are subtly different from what you have because one, there are no exclamation marks demanding the reader to yell out these lines in their head, and two, they are more one-note in a good way. It's still deflection but in a single sentence that reads more like it just coming out on its own, the kind of thing you mutter a little too loud under your breath when your boss yells at you for the fourth time that week. Instead of it coming out of a pop, it's the sound of a frozen lake cracking ever so slightly. Loud in just how haunting quiet it is for what it implies. That is the kind of mood I think you can easily reach and deliver on well.

Does just changing that line fix the entire scene... no. Not by a long shot in my eyes. There's still the whole Lilly thing, he instant analysis by Hisao of the situation and just the general lack of trying to get the reader invested in the emotions of the scene. But now I hope that I have given you more to work off of instead of just saying "make this more dramatic please," like an uninterested director. The whole reason I'm trying to get this response out early is that I know you're going to respond to this whole thing when you're done with reviewing my first draft. I want to be sure that what I'm saying is workable in some way and you aren't getting the wrong impression that sets you up for failure in the future when you try to correct. I hope this whole amendments thing clears things up but now I feel like I have fully explained my point.

Thank you again to you Chatty for helping me see both the error in my ways and the blindspots in them as well. Even if you didn't intend to.

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

Post by Xeraeo » Wed Sep 30, 2020 1:12 am

Bit too much going on in these analyses for me to keep all of it in my head long enough to respond well, but to address one thing: Hisao's outburst...

When the conversation took place in my mind, Hisao was not yelling. More just speaking in a harsher tone than he intended. I tried to convey that with the preceding line. As Chatty said, Hisao isn't super angry or anything at that point, just annoyed enough to say something with a bit more ice to it than he should have. I was talking with Nuke about it earlier, and as I mentioned to him, this is the kind of stupid thing I do when confronted sometimes. I don't freak out and scream, but I often say something more harsh than I intend in response. That's what was happening here, and since Hisao immediately realized he came across worse than he meant, and about something Hitomi is clearly sensitive about herself, he was immediately regretful.

If he was furious, I could see the whole needing time to cool down and think about it perspective, but honestly, I'm sure you've all said some dumb shit that you knew was dumb and immediately regretted in some relationship, yeah? I certainly have.

Maybe the use of an exclamation mark there indicated yelling, and if so, that's a mistake. Hisao was not yelling, just speaking in a harsher tone. I'll consider replacing it with a period to convey that difference, and possibly altering the preceding phrase to make it clearer just how he sounds.

Oh, and yes, Chatty, the statue is real. It's called the Sendai Daikannon. It's one of the most visited places in Sendai, and I'm shocked I haven't seen anyone else use it in another fic before. Look it up; it's really cool.
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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Convergence, and Something of a Watershed (2-10)

Post by Xeraeo » Wed Sep 30, 2020 10:56 pm

Only two more chapters in Act 2! I can't tell ya'll how much I'm enjoying this. Thanks to Feurox and Nuke for getting me more connected with the community lately, and of course Chatty and Brixter for the consistent, thoughtful analysis. Anyway, hope you enjoy this one.

"Hey, you're coming into town with us later, right?"

I look back at Taro, his whispered question catching me off guard. Not because of the question itself, but rather the fact that he's asking right now, during group work. Shizune glances between me and Misha in momentary confusion at our distraction, and then glares at Taro once she notices the source of the interruption. He seems to wilt under her directed ire and sinks back into his seat, eyes returning to his work.

"Yeah, I think so." I respond quickly, then turn to Shizune to forestall her anger. "What did you get for problem 17?"

As has become increasingly normal during our group work, I'm not a ton of help. It's not that the material is actually all that difficult, but rather that I can't seem to focus on it for long enough, and end up falling behind. I can't blame lack of sleep or the fact that I'm still technically new, either. I've actually gotten pretty consistent sleep the last few nights, mostly thanks to the mild sedative the nurse managed to get my doctor to approve.

Of course, all the sleep in the world isn't gonna make it any easier to keep my mind on anything for long, when there's only one thing I really want to think about.

Hitomi.

I didn't realize just how much I'd miss her until I stopped seeing her nearly every day. It hasn't even been that long; just a few days really since our failure of a day out, but apparently that's more time than I can handle.

After classes on Monday, I instinctively started walking to the clearing as usual to hang out with her- but quickly stopped myself. Considering what happened the day before, I was pretty sure she would want some time to think about things without me smothering her. Of course, she'd probably just tell me that outright if I did actually show up, but I don't really want to go through that awkward conversation if I can help it.

So, I'm giving her some space. Hitomi has had no issue taking the lead in whatever our relationship is before. Surely when she's ready, she'll tell me.

Having decided on that course of action, I then of course had to deal with the ramifications. One such consequence was a sudden increase in idle time. Homework only filled so much of my evening time, and once it was done I was left with nothing to do. I've gone back to reading more than I was my first few weeks here, but even that isn't sufficient to distract me.

The other major problem with not seeing Hitomi at all was one I should have anticipated. Though I've met several students now who I am at least friendly with, Hitomi has been my only real friend here. Spending time with her helped bring me back into a more normal, healthy mindset. At least, that's what it seemed like. Without our time hanging out, either in casual conversation or just comfortable companionship, my mind is constantly returning to the thing I dread thinking about the most.

I caught myself staring at my scar in the mirror the other day after showering, wondering how it would grow over the years from additional surgeries, until my whole chest was covered in nothing but scar tissue. Of course, it's not likely I'll even live long enough to actually survive all those surgeries.

My medications, as usual, line my desk each night like a row of spectators, watching the irregular clock in my chest slowly ticking down every time I sleep. Odds are they will be the only witnesses when my heart suddenly gives out one night.

It doesn't help that I haven't even gone on any real walks since I stopped going out to see Hitomi. Most of my time has been spent cooped up alone in my dorm, other than a brief trip to the library to get more books. The reduction in exercise combined with my less-than-responsible medication habits are certainly no help to my heart- which gives me yet another reason to be anxious about it.

The ironic thing is, I haven't actually had a single real scare since Sunday. Not even a minor flutter. That brief scare on the bench when I was holding my breath was the last time I even thought I was having some sort of attack.

And that brings me back to the source of my current stress. I don't know where things stand between Hitomi and I, and I'm too scared to just ask her. With each day that I haven't seen or heard from her, I've gotten more and more nervous that I ruined any chance we had of becoming a couple, and likely lost her as a friend as well.

Maybe today, I should go try to talk to her. Once I get back from town, of course. During lunch today, Miki invited me to hang with their little group again and I accepted eagerly. After several days of nothing but homework and reading, any opportunity for social interaction seems like a welcome distraction, at the very least. But after I get back, I should at least consider seeking out Hitomi.

Shizune's snapping brings me back to the present, and I wave away her irritated look and ask Misha to repeat whatever the question was. She, at least, seems to be patient with me and sympathetic towards my obvious distraction. I really don't appreciate my desk neighbor as much as she deserves.

---

When I arrive at the school gate at the agreed-upon time, I find only Molly sitting on one of the benches. Briefly, I consider wandering back towards the dorms for a short time to avoid another awkward conversation, but I quickly decide that's both too risky and too mean. Clearing my throat so I don't startle her, I approach and sit down on the other end of the bench.

"Oh, hello Hisao." She gives me a half-hearted smile, then returns to looking at her phone.

"Hey, Molly. Am I early or something?"

"No, I think everyone else is just late. It's pretty normal for them; I'm sure they'll be here any minute." She scowls, and types something into her phone quickly before folding it up and dropping it into her purse. I'm impressed at the speed she's able to text at. The few times I've used the function on my own phone, it's taken me forever just to get a simple sentence written out correctly.

"So, have you had a good week so far?" Her attention is now on me, although she doesn't look directly at me for more than a few moments at a time before her gaze wanders around to our surroundings. I get the distinct impression that she's not super comfortable with consistent eye contact. I suppose that's not that unusual, especially since we're alone.

"Yeah, pretty normal. Homework hasn't been too much, so far." The generic small talk, though meaningless, is a nice way to break through the awkwardness that always seems to find its way into our conversations.

"Really? I've been trying to keep up, but it's been hard, especially in Chemistry. How do you do it?"

I don't really want to say, 'Because I have no friends or hobbies, so I spend all the time I need on schoolwork', so I opt for a slightly less truthful but far safer, "I just study a lot."

"Oh. Well, I guess that's the only good answer."

As is our custom at this point, an awkward silence ensues. I glance back at the gate, but there's still no sign of the other three.

Dammit, what's taking them so long?

I can't just leave like the last time Molly and I reached this point, so I scramble to come up with something else to talk about. By pure luck, I recall something she mentioned a while back and ask about it.

"Hey, how was your weekend? Did you get to see your dad?"

She grimaces, and I regret going with that particular question. "No, he wasn't able to make it after all."

"Oh. Um, I'm sorry…"

She smiles, though it looks a bit pained. "It's okay, Hisao. Thank you for asking. He's very busy with his work, and I'm used to adjusting my plans."

Trying to change the subject, I go with the question that's been on my mind each time I talk to Molly. "Where does you dad live?"

She smiles. "He lives in Tokyo, actually, but if you're asking where he's from, he was born in Mumbai, in India. He immigrated here after college, and met my mom shortly after that."

"Oh, wow, that's interesting. So, that would make you half-Japanese, half-Indian?"

She nods. "Most people can guess it from my name, but yes, that's correct."

"So, do you also speak… uh…" I rapidly discover that I don't know what language people in India speak. I know it's not just 'Indian'.

A quick giggle, soft and very lady-like. "I think you're thinking of Hindi, but no, I don't. My parents mostly spoke English to each other when I was younger, since it was the main language they had in common, but as my dad's Japanese got better they eventually switched to it instead."

"Wow. That's really cool. So English class isn't too hard for you, I take it?"

She shakes her head. "Some of the more detailed grammar rules are foreign to me still, but I learned the basics growing up, yes."

"You're lucky, then." I make a gagging face. "English has always been my worst subject."

Molly looks down at the ground for several long seconds, as if thinking about her response, then looks up at me shyly.

"If you want, I could help you with it sometime."

Her cheeks flush slightly and she quickly looks away again as I hesitate, and I have a moment of sudden clarity. The shy glances, the awkward pauses, the way that Miki, Taro, and especially Suzu give us time alone together, the odd looks between Suzu and Molly, and even Suzu's behavior towards Hitomi the other night. All of it points to one undeniable, blindingly obvious fact: Molly has a crush on me.

In my defense, I don't have a whole lot of experience with girls actually being interested in me. I was a late bloomer, and Iwanako was the first girl to show any serious interest in me. With how that turned out, I really haven't had many chances to see how girls act towards me when they're interested in that way.

It's been several long, increasingly awkward seconds since Molly posed her question, and I've just been staring at her like an idiot.

"Uh, can I get back to you on that?"

Nice save, loser.

"Yeah, of course." Her response is partly nervous, partly relieved, I think. "Just let me know whenever."

She basically just told you she wants to hang out alone, and you told her you'd 'get back to her'?

I guess my cowardly response to Molly is due to a couple things. First of all, I genuinely could use the help with English, and turning her down outright would be pretty stupid if she's seriously offering to help me study. On top of that, with her obvious interest in me and how nervous she was while asking that question, I don't think I could have managed to shoot her down so casually.

And there's another, somewhat less innocent reason, I quickly realize. I don't have a crush on Molly, that's for certain. But with how things have gone with Hitomi (or rather, haven’t gone) the last few days, there's a good chance that that relationship is doomed. If things really are not meant to be there, it would be pretty stupid of me to just reject the only other girl that's shown an interest in me.

Now that I'm actually considering it, I realize that I do find Molly very attractive. Not just physically, but her quiet, polite personality is very similar to what I found so appealing in Iwanako. If things had gone differently my first week here, maybe Molly would be the one I was becoming closer with instead of Hitomi.

However, right now that leaves us back in our natural state. Uncomfortable silence.

Thankfully, a voice from behind us cuts through the quiet. "Sorry, sorry! Suzu forgot her purse, and we had to go back for it."

At Miki's voice, Molly and I both turn to see our three friends approaching from the gate. Miki looks apologetic, though not extremely so, and Taro of course looks genuinely remorseful, though it isn't at all his fault. Suzu, on the other hand, is clearly far more interested in glancing back and forth between Molly and I, rather than making excuses for why they're late.

Well, that confirms things a bit.

We both stand hastily and dismiss the apology, and the five of us make our way down into town.

---

Apparently, there's a reason everyone just gets noodles here. I decided to go with some pork dumplings today, and they're… less than tasty, let's just say. The upside is that I have something to look at other than my fellow students, and I allow myself to poke at my food for long periods of time. It's a welcome distraction from the potential awkwardness of really engaging in the conversation.

Of course, the group arranged itself in such a way that Molly and I are sitting beside each other again. I doubt she had time to tell Suzu how things went, and so I find myself in the exact position I'd rather not be in right now.

Why did she have to ask me that right before we were hanging out?

It's not really Molly's fault, of course. Her question was innocent enough. It was just the timing of things coming together in my head that made this a less than ideal time to hang out. It would have been worse if I had just rejected her outright, but as it is I think we would all be better off if I had some time to think things over, instead of hanging out with everyone and trying to act like nothing happened.

While Suzu, Taro, and of course Miki have been chatting as normal for most of the evening, the occasional glances Suzu directs at Molly, and every so often at me, make it clear that she, at least, is aware of the situation to some degree. I think she was able to read between the lines easily enough. Most likely, she knew ahead of time that Molly planned on making a move. Hell, it was probably her idea, judging from the way she's obviously been pushing Molly.

While Miki and Taro continue gabbing on about something that happened in class today (I must have missed it, likely because my mind was otherwise occupied), Suzu looks in my direction again. This time, instead of avoiding her gaze, I lock eyes with her, tilting my head as if to ask, 'what?'

She holds her stare for a second or two, then turns and goes back to the conversation with Miki and Taro.

Meanwhile, Molly hasn't said more than a few words the entire time we've been here. It's not that unusual for her, from what I've observed, but it's pretty obvious to me that she's feeling somewhat uncomfortable. She probably wishes I had made a sudden change of plans and not come along, so she could just talk with her friends.

Yep. That's another girl you've managed to ruin things with before they had a chance to go anywhere.

Which, naturally, brings my thoughts back to their usual nexus: Hitomi. I'm now having serious doubts about my whole 'give her space' strategy. I thought I'd hear from her after a day or two, but instead it seems like it might be up to me to contact her after all. Of course, this whole situation with Molly only complicates things further in that department.

What I really need to do is think these things through clearly, and alone. Having to put on a face for people, even at a minimal effort like I'm doing now, is enough of a distraction that I can't get my thoughts in order. I agreed to come along in the hopes that this would be a diversion from my problems, but now that I'm here it seems that a diversion is the last thing I need.

"Hey guys, thanks for inviting me, but I really have to get back."

The conversation ends abruptly, and I'm met with three quizzical looks. Molly doesn't quite look at me.

"Uh, okay. See you in class tomorrow, I guess?" Taro responds slowly.

"Yeah, for sure. Sorry, there's just something I need to take care of."

I know my odd behavior and vague excuse are only giving them more reasons to think I'm strange, but honestly right now I just need to get away. Besides, leaving is probably the best thing I can do for Molly right now.

Paying my bill, I head out of the restaurant. There's still a good amount of daylight, so I should have no problem making it up the hill to Yamaku alone, as long as I pace myself.

I try to set my thoughts in order as I begin my ascent.

Hitomi and I have something real, something that I think we both value and need right now, although I still don't really know what that is on her end. I have no doubt in my mind that our connection is based on far more than simple physical attraction, though.

Despite that, it seems that there are still things neither of us are prepared to talk about right now. When those topics come up, one or both of us are likely to get upset and push each other away. I've done this to her at least two times now that I can think of, and she's done the same.

On the other hand, there's Molly. I don't feel the same connection with Molly that I do with Hitomi, but that doesn't mean that it could never happen. On the contrary, if we were to spend a lot more time together like Hitomi and I have been doing, wouldn't we naturally become closer anyway? The few times we have done so have been nice enough, other than the awkwardness.

Well, that's not really true though…

Come to think of it, that's not true at all. Pretty much every time I've hung out with Molly, or even had a brief conversation with her, it quickly devolved into an awkward silence, with neither of us knowing how to proceed. Besides that, being around each other seems to put us on edge, rather than relaxing or calming us. With a few notable exceptions, this has not been the case with Hitomi.

Why am I even comparing them? Molly is nice enough, but Hitomi is the one I've formed a connection with. Whether or not I could do the same with Molly shouldn't be relevant at this point. I know that I want things to work with Hitomi, and if I'm thinking about how I could make it work with another girl, aren't I just killing the chances of that?

Damn, I'm a jerk.

I can't just hold onto Molly as some sort of backup in case things don't work out with Hitomi. That's disgusting. What kind of person would I be, doing something that manipulative?

I guess it didn't take me that long at all to figure things out. When I actually compare Hitomi and Molly in my mind, it doesn't take any time to realize what I want.

So, what to do about it?

There's two issues I need to resolve: responding to Molly's question, and making things right with Hitomi. To do that, I need to approach Molly first. If I wait until after I talk to Hitomi, and things don't go how I want them to, I may be tempted to reconsider. I need to commit to what I want now, and do the right thing.

That settles it. Tomorrow, I'll talk to Molly after class, and then go find Hitomi. If we can't work things out, then at least I'll know I did the best I could.

"Hicchan?"

The voice startles me, and I turn around to see Misha catching up quickly from further down the hill. She appears to be alone.

"Hey, Misha. What are you doing out?"

She reaches me quickly, clearly in much better shape than I am. "The Shanghai has the BEST parfaits! But what are YOU doing out here alone, Hicchan? Were you with Hitomi again?"

"Ah, no, actually, I was hanging out with some other classmates, but I decided to head back early." Why is she asking about Hitomi?

She starts walking again, so I guess we're going the rest of the way together.

"Where's Shizune?"

Her brow furrows. "We're not the same person, you know. She's studying right now."

"Right. Sorry." I guess people probably ask her that often, whenever she and Shizune aren't seen together. I'd probably get annoyed too, in her place.

"So you weren't with Hitomi? Nobody's seen you together all week, you know. Is everything okay?" Misha's cheery voice is a bit more somber than usual, and she looks genuinely concerned. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that people are talking about this, just like everything else.

"Why are you worried about it? I thought you didn't want me spending time with her."

"Aw, Hicchan, that's not true! Shicchan is concerned about her being a bad influence on you, but I don't think I agree with her anyway. I think Hitomi just needs some real friends. Why aren't you hanging out with her?"

I guess I just assumed from my meeting with the two that they were unified on this issue, especially since all the communication went through Misha. She didn't express this disagreement at all. I wonder if Shizune made her agree to that before having the conversation. Maybe it was part of how Misha convinced her to talk to me?

"We had a bit of an argument, and I decided to give her some space." The words sound lame even as they come out of my mouth.

Misha clearly agrees with that assessment, since she shakes her head, looking worried. "That's no good, Hicchan. Did she ask for space?"

"Well, not exactly, but-"

"Then go talk to her!"

"It's not that simple-"

"Why not?"

I stop walking. "Look, I am going to talk to her. There's just some things I need to get straightened out first."

She pauses as well. "Well, okay, Hicchan, but make sure you hurry with that! It's no good to keep a girl waiting."

I nod, and continue up the hill. "I know. Thanks, Misha."

Another thought, far less serious, suddenly strikes me, and my curiosity gets the better of my good sense.

"Hey, you call everyone else '-chan', but Hitomi is just Hitomi? Why?"

Misha brightens up. "Actually, I just say that when I'm talking to you, Hicchan!"

I tilt my head. "So what do you call her when you're not talking to me?"

"Hicchan, of course!" She laughs, apparently delighted at her proclamation.

It takes me a moment to understand, but the realization makes me laugh as well. I guess Hitomi and I have something else in common after all.

-----

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter

Wordcount: 3,930 / 51,162
Last edited by Xeraeo on Sat Oct 03, 2020 8:49 pm, edited 3 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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NuclearStudent
Posts: 102
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Re: To Miss the Mark - An OC Pseudo-Route (Hitomi)

Post by NuclearStudent » Wed Sep 30, 2020 11:57 pm

Do you think Hisao regrets dreaming?

On a more serious note, I'm not sure how I feel about the segments where Hisao goes off to think. They might be necessary in some sense, but I also don't find them interesting.
I can't just hold onto Molly as some sort of backup in case things don't work out with Hitomi. That's disgusting. What kind of person would I be, doing something that manipulative?
The optimal solution is obviously the Soviet dating strategy. Use your women out of desperation, be defensive, then discard them to get someone new from the reserves.

But yes, that was a very matter of fact realization about Molly. I give good odds that Brixter will be displeased again. Say, 75%?
Misha clearly agrees with that assessment, since she shakes her head, looking worried. "That's no good, Hicchan. Did she ask for space?"

"Well, not exactly, but-"

"Then go talk to her!"

"It's not that simple-"
A Misha kind of recommendation, as she was when in Emi's route. Everything by the numbers.

(On a completely unrelated note, does anybody have a complete list of all curses used in KS? Chatty brought up this point, and I don't recall the facts.)

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

Post by Feurox » Thu Oct 01, 2020 4:29 am

I have to agree with Nuke about being unsure about Hisao’s thoughts - though rather than being boring, it’s more that they are perhaps a bit static. Hisao’s moping, (especially in the line Nuke quoted), is consistent. I expect that’s why Nuke finds it uninteresting, because there doesn’t appear to be anything in this thoughts beyond “I suck, my heart sucks” - whereas a reflection on who or what Hisao really is would serve him, and the narrative, better, I think.

Anyway, another good update. Congratulations!

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

Post by NuclearStudent » Thu Oct 01, 2020 1:41 pm

Feurox wrote:
Thu Oct 01, 2020 4:29 am
I have to agree with Nuke about being unsure about Hisao’s thoughts - though rather than being boring, it’s more that they are perhaps a bit static. Hisao’s moping, (especially in the line Nuke quoted), is consistent. I expect that’s why Nuke finds it uninteresting, because there doesn’t appear to be anything in this thoughts beyond “I suck, my heart sucks” - whereas a reflection on who or what Hisao really is would serve him, and the narrative, better, I think.

Anyway, another good update. Congratulations!
"Static" is definitely a more helpful description than "boring," because it offers explanatory power.

I do feel awkward commenting about characters I'm bored by, because of how deeply subjective boredom is. But from an explanatory point of view, all interesting characters A. relatable and/or B. showcase some interesting part of the human psyche. Relatability can never be guaranteed, and is often created by showcasing some remarkable part of the human psyche in a striking way.

Hisao isn't an inhuman character. He generally follows the rough contours of human thought processes and does things in a normal human manner. He is "I suck, my heart sucks." He is being sad, denying reality, and pining after Hitomi. Further reflection on who Hisao really is would indeed make Hisao a more interesting character. With Molly, for instance, it would be interesting if it were a catalyst for him to reflect upon what he gets out of human beings, what he considers to be a just way of treating them, and how he comes to those conclusions. Or whatever. I'm not the author, I don't know what parts of the human condition Xeraeo is interested in examining.

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

Post by BristerXD » Thu Oct 01, 2020 5:40 pm

NuclearStudent wrote:
Wed Sep 30, 2020 11:57 pm
But yes, that was a very matter of fact realization about Molly. I give good odds that Brixter will be displeased again. Say, 75%?
You should never gamble against a gambler. And by gambler, I mean someone who once got the mega jackpot in one of those ball dropping arcade games at Dave and Buster's. Honestly, probably the biggest dopamine hit I've ever experienced in my life.

But getting back to the point, I did not take much issue with the matter-of-fact nature of it all. And here's why. This entire chapter is one of those that exist in like all visual novels it seems. Books for the most part as well. There's always a section where the main character just has everything sink in for them. That lull in the gunfire, the ore game hype, or in this particular case, the awkward silence after a fight. I for one rather enjoy these sections in my books or media of choice. They, if done well, give insights into exactly how our characters are changing due to the events in the book and set up the emotional stakes for the story so that the actual plot stakes take hold. While others will see these types of sections as nothing happening, I see them as the point of all that has been happening.

And this section fulfills that for me. I admitted in my last reply that- wait I almost forgot

2-10: Ah... comforting structure. Anyways I said before that I was having trouble getting into this more cynical and short-tempered version of Hisao for various different and unfair reasons. Now, in this chapter, I have bought back into his character. All the things said here feel very much what a teenager mulling over his relationship with not only his girlfriend but to his world would think. All the little details that have been sprinkled to showing the doubts in himself and Hitomi have finally come to bear their fruit. In this space, it makes sense for Hisao to be trying to deliberately work out his issues and questioning his place. It's all really well written and paced here as well. I never felt so lost in thought with Hisao it felt like I just listening to some dude ramble at the bar pissed out of his mind. This feels real.

And all of this is elevated with the introduction of the Molly angle. Or should I say, the slow emergence of since this has been pretty well built up. Can I just take a second to appreciate that fact that my crackpot prediction of a love triangle with a weird, dangling, Suzu looking string may actually be viable. And I don't think me predicting that is a bad thing or even the idea of a love triangle in any form or complexity. They can really work sometimes and create interesting scenarios for all the characters involved...

If all those characters have been properly fleshed out. Here is where my big worry is. Why does Molly like Hisao? Or really, who is Molly? We don't really have anything solid about her character besides, she's mixed and awkward but in that cutesy way instead of Hitomi's almost alien awkwardness in places. And that isn't exactly much to go off for investment purposes. I could see that her character would play a role in the story but so far I have anything really say why outside of "because she is is the third point in the love triangle which Hisao has to have because story." I feel it's always a bad start for a love triangle when that third element in it has not had at least a one on one with the main love interest to at least see why they would bother chasing them down.

Now of course that's for contemporary settings and structures. This scenario feels a little different considering Hisao's reaction. There really isn't any drama surrounding a who he will choose, it's obvious he prefers Hitomi. The drama comes from how Hisao will deal with this complex emotional situation when his would situation is bordering on FUBAR. I like this a lot more than just a normal love triangle so I look forward in see how this plays out. What I'm worried about a bit is the development of Molly and how Suzu plays into all this. If Molly gets the characterization I feel he needs to make her part in the story feel more weighty or nuanced along with a good pay off for all these weird Suzu vibes, then golf claps for you sure. But if that doesn't happen, then I feel this whole story can feel cheapened by such a nothing burger conflict with these paper characters. I believe you have the talents to make this all work out but this is the first time where it feels like you're playing with fire Xeraeo. I just hope you stick the landing.

But just to reiterate because I feel I'm coming off too negative here, I really did enjoy this chapter and your writing once again. The Misha moment at the end is probably one of my favorite moments so far for just how simple it is. Can't wait for the next one.

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