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 » Thu Oct 01, 2020 6:16 pm

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.
dang I missed the mark
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.
Crackpot? We're in unambiguous love triangle territory and have been for a while.

Do you mean like, a literal menage a trois? I do not see Hitomi happy with sharing a man.

I don't think that's what you mean, and I'm somewhat confused.
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.
Yup, I have no idea where it's going. It's got some good atmospheric setup, but we all know it could really go anywhere. I'm going to stick with the story and just trust in Xeraeo.

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

Post by Xeraeo » Fri Oct 02, 2020 8:27 pm

Your trust may be misplaced, Nuke. We'll have to see how things pan out.

As previously stated, I'm not a fan of the idea of love triangles as a general rule, and I was not interested in dragging that out as a major plot device. Instead, the dynamic among Hisao, Molly and Suzu has served primarily to set up the roles those relationships will play in relation to / contrast with Hisao and Hitomi's relationship in Act 3. We'll see how successful I am at resolving those relationships into what I intend them to be in the next chapter. I have exactly 0% of it written right now, though it is coalescing in my head (70ish% of the time I spend creating this story is just in my head; the actual writing is done in quick bursts, sometimes an entire chapter at once.) These analyses are somewhat bleeding into that process right now, but that should help make the end result better, I think. You all can be the judges of that.

Regarding perpetually mopey Hisao; I do realize that his internal monologues on the subject are getting repetitive. This is intentional, but I think I perhaps need to put more time and energy into varying them a little. Hisao has by no means broken free from his bleak existence yet. We're only 3 weeks into his "fresh start", after all. The self-reflection Feruox is prescribing Hisao would indeed be better for him, but so far he's only occasionally dipping into that. I've tried talking with him about it, but he's unbelievably stubborn on the subject. Go figure.

One thing I'm surprised nobody seemed to dislike was how rapidly Hisao resolved his thoughts and feelings regarding Molly. In this single chapter, he is confronted with the realization of her interest in him, and decides just a few hours later not to pursue that. I nearly went back and altered the latter part of the chapter so Hisao would not come to this decision so quickly, but in the end decided to stick with my instinct that Hisao knows enough about what he wants right now. I expected to be called out a bit there, particularly by Brixter who often points out when my buildup is lacking. Glad it seemed to work.

Oh, and Nuke, I think Brixter is theorizing something about a romantic relationship between Suzu and Molly, and a jealousy dynamic going on there with Molly's interest in Hisao? Not entirely sure myself, either what he is thinking or what I am, really. My conceptualization of Suzu in this story is a combination of her character in other fics, a plot device I intend for her to be for reasons, a few bits of a real person I know, and her own evolving personality as I write her. She's by no means reached her final form yet, so even I couldn't tell you if Brixter's theory was correct or not, if I understood it fully. We'll see what she does when she does it, I guess. She's a big part of Chapter 11 right now (again, in the jumbled morass of my mind).

Thanks to all of you for the time you put in, not just in reading my humble story but in analyzing and discussing it as well! I'm honored, and not a small bit baffled by it.
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
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Re: To Miss the Mark - An OC Pseudo-Route (Hitomi)

Post by NuclearStudent » Fri Oct 02, 2020 9:22 pm

One thing I'm surprised nobody seemed to dislike was how rapidly Hisao resolved his thoughts and feelings regarding Molly. In this single chapter, he is confronted with the realization of her interest in him, and decides just a few hours later not to pursue that. I nearly went back and altered the latter part of the chapter so Hisao would not come to this decision so quickly, but in the end decided to stick with my instinct that Hisao knows enough about what he wants right now. I expected to be called out a bit there, particularly by Brixter who often points out when my buildup is lacking. Glad it seemed to work.
Honestly same, that's what I made that failed 75% judgment call on.
Oh, and Nuke, I think Brixter is theorizing something about a romantic relationship between Suzu and Molly, and a jealousy dynamic going on there with Molly's interest in Hisao? Not entirely sure myself, either what he is thinking or what I am, really.
That is a cursed and unwieldly idea that I am instantly in love with.

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

Post by BristerXD » Fri Oct 02, 2020 11:09 pm

Yeah, basically my called shot was that the reason why Suzu was giving Hitomi the "I wish you were deader than the doorknob in Elvis's bathroom" look was that Suzu is actually interested in Molly. I never read summer clover because it was never formatted correctly as far as I can tell but I know in that story Miki and Suzu are an item in one route. So in my headcanon, Suzu is a lesbian. Now because of that story most pair Miki and Suzu up as an item off the bat in most fanfics that I've read. But I figured that since Xeraeo was bothering to flesh out this Miki friend group there would a deeper purpose than just having an excuse to have Molly exist.

So with that thought in mind, I read into the awkward exchange between the two in that one classroom scene where Hisao answers a question he doesn't need and Suzu asking to leave early as something changing in between them. Something not really understood by Molly or Hisao. So when Hisao and Hitomi went with the group and the Suzu thing happened, it all kinda fell into place for me. Molly talked about liking Hisao to Suzu who obviously wouldn't like that but couldn't say that outright as not wanting to out herself to her friend. That makes her not exactly like Hisao but certainly critical as she would obviously want to see if Hisao is a good guy who won't her love interest/friend Molly. Of course, once she hears the rumors of Hisao and Hitomi being a thing and them joining the group together, he has a reason to just straight up not like Hitomi. Hitomi is going to take away Hisao from Molly and that would make Molly sad and even though Suzu would like Hisao and Molly to not be a thing what she ultimately cares about is Molly being happy and the one thing that really a threat to that is Hitomi. Thus the quiet aggression to her.

I should also mention I threw out this idea at the end of a very long analysis that I wrote up at like 2 or 3 am. It's certainly a lot, unwieldy as you said Student, so I doubt that's what we're gonna get. But god damn would it be an interesting ride that I would read till the very end. It must be the kind of thing that keeps people watching Riverdale.

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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 Oct 03, 2020 4:50 am

I've decided to keep a list of all the gems that BristerXD has referred to me as. Here's what I've got so far:
  • “The Conversation Prone Wagon Spokes”
  • “The Talk Box”
  • “The Son Of A Disney World Architect”
  • And Finally, “A Stupid Piece of Sh*t”

——————————
BristerXD wrote:
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-
I don’t know if I’m going to ever read this without laughing from now on. Thanks!
BristerXD wrote:
Wed Sep 30, 2020 12:22 am
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.
I certainly didn't intend to, but I'm delighted that you took meaning from my ramblings! You've certainly opened my eyes to some of my blind spots as well—I'll have to watch out for them. :wink:
Xeraeo wrote:
Wed Sep 30, 2020 1:12 am
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.
I did and... yeah, it is really cool! Thanks for sharing!

————————————————————

Now then, I've had a couple of days to rest. Honestly, I needed a couple of days to recharge after my war with BristerXD, but it appears we've come to an uneasy truce, so it's time to get back to analyzing!

After letting this scene sink in, this might be one of your finest—if not your finest—scenes to date. As others have pointed out, the way that Hisao acted, reacted, and thought in this scene was completely believable—I was totally invested. Hisao goes through a huge growth in this scene alone, and I'll try my best to point everything out that I noticed.

——————————

This scene, in many ways, is the payoff for a lot of the narrative threads that have been established and built throughout Act 1 and Act 2, and I was impressed with how they all tied in to the atmosphere so efficiently.

There the little things, like how Hisao has stopped exercising, restarted his escapist reading routine, and found himself thinking...
Xeraeo wrote:
Wed Sep 30, 2020 10:56 pm
to the thing I dread thinking about the most.
... found himself thinking about the hospital again—whether figuratively or literally, that's what I interpret "the thing I dread the thinking about the most" to be. I suppose, he could also be referring to his scar, but my point is the same either way. The point being... these negative character quirks that Hisao is showcasing at the beginning of this scene have been set up all the way back in Act 1. These negative quirks are all small details, but they do wonders in establishing character through atmosphere, as NuclearStudent noted in one of his posts. After all the progress that we've seen Hisao make in Act 2, it's sad to see him reverting back to the traits of "Act 1 Hisao."

While all these quirks are effective and smartly implemented by Xeraeo, they're all small potatoes compared to Hisao's remarkably profound transformation from being passive to being active. At the beginning of the scene, Hisao thinks the following:
Xeraeo wrote:
Wed Sep 30, 2020 10:56 pm
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.
By leaving it up to Hitomi to get the ball rolling again, he is continuing his passiveness. This is consistent with how Hisao has acted in every scene in every act of this story, which is why the following line from the end of the scene is such a crucial moment for Hisao's character:
Xeraeo wrote:
Wed Sep 30, 2020 10:56 pm
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.
Although Hisao has experienced fleeting moments of activeness, that's all they've been: fleeting. And usually, these fleeting moments of activeness have sprung from intense bursts of emotion, but just like those intense bursts of emotion, the fleeting moments of activeness don't usually last more than a few minutes before Hisao reverts back to passiveness. But here, right here, Hisao is making an extensive effort to be an active person—and for the first time, I think that this new active mindset might be here to stay. Hisao isn't choosing to be active because of temporary intense emotion, he is choosing to be active because of carefully thought-out reasons, and because he knows that this is a long-term commitment that he wants to make.

Hisao's resolve at the end of the scene alone is meaningful character development, but what makes it believable is the journey that Hisao takes to reach this resolve. Instead of having a sudden, out-of-left-field epiphany at the end of the scene, which would be lesser writing, we spend a sizable amount of this scene inside of Hisao's head as he mulls over what he should do. And the smart way that Xeraeo conveys the struggle that Hisao goes through as he contemplates his future course of action is that he changes his mind. More than once. In fact, I count that Hisao changed his mind about five times before arriving at his resolve. And yes, I'm going to run through all five.

Hisao starts the scene unable to focus on anything other than Hitomi, but afraid to make a move himself. Next, he bumps into Molly, realizes that she has a crush on him, but admits to himself that he doesn't feel the same way about her. However, Hisao quickly begins to second-guess his assertion. He starts to convince himself that maybe there is a chance that he ends up with Molly. After considering it even further, he retroactively decides that he finds her looks and personality quite alluring, even though these thoughts never existed in Hisao's mind before.
Side Analysis:
So, how come Hisao is suddenly so willing to give Molly a shot, even though he doesn't really love her back?

First off, Hisao is not in a good state, mentally. He's dealing with the bitter aftermath of a fight with Hitomi, and for the time being, he's vulnerable. Second, I don't know if this rings true for everybody, but I've noticed that when somebody figures out that someone else has a crush on them, even if they had never considered them as a romantic interest, it’s easy for them to feel the temptation and convince themself to “give it a shot.” This dilemma has happened to me and folks I knew in my younger years, and the combination of adolescent vulnerability and the allure of a shot at young love was captured exceedingly well by Hisao in this scene. Reading how Hisao dealt with Molly's feelings felt like something ripped straight out of my youth—that's how realistic it felt.
Now that Hisao is slightly more open to the idea of Molly being a romantic interest, he decides that outright shooting her down would be foolish, as it is possible that he could continue on with Molly if things with Hitomi went badly. In this state of mind, Hisao has at least some sense of a reward waiting for him if he chooses to remain passive and not reach out to Hitomi, because then he might have Molly as another option. This makes things really complicated for Hisao, and further adds tension. Great stuff.

Later on in the scene, Hisao realizes that he's just been making things up to convince himself that things could work out between him and Molly. Deep down, he knows the sad truth that he and Molly aren't meant to be—they can't hold a conversation longer than a few minutes before it becomes painfully awkward. At that, Hisao changes his mind on Molly—he can't just use her as a backup. He is forced to realize that, given the complicated situation he's in, staying passive just isn't going to cut it. Hisao is going to have to take action, lest he hurts many of the people he cares most about.

Whew! That was a lot of mulling I just summarized, but even though I summarized it in three paragraphs, these moments are paced very well in the scene. Like I said earlier, we don't have all of these thoughts dumped on us all at once—individual pieces trickle down toward us from throughout the whole scene. I love that we get to come along with Hisao as he struggles in his own mind, deciding what's right and wrong, and figuring out what he truly desires. We get to see Hisao's thought process in real time, which gives us huge insights to his character.

——————————

Feurox, NuclearStudent, and BristerXD chimed in with their opinions about sections where Hisao has his "think time." I'd like to respond to Feurox's quote here:
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.
I would actually argue the exact opposite. Hisao's thoughts in this scene are anything but static, and I've spent the last five-ish paragraphs trying explain how Hisao's thoughts and opinions evolve over the course of the scene. Each time Hisao changes his mind in this scene, an extra layer is peeled back on his character. For example, the fact that Hisao is so afraid of losing Hitomi that he briefly considers having Molly be his "backup" paints Hisao as someone whose fear of loss and loneliness puts him in danger of manipulatively treating his peers if he's not careful.

Hisao also compares Molly to Iwanako, which makes sense given that when Hisao interacts with Iwanako in the prologue of the visual novel, it's about as awkward as Hisao's conversations with Molly are in this story. But despite the awkwardness, he still finds Molly—and by extension Iwanako—attractive. This paints Hisao as someone who, despite how far he is from it, still pines for the past that he's lost. There it is again—the fear of loss. Even if you disagree with my analyses, I hope you see my argument: there is plenty of information and conclusions you can reach about Hisao tucked away in his thoughts.

Going back to Feurox's post, I agree that Hisao thinks about his heart a lot—that much is pretty obvious. But I don't agree with you when you say that there's nothing more to it than that.

——————————
Xeraeo wrote:
Wed Sep 30, 2020 10:56 pm
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.
I have nothing to analyze here. These are just an awesome couple of lines that I wanted make note of.

——————————

Let's talk about Molly a little bit more!

First off, a small detail that I noticed. When Hisao notices Molly waiting alone on the bench at the beginning of the scene, he almost considers avoiding her out of a fear of awkwardness. Sound familiar? That's exactly what he's doing with Hitomi, which is interesting because usually Molly is used to contrast Hitomi, but this time Hisao is treating them both the same. How interesting... You know Hisao, you aren’t going to make friends by avoiding people.

In my opinion, it was a very wise decision to have Hisao learn about Molly's feelings in this scene. I would wager that that most of the people reading this story had suspected that Molly had a thing for Hisao before this scene was released. Keeping the suspense up for a little while works well, but if Xeraeo had waited any longer to have Hisao figure it out for himself, it would have caused a disconnect between the reader and Hisao—where we know the "secret," but Hisao doesn't know it. However, if Hisao came to this revelation sooner, it would have felt too quick and not felt properly built up. Therefore, I think that having Hisao figure it out now was the right call. Now that both the reader and Hisao know the secret, we don't have to ask "what the secret is" anymore, we can instead as "how the secret is going to affect the story and characters." That second question is a lot more fun, so I'm glad it didn't take long for us to get past that first question.

——————————
BristerXD wrote:
Thu Oct 01, 2020 5:40 pm
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.
You seem quite adamant that the "love triangle" is weak because Molly hasn't been fleshed out enough to be a true "third point" in the triangle. This would be true... if this were a love triangle story in the first place. Xeraeo has stated multiple times that he's not going to go the love triangle route, so I think that he's just keeping Molly's development lighter than Hitomi's development to not waste our time setting up something we already know isn't going to happen. In fairness, I was wrong about this too. I jumped straight to the "love triangle" conclusion as well, without really thinking too hard about how such a subplot would fit into the big picture. I mean, Molly doesn't even know about Hisao's disability. If there were going to be a love triangle, she probably would have figured it out by now. When you look at the bug picture, there was never going to be a love triangle. After all, the tagline for this route is "An OC Pseudo-Route (Hitomi)," not "A Semi-OC Pseudo-Route (Molly)," so we already know that Hisao isn't going to choose Molly. Why would Xeraeo set her up as if there's a chance when we already know that there isn't?
Xeraeo wrote:
Fri Oct 02, 2020 8:27 pm
One thing I'm surprised nobody seemed to dislike was how rapidly Hisao resolved his thoughts and feelings regarding Molly. In this single chapter, he is confronted with the realization of her interest in him, and decides just a few hours later not to pursue that. I nearly went back and altered the latter part of the chapter so Hisao would not come to this decision so quickly, but in the end decided to stick with my instinct that Hisao knows enough about what he wants right now. I expected to be called out a bit there, particularly by Brixter who often points out when my buildup is lacking. Glad it seemed to work.
At the risk of repeating my point from earlier, I think that I was willing to buy how quickly Hisao coming to his resolution because we literally went along with him, step-by-step, as he found his way. Hisao struggled on his way there; he changed his mind five times or so before he got it right. This is a lot more relatable and believable than if he were to just instantly snap to his resolution in one try.
NuclearStudent wrote:
Fri Oct 02, 2020 9:22 pm
Oh, and Nuke, I think Brixter is theorizing something about a romantic relationship between Suzu and Molly, and a jealousy dynamic going on there with Molly's interest in Hisao? Not entirely sure myself, either what he is thinking or what I am, really.
That is a cursed and unwieldly idea that I am instantly in love with.
At first, I was somewhat intrigued by this idea, but after letting it sit in for a week or so, I don't think I'm so sold on this idea. Hitomi being pursued by Hisao being pursued by Molly being pursued by Suzu might be a little too much for me.

——————————

Wow, that got longer than I thought it would. Thank you to Xeraeo for putting up with me and BristerXD flooding this thread. We need this space to hash out the beef that's clearly present between us. :wink:

As always, feel free to disagree with my opinions, challenge my analyses, and tell me when I get things wrong. I'm always eager to participate in that kind of discussion.

Thanks for continuing to write at the speed and quality that you do, Xeraeo! I look forward to the finale of Act 2! Take care, everyone.
Last edited by Chatty Wheeler on Sat Oct 03, 2020 2:12 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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

Post by NuclearStudent » Sat Oct 03, 2020 7:58 am

I think I might genuinely hate it if the Suzu on Molly love web were actually implemented, and that's precisely what I like about it.

The truly cursed idea is both implausible and possible. It haunts you at the edge of your thoughts, tickling your sense of what might be. There's nothing impossible about the line of "this girl is actually jealous because she's in love with her best friend." It is fully functional within the scope of KS itself, as Misha's existence proves. It's a somewhat trashy trope, even more than love triangles themselves, but is not always and everywhere bad.

But in this context? Added onto the dramas already arranged? I'd find it hard to perceive as anything other than a setpiece gimmick. I don't see how it would gel with the themes, conflicts, and likely narrative path of this story. Of course, anything is possible. Off the top of my head, it would be thematically coherent for Hisao to lose Hitomi and end up as a parallel to Suzu's jealous lesbian hovering. I really don't think Xeraeo would do that, nor do I think it would be a good idea for him to do that, but it would be possible.

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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 Oct 03, 2020 2:26 pm

Yikes! A pretty bad typo snuck its way into my last post.
Chatty Wheeler wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 4:50 am
...so I think that he's just keeping Molly's development lighter than Hitomi's development to waste our time setting up something we already know isn't going to happen.
Should have been:
Chatty Wheeler wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 4:50 am
...so I think that he's just keeping Molly's development lighter than Hitomi's development to NOT waste our time setting up something we already know isn't going to happen.
My bad. That's what I get for trying to write past midnight. Now I see what BristerXD is saying...

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Xeraeo
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If I Go Down to the Depths... (2-11)

Post by Xeraeo » Sat Oct 03, 2020 8:48 pm

One left! Wrote this entirely today. Act 2 conclusion coming up in the next few days!


For at least the third time today, I catch myself staring at Molly's back absentmindedly, and force myself to return my attention to the textbook on my desk.

How do I tell her?

It's not like she actually confessed to me yesterday. All she really did was offer to help me with English homework. Honestly, if things weren't so weird between us now, I might take her up on that. Maybe after this all blows over…

And there I am, thinking about myself again. Right now, I need to figure out how to politely decline her offer, and in a way that makes it clear I'm not interested in her, but without being a jerk to her either. How do you even reject a confession that hasn't really been given, anyway?

Again, my eyes flick up to the girl seated directly in front of me. She's been even quieter than usual today, barely participating in the idle chatter between periods. Once, I caught her glancing back my way when I was talking with Taro, but she quickly blushed and looked away.

My gaze falls to Molly's obviously artificial legs under her desk. Despite their rather alien appearance, she usually chooses to wear the shorter uniform skirt that most of the female students here seem to prefer. I suppose that means she's not ashamed of her legs- not that she has any reason to be. Personally, I can't imagine going around showing off my surgery scar, but I guess trying to hide prosthetics would be rather pointless.

'Hey, Molly, can we talk?'

No, that sounds too serious. But it is fairly serious, right? I don't want to scare her off, but I also don't want to sound too friendly going in and give her some kind of false hope. If I do that, she's just going to be all the more crushed when I reject her, right?

Damn. I've never had to do this kind of thing before. Even when Iwanako finally stopped visiting, I didn't have to reject her outright. No matter what, when I talk to Molly, I need to be clear that I'm not interested in pursuing her in a romantic way.

'Molly, listen, you're a sweet girl, but we're just not right for each other.'

A part of me is terrified of actually saying anything like that to her, of course. It feels almost pointlessly cruel. But if I'm going to go make things right with Hitomi, I can't have any doubts. This is best for everyone. Including Molly. Stringing her along would be far crueler, anyway.

I realize that once again I'm staring absently at Molly, and quickly glance at Suzu to see if she's caught on. Fortunately, she appears to be sleeping at her desk, as she has been for the last half-hour or so of our class.

I'll probably need to talk to her too, at some point…

The bell announces the end of class, and the students quickly begin packing their things as Mutou dismisses us. Fridays are most often the day everyone has plans after class, it seems, and several of the usual cliques form up on their way out the door. Taro and Lezard are chatting about some new video game as they depart, and even Hanako leaves soon after most of the others have exited, apparently not waiting around for Lilly today.

Soon, the room empties down to Molly, Suzu, Miki, and me. Miki pokes Suzu in the head with her stump.

"You awake?"

No response is forthcoming from the blue-haired girl.

"C'mon, Suzu, I gotta get to practice. Train is leaving the station."

Nothing.

Miki shrugs, looking at me and Molly. I've got my stuff packed in my bag, as does Molly, who as usual is a bit slower about getting up out of her chair.

"I don't really have time to carry her. Either of you okay with sticking around to make sure she gets back to the dorms?"

We answer simultaneously.

"Sure."

"Of course."

Molly and I glance at each other- then immediately away. Miki grins broadly, turning to leave before we can work out which of us is staying.

"Great! Thanks!"

Aaand she's gone.

Well. I suppose this is convenient, then. I set my bag on my desk, watching Molly carefully. She doesn't quite look at me, but she's clearly paying attention to my movements as she sits back down. With a sigh, I walk around to the front of her desk, leaning back against Mutou's. For his part, our homeroom teacher apparently had plans of his own today, since he departed right before Miki did. His jacket and briefcase are gone too, so I doubt he's coming back in here.

"Hey, Molly."

"…Hi, Hisao."

The painful awkwardness that normally takes at least a minute or two to set in is immediately present, of course, though it's no mystery as to why.

"Um, I think we need to talk." I can see her tense up, but she straightens her shoulders and forces herself to look up at me.

"Do we?" Her face is impassive, but her warm brown eyes seem to be pleading with me to just stop and leave things be.

Wow, this is hard.

"Yeah, I think we do." I take a deep breath, glancing at Suzu to my left. I certainly hadn’t imagined that she would be present for this, but she hasn't stirred at all.

I rap the fingers of my right hand on Mutou's desk behind me, the staccato rhythm not at all distracting me from the intense discomfort of the situation as I think of how to say what I need to say.

Finally, I settle on a path forward.

"Look, I really appreciate you offering to help me with English. I just don't think it would be a good idea."

Molly visibly deflates, her gaze lowering to the floor between us. She closes her eyes, and takes a long, shaky breath.

Am I about to make this girl cry?

"Hitomi and I have been getting closer, and I really want things to work with her. I don't think she'd be happy with me spending a lot of alone time with another girl."

No, wait, I can't put this on Hitomi…

"Ah, that is to say, I wouldn't want to lead you on, or make you think that-"

"It's okay, Hisao."

I stop, her quiet words cutting off my train of thought mid-sentence.

"It is?"

She looks up, her eyes moist, and gives me a pained smile. "I know you and Hitomi like each other."

"Yes, but I know how you feel, and-"

She quickly shakes her head. "It's just a stupid crush. Not a big deal." Another sigh. I wait for her to continue.

Molly gazes up at the ceiling, taking another long breath. "Honestly, I did have my hopes, but I knew there wasn't really a chance. It's kind of a relief, actually."

At her frank admission, I feel the tension between us finally beginning to ebb. "So… you're not upset?"

She laughs, soft and light, and there's only the smallest hint of bitterness to the sound. "Well, I'm not thrilled, but I think I'm just glad to have an answer before I did something stupid like confess." She glances at her unconscious friend, who remains unmoving. "Plus, I can finally get Suzu off my back now."

I chuckle a little despite the situation. "Was she pushing you that hard?"

Molly rolls her eyes. "You have NO idea. She got it in her head early that you and I were made for each other or something."

Crossing my arms, I shake my head, smiling ruefully. "Is she always like that?"

Molly stares at her slumbering friend, a faint smile on her face. "Pretty much. Before you, she was trying to hook me up with Lelouch- he transferred out before you got here. That wouldn't have worked out anyway."

I process the new information quickly. "Does she try to help all her friends with their love lives?"

"She actually introduced Miki to her current boyfriend." Molly laughs, shaking her head. "I think matchmaking is a sort of hobby for her."

Miki has a boyfriend? She's been pretty casually flirtatious with me on several occasions, though never seriously so. I wonder if that's just how she is?

Molly and I continue to chat about Suzu's antics, and she tells me a story about how her friend once pushed Taro to ask out a mute second-year girl- who rejected Taro with a very firm shake of the head. Poor guy. When she's finished, I briefly recount a similar story from my old school, when Mai tried to get Shin to confess to the girl he liked- with similar results.

Funny thing is, as we talk, I realize that this is probably the most comfortable Molly and I have been together for any length of time. Maybe finally laying everything on the table allowed us to speak freely with each other. As hard as it was, I'm confident that I made the right choice in rejecting her this way. Perhaps now we can go on to be something like normal friends.

After another ten minutes or so of trading amusing anecdotes, Molly glances at her watch and stands up, looking at Suzu again.

"It looks like she's not moving anytime soon. I'm sorry, Hisao, but I'm supposed to meet someone later, and I don't think I can wait much longer. Do you mind helping Suzu back?"

Honestly, I would prefer not to, considering that the next thing on my agenda is to find Hitomi, but after what I just put Molly through I don't want to say that. I give her a friendly smile.

"Sure, go ahead. I'll make sure she gets back safe."

"Thanks." She navigates around her desk, hesitating in front of me. We look at each other awkwardly for a second, and then I lean in and give her a quick, one-armed hug. She returns it with a smile, and departs.

I guess that could have gone a lot worse…

Of course, I don't know what I just committed to. For all I know, Suzu could be asleep here for hours. In my condition, trying to carry her back wouldn't be a good idea, and I don't know where her dorm is anyway. I guess I'm stuck here waiting until-

"You really had to do that?"

Oh. Look at that, she's up.

I sigh. "How much did you hear?"

Suzu sits up groggily, rubbing at her eyes. "Bits and pieces. I was sorta drifting, but I think I caught the gist of it." A long yawn, and then her gaze settles on me, eying me up and down. "So. Why'd you reject her?"

"If you were listening, you heard why. I'm interested in Hitomi, not Molly. Not that it's any of your business."

"From what I hear, you and Hitomi aren't exactly close these days."

I narrow my eyes at the sleepy girl. "What's your problem with her, anyway?"

She holds up her hands in a gesture of innocence. "Problem? Me? No problem."

I sigh again. "Look, Suzu, I get that you were trying to help your friend, but honestly I think it just made things harder for Molly."

She shakes her head, slowly looking around and gathering up her stuff. "If I didn't push her, Molly wouldn't have ever talked to you. Maybe if she had listened earlier things would have been different-"

"No. They wouldn't have." She looks at me again, and I hold her gaze steadily.

"From the beginning, things were awkward with Molly. She's a nice girl, but there's no real chemistry there, okay? Please stop trying to force things."

I expect her to challenge me on that, but after several seconds of our impromptu staring contest, she leans back and nods, yawning again.

"Fair enough. It was worth a shot."

I blink. "Wait, that's it?"

Suzu furrows her brow at me. "What did you expect? You rejected her; it's over." She scowls. "Now I gotta find another guy for her…"

A sudden bark of incredulous laughter forces itself from my mouth. "You can't just pick random people to pair up with your friends, you know."

"Why not? Dating's a hit-and-miss game anyway. Might as well make sure they get as many chances as possible."

I'm momentarily struck dumb by her logic. "But… there has to be a real connection first!"

She shrugs. "Sometimes there is. Not always."

I sigh. "Let me guess: you like giving relationship advice to everyone even though you're single, right?" I've certainly known a few people like that. Mai, for one…

"What makes you think I'm single?"

Still shaking my head at the increasingly frustrating conversation, I move to my desk and grab my bag. "Come on, I'll walk you back."

Suzu moves a bit slower, but finishes gathering her own stuff and follows me.

"We've hung out a bunch of times, and I haven't met your boyfriend."

She shrugs. "He lives back in Osaka. We text like, all the time."

Oh. I suppose that makes some sense. Come to think of it, with Suzu seeming to involve herself so adamantly in her friends' personal lives, she's probably making up for her own lack of experiences in her relationship. Which doesn't exactly qualify her to give advice, but I guess there's always that one person who doesn't care about being qualified…

---

…and yet, here I am, asking her for advice.

"So basically, you said something dumb, and now you're waiting around for her to come tell you it's okay? What are you, stupid?"

As I spilled my situation with Hitomi, I walked Suzu back to the dorms but stopped outside, not wanting to enter alone with her. She seems perfectly awake now, anyway. I'm sure she'll be fine walking the remaining distance to her room by herself.

I rub the back of my neck, grimacing. "Yeah, I guess so. I wanted to have that talk with Molly and get everything straightened out before I did anything further."

Suzu looks at me like I'm a dumbass. Probably a fair assertion. "Okayyy… well, you did that, so what's the holdup?"

"I guess I don't know what I'm going to say to her."

"Well, go figure it out. Every hour you wait is another hour she thinks you're probably still mad at her."

"Wait, I'm not mad at her…"

Suzu rolls her eyes at me. "You really are clueless. You've been avoiding her, yeah? What kind of message do you think that sends?"

"…that I think she's mad at me?"

Suzu sighs. "Go talk to her. I don't know what else to tell you until you do that, at least."

I nod, swallowing hard, then give Suzu a quick hug. "Thanks."

She smirks, but there's a hint of sincerity to her smile this time, I think. "Don't mention it."

Suzu enters the girls' dorm without a backward glance, and I turn towards my own destination.

How do I explain all this to Hitomi?

I know without a doubt now that my idea of waiting around for her to approach me was a bad one. Maybe giving things a day or so to cool off would have been okay, but not talking to her at all for almost a week had to have been the wrong choice. On top of that, there's this whole mess with Molly that I just got figured out, and there's always the chance she's heard rumors about that too. Which means I have to address it, so she doesn't think I'm hiding it. The last thing I need is Hitomi thinking Molly was the reason I wasn't talking to her.

So, I gotta tell her that not only was I dealing with another girl being interested in me, but that it had nothing to do with the reason I was basically ignoring her this week?

That's gonna be a tough sell. No matter how I look at the problem, I can't seem to figure out a good answer. Part of me wants to wait a bit longer to talk to her so I have more time to think over what to say, but I know that would be even stupider.

I pass the track team as they practice, and get a quick smile from Emi and an odd look from Miki, who's probably wondering what happened to Suzu, Molly, or both. I give her a simple thumbs up, and she nods before returning her attention to whatever the team captain is telling everyone.

Entering the forest path, a thought suddenly strikes me. It's been exactly two weeks since the first time I wandered back here, and found Hitomi practicing.

Only two weeks…

It feels like so much longer. Like I've known her for months, if not years. Yet, at the same time, it feels like practically yesterday that I wandered this very same path aimlessly, and stumbled upon the person that would change my whole perspective.

Even the weather is similar, the light breeze rustling through the trees and keeping the temperature to a comfortable level. I reach the base of the hill before the clearing and pause, taking in a deep breath of clean forest air. The sounds of nature surround me: rustling leaves, clattering branches, chittering insects, and of course the-

I pause. The occasional twangs of Hitomi's bow have been a comforting familiarity each time I've come to meet her in the clearing. Despite their odd tone, they've represented something I've come not just to appreciate but depend upon: the presence of somebody who understands me.

That sound is notably absent right now. I wait, not daring to exhale, hoping to hear the sound every second longer I wait, but- there's nothing.

Frowning, I proceed up the hill. Is she not out here?

Upon reaching the clearing, I sweep my eyes back and forth for either Hitomi or her equipment- and find neither. My frown deepens as I continue on towards the hillside bench. Maybe she's there, taking a break?

Nope. The bench is vacant as well. If Hitomi has been here yet today, there's no sign of her.

A light tingle of concern worms its way into my gut, but I force myself to ignore it. After the last time I panicked myself for no reason, it would be stupid of me to freak out. So she's not out here- so what? Maybe she's on her way, or back in her dorm doing homework or something. It's not like she comes out here every day after class…

Reversing course, I force myself to keep a steady, even pace as I retrace my steps back through the clearing, the forest, past the running track, and to the dorms.

Climbing the steps to the second floor carefully, I make my way to Hitomi's room and knock.

…nothing.

I sigh, feeling a vague sense of Deja' Vu. "Hitomi?"

Still nothing.

Why didn't I just make sure to get her number last week?

That feeling of unease is growing a bit more now, no matter how much I try to ignore it. Moving to the next door reluctantly, I knock.

No answer. Maybe Lilly isn't in, either?

I knock once more, just to be sure. Surely with her excellent hearing, Lilly couldn't miss the sound, right?

The sound of a door behind me opening grabs my attention, and I turn to see Hanako peeking out at me through the crack between the door and frame, still in her uniform. She retreats slightly upon catching my eye, but doesn't close her door entirely.

"Uh, hey, Hanako. Lilly isn't here?"

"Sh- she was helping Yuuko…" Her voice is barely audible, just enough that I can understand her in the secluded hallway.

"I see. Thanks anyway."

She nods once, sharply, and starts to close her door.

"Actually, have you seen Hitomi around anywhere?"

Hanako pauses, blinking at me for a moment. "No… um- sorry."

I shake my head. "It's fine."

She keeps her door open, apparently considering something.

"L-Lilly said she wasn't in c-class today."

"Huh." That doesn't bode well…

Hanako gives me another sharp nod, then closes her door, leaving me alone in the hallway to wonder what to make of the situation.

I know that Hitomi tends to skip class on days her vision is being problematic, but usually when she does that she spends that time alone in her dorm. She's clearly not here unless she's totally ignoring me, so where else could she be?

Figuring it can't hurt to try one more time, I push back the growing feeling of panic and return to Hitomi's door, knocking again.

"Hitomi, please. It's Hisao. I just want to know that you're okay."

I listen carefully for any sound, any hint of life beyond the thin barrier of wood, but if she's in there, she's remaining exceptionally quiet.

Even if she's very upset with me, I can't imagine Hitomi just ignoring me and not even answering her door. Then again, I don't really know her all that well, as much as I like to think I do.

What do I do?

The most logical thing is to assume she's just shopping in town, or meeting with a teacher, or hanging out alone somewhere. There's any number of perfectly normal things she could be up to right now that are no cause whatsoever for concern. I should probably just go back to my room, and try her again later, right?

But something inside me insists that she's not doing any of those things. That wherever she is, she's not just fine. That she's in some kind of trouble. Or danger.

With a sense of determination, I start down the hallway to look elsewhere for her- then stop in my tracks. Where could I look? Do I just wander aimlessly around campus, or down the hill into town, hoping to find her? There's no way that I'll be able to locate her that way. The most likely places for her to show up are here and the clearing. Since she wasn't there when I checked, her archery gear is likely inside her room. So even if she does intend to go practice, she'll have to stop by here first.

I don't like it, but I'm out of ideas. Bar a report to the administration of a missing student- which seems a bit premature, no matter how I feel- there's not much I can do but wait.

Slowly, I return to Hitomi's door and settle down onto the floor, setting my bag down as well and leaning against the wall beside it. If she's not back soon, I'll go ask somebody for help, I guess. She won't like it, but what else can I do?

I pull a random book from my bag and try to force myself to read. Surely, it won't be too long before she shows up here.

With every minute, the pit in my stomach deepens.

-----

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter

Wordcount: 3,838 / 55,000
Last edited by Xeraeo on Thu Oct 08, 2020 1:24 am, edited 4 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)

User avatar
Chatty Wheeler
Posts: 29
Joined: Mon Aug 24, 2020 5:56 pm
Location: Pacific Time Zone

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

Post by Chatty Wheeler » Sun Oct 04, 2020 2:19 am

Alright! We've arrived at the penultimate scene of the act, and everything is starting to come together.

——————————

Right off the bat, the tension that is built up before the pseudo-rejection worked really well for me. Carrying over from the end of the last scene, we spend the first chunk of this scene in Hisao's mind as he mulls it over. Like anybody would be, myself included, Hisao is pretty nervous about the whole ordeal—constantly changing his mind, and even briefly considering pushing it off just a little further. Instantly, he realizes that he would be falling back into passiveness if he did that. Good, it looks like Hisao's newfound activeness really is going to stick. Very good indeed.

Jumping straight into the pseudo-rejection, I thought it was very nicely done. The tension had been properly built, I was on the edge of my seat, and the execution was quite good—not overly long, not melodramatic, and not without the inherent awkwardness that would be realistic in this situation. But what was more interesting to me was what came directly afterwards: Molly and Hisao have a conversation. A real one. I can totally see the two of them becoming friends now, which is good, because outside of Hitomi, friends are in short supply for Hisao.

——————————
Xeraeo wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 8:48 pm
Maybe finally laying everything on the table allowed us to speak freely with each other.
Now that the "Molly romantic interest subplot" has been concluded, I'd like to reflect on it for just a bit. Ever since Molly was introduced to Hisao, it's been fun for me to compare how he interacts with her against how he interacts with Hitomi. In some ways, they are similar, in other ways they are different. The way that Hisao's conversations with Hitomi are filled with silences is similar to how Hisao interacts with Molly, but Hisao's comfortable silences with Hitomi are different than Hisao's awkward silences with Molly. Molly and Hitomi obviously both have disabilities, but whereas Hitomi tries to hide her disability from everybody (literally locking herself up in her room when she's having a blindness episode), Molly wears a short skirt—exposing her prosthetic legs to everybody she comes into contact with. I've been thinking for a while now that Hisao should really pay attention to his experiences with Molly, and perhaps learn a thing a two from those experiences.

That brings me to the quote above. This is a lesson from Molly that, now more than ever, I really hope Hisao takes to heart. No pun intended. This exact lesson could easily be applied to what he's currently going through with Hitomi. Take notes, Hisao.

I think that this is why Xeraeo chose to include the "Molly romantic interest subplot" in this story—because everything that happens with Molly, in some shape or form, ties back to how things are going with Hitomi. These are the kind of large ensemble cast stories that I enjoy—where every side character plays some sort of role in progressing the development of the main characters, or progressing the development of the main narrative and its themes. Molly has certainly fit the bill, and even she has less presence in the story from now on since her subplot has been concluded, I can be happy knowing that it's been a good one, and a meaningful one.

——————————

Suzu is awake! There really isn't too much about her time with Hisao that I can analyze, since most of what I could say would just be repeating the obvious. However, I want to make light of one thing that stuck out to me, and that is how Hisao reacts to Suzu's differing philosophy on relationships. In this scene, Suzu and her ideas challenge Hisao and his choices, but Hisao doesn't back down for a second. He certainly acts confused and a bit frustrated, but in the end he stands up for himself and his choices. If Suzu had challenged him several scenes ago—or maybe even one scene ago—he probably would have backed down and shied away from responding to Suzu. It's good to see Hisao showing some spine here. After all, he has a point: Suzu clearly doesn't feel hurt when things don't go her way, but Molly does, and Suzu should be more considerate of that before she runs off to find another guy to tether Molly to. Good job, Hisao. You're maturing.

——————————

And finally, we've come to the last chunk of this scene: Hisao looking for Hitomi. The tension that builds up as Hisao looks for Hitomi is really, really good. Every thought and consideration that flowed through Hisao's mind made sense, and the slowly building pressure was very effective. Hisao repeatedly trying to coil his panic by reminding himself of the "facts" until the "facts" slowly give way to emotion and panic felt raw. I know that I've certainly worked myself up to a near-panic when I didn't really have the hard evidence to back it up, but sometimes all it takes is one lead for your mind to start filling in the gaps with the worst possible outcomes. I'm totally on board with Hisao here—something, even if Hitomi isn't in any danger, is bound to happen. I can feel it. I know it! And I can't wait to find out what-

The scene ends... And... I'm not sure how I feel about it ending so abruptly. It feels kind of like a double-edged sword.

One the one hand, this ending makes for a great, gripping cliffhanger, that makes me eager for the next scene. On the other hand, all of that tension that Xeraeo had been skillfully building in the last third of this scene gets washed away. It's probably going to take at least a few days for Xeraeo to write the finale of Act 2, but by then, the high that I felt at the end of this scene will have faded away.

Hisao is making heat-of-the-moment decisions in this scene, and we're right along with him in the heat of the moment. But when Xeraeo posts his next scene, Hisao will still be in the heat of the moment, but the reader won't be, they'll have had at least a few real days to calm down. Xeraeo is going to have to spend some time at the beginning of the next scene rekindling some of that tension so that the payoff is effective, whatever that payoff will be. If there was no break between the scenes, if this scene and the next scene were combined, there would be no loss of tension. Of course, that would result in one insanely long scene, but I'd argue that the tradeoff might have been worth it.

Don't get me wrong, this ending is far from a deal breaker from me. It's literally only one tiny criticism that I have in a scene that is excellently conceived, written, and presented; it hardly has any impact on how I view the scene as a whole, but it was something that I thought of and wanted to mention.

——————————

Only one typo this time around!
Xeraeo wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 8:48 pm
She looks up, he eyes moist, and gives me a pained smile. "I know you and Hitomi like each other."
It would appear that "he eyes moist" should be "her eyes moist."

——————————

This was a great scene that had me tensed up for the majority of it. I'm really excited to read the finale of Act 2! Thanks as always, Xeraeo. Take care, everyone.
Last edited by Chatty Wheeler on Sun Oct 04, 2020 3:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Xeraeo
Posts: 63
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2020 5:48 pm
Location: Chicago(ish), United States

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

Post by Xeraeo » Sun Oct 04, 2020 2:49 am

Spoiler alert: one thing Hisao and I have in common right now- neither of us has any idea where Hitomi is. :)

Update: Found her.
Girls: Emi=Hanako=Lilly>Shizune=Rin
Routes: Lilly=Emi>Hanako>Rin>Shizune

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

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

User avatar
Xeraeo
Posts: 63
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2020 5:48 pm
Location: Chicago(ish), United States

...Still You Are With Me (2-12)

Post by Xeraeo » Thu Oct 08, 2020 1:22 am

tap-tap… tap-Tap… Tap-Tap…

I perk up at the familiar sound, my eyes leaving the page of my book to confirm the source. Sure enough, Lilly rounds the corner at the entrance to the hallway and begins making her way towards her door, her cane lightly touching the floor ahead of her and the bottom of the wall in quick, alternating motions. Closing my book and dropping it in my bag with little memory of what I was actually reading, I stand and move to intercept her before she reaches her destination. She clearly hears me approaching, because she pauses partway down the hall.

"Hisao?"

Can she seriously tell who I am just from my breathing?

"Yes, hi Lilly. Have you seen Hitomi anywhere?"

She must sense the urgency in my voice, because she makes no comment on my choice of wording. "No, I'm sorry, she wasn't in class at all today. Is she not in her dorm room?" She tilts her head slightly, as if to listen for some sign of Hitomi's presence.

"No, I've knocked several times now. I couldn't find her anywhere after class. Do you have any idea where she might have gone?"

Lilly's brow furrows in mild concern. "I'm afraid not. If she had a scheduled appointment or meeting today, I would have been informed as the representative of her class." She appears to consider this. "Unless Ms. Hakamichi had some reason not to tell me."

"I'm worried about her. It's not like her to just disappear like this." In truth, I don't know that, but in the couple weeks I've known her I haven't generally had too much trouble locating Hitomi, even without a phone.

"Have you considered contacting the administration?"

I wince at the very reasonable suggestion. "I have, but if she's fine and just off by herself somewhere, I don't think she'll appreciate us making a big deal out of this."

Lilly nods, a look of mild frustration on her face. "Indeed, but it may be the only course of action available to us at present."

I take a deep breath. "Please, Lilly. Hitomi and I aren't… on the best of terms right now."

"Oh? When was the last time you spoke to her?"

"Ah, it was… the last time you and I talked."

Lilly's eyebrows go up at that, and she hesitates. "Oh. Well, then, I can understand why you want to be careful." For several long, agonizing moments, she appears to think it over.

I shift anxiously on my feet, feeling utterly trapped by my own helplessness.

"I suppose we could try the student council before doing anything more official." I can see her reluctance even as she says the words, but she reaches into her purse and pulls out a cell phone, flipping it open and holding a button.

"Call Shiina Mikado." she says in a flat, clear tone.

In response, the phone makes a long beeping sound. Lilly scrunches her brow in frustration, and holds the button again.

"Call. Shiina. Mikado."

A short beep this time, and Lilly relaxes. I'm standing a couple meters from the blonde girl, so I can only just hear the ringing as she holds the phone to her ear. A few seconds later, she winces and pulls it away. Even at this distance, I can hear the overly-cheerful voice on the other end.

"This is Miiiiiiiiisha! Leave a message, and I promise I'll call you right back!"

Lilly snaps the phone shut, shaking her head, and drops the device back into her purse.

"That girl never remembers to charge her phone…"

Moving rather quickly, Lilly navigates to Hanako's door with her cane, then sets it aside and knocks gently.

"Hanako? It's Lilly."

The door opens almost immediately, and I wonder briefly if Hanako had been listening to our conversation from the other side.

"L-Lilly?" Hanako looks at me, then back to her friend.

"Hanako, Hisao and I are trying to find Hitomi. I'm sorry to ask, but would you mind leaving your door open and giving me a call if she turns up here?"

Damn. I should have thought of that…

"S-sure." Hanako looks like she wants to ask for more details, but she glances at me again, and leaves it at that.

"Thank you." Lilly gives Hanako a reassuring smile. "Don't worry; I'm sure she'll turn up soon."

Hanako nods and goes back into her room, though she leaves her door open. Lilly turns back to me.

"Shall we go?"

I go back to grab my bag, then move to follow her. "Thank you for doing this, Lilly. Where are we going?"

She starts to lead me out of the dorm at a steady pace, her cane tapping against the hallway wall to keep her on course. "Hitomi is in my class, so this is my responsibility anyway. I'm sure my cousin is working in the student council room right now. We can find her there."

As we exit the dorm and start back towards the main building, I ask the obvious question. "Why would Shizune not have told you if she knew Hitomi would be gone?"

I know the two don't get along well, but I can't imagine someone as diligent as Shizune shirking her responsibility just to be petty. If anything, she's all the more likely to take every chance she can get to rub her hard work in Lilly's face.

Lilly purses her lips. "It is possible that she tried to contact me this morning, but we missed each other."

That explanation is a little vaguer than I would like, but I don't really think I should press Lilly on it right now, since she really is trying to be helpful. I settle for silence instead, letting my lack of response speak my disapproval for me.

Normally, I don't mind Lilly's slower pace, but right now it's frustrating. I know she probably can't afford to move much faster without risking an accident, but this is a serious situation. It takes some self-control, but I manage not to rush ahead of her as we make our way into the lobby, down the hall, and to the student council room.

There's no answer when I knock, but the door is unlocked, so we enter together. Behind her desk, Shizune looks up from several stacks of paperwork at the two of us, he face shifting quickly from surprise to suspicion, and then concern as she takes in our expressions. I glance around, but there's no sign of Misha, which presents us with a bit of a challenge…

Lilly nods in Shizune's general direction, apparently sensing her presence in the quiet room. "Hisao, is there currently a chair across the desk from Ms. Hakamichi?"

There is, and I guide her to it, briefly recalling my conversation with Shizune from that very same chair last week. Lilly takes a seat, folding up her cane and depositing it in her bag at her side, and then extends her hands across the desk, palms open. I tilt my head at the curious gesture, and I'm not alone in my reaction. Shizune looks a bit shocked herself, and stares at her cousin for several long seconds before slowly extending her own arms and placing her hands on top of Lilly's.

I watch in increasing fascination as the girls' hands begin to move, not in sign language, but some other, simpler form of tactile communication. They switch off positions, one girl holding both hands palm upward while the other taps on them in various motions, and then reversing so the other girl is doing the tapping. I can mostly tell who is 'talking' at which time, but the motions are quick and hard to follow, and I haven't the faintest idea what is being said. The only hints of the 'conversation' I get are the expressions on the cousins' faces as they talk.

Shizune looks surprised at first, then a bit frustrated and possibly offended, but gradually goes back to a look of what I think is genuine concern. Twice, she glances at me before returning her attention to Lilly.

For her part, Lilly's face remains polite and even throughout the exchange, giving me little indication at all as to what's being said.

It's hard to tell the speed of the communication, but it's far too slow for my anxiety right now. The silence in the room feels utterly incongruous with the urgency of the situation, and pretty soon I run out of patience.

"Lilly, what's going on? Does she know where Hitomi is?"

Lilly tilts her head in my direction. "Ah, forgive me, Hisao. No, she has not been informed of any appointments or any other reason Ms. Nomura would not be in class today." She receives a few more motions from her cousin, grimaces, and responds. "She says that I have been too relaxed in allowing Ms. Nomura's absences."

This is not the time for them to argue about whose fault it is! "Okay, so where else can we look?!"

"At present, her only suggestion is to check with either the administration, or the school nurse's office."

My blood runs cold at that statement. "Why the nurse?"

"For privacy reasons, if Ms. Nomura were to have some medical emergency, the student council may not have been immediately notified. It is possible the nursing staff has more information."

thump-thump

"Lilly, thanks for your help. I'll go check with Nurse now." I give Shizune a sincere nod of thanks, and she returns it with some uncertainty.

Lilly unfolds her cane and stands. "Please, allow me to accompany you. Hitomi is my responsibility, more so perhaps than most other students in my class."

My instinct is to say 'no' so I can move faster, but I see the worry written on Lilly's face, and begrudgingly accept her request. Of course, she probably feels that Hitomi going missing like this is partly her fault.

We leave together. As we reach the door, I notice that Shizune watches us go with a look of deepening concern.

---

"Come in!"

I open the door and hold it for Lilly, who apparently can tell what I'm doing and proceeds through with a polite nod of thanks. I follow her in, and shut the door behind us.

Nurse is sitting at his desk, that stupid grin on his face as he watches us enter. It quickly disappears as he sees our expressions.

"Mr. Nakai. Ms. Satou. How can I help you?"

I skip the pleasantries. "Nurse, we can't find Hitomi anywhere. Do you know where she is?"

He arches an eyebrow but doesn't hesitate at all. "Yes, I am aware of Ms. Nomura's location."

Relief floods me momentarily- but then is immediately replaced with dread. If he knows where she is, that means she's not just off by herself somewhere…

"Is she okay? Where is she? What happened?"

Nurse stands, his expression one of concern, but he keeps his voice calm and level. "Hisao, I need you to calm down. Take a seat, please."

"I'm not gonna take a seat! Is she okay, yes or no?"

"Sit." His voice is sharp, but still relatively calm. Beside me, Lilly flinches at the command, and feels her way to a chair near the door. Glaring at Nurse, I walk quickly to his desk and sit in the chair opposite him.

"Take a few deep breaths."

I force myself to comply, going through my breathing exercises to slow my heartrate. Nurse watches me without a word for several seconds before, apparently satisfied, he begins to speak.

"Thank you. You have to be more careful. Ms. Nomura is safe, and in good health, all things considered. That's all I can tell you right now, for privacy reasons."

She's safe? Thank God. I take several more deep breaths, finally feeling myself beginning to calm down a bit. "You can't tell me where she is? What do you mean, 'all things considered'?"

Nurse grimaces. "I'm sorry, Hisao. I'm not at liberty to discuss any details without Ms. Nomura's express permission."

I grunt in frustration. "When is she coming back?"

Nurse seems to think this over for a moment. "I will try to get in touch with her, and see if she's okay with a visit." He looks over my shoulder at Lilly. "If that's what you both would like."

Lilly, who's been quiet since we entered, speaks up from behind me. "If Hitomi is okay with it, yes."

"Very good." For the first time since we came in, Nurse's smile comes back. "Ms. Nomura is lucky to have such devoted friends."

A rush of guilt washes through me. If I was devoted, I would have been with her when whatever happened to her occurred, and maybe I could have helped, and-

"Hisao." His expression goes back to one of concern. "I will let you know as soon as I can if a visit is possible. The best thing you can do for Hitomi right now is go back to your room and rest. You're in no condition to be going anywhere as you are."

I take a long breath, and nod once. "Fine."

"In all likelihood, I won't have anything more to tell you until tomorrow morning, at the earliest. If you don't hear from me before classes, go ahead and skip. I'll explain to your homeroom teacher."

Reluctantly I nod again, feeling grateful at least that he might be able to tell me something more tomorrow. Of course, I doubt I'll be sleeping tonight…

---

I tried reading, homework, sleeping, reading again, sleeping again, and finally just laying on my back, staring up at the now-familiar ceiling over my bed. Sometime well after two or three in the morning, I finally managed to drift off to sleep for a few hours.

Waking with a start, I frantically checked my phone for any word from Nurse- but it was only around 6:30, and I had no new messages.

Damn. When is he gonna let me know?

I know it's unreasonable to be expecting anything this early, but the anxiety is killing me. Nurse knows where Hitomi is, which means she's had some sort of medical issue, correct? Was it a complication from her condition, or something else? He specified that she was in 'relatively good health'. The fact that he phrased it that way was not reassuring at all. Relative to what?

Groaning in frustration, I rub some of the grogginess from my eyes and force myself out of bed, grabbing a set of clothes and exiting my room for a shower. At this ungodly hour, it's very unlikely I'll run into my hallmate, but I still find myself moving as quietly as possible out of habit to avoid an unwanted conversation- if that's even the right word for one of Kenji's rants.

Taking an unusually long shower is one of the benefits of rising early, even if it doesn't exactly make up for the loss of sleep that comes with the deal. Several times, I poke my head out to check my phone display- to no effect.

When I'm done, I sneak back to my room in my casual clothes, having forgone the uniform I would normally don on a Saturday morning. Under normal circumstances, skipping class would make me feel guilty unless I was sick, or had an appointment or something, but today I think nothing of it.

I force myself to take my medications, prepare some simple breakfast, and try my very best not to check my phone more than once every few minutes. Part of me wants to rush down to Nurse's office and wait outside, but I know he'll just send me back if I do that.

Chirp!

Scrambling, I snatch my phone off my desk and nearly fling it across the room in my rush to flip it open and read the message.

Hicchan, havnt herd from u in a wile. Call us soon! -Mom

Sighing, I drop the phone back down onto the desk. Any other time, I would have welcomed contact with my parents, whom I haven't heard a word from since they dropped me off here- but this morning… it just kinda pisses me off.

I have to laugh a little though, despite the tension I'm feeling. Mom's still trying to text like she thinks teenagers do- cutting out random letters and making other deliberate errors, but she still signs the text like I don't know it's from her.

Chirp!

Seriously? Groaning, I flip the phone open to see what she could possibly have followed that message up with-

Hitomi is okay with a visit. Come to my office at 9.

It's 8:15 now. With nothing better to do, I spend the next half-hour sitting and wondering where Hitomi could possibly be. The most obvious answer, of course, is the one I want to think about the least.

When it's finally time, I take only my phone and wallet, leaving my bag in my room. I can't imagine I'll be able to read anything, even if it is a long drive.

---

Seeming to want only to further my frustration, Nurse refuses to give me any real information until we've walked out to his car, gotten strapped in, and are on our way down the hill.

Finally, he speaks.

"Hitomi was in an accident yesterday. She was hit by a vehicle in town sometime in the morning."

I can feel the panic rising up immediately, but he continues without pause.

"She's okay. They weren't driving very fast at all, and she only had a few minor injuries. Mostly scrapes, bruised ribs, stuff like that."

My panic slowly ebbs, replaced by an equally unwelcome feeling: overwhelming guilt.

"It seems that she was having one of her episodes at the time of the accident. It's not clear what she was doing in town by herself. I only spoke with her myself this morning."

As immature and downright childish as Nurse seems to act at times, it's clear that he's entirely responsible and professional when he needs to be. At no point does he crack some stupid joke or try to make light of the situation. My guess is he's concerned that any added stress may have consequences to my own health. He's driving with both hands on the wheel, eyes on the road ahead of him and maintaining a safe speed, but he does glance my way momentarily before delivering the bad news.

"Apparently, her sight has not returned since the accident."

I think back to the day Hitomi described her condition to me. 'Sometimes, it's gone for a whole day,' she told me. It's been nearly a day since her accident, so it's possible that this is not out of the ordinary, right?

"Did she hit her head at all?"

Nurse nods. "She suffered a minor concussion. Of course, any brain trauma is serious, but from what the doctor told me, it wasn't anything to be too concerned about. For Hitomi, though, a head injury may mean more than it does for the average person."

Dammit…

I should have been with her. If I hadn't taken so damn long to get my stupid feelings figured out and just talked to her earlier, she wouldn't have been alone, and this wouldn't have happened.

Nurse seems to sense my brooding, and reaches over to place a hand on my shoulder. I guess he's trying to be reassuring, but it just comes across as forced.

"…so she said it was okay to tell me all this?"

He nods. "She did ask that I limit it to only you, but yes."

Oh, right, Lilly…

Seeming to guess my thoughts, he adds, "I did inform Ms. Satou that Hitomi was doing well, and should return to school in the next few days."

That'll have to be enough for now, I guess. I should probably tell Lilly a bit more after I see Hitomi, as long as she's okay with it.

"I probably don't have to tell you this, but it's a very good sign that Hitomi agreed to this visit. Please do your best to have a positive attitude while we're there."

I frown. Of course I'll try to be positive, but I'm not gonna put on a show for her either. Blind or not, Hitomi will see right through it if I act like nothing is wrong.

---

We pull into the hospital parking lot around 20 minutes later, and walk to the main entrance in silence. The breeze stirs the bushes around the sliding doors as we approach, highlighting the oppressive quiet that seems to blanket the entire area. The sounds of the city seem to fade, becoming more and more distant as I approach the entrance, as if every step takes me another mile away from the life of the outside world.

The first set of doors slide open, then the second, and I'm hit with it all at once. The smell of ammonia and bleach. The endless green-painted walls. The sounds of machines counting out the lives of the patients bound to them, carelessly declaring to the world around them that their charges are not dead… yet.

A faint ringing builds in my ears, and my vision seems to narrow. Despite the chilled air of the hospital lobby, I feel sweat beading on my forehead. Slowing, I stumble towards an object that I vaguely recognize to be a chair, though even that information seems to take ages to process. Somewhere far away, a voice is saying my name, but wherever they're speaking from, I can't really understand them.

Closing my eyes, I focus on one thing. Hitomi. I'm not back here for me. I'm here to see Hitomi. I can't make this about me.

I take a long, deep breath: in, and then slowly out. Again, in and out. Several long cycles, and the world around me slowly comes back. Wiping my forehead, I look over to Nurse, who's sitting beside me, watching my face intensely.

"I'm okay."

"We're gonna sit here for a few minutes."

It's not a question. I nod, and continue to focus on my breathing. I've never actually been to this hospital, come to think of it, but the sense that I'm back is still overpowering. What's the difference, really, which hospital it is after all?

Stop it. It's already your fault that she's here. You can't make this about you.

It takes several more minutes, but I eventually find my strength returning, pathetic as it is. I wipe my forehead with one sleeve, vaguely disgusted at my reaction just stepping foot in this place. Fortunately, Nurse seems like he anticipated something like this, and is being relatively calm about it.

"You ready?"

I stand, wait a few seconds to see if I get dizzy, and then nod without a word.

---

"I'll wait out here. Try to make it quick; she needs to rest."

I blink in surprise. "You're not coming in?"

Nurse shakes his head. "The visit is for you. I'll check on Ms. Nomura when she returns to Yamaku, but for now, she's in capable hands with the staff here."

I guess that makes sense. For some reason I had thought of this as a visit from Nurse with me tagging along, but it seems he made this trip just for my sake. Well, more for Hitomi's sake, but still.

With a nod of thanks, I proceed into the room, taking a deep breath in anticipation. The bed is to my left, but- it's empty?

"Who's there?"

I turn towards the familiar voice, and there she is. Standing by the window, head tilted towards the entrance of the room, Hitomi looks worse than I can ever remember seeing her. A bandage around her head makes her normally beautiful hair look particularly messy. Her whole demeanor is depressing, her posture timid and weak, her face a blank mask of exhaustion. Normally, her lack of expression is an odd part of her charm- but not like this.

"Hitomi."

She stiffens at my voice, and stands up just a little straighter.

"Oh. Hisao."

Not particularly friendly, but not hostile, either. I suppose that's all I could expect. She turns to more accurately face me, but still ends up looking off to my left.

Up until talking with Nurse yesterday, I had tried thinking about what I wanted to say to Hitomi over and over again- but all of that just seems so silly now. Even as I had my 'important' talk with Molly, Hitomi was already here, being examined for injuries I could have prevented.

She turns her body to face me, the hospital gown hanging off her slender frame in an unflattering manner. Several bruises are visible on her bare arms, and her left hand is wrapped in a bandage that leaves her fingers free, at least.

"I wasn't sure you were coming."

What? What did Nurse tell her?

"Are you kidding? Of course I came." I walk towards her, trying not to rush forward too quickly for fear of startling her. Reaching for her shoulder, I pull her gingerly into an embrace. She doesn't make any effort to stop me, but her own arms remain at her sides. A sharp hiss of pain from her makes me pull back suddenly, and I realize I might have just hurt her.

"Sorry!"

"…it's fine. Rib's still tender."

The guilt of hurting her even further overwhelms me, and I lose control all at once.

"Hitomi, I'm so sorry I wasn't there with you! If I had gotten myself sorted out days ago, none of this would have happened, and you'd still be at school instead of here, and-"

"Stop."

As usual, her quiet voice is enough to cut me off completely.

She stares emptily at my torso, her brow furrowed in frustration.

"This had nothing to do with you."

I open my mouth to argue, but the words die in my throat. How can I explain my feelings to her? Before I can think of a way to try, though, Hitomi speaks again.

"I was careless. It's my fault this happened."

"Hitomi, if I had been with you, we both know there wouldn't have been an accident."

"Maybe." She closes her eyes, not that it really matters, and takes a long breath. "That's my fault as well."

"But I was the one that stopped spending time with you!"

"Hisao." She forces a smile, but it's obviously for my benefit and not anything natural. "Please don't try to make this your fault. It won't fix anything, and it'll only make me feel worse about this past week."

I let out a long, frustrated sigh. She's got me trapped, now. Nothing I say is going to make the situation any better. Reluctantly, I change the subject.

"Did they learn anything about your… condition?"

She shakes her head. "They did a scan shortly after I got here, but they didn't see anything new."

Hitomi leaves unspoken the obvious fact that her vision has not come back. It's clear we're both thinking the same thing: whatever got knocked loose in her head before, this incident made it permanent.

"How long are they keeping you here?"

Apparently relieved to be off that topic, Hitomi gives me another forced smile. "They said they want to keep an eye on me for another day, but I should be back tomorrow afternoon, if nothing changes."

"Hisao?" Nurse's voice intrudes on our conversation, and I look over my shoulder to see him standing in the doorway alongside one of the hospital staff, who's looking at me in mild frustration.

"Ms. Nomura needs to rest."

I turn back to her, and give her a pained smile of my own- which of course she doesn't see. Pulling her into an even gentler hug, I whisper in her ear.

"I'll be waiting at the gate."

It's not a question, but I still find myself waiting for an answer. She nods against my shoulder, and this time returns my embrace, her normally strong arms feeling unusually thin and delicate around me. When we separate, her eyes are wet, and I realize mine are too.

With nothing left to say, I turn and leave the room, glancing back over my shoulder as Hitomi makes her way back to her bed and plops down on it with a sigh.

---

Every part of my being desperately hopes for one thing as I pace back and forth in front of the school gate the following day: that Hitomi will come back with her vision restored.

I know it's far-fetched, but it's always possible that she was just experiencing a longer-than-normal period of blindness, and the accident had no effect on her, other than her other, minor injuries.

That hope is dashed as the Yamaku Academy van pulls up, and Hitomi slowly exits from the side door, every movement made cautiously.

My heart sinks- but I force myself to put on a smile anyway, for all the good it will do. She's no doubt feeling worse than I am, so the least I can do is try to make her day just a little less gloomy.

I walk up to her quickly, pulling her into another hug and inadvertently startling her in the process. I guess Lilly's near superhuman hearing isn't something that applies to everyone experiencing blindness.

"I'm glad you're back." I say in as warm a voice as I can manage.

"Me too."

It's not quite a monotone answer- there's a hint of sincerity in it that gives me hope- but it's not exactly the happy reunion I was looking for either. No matter.

"C'mon, I'll take you back to your room." Hitomi's wearing a set of casual clothing that someone must have brought her, and carrying a small bag with the clothes she was wearing on Friday. I take the bag from her hand, and she doesn't resist.

"Actually, can we-" She stops herself, closing her vacant eyes and taking a long, deep breath.

"Can we just go sit for a while? At the bench?"

Even though her description is totally lacking in detail, I know exactly where she means. I nod, then quickly add, "Yeah, sure, of course."

Giving me a gentle smile, Hitomi takes my arm in a manner similar to Lilly, when I helped her with her shopping my first week here, although with their significant difference in height, Hitomi has to take a somewhat different angle to her grip. All things considered, she seems to be handling her situation better than I would have anticipated.

There's so much I want to say to the slender girl by my side, but I find myself holding off on all of it as we walk across Yamaku's grounds together. Sundays are generally quieter than the rest of the week, with many students off-campus somewhere or else hanging out in the dorms. A few are walking between the various buildings, or sitting in small groups in the grass.

One such group I recognize as we get nearer, and I consider going around, but it's clear we've already been spotted and it would be a bit pointless now. Hitomi and I walk by Suzu, Miki, Molly and Taro without speaking, but the group falls silent and watches us go by with mixed reactions. Taro smiles at first, then frowns as he looks at Hitomi more closely, then blushes and looks away when he sees me watching his reaction. Miki grimaces, but then gives me a broad grin and a thumbs up. Molly blushes and looks away, but glances back at us with a timid smile.

Suzu, to my surprise, simply gives me a smile and a polite wave. I don't catch any hint of resentment or even sarcasm in the gesture, and I give a short wave back.

We continue on in silence to the running track and then across to the edge of the forest, into the narrow entrance and up the winding path, ascend the hill, cross the clearing, and at last end our journey at the bench.

I guide Hitomi to it, and she takes a seat with a grunt of mild discomfort. Sitting beside her, I look out at the view once again. The town below us, forest around us, and distant buildings of the city are just as beautiful on this clear afternoon as they have been each time the two of us have sat here together, and yet…

Somehow, that beauty feels cheapened now. Knowing that I'm the only one seeing it reduces its value. Beside me, Hitomi speaks.

"I need to explain myself."

Surprised that she was the one to break the silence, I turn to Hitomi and wait for her to continue. After a brief pause, she does.

"When I first lost my vision, I was so scared. Everything I cared about was tied to being able to see. All my passions, everything I was good at or enjoyed… all of it was on the line. When they told me that someday I would lose it and it wouldn't come back, I made a decision."

Hitomi speaks no louder than usual, but in contrast to her normally flat, even tone, there's a clear underlying defeat in her voice. Resignation.

"If I had to lose my sight, I would enjoy every minute of it I had left."

She faces out towards the city, and a tear makes its way slowly down her cheek.

"I didn't waste my time learning how to live as a blind person. I figured there would be plenty of time for that once I actually became one."

I nod along, the pieces falling into place. Her refusal of Lilly's help. Her unwillingness to discuss her own limitations. The way she shut herself off from the world every time her vision was lost- only to reemerge as if nothing had happened. Hitomi wasn't denying what was happening to her. She was just trying to eke out as much happiness from her eyes as she could, while she still had them.

"Of course, if I had treated my limitations with more caution, I might still have been able to see a while longer…"

She trails off. I wait for several long moments, but she doesn't say anything more.

"I think I understand."

Hitomi turns her head in my direction, but doesn't really look at me.

"After my attack, my life changed completely. The things that used to be normal, easy even, suddenly became impossible. I lost my friends, my school, most of my life, really. Even though I technically survived, it was almost like I had died back then."

I wrap an arm around Hitomi and continue to stare off at the view without really seeing any of it. Gingerly, she leans into me, her head resting on my shoulder delicately.

"I had no choice at all, but even still, I wanted to hold on to as much of my old life as I could. When they told me I would be coming here instead of my old school, I felt like I was just being sent here to die."

A single cloud, puffy and cheerful, begins its long journey across the otherwise clear blue sky before us. I watch it with disinterest.

"If I had been able to cling to anything from before, I would have. If I had been given the chance to keep a part of my old life, I would have done it without a second thought. So I think I do understand, Hitomi, even if my own experience coming here was different."

She doesn't respond, but that's okay, I think. I've finally found the words I've been needing to say to her.

"Anyway, it all changed when I met you."

She stiffens slightly against me, but otherwise shows no reaction.

"Like I said, I thought my life was over when I transferred here. I thought this would be the place I spend the last few months of my life until my heart finally finished the job. No matter what the other kids here had been through, at least most of them still had a future."

"But meeting you changed that for me. I've realized that even if I don't live as long as a normal person, even if I can't live a normal life, I can still enjoy the life I have. As long as I'm with the right person to share it with, and as long as I can do anything to make that person happy."

"Oh!" Hitomi jerks, and my train of thought ends abruptly. What's with that reaction? I was about to say the most important part…

She sits up and looks at me. Not in my direction, or at my body in general, but straight into my eyes. Her own eyes are wide and bright, and I can make out my reflection looking back at me.

"You... you can-?"

Hitomi surges forward and our lips meet. My shock prevents me from responding at first, freezing me in place like a frightened prey animal. Her arms wrap around me, pulling me in. Gradually my muscles begin to relax into the kiss, and I respond.

It's clumsy and awkward, but I don't care at all. My own arms pull at her as well, clueless hands running up and down her arms, through her hair, along her thigh…

We separate after several long seconds, and a flash of fear crosses Hitomi's face- but it's gone in an instant, replaced with a smirk, of all things.

"Sorry, you were saying something?"

Whatever my face looks like right now, I'm sure the word 'dumb' describes it aptly.

"Ah, I was, that is-"

"I feel the same."

My babbling dies away, and I'm left staring at the incredibly beautiful person in front of me in disbelief. She stares right back. Somehow, everything that's happened to us led us both to this place, to this moment right here. And right here, I think it just might be possible that it was all worth it.

I lean forward, and kiss her again.

End of Act 2

-----

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter

Wordcount: 6,356 / 61,356
Last edited by Xeraeo on Sun Oct 11, 2020 3:19 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Girls: Emi=Hanako=Lilly>Shizune=Rin
Routes: Lilly=Emi>Hanako>Rin>Shizune

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

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

User avatar
Xeraeo
Posts: 63
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2020 5:48 pm
Location: Chicago(ish), United States

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

Post by Xeraeo » Thu Oct 08, 2020 1:33 am

And that's a wrap for Act 2! I'm still finding it hard to believe I've gotten this far. The main reason I've been able to keep going on this instead of losing focus is you guys who read it and comment. Seriously, if it weren't for you, I would have given up a long time ago.

This was the most thoroughly planned-out chapter I've written, and also the longest. I budgeted 5,000 words, but it still came out well past that. I briefly considered splitting it in half, but the first part would not have functioned as a stand-alone chapter, and I just wanted to finish out the act as intended.

I hope this climax and resolution to some of our early story arcs is satisfying to read, while also leaving plenty of unanswered questions and really getting us into position for the primary conflicts. Our cast of characters, with a few exceptions, has been more or less established, and Hisao has found something of a place for himself now.

I'm excited to see where this goes. It's gone much better than I expected so far, so I'm starting to hold out hope that it will actually turn out well in the end. No promises, but if you all keep encouraging me when it's good and correcting me when it's bad, I think we may have a chance.

By acts, we're halfway through. By planned number of chapters and wordcount, we're closer to 2/5ths. A substantial amount, either way, but plenty left to write!

Anyway, thank you all, and I'll see you in Act 3 - Draw!


Minor Edit: On rereading, I didn't love the last couple lines, so I added a tiny bit and changed the last line completely. Sorry for you purists, but it's my fic, I do what I want.
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)

User avatar
Chatty Wheeler
Posts: 29
Joined: Mon Aug 24, 2020 5:56 pm
Location: Pacific Time Zone

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

Post by Chatty Wheeler » Sun Oct 11, 2020 1:23 pm

I'm running out of ways to start these analyses... I've been spending way too long trying to think of something clever to say, but I've got nothing this time around. Hehe.

Anyway, we've reached the conclusion of Act 2! Right out of the gate, I'd like to congratulate Xeraeo on making it this far—AND making it this far this quickly. Keeping the quality of writing so high at such a fast release pace is impressive—I've had trouble keeping up, I must admit. Okay, I've been delaying my thoughts too long. Let's talk about this scene.

This marks the first time I've had to read a scene twice before I could comfortably write my analysis. There's a lot going on in this scene—a lot of characters, a lot of locations, a lot of narrative threads, and a lot of character development. This scene almost felt to me like it had been plucked from another story by a different author, because the urgency and tonal whiplash felt from this scene was very different to the usually gentle pacing of every other scene in this act—and that's not a bad thing. If most of Act 2 has been the slow burn of a fuse, this scene was a firework being launched into the sky. Thankfully, the firework was anything but a dud—this was a very good scene with a plethora of standout moments and revelations.

The word count of this scene doesn't lie—this scene is brimming with potential discussion topics. I'll do my best to mention what I can think of, but know that I'm probably bound to miss something here or there.

——————————

Hisao spends the first half of this scene bouncing from character to character, all so that they can help him find Hitomi. From Lilly, to Hanako, to Shizune, almost to Misha, and finally to Nurse. It's nice to see Hisao reaching out and accepting help from so many people, considering that he was basically friendless for all of Act 1 and a good chunk of Act 2. Hisao has been slowly allowing more people into his life, but I think that this is the first time that Hisao has relied on them for something that matters to him. Hisao needs to know that it's okay to rely on people for things that trying to brute force on his own would be difficult or downright unreasonable—one of these "things" includes his heart.

Hopefully, Hisao can learn to allow others in on matters relating to his heart. This could include strengthening his heart by training with Emi, not forgetting to go see Nurse when he is supposed to, and not literally pushing Hitomi away when he has an episode. Likewise, I hope that Hitomi can learn to rely on others as she makes her inevitable transition to living life with blindness. This brings me to my next talking point...

——————————

The first person that Hisao runs into during this scene is Lilly, who ends up taking a very active role in finding Hitomi's whereabouts. It's clear that Lilly is worried—as I think any of us would be in this situation. When I read this part of the scene, I couldn't help but think back to the lunch scene where Lilly suggested that Hisao to talk to Hitomi about accepting more assistance in learning how to cope with her intermittent blindness. It was clear that Lilly feared that Hitomi would put herself in danger, but Hisao ended up declining Lilly's suggestion. Transitioning back to this scene, I thought to myself that if Hitomi was in any danger, that Lilly would have called out Hisao on not listening to her suggestion, earlier.

Turns out, Hitomi was in serious danger. She was hit by a car. Good grief... I didn't think that's where she had gone after the last scene. Let me remind y'all that this is her second time in a car accident. The first accident gave her intermittent blindness, and the second almost gave her permanent blindness. Poor girl can't catch a break.

In this scene, Hisao is the only one who knows that Hitomi was in a car accident caused by her condition, but this secrecy won't last long. Soon, Shizune will know, and then Lilly will know, and then things are going to get interesting. I'm willing to predict that Lilly is going to call Hisao out on not listening to her suggestions, and maybe Shizune will even take Lilly's side. Hisao is going to have to seriously think about how much he can let slide before he finally listens to them, because let me remind you: HITOMI GOT HIT BY A FREAKING CAR. There's no way the students, the faculty, and even Hitomi's parents are going to just sit back after something like that happens.

——————————

Stepping back a little, let's talk about the journey that we take leading up to the encounter with Hitomi.

I might need to somewhat retract my complaint from my last post. I complained that having the scene end so abruptly shattered the tension that had been building up, but now I see that last scene only really scratched the surface of the build up that Hisao would eventually go through. In the last scene, the build up was not very long, but in this scene, it makes up a majority of the run time. So instead of the build-up being split directly in half, like I'd feared, it was more like last scene was a teaser for what was to come, which is a much easier pill to swallow.

As for the build up in this scene, I thought it was quite good! As is usually the case in real life, the tension builds through lots of little stressful bits that Hisao experiences or witnesses: Lilly having trouble with her phone, Hisao having to slow his walking speed for Lilly, Hisao being left out of the loop of Shizune and Lilly's conversation, Hisao getting a fake-out text from his mom. All these little annoying bits feel like things that have happened to me in real life, so I totally bought Hisao's impatience and stress in his search for Hitomi.

——————————
Xeraeo wrote:
Thu Oct 08, 2020 1:22 am
With nothing better to do, I spend the next half-hour sitting and wondering where Hitomi could possibly be. The most obvious answer, of course, is the one I want to think about the least.
Oh, boy. The hospital makes its unwelcome return, and this time, Hisao can't block it out of his mind. He has to face his fears... How poetic. Hisao has to face down the one thing he's been avoiding to get what he wants: reconnecting with Hitomi.

As someone who has been making theories about the symbolism of the hospital in this story and how it ties into that state of Hisao's mental well-being... Annnd as someone who has been secretly afraid that he's been grossly overanalyzing narrative elements and making up those theories out of mid air... It's nice to see the "returning to the hospital" being the "final trial" for Hisao in Act 2. It makes me think that this was all intentional on Xeraeo's part, and maybe, just maybe my theories aren't as crazy as I sometimes think they are.

As for that "final trial" itself, it was handled quite well. If Hisao had strutted into the hospital like it was nothing, that would have seemed unrealistic, given how much suffering he endured in there. On the other hand, if Hisao had burst into tears and trashed uncontrollably on the ground upon setting one foot in the hospital, then it would have meant that all the growth that Hisao has done in Act 2 was for nothing. As it stands, I thought that Hisao should have had some anxiety when facing the hospital, but that it shouldn't have affected him for very long—which is exactly what we got. In this scene, Hisao steps in, takes a few minutes to calm his heart, but then quickly gets back on his feet and moves on. Hisao's growth is evident here. Just what I was hoping for. Maybe this means that Hisao can put the hospital behind him, but I'll come back to this later.

I think that this brief encounter with the hospital was just as significant as Hisao's encounter with Hitomi was... Speaking of which...

——————————

We finally meet Hitomi... Despite all the physical and mental pain she has most certainly gone through, her face is as emotionless as it always is. Huh...

Instantly, Hisao starts blaming himself for everything that has happened. It's ironic, given that Hisao stated right before that he wouldn't make everything about "himself." As is usually the case in real life, as soon as guilt and emotions start getting in the way of your thoughts, you tend to forget stuff. As much as Hisao wants to stay strong and not make it about "himself," he gets emotional just like the rest of us.

Hitomi calls out Hisao on all of this, and eventually the conversation shifts to Hitomi's condition, but then Hisao leaves... He just leaves. I can't help but feel like this conversation and the subsequent conversation skipped over something crucial that has been building for three scenes: Hisao and Hitomi have just spent nearly a week apart from each other. That was supposed to be a pretty huge deal, right? But while this scene certainly mentions their time apart, Hisao and Hitomi nearly gloss over the whole ordeal. I could only find three lines where the two of them expressly mentioned it to each other:
Xeraeo wrote:
Thu Oct 08, 2020 1:22 am
If I had gotten myself sorted out days ago, none of this would have happened...

[...]

"But I was the one that stopped spending time with you!"

[...]

"Please don't try to make this your fault. It won't fix anything, and it'll only make me feel worse about this past week."
Perhaps Xeraeo was trying to make everything implied rather than outright stated... But I don't know if I can swallow that pill in this case. As it stands, it seemed like Hisao and Hitomi almost instantly forgave each other for avoiding each other.

It feels like the payoff was too small to justify the build-up. As a reader, I know why Hisao avoided Hitomi for the past week, but why did Hitomi avoid Hisao? Why didn't either of them explicitly apologize for doing so? Maybe I'm just a clueless reader, but I really feel like that whole topic could have made for some interesting discussion between Hisao and Hitomi.

On second thought, maybe you could argue that Hisao and Hitomi would be too scared to bring up their time apart at the hospital, when they had just reunited. But why wasn't it addressed at the bench scene? That would have been the perfect place to bring it up—when the two of them were already making confession after confession... One more confession wouldn't have been out of place.

I should mention, the scene with Hitomi in the hospital as it stands is great. The internal monologue, descriptions, and dialogue are all great. The fact that Hisao and Hitomi's time apart isn't addressed as much as I had hoped doesn't detract from the scene (for all I know, Xeraeo plans to bring it up in a future scene), I just think that mentioning it would have enhanced the scene and made for a nice payoff for the build-up that's been happening since Act 2, Scene 9.

Alright, no more complaining for the rest of this post. Let's get back to the analysis...

——————————

Let's talk about that bench scene—as it was highlight of Act 2, for me.

We start off with Hitomi being the one to break the silence—something rare enough in itself. Instantly, we know something is up. Hitomi explains that she wasn't denying her blindness, but that she was instead trying to enjoy whatever time she had left with her vision. This is an interesting argument that I don't know if there is a correct answer to, but there is one gaping flaw in Hitomi's philosophy that she herself points out:
Xeraeo wrote:
Thu Oct 08, 2020 1:22 am
"Of course, if I had treated my limitations with more caution, I might still have been able to see a while longer…"
So... It turns out that Shizune's theory was wrong! At least it was somewhat wrong. However, I doubt that this means that this is the end of that narrative thread. I doubt Shizune would drop such an issue so quickly. Personally, I think that exploring the possibility of anti-disability sentiments existing within the walls of Yamaku would make for an interesting story on its own, so I hope that Xeraeo doesn't drop this thread completely. I really think there's some potential there.

But beyond just her blindness, we get a clear idea of what Hitomi is afraid of: losing her past life. Sound familiar? This is was Hisao has been going through this entire story. And sure enough, Hisao explains this to Hitomi. He explains that he wanted his old life back, felt depressed when he couldn't have his old life back, but that he realized through meeting Hitomi that he could enjoy his new life.

On a surface level, this all seems like a good thing: Hisao and Hitomi open up to each other about their similar fears and pasts. However, I can't help but feel a little worried about Hitomi... Hisao makes it clear that he has came to terms with his new life (Xeraeo confirms this in his Act 2 "wrap post"), but has Hitomi come to terms with her new life? I'm not convinced that she has. She never says anything to indicate that she has accepted her blindness. She admits that she is trying to hold on to her old life, but act of admitting that doesn't mean that she's accepted her new life.

Here's an example of what I'm saying: the kiss at the end of the scene. By my account, the kiss was charming, sweet, a little bit cheesy, but it also nearly distracted me from something important. Hitomi only kisses Hisao when her eyesight comes back. Up until then, she seems pretty sad. Hmmmm... She still isn't accepting her new life. She still is a somewhat different person depending on whether or not she is blind. She powers down when she is blind, and gets a boost when she gets her vision back. Whether or not I'm reading too deep into this—and whether or not this is going to be a future issue for Hitomi—is up to Xeraeo, but I am very interested to see if my prediction is correct in this regard.

——————————
Xeraeo wrote:
Thu Oct 08, 2020 1:22 am
How the hell did I end up here?
Haha! I'm part of the uber, uber exclusive club who got to experience the original ending! Hehe.

In all seriousness, I much prefer the new ending. "How the hell did I end up here" kind of breaks the romantic mood, even if it's a nice callback to the opening line of the story.

——————————

Only one typo!
Xeraeo wrote:
Thu Oct 08, 2020 1:22 am
"Hisao, is there currently a chair across the desk from Ms. Hakamichi?
There would appear to be a missing quotation mark at the end of this sentence.

——————————

Okay! I have to go do something and I'll be gone most of the day. There's still some things I want to analyze, so when I get back, I'll make a new post and include everything I didn't get to!
Last edited by Chatty Wheeler on Sun Oct 11, 2020 11:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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

Post by Chatty Wheeler » Sun Oct 11, 2020 9:03 pm

Okay! Analysis part two! This post will be much shorter, but there are still some things that I wanted to discuss...

Since we've reached the end of Act 2, let's take some time to reflect on where the characters are at, where the story is at, and where the story is headed.

Hisao
——————————
Hisao is still my favorite part of this entire story. His journey from a depressed, defeated, and passive individual into a more hopeful, thoughtful, and active individual has been a wonder to watch unfold. In Act 1, Hisao was still very much trapped in his own "inner-hospital," but I think we can say with safety that he has finally left it behind. Hisao has found his place now. This begs the question—what's next for Hisao? What is going to be his primary conflict from here on? To be honest, I can't really think of a solid prediction just yet, but if I had to make a guess... I would say that Hisao is going to need to learn how to do things for himself—if that makes any sense.

In this act, Hisao was able to so much growth because he was doing it for other people—usually Hitomi. Hisao had to overcome his passiveness to work things out with Molly and Hitomi, Hisao had to start relying on others for advice and help when things with Hitomi weren't going so well, and Hisao had to accept his new life so that he could fully accept Hitomi. On the opposite end of the spectrum, when Hisao and Hitomi spent nearly a week apart, Hisao kind of fell apart, and he reverted back to his old, bad habits.

What I'm trying to with all of this is that Hisao's growth is built on the foundation of his relationship with Hitomi. As soon as Hitomi is taken out of the picture, I'm afraid that Hisao is going to revert back to his old ways. Hisao needs to not only grow for the sake of others, he needs to grow for the sake of himself. At least, this is my "guess." To be honest, I have no real evidence to back up my claims here. I have no idea if this is what Xeraeo is thinking, but I just felt like pointing all of this out.

Hitomi
——————————
We have certainly learned a lot more about Hitomi in this act, but there's still a ton that has me curious. First of all, if Shizune's theory has pretty much been debunked at this point. It doesn't seem like Hitomi looks down upon the disabled, but that then brings up the question: why does Hitomi like Hisao? If Hitomi doesn't like Hisao because he seemed "normal," what makes him so special to her? This is something that I am certain will be addressed in future scenes, but until then, I'll be looking forward to those answers.

Hitomi clearly has an attachment to Hisao, but how about seeing her make some new friends? If Hisao can spend time with Lilly, Miki, Molly, Taro, and Suzu, can't Hitomi find some new friends, as well? Let's hope so.

——————————

Okay, I think I'll end this overly long analysis here! Overall, this was a worthy finale to Act 2 and a solid scene in its own right. I'm excited for Act 3, and I'd like to thank Xeraeo, Brister, Nuke, and Feurox for keeping this story fresh with their posts and analyses!

Take care, everyone.

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

Post by Xeraeo » Tue Oct 13, 2020 5:23 pm

That is quite an analysis. I'm continuously impressed with your ability to not only get in my characters' heads, but to express your findings so well. You seriously make me think through what it was that led me to write each scene the way I did.
Chatty Wheeler wrote:
Sun Oct 11, 2020 1:23 pm
Right out of the gate, I'd like to congratulate Xeraeo on making it this far—AND making it this far this quickly.
*nods. Thank you. Now that things are getting more complex, however, I doubt such a rapid release pace will be possible. The number of plot threads I've created on a whim as I wrote the more careless early chapters are now too numerous to ignore without giving some thought to each chapter before writing it. Some of the really early ones, I had no notes at all for, and just wrote spontaneously. It's unlikely that I will be able to continue writing that way and still keep the story coherent, so things are gonna slow a bit. I'm still working through when exactly 3-1 begins in the story timeline; that is, how much of a timeskip we're experiencing, what happened during that timeskip, and how we'll learn what happened in a natural way.
Chatty Wheeler wrote:
Sun Oct 11, 2020 1:23 pm
Transitioning back to this scene, I thought to myself that if Hitomi was in any danger, that Lilly would have called out Hisao on not listening to her suggestion, earlier.
Trying to figure this out still, honestly. Lilly's fundamental character flaw as revealed in her route is her fear of confrontation. It's not that she never does it, but she's by nature a very peacekeeping individual, which is part of what puts her at odds with Shizune so often. I don't see it in Lilly's character to "call out" Hisao on this, at least not openly. We'll see how that plays out.

On the subject of Lilly, I intended from the beginning for her to take a more prominent role in the story than she has thus far. The whole major thread regarding Molly and Suzu ended up being a larger portion of Act 2 than I intended, and we only got a few shorter scenes with Lilly mixed in here and there, with the lunch conversation early on and then this last chapter being her only major appearances.

As we get further into the KS canon timeline, Lilly will become a bit more absent, obviously, so I'm working on reconciling that with my intention for her role in my story. I do intend to stick to canon as closely as possible whenever possible, while also making this story my own. I have some thoughts as to how this will work in Lilly's case in particular.
Chatty Wheeler wrote:
Sun Oct 11, 2020 1:23 pm
There's no way the students, the faculty, and even Hitomi's parents are going to just sit back after something like that happens.
The students who know, possibly. Few do, and it's not exactly YA policy to announce to the student body what's happening medically with others students. Besides, Hitomi has almost no connections that we know of with other students besides Hisao.

The faculty, of course, but what exactly they do will largely be between them and Hitomi. How much of that we see will be dependent on what she shares with Hisao.

And as for Hitomi's parents... well, we know next to nothing about them right now.
Chatty Wheeler wrote:
Sun Oct 11, 2020 1:23 pm
I might need to somewhat retract my complaint from my last post.
Well, I'll admit that a part of the reason I built the tension for so long in this chapter was precisely BECAUSE of your post. That being said, once I made the decision to do that, it made the other pieces of the chapter fall into place much better as well. So no retraction needed; your complaint helped shape this final chapter in a way that made sense.
Chatty Wheeler wrote:
Sun Oct 11, 2020 1:23 pm
Hitomi calls out Hisao on all of this, and eventually the conversation shifts to Hitomi's condition, but then Hisao leaves... He just leaves. I can't help but feel like this conversation and the subsequent conversation skipped over something crucial that has been building for three scenes: Hisao and Hitomi have just spent nearly a week apart from each other. That was supposed to be a pretty huge deal, right? But while this scene certainly mentions their time apart, Hisao and Hitomi nearly gloss over the whole ordeal.

...

Perhaps Xeraeo was trying to make everything implied rather than outright stated... But I don't know if I can swallow that pill in this case. As it stands, it seemed like Hisao and Hitomi almost instantly forgave each other for avoiding each other.

It feels like the payoff was too small to justify the build-up. As a reader, I know why Hisao avoided Hitomi for the past week, but why did Hitomi avoid Hisao? Why didn't either of them explicitly apologize for doing so? Maybe I'm just a clueless reader, but I really feel like that whole topic could have made for some interesting discussion between Hisao and Hitomi.

On second thought, maybe you could argue that Hisao and Hitomi would be too scared to bring up their time apart at the hospital, when they had just reunited. But why wasn't it addressed at the bench scene? That would have been the perfect place to bring it up—when the two of them were already making confession after confession... One more confession wouldn't have been out of place.

I should mention, the scene with Hitomi in the hospital as it stands is great. The internal monologue, descriptions, and dialogue are all great. The fact that Hisao and Hitomi's time apart isn't addressed as much as I had hoped doesn't detract from the scene (for all I know, Xeraeo plans to bring it up in a future scene), I just think that mentioning it would have enhanced the scene and made for a nice payoff for the build-up that's been happening since Act 2, Scene 9.
Alright, the big one...

When I was writing this part, and when I had completed the chapter, I felt that this was the weakest part of the whole thing. Your analysis here confirms that to me. Let's dig into why just a bit...

In my mind, both Hitomi and Hisao were feeling something similar regarding their mutual avoidance. That is, that it was their own fault, and that in light of Hitomi's accident, the whole thing seemed a bit silly and embarrassing. Hisao feels like his concerns and problems he's been dealing with over the last week are kinda dumb and selfish, and he's feeling guilty that he let such little things keep him from Hitomi when being with her could have helped her. Hitomi is feeling that her own avoidance of Hisao after their confrontation was a bit hypocritical, considering what just happened.

I think they both feel a bit childish for what happened, and just want to move on from it in light of her accident. That's why they quickly change topics after addressing it just barely, instead of having long, dramatic apologies. So yeah, they instantly forgave each other because both of them felt more at fault themselves than upset with the other person.

That's what I intended to convey with their short, awkward conversation. However, I think I failed to properly do so, considering the way you came out of it, and the way I read it as well going back to it now. I can see how the lack of payoff for that whole thread feels the way it does.

The rest of your analysis seems to be predominantly geared towards predicting what may happen in the future with these characters, so I'm gonna leave it at that. No reason to get into too much detail discussing what may be, since all it would do is spoil or alter it anyway.

---

Now, a more general discussion of where I'm at in writing this story...

This last week, after finishing Act 2, I've been going over the overall story in my head, and trying to frame the beginning of Act 3 so that it will properly set us up for the important events that need to take place in the act. Reconciling the loose threads left at the end of Act 2 is a big part of this, and proving more difficult than I anticipated.

As I mentioned earlier here, I'm still not set on precisely WHEN Act 3 begins in the timeline, which in turn prevents me from beginning the actual writing. Once I get that figured out and get to putting thoughts to screen, things should move along all on their own much better.

My left brain, the logic and planning side, is doing the work right now. In creative writing, I've found this side to be necessary, but far weaker. Once I get moving and let the right brain take over, I'm confident that we can keep going at a reasonable pace here.

I expect it may be as long as another week until we get 3-1 up, but it could be as soon as this Fri or Sat, depending on where my head's at.

Any additional feedback or general thoughts on the story so far, either the entire thing or just the last few chapters, will be immensely helpful in this process. As I've mentioned before, I re-read any recent comments before beginning a new chapter, and the thoughts, theories, criticisms, and encouragements of each of you contribute to varying degrees to the writing itself. Don't feel pressured to say anything, of course, but also please don't feel intimidated by the lengthier and more in-depth thoughts of others. If you want to say "I like it" and leave it at that, you will have made my day.

Now, seriously, I'll leave it at that. Act 3 coming up soon(ish)!
Last edited by Xeraeo on Wed Oct 21, 2020 12:54 am, edited 1 time 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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