Winter Lantern - Rika Pseudo Route (Prev. known as Evolution Fuel)

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Winter Lantern - Rika Pseudo Route (Prev. known as Evolution Fuel)

Post by SuperEgo » Thu Sep 10, 2020 12:26 pm

Hey, I haven't written anything creatively like this in a long while, so if this sucks don't be too harsh.

Wanted to do a Rika route for a while now, mainly because what little there is has never hit the nail on the head for me like some other pieces have. I think I'm just too particular. Decided to get off my ass and try my own hand instead of hoping for someone else to come along. Hopefully, this ends up being something people enjoy. This is a first for me writing fanfiction too, so any advice or comments are welcome.

As an aside, the title is subject to change. It sounds cool and it fits with what I want to do, but I feel as though I can still do better. If that happens I'll alert people to the change so this doesn't get lost.

ACT 1: Coagulation

Chapter 1: Dextrocardia

I really have to watch where I'm going.

The irony of this situation is not lost on me. Only yesterday did Emi crashed into me and now I've done the same thing to some girl I don't even know. Fortunately, this girl had received the memo about running in the hall and listened to it. But rounding a corner trying to escape a very awkward argument between a blind girl and a deaf girl, both of whom are trying to pull you in and pick a side in said argument which you have no real understanding or stake in, would make anyone want to get as far away as they could. In hindsight, I could have just toughed it out and ignored them; that would have likely been the smarter move. But Shizune seems the type to take extreme offence at being ignored and Lilly would not have taken it any better I imagine. I had to make up some excuse about remembering to meet my hallmate before class about some debt he owed me, which is not entirely untrue. He does still owe me for what I think was a pizza. Ah, wait, no...I mumbled that but halfway through I stumbled onto a different excuse to go use the restroom. I don't know if they bought it, or really even heard, but I slipped away before either could stop me. I ended up wandering down the stairs to the second floor, no destination in mind except, you know, away.

Which brings us to the here and now: myself looming over some second-year girl after making a very Emi-esque move and not looking where I was going as I rounded a corner. At least I wasn't running full tilt while carrying something, but the girl still fell down. She must not have the best balance. Ah, wait, don't tell me that's got to do with her....issue.
"Uh, sorry about that. I wasn't looking where I was going." I venture, now that the guilt of possibly seriously injuring this girl due to a careless bump had manifested itself. Given how it's been a few moments and she hasn't made any attempt to get up, that might have actually happened. I walk over to her to take a closer look. I must have run into her from behind given how she's lying face down. I didn't knock her unconscious did I? There's some sort of way you're supposed to position her in that case right? Like, on her side...and something about putting a wallet in her mouth so she doesn't swallow her tongue. Or is that for seizures?

As I'm about to roll her over and put her in the patented Hisao Nakai I-Think-This-Is-The-Recovery position, she starts to shift and prop herself up on her elbows. I breathe a sigh of relief that I wouldn't be forced to try to figure out how to lay her before I went to get help. Such relief is shortlived, as at this distance I can see her whole body shudder with each breath, uttering almost inaudible whimpers occasionally. Her braid hangs down and obstructs my view of her face so I cannot see if it is scrunched up due to pain. I contemplate reaching out to her but....well, I still don't know what's wrong with her. I broke a bone playing soccer once, when I was real young. I remember having unsteady breathing and not knowing how to deal with the pain. She might be here because she has some disease that maker her bones susceptible to breakage and me bumping into her broke something. If I tried to help her up, I could put pressure on the wrong place and make matters even worse.

All this introspection is pointless in the end, as while I'm fretting and figuring what I ought to do, the girl takes a deep, shaky breath and pushes herself up to a better position.

"Man, you had me scared that I'd knocked you out or broke something." A pause for a short inner dialogue, "...I didn't actually break something did I?"

She turns to look in my direction, her eyes taking a moment before I can tell they've fully registered my presence. "No...not....knocked out." Her breathing is coming out in heavy pants as she struggles to push out words, "Nothing....nothing broken either." That's a relief. A very big relief. Yet still, something is clearly wrong with her. We're not out of the woods just yet.

"You okay? You seem out of breath and you're pretty red in the face." Actually, I'm surprised I didn't notice this earlier but her skin is unusually pale. I'd think I was responsible for that too if it wasn't for the white hair and red eyes telling me the rest of what I needed to know. I speak without thinking, "Albinism, right?" only to then remember the taboo of this school. Don't ask about the elephant in the room. People will tell you if they feel like it. I clamp my big mouth shut and groan at my foolish remark. "I'm not supposed to ask about that kind of stuff so suddenly, am I? I'm new here...just....still trying to get a handle on....all of this," I spread my arms in a gesture to the entire hallway, and Yamaku at large. "Hisao Nakai, the new third-year transfer."

This earns me a tilted smile, one that I can't tell is rooted in bemusement or pity. I don't know which I'd prefer. Still, at least she doesn't look mad, even if I did bump into her. "No, that's alright. I was moving too slow anyways," comes her response as she stands up and dusts herself off. "What is a third year doing on the floor for the second years this close to class time, anyways?"

"Trying to not get drawn into an argument about festival budgets."

"Budgets? That narrows it down. Hakamichi and Satou, at it again?" I am amazed she got it so easily. Do they do this often enough for even the students below us to hear about it?

"Wow, that was quick. Yeah, they tried dragging me into it too. I'm just the new guy, why do I have to get involved in something like that anyways? It's not like it affects me." The red-eyed girl gives me a simple "Mmmm" in response, enough to signify she understands but that she wants to move along. Now is not the time to complain about the woes of the life of Mr. Nakai. I'm just bothering her, wasting her time. "Oh, sorry. I'm blabbering about nothing. We should both be getting to class, the bell is going to ring any minute now." Another strange smile at that, this one giving off discomfort and a desire to get going.

"i\It's alright. Nobody was hurt. Just please try to be more careful in the future." At this, she turns and enters into one of the nearby classrooms, leaving me out in the hall. Just then the bell rings, causing me to physically jump. Great, late for no good reason.


"You know, you're not as heavy as you look."

I turn my head to try and look at the man pressing a cold stethoscope against my back in the eyes. "What, you calling me fat now?"
Of course, I knew he was just teasing. The nurse here exudes a jokester's aura. He always has some big smile plastered on the front of his face and is always more than willing to crack a joke to lighten the mood. Normally stuff like that feels off-putting, it comes off forced and manufactured as the jokes don't land and the humor only skims the surface so as to not cause any undue trauma but show that there is an attempt being made at cheering them up. Right now he seems to alternate between smiles and scowls.

"No, I don't think you're fat," Nurse responds, his attention focused on the precise beats and fluctuations of beats of my heart. His sentence is paused as he pulls away, evidently finished listening in. He walks around to stand in front of me and continues, "But stupid? Yeah, I think that fits you right now." I don't think nurses are supposed to call their patients stupid. I'd complain if the assessment wasn't spot on. "Listen, I know Emi can be a bit of an overachiever, but you don't have to try and match her. In fact, in light of recent events, I'd actually say you shouldn't try to, especially on the second day of running." the nurse continues. I hang my head, staring at the clean linoleum floor.

The thing is, I don't even know why I sped up to match pace with her. Ever since I was dragged off the track by a mortified Emi, my mind has been trying to unravel this mental knot. Try as I might, the reason escapes me. Am I angry, jealous of Emi, that despite her disability she can run so fast and free while I'm relegated to a pitiful trot? No, that's ridiculous. I don't hate Emi, who could hate Emi? She's been nothing but nice to me since we met, something as little as running ahead of me when she's my running partner shouldn't be enough to generate animosity between us. It also wasn't because I have any aspirations for running; the extent of my physical activity was playing pick-up games of soccer with friends from school back in the day. Of course, now I can't really do that anymore.

Maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe there is no reason to my actions. Maybe it was just stupidity, plain and simple. That's easy to understand, people sometimes just do stupid things. This is probably just one of those things, not worth all these What's and Why's. I need to get outside my head, this introspection is suffocating.
"Yeah, sorry...I don't know what I was thinking. I should have been more careful, more aware."

Nurse gives it a moment, packing up and returning the stethoscope to its rightful place, saying as he does, "Well, at least you seem to understand the gravity of the situation." By the time I can see his face again, the usual smirk has come home to roost. "For what it is worth though, I am glad you showed up a second time. Knowing her, Emi probably mentioned this already, but people have a tendency to give up after the first day. It's good to see you're starting to take this stuff seriously. How are you handling your medications, by the way?"

"Fine, it was a lot to take in at first, literally, but I think now I'm-," I begin, happy to be moving in a direction away from the embarrassment of having collapsed on the track from running, when the door to the nurse's office opens. Both of our heads turn to see who the intruder is.

"Ms. Katayama, welcome. I'm a little busy here, but we're about to wrap this up. Why don't you sit out in the hall for a moment? I'll call you when I'm ready."

'Ms.' Katayama looks between the both of us a couple times before settling on me. I see it in her eyes that she recognizes me from yesterday, that sudden realization as you put face to name and it clicks into place. Hisao Nakai in her mind must click with messy brown hair, tired-looking brown eyes, third-year student, ran into me in the hall cause he wasn't paying attention...

And now she can add "massive surgery scar on the heart" to that list.

I know she's seen it. I know she's looking at it. She knows it's impolite to really stare; her eyes try to stay centered on my face but they flicker down to it every once in a while before shooting back up once they realize their mistake. I should have put my shirt back on as soon as Nurse was finished taking my vitals. I don't even know why it bothers me to show it to other people. It's been 4 months; I should be able to deal with a little bit of ogling from people who are not trained medical professionals. Of course, those 4 months were in practical isolation in the hospital. It's not even that big, yet someone seeing it still gets to me. I vainly try to shift my position to turn my chest away from her, but the placement of the examination table means I'd have to turn completely to do that and that would make my discomfort too obvious. An emotional stalemate.

This awkward moment feels like it lasts hours before Katayama gets the hint. She turns back to the nurse and gives a small nod before entering back into the hallway, closing the door behind her. It's almost immediately after she's gone that I pick up my discarded gym shirt that I use for running and put it back on, slipping it over my head. Nurse chuckles at me.

"Still got some body image problems huh? I doubt Rika or anyone else at this school is one to mind that. In fact, Rika might be one of the few who could understand completely." And what is that supposed to mean? I ask him such. "Oh, I can't tell you that, Hisao. Patient confidentiality."

"But you already broke that by telling me that stuff about 'understanding'," I retort. Nurse mock-mulls over my argument, even tapping a finger against his temple. How did that gesture come to mean 'I'm thinking very hard about something' anyways?

"Hmmm....No, I don't think I did. I have a spotless track record when it comes to confidentiality, it doesn't seem like me to go and let something slip," he says, a Cheshire grin all over his face. "Besides, if you really want to know you can always ask the person directly." Now that's a death sentence, asking someone you barely know "Hey, what's wrong with you?" In any situation it lacks tact, but here at this school it is especially egregious.

I shake my head and exhale. "Alright, is there anything else we need to talk about before I go?"

Nurse stands from behind his desk and picks up my folder and walks over to a filing cabinet, deftly swapping the one for another. "No, I think you're good to go. Looks like it was just a little flutter, nothing too serious. Still, you need to be more cautious and take care of yourself. It's good you want to do better but don't go overboard with it. Self improvement is a marathon, not a race." I nod solemnly. He's right, I'll wear myself out if I try to match someone with years of experience right out of the gate. I stand to leave and Nurse quickly adds, "Oh, and send Rika in on your way out."

Closing the door to the Nurse's office, I turn to see this Rika girl sitting in one of the few waiting chairs. It's too early in the day for there to be anyone loitering in the hall. It is just the two of here, with her sitting in the chair opposite the door. She sees me as I exit. I still feel the discomfort from before, but I can't just slink away without saying at least something.

"Hey...didn't expect to see you this soon." Okay, not a bad start.

Small nod, followed by the avoidance of eye contact. "Yes, well...I try to set these appointments before classes begin to get them out of the way. It's usually too early for most people so I rarely meet other students. I apologize for....interrupting."

My hand waves instinctively to dispel such sentiments as if they were like physical plumes of smoke, "You don't have to apologize, I should have been more careful. Anyways, you can head on in, I have to shower before class starts."

"Wait just a moment, I..." I stop halfway down the hall and turn back to face Rika. "You are...your scar. How did you get it?"

The mention of the scar draws my hand to it. My fingers run the length from bottom to the top. Once they reach the top I try to play it off casually and bring my hand to rub the back of my neck. "Well....that's still a sensitive topic for me," I muster, my eyes downcast. The red eyed girl shifts from foot to foot. She looks about as uncomfortable with this as I am, which is a relief, albeit small.

"I understand that...I was the same way for a while, I still am to some extent. But, I think, we are alike, you and I." Uh huh? Ah.....oh. Oh! Oooooh. I suppose it makes sense, I can't be the only person in all of Japan who has a heart condition. It still doesn't prevent me from being a little surprised at the closeness in age and the fact that she goes to the same school, however.

"Wait, so when I bumped into you in the hall....I gave you a little flutter when that happened, didn't I?"

I am paid a small nod, "Yes, but I didn't want to make you feel any worse. You said you were new and already looked so confused by the change in scenery and afraid that you had caused me harm." I feel the guilt from yesterday come rushing back. I know firsthand how bad these flutters can get; I don't want to inflict that on another person, even by accident.

"Did you at least visit the nurse?" I don't know why I'm asking, I saw her bolt to class after and the nurse never brought it up with me. Granted, I can't hold that against her. I avoided getting checked out when Emi barreled into me too, and if I could have I most likely would have tried to talk Emi into dropping this latest track fiasco.

My hypothesis is verified shortly. "No, I....I don't have a good excuse," Rika says. Seems we both have a knack for not doing the things we know we ought to do. "Speaking of nurses, what exactly are you doing here this early?" A quick transition from interrogatee to interrogator.

I should be honest. "Nurse...set me up with a running partner. To improve general fitness, and hopefully strengthen my heart. But today I pushed myself too hard and....crashed." Up to this point, Rika had been avoiding making direct eye contact. Throughout my explanation, however, her eyes were glued to mine, red orbs delicately saccading around a focal point. All I wanted to do was give the simple long and short of it, the facts, but those eyes of hers feel very....compelling. Like they're egging me on, her enrapture subtly motivating me to go further and open up, if just a bit more. "I don't even....I don't know why I pushed myself so much today. Nothing comes to my mind I-" The door to the nurse's office opens, interrupting my train of thought and breaking the, uh...well, spell is too magical a word I think. Maybe trance. Trance isn't too much better though because its definition is rooted in-

The Nurse barges into the hallway. "Rika, what's the hold up? If you take any longer you'll be late for class." My presence here is registered, "Hisao? What are you still doing? You're stinking up my hallway, go on, get a move on."

Rika looks somewhat disappointed as she turns away from me and walks towards the office. Just as quickly as she starts she stops and spins around to ask, "When will I see you again?" I don't have an answer to that, especially when it's phrased so weirdly. We're a grade apart so we don't have any classes and I'm not in any clubs. I tell her as much, and she ponders this for a moment before replying with, "Well...How about the festival? We could meet there maybe...I don't know, we'll do something. There's lots to do there, we'll can figure something out." Right, that's coming up pretty soon. I still haven't gotten used to keeping a schedule again, long hospital stays will do that to you. I don't think I have any plans for that day. Knowing me, I'd probably sleep in until noon and them meander around the grounds not really accomplishing anything. The day would end and I would feel like I'd wasted a great opportunity. So why not?

"Sure, that sounds like a plan." Not a well thought out or detailed plan since even she doesn't know what we'll end up doing but literally any number, no matter how small or fractured, is greater than zero. I can see the Nurse's smile grow wider and wider until it puts the Cheshire's to shame. He's got the wrong, wrong, wrong idea. Rika's smile is not as big. It's more subdued, restrained. I can still see the light that it tries to radiate, however.

"Great! I mean, great. I will see you...then. Goodbye." She spins on her heels and walks into the nurse's office. Now it's just me and Sir Smilesalot in the empty hallway.

"Hisao you move fast. I'm impressed."

"Oh, come on. It's not like that." I avoid eye contact with him to prevent my facade of indifference from shattering. This doesn't escape him. Nothing escapes the Nurse. How the hell does he manage to see so much when his eyes always look like they're closed?

"Oh, I'm sure. Anyways, hurry along now. Shower, brush your teeth, take your medicine, then get to class." With that, he retreats into his office and the door closes. What is he, my mother? Still, about that shower bit....

I look around to make sure there isn't anyone near by who could see me. Cautiously, I raise my arm and sniff myself.

I am immediately filled with regret and disgust. My nose hairs squirm under this putrid assault. My eyes sting as if forced to withstand the cutting of 1,000 onions. I become deftly aware of every air current and gust of wind in my vicinity and calculate the optimal way to stand and move so as to not subject any innocent bystanders to my incorrigible stink. I utter a silent prayer of thanks that Rika was far enough away to not breathe in my toxic fumes.

...I need to go shower. Maybe in alcohol to make sure not an ounce of sweat remains on me.
Last edited by SuperEgo on Sun Mar 28, 2021 1:13 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Evolution Fuel - Rika Pseudo Route

Post by Xeraeo » Fri Sep 11, 2020 12:28 pm

SuperEgo wrote:
Thu Sep 10, 2020 12:26 pm
Hey, I haven't written anything creatively like this in a long while, so if this sucks don't be too harsh.
It doesn't suck. Welcome to the forum! Glad to see more people starting new works on here.

First of all, I like it so far. I enjoyed both the completed Rika fics on here, and I can't help but compare yours with them as I read. So far, your Rika seems more like the version in Through The Looking Glass, but we haven't really seen enough of her to make a judgement.

A few things:

You seem to have spaces separating some paragraphs, but not others.

SuperEgo wrote:
Thu Sep 10, 2020 12:26 pm
"Budgets? That narrows it down. Shizune and Lilly, at it again?"
If she doesn't know both of them personally, it's unlikely she would refer to them by their first names. "Hakamichi and Satou" would make more sense. Of course, it's possible that your Rika has personally met both girls and knows them well enough to call them by their given names, especially since most characters in KS tend to quickly switch to given names after being introduced, but since Rika is a second year this seems unlikely, so Hisao would probably question this, at least mentally.
SuperEgo wrote:
Thu Sep 10, 2020 12:26 pm
"i\It's alright. Nobody was hurt. Just please try to be more careful in the future." At this, she turns and enters into one of the nearby classrooms, leaving me out in the hall. Just then the bell rings, causing me to physically jump. Great, late for no good reason.
Looks like you were trying to include italics in here somewhere? I'm not sure where exactly.
SuperEgo wrote:
Thu Sep 10, 2020 12:26 pm
I turn my head to try and look the man pressing a cold stethoscope against my back in the eyes. "What, you calling me fat now?"
Of course, I knew he was just teasing. The nurse here exudes a jokester's aura. He always has some big smile plastered on the front of his face and is always more than willing to crack a joke to lighten the mood. Normally stuff like that feels off-putting, it comes off forced and manufactured as the jokes don't land and the humor only skims the surface so as to not cause any undue trauma but show that there is an attempt being made at cheering them up. Right now he seems to alternate between smiles and scowls.
The sentence that begins with "Normally" doesn't really contrast that word later on, which makes it a bit confusing. Why is this any different from normal? If it's not, then having "normally" at the beginning is confusing.
SuperEgo wrote:
Thu Sep 10, 2020 12:26 pm
"Fine, it was a lot to take in at first, literally, but I think now I'm-," I begin, happy to be moving in a direction away form the embarrassment of having collapsed on the track from running, when the door to the nurse's office opens. Both of our heads turn to see who the intruder is.
Nothing technically wrong here, but having "I begin" at the end of his dialogue as he's apparently being cut off/distracted/interrupted is a bit confusing. I have to finish the entire paragraph before the first sentence makes sense, and that confusion pulls me out of the story. My recommendation would be to slightly rewrite the second sentence and move it in front of the dialogue, and then have it cut off with the door being opened. Not sure how you would word it, and maybe there's a better way to handle it than that, but having the dialogue cut off and then not telling us about the interruption for several lines is jarring.
SuperEgo wrote:
Thu Sep 10, 2020 12:26 pm
Closing the door to the Nurse's office, I turn to see this Rika girl sitting in one of the few waiting chairs. Weird how there aren't that many around here, given this is the only nurse at a school where a lot of students need regular checkups. Maybe it's too early or he's just the best at scheduling so that nobody has to wait. She sees me as I exit. I still feel discomfort from before, but I can't just slink away without saying at least something.
He's not the only nurse at the school. He's the head nurse, and the only one we see in the VN, but the "24-hour nursing staff" is referred to many times in Act 1.
SuperEgo wrote:
Thu Sep 10, 2020 12:26 pm
I look around to make sure there isn't anyone near by who could see me. Cautiously, I raise my arm and sniff myself.

I am immediately filled with regret and disgust. My nose hairs squirm under this putrid assault. My eyes sting as if forced to withstand the cutting of 1,000 onions. I become deftly aware of every air current and gust of wind in my vicinity and calculate the optimal way to stand and move so as to not subject any innocent bystanders to my incorrigible stink. I utter a silent prayer of thanks that Rika was far enough away to not breathe in my toxic fumes.

...I need to go shower. Maybe in alcohol to make sure not an ounce of sweat remains on me.
Probably being nitpicky here, since I know this is just supposed to be humor, but would he really smell that bad after just a run? Hisao runs a lot in Emi's route, and I don't think this is ever brought up. I can't tell yet if you're just going for a more silly writing style, and the whole story will be filled with exaggerated humor, but if you're not, and you want it to have serious moments, you might want to alter stuff like this so it doesn't seem so ridiculous.

There's a dozen or so spelling/grammar issues I noticed on a first read as well, but I don't really want to clog up your thread with all that, so if you want any help identifying and fixing those hit me up with a PM and I'd be happy to go over them.

Anyway, hope that all helps! Good work so far, and I hope to see more from you soon!
Girls: Emi=Hanako=Lilly>Shizune=Rin
Routes: Lilly=Emi>Hanako>Rin>Shizune

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

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

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Re: Evolution Fuel - Rika Pseudo Route

Post by Chatty Wheeler » Tue Sep 15, 2020 12:56 am

Hello SuperEgo,

I am also a newbie here, and like Xeraeo said, I'm happy to see that you're starting a new story on these forums! Welcome. :D

This was a pleasant read! I haven't read any Rika routes yet, so it's nice seeing your take on a what's essentially a brand new character for me. I'm getting the sense that Rika is extremely perceptive to other people's thoughts and emotions, which I think could be a neat direction to take a character in this setting. When Hisao arrives at Yamaku, he's hiding a lot of internal (and one external, if you count his scar) burdens from others, and I think it'd be neat to pair him up with someone who can see right through him. It's too early to say if this is the direction that the story will take, or even if I am correct in my assertion of Rika's perceptiveness, but that's what I got from this first chapter. I thought it was something that could make Rika stand out from the other heroines in Katawa Shoujo.

Throughout this first chapter, I noticed instances where the vocabulary and phrasing in Hisao internal monologuing was used in creative ways. When Rika experiences her heart flutter and Hisao's mind is racing a mile-a-minute, Hisao's internal monologue has a lot of interesting and revealing tidbits; all of which I appreciated. I particularly like the last sentence of the chapter—it's a neat little punch-line to finish off the chapter.

One aspect of your writing that I think could use improvement is your pacing. Specifically, your monologue-to-dialogue ratio is off-balance at various points. Sometimes, especially at the beginning of the chapter, the reader has to get through a lot of Hisao's internal monologuing before any actions or dialogue occur—which I think somewhat harms the pacing of this chapter. Additionally, some of your paragraphs are quite lengthy—it wouldn't hurt to break these paragraphs up for the sake of making it easier to read, in my opinion. :D

Additionally, something that I personally found off-putting was how quickly Hisao and Rika seemed to come together. We're only one chapter in, and they've already made plans to go to the festival together, an event that doesn't happen until the end of Act 1 in the main heroine routes of Katawa Shoujo. It just felt a little bit jarring to see Hisao and Rika make so much progress in such a short amount of time. Perhaps this is your style of writing, in which case I don't want to discourage you from writing this story the way you want to, but this is just how I felt after finishing your story.

Again, this is a solid first-attempt at a fan fiction. I enjoyed reading it! I plan to read more of this when more chapters are available.

All the best to you. Take care!

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Re: Evolution Fuel - Rika Pseudo Route

Post by Oddball » Tue Sep 15, 2020 4:10 pm

First post and you're starting off with a pseudo route. You're not one for easing in slowly, are you?

Right now, there's not a whole lot to comment on, but some of your wording seems a bit windy and your sentences tend to run on a bit. You might want to watch that.

Anyway, Good luck to you.
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Re: Evolution Fuel - Rika Pseudo Route

Post by BristerXD » Sat Sep 19, 2020 9:00 pm

Welcome to our cluuuub, welcome to our cluuub, welcome Squidward welcome squid ward welcome squid-Can you tell I'm starting the writing of this in a very sleep-deprived state? Ignore that, super excited to see yet another person step up to the fan fiction plate. Especially since it's born out of a plate of spite, that's always where the best shit comes from XD. I love trying to help new or inexperienced writers figure out the craft, hearing their takes on the artform. I hope my most likely lengthy essay on all the things you did right and wrong helps you in the future. And without further adoooo...

The first thing that stuck out to is Hisao. In the fact that this does not read very much like Hisao at all. At least not the one we know from the course material. Now that's not inherently a bad thing, his character doesn't exactly have the greatest depth or complexity that completely prohibits alteration to his character. If anything most people would enjoy that considering the complaints against the character across all the routes. However, there is definitely a baseline most try to follow given the context of the general timeline in-game. Hisao is a bit anti-social, depressive, and a general downer to be around. His world's been rocked and he's not sure how to find his place in it again. The problem I have here is you're massively changing his character in relation to events that have a pretty solid foundation in the game. He feels like a comic relief character at times, a nervous wreck that has the reasoning capabilities of a moth. His whole scramble trying to figure out the recovery position feels like it was written for Double DD of ed, edd, and eddy, his little fat interaction with the nurse would be fine it wasn't so early in their relationship as well as after the serious situation at the track, and on top of that Hisao just outright stating his scar is just a sensitive topic which a thing I will expound on later for different reasons but for the current topic is something VN Hisao would just never say out loud I feel.

This goes for the internal narration I feel as well which leads me to my next point. I for one, while usually sticking to historical and philosophical books in my spare time, like it a lot when the actual moment to moment pacing is steeped in the character I'm following. If the story is in first person I better feel like it. And you do that pretty well for the majority of the time here. Even with my problems concerning your portrayal of Hisao, you keep it completely consistent all the way through and interject his personality into the action well enough which is not easy for a lot of people. the problem I had going through was the actual structure. You seem to go from thought bubble to thought bubble with Hisao, either peppering the reader with a litany of seemingly disjointed thoughts or hammering them with a large paragraph that goes over an entire series of actions and motions in one nasuisating swoop. What I would recommend you start experimenting with is breaking up these thoughts with more action and setting up goals for your scenes. It will aid your flow with more variance in structure and topic, you will avoid the talking heads in a void feeling I sometimes got while reading, and you will often discover new ways to infuse character in the more pedantic sections of writing that will strengthen the piece overall.

Back on the topic of character, I want to touch by on that line Hisao said to Rika in the hallway. "Well....that's still a sensitive topic for me," This is boring writing because it is exactly what it is. People are complex. We have can have so many possible motivations for the things we do and say that we aren't even consciously aware of. We rarely ever just blurt out exactly what we're thinking. Even in the company of our closest friends and family, it's possible for people to struggle just getting their words out. However, that struggle or lack thereof says a lot more than words can most of the time. Instead of just Hisao saying it's a sensitive topic, have him struggle to say something at all. "Well it's... it's kind of a long, long story." Have him deflect, get defensive, change his posture, stay in shocked silence, all these little nuances give a more detailed description as to what Hisao is feeling than just "it's sensitive okay." This works even better for other characters we don't know the express intentions of as it makes us the reader do guesswork right alongside our main character. That's half the fun in reading these character-driven stories. If you want possible books to learn these types of tips and tricks from, Vonnegut's "Pity the Reader" and Chuck Palahniuk's "Consider This" are master classes.

Now to end on a positive note so you don't get the wrong impression of me as a ball of critical and snarky hatred, I really look forward to seeing your continuation for this story. Because I think the one thing that is the most important to me in a story like this is the main relationship. And even though it was just a small glimpse... I think I'm going to like seeing how Hisao and Rika grow together as people. Similar conditions but yet a seemingly completely opposite demeanor in dealing with it that so far seems to be setting up for some cute and genuine learning moments in their journey. Because in the end, that's what Hisao's stories and the routes all try to do. Show off all the different avenues for growth as people past your particular trama. How our coping mechanisms have their good and bad sides. And I think this story has the potential to handle that really well.

So, if you've made it this far, feel free to message me an questions you may have on your writing or if you want help in reviewing your work. Hope to see your name pop up in the feed soon.

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Re: Evolution Fuel - Rika Pseudo Route.

Post by SuperEgo » Tue Sep 22, 2020 8:59 pm

Thank you for all the advice and suggestions so far. It has been very helpful in trying to figure out what direction I should take and what tone I should have. Please let me know your thoughts on this next part if you have the chance.

But above all, I hope you all enjoy it.


Chapter 2: Shadowplay

I awake to sunlight streaming in through the window and landing directly onto my closed eyes. I wrench them tighter and try to turn over onto my side but it's a futile effort. The sounds of the outside world worm their way into my sleepy sanctuary along with the damned light, destroying any thought of going back to sleep. Sounds of the carnival, the fall of footsteps mingled with the voices of people talking idly or in earnest, carnival barkers living up to their name as they try to entice students into giving up what little money they have, with some light music being played from loud speakers to complete the picture.

By these sound, it seems to be in full swing already. Huh. Guess they start early then. That makes sense, the town down the hill is quite sleepy. They must pounce on every celebration or event, anything that shakes the monotony of their day to day lives. At this point I know I won't be able to get back to sleep.

I can't put into words how I know; it is one of those subtle sensations where one simply knows 'I'm up now and I have to deal with this fact.' Reluctantly, I open my eyes to face my nightstand, aimlessly wandering over the objects that lie there. Pill bottles for my heart condition, I'll have to get up and take those at some point. I may have to contend with the fact that I'm not getting back to sleep right now, but the next best thing to sleeping is lazing around in bed. I think I can lend myself a couple hours for such leisure.

I don't have much on my nightstand or in my room at all. Bare walls, a bed with an unassuming blanket and plain pillow, a desk covered in school utensils and the homework that I'm putting off, a nightstand covered in aforementioned pill bottles, a simple electronic alarm clock that reads 12:25 PM, closet filled with mundane uniforms and a few sets of casual clothes. Just a very plain, ordinary room.

Something about that list feels off. I read my alarm clock again. Yep, 12:25 in the afternoon. My desire to laze around evaporates at this revelation. Sleeping past noon just makes me feel disgusting.

A few minutes of preparing myself to be out in public later, I make my way out into the courtyard. The scene that appears before me is impressive. I had some idle conversation with the student council recently about the preparations for the festival. Well, for me it was idle, for Shizune it was likely an attempt to guilt me into helping with work. Seeing all these decorated stands with patrons scattered about enjoying themselves is a sight to behold. It takes me back to the few class fairs I helped put together.

That thought sends a wave of depression throughout my whole body. Remembering the times I had before coming to Yamaku always brings me down without fail. All the things of the past, big and small, happy and sad, are coated in melancholic paint. For a while I simply stand there sulking; I take in the view without really seeing it, simply wallowing in self pity. The moment draws on for longer than appropriate. Come on, snap out of it you sad-sack. Just don't think about it. Push the thoughts down, stomp them into the dirt until you can't feel them anymore. I need to take my mind off of this. I need food.

I haven't seen such a crowd in a while. I grew up near a pretty big city, so crowds of people as large as this or even larger feel as natural to me as a fish in water. I'd grow accustomed to the ways you need to maneuver so as to not bump into someone. It's a peculiar dance, one that sometimes you do without even being aware. However...there is a new depth to it with my new-found condition. Or rather, it has always been there but I possessed such far-fetched luck that it never made itself known. In the time since my luck had ran out I have become much more wary of jostles and bumps, of elbows and arms. I must always watch, be ever vigilant. It is exhausting. I don't know what exactly it takes to pull my trigger; for all I know a playful, well meaning pat on the back could be a one way ticket to the ER. I do not have the luxury of experimentation nor the guts to try. I have to assume that even little things are enough. The idea of having to spend the remainder of my life worrying about such things is crushing.

Only after I start looking for food do I realize a fatal flaw: I don't know what I want. There are an equal number of food and game stalls in the area. One of those goldfish catching games, the one adjacent is your typical ring toss, one is selling soups and noodles, another being a pure dessert stand. All of the food looks equally appealing. I sit down on a nearby bench and try to focus my line of thinking. Just pick one, this shouldn't be that hard. Why am I being so indecisive? My mind starts to wander away from me due to the strain of such mundane cogitation and finds itself ruminating on that girl I met a couple days ago. I haven't seen her since then but her invitation to spend the festival together still echoes through my mind. Maybe I should try to find her? Someone with her unique look shouldn't be too hard to pick out in a crowd, right?


I lean my head back to see that same girl looking down on me. "Starting to think the only way we can meet is by coincidence," I say, inviting her to sit beside me on the bench. She takes it, sitting with reserved posture. "Not that I'm complaining."

"It does seem that way. You're not easy to find in a crowd." I never thought about that, but I suppose it's true. Little about me is distinctive, unlike Rika.

"Hope you hadn't been looking for long. You would have had your work cut out for you." She tilts her head and gives an inquisitive look. "Oh, I overslept. Didn't wake up until half past noon."

"You don't need to worry about that. My morning was spent helping my class run our booth."

"Really? What kind of stand were you running?"

A faint smile forms and she gets off the bench. Even with me sitting down she doesn't stand much taller than me. "Would you like to see it?"

She leads me through the crowds of people milling around the stands with ease. I thought I was good at this dance but she seems to be far more experienced than me. It's not as though she is moving quickly, her pace is rather slow, but she maneuvers herself with deft ease. There are a couple times where I almost lose her in the crowd because she slipped between small gaps just before they closed and shut me out.

Thankfully I never lose her completely and in short order we arrive at her class's booth. This one stands out against the others in the vicinity, being bigger in length as well as the front being covered by a large sheet of what looks like wax paper. The sign above is decorated with little animal faces and paws with text that reads 'Shadow Puppet Shows'. We seem to have come just in time to catch one of the shows.

"Shadow puppets, huh? I didn't expect to see something like this here."

On stage, a rabbit hops along merrily until it stumbles and falls down. It tries to get up several times but each is unsuccessful. The rabbit squirms on the floor, trying to lift itself up. It calls for help from its friends but receives no answer. Eventually, the rabbit stops moving entirely, giving up on the prospect of rescue. Resigned.

"Some students find them interesting, but the young children and elderly who come from the town down the hill enjoy them the most." It's true, the majority of those watching the play are small children and elderly men and women. The children sit enraptured, enticed by the movements. Some of the kids are attempting to replicate simple hand gestures they saw in a previous show. But the play on stage right now is using paper puppets.

"You're using both hand and paper puppets for shows, too?"

"We had some people who couldn't figure out the paper puppets but were better suited to use their hands, and vice versa. So, we came up with some stories that used both of them." Time passes before another animal comes by, a fox that hobbles along at a mediocre pace. When it comes to the rabbit it stops to study it. The rabbit doesn't make any attempts to flee, nor does it try to ask for help. For a while they just regard each other.

"What parts did you help with?" I'm just asking questions to keep the conversation going at this point.

"They wouldn't allow me to help with much. No lifting or carrying things and I couldn't help put the stand together either. They are all aware of my condition. They don't want me to...." The fox nudges the rabbit with its nose a couple times, seemingly checking if the rabbit is still alive. It stirs, and the fox gives a strong nudge to the rabbit to attempt to bring it to its feet. "...They are very considerate."

"I see."

For a time we are both silent, watching the paper shadow puppets move on the stage. Rika breaks our hush, "Though, the play was my idea. When I was in the hospital and couldn't sleep, I would use a lamp to do shadow puppets on the walls. I started with just my hands and then started to use tissue paper. I suppose I became quite good over time."

I can empathize with that. I'd picked up reading during my own hospital stay to pass the time and the hobby stuck after leaving. I think that after only four months my reading ability had improved significantly. "You're...surprisingly open about this sort of thing. It's..." What is it, exactly? I dance around the issue whenever my own condition is brought up. Just thinking about it sends me into dolor depths. So just what is it, to me? "...It's brave."

Rika jerks her head away from the play and scrutinizes me. Her crimson eyes try to unravel the meaning behind my words through the most direct method, seemingly attempting to peer into my mind and scoop out my saturnine secrets. "Thank you, Hisao, but I'm not very brave," she says finally. "I feel as though being brave means that you had to make a choice to improve and move on despite your condition." Back on stage, it takes a couple of these strong nudges from the fox for the rabbit to get to its feet. It hops in place a few times to test its legs, always watching the fox. In a flash, it bolts away from the fox, running all the way to the other side of the stage. Yet before it can make it off the stage it falls again, going down harder than before. "I never really had a choice," she finishes.

More silence. Rika's face betrays her despondency. I didn't expect her to take what I said like this. The way she looked at me was unnerving. Did she think I was being patronizing or something? Does she still think that of me? I meant what I said, but the things she said resonate with me.

Her talk about making a choice. I've just been going with the flow until now. Letting things happen to me.

The fox slowly hobbles over to the rabbit. Unlike before, the rabbit squirms on the ground as it tries to uplift itself. The fox tries to get in close to help the rabbit but it gets pushed away, hit by strong limbs.

Maybe it's time I make a choice.

But...what? What choice? What am I supposed to do?

Such wanton wondering would have to wait. I can feel a finger poking me in the side.

"Are you okay?" Rika asks, no longer watching the play.

"Huh? Oh...Yeah, I'm alright. Just thinking."

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have brought you down with such depressive talk. Especially at a festival." She fiddles nervously with the hem of her skirt, eyes drilling for oil in the earth with how intently she avoids eye contact.

"It's fine, Rika. Let's just go do something else."

"What would you like to do?" I don't even have to contemplate a response. My body does all the talking for me. Rika's malaise dissipates at the sound of my stomach rumbling.

"I, ah....I didn't get a chance to eat breakfast since I slept in so late. And I haven't had lunch yet."

"As it so happens, I have not had lunch yet either. Even better, I happen to know the best food stall in the festival."

Bold claim. "Really now? What makes this place so special?"

With something to focus energy on, Rika brightens up considerably. "Hmmmm, it has the best yakisoba you could ever taste, for one thing. And at school fair prices, too."

Great food that doesn't break the bank? Sign me up.

Rika takes the lead, eager to show me this promised land of fried noodles. I catch the ending of the play as we leave. The fox had succeeded in helping up the rabbit despite the storm of welts it endured. The rabbit had largely calmed down now, hopping in place to once again test its leg. However the two now trot off stage together, signalling the and of the play. I wonder briefly what child or old person this play was made for before hurrying off to catch up with Rika.


"Alright, I admit it. That was pretty good."

Rika stops playing absentmindedly with the few noodles left in her bowl. "The best you've ever had, right?"

"The best I've ever had. Granted, I don't have yakisoba often, so the bar was pretty low." She rolls her eyes upon hearing this. The meal had passed in silence save for the sounds of the carnival around us. I don't think she has much experience as a social eater. I'm not the most chatty guy either, so I can't really talk. The sights and sounds of the fair were sufficient ambiance anyways.

It also gave me time to think: an inkling had begun to form in my head about Rika. We share the same disability, or something similar, that revolves around the heart. She's been here longer than I have and while she seems to be better adjusted to the school and the prospect of being disabled than I am, she is still prone to the same feelings I experience when I reflect on my own newfound limitations.

It's a relief, to find someone even a little like myself. Not just on the physical side of things, but someone who does not have everything so perfectly squared away. My impressions of others since I arrived here made me feel like I was the odd man out. Everyone else seems to have a better understanding of who they are, what life is like with a disability, and how they can go on despite their limitations. This understanding of themselves reflects in how they interact with others, not batting an eye at another's imperfections yet being respectful of their plight. Perhaps I'm only impatient, but the delicate waltz upon eggshells that I have to perform while also watching over my own condition has been demanding. To find someone else in a similar situation is a breath of fresh air.

The sunlight has slowly waned and the sky shifted from a deep cerulean to warm goldenrod. The number of people here has gone down as the day waned on. Sunday evening meant work in the morning and school for children. They had their fun for today, it is time to go home. Time to return to the mundane day to day. Every once and a while you can see a sleepy child being lead along by the hand, sometimes barely standing upright. Rika grows bored of absentmindedly toying with the remaining noodles and slurps them up, placing her bowl next to mine before laying down on the grass of the hill we rest on.

We sit here for a while, watching people as they come and go. I briefly contemplate if I should try out some of the games with Rika, but that notion gets cast aside quickly. Just sitting here with her is oddly calming. Silences have always felt somewhat awkward to me. I get the feeling that I should try to break it up with something, anything. It feels so oppressive and I'm desperate to dispel it. However, upon reflection my desire to prolong the conversation at the play was based more on curiosity and not some pathological distaste for silence. These silences with Rika feel more....natural. They don't instill in me this anxiety that I am not keeping my end of the social contract. It's strange and I try to figure out what about her causes this.



"It's going to start soon." It?

"What is 'it'?"

A pause. "The fireworks."

"We have fireworks?"

"Of course. What festival doesn't?"

"Well, none of the school festivals I've been a part of have had them." Then again, we were in the city. Out here in the country they have more freedom with this sort of thing.

"We have them every year. They're always so loud and colorful." She hasn't looked at me since she started talking, eyes still on the skyline. "No matter where you are, indoors or out, I bet you could hear them. We're high enough up that I bet you could see them from town too." She fiddles absentmindedly with her braid as she speaks.

"Well, I don't know about that. Maybe it's possible. I can't say-"

"Hisao, I have to tell you something."

She waits for a reply of some kind. When there is none she goes on, "This is the first time I've ever attended the festival. Last year I spent the whole day in my room doing nothing. No homework, no reading, simply sitting and doing....nothing."

That's.... "How did you find out about that stand then?"

"I just picked one at random. One that sold yakisoba."

My eyes widen perceptibly. "...Why are you telling me this?"

She shifts her head to stare at me but her eyes are lowered just enough to where she is looking at me but not meeting my eyes. "I don't know. I just felt as if you ought to know," she says flatly. Her eyes dart away before returning, this time to look directly into mine. "...I'm glad you came today."

I don't know what to say to this. All of this has come out of nowhere. Rika is still looking at me, her expression telling me nothing. All I can do is look back at her; my brain fails me as I try to think of something to say. It's so difficult because in reality I can see myself having easily done the same thing. I have not gotten particularly close to anyone here so far, I haven't joined any clubs or sports groups, I hadn't made any plans to meet with anyone else here at the fair before Rika asked me to accompany her. If I didn't spend the day in my room I might have done something with Kenji, though I have no idea how that would have went.

Maybe she doesn't even need me to say anything? Maybe she just needed to get that off her chest. It looks like she's waiting for me to say something though. Her eyes stand out in the dark, her white skin and hair radiant. Her braided ponytail is cast over her left shoulder and rests on her chest, rising and falling as she breathes. She's just....staring at me, so expectantly. What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to say? What does she want from me?

I almost jump when the first of the fireworks begin. They arc up from behind the school and explode high in the sky into dazzling color. Reds and blues and yellows, some multicolored and some plain white, all appearing in various patterns. Rika breaks our lock to marvel. Even I am surprised at the amount of fireworks they shoot up. I didn't think they'd have the budget for all these colors or styles.

Rika says something, but it's lost in the din. Maybe she was right, the people down the hill can probably hear and see this. "What?" I shout. She opens her mouth to repeat it but then just shakes her head instead. We go back to watching but I can't get what Rika said out of my head. I wrack my brain for something to say or do. Mercifully, I find something. "Hey, Rika!" I shout again in an attempt to get her attention. She doesn't seem to notice, so I nudge her. "I'm glad I came here with you today too!" I belt this line out as loud as I can to make sure she hears it.

The fireworks start to wind down before coming to an end. The ensuing silence is more deafening than the fireworks ever were.
Last edited by SuperEgo on Sun Sep 27, 2020 1:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Evolution Fuel - Rika Pseudo Route

Post by Xeraeo » Sun Sep 27, 2020 12:04 am

Okay, finally had time to read this.

On a technical level, this chapter is already a pretty solid improvement over the previous one. Excellent work. You still have plenty of room to grow, but you're doing that growing quickly. Eager to see how you continue to get better as you write.

Now, the content itself. I feel like your pacing is a bit quick, but that may just be my preference for longer works talking. I do like that we're seeing that the cheery facade Rika puts on isn't that well-maintained, and underneath it she's an entirely different person. Looking forward to how you explore that in future chapters.

The shadowpuppets was a cool idea. That's one I haven't seen before. I wish Hisao had been paying closer attention so I could have seen the whole show, but I guess he's just not that attentive. Especially since he missed the obvious parallel at the end of the show...

Anyway, seeing you improve your work and progress your story at a good pace is encouraging. Good work, man, and I hope to see more from you soon.
Girls: Emi=Hanako=Lilly>Shizune=Rin
Routes: Lilly=Emi>Hanako>Rin>Shizune

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

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

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Re: Evolution Fuel - Rika Pseudo Route

Post by Chatty Wheeler » Sun Sep 27, 2020 1:51 am

I've been eyeing this chapter since it was posted, but today I actually have time to sit down and write about it! Here goes...

I had a good time reading this! In almost every aspect, this chapter is a noticeable improvement over the first chapter. The pacing is sharper—more balanced and easily followed. The dialogue is more natural and thoughtfully presented in between bits of Hisao's inner-monologue. And just like last time, Hisao's inner-monologue continues to be one of your strengths as a writer. I enjoyed reading the numerous thoughts and feelings that pass through Hisao, most of which presented with strings of creative vocabulary and phrases that haven't gone unnoticed by me. Kudos!

I also noticed a few clever moments of subtle characterization for both Hisao and Rika. For example, it's established earlier on that Hisao feels anxious as he maneuvers around others in the festival out of fear of being bumped and setting off his heart. Later on, however, Rika deftly makes her way through the crowd without the anxiety that plagued Hisao earlier in the chapter. This is a good, subtle use of contrasting actions which tell us that Rika isn't as fearful as Hisao, or at least it means that she has come to better terms with her disability.

The shadowplay scene was probably the highlight of the chapter. Like Xeraeo said, it feels quite distinct from any other festival scene I've read. I'd probably call it somewhat artsy, which is a good thing in my books. It's during this scene where you demonstrate your most creative use of dialogue so far. By intercutting between descriptions of the play and the dialogue between Hisao and Rika, the reader is fed information from each in a natural way, until they eventually start to put the pieces together. Great scene.

At the risk of repeating what Xeraeo has already said, I feel that the only noticeable criticism that I have left with this story is that events still seem that they are happening too quickly. For example, the scene with Hisao and Rika looking at the fireworks was sweet, but I probably would have felt more if we had had more time to set up these characters, learn what makes them tick, and get emotionally invested in their struggles. Perhaps this fireworks scene is part of that "set up" phase, and the payoff is still yet to come, in which case you can forget what I wrote in this paragraph, but I still felt like mentioning this anyway.

I look forward to reading more! I think if you keep improving at the rate that you are, we could see some really good stuff from you! Take care.

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Re: Evolution Fuel - Rika Pseudo Route

Post by BristerXD » Mon Sep 28, 2020 3:46 pm

Alight, second verse hopefully better than the first.

And I can say before getting in specifics that I agree with the others here and say that this chapter is a vast improvement on your first. Not to say the first one was like going on a bumper car with two broken knees and a concussion but it now certainly feels that way when compared to what you provided us this time. It's cleaner, has more of the things you're good at, and even manages to surprise me. And as an 18-year-old college student, I've certainly seen and understand everything the world has to offer... that joke's too sadly reflective of the peers around me to be funny. Let's get on with the specifics of my little niggles and praise spots before I start dissociating again.
SuperEgo wrote:
Tue Sep 22, 2020 8:59 pm
Sounds of the carnival,
Okay, gonna sound really nitpicky, but it's just a festival. Carnival is a whole other thing. This may not seem that important but I feel it may be for you when you go on to create your own scene. Festivals and carnivals are similar events for sure but they carry certain connotations. Festivals are deeply, culturally embedded things that celebrate a certain event or holiday for people, whether nationally or locally. A carnival is more of an event of pure enjoyment where you're meant to just indulge in the weird and wild like deep-fried pickles or midget wrestling. No, that last isn't an exaggeration, at least not for my area. These two things carry very different connotations that can affect the reader's mind when imaging a scene's atmosphere. It isn't a big issue here since we have the actual novel to give us a fuller context, a context you don't have to build all on your own. But I'm pretty sure after this chapter you're going to have to start completely deviating from the source material. That means you're going to have to build your own scenes and thus firmly establish whatever kind of mood or setting you want with clear and evocative word choice. So be wary of what your words may mean outside of their strictly definitional interpretations. Think of not only how you perceive words meaning but how a different kind of reader might. Like I said, not that big of an issue in this chapter but certainly something to look out for in the future.
SuperEgo wrote:
Tue Sep 22, 2020 8:59 pm
I don't have much on my nightstand or in my room at all. Bare walls, a bed with an unassuming blanket and plain pillow, a desk covered in school utensils and the homework that I'm putting off, a nightstand covered in aforementioned pill bottles, a simple electronic alarm clock that reads 12:25 PM, closet filled with mundane uniforms and a few sets of casual clothes. Just a very plain, ordinary room.

Something about that list feels off. I read my alarm clock again. Yep, 12:25 in the afternoon.
Alright, I really like the thought of this little joke and how it plays with the idea of internal narration which gives the text more life, just don't think it sticks the landing. And before I go on I'm assuming this is an intended joke and not just a dramatic turn which doesn't change the advice I'm going to give. Now, this humor is it's super subjective but I think jokes like this are served better when they are an actual interruption. Humor relies a lot on timing and that's a really hard thing to judge as the actual delivery of a joke like this is in the reader's mind. You have to actively guide that voice with certain sentence structures and breaks in particular with this one.

There are a few things you could change that I think would make this bit work better. Now the main problem I have is "Just a very plain, ordinary room. Something about this list feels off. I read my alarm clock again." This language is very plain and slow to read. It adds nothing to the reveal and it's very length saps it of any surprise. Now I have specific suggestions as to how to change this one line and its delivery but a general rule of thumb that will apply to all of these is making whatever you want to be the interruption stand out like it's an interruption of thought. The best way to do that is simple spacing so just pressing enter after 12:25 in the afternoon and having the rest of the sentence lead into the rest of the piece immediately makes the flow better.

Now one the easiest changes to make to this one in particular is simply put in a - at the end of casual clothes. Dashes are instantly recognized as abrupt stops and when you break after it, the reader immediately wonders why that stop happened. They're trying to reason why that sentence was wrong. Suddenly they're doing exactly what Hisao is doing which makes the reveal a shared one which increases its impact. You can make it even snappier by replacing everything before I read my alarm clock again with a simple wait a minute... or even a wait what?!. See how those two changes in punctuation change the way you infer one how Hisao is thinking? How it tells us just a little something about his character state? That's not only good humor but good character building. You can enhance it further. Maybe in the third paragraph instead of Hisao just resigning himself to slowly waking up, have him say he's gonna try in vain anyways to go back to sleep. When he realizes the time, we can have a, "Okay I'm a bad sleeper but I'm not THAT bad," moment which gives a contextual juxtaposition which is the kind of humor that excels in the writing format. Again, it's not a big deal in this specific part of the book but in the future, this kind of thinking will make your piece feel that much more dynamic.

But it's not like the rest of the read is a bore by any stretch. To finally stop nick picking and get the actual damn festival part of the story, I liked following Hisao a lot. Your internal narration is better than before by leaps and bounds, it feels like I'm brushing past people with him. And it only improves once Rika is back in the picture. I like the flashes of chemistry they have between each other, the way Rika's almost forceful bluntness in trying to move things along speaks to me of a girl who's just so happy to finally meet a person she can relate with. Of course, contrasted by Hisao's awkward reluctance and alien reaction to such casual conversation. It's like they're opposite of the same coin, one that decides how they tackle their loneliness. A near clingy latching on to however may be similar or a slow cave inwards. I'm excited to see how these elements play out. Oh and also the shadow puppet idea was great but everyone else already said that shit. I should probably try making these faster.

Also, like everyone else... I feel one of the biggest real problems you are having in this story already is pacing. This shit is going way too fast. Here's the thing I have found after scouring over the many fanfics in the fandoms I observe, not as a participant but as a morbidly curious writer. Relationships in fan fiction are like in advance notices to Christmas presents. We know what we are getting. You promised as such. There's a mutual understanding of the inevitability of this exchange. However, that doesn't stop you from fucking with us about it. Maybe I forgot to order it, maybe it's gonna come later, maybe it's something else you didn't expect at all. These things are torture but a pleasurable sadist kind. We want there to be a little bit of back and forth, of will they won't they, of drama outside the relationship that has further implications in the relationship. In essence, we like seeing characters be people. Do the things we do. That's the journey. The present is not just them getting together but reaching a state of full cohesion. Of them going through a number of trials and scenarios that try them not only as a pair but as individuals. That defines their shape and how they fit well with each other. We need that so that we get a full view of the puzzle. The present on Christmas day is fully constructed, not missing pieces or just not up to our expectations.

So, all that was to illustrate what I feel all of us mean when we say the pacing feels a bit quick. Things just need to breathe a bit. To feel like they are coming together naturally. To have scenes just rest on the pallet and make their mark known. Now usually you have to redo an entire chapter in its structure to remedy that kind of issue but with this in particular, I think not. Remember when I said that Rika came off to me almost as clingy in a desperate fashion? Well, maybe you get a little meta and play into that fact, make it part of their conflict. Or maybe that's not what you wanted at. In which case, you're just gonna have to be creative to remedy this issue in the future. Either way, I look forward to your next chapter. I hope this fucking essay was of any use to you.

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Re: Evolution Fuel - Rika Pseudo Route

Post by Mirage_GSM » Sun Nov 15, 2020 10:04 am

Another new writer, another new Route... I've been missing a lot.
First of all welcome, and good luck with your project. I love Rika as a character, and I always prefer cute, shy Rika over nihilistic Rika.

One thing I noticed is the sometimes quite esoteric vocabulary you have the characters use. I can buy Hisao's "cerulean", but Rika's "saturnine" is pushing it a bit unless you plan on giving her a literature club background...
Just sitting here with her is oddly calming. Silences have always felt somewhat awkward to me. I get the feeling that I should try to break it up with something, anything. It feels so oppressive and I'm desperate to dispel it.
So what is it? Calming, awkward, oppressive or (later on) natural? Those are partly contradictory...
A carnival is more of an event of pure enjoyment where you're meant to just indulge in the weird and wild like deep-fried pickles or midget wrestling.
So almost exactly what Misha said the festival was all about, right? :lol:
Additionally, something that I personally found off-putting was how quickly Hisao and Rika seemed to come together. We're only one chapter in, and they've already made plans to go to the festival together,
Contrary to most other commentators I don't really have a problem with the pacing.
Too many other fics insist on an almost scene by scene recreation of act 1, leading to a very slow start for the story, because the readers already know what will happen. You chose to focus on only two relevant scenes introducing Rika and omit everything else which is a good thing.
Also while in the 5 original routes the Hisao and the respective girl have spent more time together before the festival, I don't get the feeling that Hisao and Rika's relationship has progressed nearly as far in this story. Yes, it is the same event as in the other routes, but the relationship is still not nearly at the same point as it is in those routes during the festival. It's basically the same as Lilly inviting Hisao for lunch the next day after they meet on Monday, only since Hisao only meets Rika on Friday they chose the festival instead. Apart from their respective conditions they still hardly know anything about each other.
So looking at it that way, you could even say the pacing is slower than in the VN routes.
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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Re: Evolution Fuel - Rika Pseudo Route

Post by Oddball » Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:50 pm

I have no problem with the pacing, although Hisao's more depressing monologues feel like they repeat themselves sometimes.

Rika seems like a nice enough characters. I am sad we didn't get a Kenji scene before he meets the girl for the festival though. That's tradition for these stories.

Also one thing I am slightly curious about.
"We have them every year. They're always so loud and colorful."

"This is the first time I've ever attended the festival. Last year I spent the whole day in my room doing nothing. No homework, no reading, simply sitting and doing....nothing."
If this is her first year going to the festival, it still would have been possible for her to see the fireworks by just looking out her window. However she talks about the fireworks like she's seen them many times. Every year. Always so loud.

I'm curious as to whether this is just something she was making up again, like the food, or if she's maybe from the area itself.
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Re: Evolution Fuel - Rika Pseudo Route

Post by SuperEgo » Sun Mar 28, 2021 1:13 am

Alright, so I got a better title now. Bear with me here while I try to figure out how to change it, I'm not much of a forum guy.

-- -- --

Act 2: Late Bloomer

Chapter 3: In-House Take-out

The window seat is both the best and the worst place in any seating arrangement. It's a special spot that allows you to escape from any room or situation. On a plane or train, they're wonderful. They're prized above all else. In a classroom? Now they become nothing more than a distraction.

Right now I'm experiencing first hand their flaws. The day hasn't even begun and I can already tell that I'm not going to retain any of the information for at least the first two periods. The outdoor stillness of the early morning is far more captivating, if only because it contrasts the dullness of the classroom. Sort of like how doing nothing at all is still more appealing than doing the homework that's due the next day. Instead of spite powering my apathy, however, my mind keeps drifting back to the school festival a few days ago, and the person I spent it with.

I remember the fireworks and the walk back to her room, parting a little ways from the girl's dorms. She said she'd had fun. People say that kind of thing all the time, often to placate the poor sap they spent their time with. Ideally they'll then never have to see them again, but I had had fun too. I was nervous the whole time, being almost dragged from place to place at some points, but as I looked back on it the following day I found that I'd enjoyed myself. It was a nice change of pace from the previous week and, by extension, the previous four months. I want to know that she really enjoyed herself as well and I don't really know why. Maybe it has to do with how she's one of the few people here who's names I can pin to a face.

Rika Katayama. There are a few others I know, restricted almost exclusively to those I share class with. And speaking of classmates, one seems to be trying her hardest to ignore my existence.

Shizune has her nose buried in her notebook, but her other, pinker half seems intent on pestering me. Misha has a flock of paper footballs that she's been launching at me with varying degrees of success. How much time did she spend on those anyway? When they fly past my face I catch glimpses of what looks like pink ink on them. They can't be...

"Misha, are these yo-"

I can't finish that thought before one of them hits me square between my eyebrows. They're surprisingly dense for something so small. Misha pumps her arms and hoots, victorious.

She taps Shizune on the shoulder to get her attention."Shicchan, I got him! I got him right between the eyes!" she gloats, beaming bright. Shizune takes note of the situation and smirks. She signs something quickly and Misha's smile grows even wider.

"Misha, are these your notes?" I finish, rubbing the space between my brow. Talk about a lucky shot.

"Close, Hicchan. They're my History notes from last year!"

"Don't you still need those?"

"If it's from last year, then it doesn't matter anymore! It's ancient history, get it?" She laughs at her own joke. Guess she isn't too concerned with things like entrance exams. Crazy how carefree she can be sometimes, in contrast to the calculating and studious Shizune.

"Why are you even doing this, anyway?"

"Oh that's easy. Shicchan told me to annoy you! I think she's mad at you." The girl in question refuses to so much as glance in my direction.

"Really, still?" This woman has a terrifying memory for slights. Not only was it a week ago, but it was my attempt at not angering both her and Lily with their petty arguing. You'd think she'd be able to understand that. You'd also think that she wouldn't use someone else as ammunition for a fight.

Despite wanting to look disinterested, Shizune seems to have been paying attention to Misha's constant signing as she injects herself into the conversation. "Not just that," Misha translates, "That immature departure was certainly rude, but you also failed to spend the festival with us."

"I don't remember making any commitments to spend the day with you," I protest.

"We assumed you wouldn't have anyone else to go with and could snatch you up the moment we saw you!" Misha says. "Shicchan was worried you had slept through the whole day!" Well not the whole day only about half of it. "We looked all over for you, and right when we considered giving up..."

She leans in closer to me, her yellow eyes shining brightly and wearing a smile that would put a Cheshire to shame. "...We saw you with a girl." Misha draws out the 'i' in a sing-songy, playfully teasing manner.

"Oh come on, it was nothing like...we were just hanging out." I get out of my seat and start picking up the dozen or more paper footballs Misha had shot at me before she got a hit. Really though, this is an excuse to not have the two of them see the awkward, shy grimace that is undoubtedly plastered on my face right now.

"Who was she, Hisao? We didn't recognize her, so she isn't anyone from class!" Misha is positively giddy, slavering at the prospect of juicy gossip. This seems to be a bit of an overreaction to something so mundane. Besides, why does she care so much? I never pegged Misha as this much of a gossip.

"Nobody, just somebody I happened to bump into. I doubt I'll even see her again."

Misha exhales in exasperation, hands on her hips and puffing out her chest. "What a lousy answer Hicchan! You've got to give us more than that after standing us up! Shicchan was so excited to spend the day with you! Isn't that right, Shicchan?"

Shizune merely glares at me, but I can see a glint of something more in her eye. Her signs to Misha are heavy and aggressive. Even if I can't speak sign language I can piece together that she is indeed upset. "Shicchan says to spill the beans Hicchan! C'moooon, we won't tell anybody!"

It doesn't really matter if you consciously tell anyone or not. With how loud you're being the whole school will find out from the echo alone. "Listen," I place the multitude of paper footballs on Misha's desk, tightening my lips into a scowl to prevent them from slipping back into an embarrassed smile, "I never knew you guys were so set on spending the day with me. If it makes you feel better, I'll try to do something to make it up to you."

Shizune's eyes gleam at this development. A impish smile tears across her face, casting away the previous dour look. Her hands move at a breakneck pace, her excitement boiling over. "Oh, is that so? Well it just so happens that the last revenue form for the festival has come in and we would like help sorting them. Since you were so kind to offer to help, we'll be seeing you in the student council room after class today!" Misha lets loose her signature 'Wahaha' as she finishes translating and Shizune sheathes her hands, satisfied.

Dazed at the sudden turn of events, I half-sit, half-fall back into my seat. All of a sudden I've been drafted into helping the student council. Was all of this now a clever ruse? Did they come up with this beforehand and were faking the whole thing? When I said I'd make it up to them I was thinking more along the lines of buying them something from the vending machine during lunch. I sigh, defeated; Combine the already rocky start to the day and my preexisting issues and I don't have the energy to fight back. A weak "see you there, then" is all I can muster.

Shizune's smile wilts at my lack of resistance. She relays her concerns to Misha. "Is something wrong, Hicchan?"

Well, where do I start? There's the usual stuff: adapting to a new environment, my not-quite-newfound disability, how to deal with other's disabilities, et cetera, et cetera. I'm doing better in some of these than others. Dealing with my peers has become easier for me, but considering the only people I talk to on a regular basis are these two that might be the wrong assessment to make. I still fall prey to the usual faux pas like nodding to blind girls or staring at the prosthetic limbs of an amputee athlete. Regardless, none of these are the issue at the moment. My current problem is getting hung up over some girl I hardly even know. I've only met her like twice and know next to nothing about her.

Wait, it might actually be three times. There was that time in the hallway. I still feel kind of bad about that, even though she said it was fine.

I'm overthinking things like I usually do, putting too much significance on an afternoon with someone I'm likely to never run into again, literally or figuratively. My thoughts are jumbled; inconsistent, hard to piece together. Not just now, but ever since I came to Yamaku. I need to take my mind off things. All I've been doing recently is going directly to my room after classes end, lazing around and wondering if I should find some way to put my time to better use. As much as I hate to admit it, working with the student council might actually prove to be a useful distraction.

Misha brings me back out of my thoughts. "You don't need to tell me if you don't wanna, Hicchan."

I give a curt nod and put on what I hope is a reassuring smile. "It's alright. You don't have to worry about me trying to weasel out of this, for once." Misha seems satisfied with this answer, happily scooping up the little paper triangles and depositing them haphazardly into her bag. Shizune however stares at me for a few moments with her typical analytical look. She starts to sign something to Misha, but stops abruptly. A frown spreads across her face as her hands hang dead in the air. The expression remains as she tries to figure exactly what she wants to say before starting over on a new thought with renewed vigor. Whatever she's saying must not be for me, as Misha doesn't translate it and instead responds in silent kind, the two now wrapped up in private conversation.

The bell rings through the room and brings an end to the chattering of the class. Mutou arrives late, hastily starting the day without wasting the time to unpack his briefcase. I settle in for the long day and try to pay attention. Only a few minutes later do I realize I had somewhere along the line started to stare out the window again.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Well, it went better than expected, at least.

My prediction turned out to be correct as I failed to catch anything in homeroom or any of the other classes that came before lunch. After a meal I managed to pick myself up and come back to the land of the living. Briefly, as class ends, I get the sudden urge to ditch the student council but that urge is squashed as almost as quickly as it arrives. A promise is a promise, and after all they sit right next to me. Sure would be hard to outrun them even if I wasn't a heart patient. They'd probably try to do something like tackle me too, which would be a whole new kind of disaster.

So here I am, in the student council room again, only this time doing work as opposed to board games. Despite what was said in class, the forms aren't limited to only revenue returns. A backlog of budget reports and requests go along with them, as well as attendance sheets and some other things whose significance I can't really say. All of these must be organized and then fed into the computer system manually and stored away into one of the many filing cabinets. Even with three people here it's quite the hassle.

At least on the bright side it's something that is more tedious than time consuming. Only a couple hours have passed by the time we're finishing off the last dregs of the paperwork. With the size of the stacks I thought we'd be here well into the evening. Misha stretches in her chair as the last page is filed away, a drawn out yawn escaping from her mouth. Great, now I'm yawning too, I think to myself as I cover my mouth. Funny how that works. Is it based on hearing someone yawn or is all that is required is you see it happen? Or is it some combination of both? I look to Shizune to see if she was affected, but she has her back turned and is rummaging through some drawer.

She pulls out some laminated pieces of paper. Ah, that's right. Apparently Shizune and Misha tend to order out when they need to work late. In the back of my mind I had been worried that the cafeteria could close on me if this went on for too long. Shizune opens one of the menus a bit before promptly stopping. She looks at Misha out of the corner of her eye and begins to sign.

"You know Hicchan," Misha begins, "The student council has a strict budget for these kinds of things."

"What's that supposed to mean?" I ask, closing the filing cabinet.

"Take out is expensive these days! Shicchan says we can't just spend money on someone who isn't even a member of the student council!"

"You have to be kidding me. You're not actually trying to bribe me with take out are you?"

"It's not bribery, it's a reward for today's good work! It just so happens to be restricted to those who are registered members of the student council." Shizune's smile is devilish as she signs. I should have expected her to pull something like this but I guess I deluded myself into believing she was satisfied with 'winning' earlier today.

"Forget it, I told you before I'm not joining the student council. It's not happening." I stand firm in my response, crossing my arms. Shizune returns the gesture and pouts. She thinks for a moment before rapid-fire signing a string of commands to Misha. For her part, Misha seems to be having trouble keeping up as her smile stumbles and brow furrows.

"Um, wait...say...and then?" she sputters. In the torrent of Shizune's movements I think I see repeated motions, so it's safe to assume at this point she's repeating things. After a few moments Misha perks up and nods, giving the universal 'ok' sign. "Gee, Hicchan, you don't haaaaave to stick around. I'm sure the cafeteria has nice food too!" Shizune hands her one of the take out menus, which she opens. "But do they have eggrolls? Crab Rangoon? Won Tons?" She goes through the Chinese take out menu item by item in an effort to turn my stomach against me.

Now, Yamaku is a private school and from the outside someone might assume that because of that the food is better than your typical high school cafeteria meal. That assumption isn't really accurate. It's not as though it's prison slop or anything like that, but it still leaves something to be desired. Food you prepare yourself is a lot more likely to taste better. To top this all off, my lunch today was pretty lacking since it was only vending machine food. By this point Misha has finished going over the Chinese menu and is swiftly handed another one.

"Oooooo, sushi! Good choice, Shicchan!" Misha coos as she begins, from the top, to read out item by item, occasionally mentioning how nice an item would taste or what sounds particularly good. In the back of my mind as I try to stay firm in my decision to resist the allure of this food-based bribery, I am subtly impressed that Misha can read and sign with her free hand at the same time so effectively.

Every item that is read off tempts me to give surrender. It's pretty late into the dinner block too, so the food that will be left in the cafeteria is likely to be bottom of the barrel. However, my desire to not join the student council is as strong as my desire to get delicious free food. Sure, I wouldn't really call what we did here today 'fun' but it was a sufficient distraction from all the depressing thoughts that take up all my time nowadays. The company wasn't that bad either, but that's not to say it was really great. Shizune was characteristically task-focused and Misha was able to show surprising focus. The back-and-forth's we have can be nice sometimes but I always feel like I need to be on my toes otherwise I'll get tricked or drawn into some game of hers. Which is exactly what happened, not once, but twice today.

A loud stomach grumble brings me back to the reality of my situation. I've got to get out of here. Shizune may not have heard that but I know Misha certainly did. She's temporarily stopped reading and is signing to Shizune, who now wears a reserved smile. They know that the hunger tactic is working wonders and I doubt I have the willpower to resist it much longer. Without taking the time to think up a smoother way of doing it, I exit the student council room and leave the pair to their own devices, mumbling something along the lines of "See you in class later" as I walk past.

The cool air of the spring evening greets me as I leave the main classroom building, my mind already running through the list of options now that I've effectively burned the "free takeout" bridge. My personal food supplies did not last as long as I thought they would. I don't think I have so much as a cup of noodles right now. I'm sort of low on cash, due to a combination of things, so I can't just go out and restock for a day or three until my allowance comes in. That also means I likely won't be able to get something from a vending machine or just order out with my own money. All that leaves is the cafeteria. Back where I started, I suppose. Strangely, as I arrive at the cafeteria building the doors are closed. There is no light shining through the windows, either. I try the door and find it to be solidly locked.

That can't be right. The clock in the student council room said it wasn't even a quarter past six and the cafeteria doesn't close until seven. I pull the flip phone out of my pocket and read the display. No, it's only 6:20. So why is the cafeteria closed? I walk around the exterior of the building and try the doors on the other side. They, too, are locked.

Now what am I supposed to do? I can't crawl back to Shizune and ask for forgiveness and beg for some scraps of food. She doesn't seem like the merciful, forgiving type to me. I slide down the wall to a sitting position and try to come to terms with going hungry for the night. I sit there for a few moments before a mysterious scent tickles my nostrils. My stomach must be playing tricks on me in its desperation. More time passes, but the smell doesn't fade away. It's actually there, not in my head. Er, nose.

I get back on my feet. Might as well check it out, maybe whomever it is will be nice enough to share? At this point I've got nothing left to lose. Following something based on smell is a lot easier than you'd think. It also helps that the trail isn't too long, all I do is round one corner going away from the cafeteria and walk a short ways and I end up in a garden. It's a small area, meant to be a display piece for visitors. A nice looking thing for visitors touring the grounds. There are a few benches there that rarely get used. At most I've seen people use them to catch their breath or get something out of their bag before heading to class. At this time of day you'd expect the area to be deserted, so imagine my surprise to see a head of white hair pulled back into a braid sitting there, admiring the flowers while eating from a Styrofoam takeout box.

"Rika?" At the sound of my voice she jumps, head jerking in the direction of the offending sound. Her hand comes up to her mouth as if she was worried that some of the food she had started chewing would fly out if left unattended.

"H-" she starts, only to remember the aforementioned food in her mouth. A moment passes as she tries to quickly swallow, whereas I sort of stand here awkwardly waiting for her. Finally, with her mouth empty, she tries again. "Hisao? What, ah.....what are you doing here so late?"

"I, uh, got roped into helping the student council. I left to get dinner at the cafeteria," I look back over my shoulder in the direction I came from, "but it seems to be closed early today. I don't know why." Rika takes another clump of rice with bits of what look to be diced carrot into her mouth, nodding as she chews.

"They were open when I got here. That wasn't too long ago," she says in between bites, this time swallowing before she speaks. The smell is tantalizing and I'm torn with temptation to ask for some. It's not as though there isn't enough to share; by the sound of things she's been here for a bit now and she hasn't eaten much of it. She notices me staring at her dinner and slightly turns her body away from me. "Get your own, I paid for this."

"That's the problem, really. With the cafeteria closed, I don't have anywhere else to eat." As if to cement the desperation my stomach growls, upset that it was being denied. "I mean, I also did pay for the food at the festival, didn't I? Think of this as returning the favor."

At this, Rika's eyes dart between me and her food. You can almost see the gears turning in her mind, the scales tipping one way and then the other with each flicker; Generosity or greed. Charity or parsimoniousness. Finally she reaches a conclusion. She passes me the box and chopsticks, but at the last second pulls it just out of my grasp. "We can share on one condition. I need your help with something tomorrow."

Everybody needs my help these days. With my goal mere centimeters from my grasp I'm probably willing to agree to help with just about anything. "Depends on what that something is, I guess."

"It's nothing hard. I'm just going shopping tomorrow and I need you to help carry some things."

"Really? That's it?" Rika gives a firm nod. I think for a moment or two. How far are we going? If it's just to the town at the foot of the hill then I can handle the walk back and forth. Any further and it might be a bit much. Whatever I'm carrying might be heavy too, otherwise she could probably take care of it on her own. I don't know how carrying heavy things might be impacted by my condition, I haven't really gotten a lot of experience with that yet. Then you have to factor in the walk up the hill itself and sometimes I get winded just climbing the stair to the third-year classrooms...

Rika seems to have grown impatient and she starts to eat again. Each gain of rice a grain of sand in an hour glass, representing the diminishing time I have left to overthink such a simple proposition. "Sure, sure," I agree at last, "I can do that."

"Good." She gives me a soft smile and hands me the styrofoam container. "You better not eat the whole thing, though. I don't get to eat out very much." Kindness wins this day. I graciously accept her gift and try to show some restraint as I start to eat. I really should start eating better at lunch, I muse. If I eat something other than vending machine food I'd probably have more money, too.

After a little while Rika taps me on the shoulder. I pause and look over to her and she gestures like she wants some. Right, I've been hogging it. I hand it over to her and she jumps right back in. She chows down, gets her fill for the moment and then hands it back to me. We go back and forth like this for a while, eventually falling into a rhythm where we don't need to remind each other to share. The food is quite good, but most of the bits that are not fried rice are snatched up quickly by one of us. It's a mutual understanding: take what you can get before you get left out. Literally, 'first come, first serve'. There is diced ham there. I want that diced ham. If I don't get it now, it will likely be gone on the next pass. So you take that bit of diced ham and what looks and hopefully tastes like egg that has been crushed before the other person can get it. That isn't to say either one of us are hogging a particular ingredient or garnish.

Well, one of us isn't.

For whatever reason Rika seems particularly fond of the mushrooms that decorate the dish. I hardly get any before they're all gone, not that I'm complaining. Mushroom isn't anywhere near my favorite and, above all, this is her dinner that I'm mooching off. She's got a favorite part? Sure, let her have it. Besides, it gives me ample opportunity to slyly pick off the shrimp while she is preoccupied.

"So why are you eating out here and not somewhere else?" I ask, trying to make conversation. She simply shrugs in response, as she would rather stuff her face than give an actual explanation. I return the gesture, "Yeah, I suppose it's not really important where you eat."

Rika passes the dish back. "I like it over here I guess." She gazes out onto the small garden in front of us, with bushes and flowers, maybe a fern or two. It occurs to me that I'm not exactly sure what a fern is, only that they're a plant and people like to put them in gardens. A small breeze runs through the area, gently brushing past the foliage and through her hair. A faint smile crosses her face as she takes a small breath and then exhales. "It's nice."

Now I'm the one with food in his mouth and can't comment because of it, so instead I opt to look around me. I like so many others I have always walked past this little cloister on the way to the cafeteria or some other destination, never possessing the time or desire to stop and sit down. It's quiet, out of the way, there's some cool plants around. I think she appreciates the space far more than I do however, but I can confirm at least one thing. She's right; it's nice.

We chat a back and forth for a while longer, one of us talking while the other chews. Sometimes when we can't think of a question or something to say, we sit in silence until something comes to mind. Eventually, we run out of food to eat. And on my turn, no less. It's a bit lousy to be both the one who asked to share and the one who ends up taking the last bite. Rika concurs, as she makes a face when she gets handed back an empty tray.

"Hisao, I told you not to finish it." She scrunches her nose and gives me a look. I raise my hands in self defense, pushing out is a simple "Sorry!" to my irate companion. She glares at me for a few seconds longer before she goes on, "You're definitely buying next time."

I scratch the back of my neck and nod before the realization hits. "Wait, there's a next time?"

"Well..." Rika trails off. She stands up and stretches, reaching her hands high into the dark sky. "If there's a next time, then."

Neither of us know where to take this conversation now. Rika keeps her back to me and folds her arms behind herself. Another gust of wind blows through, this time strong enough to move her braid. When she turns to face me again, she carries a somewhat nervous expression and won't meet my eyes. She opens her mouth to speak, then promptly closes it. A beat passes, she opens it again and again fails to say anything. Her nervous expression is replaced then by one of annoyance and she turns her face upward into the night sky. The stars are peeking they heads out now, shining hesitantly against the black backdrop.

A sigh escapes her lips; long, and drawn out. Her eyes sink downward, tearing themselves from the starry sky at a languid pace and finally settling on me. "It's getting kind of late. We...I should get going."

The walkway lamps illuminate our walk back to the dormitories. She walks a few steps in front of me, neither of us saying much. The festival was like this too, wasn't it? Us walking around with her in front of me, practically leading me around. Returning to the dorms late at night. She told me something there at the end of the festival, I remember suddenly. I didn't know what to make of it then and I don't know any better now. I haven't given it much thought, it was so out of the blue at the time and I've been so wrapped up with my own troubles, but...

Does it have something to do with her disability? I still don't know what that's supposed to be. I find myself looking her over. She's pale, her hair's white, and she has red eyes. I'm pretty sure she's an albino but I don't think that's enough to warrant attending a specialized school like this. Her thinness also explains why she needs help carrying things home from shopping. Anemia makes you weak and easy to tire out but that doesn't really explain why she would hide out in her room like that.

We arrive at the crossroads where the paths diverge and lead to the two dorms. I shake my head to chase the thoughts from my mind. "So," I start, "When do you wanna leave tomorrow?"

Rika gives it some thought. She opens her mouth to speak but is interrupted by a long yawn. And now I'm yawning too. She gives a small chuckle and I return it. "They close pretty early, so we ought to go right after class ends for the day. Meet me by the front gates tomorrow, and don't forget."

"Sure, I'll be there."

With that, we wave goodbye and the two of us part ways, returning to our respective rooms. I lay awake for some time once I slip into bed, an increasingly common occurrence in my life recently. Questions addle my mind as I try to drift away. I notice only the following morning that all of them revolved around that curious red-eyed girl.

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