Anholonomy - Alt Act One of a ??? Pseudo-Route

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Docere
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Joined: Mon Apr 12, 2021 6:20 pm

Anholonomy - Alt Act One of a ??? Pseudo-Route

Post by Docere » Fri Apr 23, 2021 4:11 pm

Anholonomy is a project about an alternate vision for Act One, complete with a completely different cast of romance options available (although since they're still in the same school, the Main Five of Shizune, Hanako, Lilly, Emi, and Rin all show up to a greater or lesser extent).

The central conceit of this structure from a meta perspective is that the April Fools 2011 joke was real, meaning that 4LS really did eventually release a DLC pack (here branded the ‘Expanded Story Pack’) that included Rika and Saki (along with Miki, Suzu, Naomi, Natsume, and Misha), and this is one of the routes on that. As a part of this alternate vision, there is a ‘choice’ inside the prologue chapter; one option leads to the ‘base game’ of KS we’ve all already played, whereas the other leads to this Alt Act 1. Obviously there’s no actual ‘choice’ there; if you really feel the need to ‘choose’ the other option, feel free to boot up KS and head into Act 1.

The Hisao depicted here is still one struggling with the depression he canonically is, but instead of apathy, detachment, and the ‘feeling of being underwater’, he is instead one who’s motivated by anger, whether at himself, his condition, or at the world. This will lead him to be a more active character than he is in the VN, but this isn’t a purely positive improvement; it just means he has a different set of difficulties to contend with.

However, despite the fact that I have made a routemap, complete with branching options (which I aim to present at the conclusion of Act One), for the time being my interest is in pursuing one route of the seven I list above; consequently I will only be making a single choice at each branch. This may change in the future, and I may update things to allow for more 'branching' options, but for the time being, I will be following a single path. You may also note that, rather than explicitly state whose route this is, I instead list ??? as the target. This is because I would like to maintain a sense of mystery about it, rather than broadcasting up front 'this is a X route', in much the same way as someone playing Katawa Shoujo blind and for the first time doesn't really know where he's going to wind up.

Also, much credit must go to Chatty Wheeler, who's been an A+ proofer and constantly shoring up my prose. My writing would be much weaker without him.

Chapter/Story Links
Prologue
Blockage

Act 1: Quality Adjustment
Saturday
Path Dependence - The Nakais go on a Saturday drive to Yamaku. Hisao decides whether to let his parents move him in, or do so himself.
Delphic Maximum - Hisao follows a strange boy into the forest. He is not amused at the outcome.
The Broken Hearts Club - Hisao meets two girls, and learns he has something in common with one of them.
Bare Walls - Hisao enters his dorm room for the first time, and sees how popular his floormate is.
Random Encounter - Hisao learns about the Star Child, the Time Cube, and the Reptilian Conspiracy; he is also invited to breakfast.

Sunday
-TBA-
Last edited by Docere on Mon May 03, 2021 10:12 pm, edited 4 times in total.

Docere
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Apr 12, 2021 6:20 pm

Re: Anholonomy - Alt Act One of a ??? Pseudo-Route

Post by Docere » Fri Apr 23, 2021 4:18 pm

Prologue (Blockage):

A couple hours after my heart attack, I woke up alone in the University hospital. After the first few hours of panic and confusion, the first dew days were utterly miserable. ‘Cardiac arrhythmia’, they’d told me when I started pleading for answers. Desperate for some sort of magic wand to wave in the hopes of a cure, I asked for details, only for them to dispense clinical phrases like ‘Long QT Syndrome’ and ‘congenital heart muscle deficiency’ in a disinterested tone that suggested that I was wasting their time asking. What insulted me more was that something so... wantonly destructive to my life was so banal to them that all they had for it was jargon. At least if they had cared, or if they had never seen anything like it, I might have felt better; that this was something unheard of, or at least unheard of in my age group. As it was, it wasn’t, so I stayed miserable. What else was I supposed to do? My former life had ended that cold February day, and for all I know, anything and everything could kill me even when I finally leave this miserable place.

That misery only deepened when the torrent of cards and flowers and balloons and posturing people I barely knew started flooding in at the end of the week. By the end of the month, it had died down to a small trickle of supposedly concerned friends and family, and even those last droplets of faux-attention dried up altogether just two weeks later. My last visitor tried to peel an apple, cried, and just gave up instead. Where some might have felt abandoned, I felt like it was a weight off my shoulders; their apparent concern had grown nauseatingly grating. Moreover, I had grown increasingly convinced this elaborate charade was less for my sake and more to assuage their own consciences. Most of their attempts to cheer me up were just attempts to downplay my situation, which wasn’t very useful when the best that could be said about it was ‘at least you didn’t die’. There was always an unspoken ‘…yet’ clinging to those words, though.

Still, even if those first six weeks felt long, the weeks after were interminable. It’s paradoxical that I spent most of that time being simultaneously watched like a hawk and bereft of almost all human contact. Which is not to say I haven’t seen people – just that those people are always nurses shoveling pills in my mouth or a doctor coming to prod at my chest with a cold stethoscope and a colder demeanor. Were I an optimist, I might muse that at least the isolation gave me a lot of time to come to terms with my situation. My condition. But I’m not an optimist, and so I haven’t actually come to terms with my condition. At least I’ve had a lot of time to not bother doing that in.

I spent that time reading instead. I’ve been doing that a lot over the past ten weeks; frustrated at how normal everything on TV looked, I swore off it entirely, and picked up a voracious reading habit in the hospital library. I’ve read over a hundred books since, each thicker than the last as I work through the library’s offerings. I read a lot of contemporary fiction to start, but I stumbled into Murakami somewhere in the pile and slowly drifted towards magic realism, then fantasy, and now most recently science fiction. Each fictional step further from reality felt comforting, as if I would one day look up, close this book where the boy with my name had a broken heart and go back to life as normal; where I’d never gone out to the woods on a snowy February day.

But I did, and a ghost of a ghost of that snowy day still sometimes sits by my bedside. The girl herself left a month ago, but her presence is still palpable. Iwanako, the not-girlfriend who clung on a full two weeks longer than any of my friends. Which was, on reflection, impressive, since we never really knew each other; I just knew of her as a friend-of-a-friend, since she and Mai had been neighbors – and thus by proxy-friends in the way that children form such a relationship – since kindergarten. Me and Takumi had gone to kindergarten together ourselves, and when we wound up in Mai and Shin’s class in elementary school, we formed a tight-knit band. Iwanako herself wound up in another class, which might have been how she never mixed into our group. I’d honestly mostly ignored her except as just ‘Mai’s friend’, until I looked up one day and suddenly realized how staggeringly attractive I found her. If I had a normal heart, could live a normal life, it would have been a huge relief that she confessed to me, because otherwise I’d likely never have worked up the courage. But now, weirdly, after the misery that filled my room and the tension of our long silences…well. When Shin, Mai, even Takumi left, I felt bitter. When Iwanako was here, I felt heat, anger, resentment, tension, and now that she doesn’t come, I just feel empty. It’s a relief, I think. Maybe part of me hates her for, hah, ‘breaking my heart’, but I try and push that part down whenever I can. It wasn’t her fault, and I’d even liked her too before all of...this. But any hope of that is buried now, in the snow of a cold February day beneath a leafless tree.

Of course, my parents still come by. I’m not sure what motivates the visits, but if forced to guess, I’d say one part guilt, two parts love, and seven parts cloying, clingy coddling. Father maintains his usual distance and formality, save for when it extends to smuggling in small luxuries; a box of Pocky here, some milk coffee there. This is profoundly welcome; it tells me he at least cares without being smothering. Mother, on the other hand, is resolute in her maddening infantilization of me. Making matters worse, they only visit on Sundays, then stay six or eight hours at a stretch, with her fussing over every little mishap, flinching every time one of the machines so much as blinks, and generally making me feel miserably aware of my new condition, while Father mostly sits in a chair, asks a few banal questions about how the physiotherapy is going or small talk about the deplorable hospital food, and listlessly glances at the Nikkei Shimbun. This weekly ordeal wears immensely on my patience, and frankly it must be just as miserable for them, since much of the time is occupied with painful silence. It often just consists of three people sitting in a room, reading uneasily, all the while feeling like they’re supposed to be talking, but never knowing exactly what about. I’m almost grateful their work hours are what they are; at least this restricts this ordeal to a weekly one.

It’s interactions like those that have left me so eager for anything else to do that I considered finally getting cleared for physiotherapy – i.e. a chance to get out of this fucking room for a few hours a day – last month a minor miracle. It’s been an awful slog just getting myself feeling like I can walk a few minutes again, but I’ve little else to do save for reading and catching up on schoolwork. None of my classmates visit anymore, of course, but it's a standardized syllabus; I can just read the textbooks, which my parents happily brought by in hopes it would cheer me up (it didn’t, but at least suffering through English gave me an excuse for being irritable), and work through the problems. This isolation and self-improvement does certainly makes the parallels to prison quite obvious. I sometimes fantasize about those movies where the hero – wearing my face – emerges from prison, covered in rippling muscles and prison tattoos, ready to take revenge against the people that put him in here on false pretenses. Obviously, there are no false pretenses, I don’t much want revenge, and there probably isn’t a patient-inmate who’ll do a tattoo for me – even if it's to cover up this awful scar. As for the muscles… well, I’m not going to get out of here with a six-pack, I don’t think. But at least I’ll probably be able to walk to the neighborhood Lawson’s for a drink without hacking up half a lung or my legs feeling like they’ve been dipped in lava.

I manage half an hour on the treadmill today at a relatively fast pace before Dr. Satoyama tells me our session is over. I nod, and slow the machine to a halt, before resting in the suspension frame and kicking each my legs a bit to work out some of the acid. At this point, it’s no longer really the muscles in my legs that are the problem, but the one in my chest, and so rather than three long, easy sessions a week, it’s now maybe an hour of light exercise a day. Still, some precautions are deemed necessary – such as the rig the physiotherapist is now unstrapping me from. I was initially horrified by the setup, thinking it made me look like a geriatric, but after basically collapsing the first few days and only being stopped from slamming my chest against the machine by the straps, I grew to, somewhat begrudgingly, understand the point. I’ve been assured that this was just a safety measure until they were confident I wouldn’t be at risk of falling off the treadmill anymore. Both of those reassurances – or perhaps simply getting used to the routine – have made me slightly more willing to tolerate them. It is not so much that the workouts themselves are relatively hard or at all dangerous, but rather that I’m given that illusion by how frail my body has become in my extended convalescence. I am, as ever, told that this is all normal.

After I dismount, rather than dismiss me as she usually does, Dr. Satoyama calls out to me. “So, Mr. Nakai,” she starts in her usual formal tone. “It's my belief that your cardiovascular health has gotten to the point where, if you’d prefer, we can scale these sessions back a little bit. Put it at more along the lines of two or three times a week, just so that we can maintain where you’re at right now. From here on it’s really less about standard procedure, and more so about what you think is best to achieve your goals. If you find these exercises easy and think you can keep the pace up, we can continue the current routine. If these exercises have been tough, well, nobody’s going to fault you for slowing things down a little.” I can just about tolerate that last bit from Dr. Satoyama; she doesn’t emit a motherly aura so much as a grandmotherly one, and that, at least, doesn’t remind me of Mother’s coddling.

I weigh my options. On the one hand, I want nothing more than to get out of this prison they call a hospital. On the other, frankly, this exercise sucks. I hate how exhausted it makes me feel when I’m doing it and how pathetic I feel afterwards for being so exhausted, and I despise how stupid it makes me look in this idiotic suspension frame. Besides, I’m…well, I’m not happy, but can I be content enough stuck reading in my room until they’ll finally let me out?

(Base Game) I can be content with less exercise and more time to myself.
(KS Premium: Expanded Story Pack) No, anything to get out of here sooner.


“No, let’s keep it daily,” I say, forcing a smile on my face as I tell her. “I’d like to be out of here as soon as possible, and I’m sure you want me out of your hair too.”

She laughs at that last line. “True enough! It’s no good for a handsome young man like yourself to be stuck in here rather than at school chasing skirts!”

A biting remark comes to mind, but I bury it. She’d have no reason to know how I first came to the hospital. Why would she? I’ve never told her, and I can’t imagine most of the hospital staff would know either. I can’t look her in the eye anymore, so instead I just turn away, wave and leave. I have this old book to finish anyway, some ghost stories by an improbably Irish author with an equally improbably Japanese name.



A month later, I’m forced to conclude that some small mistakes were made in my therapy. A little bit by Dr. Satoyama, but mostly by me. The first time I’m allowed outside, unsupervised, to go for a walk, I spontaneously decided to make it a run – well, a jog – instead, to test the improvements I was so sure I’d made. Instead, I have a flutter, a bad one, one that leaves me sprawled on the concrete pathway, clutching my chest and convinced I’m about to die. I obviously don’t, but it makes for almost two full weeks of setbacks in my progress. She’s furious at me, of course, but doesn’t do much about it apart from finger-wagging and a little nagging during our next sessions together. She’s just as aware as I am that the flutter was punishment enough; no need to add anything else onto it. However, I’m never again allowed to exercise unsupervised.

This and a hundred other tiny slights add up. I’m furious at…at my circumstances, at my irresponsibility, at my being stuck here, so I suppose in a roundabout way I’m generally furious at myself. I take this anger out on my textbooks, on the treadmill, on dark and miserable thoughts lying awake at night, and at some point it turns to a growing rage at the hospital itself. The rational part of my mind is well aware of how stupid and pointless what I’m about to do is, but that part of my mind is no longer in charge. I make a break for it when Dr. Satoyama is distracted with the complaints of a young girl, at first casually walking off the treadmill and out of the room, then spri– well, powerwalking, anyway – down the corridor. I manage nearly thirty glorious, unsupervised minutes outside, simply walking around in the late spring air before an orderly finds me and drags me back into that coffin I’ve been immured in for four months that they politely call a room.

My parents arrive rather quickly, for all that it’s a Tuesday afternoon. Their expressions tell me they’re not thrilled at my attempted prison break, but I avoid any scoldings by pleading with them the moment they arrive to ‘Get me out of here,’ and responding to any of their other attempts to say anything with ‘No, get me the hell out of here.’ Their expressions swiftly change after a round or two of this game. Maybe they just didn’t realize quite how miserable I’ve been here. Although if they couldn’t realize that, then they must not have been paying how I felt any attention at all. After ten minutes of that, they leave, and I’m left alone again with a half-finished book about some utopian society and their attempts to deal with some sort of problem they don’t have the context for. It’s not bad, but the pregnant woman infuriates me.

...

It’s the next day before my parents come back. I’m embarrassed after my outburst yesterday, and only nod to them as they enter, but at least Father offers me a weak smile in return before starting to speak. “We’ve...talked to your doctors about getting you out of here. We didn’t...we didn’t realize how trapped you must have felt here in the hospital...”

“Hicchan,” Mother blurts out during his pause. “Why didn’t you say anything earli-”

Father cuts her off. “He said everything he needed to,” he tells her in a voice almost too low for me to hear, then returns to me. “They were originally going to let you out this weekend, and...we were going to have a talk with you about your future when they planned to tell you on Friday. But we’re going to make that happen today instead.”

My future? “What? What do you mean, my future? I thought they were going on and on about how I could expect to live for quite a while? Am I – oh my god, am I…” I don’t finish my sentence. I just sag back into the bed.

Mother looks stricken. Father is not quite so expressive, but he keeps talking. “No, nothing that…dire. It’s just that your doctors don’t think it’s safe for you to return to your old school. Aside from the fact that you’ve missed close to half the trimester, there’s…well, there’s a lot of lifestyle changes you’re going to need to make, and they suggested it would be easiest to do that at another school. We agreed.”

Another school? Away from my friends, my life, my – I cut myself off. Those friends abandoned you. That life is over. What exactly would you even be going back to? Teachers constantly walking on eggshells around you, afraid that any stress or strain might be what does you in? The same looks of pity in Mai, Shin, and Takumi’s eyes? You weren’t even in any clubs, so those three were all you had. Well, them and… A small, traitorous part of my mind surges maliciously to the forefront, the question like a knife to the heart, punching through my sternum like the doctors already did.

The girl who almost killed you?’ it asks.

I force it down.

“I’ve been keeping up with schoolwork,” I note halfheartedly. “I’m caught up on the syllabus in…well, every class that matters.” This is technically true, because English does not matter.

“Hicchan, that’s…not an option.” Mother says, slowly.

Father chimes in. “The principal was not willing to…take on the risk. She…she helped advise us of other options.”

“Risk?” I panic, slightly. “No, I – I won’t run off like I did yesterday, I’m sorry, I just couldn’t –”

“It’s not that, Hicchan,” Mother swiftly reassures me. “This – this isn’t punishment, we just thought this is what might be best for you. Your condition, it’s very…”

“There’s liability concerns, and the school doesn’t have the equipment on-hand or the budget to get it. This new school on the other hand, well, they already have it.” Father finishes for her.

“Where.” It’s not really a question. I almost don’t care to know. Just…not here. Anywhere but here. If it can’t be back to school, a school I worked myself halfway to death to get into only to now be cast out by teachers, principals and even old classmates and friends, then I suppose it doesn’t really matter where I go. At least it won’t be a viper’s den of false friends and girls who break your heart.

“I think you’ll really like it, Hicchan,” Mother chirps. “It’s a boarding school with a lovely campus, out in the – well, not really the countryside, but as close as you can get to it and still be in Sendai. We paid a visit last week and found it to be quite delightful.”

“Where.” I state again, flatly. Her obviously forced happiness is grating on my already strained temper.

Father cuts in. “The ‘Sendai Aoba Mountain District Academy’ if you want to be formal, but even the staff called it ‘Yamaku Academy’ in casual conversation. They have a full 24-hour nursing staff, and the faculty are all trained in dealing with disabled youths, so we’ll be confident you’ll be safe. Not to mention it’s near a hospital in case of –”

I choke. “Disabled youths?” The words are bitter venom in my mouth, because I know now that as far as my parents and doctors are concerned, I’m never going to be ‘normal’ again. I’m spoiled goods now, ‘disabled youth’: a label almost as toxic in this country as ‘mentally ill’. “You’re packing me off to some…special needs school? After – I – you…” I’m sputtering now in increasingly ill-suppressed rage. “You both always told me schooling was paramount, that’s why I worked so hard to get into Chiba Prefectural in the first place, and now I’m just relegated to some…katawa school for rejects. My future was bright, mapped out; I was going to Todai. I was going to become a doctor like you wanted. And now that’s not a…” I trail off, blink back a tear. Mother looks horrified.

“You should have just let me die,” I spit.

Mother scurries out of the room. I think I saw tears. Father is stronger, he just turns away for a moment before turning back to me, face red. It’s not with anger. “If…” his voice strains, cracks. He opts to stop, coughs once, reaches to the table near the door for a glass of water, tries again. “If we had known how…bitterly you resented being here, we…” He’s fidgeting with the empty glass, opts to puts it down. His empty hands fidget more, reach back for the glass, but settle on the table instead. He straightens his body up, posture rigid, continues in a firm, formal tone. “I am sorry, Son. Hisao. We have…If you cannot forgive us for what you see as this betrayal, I understand. But as your father, I must insist, and only hope you can come to terms with your new environment.”

He wrings his hands together, reaches into his pocket for a slip of paper, and unfolds it. “This is a list of the medications you will be taking while you’re there,” he continues. For all that his words are an attempt to dictate terms to me, this is not the forceful tone he’s always taken on those few occasions in the past he’s felt the need to scold me. There’s only one explanation: he knows he’s in the wrong, and he’s ashamed to speak to me.

He should be.

He hands me the list. I glance at it once. I comprehend nothing, and try again. A numbered list, one through seventeen, but a sea of unrecognizable words mixed with others like ‘side effects’, ‘dosages’, ‘contraindications’, numbers here, milligrams there, and in bold, frequencies. Every single one says at least ‘daily’, if not ‘twice’ or even ‘two pills, twice daily’. My vision blurs, at first with what I assume are tears but then I realize is frustration. “All this, every day, for the rest of my life!?”

A doctor chooses this moment to rush in. “Mr. Nakai!” she begins to call out, before slowing to a halt as she sees my father in front of me. It takes me a moment to realize the machines have been having a panic attack of their own, which must be the reason she came in here. I force myself to calm down, take a deep breath. I’d hate to have another heart attack just as I’m about to get out of here. “I – well, I see you’re alright, but try to keep from overstraining yourself, eh?” she offers in a tone of forced joviality. I’ve never heard this tone from Dr. Takeda before, but then again, the tension in the room must be palpable. “I see you’ve got the list of your prescriptions in hand there. Do you have any questions?”

I wave the sheet around slightly, now somewhat embarrassed to have been interrupted now that I’m calmer. “As I was…asking my father earlier,” I begin, more formally to cover my embarrassment, “are these all…necessary? Forever? To keep…this,” I say, gesturing vaguely at my chest, “under control?”

Father now seems to have slumped into a chair. He and I know the argument is over. Not that there was much of an argument. I couldn’t have gone against what he said, in the end. He is still my father.

Dr. Takeda again forces a smile. “Well, you know, pharmaceuticals are always improving. It wouldn't surprise me if this list got halved in the next ten years. You know, if you manage your symptoms correctly, you’ve easily got several decades ahead of you, so always bear that in mind!”

I glance down at my chest. Back up at the doctor, whose smile is fading. Down again. Back over to Father. “And this…Yamaku,” I begin to ask him haltingly, “it – they’ll have the… they’ll know about all this? I won’t have to go and tell them myself, right?”

The doctor seems to genuinely light up at my question, despite how obviously I’ve not directed it at her. “Oh, Yamaku?” she cuts in before father can answer. “My nephew is a student there, he had a – well, he’s basically blind, but you wouldn’t know it to look at him on a ski hill! He’s an aspiring parathlete; he hopes to be in Canada in 2010.” She’s glowing with pride. I’m…less enthused, but…this place is clearly not the dead-end I first thought. “You know, that’s the sort of student Yamaku is for, the kind that not only can but wants to still get around and learn, only needing a little help to do so. The medical staff is excellent, I’ve heard no complaints about the faculty…Well, other than the usual ‘they give too much homework’ or ‘they work us to the bone!’” She stops to laugh at this. "Not to mention, the school does a lot to promote their independence. It’s –” she seems to suddenly realize how much she’s been gushing, and loses a bit of her enthusiasm. “Well, it’s a good environment. You’ll enjoy it,” she finishes, a bit lamely.

I have my doubts. I won’t express them where she can hear them – I’d be mortified at the thought of possibly insulting her nephew, especially if he winds up my classmate – but I nod. “I, er, I look forward to meeting your nephew.” Oh, damn. ‘Look forward to’? About a blind boy? I’ll have to work on changing my language a bit. “I can only hope the school is half as good as you say it is; after all, if it is even a quarter as good as that, I will be in excellent hands.”

She laughs, and tells me to keep an eye out for a ‘Junichi Moriya’ in class 3-2, before starting to check me over. “I’ll just make sure you didn’t strain anything earlier, then I’ll get a nurse to bring you your meds and you can be out of here in an hour or two.” She’s actually whistling as she does this. How is the mere mention of this place enough to so elevate someone’s mood? I’ve never seen Dr. Takeda with anything but a dour look on her face, and now she’s smiling, whistling, making small talk. Mother came back into the room at some point, tentatively, but regained a lot of confidence when she saw the dramatic shift in the room’s mood.

It is only after Dr. Takeda has left I realize how blasé she was about her nephew’s disability. ‘Keep an eye out’? I suppose she was a very casual person in most of her conversation, but even so, you would think she would know better than to use terms like that about or around a disabled person.

Or perhaps I’m just overthinking it. I’ve done that a lot these last four months, after all.

Index / Next
Last edited by Docere on Fri Apr 23, 2021 5:59 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Docere
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Apr 12, 2021 6:20 pm

Re: Anholonomy - Alt Act One of a ??? Pseudo-Route

Post by Docere » Fri Apr 23, 2021 4:24 pm

Act One: Quality Adjustment

Chapter One: Path Dependence

Sitting in the backseat of my parents’ Lexus on the long drive to Sendai, I feel like one of those old Egyptian pharaohs. It’s as if I had died on that frozen February day, and this is just some long-delayed funeral procession. All the pieces of my old life surrounding me are but grave goods, carried with my body on its way to the afterlife. No, that's a bit too grim.

We had made an early start this morning, but despite leaving at 6 a.m., we would still be lucky to arrive before 11. Of course, that will be far too late to bother making even the most perfunctory appearance at my new class. I’m not required to be there, since I don't start classes until Monday, but I had considered putting in an appearance today before Father persuaded me against it. I don’t even have to meet my homeroom teacher until Monday morning; all the things I will need before then are available at the administrative offices in the annex, and the gate guard is well aware of our planned arrival. It’s all surprisingly well-organized considering the short notice. Still, it is a very long drive. I’d thought ahead, and brought a book to read in the car, but the book’s ending came well before our journey’s. As such, I’ve little else to do but sit and reflect on the last couple of days.

As Dr. Takeda had promised after the tense argument on Wednesday, I was discharged from the hospital just an hour later. To mark my release, my parents took me to our ‘celebration spot’, the sushiya we went to for our noteworthy occasions: birthdays, promotions, even just high scores on my exams. We agreed at dinner to drive up to the Yamaku campus on Saturday. I could take the Shinkansen and go alone, but that would leave me high and dry as far as bringing my possessions. For that, we'd need to drive, but my prison break had come at an inconveniently busy time for my parents, and they’d need to put nose to grindstone to make up for it. They’ll have to leave almost immediately after dropping me off, but having all of Sunday to recover from the ten full hours of driving they would have to put up with would doubtless help a little. For my part, spending most of the weekend at Yamaku would provide me ample time to get oriented, and perhaps even get to know some of the people who would be living around me. But before that, I would first have to spend two full days in awkward limbo.

Determined not to lose the physical progress I’d fought so hard to get in the hospital, I resolved to get some exercise in. I spent much of the first day just walking around Nagazu – refamiliarizing myself with the streets around my house. Sometimes I would go into a store simply to feel what it was like to make a choice for myself again. On a whim, I even picked up an art print, an old Hokusai woodblock of Mount Fuji, to put up in my new room. I thought it would be a little reminder of home – even if the mountain itself was almost 200 kilometers away from here. And then I recognized Mai’s mother down the street, bringing my expedition to a screeching halt. While she was looking down at something when I saw her, I knew that the instant she glanced over she would recognize me. After a decade of playing in her house, even her silhouette was almost more familiar than that of my own mother. But as I thought about talking to her, I knew she would invite me over for dinner if I did – just like old times. It was tempting, deeply so, but if I went over to their house, I would have to face Mai again. The prospect filled me with fear, shame, and even a touch of regret. In the hospital, she had seen me at my lowest, and she had left me there. I was bitter at her abandoning me; she would doubtless be furious at how I pushed her away. No, better not reopen old wounds, not when the scars are so fresh, I’d thought. So I turned on my heels and went straight home.

Upon arriving home, I was happy to find that after seven hours of walking, my feet barely hurt, but even that I blamed on breaking in new shoes rather than on my exertions. Better yet, I felt no fatigue when I got back – for which I gave full credit to Dr. Satoyama's physiotherapy regimen. Of course, I hadn’t set a particularly aggressive pace – until the end, at least – but I still saw it as an accomplishment. After luxuriating in a rather extended bath, I threw together a quick plate of curry before crawling into bed and reading myself to sleep. There wasn't much sense waiting for my parents before eating; they were at work, and so not likely to return until well after ten.

While I’d initially planned to repeat my walking excursion the next day, Father reminded me during breakfast to pack up my room and ensure I had everything I needed ready for the move. Mother had actually offered to take the day off work and help, but I declined with as much grace as I could muster up. I could only imagine she meant this offer as ‘doing everything for me out of fear that I would collapse and die if I so much as picked up a pair of socks’. As I sat in my room, sorting through my old belongings, I realized just how much stuff was there that I no longer cared for. There was a vast collection of childish manga and light novels, old games on now-antiquated consoles, and even toys I hadn’t touched in years. I wound up making a full day out of packing up my room. I fit everything I’d need at Yamaku in two suitcases, my backpack, and a couple of boxes – there wasn’t much – then started on the rest of my junk. This eventually made three separate piles, clearly marked: one for rubbish to dispose of, another for things which might still be valuable, interesting or otherwise useful, and the last for charity.

The end result, of course, was that the room didn’t look very much like mine at all anymore, or even very much like anyone’s; emptied of any personal touches, it took on the generic look of a guest room. I didn’t like the feeling that all the things which made a personal space mine could be simply packed away into little boxes, leaving nothing but a blank, impersonal slate behind. It felt like yet another reminder of how different my life had become after that conversation beneath a barren tree. Still, I'd finished, and while I could have opened those boxes right back up and put the pieces of my life back where they were, it felt like I would have been undoing a lot of hard work. Instead, I brought the boxes and suitcases downstairs, then went out to Lawson’s to pick up some sandwiches for dinner. No longer having these egg sandwiches in my life would be an incalculable loss, I mused as I chewed. I can only hope there’s a branch near Yamaku. I then took what might be my final bath of the year – unless Yamaku has bathtubs, but that might be too lavish to hope for – and called it an early night.

I’m jarred from my reflections by the car slowing into a turn uphill. At some point, our surroundings became quite urban – I suppose Yamaku is technically in the Sendai city limits – but the hill we’re ascending is quite densely forested. I begin to wonder, how much fur- “Nearly there!” Mother exclaims with an annoying chirpiness. I bite down on my tongue to keep from spitting out an acerbic remark, only to feel a brief pang of shame at how little it took to irritate me. It wasn't because I was still tired – I’d gotten almost nine hours of sleep before our early start today, far more than either of them had gotten. Maybe it was simply anxiety about this greater degree of independence, living completely apart from my parents. I had always been a latchkey kid, but this would be different. They would no longer be just a phone call away in an emergency, but hours away in a completely different prefecture. I didn’t much need my parents, or really even like their company, but…they felt safe. Like an unmoving rock in the storm of the past four months, and now that rock would be dropping me off and driving home.

Father pulls into a tiny parking lot right next to what seems to be the main gate. The gate looks large enough to fit the car through, save for the bollards in front of it and the copious lack of a road leading inside. Seems this entrance is only for pedestrians. Even from a distance, this gate is quite something, its elaborate design quite the change from the merely functional architecture at Chiba Prefectural. Red brick, black wrought iron, gray plaster…in both materials and design, it feels distinctly Western. It gives me a weird sense that by stepping into this campus I will be stepping into another world entirely from the one I’ve known and am comfortable in. Then again, it seems I’m no longer comfortable in that world anyway; my abortive encounter with Mai's mother had shown me that. I glance up; while I’ve been brooding, Father and Mother have already stepped out of the car. Father busies himself talking to the security guard at the gate, while Mother trots off into the school as if already familiar with the place. I suppose they had said they’d ‘toured the campus’, and so would have at least some knowledge of it. I decide to step out of the car myself, stretching my legs and sucking in some of the warm, humid air as I do. The early June heat tells me I should have worn shorts, but in the cool pre-dawn several hours ago I’d felt more inclined to fashion than comfort. I can at least pull off this sweater vest I’m wearing and stow it in my backpack; I don’t foresee needing it in this heat. I almost regret bringing as many as I did; I might need to go shopping for alternatives.

By the time I’ve finished stashing away my vest, Father has returned with directions to the dorms – where he says we will be meeting Mother. I slide into the front seat, buckle up, and Father glides the car back out of the lot and down an access road further along. Within minutes, we find ourselves in front of what I surmise to be the dorms in which I will be spending the rest of my high school life. As I unbuckle my seatbelt, Father turns off the car, then turns to me. He clears his throat, then speaks – a brief hitch in his voice all that betrays any emotion. “Are you nervous? I know a new school can be…” He clears his throat again. “Well, it’s quite a drive, but we can always take the Shinkansen up on weekends if you don’t feel…”

“Where is this coming from?” I ask in response. “I’m – Of course I’m nervous. A new school, new people, new prefecture… But… it beats the hospital.” I look around at the lush surroundings – the greenery everywhere around us. Tall, verdant trees; long grass; a large contingent of men attacking the latter with weedwhackers. It strikes me that it makes sense to do this now, rather than later in the day when classes get out and other students start roaming the grounds. I feel a sudden twinge of yet deeper nervousness at the thought of these 'other students'. How would I react if, no, when I saw them… My mind races, coming up with ever-greater grotesqueries. Perhaps in my class would be some scarred, limbless horror in a wheelchair, the victim of some…bombing. Or a terrible fire. Could such people still-?

Father cut in before I could dwell much more on that grim note. “To be candid,” he began, words I always dreaded hearing from him because they invariably led to a brutal shellacking. “I’m – we're concerned you’ll attempt to run away again.” I rest my face in my hands, kneading the heels of my hands into my eyes to keep from groaning. “I know you’ve said it was because you felt stifled in the hospital, and I believe, or want to believe, that. Or you. Both. It's just… Your mother and I worry… Ah… That is – that is to say we worry that you’re having some difficulty adjusting. We have high hopes for this school, but we also want to do everything in our power to help you through this.”

Hmm. Not quite the chewing out I’d expected. “I… understand…where you’re both coming from, Father,” I began slowly. “but I’m… that is, I’d like to…" I stop, collect my thoughts. “I’m just as invested in my succeeding at Yamaku as you are. This is… as Dr. Takeda said, this is my – this is a school for students who want to succeed, but just need some help to do so. I want to succeed. I want my life back on track.”

Father sighs. “That’s somewhat encouraging, but I also worry that means you’re not adjusting. You’re trying to get things to 'go back to normal'. This is normal now, Hisao, and I worry you’re focusing on the wrong things.” When did he start using my name? When did we move from the formality of ‘Son’ and ‘Father to ‘Hisao’ and…‘Dad’? He undoes his seatbelt suddenly, grunting as he opens the door and levers himself out of the seat. “No sense worrying about it, I suppose.” He turns to me as we step around to the trunk, a small smile blooming on his face. “I want to trust you to make the right decisions for yourself. So I will. Let’s get you moved in, eh?”

In the distance, I see Mother walking towards us down a long concrete walkway. In her left hand is a large paper bag – presumably my new uniforms – while her right hand enfolds… something. I look past her, properly taking in the campus for the first time. From this angle, the campus buildings are clearer – not hidden behind the bulk of the main building. There are quite a lot of them, more than there were at Chiba Prefectural. This is certainly in part because of the dormitory buildings behind me – I assume since there’s two that there’s one for boys and another for girls – but the rest… This school must either have deep pockets and a wide array of extracurriculars, or these extra buildings are for medical needs. Still, the impression I've formed is a nice one, despite that last thought bringing the hospital to mind.

I tilt my head towards Mother, a questioning look in my eye. Father understands my unspoken suggestion, and we lean against the car, waiting for her, enjoying the sun on our faces. “This is a good school, you know,” Father starts. “The principal told me Tohokudai professors sometimes come in to speak – they’re only a few kilometers away. No better place for a would-be Todai kid, eh?” I nod as he speaks, while simultaneously watching the groundskeepers attack the long grass with their weedwhackers. Even with the four of them I can see, these grounds seem vast – too extensive for them to mow it all in one day. No doubt they’ll be at this much of tomorrow as well.

Mother calls out to us a few minutes later from a good 30 meters away – a grin on her face as she does. It’s the first time in a while I haven’t felt annoyed seeing her smile, because this one seems genuine, not the plastered-on grin of a pointlessly guilty mother. “How are the two men in my life?” she asks with a wink. “Busy doing nothing, I see, while your mom does all the work!” Father – Dad, laughs at her jibe and walks to meet her, taking the bag out of her hands. It’s…absurd, incongruous. This trip has somehow been the most normal experience I’ve had with my parents in months. And it’s here, at a school for the disabled. How blurry those lines suddenly seem.

I give a soft chuckle at the thought.

Mom gives Dad a quick look at that, and at his nod, makes a suggestion. “Hicchan,” she begins, cautiously. The smile has left her face; we’re suddenly back on eggshells, like the last five minutes never happened. “Your father and I – well, we thought we could move your things in for you, while you took the time to walk around the campus. Get to know it better, maybe even check in at the Nurse’s office.”

I take stock of what they're wearing; both in t-shirts, casual shorts, their rarely-used trainers. It all makes disappointing sense now. I'd assumed their uncharacteristically casual attire had been a concession to the day’s weather report and Mother's distaste for air conditioning. Now it seems like yet another attempt to coddle me, to assume they knew better than me what my body, my heart, can handle.

“Afterwards,” Father offers, as if it would salve the wound, “we could go down into Sendai. Find a good udon place, get some lunch, then drop you back off before we drive home. Only if you want, of course.” Of course. Only what I want, if I want. They’re only trying to be helpful. Or are they? Perhaps they are just coddling me?

Can I accept their help, or should I, must I, insist I’m perfectly capable of doing it on my own?

Don’t baby me. I can do this myself.
Sure, whatever, I’ll go walk around then.


I shrug my shoulders. They mean well, no matter how my instincts tell me to feel about it. "Sure, whatever," I tell them, a bit of a playful note coming into my voice. "Shows that you two remember who packed it all up yesterday. But let me do the poster myself, I want to find exactly the right spot for it."

The awkward smiles morph almost imperceptibly into genuine ones. "Of course, Hicchan," Mom responds. "I've always loved Hokusai, it's a lovely print. You've much better taste in art than your father."

"Yes, yes, turn it on me why don't you," Dad grouses as he lifts the first box out of the trunk. "You've got your phone, right? We'll call you when we're done. Don't go wandering off too far now. This is a big campus, and I’d hate to be waiting with an empty stomach with you half an hour away!"

I pull out my phone and wave it at him, then walk off in the direction Mother came from. There ought to be a map or something around here somewhere…

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Last edited by Docere on Mon May 03, 2021 10:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Silentcook
Carelessly Cooking You
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Re: Anholonomy - Alt Act One of a ??? Pseudo-Route

Post by Silentcook » Sat Apr 24, 2021 4:00 am

Docere wrote:
Fri Apr 23, 2021 4:11 pm
The central conceit of this structure from a meta perspective is that the April Fools 2011 joke was real, meaning that 4LS really did eventually release a DLC pack (here branded the ‘Expanded Story Pack’) that included Rika and Saki (along with Miki, Suzu, Naomi, Natsume, and Misha), and this is one of the routes on that.
Man, really going whole hog, aincha. :shock:
Shattering your dreams since '94. I also fought COVID in '20 and '21, and all I got was this lousy forum sig.

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Docere
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Re: Anholonomy - Alt Act One of a ??? Pseudo-Route

Post by Docere » Sat Apr 24, 2021 12:46 pm

As weebl once said, pork is the meat of kings, so I'd feel bad if I didn't go whole hog.

Jokes aside, I think 'going whole hog' like this seemed to me like the best way to avoid either 1) retreading old ground, as some routes do in order to cover the time from Hisao's Arrival - Act 2; 2) skipping over whole sections in Act One, which can break immersion, or 3) just skipping Act One entirely, which I think squanders a lot of potential to set things up; Acts 2-4 are where the 'routes' technically happen but Act 1 does a lot of the heavy lifting in setting up initial characterization.

I guess this project - even if it primarily started as just the means to a [redacted] route - has now become kind of a paean to Act One, in that, boy, just in terms of trying to map out scenes, even if I never intend to write half of them because they're choices that will not be taken, I'm realizing how difficult it must have been putting Act 1 together.

As for the metajoke of KS Premium; well, why not use that as the mechanism by which Saki and Rika get released into the world of KS? It kind of added something to writing this for me to imagine that, in another world, this April Fool's joke might have actually come to pass (although y'all have made clear that you never had that intention in this one), and I hope it does the same for a few of the people reading this too.
If not, well, at least I thought it was funny.

Docere
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Re: Anholonomy - Alt Act One of a ??? Pseudo-Route

Post by Docere » Mon May 03, 2021 10:11 pm

Chapter Two: (Delphic Maximum)

After a half hour of walking, I’ve covered most of the campus. It took maybe ten minutes to happen upon a map in a sort of courtyard between the ‘Annex’ and the ‘Main Building’, both of which were so close together they might as well have just joined the two and called it a day. The map itself was fascinating. I assumed it would just have been some sort of printout on a board, but it was instead laid out on a diagonal at just about waist height. Weird, was my first thought, but when I noticed each building was raised and what looked like the track was on a dip, I realized there was a little more to this. Then I noticed inside each box indicating the name of the building was a collection of dots. A half-remembered detail from a book I’d read said it was ‘braille’: writing for blind people. After that, everything fell into place: they had figured out how to make a map that was readable both for the blind and the sighted. It was at that height so they could conveniently feel across it, instead of having to reach up or down, and at a diagonal rather than flat so that they could know which side to consult it from.

I’ve never given much thought to the accommodations made for the disabled before. I’d simply assumed they would need help to do everything, but it really did seem like rather than ‘do everything for them’, this school’s philosophy was ‘help them do things for themselves’. It was heartening and uplifting. It’s a bit strange to get all that out of a map, but then again, everything about today has been a bit strange. Still, it primed me to keep an eye out for any other accommodations, which, once I was looking for them, became sort of obvious. Intersections at pathways had patterns of raised dots on the ground, which presumably meant something to the blind students; there were more of them, more regularly spaced, at the tops or bottoms of stairs. Each set of stairs had railings on both sides, and long, gently-sloping ramps that I assumed were for wheelchair-bound students. And outside every building, and halfway down each pathway, there were little phones with an unlit blue bulb at the top (I assume they light up at night). There’s only one button, which reads ‘EMERGENCY’ next to it, along with some braille dots which also probably say the same thing. The combined effect gives me an odd feeling – a feeling as if I’m back at the hospital, but without the undertone of resentment I felt during much of my stay there.

The phone I finally chose to examine sits outside the girls’ dormitory. I seem to have gravitated back towards this general area in the hopes that Mom and Dad have finished moving my things, but I’ve received no call or text as of yet. The car still seems empty, at least from the fifty-odd meters away that it is. A thought crosses my mind: Oh no, they’re not just moving my things in, they’re organizing them too. This sparks a brief horror in me. I’m going to have to kill a lot more time. I wonder what there is to do here on a campus where school is in session and where I don’t actually know anyone. In hopes of at least spotting one of the groundskeepers I was idly staring at earlier – or just anything to look at – I glance over at the wide expanse of half-mown grass. No such luck. Perhaps they’re on a lunch break.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I see it: a sprawling… mural? I hesitate to call it a mural – not because of the contents or style, but rather because it still looks like a sketch. Or would that be an outline? I don’t know much about art. Either way, it looks as if it’s only just been started a day or two ago. In terms of its scale, though, it’s very ambitious. I have no idea what it’s supposed to be about, but it’s…large. I idly wonder what disability the person painting it has. Obviously not blindness, but deafness, maybe? A missing leg?

I suddenly realize what I’m thinking. I’m at this school – or I will be on Monday – and yet my own disability isn’t so obvious. For all I know, the boy painting this might have a…liver problem, or a lung problem. I didn’t actually know of any of those, but they would make just as much sense as a boy with a heart problem being here. What even constitutes a disability in the first place? Does someone need to be missing a limb, or is…diabetes, or a heart condition, a disability? It seems like a relevant consideration. If the former, I’m not disabled, so why am I here? If the latter, it seems like lots more people than we would think are disabled, so really it should be normalized.

I just sit here, out on the steps of the girls’ dormitory, staring at this mural in the distance, all the while wondering at just what sort of people might be attending Yamaku. It’s a big school, and judging by the dormitories, there could be hundreds of people here. If everyone here is disabled…

Out of the corner of my eye, I note movement before being jarred totally out of my contemplation by the loud clang of some heavy metal object being dropped. I look up, startled, to see a redheaded boy standing before the mural, two paint cans at his sandal-clad feet. I assume he must be the artist, then, if he’s dropping off paint cans. I consider whether to just go up and talk to him; after all, he’s given me a lot to think about. Couldn’t hurt to meet someone my first day here.

While I’m deciding on my next course of action, he seems to look up and down its length, then just walks off…between the dormitories? I’m confused on multiple fronts; for one, why is he out of class early? Why would he bring paint here then simply abandon it? Is there another entrance, or maybe even something interesting behind the dormitories? Curious about all of these things, I decide to follow him.

He has a bit of a head start on me – disappearing behind the wall of the girl’s dorm while I’m still twenty-odd meters away. Nonetheless, he didn’t seem in any particular rush, so neither am I. Behind the dormitories, I see the same red brick walls that were in front of the school. I suppose the campus must be surrounded by these walls. Certainly a nice little boost for safety. I no longer see the boy, though, so he must hav- aha!

In the shadow of the boy’s dormitory, there is a small, wrought-iron gate, rather like the main gate in miniature. It doesn’t look like it’s locked even from this distance. Probably because it’s hanging open, slowly swinging closed from, presumably, when the redheaded boy had pushed it open earlier. I wonder what else could be back there; it’s difficult to see much beyond the tops of a few trees over the wall, so it can’t be any particularly large buildings. It’ll be nice to be out of the sun for a little bit, I muse as I walk over. Odd that less than a week ago I wanted nothing more than to be out in the sun, and now am eager to get out of it. Then again, this is Japan in June, and the heat can be brutal.

The gate has swung almost-closed again by the time I reach it. I give it a once-over; for the first time here, I see a part of the school that isn’t immaculately maintained. The hinges are squeaky, the locking mechanism is a fused mass of red rust, and there are flecks of old black paint and rust all over the ground here. Clearly few people remember this place exists. Wherever I’m going now feels unofficial, like an adventure. Looking through the gate, I see a path – simple concrete, cracked with age and spreading rootworks – leading through a grove of maple and zelkova. I push through the gate; the hinges groan in the agonizing way old, unoiled metal does. Someone should probably have put in a maintenance request or something…but then they might have locked this gate. Hmm. Maybe this is technically against school rules? These thoughts only add to the sense of adventure.

While I’ve puttered at the gate, the boy has now extended his lead to maybe fifty meters ahead of me. I should probably speed up if I want to keep him in sight, especially since I have no guarantees that the path won’t branch later on. Still, despite the loud complaints the gate made, he doesn’t seem to have noticed me following him. So I continue to do so.

We walk like this, a distant parody of companionship, for many minutes. It’s nice, in the beginning; the shade of the forest feels almost cold in comparison to the heat of the sun beating down back on the school grounds. But he just keeps walking, almost aimlessly. At the five minute mark I begin to wonder if there’s much point in this. At the ten I wonder if my curiosity was misplaced. At the fifteen I am about to give up, when he suddenly blazes a new trail, off the path and into the woods. I speed up, having no idea whether I’ll be able to keep sight of him if the underbrush gets much thicker.

But then he suddenly stops, and…stands there, in front of a gnarled old zelkova. It’s clearly been dead for some time, the trunk bleached, its branches bare, but the sun is still kept from shining on us by the canopies of all the surrounding trees. There’s a faint wind pushing through the trees. It’s…chilly…

I suddenly flash back to a cold February afternoon.

I shiver.

I wish I’d kept that sweater vest after all.

I keep walking.

The dead leaves and branches crunch under my feet.

I’m just ten meters from him now.

Should I call out?

And then he turns around.

I see that he is not a he after all.

I stop, five meters away.

She just looks at me.

I just look at her.

We just look at each other.

I suddenly see she looks a lot like Iwanako.

My heart speeds up.

I blink.

She speaks. “What are you doing here?”

Just like that, the illusion shatters. Her face looks nothing like Iwanako’s after all. Nor does her voice sound anything like hers.

“Did you need the Worry Tree too?”

Worry Tree?

“I…no. What – what is the…” I pause.

Fold my arms across my chest. Gather my thoughts, scattered like the leaves from this dead tree. “I was…I was curious. I saw you at the mural. I wanted – I…”

I don’t know what to say to her. It suddenly occurs to me that her sleeves are tied off in knots, above where the elbow should be. “Are…did you – are you – painting the mural?” I ask dumbly. An armless artist? I wonder to myself. Now I have seen everything.

“No.” She tells me firmly.

Oh.

“I’m standing here, talking to you.”

Wait, what?

“But I will when I get back there. I needed to worry. So I came to the Worry Tree. Some people believe you must come here to wallow in misery if you are miserable. Only by ‘people’, I just mean me, and the tree isn’t really called anything. It just looked interesting, so it’s my Worry Tree for today.”

The longer she talks, the more confused I get.

I don’t like it.

My heart is pounding in my chest.

I’m scared.

Why am I scared of this little redheaded girl, who doesn’t look or sound like Iwanako?

“I need to – I should go.” I tell her. “I…it was…interesting talking to you.”

It wasn’t.

“What is your problem?” she asks me suddenly.

I’m struck dumb by the question, but she continues anyway.

“I would say it’s your brain, because you talk strange.”

Me? Strange? You’re the strange one!

“But if that’s the case, I talk strange too, and my problem isn’t my brain, it’s these.” She lifts her arms. The empty sleeves look faintly ridiculous. “So it can’t be your brain.”

You’re goddamn right! My brain is fine, it’s my-

“Is it in your pants?”

This last, stupid indignity leads me to find my words again. “No,” I spit, with a bit more venom than I intended. “There is no – I don’t have a – no. NO! My PROBLEM – my problem is with – with redheaded busybodies, because it’s none of your GOD DAMNED BUSINESS!”

I’m yelling. Why am I yelling? She hasn’t done anything.

She looks horrified at me. She backs away, presses herself up against the dead tree.

“I…shit.”

The sudden heat leaves me.

I’m cold again.

I shiver, lower my hands, unclench them.

When did I raise these?

I’m just a few steps from her…?

When did I get so close?

Why?

Is something wrong with my brain after all?

“I’m…I’m sorry. I should…I’m sorry. I need to go.”

I turn around. My vision is blurry, but I find the path again, and head towards the school. I walk ten minutes, my vision worsening and the heat building up again before I crumple to my knees next to a tree, rest the crown of my head against it, sob and smash my fists against it, spitting bitter invective at the wood.

I hear footsteps behind me at some point. They speed up as they go past me, back towards the school.

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

It is maybe twenty minutes later before I feel myself again. A terrible, cried-out, shitty mess of myself, but… myself. My knuckles are scraped and bloody in places. There is tree bark all in my hair. And yet I feel like there is an immense weight that has come off of my chest. Perhaps there is something to this ‘Worry Tree’ thing after all. Although that redheaded girl might have been doing it wrong. In the distance, I hear the chime of the school bell ringing, reminding me of what time it is.

Somewhere in there, I missed some calls from my parents. I’m left with a text instead.

“Sorry we couldn’t get you Hisao! Room is set up! No lunch though! Dad got urgent call from work, we’re driving back home immediately. Hope you’re having fun with whatever you’re doing! We left your room key at the Head Nurse’s office because he wanted to speak with you today. Call us if you need to, okay?
Love, hugs, kisses,
- Mom.”

I have never understood why people her age feel the need to sign their text messages.

Still, at least they wouldn’t have to see me like…this. And it would be good to see the nurse, get some ointment for these scrapes. I’d…probably have some explaining to do. But at least I was hitting a tree, not somebody else.

Now to just figure out where the Nurse’s office is.

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camerone0420
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Re: Anholonomy - Alt Act One of a ??? Pseudo-Route

Post by camerone0420 » Wed May 05, 2021 3:52 pm

I like the story so far!

It's especially encouraging that a chapter covering the KS prologue can be so moving.

Docere
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Re: Anholonomy - Alt Act One of a ??? Pseudo-Route

Post by Docere » Thu May 06, 2021 3:19 pm

Hey, thanks for the comment! (and much-needed validation, yesssss, precious, feed my ego)

I really wanted to do the Prologue justice; I think it did a lot of work in setting up the rest of the game. I think it gets kinda short shrift in a lot of people's fiction - which is fair, it's not like it's the interesting bits - but at the same time, it lays a lot of the groundwork for the rest of the game. It 1) highlights that this is very much a new thing for Hisao and something he has to come to terms with, 2) showcases how unhappy he is with the changes in his life and the inconveniences it causes him, and 3) shows the genesis of the maladaptive coping mechanism he explicitly picks up in the hospital (i.e. being really depressive and insular) - which is then a problem for him all through act one, and in many cases into act two.

Obviously here I've gone with a different coping mechanism, since that seemed the easiest way to justify why my Hisao would just naturally be different from his portrayal in the VN (since, unlike with the VN where the ideal case is to make him as much of a player surrogate as possible, and that means as personality-free as possible, here he has to be a character in his own right), which I also thought was reasonable since it's not much more of a shift than we see between Emisao and Lillysao, for example, so he clearly has a very malleable personality. But despite the different coping mechanism, I've tried to highlight the same basic premises; highlight that his condition is a new thing, showcase how unhappy he is with how his life changed and its new inconveniences, show the root of his shitty coping mechanism which will be a recurring problem for him.

So I'm honestly thrilled that outside of those things (I dunno if they necessarily came across, but I thought they did sufficiently to be satisfied), you also found it moving in its own right. That's pretty much the highest praise I could have gotten.

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Oddball
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Re: Anholonomy - Alt Act One of a ??? Pseudo-Route

Post by Oddball » Wed Jul 14, 2021 11:33 am

It's an interesting idea having the first choice be set in the hospital. That's not anything I would have expected. A lot of the hospital stuff could have been cut through, as your basically just retelling us what we already know. I did like the details about the exercise though. That was a nice touch. Also Hisao backing up his room made for a nice moment. The map too was a well though out piece of detail.

The encounter with Rin was a bit odd. Not in the way that Rin is typically odd either. Hisao was actually acting stranger than she was.

This so far has been interesting despite a few faults and I'm curious to see where you go with it.
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