"Can You Open Your Heart?" - a Rika pseudo-route

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Post Reply
User avatar
Rikabro
Posts: 106
Joined: Wed Mar 07, 2012 3:27 am
Location: Canada
Contact:

Re: Rika Story - updated 3/14/2012 - mild erotica warning

Post by Rikabro » Fri Mar 16, 2012 1:57 am

Doomish wrote:Some people just don't believe in Suspension of Disbelief despite the fact that it's proven to work time and time again. I, personally, don't really know the intricacies of heart-based problems and solutions, so I'll accept pretty much anything that doesn't involve magic or wizards. I am really enjoying this story so far, it's good to see someone tackle writing about Rika and do it well. Stay gold, Rikabro.
Thanks. I somewhat agree with you about the suspension of disbelief. But I also like to give my readers credit wherever possible.

I'm going to try to cover my tracks better in the future.

Your approval means a lot. I'm a fan of your writing and have consistently enjoyed what I've read from you. Saving that Misha fic for a rainy day.
BlackWaltzTheThird wrote:Back to waiting mode now, although I expect I'll be waiting a little longer this time.
I don't think the wait will be tremendous. Writing this is a huge stress reliever for me, and it's exam period, so my need for stress relief is on the rise. I will likely post something new within a week.

Also, if it interests anyone, I chose a title for Act 2. "Balance."

Thanks to everyone who replied for the interest & support.
Writer for Familiarity. I also have an anime blog.

User avatar
Rikabro
Posts: 106
Joined: Wed Mar 07, 2012 3:27 am
Location: Canada
Contact:

Re: Rika Story - updated 3/14/2012 - mild erotica warning

Post by Rikabro » Tue Mar 20, 2012 5:50 pm

Pardon the delayed update. I've been planning out a lot of the events of Act 3 and that has been an undertaking of its own. Should be updating more regularly for a while.

These two scenes still feel a bit rough to me so I'll likely edit it and tighten up the prose a bit. Mostly concerned with how convincing my Miki is.

All forms of feedback appreciated as always.

Act 3: Shadows

Scene 1: Awaiting Release

Dear Iwanako,

Thank you for your letter. It was nice to hear from you. I’m sorry I haven’t been keeping in touch; things have just been pretty busy at my new school. I really like it here and I’m making a lot of new friends. I’ve even met someone special and we’ve been seeing each other for a few months. Exams are creeping up on me and it’s as stressful as ever.

I’d like to get right to the point about something. I’ve thought a lot about your visits to the hospital. I’m sorry I never said much to you while you were there, it’s just that your motives were unclear to me at the time. I couldn’t tell if it was real concern, or guilt, or just pity. But reading the letter you sent me has made one thing perfectly clear: any feelings you might have had for me were already gone.

This doesn’t make you a bad person and I hope you don’t blame yourself for it. You had no idea what you were getting yourself into with me, and it would be unfair for me to expect you to follow through on it. I’m in a better place now. I understand myself a lot more, and the people around me know about my condition, they have their own conditions, and they know what it’s like. My life is better now. I wouldn’t go back even if I had the choice.

Iwanako, what I really want to say is this. I don’t think there’s any reason for us to write letters to each other. Our whole lives are ahead of us, and there’s no reason we need to be a part of each other’s lives. I’ve moved on and I hope you have the strength to do the same.

Hisao



I give the letter a quick read before printing it. It sounds more resentful than I thought it would, but I suppose that’s fine. The main message is clear.

Looking back, saying that I’m in a “better place” makes it sound a lot like I’m dead. I decide to leave it that way.

I can’t find any really good reason to be resentful of Iwanako. I’m sure it’s just a projection of my own bitterness over the unexpected change of events in my life. If it weren’t for Rika, I never would have even read her letter, much less written any kind of reply. When it comes down to it, Iwanako is a stranger. We barely know each other. What could possibly motivate either of us to communicate with one another, other than basic human reactions to an unexpected event that we share in common? It’s nothing worth dwelling on, and hardly worth communicating about.

Her letter was every bit as unaffected as her hospital visits. I wonder if she thinks of Yamaku as a hospital. A hospital with teachers. And she feels compelled to write me just as she felt compelled to visit me.

Poor girl.

But that’s no reason to be cruel to a stranger. I may not consider Iwanako’s feelings tasteful, but I do think they’re sincerely held. The fact that she wrote me this letter means that she wants my permission to stop caring about me, and that’s all I’m going to give her. Any sentimentality will just confuse her.

I try to picture her face reading the letter and sighing in relief as this whole burden is lifted from her, but strangely enough, I can’t picture her face anymore. Maybe I’m already starting to forget about her.

Save. Print.

It’s been a week since I received Iwanako’s letter, and the eerily reminiscent precipitation of events that followed. Rika’s been in hospital the whole time, and I haven’t seen her once. The one time I did try to visit her, I was told by the doctor that she’d specifically requested that only family be able to see her. The doctor, who seemed to be familiar with Rika, tried to reassure me that it’s just “how she is” and I shouldn’t read too much into it. I guess I can imagine Rika being ashamed of her weakness. She can’t exactly sneak up on me in a hospital.

In the wake of the events, I find it remarkably easy to accept her desire to be left alone. I guess it’s because I’ve been thinking so much about my own stay in the hospital, how much easier it was to cope with the loneliness when I wasn’t forced to entertain visits from concerned parties. Reading in solitude was my escape. Visitors were what kept me in touch with my unhappy reality. Reality was the last thing I wanted to think about.

Furthermore, Rika’s obviously spent a lot more time in a hospital bed than I have. I’m sure she has her own unique pastimes and ways of dealing with the loneliness. It’s something I’ll have to ask her about when she’s discharged.

Of course, even if I respect and understand her need for distance, it’s painful not having her around. All week I’ve been going about my business the way I used to do when she was here. Taking lunch in the courtyard, going for evening walks, skipping my afternoon classes. Sitting by my phone when I’m having difficulty sleeping, waiting for her to summon me for a midnight excursion. She used to do all these things alone before I came here, and here I am now, carrying out her routines in her absence.

I must seem pretty miserable, because everyone at school is giving me a lot of leeway. Mutou has been overlooking my absences. Nurse has been patient and a little over-eager with his brand of cordial hilarity to try and lighten my spirits. I haven’t made a single morning appointment with Emi, and even though she’s phoned me every morning to check on me, she hasn’t pressed the issue like she normally would. Instead of her sugary “no excuses” speeches, she’s just been gently stressing her concern and telling me that she’s there for me if I need her.

Prolonged absences due to illness must be commonplace at Yamaku. The students seem to have developed their own unique etiquette with regards to the situation. There’s an unspoken understanding in the way everyone deals with me. It’s nice, if a little isolating.

I look at my clock. It's approaching late evening. I’m sure Shiina and Shizune are hard at work in the student council room, cramming for our exams. Not much time left to do that. Maybe I should join them.

Before I can pick up my phone to call Shiina, there’s a knock at my door. I answer it and am surprised by who it is.

There in full track uniform, resting her left stump on her hip, with an indomitable grin on her face, is Rika’s ward, Miki.

“Sup?”

I stammer an answer. “Uh, nothing?”

She positively beams at me. “Perfect! Emi said you’re being a shitty running partner and mine’s AWOL. Wanna come kick up some dirt with your pal Miki?”




Scene 2: Reaching Out

I guess the “pal” threshold with Miki is pretty low, since this is the first time we’ve spoken to each other. I probably wouldn't have taken her up on her offer if she hadn't mentioned Emi. At a time like this, Emi's probably more concerned than ever about my well-being, and I can only imagine how much effort it takes for her to tolerate my absence. Miki is her compromise. It'd break Emi's heart if I didn't take her up on this.

After telling Miki I'd catch up with her, and changing into my track uniform, I make my way to the school track to find that she's already in full stride. It's already dusk, and the sun is just starting to dip beneath the horizon. I put my towel and water bottle on the bleachers and join Miki on the track. She slows down to a jog as I approach, being generous enough to keep pace with me, something Emi would never dream of doing. I run a couple of laps with her and she drops some words of encouragement along the way. Either she's impressed with my stamina or she's just trying to keep me motivated.

The exercise is good for a change, and I'm surprised that I haven't gotten completely out of shape from neglecting myself this week. The runner's high starts to set in just as Miki calls a "time out."

We sit on the bleachers as the darkness of night overtakes the field. I'm sweating, and the cool evening air is refreshing. Miki, not surprisingly, doesn't seem to be fazed by the workout.

She elbows me.

"You're pretty fast! I thought you were gonna bust a valve out there. Have you ever thought about joining the track team?"

She's got a sly look on her face. I'd been hoping to get through tonight with a minimum of talking. Not because I dislike Miki, exactly. It's just that she's got a reputation as a bit of a gossip, and I don't like having to choose my words carefully around girls like her. It's more effort than I have the energy for.

I just smile at her politely and try to steer the conversation. "Maybe next year. I don't really enjoy running, I just do it to keep Emi from riding my ass."

Miki laughs. "Emi's a little slave driver. I heard horror stories from Rika about how she used to phone her every morning to drag her out to the track, even if she wasn't feeling good. Say, are you and Rika boyfriend and girlfriend, or what?"

I guess it was a losing game to begin with. Oh well.

"Well, we hang out a lot and we've gone on some dates, but that's it."

Miki stares at me and bites her lip as though to restrain herself. With obvious effort, she takes a more solemn expression.

"Soo... she's been gone all week. I'm kinda worried about her. Nurse said she's in the hospital but Rika never told me she was going to be gone this week, so it must not be routine or anything. Any idea what happened to her?"

I shrug. "Promise not to tell anyone?"

"Course."

"I knocked her up and she's getting an abortion."

Miki scoffs and rolls her eyes at me. "Yeah, and that takes a week?"

"At least. I got her very, very pregnant."

She nudges me hard with her elbow again and glares at me comically.

"Dude, be serious, okay? I'm worried about her. She'll probably tell me when she gets out anyways. I mean, she's gonna be okay, right? I'm supposed to know this stuff. It's my job to keep her healthy and when she winds up on a hospital bed, I can't help taking it personally. Ya know?"

"I wouldn't worry about it," I say. "From what I know they're just keeping an eye on her because of a minor complication. I don't really know a lot more about it than you do."

"When was the last time you visited her?"

"I haven't been. She's screening her visitors and I guess I don't make the cut."

Miki raises her eyebrows scandalously. Oh no. I've probably already said too much. She leans back thoughtfully and looks up at the gradually emerging stars. Seeing her in this light, her dark, earthy skin tone subdued under the veil of night, makes me think of Rika's glowing, nigh-translucent complexion.

I miss her.

"Rika really likes you," Miki says suddenly.

"You think so?"

"I know so. Before you came here she was like one of those deaf-mutes. Never talked and never paid any mind to people who talked to her. She seemed lonely so I tried to reach out to her, but there's only so much you can try to do. I just got the feeling like she didn't like me. I mean, I can't tell you a lot about what she was like before I came here. I'm pretty new too. Only been here a couple months more than you have."

She waves her bandaged stump at me and I nod solemnly to signal my understanding. She smiles with a kind of weakness I haven't yet seen in her, but her expression is familiar to me. It's a feeling I know well: nostalgia for life before Yamaku.

"You seem to be doing an okay job of making friends," I reply.

"Yeah, joining the track team helped me meet a lot of people. I'm still paranoid the girls here don't like me, though. I try to be nice but sometimes I hear about people talking shit behind my back." She scowls bitterly. "That's why I tend to get along with the guys better. Bros don't try to get dirt on each other."

"I wouldn't really know. Come to think of it, I'm kind of the opposite. All my friends here are girls."

She sneers at me and raises an eyebrow. "That's just because all the girls here are crazy about you. You've got that new guy mystique. The guys like to make fun of you for it. Takashi calls you the 'Master of Romance.'"

I can't help laughing at this.

"I thought you said guys didn't gossip?"

She shakes her head. "No, don't get the wrong idea. They're just having fun, they don't mean it. You're a pretty cool guy and I'm sure you'd get along with them. You should come hang with us at lunch sometime. Rika can come too if she's down. You guys usually just eat alone, right? Why is that?"

"I don't know. That's just how she is."

Miki gives me a thoughtful look. "Well, maybe she just needs someone to get her out of her shell. She sure took a shine to you. I'd completely given up on reaching out to her before you came on the scene. I started to realize she's not a bitch, she's just lonely and awkward. I think she just needs a hand when it comes to breaking the ice with people, know what I mean? Besides, don't you miss having friends like you did at your old school?"

"What makes you so sure I had friends at my old school?"

"Cause you're not weird or ugly. And you aren't scared to talk to me."

I just shrug in reply. I don't really feel like talking or thinking about life before Yamaku so I just leave her without a reply. I think she gets the idea, too, because she changes the subject.

"Say, three-day weekend's coming up after exams. You doing anything?"

"No, to be honest I totally forgot we were getting a break. Exams have been driving me up the wall."

"You work too hard," she says with a grin. "Anyways, me and some of the guys are going to do some camping, if you and Rika want to come. We've got some extra gear and a tent if you need one."

Just one tent between me and Rika?

"That sounds cool. I'll mention it to her. Maybe if she's feeling better we'll take you up on that."

Miki seems satisfied with that answer. I guess I took for granted that she was a permanent fixture here at Yamaku, with her ubiquitous reputation and her outgoing attitude. But when it comes down to it, she's still putting down roots here too, just like me. It's nice to have someone reaching out to me like this, and I'd hate to give her the wrong impression.

It also makes me wonder exactly how much of Rika's past she's privy to. I could imagine a concerted effort on the part of the Yamaku student body to keep delicate secrets from Miki, given her... loquacious nature.

Either way, she knows Rika as well as I do, and it's anyone's guess how Rika might feel about the idea of a camping trip. Who knows? Maybe she'll be up for a bit of adventure. I could picture her being the outdoorsy type. I'll have to try to sell her on the idea. Campfire ghost stories. Bears. The uncertainty of being so far from civilization. The threat of imminent demise. Walking tight-rope without a net, in her words.

That thought hits me pretty hard, too. Would it even be safe for us? What if one of us needed emergency help while we were out there? Or am I just exaggerating the outside possibility of something bad happening? Maybe I'll ask Nurse what he thinks. I can always rely on him for a candid opinion on matters of youth recklessness.

Something Rika said to me on our first date echoes in my head. "I'm not a slave to my body, Hisao."

At Miki's suggestion we decide to walk back to the dorms. It's starting to get pretty late, and the fatigue from so much exertion is setting in. By the time I do get home, I practically pass out in my bed, a welcome change from my recent bouts of insomnia. I could get used to these evening runs, but hopefully I won't get the chance to.


Continue to Scene 3...
Last edited by Rikabro on Wed May 02, 2012 12:49 am, edited 6 times in total.
Writer for Familiarity. I also have an anime blog.

User avatar
Mealforthree
Posts: 80
Joined: Fri Mar 16, 2012 12:33 am

Re: Rika Story - updated 3/20/2012

Post by Mealforthree » Tue Mar 20, 2012 6:53 pm

As much as I fucking despise McDolans, I must say that I'm loving it.

Not the Fat Factory, your story.

User avatar
Mahorfeus
Posts: 683
Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:16 pm

Re: Rika Story - updated 3/20/2012

Post by Mahorfeus » Tue Mar 20, 2012 7:17 pm

I like your letter to Iwanako. It came off as harsh, but it pretty sums up what Hisao feels even in other routes. Except he was just too much of a ninny to send one back.

I thought your characterization of Miki was pretty spot-on; I like that you added a bit of justification for her tomboyish nature without making it overly deep or anything.

Looking forward to whatever comes next.
"A very small degree of hope is sufficient to cause the birth of love." -Stendhal
The verdict is (finally) in:
Hanako > Rin > Emi > Lilly = Shizune

User avatar
Titus
Posts: 191
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2012 1:50 pm

Re: Rika Story - updated 3/20/2012

Post by Titus » Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:05 pm

Hurrah! The Iwanako response letter was well done, ending things with no doubts. Miki's personality struck me as the same from the VN, and I can't wait to see more details about Rika's personality.

She gets along well with people with similar disabilities but everyone else she's "...just lonely and awkward". Except for Saki, right? They're friends in this route too?

I wonder if I should've played Cold Iron during Rika's heart attack in the Forest scene. She's still a KS character after all and thus we should imagine what KS music should be played :mrgreen:
What if life had a soundtrack similar to Katawa Shoujo's ?

User avatar
Rikabro
Posts: 106
Joined: Wed Mar 07, 2012 3:27 am
Location: Canada
Contact:

Re: Rika Story - updated 3/20/2012

Post by Rikabro » Tue Mar 20, 2012 10:50 pm

Thanks for reading and replying, you guys. It means a lot.
Titus wrote:She gets along well with people with similar disabilities but everyone else she's "...just lonely and awkward". Except for Saki, right? They're friends in this route too?
I don't really have any plans to use Saki in this story. Whether she exists or not in the universe of my story, she's not friends with Rika because Rika doesn't really have any friends. I'm basing that on her description in the April Fools post. I tried to stay faithful to that post for the most part, except that the post describes her as a second-year student and I made her the same age as Hisao.
Titus wrote:I wonder if I should've played Cold Iron during Rika's heart attack in the Forest scene. She's still a KS character after all and thus we should imagine what KS music should be played :mrgreen:
I was thinking Caged Heart.
Mahorfeus wrote:I like your letter to Iwanako. It came off as harsh, but it pretty sums up what Hisao feels even in other routes. Except he was just too much of a ninny to send one back.

I thought your characterization of Miki was pretty spot-on; I like that you added a bit of justification for her tomboyish nature without making it overly deep or anything.
Glad to hear that it rang true. I wrote the letter and was surprised at how condescending and harsh it sounded, myself, but I decided to leave it that way and justify it from Hisao's point of view instead. I think it's consistent with how he feels about Iwanako. The harshness of it is maybe a bit of Rika's influence on him, with her analytical, matter-of-fact personality.

Also happy that my Miki seems realistic. I wanted to give her a bit of depth just to round her out without giving her a sob story.
Mealforthree wrote:I'm loving it.
Thanks!

Bagheera
Posts: 292
Joined: Sun Jan 22, 2012 9:53 pm

Re: Rika Story - updated 3/20/2012

Post by Bagheera » Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:20 pm

Rikabro wrote:Glad to hear that it rang true. I wrote the letter and was surprised at how condescending and harsh it sounded, myself, but I decided to leave it that way and justify it from Hisao's point of view instead. I think it's consistent with how he feels about Iwanako. The harshness of it is maybe a bit of Rika's influence on him, with her analytical, matter-of-fact personality.
Wouldn't she be a bit more sympathetic, though, given her history? I dunno; to me it seemed unnecessarily harsh, and not at all the sort of letter a Japanese would write to another. How he feels isn't really relevant (though given Rika's revelations I'd expect him to be questioning his feelings double quick). What's relevant is the fact that his letter is rude, and thus the sort of thing that would embarrass most Japanese to the point where they could barely write it, much less send it.

I'm actually a big fan of both the story and the pairing (I've said as much in previous posts), but I'm not at all a fan of that letter. It just clashes too much both with Hisao's character and with the canon of this particular story. A brush-off of some sort is appropriate, but it requires much more subtlety than Hisao displayed here. Iwanoko's letter is a good example of what would be appropriate in this situation.
Girls: Emi = Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Shizune = Rin
Routes: Rin = Shizune > Emi > Lilly = Hanako


User avatar
Rikabro
Posts: 106
Joined: Wed Mar 07, 2012 3:27 am
Location: Canada
Contact:

Re: Rika Story - updated 3/20/2012

Post by Rikabro » Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:35 pm

Bagheera wrote:I dunno; to me it seemed unnecessarily harsh, and not at all the sort of letter a Japanese would write to another. How he feels isn't really relevant (though given Rika's revelations I'd expect him to be questioning his feelings double quick). What's relevant is the fact that his letter is rude, and thus the sort of thing that would embarrass most Japanese to the point where they could barely write it, much less send it.
You make a good point that it might be culturally naive. I'm going to take that under advisement. He hasn't sent the letter yet, but he did seem rather conclusive about it. Maybe a lot more subtlety is in order. I wanted it to seem harsh, myself, because by my definition of rudeness, it's just slightly less rude than not replying to her at all (which he does in the game). But that might just be my Western sensibility.

I'm going to leave it for now, but I'll try to work on taking a lot of the edge off of it. Thanks for the insight. It's the kind of thing I wouldn't have noticed.

[Edit] For giggles, here was my basic outline for the letter from my story notes.
Dear Iwanako,

What happened wasn’t your fault. And I don’t need to be pitied. Please don’t write me any more letters.

Sincerely, Hisao
I call it "elegant in its simplicity."

But harshness is a personal bad quality of mine and I don't want my characters to share my bad qualities. That's just bad writing.
Last edited by Rikabro on Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Writer for Familiarity. I also have an anime blog.

User avatar
CarnivalNights
Posts: 55
Joined: Tue Feb 07, 2012 4:35 am

Re: Rika Story - updated 3/20/2012

Post by CarnivalNights » Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:38 pm

Hmm..from the sounds of this latest entry, it seems like you're going to change Rika's personality...or at least now we're seriously going to explore it in the next one or two entries.
Image

MrDogsniper
Posts: 65
Joined: Sun Mar 11, 2012 10:57 pm

Re: Rika Story - updated 3/20/2012

Post by MrDogsniper » Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:47 pm

Honestly one of the best writings I've seen about KS keep it up...you are a great author.
Sandvich!

User avatar
Demonhornz
Posts: 70
Joined: Sun Jan 15, 2012 8:35 pm

Re: Rika Story - updated 3/20/2012

Post by Demonhornz » Wed Mar 21, 2012 1:54 am

Loved your Miki. Eagerly await the next one.

...I am not one for constructive criticism, am I? :lol:

User avatar
Titus
Posts: 191
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2012 1:50 pm

Re: Rika Story - updated 3/20/2012

Post by Titus » Wed Mar 21, 2012 2:06 am

Rikabro wrote:Thanks for reading and replying, you guys. It means a lot.
Titus wrote:She gets along well with people with similar disabilities but everyone else she's "...just lonely and awkward". Except for Saki, right? They're friends in this route too?
I don't really have any plans to use Saki in this story. Whether she exists or not in the universe of my story, she's not friends with Rika because Rika doesn't really have any friends. I'm basing that on her description in the April Fools post. I tried to stay faithful to that post for the most part, except that the post describes her as a second-year student and I made her the same age as Hisao.
Titus wrote:I wonder if I should've played Cold Iron during Rika's heart attack in the Forest scene. She's still a KS character after all and thus we should imagine what KS music should be played :mrgreen:
I was thinking Caged Heart.
Your call, I got that impression that they were friends because of themocaw's story, and that each KS heroine has a friend in game. But besides that, do whatever it is you do that makes your stories awesome.

As for the criticism of the letter being rude and that Hisao wouldn't have wrote it: Iwanako at the end gave a similar line ("maybe it's best if we didn't"), secondly Hisao is influenced alot from whichever girl he pursues in KS. With Rika, so far the impression she gives is that she isn't generally approachable, and she likes to break social norms for the school and even the norms of the wider society. So Hisao comes off as truthful of his feelings, and gets a bit rough in his tone but curt in his point. I'd say that Rika is kinda the same. Unless the author says otherwise (pls dont say otherwise bro).

Rin for example Hisao takes up art and day dreams more often then usual. For Shizune, Hisao comes off a bit ruder, or more to the point in his words and is more aggressive in his speech (taking "you are an interesting person" comment from Hidaeki the wrong way, going after Misha), or Emi most obviously with his determination and morning runs.
What if life had a soundtrack similar to Katawa Shoujo's ?

Zombiedude

Re: Rika Story - updated 3/20/2012

Post by Zombiedude » Fri Mar 23, 2012 1:19 pm

Any news on this?

User avatar
Rikabro
Posts: 106
Joined: Wed Mar 07, 2012 3:27 am
Location: Canada
Contact:

Re: Rika Story - updated 3/20/2012

Post by Rikabro » Fri Mar 23, 2012 4:42 pm

Zombiedude wrote:Any news on this?
Well... okay. Since you asked nicely.

Scene 3: Quality and Quantity

“Hey! You came!”

Emi waves enthusiastically at me as I step out from the stairwell onto the rooftop of Yamaku. She motions me over to where she’s sitting on a small bench with Rin as they eat their packed lunches. A third bag sits right next to Emi. Instead of her normal phone call this morning, I got a text message from her inviting me to come take lunch with her and Rin on the roof rather than “eating alone all the time.” She must have either gotten wind of the fact that I got my running fix with Miki the night before, or she’d given up on trying to coax me out to the track with her.

Both the time of the day and the absence of Rika make the roof a lot less frightening. The noise of the schoolgrounds, the heat of the summer sun, the sounds of the daytime clamor, the handful of benches and light brown picnic tables, which were almost invisible at night, make it feel so much less ominous. I glance at the spot where I remember Rika sitting atop the fence when I approached the school the first night we snuck out here. The cross-bar at the top of the fence looks so flimsy. My heart thuds just at the thought of perching up there the way she had.

I take a seat between Emi and Rin on the bench. Rin doesn’t bother saying hello, but just looks at me vacantly while she chews a mouthful of food, her metal fork dangling between her toes which remain poised at eye level. I try not to stare, even though I’m sure Rin wouldn’t mind if I did.

Emi plops the bagged lunch into my lap. “I made you a little extra! When you run in the evenings it’s important to fuel up with a good lunch!” She grins her approval at me. I can tell she’s pleased with the news that she must have gotten by now. Her joy is infectious.

“Yours looks bigger than his,” Rin interjects, pushing another forkful of food into her mouth.

Emi leans forward so Rin can see the forced scowl that she puts on, but Rin doesn’t seem to take notice. It occurs to me that sitting between them might not have been the best idea. I’m never sure what to expect from these two.

After a bit of a delay, Emi pipes in with a playful tone. “Well, lately I’ve been running for two, so I’ve got to recoup my energy somewhere.” She winks at me and takes another bite of her meal.

“Two people is a lot when you’ve got no legs,” Rin muses, and Emi giggles with her mouth full.

I open the lunch she’s made for me. Tofu with spinach and what smells like a black bean sauce, on a bed of thick noodles. It’s an unusual mixture, but not bad. I take a first bite. The tofu is a little thickly sliced so it has a slightly more rubbery texture than it should. It would probably taste better if it were heated up.

“Did you make this?” I ask Emi. She nods gleefully at me.

“You know, cooking is one of my many passions!”

Rin swallows another bite. “Can you still call them passions when you have so many?”

“Of course! I’m a very passionate person.”

We eat in silence for a minute or so before Rin suddenly looks at me. She stares for a second before speaking.

“There’s less of you,” she says.

Emi takes on an uneasy expression, maybe a little worried that Rin is about to say something taboo.

“What do you mean by that?” I ask.

She pushes her food to the side with her foot and sits upright, slipping her feet back into her sandals. She must be even less thrilled with Emi’s food than I am, because she’s not even half finished. She goes on talking.

“I thought there were two of you. But now there’s just one. What happened?”

“Rin,” Emi says sternly.

I just shrug at Emi and turn to Rin again.

“You mean Rika?” I ask. “She’s been sick this week, but she should be coming back soon.”

Rin nods, then continues.

“What’s that like?”

“What, being in the hospital?”

“I mean being two people.”

Emi makes a muffled noise like she wants to jump into the talking queue, but her mouth is full.

“Shouldn’t you guys know just as well as I would? Don’t you go together like a suit and shoes?”

Rin shakes her head and looks up at the sky, narrowing her eyes a bit as if she’s trying to reframe her question.

“You don’t need to wear two outfits though if you’re just one person. I’m lots of different people, too. I was a different person yesterday than today. But what if I were both people today instead of just one of them? I looked at my reflection once and thought about what it might be like if I could take it to school with me sometime and we could hang out. I thought it would be bad because we’d always wind up sitting in each other’s seats and eating each other’s lunch and talking when the other one wanted to talk. I was thinking that one day and then the same day, I met you in the art room.”

“Rin collects people,” Emi explains, as though that explains anything. Rin nods with sagacity.

“It’s my passion. I already had one of you. Now I have doubles.”

“But you have other doubles, too,” I say. “What about the blind boy in the art club, and that Satou girl?”

Rin shrugs. “They’re not the same at all. You shouldn’t just think that all blind people are the same. That’s not a very nice thing to do. I’m talking about you. You’re the one who has to exercise and take pills every day or his heart will blow up. The one who never talks to anyone unless it’s for an assignment and spends all his time skipping class in the afternoon and always eats his lunch in the courtyard and whose face always looks like he just saw a really sad movie. The one who always wants to talk about serious stuff like death and school and never seems to be having fun. I already had one of those.”

I laugh awkwardly at her and she just stares at me, seeming to not understand my response. Emi laughs too, maybe to try and lighten the mood.

“Maybe that means they’re soul mates,” she says. “Wouldn’t it be great to fall in love with someone who was just like you?”

“Sounds conceited,” Rin says, and Emi scowls at her again.

I feel like it’s my turn to talk, but I’m not really able to come up with a good counter to her argument.

“Well,” I say, “my hair is shorter. That’s a start.”

Rin ponders that for a moment. “No, I don’t think that’s good enough. My hair was shorter when I woke up this morning and I think that was still me.”

The lunch bell rings, and I’ve never been happier to hear it. Not that I dislike Rin, I just find it exhausting trying to hold a conversation with her. Emi gathers what’s left of our lunches up for us and stuffs the remains into her empty bag. She gives Rin a disapproving look as she does so, probably more because Rin hardly finished eating than because she’s guilty of any indiscretion. Rin, as always, seems unaffected. I find myself wondering how Emi has the patience to be Rin’s friend, since she’s so impervious to Emi’s arsenal of faces. Like shoes and a suit in more ways than one, I suppose. All the same, it’s admirable that Rin is willing to breach such a sensitive subject with such frankness. I can’t tell whether Emi was just being polite, but it was nice hearing her speaking about Rika without prejudice.

Rin’s ramblings echo in my head throughout my afternoon class, and not even Mutou’s lucidity can make its way through my skull. Her words twist and distort in my brain. Like that mural I helped her work on for the festival. When I asked her what it was a painting of, she just said, “it’s a painting of a mural.”

I tap my pencil against my paper, watching the clock, eager for the evening, eager to sit by my phone, wanting more than ever to see Rika again.

There’s less of me.




Scene 4: Lies

My mind heavy with thoughts of Rika, I trudge through the halls of the boys’ dorms, back to my room, eager for sleep.

It’s been the same day as it’s been all week. The prospect of exams is dizzying, the loneliness of being without Rika oppressive. Rin’s strange reflection on the nature of my congruence with Rika, absurd though it was, has been pressing my thoughts all day. I feel her absence more intimately than ever before. I feel as diminished as I must look.

After an evening with my study group in the student council room, with vending machine snacks for dinner, I met Miki on the track for another evening run. Fewer words came between us this time, maybe because she could tell I was bogged down in my thoughts. Even the workout failed to “scrub the bad thoughts out of my head” the way Emi insists a good run always can. Even if she was a bit quiet, I could tell Miki was gracious for my company.

Tired, hair wet from my late shower, I open the door and drop my knapsack on the floor. Something unusual catches my eye. My curtains are fluttering in a draft that’s coming through my open window, causing scattered moonbeams to flicker on the walls. I don’t recall leaving the window open.

Before I can turn the light switch on, I feel her arms fling across my shoulders, and her warm lips press against mine. My eyes stretch open in shock, and hers remain serenely closed. For half a second I stare at half of her face, my arms dumbly raised at my sides in surprise, while the faint light glitters on her fair skin. Even in the darkness of my room, she is radiant.

After what must have been a few seconds, but seemed like minutes, Rika pulls back just enough to look me in the eyes. Her crimson irises add intensity to her solemn expression, her eyebrows are raised anxiously, as if she were awaiting an answer.

I put my hands on her narrow waist, pull her body against mine, and kiss her deeply. She pulls me closer, her fingers clutching me tightly against her.

My mind is racing with questions, with things that I should say or ask, but I feel completely unmoved to say a single word to her. My heart pounds with intensity against my chest. But I don’t want to stop. Not even if it costs me my life. All I want is to be close to her, to feel her presence.

We release, and I look her in the eyes again. Her expression is the same, distant, pining look that she had before. She doesn’t smile. It almost looks like worry. I reach up and touch her face with the back of my fingers, brushing her bangs to the side. Her hair positively shimmers in the darkness.

“I wanted to see you,” she says suddenly, breaking the stillness in the room.

I give her a reassuring smile, which she returns in kind. I can see restraint in her expression as she lowers the corners of her mouth again, pursing her lips shut. She sits down on the end of my bed and looks out the window. She’s dressed in the same tank-top-and-shorts combination that she wore on the rooftop of Yamaku on our first late night rendezvous. It’s a beautiful, clear summer night outside and the stars are visible from my room. It makes me think of how seldom I ever open my curtains or even bother to look out the window, but the view is quite nice.

I take a seat next to her on the bed, and she scoots closer to me as we look out the window at the sky.

“I thought a lot about what I wanted to say to you when I saw you again,” she says.

“I’m just glad you’re okay,” I reply.

She gives a muffled chuckle behind closed lips. “There was never really any question that I would be okay, Hisao. People like us don’t die in hospitals. I’m never so far from death as when I’m there.”

“So you’re a regular hospital goer, I take it?”

The fingers of her left hand interlock mine, and she gives my hand a squeeze. “You could say that. I know most of the doctors and nurses there and they are good to me. They give me a bit more freedom than they used to. It wasn’t so bad, staying there, just a little bit…” she trails off thoughtfully before settling on a word. “Sterile?”

“I know what you mean,” I say. “Come to think of it, I wasn’t really scared at all during my hospital stay. At least, not of dying. I was scared of my future, about the fact that my life was suddenly going to be so different, that things were changing so much. I was scared of the list of medicines.”

“Were you scared of Iwanako?”

“I tried not to think about her when she wasn’t around. I mostly just read novels while I was there. It’s funny because I never was much of a reader before… well, before what happened. Do you read in the hospital?”

She shakes her head. “I do other things to keep busy. I take walks through the halls. Sometimes I talk to the other people who are staying there. Some of them are people like us, but most of them are the kinds of people we’re never going to be. People whose illusions of peace have suddenly broken, people staring death in the throat, sometimes for the first time ever, not knowing what to do or say or think. Or even stranger, people who have lived for years and years, waiting for the end to come. Their loved ones come to see them, when they have loved ones, and have those touching conversations with them and tie up the loose ends of their lives. Generations of people baring their souls to one another in the shadow of death.”

Funny, I think. Walking around and making friends is the last thing I'd expect from a recluse like Rika. I imagine the imposing image she must cut, a pale young woman in a hospital garb, long white hair, bright red eyes, wandering the halls like a specter. My doctors were barely willing to let me out of bed without supervision. Rika must really be a common apparition at the hospital.

“So you like to eavesdrop on the dying?” I ask her.

“Sometimes I don’t have to. Did you share a hospital room during your stay?”

“No,” I say. “I had my own room.”

She sighs. “I shared a room with an old woman who was at the end of her life. My doctor told me he thought we’d get along because our eyes matched.” Rika points to her face with a smirk. “She even brought up that old cliché, about how I look just like she did when she was younger. It was one of the first things she said to me. I guess she doesn't get to say it to a lot of people, though... since, you know, I don't look like most girls do.”

Rika’s tone grows a bit tense as she talks. There’s an emotional tenor in her voice that’s not like her. I look at her attentively as she speaks, but she continues to stare out the window, at the stars.

“She had a lot of things to say to me. We talked for the first few days that I was there, her doing most of the talking, and already by the third day it was like we were old friends. She was the youngest of three sisters and the last survivor in her family. Her husband had died the year prior and her health had been in decline. She never had any children, so, there was nobody to visit her there. She said to me that having me there was like going into the past and visiting the person she used to be. I think what she wanted to say was that I was like a child she’d never had.”

“That’s sad,” I say.

Rika closes her eyes, taking a deep, collected breath. “I was there with her right at the end, too. She held my hand. Her skin was so loose and she felt so brittle. She thanked me for being there, and I told her it was okay. But just before she expired she said something to me that made me really upset.”

“What was it?”

“She said, ‘I’m afraid.’ It was the first time she ever admitted it to me since I met her. I knew she was afraid. Who wouldn’t be? But I just wish she hadn’t said it. I wish she’d had something else to say. People shouldn’t squander their last words like that.”

I look out the window and squeeze her hand comfortingly.

“Last words, huh…” I mutter.

She tilts her head at me. “What was that?”

“Oh,” I say, waving my hand dismissively. “I was just thinking. You know, since we won’t die in the hospital, we’re not going to have a lot of time to think about what we want our last words to be.”

This obviously pleases her. She narrows her eyes and gives a morbid smile. “Well, maybe we can come up with them ahead of time. And even if we don’t manage to get it right in the end, if anyone asks, we’ll just lie about it. Will you lie for me after I die?”

I grin at her. “Of course. And you will for me, right?”

Suddenly, she kisses me again, pushing me down against the bed and laying at my side, with my arm around her. I wait for her answer, but it doesn’t come. Her arm rests on my chest, and I feel her toes toying idly with mine as we repose in silence. I stare at the ceiling, overcome with a feeling of immense peace and joy, and feel her gradually prolonged breaths on my neck as she drifts off. My eyelids are heavy, too, but the alertness of my thoughts defies them.

I think about the hospital. I think about Rika, and the gentle side she’s been revealing to me this evening. I think about how she managed to get in here without being noticed, and whether anyone did notice. I think about what it’s going to be like waking up next to someone. I think about how it felt to kiss her, how warm her body feels pressed up against mine, how comforting the feeling of her breath is on my skin. I think about what we might look like if we ever make it to old age. And I think about the last time I saw her, and those words that I thought might have been her last.


Scenes 5-6
Last edited by Rikabro on Thu Mar 29, 2012 10:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Writer for Familiarity. I also have an anime blog.

User avatar
CarnivalNights
Posts: 55
Joined: Tue Feb 07, 2012 4:35 am

Re: Rika Story - updated 3/23/2012

Post by CarnivalNights » Fri Mar 23, 2012 5:07 pm

Damn..that was awesome.

Damn....
Image

Post Reply