A pseudo-pseudo Suzu route (completed)

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Re: A pseudo-pseudo Suzu route (updated 12/31)

Post by d3v14nt13 » Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:28 am

Knew there was a reason I wasn't asleep yet.

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Re: A pseudo-pseudo Suzu route (updated 12/31)

Post by Doomish » Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:22 am

Yesssss, I have been waiting for this, and I see you edited my art into the last chapter. Hooray! This is the bed thing!

(do not ask about "I am the bed". the answer is "japanese mario kart voice clips".)

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Re: A pseudo-pseudo Suzu route (updated 12/31)

Post by Daitengu » Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:46 am

Suzu reminds me of the Hare from the "Tortoise and Hare" story, action wise, in that last chapter.

It might be a personal opinion, but I was thinking Suzu was going to turn down Hisao,or ask for a different school to take the test at. Then give an actual reason instead of accept with no reason. I was feeling communication was the theme of the chapter. It was three different fears playing on her. 1.fear of rejection via communicating what she really thinks. 2. Her past dealing with her brother. 3. Her future. It seemed a bit odd to overcome some of her communication fear with Kenji, then switch that courage/confidence to a different fear. "Winner's high" perhaps.

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Re: A pseudo-pseudo Suzu route (updated 12/31)

Post by BlackWaltzTheThird » Mon Dec 31, 2012 6:07 am

Scissorlips wrote:a robotic looking little girl
Ha!
Scissorlips wrote:“Why the fuck not MICROWAVE DINNERS!”
Microwave dinner patron saint is best patron saint. All hail Kenji, the patron saint of microwave dinners! Also, I kind of feel like that scene would have a similar score to the "glasses come off" scene in Shizune's route; that is, Friendship with a well times record scratch just as he screams out in fear.
Scissorlips wrote:a strategically placed student--hi, Akio
Akio, you say? Funny, I thought that was Mutou you were talking about. Apparently there's a student named Akio too. The more you know.
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Re: A pseudo-pseudo Suzu route (updated 12/31)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Mon Dec 31, 2012 6:14 am

Well, the first half was the most enjoyable part of this story since months ago - and I never thought I'd say that about a chapter including Kenji.
The secon half was more or less the same as before, right? That's (one of the reasons) why I think branched paths are not for prose stories.
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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Re: A pseudo-pseudo Suzu route (updated 12/31)

Post by Zaranell » Tue Jan 01, 2013 10:22 pm

I think there's a testament to Scissorlips's ability to get a reader into Suzu's mindset: every time I read a chapter from this story, I'm constantly feeling like I need a nap. I'm not sure if it's the intended effect, but it certainly helps me sympathize with her. Now that I consider it, this has to be the only story I can think of where "almost put me to sleep" is a compliment.

Oh, one other thing: this is one of the rare scenes involving Kenji that I didn't just want to skip entirely while I was reading it, which I would also consider a plus.

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Re: A pseudo-pseudo Suzu route (updated 12/31)

Post by Bacon Elemental » Wed Jan 02, 2013 12:57 am

Umm.

Let me first say that Suzu is waifu material because of this pseudo-route. Now my favorite character. Thank you. :D

I think this was the fic I was reading when I stayed awake for two days. I ended up reading Acts 1-3 from midnight to morning and got so into it. Act 4 was a bit more of a scattered read, which I don't think of necessarily as a bad thing. The pacing did drag early on. I think the issue I had with the first parts was that it was same-y in its problems and said problems that surfaced could've been condensed into one or two chapters of writing. It picked back up in Solamente, where she told the brother-sister in the beach to take care of each other, and I was engaged in reading again. Suzu's fear of the city would probably have been better-received if it were introduced earlier (that or I missed something). The dream sequences that eventually had more clarity and Death revealing himself were awesome. The Hisao-Suzu-Miki chemistry is awesome. Hisao's very much likable here. Also, I think what stands out here the most is that because of the story's perspective, it's Suzu who makes her choices and, for a change, not Hisao being a bonehead by his own accord. It's a great change, in my opinion.

Now to comment on the endings:

Bad end -> Beautifully tragic. I don't think there's much I can say about this, although part of that's because I tend to forget things easily. :lol:
Neutral end -> OUCH. Dang. Again, beautifully done. That's gotta hurt for both Suzu and Hisao. More on Hisao because this was a time that he needed her to be here, even though the events leading up to that point were planned. Or at least that's what I can make out of it. I also had a thought that maybe Hisao got tired of Suzu's running. Haha. The bus scene was really good.

And... Kenji sort of becomes the linchpin on Suzu's decision to either hide or to put her fears behind. Did not see that coming, but I loved that part a lot.

I hope I don't come across as rambling and/or ignorant with this.

Oh, and the story made me want to write Suzu side story fanfics using your fic as reference/source material. It's that good.

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Re: A pseudo-pseudo Suzu route (updated 12/31)

Post by nemz » Thu Jan 03, 2013 5:08 am

Kenji IS a superhero. And now I will forever picture him as voiced by Charlton Heston. :lol:
Rin > Shizune > Emi > Hanako > Lilly

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Re: A pseudo-pseudo Suzu route (updated 12/31)

Post by demonix » Thu Jan 03, 2013 6:21 pm

nemz wrote:Kenji IS a superhero. And now I will forever picture him as voiced by Charlton Heston. :lol:
Except for the part where he said "smoke me a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast" down the phone which reminds me more of Arnold Rimmer from red dwarf (not the goalpost head Arnold Rimmer).

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Re: A pseudo-pseudo Suzu route (updated 12/31)

Post by Scissorlips » Mon Jan 07, 2013 2:02 am

Daitengu wrote:Suzu reminds me of the Hare from the "Tortoise and Hare" story, action wise, in that last chapter.

It might be a personal opinion, but I was thinking Suzu was going to turn down Hisao,or ask for a different school to take the test at. Then give an actual reason instead of accept with no reason. I was feeling communication was the theme of the chapter. It was three different fears playing on her. 1.fear of rejection via communicating what she really thinks. 2. Her past dealing with her brother. 3. Her future. It seemed a bit odd to overcome some of her communication fear with Kenji, then switch that courage/confidence to a different fear. "Winner's high" perhaps.
I'm not quite sure I understand what you mean by that. I can see how having a burst of courage could lead her to outright refuse to do something she doesn't want to, but her reasons for accepting are there.
BlackWaltzTheThird wrote:Also, I kind of feel like that scene would have a similar score to the "glasses come off" scene in Shizune's route; that is, Friendship with a well times record scratch just as he screams out in fear.
I can certainly see that happening, yeah.
BlackWaltzTheThird wrote:Akio, you say? Funny, I thought that was Mutou you were talking about. Apparently there's a student named Akio too. The more you know.
There is, and he's actually had a speaking role in the story before, but not for quite some time, since early act 3.
Mirage_GSM wrote:Well, the first half was the most enjoyable part of this story since months ago - and I never thought I'd say that about a chapter including Kenji.
I'm glad that worked out well then, writing Kenji is always something of a unique challenge.
Mirage_GSM wrote:The secon half was more or less the same as before, right? That's (one of the reasons) why I think branched paths are not for prose stories.
Not quite. Feel free to go back and compare.
Zaranell wrote:I think there's a testament to Scissorlips's ability to get a reader into Suzu's mindset: every time I read a chapter from this story, I'm constantly feeling like I need a nap. I'm not sure if it's the intended effect, but it certainly helps me sympathize with her. Now that I consider it, this has to be the only story I can think of where "almost put me to sleep" is a compliment.

Oh, one other thing: this is one of the rare scenes involving Kenji that I didn't just want to skip entirely while I was reading it, which I would also consider a plus.
I was feeling kind of bad there up until you got to the "is a compliment" point, heh. Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it.
Bacon Elemental wrote:Umm.

Let me first say that Suzu is waifu material because of this pseudo-route. Now my favorite character. Thank you. :D
Well, uh. Thank you.
Bacon Elemental wrote:I think this was the fic I was reading when I stayed awake for two days. I ended up reading Acts 1-3 from midnight to morning and got so into it. Act 4 was a bit more of a scattered read, which I don't think of necessarily as a bad thing. The pacing did drag early on. I think the issue I had with the first parts was that it was same-y in its problems and said problems that surfaced could've been condensed into one or two chapters of writing. It picked back up in Solamente, where she told the brother-sister in the beach to take care of each other, and I was engaged in reading again. Suzu's fear of the city would probably have been better-received if it were introduced earlier (that or I missed something). The dream sequences that eventually had more clarity and Death revealing himself were awesome. The Hisao-Suzu-Miki chemistry is awesome. Hisao's very much likable here. Also, I think what stands out here the most is that because of the story's perspective, it's Suzu who makes her choices and, for a change, not Hisao being a bonehead by his own accord. It's a great change, in my opinion.
I understand what you mean about the earlier bits of act 4. Suzu's difficulties with the nearby city and with cities in general has been touched on several times, In Down The Line and in the first two chapters of act 4. I'm really glad you're enjoying the dynamic between the three of them, writing Hisao entirely from someone else's eyes can be a bit of a challenge because he's usually not quite the lunkhead we all know when he's directly in front of the girl.
Bacon Elemental wrote:Now to comment on the endings:

Bad end -> Beautifully tragic. I don't think there's much I can say about this, although part of that's because I tend to forget things easily. :lol:
Neutral end -> OUCH. Dang. Again, beautifully done. That's gotta hurt for both Suzu and Hisao. More on Hisao because this was a time that he needed her to be here, even though the events leading up to that point were planned. Or at least that's what I can make out of it. I also had a thought that maybe Hisao got tired of Suzu's running. Haha. The bus scene was really good.

And... Kenji sort of becomes the linchpin on Suzu's decision to either hide or to put her fears behind. Did not see that coming, but I loved that part a lot.

I hope I don't come across as rambling and/or ignorant with this.
Not rambling or ignorant at all, I'm really glad you enjoyed them. There was definitely meant to be an air of finality or giving up on both sides, as far as the bus scene goes.
Bacon Elemental wrote:Oh, and the story made me want to write Suzu side story fanfics using your fic as reference/source material. It's that good.
Someone else accepting or adopting your interpretation of a character or events is a very big compliment for me, so that would actually be something of an honor. Thank you very much, for your kind words and your taking the time to read such a long story and post your thoughts. It's always great to see a new reader jump aboard.

Thank you everyone for reading and responding. I try not to make a post unless there's something new to offer, but I hope to continue again soon.

As a side note, editing from my phone is the worst hell imaginable.
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Re: A pseudo-pseudo Suzu route (updated 12/31)

Post by Miyam » Fri Jan 11, 2013 9:24 pm


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Re: A pseudo-pseudo Suzu route (updated 12/31)

Post by Zombiedude101 » Fri Jan 11, 2013 9:28 pm

First of all - Holy Fuck, it has been too long. It seems that I got a little too caught up with my education and other shit so uh, apologies for my long bout of silence. Oh and I got a new PC build, and I'd personally reccomend that anybody ever thinking about doing the same look into getting a Zalman Z9 Plus or a Zalman Z11 Plus, because both are excellent cases going for decent prices.

Second, nice to see you still going strong Scissorlips. You never fail to impress and bring out the feels.
Last edited by Zombiedude101 on Mon Jan 14, 2013 8:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A pseudo-pseudo Suzu route (updated 12/31)

Post by Daitengu » Sat Jan 12, 2013 8:22 am

Scissorlips wrote:
Daitengu wrote:words...
I'm not quite sure I understand what you mean by that. I can see how having a burst of courage could lead her to outright refuse to do something she doesn't want to, but her reasons for accepting are there.
Sorry, that's just my convoluted thinking process leaking out onto page. hmm a rephrase may clear it up.

The issue that Suzu deals with this chapter would have been communication and to a lesser extent trust in communicating. As such I'm surprised that Suzu's choice at choosing to go to the prep test was so binary. It's literally "deal with two issues at once" or "deal with no issues at all". The two issues being brother and future. It's like asking a person who's afraid of crowds and has PTSD from a dog attack to try and get hired on at a pet shop. It'd be little surprise if the person doesn't just break down trying to get the job application.

Could she not have objected, explained herself, then compromised on conditions to help with one issue at a time? Like agreeing if Hisao escorts her around the area before hand to help get over her brother issues before dealing with the test? Perhaps it was because Muto was there, but then she could have went into detail later. She confided in Hisao on alot of other things, why not this? Real life conversations tend to have compromise and haggling in them.

Agreeing and not going is pretty bad, but agreeing, going, and having some PTSD episode because she didn't explain her reservations is just as bad.

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Re: A pseudo-pseudo Suzu route (updated 12/31)

Post by Scissorlips » Fri Jan 18, 2013 2:48 am

Miyam wrote:Now with its own page on TV Tropes
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/F ... oSuzuRoute
That's... wow. That's something I never really expected to happen, so thank you very much to whoever thought it worth it to make that. I'm very grateful.
Zombiedude101 wrote:First of all - Holy Fuck, it has been too long. It seems that I got a little too caught up with my education and other shit so uh, apologies for my long bout of silence. Oh and I got a new PC build, and I'd personally reccomend that anybody ever thinking about doing the same look into getting a Zalman Z9 Plus or a Zalman Z11 Plus, because both are excellent cases going for decent prices.

Second, nice to see you still going strong Scissorlips. You never fail to impress and bring out the feels.
Always, always glad to see a returning face. Thank you for bothering to check back in, I hope things have been well for you.
Daitengu wrote:Sorry, that's just my convoluted thinking process leaking out onto page. hmm a rephrase may clear it up.

The issue that Suzu deals with this chapter would have been communication and to a lesser extent trust in communicating. As such I'm surprised that Suzu's choice at choosing to go to the prep test was so binary. It's literally "deal with two issues at once" or "deal with no issues at all". The two issues being brother and future. It's like asking a person who's afraid of crowds and has PTSD from a dog attack to try and get hired on at a pet shop. It'd be little surprise if the person doesn't just break down trying to get the job application.

Could she not have objected, explained herself, then compromised on conditions to help with one issue at a time? Like agreeing if Hisao escorts her around the area before hand to help get over her brother issues before dealing with the test? Perhaps it was because Muto was there, but then she could have went into detail later. She confided in Hisao on alot of other things, why not this? Real life conversations tend to have compromise and haggling in them.

Agreeing and not going is pretty bad, but agreeing, going, and having some PTSD episode because she didn't explain her reservations is just as bad.
Communication wasn't intended to be the focus of that chapter, the major issue she had to deal with was deciding whether or not she was willing to take a risk in order to do something for both herself and others. While some people undergo a sort of tunnel vision when they're under intense pressure and become unable to see other alternatives, both Mutou and Hisao clearly knew how difficult the situation would be for her--it's possible that they've already looked for other options and found none. As for doing other, smaller things to help her become more comfortable with the idea, those can easily be discussed and worked out later, the big question was A: whether she would come with him or not and B: whether she would agree to take the test or not. In the previous path she was reluctantly willing to go with him but unwilling to take the test, in this one, she was able to agree to both on the unspoken condition that Hisao would support her every step of the way.
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Aiming At Your Head

Post by Scissorlips » Fri Jan 18, 2013 2:49 am

Aiming At Your Head


Well this is weird.

It stings a little to keep my eyes open but I do just that, even though half my face is pressed into my pillow and I... I can't see very much. But. This is weird. It's morning, the sunlight is invading my room through the window and I can hear the sounds of the other students on the first floor coming to life, but I'm wide awake. My alarm hasn't even gone off ye--there it is.

I can't see anything at all now, my face is burrowed into my pillow as I root around blindly with one hand, loud. It's loud, my ears hurt. My eyes still hurt too. I manage to find my alarm clock and press buttons at random until the shrill noise finally comes to a stop, hopefully I didn't set it to military time by accident. Or, or activate the self-destruct sequence. What was the point of even waking up on my own if my alarm was right about to go off anyway? Am I psychic but only in boring, useless ways?

And what's bothering me?

I'm tempted to curl back up beneath my blankets but opt for a long stretch and a yawn instead. I know Miki will be here soon, but before that, there's something nagging at me, there's something lurking in the back of my mind. Something is happening today, and... tomorrow too? No, later than that. Further on, it's...

Right. Laying flat on my back, surrounded by softness and warmth, I blink up at my ceiling a few times. That’s... right.


As expected, Miki arrives a few minutes later. She bangs on the door but doesn't need her key today, I grab the handle and twist.

"Good morning starshine," she begins, a bright smile on her otherwise groggy face, "the earth says--oh."

I'm already up, I'm standing right here. And I have my big, fuzzy t-rex wrapped in both arms, facing outwards as if to ward off danger. Miki stares with heavy eyelids, then leans sideways to glance past me. "Is your bed on fire?" She asks.

"Hardy har har." I roll my eyes, but then it's, it's back to business. "Hey. Hi."

"Hi." My best friend's smile hasn't waned for a moment, but she's raising an eyebrow at me now. "What's up?"

"I kind of have to see the student council after class today. And if I don't make it back alive..." I hold out my t-rex, it's mouth open in a soundless roar. Miki takes it without skipping a beat, holding one side of the enlarged plushie with her good hand and pressing her bandaged stump into the other to keep it aloft.

"I will raise him in your place." She says solemnly, right before she reaches forward to bop me on the head with my own stuffed animal. She pulls the soft green mass away and I give her a tired grin.

"Who did you kill?" Miki asks, eyebrow still raised.

"Nothing." Wait no, that's--

"What did you do?"

"No one." I groan, trying and failing to stifle another yawn. To be honest, sure I'm not looking forward to my after-school appointment with Shizune and Misha, but they're not what's eating at me the most. They're, they're not responsible for the weight that sits firmly in the pit of my stomach and the murky, lingering dread that flits around the back of my skull. I want to go on laughing and joking like this, especially if things are going to change soon, but I feel the smile fading from my face for just that reason. Miki’s giving me her full attention now and I stare back, still barely dressed and blinking in the morning light.

I'm nervous, Miki. And I've run out of jokes.

"So what happened?" The sleepy girl standing in front of me asks, tossing the t-rex onto my bed. My heavy limbs complain, but I force them into motion as we begin preparing for class and I tell her about all the things that happened yesterday. Miki gets this uncomfortable look as I describe following Kenji, but I assure her that it was fine, that it worked out fine. I know it was a risk, I know it... it could have gone worse than that. But it didn’t.

By the time I describe Kenji's jet-stream apology and passing out in the hallway, Miki is grinning and shaking her head. See, I knew it was worth it, and now I know that she agrees, she's not looking at me like she's worried for my safety anymore.

After everything we've been through, I know that the thought of something happening to me when she's not around probably scares her. So I take a long look at the smile on her face, I savor it and burn it into my mind and remember all the times I've seen it before. All the happy, quiet and lazy days we've spent together. The times we went into town with all our friends, the festivals and holidays and even the nights when we would do nothing, just throw some food into the microwave and spend hours scratching Miki's gossip itch or watching movies.

I remember all of it. It takes a while and I'm, I guess I kind of stopped walking somewhere along the way, we're standing in the middle of the school grounds now. But Miki's still here. I focus on those bright eyes of hers, I focus on her smile that by now is something patient and knowing, waiting for me to come back to reality.

I think I've kept her waiting long enough. I come back, and then I tell her about what happened next. I tell her about the practice exam and the city. Miki gets that look again but not for long, her smile fades away, but not for long. I try to keep going and talk about running into Shizune but Miki stops me, she knows this is a big deal.

“I've heard about those practice tests. They're supposed to be pretty brutal.” She says. She’s watching me carefully and by now her smile, her eyes have a nervous edge.

I nod. "So, so yeah. It's in two weeks, and if I don't come back, I want you to make sure my t-rex lives a long and happy--"

"Stop joking around." She gives me a gentle nudge with her elbow as we reach the main building. Anyone who didn't know better would think I'm being silly and, and maybe I am, just a little bit. Maybe I'm worrying too much or blowing this out of proportion. But Miki knows there's more to it than that, Miki knows I have a reason to be afraid.

Miki knows I'm afraid.

She holds the door open for me and I step through, the halls are clogged with students either headed to the cafeteria for some last minute breakfast or taking the plunge and going to their respective classrooms. On most days the two of us could belong to either group, but we were a little slow today. Okay, I was a little slow today.

"He only eats cows." I pick back up, my voice just a little shaky as we begin walking again. "Big ones. So you'll need to--"

"Stop." Miki rolls her eyes. "You're gonna have to find your own damn cows."

"Because," she says, looking me right in the eyes and ignoring all the other people around us, "you're gonna be just fine."

I stare back for a few long moments before tearing my gaze away. "First year." I mutter. Miki turns and we step apart just as a kid in a wheelchair careens past us. It's... it's so cute when they're still getting the hang of things. Kind of. I guess.

We reach the stairs and I groan, but as we make our ascent my knee doesn't complain nearly as much as it did a few months ago. My eyes are narrowed, I'm putting everything into climbing, into getting one foot in front of the other. I hate stairs. I hate stairs I hate stairs I hate stairs.

"I mean it." Miki says as we hit the second floor. We're shoulder-to-shoulder now, she's just a little bit taller than me but that doesn't matter. Stairs are nothing at all to her, running a mile is nothing at all to her but she slows down anyway. She takes her time because she knows I'm scared of passing out and tumbling all the way down.

"I know you'll be just fine." She winks, she smiles. "Hisao's a city-slicker, isn’t he?"

"He's... slick, all right." I reply. I want to remember all the clever things he’s done, the stupid, neat little tricks he’s managed to pull off but I, I just know that I wouldn’t be able to think about him and focus on these steps at the same time.

Finally, we reach the third floor, that's a relief. Miki offers to come with us on our trip to the city and that's, that's an even bigger relief. I don't want to be babied or coddled or anything like that but the thought doesn't even seem to cross her mind, Miki says it will be fun. She says we'll go to the city and then I'll take the test with Hisao and then, then we'll come home and celebrate. All of us, all three of us and it will be great.

I really want to believe her when she says that. I really, really want to believe that everything is going to be just fine. That nervous feeling goes away just a little bit, it gets a little quieter and even though Shizune and Misha are the first thing I see as we walk into class, the sight of the boy sitting next to them is enough to bring a smile to my face. The student council duo are distracting him with some interrogation or another though, so he doesn't notice my arrival.

I take my seat, it's a little awkward because Lezard is already at his desk. He's sitting right next to me and acting for all the world like I don't exist, but I guess I'm okay with that right now. I have... what's that phrase, bigger fish to fry? But I've never fried a fish before, and the thought doesn't really appeal to me. Right now, the thing that appeals to me the most is the messy-haired student sitting in the row behind me. I want to turn and steal a peek at him, I'm sure a good morning smile from him would help recharge my batteries but before I can, the bell rings. Mutou immediately launches into today's lecture plan while my heart sinks a bit, I want, no. With our classes beginning to ramp up again I know I need to pay attention but there's something I need or, or want more, so I frown in determination before taking a glance over my shoulder.

Hisao is already looking right at me, our eyes meet and he, he smiles. Hi, his expression says.

Even as the rest of the class is getting out textbooks and paper and pens, I'm smiling back. Hi, I hope my expression says. I could get lost in those warm brown eyes, I could look at his smile all day but I hope there will be time for that later. I reluctantly turn to face our teacher, I have to get through this lecture first. And then I have to survive our duel with the student council, and then, so much more than that. But I know I won't have to do it alone.


Class is like a waking nightmare, except that I don't have to deal with it because I spend most of it not being awake. Take that. I ruin a couple pages in my notebook by scribbling on them when my brain falls asleep and my body doesn't, but that's another narcolepsy thing. It’s called automatic behavior and I'm used to it by now, you just salvage what you can and flip past the pages that are covered in scratches of ink. Or ask your friends to repeat everything they just talked about for the last few minutes and hope you didn’t say anything embarrassing.

Before too long it's lunch break, I snag some much needed canned coffee but even then I spend most of the time trying to sit up straight, blinking and squinting and smiling at Miki as she fills me in on the latest drama between Molly and Takashi. Fascinating, truly, now just... just turn a little bit would you, put your shoulder like... there. Okay. Go on Miki, please, I... I promise I'm list...


I don't actually know how I get back to the classroom, maybe they hauled me to the elevator and slid me back into my desk, or maybe I sleepwalked back up the stairs with them, it’s happened before. Falling asleep in one place and waking up in another is nothing new to me, so it's not even that much of a surprise when I open my eyes to see our next class about to begin. What does come as a surprise is that I manage to stay awake for the rest of the afternoon, and our classes don't even drag on that much.

When the final bell rings, everyone begins filing out of the classroom. Shizune gives me a... a look as she passes and a few moments later Miki is raising her bandaged stump in a salute, she's already made me promise to let her know as soon as I'm done dealing with the student council. A few more moments after that, because I... I just need a moment, or a few of them anyway, Hisao is standing in front of my desk.

“Are you awake?” He asks, staring down at me and probably wondering if he's going to have to carry me to the first floor.

I may be slumped forward onto my desk and cradling my head in my arms, but I don't really want him to have to carry me around all the time. I mean, it's kind of nice sometimes sure, and it's very nice that he's willing to do that for me, but it’s embarrassing and either way I am... I am sixty-three percent certain that I’m conscious at this moment, yes. To prove it, I slowly reach forward, I grab his arm and squeeze with two fingers.

“I'm awake.” I reply, managing to nod. Hisao gets that smile and before I know it, I’ve got it too.

“You're supposed to pinch yourself to test things like that.”

“Why would I do that when I've got you?” I mumble, staring up at him. I was planning on letting go right around now but suddenly the idea isn't very appealing, a sort of tense, sort of pained feeling hangs in the air. I’m not smiling anymore.

"Don't take any falls for me."

"Come on." Hisao says softly. He reaches down to grab my hand and tugs until I detach from my desk but I'm still looking at him as I stand up, I'm still looking into his eyes. I mean it Hisao, don't take any risks. Please don't get hurt because of me and please, please don't go away and never come back.

Please don’t.

"C'mon." Hisao repeats, giving my hand a gentle squeeze. "You don't want Shizune and Misha to send out a search party for us, it's not pleasant."

I manage a weak smile, maybe this, yes. I can get away from those dark and scary thoughts with this. "How would they do that when they're the only two people on the student council?"

"Exactly. They ARE the search party."

"That doesn't sound like much of a party at all." I mutter, but I reach with my free hand to grab my bag. Just before we step out of the classroom I take a look back, I remember some of the memories we've made together in this very place. When I had my nightmare during exams or, more pleasant than that, the big physics test we took just before our first sort-of date. Me being the one to wake Hisao up for a change, or when he begged me to help him get into the literature club because he didn't want to join the student council. Or, um, maybe he wanted to spend more time with me? I don't know. Can I... can I ask him something like that? Maybe I will later, once all this is over with.

For now I just know that it feels like we've been through so much, and I guess that’s because we have. I really, really can't wait for the day when I count these worries and fears about the city as just another thing we've been through, just another thing we've put behind us.


I still hate stairs, but I'm feeling more and more awake by now. We reach the first floor without incident and before very long at all we're standing in front of the student council room. The door is closed, even Hisao looks a little nervous and he’s been here before in the past few months. The last time I had to deal with the student council, there were more than two of them, and, and the dungeon probably hadn’t been completed yet. But here we are now, and I can just picture the iron maidens and torture racks.

Hisao reaches forward to knock, but stops to look back at me.

“Ready?”

“I don't even know what we'll be doing.” I moan, leaning against the door with a thump. Hisao smiles.

“True.” He says. "But don't you think the mystery is half the fun?"

"No."

"Yeah, me neither."

I can't help but laugh a little. Hisao... always putting on a show for me. Always trying to make me smile or do or say anything to make me feel better, when I'm down or struggling. I find myself smiling back at him, Hisao, I'm not really feeling down but I, I definitely am struggling.

"Thanks." I whisper. The fatigue still weighs on my eyelids even though I'm not sleepy for the moment, it's a little hard to keep them open but my smile is real.

"Sure."

We turn back to the door and I take a deep breath before quickly rapping my knuckles against the wooden surface, I want to get it over with before I change my mind, and, and go to hell, feminists.

“It’s open~!” A familiar, sing-song voice calls. I trade glances with Hisao before reaching for the handle and pushing the door open, bracing for anything and everything, I guess.

Shizune and Misha are standing only a few feet from the other side. “There you are! We were starting to get wor~ried!” Misha thunders, grinning widely as she plants her hands on her hips. “Come in, come in~!”

Shizune’s smile is a tad more impish than that of her companion, but both of them beckon us to enter and we nervously comply, oh boy, here we go. Here we go.

The student council room is big, spacious, and oppressively empty. In the middle is a single large table with chairs all around. Smaller desks, filing cabinets and more chairs fill the sides and corners, but that's about it. In fact, it's pretty sparse. I find myself looking around, trying to see if they have any torture equipment or at least some whips and chains stashed away behind something, but I can't find any evidence to support my theory. Maybe they're just that good at covering things up though, I'm sure we're standing on a trapdoor at this very moment.

“So Suuchan~!” Misha's voice could probably wake the dead, much less the drowsy. I quickly turn back to her, the two of them are standing next to the center table now. Shizune gives me a smile as she adjusts her glasses, she looks excited but not really... predatory. I guess that's a relief.

“Shicchan says that you want to play a game with her~?” Misha asks, and I start.

“Well actually, I thought we were all going to--” But Shizune's hands burst into motion, how... how can I get interrupted by someone who doesn't talk?

Misha watches her friend's gestures, her smile never wavering. After a moment she turns back to me. “Shicchan says that depends on the game! And she'll even let you pick~!”

Pick? Me? I don't know, I... I guess I'll have to see what the choices are. I glance at Hisao but he doesn’t know what to do either, he shrugs and blinks a little heavily.

He seems so tired these days. By now he’s a bit of a night owl like me, but I wonder, did he look like that, the last time he was here? Did his eyes have those faint, dark rings, and just a hint of bags underneath them? I don’t know. But I do know that the boy who got dragged here to help Shizune and Misha with student council work during his first week would never have smiled the way he has today. Hisao might look a little worn out but he’s, I think he’s changed so much since then and he’s a lot better now. I think he’s a lot happier now, and I think he’d agree. I hope he’d agree.

Whoops. Getting distracted, he... he has a tendency to do that to me. I look back at the student council, all two of them. “What happens if I lose this game?”

I bite my lower lip, almost holding my breath as Misha translates the question. When she does, Shizune looks me right in the eye, her expression completely neutral and unreadable. She signs back without even breaking eye contact.

“We'll cross that bridge when we come to it! Ahaha~!”

Hearing Misha's light, bubbly tone and almost painful laughter while Shizune stares me down is just... oh god, it's just so weird. But I nod, this might be the best I'm going to get, and at least, um, at least we don't have to go over what's at stake. I don't really feel comfortable broadcasting the fact that I'm here because I'd like to continue sleeping next to my boyfriend.

Shizune smiles. “Okay, okay okay~!” Misha claps her hands together before immediately returning to signing as she speaks. “It's decided! That cabinet over there has most of the games, go take a look Suuchan~!”

She points, as I walk over to the filing cabinet that leans against the wall I hear the scraping of three chairs. No pressure.

I pull open the bottom drawer to be greeted by a stack of board games of all shapes and sizes. Some I recognize, some I don't, but I can't recall being particularly good at any of them.

Here's one that I'm pretty sure I've played before, Risk. I pick up the box and turn around, Shizune and Misha's expressions remain neutral but Hisao is slowly shaking his head back and forth, mouthing nooo.

Right, bad idea apparently. I was nervous before but now I feel panic beginning to creep into my throat, what happens if I pick one that Shizune absolutely dominates at? What if this is a trick, and the only games in this whole cabinet are ones that they've spent hours and hours playing, honing their skills, just waiting for some little sleepyheaded girl to come along so they can crush her dreams of... of not having bad dreams?

Even from across the room, the loud snapping of Shizune's fingers makes me jump.

“Shicchan says that we do have ac-tu-al work to do as some point today, Suuchan~” Misha calls, her tone managing to lack any of the sting Shizune's words were probably meant to have. I nod but don't turn around, my heart is beginning to beat faster in my chest as I close the drawer and open the next one. Maybe Mish--er, Shizune is telling the truth and they do have things to do, or maybe this is another ploy to make me rush and slip up, I don't know.

Here, uh... this is a chess set, right? I've played chess before, even though it's a two-player game and I don't really enjoy the prospect of taking on Shizune alone. I lift up the box and turn around, looking back at the others and gritting my teeth. Hisao just shrugs and continues to look uneasy, but Shizune leans forward. Her eyes widen a tiny bit.

Nooope, not that one. Not gonna do that. I shove the chess set back and open the next drawer. This is stupid, I don't even know why I'm so anxious right now. Even if we lose, I'll still be able to spend the whole day with Hisao, and, and she can't be there all the time. She can't guard the dorms every night, so if I really want... I mean, if I really need, I can still--

I lift up a box of backgammon, all I know is that it's for old people, and come face to face with an entirely too familiar sight. I can hear Shizune tapping her foot against the floor now but I slowly set the box aside before picking up the new one in my hands.

Plastic clinks and clatters as the pieces inside shift. I stare down at the cover, it's not the same model but it's close. It might look a little different, but it's the same game.

I would expect my heart to still be pounding but it's not. I trace my hand over the box’s smooth surface.

This could... this could work. I’ve played this one a lot. More than I’d like. In fact, I know this game so well I could, I could play it in my sleep. Ha...

Behind me, Misha clears her throat. I’m not sure if it was at Shizune’s request or if even she’s getting impatient, and Hisao has probably noticed that I’ve frozen up, but it’s just...

I could. Even if this is some trick and these are all games that the student council has played religiously, if it’s this one, I know I could win.

But.

A lot has happened, and I, for a while, I forgot. I lost sight of a lot of things, I got lost in a lot of things but that’s changed and now I remember, I used to play this game with my brother. It’s funny how something can start off as not much at all, just a time waster, just something you do when you don’t have any better ways to spend an evening. But do it often enough, and with people you care about, and something like that can become important to you. Even if you don’t realize it until you can’t do it anymore. Until the person you used to share it with is gone.

I know that it's just a game, and I know that it's one I'm good at, if only because I've played it so much. It's even my best chance at beating Shizune right now, and if things start getting bad again, if my nightmares come back at a time like this, I... I want, I need Hisao. I need him there.

But even then. Like I said, Shizune can't always be there to catch us. I, I can be sneaky when it counts, when it really matters. If she knew about some of the things I’ve seen in my dreams, if she's ever had night terrors before, I don't think she would hate me for wanting Hisao there, even if it does mean going behind her back.

So. So even if it means I might lose, I don't want to play battleship. Not here, like this, and not in that dark, empty place inside myself. Never again, that's not me anymore. That's not who I am.

Letting out a long breath, I set the box back down inside the drawer. Sorry, Hisao. I might regret this, we, we both might regret this, but this game is... it’s not something I can do so casually. It means more to me than that, for good or for bad.

It's something that's between me and my brother.


I’ve been standing here rooting through the filing cabinet for what feels like a long time now, and I’m sure even Hisao is starting to get a little antsy by this point so I finally settle on something that doesn’t look too complicated. It’s, um, called The Game of Life, and it’s got a neat little three-dimensional board. The first thing everyone does is pick a little colored car, and then you have to choose whether you want to begin a career or go to college and oh god this was a bad idea.

It’s too late to turn back now, though. The atmosphere is downright relaxed compared to what I’m used to, but Shizune still looks like some sort of backroom dealer as she sorts a small stack of cards. A few short bursts of sign later, Misha declares that she’s been appointed “the banker”, and since this game doesn’t have teams, if either Hisao or I win, we both do. Shizune then offers to add Misha to that list if we agree to raise the stakes a bit, but yeah, no. She just shrugs, as if to say “it’s your funeral”, and then we begin.


…As it turns out, I suck at the game of life. Even if most of it consists of spinning a wheel and following instructions, by the time my little plastic car rolls up to the last tile I’m swimming in debt. I did better than Hisao though, his piece is almost overflowing with children when he finally reaches “retirement”. With a sigh, he places his little fake family next to mine in Countryside Acres, we will never live in Millionaire Estates. Shizune actually arrives at the end of the board after us but her head is held high, she managed to snag a... a lucrative career and pay off her college loans. Her car is loaded with only three little pips, herself, her little fake husband and one single little fake child. Together they’re a happy little fake family, and they settle down on the rich side of town. Misha follows close behind, grinning all the while. Somehow she had managed to avoid being forced into a loveless little plastic marriage or having any fake children, and she has a sizable stack of paper money resting in front of her. Although she’s also the banker, so maybe she’s been doing some... some inside banking? Is that a thing?

Either way, Misha retires to Millionaire Estates alongside the student council president. We pay off all our remaining debts and then we’re adding up our money, it’s no surprise when Shizune is still counting hers long after everyone else has finished. When she’s finally done, she gives her interpreter a curt nod, who then turns to us and delivers the blow we all knew was coming.

“Shicchan says that she will make generous donations to the local community so that your children are able to live comfortably, Hicchan~!” She teases. Hisao just lets out another sigh and Shizune covers her mouth in a silent giggle, it’s either weird or depressing or both that even her rare displays of mirth are restrained. Still, I’d rather be laughing silently than how I am now, I feel like a, a balloon that’s deflating, and before long it will be sleeping alone as the day of the practice exam grows closer and closer.

“And as for you, Suuchan~!”

I try not to grimace as I stare at the two of them with tired eyes, but I... I have a feeling another downtime is coming before long. Shizune is still smiling though, and even Misha seems to have calmed down. Her eyes drift to the single, solitary peg-person on her car before coming back to rest on me.

“Shicchan says that this game might not have been the best choice, because it involves a lot of luck.” She begins. “Sometimes things will happen and you won’t be able to do anything about it, but I--I mean, Shicchan thinks you know that by now.”

“Still!” Misha shifts gears, planting her hands on her hips and glaring at me like she’s about to deliver a speech. I... I have no doubt that she’s about to deliver a speech.

“If you had taken more risks, you would have stood a much better chance of defeating me!” Her volume seems to increase with every word, until she roars with a ferocity that would probably be waking me up, if it wasn’t for the, you know, chronic sleep disorder, excessive daytime sleepiness, things like that. Still, even as I flop back in my chair and rest my drooping frame, I know that she’s right. Well, Shizune is, and however much of this speech is actually coming from Misha is right too, I just kind of did the bare minimum to get by. I took my turn, spinned the, the thing, and followed instructions when the space I landed on made me do something. I wasn’t really trusting in my luck or anything like that, I just wasn’t... playing to win.

Huh.

“If you had bought more stocks instead of insurance, you could have collected more life cards and possibly gotten a big payout!” She continues. “It’s like they say in America, Suuchan: you gotta be willing to risk it all if you're ever really gonna win big!”

Do they say that in America? Does, does anyone say that, anywhere? I look at Hisao and he just shrugs blankly, I glance at Shizune and she rolls her eyes. Evidently that part was the not in the script.

Misha isn’t quite finished yet, although her volume has decreased significantly again.

“You’ve got to be brave, Suuchan.” She says, and her posture has deflated a bit, her smile, her voice has a hint of something else. Something I’m not used to seeing or hearing from her at all. “Because life is scary sometimes.”

I have no clue whether that came from Shizune or Misha, either one seems out of left field, or like a bolt out of blue sky or some other analogy that I’m too tired to think of. I don’t really have any idea how to respond but I guess that’s okay, Shizune reaches forward to begin disassembling the game and sorting the pieces while Misha just kind of blinks once and then she’s back to normal.

“While we do hope you two learned something, Shicchan says that we win!”

Does she? She’s not even looking at us right now. Was that what she wanted you to say, five minutes ago? Either way, Hisao and I both nod blankly. I feel a little bad for losing and, and letting Hisao down but at least we both tried.

“So~!” Misha exclaims. By now Shizune has finished packing away the game, the student council duo are both standing and smiling and I don't like it, not one bit. “That meeaans~!”

Shizune slashes the air with a few sharp motions, I expect Misha to laugh again but instead she looks like a waterbed that has just sprung a leak.

“...That means you have the honor of helping your student council get out from under a mountain of paperwork.” She whines, her smile finally vanishing.

I want to groan in protest, but I should be glad that we're not... cleaning bathrooms, or... assassinating monarchs or something. Or falling through a trap door and tumbling down towards the dungeon below, that, that too.

Hisao and I watch with mild horror--and sleepiness, in my case--as the pair go around the room, opening the other file cabinets and desks and pulling out stack after stack of papers. I must have fallen asleep at one point, because in the blink of an eye, the previously empty room is covered and coated with forms, drafts, and files. Requests, refusals of requests with little smiley faces scribbled in pink pen to soften the blow. Folders, some new, some old, some bearing writing in languages that I don't even recognize. Is that backwards Latin?!

“If I folded up even half of this paper, I could build an air force big enough to conquer Japan.” I mumble, staring at the whole scene in disbelief.

“Or Australia.” Hisao comments.

“What?”

“Never mind.”



By the time we're even halfway through the mound, no, the WALL of paperwork that Shizune and Misha have assigned to us, my phone has buzzed five times. No doubt Miki wants to know if we're alive or not, and frankly, I'm considering the coward's way out.

“Is it possible to slit your wrists with a papercut?” I grumble, stamping yet another envelope and depositing it in the right pile. If I... if I ran this place, I would have a stamp that says “stop asking for deadline extensions. I hate you. You are ugly and your family does not love you.”

“That sounds like that author we talked about at last week's club meeting.” Hisao pauses his sorting of what appear to be budget reports.

“Who, the poet?”

“Yeah.”

“How poetic.” I mutter, and Hisao laughs. Still, there's a lot of work to be done, and the day isn't getting any younger. Or something. I raise my heavy head with the intent of asking Misha to ask Shizune about these envelopes, but everything turns off before I even open my mouth.


When I wake up, I'm still in the student council room, which is a relie--wait no it's not. I'm lying on my back, something soft is between me and the floor. I sit up and find that it's Hisao's uniform jacket, the owner of which is... not here. I look around the room but find it severely lacking in brown-haired boys, or boys of any kind at all. Just stacks of paper that seem a little more organized than how I left them and the waning rays of sunlight that shine through the windows on one side of the room. I guess it’s starting to get late by now, hopefully everyone else just stepped out for a minute. Hopefully they just went to, to get snacks or something and didn’t lock me in here until I finish all the stuff that’s left on my own!

To help perish the thought, I pick myself up and go through my usual thing. Roll my shoulders, twist my neck a little. Pat my knee, no, we're good. I might have slipped from the chair when I passed out, but either the angle wasn't bad or Hisao was quick enough to catch me, one or the other.

Satisfied that I don't have any new bumps or bruises... today, anyway... right now, anyway... I reach into my pocket and retrieve my phone. Like I thought, a few messages from Miki are waiting, but they're nothing more than idle musings about whether I'm “still kicking”. The last one simply states that she’s going out looking for cows to feed her new t-rex, but the joke’s on her, he only eats them if they’re named Bessie.

There's also a text from Hisao saying that he and Shizune are indeed on snack duty while Misha has gone to get more supplies, they should all be back soon. Mystery solved. I feel like a detective, one of the boring ones who gets stuck back at the office doing paperwork while everyone else gets to shoot bad guys, or... or buy snacks. Oh well.

I lurch back into my chair and just sit for a few moments that I try to drag out, I try to make them last as long as I can. That wasn't nearly the first time I've fallen asleep today, and it probably won't be the last but for now, this kind of feels like the first chance I've had all day to do this, the first chance I've had to just... stop.

At lunch today, Hisao said that we need to start studying for the practice test soon. And by soon he means, he means today or tomorrow at the latest, and Miki was right when she said these things tend to be brutal. Every time I've heard someone mention college entrance exams, they use this tone of voice that makes it sound like they're going to the dentist's office, except they have a special dentist who mugs them after he's done drilling their teeth.

Apparently, it’s like that.

So even though I just woke up, I sit there in my chair, just closing my eyes and breathing in and out, in and out. It's deserted, it's quiet in here and those are two words I wasn't really expecting to fit the student council room. It turns out this place is actually pretty relaxing when the student council's not around, and I need this, I... I need to calm down. Even though the game with Shizune and Misha was kind of fun, that lurking and nagging worry is still there. It's been there the whole time. It's here now, it's in my stomach, in my chest. It whispers in my ear like a snake, reminds me that in class, Mutou announced a test for next week. We'll need to start studying for that, in addition to the practice exam and everything else and I--

I lost. If I start having my nightmares again, Hisao won't be with me to chase them away, or at least, not very often. Probably not very often at all.

This isn't working. Suddenly the solitude isn't comforting anymore, the quiet isn't peaceful anymore and I hope Hisao comes back soon, I really do.

Now wanting something to distract me from my thoughts, I force my eyes to refocus and stare at the paperwork in front of me. It's so hard to remember where you left off when the curtain is dropped in an instant, what was... is this the pile of stamped ones? And what did the stamp say again, something about the proposal being ugly?

These papers here are from the stack Hisao was working on. At first glance they’re nothing special but a... a second glance shows them to be some sort of feedback form, a questionnaire that the teachers filled out about their use of office supplies, expected costs of field trips, things like that. Is this really something the student council should handle? There’s even some forms mixed in from years past, maybe for reference or comparison. A few of the names I recognize as belonging to teachers who have already retired, I wonder what they--

I stop in my tracks.

I wonder what....

A glance at the windows shows the sun to be setting, my phone says that it’s late evening by now. I’m going to have to hurry.

I rub my eyes and blink a few times before diving back into things and suddenly I’m a, a lean, mean and sleepy paperwork machine. I sort the heck out of these forms, I stamp the heck out of those ones and I don’t stop until everything on the table in front of me is done. Whew. Just in time too, from the amount of noise suddenly coming from the hallway, Shizune and Hisao have either returned at the exact same time as Misha, or they joined up somewhere along the way. It doesn’t really make a difference though, I’m pretty sure I’m done with all the work the student council set aside for us and I have to hurry, I have to go. Almost forgetting to grab my bag, I take long, quick strides over to the door and pull it open to reveal a trio of surprised faces.

Shizune had been reaching for the handle herself, behind her, Hisao is carrying multiple bags of take out food and oh god, they smell amazing. Misha stands not far away, weighed down with pens and pencils, little pads of ink for stamps and other office-y things like that. The three of them blink at me but I just smile weakly, it’s late, kind of, I’m tired and I have to be--

“Going somewhere?” Hisao asks, eyebrows raised. Shizune folds her arms behind her back and studies me carefully, she might think I’m trying to skip out on my duties but I’m not. I was a loyal conscript but now I’m done and I will stamp no more forever, if least if I have anything to say about it.

“Yeah, um. Save me one of those?” I point to the bags of food that he holds, then take a quick sniff. “That one, please.”

“Sure, but where...?”

“No time.” I reply, moving to squeeze past the three of them and into the hallway. I give Shizune an apologetic frown, Misha can’t translate for her with her hands full, so she has no way of knowing that I’m not just running out on them. But she’ll see that’s not the case as soon as she walks into the room, so I don’t feel too bad about bolting like this.

Before I go, I look Hisao in the eyes and smile, hi. Nothing’s wrong. In fact, something might just, it may just be right. I don’t know, I’ll see, I’ll have to see. Then I turn and go, I’m not quite running, that’s almost never a good idea for me but I gotta go, who knows if he’s even still there?

“Good luck, Suuchan~!” Misha calls after me, bright and cheerful as ever. I don’t have time to look back, I’m about to round a corner but I smile again, thanks, Misha. For a few things.


The sun has retreated from the sky by the time I make it to the third floor, I took the elevator because screw stairs. The glow that seeps from under the door to class 3-3 is encouraging, and the sight of my teacher sitting slumped at his desk is even more so.

Mutou looks up slowly. The way he stares at me, he probably thinks he’s dreaming, he probably thinks that he’s face-down in the pile of ungraded papers and essays that sit before him. I guess I know that feeling but this isn’t a dream, not for him and... no, probably not for me. Probably. Most likely.

“Do you need something, Suzuki?” My teacher calls. Screw it, if this is a dream, it’s just practice for the real thing anyway.

“Uh... yes, actually, sir.” I try to force a smile but it doesn’t really work, he looks pretty worn out and I’m about to ask him for even more. But.

“I was wondering about some of the documents that the school keeps on file...”


Mutou continues to look haggard as I explain my request. His eyes light up a little as understanding dawns, he makes that kind of crooked smile when I get to the point, but even as he rises from his chair and shuffles out of the room, he still looks like he’s near the end of a very long day. Didn’t Hisao talk about maybe becoming a teacher? I wonder if he really knows what he’s getting into?

Mutou returns about five minutes later, a thick folder tucked under one arm. I bite my lip as he sits down again and opens it, leafing through the pages with tired eyes.

“Here we are.” He mutters, extracting one and holding it up to the light. His mouth twists to one side as he glances over the page, he raises an eyebrow in a kind of weird expression, it’s like he’s pouting in disbelief. I... I have no idea if that’s a good sign or not, but I’m trying to fight down the nervous feeling in my throat, I’m trying to stop my breaths from coming so quickly as he hands the paper to me.

It's a career survey, one of those “what kind of things do you enjoy doing”, “on a scale of zero to five, how much do you agree with...” kinds of things.

The name at the top reads “Seiji Suzuki”, and it’s blank. It’s completely devoid of markings or bubbles, except for one thing, scrawled between the margins and near the bottom of the page:

“Superhero”.

“You idiot.” I whisper, smiling with trembling lips at the page in my hand. Seiji you, big brother, you idiot. You knew what you wanted to do after high school, you didn’t even need something like this.

You wanted to be an artist and, and all you needed was me. That’s what you said, that’s what you always told me.

Before my eyes can begin to water, before I start sniffling I sit down at my desk and gently, carefully set Seiji’s career survey aside. I open my bag, searching through the contents for a few moments before finding my goal: a single, somewhat crumpled piece of paper. I smooth it out over my desk, track down a pen and then I sit there, thinking, trying to catch one of the many thoughts darting around my jumpy head.

I lean forward and begin to write, but that’s... no. I cross it out, replace it with something else, something better. I’m a third-year. I’m almost an adult now.

Satisfied, I stand up, taking both papers in my hands and walking back to Mutou, who sits waiting. He initially accepts my very late entry without complaint, but then he starts making that face again when he reads it over.

“Sidekick...?” He squints at the page but I shake my head, I guess I should have crossed it out harder.

“Superhero.” I reply, eyes narrowed. That’s what it says. That’s the part that’s not crossed out.

“Suzuki...” Mutou begins, but he gives up. He lets out a long sigh before reaching to pinch the bridge of his nose, sorry, sorry teacher. But I won’t back down from this.

“The guidance office is just going to love your family.” He remarks dryly. I can’t tell if his joke is in good taste or not but, but either way I’m done. I’m glad that’s over, I’m glad that’s settled but I want to find Hisao and let Miki know I’m alive, I want to eat some dinner and then I want to go back to my room and lie down.

I give my teacher a small bow before turning to grab my bag and make my exit, but he calls to me just as I reach the door.

“Suzuki?”

I glance back, not quite sure what to say in case he’s changed his mind. But Mutou is looking at me intently, his expression is careful, like he’s handling some dangerous--or valuable--chemical in a lab somewhere.

“I think he would be proud, to see you now.”

For a few seconds I just stand there, absorbing his words as they sink deeper and right to the heart of me but I.

Can’t. I, eyes watering. I manage a nod, a whispered “thanks” and then I turn around again, stepping through the door and into the hall.

Once I’m out of sight I clench my eyes shut, feeling them begin to grow wet and warm and he’s, I hope he’s right. I hope so much that Mutou is right.

I hope you’re proud, Seiji. I’ve never done this before, I’ve never been here before but I hope if you could see me you would be happy and smiling and

Suddenly I’m leaning back against the wall, and then I’m sliding down to sit on the floor, my knees pulled up almost against my chest and my head in my hands. My face is hot and wet and I don’t even know why I’m crying so hard right now, I should be happy. I want to be happy.

A tinny, muffled voice speaks up. “I’m Suzu’s phone and I’m getting a text message.” I heave a gasping breath and reach into my pocket to pull out my phone, my eyes are stinging but I navigate through the menus to find a new message. Hisao, asking where I am.

“In front of our classroom.” I reply with a shaky hand. “Please come get me.”

After sending the message I snap my phone closed, wipe my eyes and sniffle. Hisao’s response comes only a few moments later, in the form of footsteps heading down the hall and towards me. The next thing I see is a, a pair of warm brown eyes and some messy hair and a worried frown.

Hisao is standing in front of me now. “Hi.” I mumble, looking up, giving him a weak and tiny smile even though my face all red and damp.

What happened? Are you all right? I know he wants to ask these and more but he doesn’t, those eyes stare into mine for a few long moments and then he smiles back. “Hi.” He says softly.

Hisao moves to sit next to me, he takes my hand in one of his and uses the other to lift up a bag filled with small, white styrofoam containers. “Saved you some, like you asked.”

My smile kicks up just a few notches. “Thanks.” I whisper. He nods and just leans his shoulder against mine, he’s waiting for me, waiting for wherever we go next. He knows I’ll tell him in a minute, he knows I’ll tell him when I’m ready.

Microwaved take out, the... the dinner of sidekicks, who turn into superheroes. I think back to today, to the student council room. I lost that game.

But I’ve got to be brave. Because life is, life is scary sometimes.

Being an adult is scary.



After a few more minutes, we manage to get to our feet and then stumble out of the building and to my room, Hisao tells me that Shizune was impressed with my work. He says she wanted to offer me a full time spot on the student council, but I’m pretty sure he’s was kidding. I, I hope he’s kidding. With everything that’s going on right now, the last thing I need is to be the victim of one of Shizune’s hellbent recruitment drives, even if she’s not as scary as I thought she was, even if she can be kind of nice.

Hisao and I crash on my nice, messy floor strewn with stuffed animals and pillows and clothes. I want to, to debrief Miki in person but I’m ten different kinds of exhausted so I settle for a text instead. After that I manage to find some... some utensils and then we eat a late dinner. Hisao could probably stay after that, he could probably spend the night but I have a feeling we shouldn’t push our luck. We part at my door only after he’s made me promise that I’m all right, that I’ll be all right, and that I’ll call him if I need him.

I do. I mean, I promise. I need him too, but... but I need to be able to do this, I need to be able to sleep on my own sometimes. Even if things are stressful, even if they’re bad. I had nightmares for months and played battleship for longer than that, what’s... what’s two weeks? Right?

I keep my phone handy as I sink into my bed, I wrap my arms around my fuzzy t-rex--and it’s still mine, Miki, at least for the moment--but my head simply turns off not long after that. The next day’s classes go by fairly quickly, Shizune and Misha both give me friendly smiles which earns me puzzled looks from the rest of the class, but that’s okay. It’s nice to have more friendly faces, even Mutou looks cheerful today and that helps me take my mind off things, it helps to quiet the nagging worry and doubt and fear that’s been there from the moment I woke up.

Before too long at all the final bell is ringing, and then I’m descending the staircase with Hisao down to the second floor. Then we’re in the library, and then we’re, we’re grabbing book after book after book to help us prepare for the practice exam. There’s a whole section for books like that and we barely make a dent in it, which is worrying, and then we haul out all our textbooks and assignments in our actual high school classes and get ready to start looking at those, too. Which is worrying. Just before we settle down though I make one last trip, stepping through the aisles and rows of books until I find my destination.

It feels like a lot of time has passed since I’ve been to this spot, since I’ve looked at these books in particular. A lot has changed since then, so much has happened. But a few things have stayed the same, a few dangers they, they haven’t changed. And, in less than two weeks, they’re going to be even worse, or even more dangerous or something like that. I don’t know, I just don’t know, and I can’t bring myself to think about it. But just... just in case, I...

I grab a few books that look like they’ll help, that I’ll be able to read and understand. I don’t even know if Yuuko will let us check out this many, but I take them anyway.

When I return to our table, Hisao is pulling out papers and notebooks and pencils, but he looks over at me, he sees the books in my hands. “Professional First Aid”, “Basic CPR”, “Emergency Preparedness 101”.

I clutch the books to my chest, and I don’t put them down until he promises that he’s all right. That he’ll be all right.

That he’ll be there when I need him.


Artwork by Thighs, by request: Promise

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Last edited by Scissorlips on Mon Mar 18, 2013 8:10 pm, edited 3 times in total.
My pastebin.
I'm a writer for a visual novel project called Familiarity, where I go by the name Lunch.

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