Iwanako: Mean Time to Breakdown {updated 2015-4-1}

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Helbereth
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Re: Mean Time to Breakdown — (Iwanako, Divergence) (u 2/14/2

Post by Helbereth » Sun Feb 17, 2013 9:52 am

This many days after the update was posted, I'm surprised to find Mirage is still the only reply.

Though, now I suppose I should count my own...

Regardless, when I read the beginning of this back in... June? July...? Something like that. Anyway, this is one of the more thoughtful re-imaginings of the KS story I've seen, and I'm glad to see it hasn't been abandoned. It's difficult to tell where the story is going after reading what's available, but I can tell you have something planned rather than merely writing an interesting story without a goal.

I'm hoping the lack of responses doesn't indicate that you shouldn't continue, because I'd very much like to see the path Iwanako's tale of woe will follow.

Cheers!

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Re: Mean Time to Breakdown — (Iwanako, Divergence) (u 2/14/2

Post by AR700SAW » Sun Feb 17, 2013 10:41 am

Helbereth wrote:This many days after the update was posted, I'm surprised to find Mirage is still the only reply.

Though, now I suppose I should count my own...

Regardless, when I read the beginning of this back in... June? July...? Something like that. Anyway, this is one of the more thoughtful re-imaginings of the KS story I've seen, and I'm glad to see it hasn't been abandoned. It's difficult to tell where the story is going after reading what's available, but I can tell you have something planned rather than merely writing an interesting story without a goal.

I'm hoping the lack of responses doesn't indicate that you shouldn't continue, because I'd very much like to see the path Iwanako's tale of woe will follow.

Cheers!
Same here, I'm hoping most people that read this are just a little bit shy and aren't posting, because I think this is a really nicely done story so far (congratulations to the author :) ). I'd love to see it continued though ;)
Emi > Hanako (extremely close second) > Lilly > Shizune > Rin

With these beautiful FanFictions included (Hanako: http://ks.renai.us/viewtopic.php?f=52&t=6750 Rika: http://ks.renai.us/viewtopic.php?f=52&t=5920 Suzu: http://ks.renai.us/viewtopic.php?f=52&t=6192), the order goes:
Hanako > Emi > Rika > Suzu > Lilly > Shizune > Rin

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Re: Mean Time to Breakdown — (Iwanako, Divergence) (u 2/14/2

Post by LorSquirrel » Sun Feb 17, 2013 6:52 pm

loving this route so far i always wanted to see this game from Iwanako's point of view

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Re: Mean Time to Breakdown — (Iwanako, Divergence) (u 2/14/2

Post by griffon8 » Mon Feb 18, 2013 11:14 am

Of all the stories on this forum left to be never completed, this is the one I most wanted to continue.

Thank you very much. I re-read the whole thing to remind myself of the story.

BTW, don't feel obligated to include choices and bad ends like you said earlier.
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Re: Mean Time to Breakdown

Post by Leaty » Tue Feb 19, 2013 7:56 am

Mirage, Helbereth, AR700SAW, LorSquirrel, griffon8, thanks for reading and offering your thoughts.
Helbereth wrote:I'm hoping the lack of responses doesn't indicate that you shouldn't continue, because I'd very much like to see the path Iwanako's tale of woe will follow.
Even if this story was never responded to at all, I would finish it, because I've made something of an ethical resolution recently and decided it's kind of an awful thing to let something sit unfinished unless doing otherwise results in becoming a worse person. That being said, I'm pretty sure that even superstar fanfiction authors tend to agonize over getting reviews and comments for their work, because, fuck, at the end of the day we're all warm-blooded human beings and we're seeking some sort of spiritual fulfillment since we generally aren't getting any pecuniary fulfillment.

That being said, I suspect that if there's an underlying reason for a lack of attention to this story, it's that the concept is esoteric. While divergence, continuation and (in some cases) Peggy Sue fics are the only fics I like reading, and frankly, the only fics I feel that are worth writing, I don't think they're at all the most popular archetypes among readers or writers. The more popular archetypes seem to be slash, hurt/comfort, fluff, and Mary Sue stories, which I used to abhor but have since concluded are merely the fanfiction equivalent of Justin Bieber, something without a lot of substance that nevertheless appeals to teenagers.

On fanfiction.net, pretty much the Craigslist of fanfiction, this story minus the most recent chapter got eighty-six unique views, of whom only two-fifths made it to "The Shallow End." Bizarrely, "Slow Code to China" only has two-thirds the pageviews of "The Shallow End," which makes me think some people are skipping that chapter entirely without even looking at it. What, do they read the chapter title and think "Oh, I don't want to go to China, let's skip that one?" More likely those readers are skipping to the end to see if I've gotten around to writing any smut yet, but...
griffon8 wrote:Of all the stories on this forum left to be never completed, this is the one I most wanted to continue.

Thank you very much. I re-read the whole thing to remind myself of the story.
That's incredible praise, and I appreciate it. Honestly, I had figured people had forgotten this fic.

Part of the reason this latest chapter took so long is because I really, immensely, truly did not want to write it. I couldn't figure out how to do it without copying Hisao's classroom debut, "Enter Stage Left" almost word for word. The way that scene is written in the game, it's very hard to make it go any differently. Whoever's in Hisao's place will still have to say "Hi, I'm [CHARNAME] and my hobbies are [FRIVOLOUS] and [UNIMPORTANT]..." They'll still make Hanako hide in her hair. They'll still wind up confusing Misha for Shizune due to Mutou's awful instructions. Then they'll do the assignment and get dragged to the cafeteria.

Yes, chapters 1, 2, and 4 were also written in this same vein, but Frozen Sopor is only eight hundred words long and is deliberately written to surprise the reader, A Girl Salvaged sets out to highlight the differences in background and temperament between Iwanako and Hisao, and The Shallow End, while not an explicitly necessary chapter per se, let me develop Iwanako's mother's character further (if you didn't pick up that she's kind of a ditz, I failed,) and let me set off the birth control/pregnancy bomb, in addition to distinguishing Iwanako from Hisao a little further with her first impressions of Yamaku.

"Enter Stage Left," though, wasn't important at all, but at the same time it can't happen offscreen, either, for pacing reasons and because going more than four or five chapters in without introducing one of the five canon love interests is going to drive readers away. I did consider something like moving the vacant desk in the classroom closer to the center or far end of the room so she could meet different characters, but I am resolute that this is a single point of departure fic, and I couldn't come up with a non-contrived reason as to why Iwanako having the heart attack instead of Hisao would shift the position of an empty desk in a classroom several hours away.

My original draft of this story was basically just the canon scene, drenched in Iwanako's inner monologue, because that was all I could manage to offer. My beta liked it, but I thought it was crap, and shelved it until I reread Chapter 4 and realized Iwanako came to Yamaku early, so the classroom didn't necessarily have to be full of students when Mutou walked in. This provided me enough wiggle room to change the pacing of the scene and the dynamic between Misha/Shizune and Iwanako, which is what I needed to write something I didn't utterly hate.

I realize this is a lot of unsolicited Image to justify an absence in updating, but I felt like I needed it somewhere for posterity.
griffon8 wrote:BTW, don't feel obligated to include choices and bad ends like you said earlier.


Yeah, at this point I don't think that's going to happen. Definitely not until the main story is finished, if at all. Don't get me wrong, I still think Rika Story is the proverbial gold standard for writing a route, and the first bad end Rikabro wrote absolutely gave me chills, but Mean Time to Breakdown isn't a route in the same mold as a fic which sets out to pair Hisao with a side character. I do write it with Original Flavor as a priority, and write it as though I intend to mod the fic into the actual game, but speaking practically, nothing you do in "Life Expectancy" is going to shift you into this story. If this fic has a video game analogue, it's probably Luc's arc in Suikoden III (now that's an esoteric reference,) a short POV sidestory that you unlock after achieving 100 percent completion in the actual game. Or maybe the female protagonist plotline in Persona 3 Portable but I haven't played that.

Some people probably think I'm crazy for thinking about this fic in such literal terms, but I'd probably tell those people not to rain on my parade.

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Re: Mean Time to Breakdown

Post by Silentcook » Tue Feb 19, 2013 4:01 pm

Leaty wrote:That being said, I'm pretty sure that even superstar fanfiction authors tend to agonize over getting reviews and comments for their work, because, fuck, at the end of the day we're all warm-blooded human beings and we're seeking some sort of spiritual fulfillment since we generally aren't getting any pecuniary fulfillment.
4LS, 2007-2012 :)
Leaty wrote:fanfiction.net
I'd liken going there to playing Russian roulette. Using a submachinegun.
Leaty wrote:Image
Love the icon. Hope you don't mind, because I'm borrowing it for future use at appropriate shamelessly stealing it. :mrgreen:

You hit on lots of points I made before and elsewhere on these forums, about how writing halfway interesting fanfic material without going wildly off-genre and/or off-setting is way harder, but ultimately more rewarding. Double points if not going off-timeline either.

I'm sure you don't need to be told this, but you're hardly alone in agonizing over dem wurds and dat plot, here or out there.

Keep up the good work.
Shattering your dreams since '94.

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Re: Mean Time to Breakdown

Post by griffon8 » Tue Feb 19, 2013 5:57 pm

Leaty wrote:That being said, I suspect that if there's an underlying reason for a lack of attention to this story, it's that the concept is esoteric. While divergence, continuation and (in some cases) Peggy Sue fics are the only fics I like reading, and frankly, the only fics I feel that are worth writing, I don't think they're at all the most popular archetypes among readers or writers. The more popular archetypes seem to be slash, hurt/comfort, fluff, and Mary Sue stories, which I used to abhor but have since concluded are merely the fanfiction equivalent of Justin Bieber, something without a lot of substance that nevertheless appeals to teenagers.
Just because it's more common doesn't mean it's more popular. Don't confuse the two. :P

Popular with writers ≠ popular with readers.
Leaty wrote:On fanfiction.net, pretty much the Craigslist of fanfiction
I think I like your version over Siletcook's. :wink:
Leaty wrote:
griffon8 wrote:Of all the stories on this forum left to be never completed, this is the one I most wanted to continue.
That's incredible praise, and I appreciate it. Honestly, I had figured people had forgotten this fic.
My desire for this to continue was getting to the point that if you hadn't continued it already, I was going to try and contact you in a month or so and ask for any story notes you had in an effort to continue it myself. But I'm glad I don't have to do that. I don't know what I would have done with it, and this way I can be surprised. 8)
Leaty wrote:(if you didn't pick up that she's kind of a ditz, I failed,) and let me set off the birth control/pregnancy bomb, in addition to distinguishing Iwanako from Hisao a little further with her first impressions of Yamaku.
Came through clear to me. And I loved the bomb. It really sets up the dilemma of a romantic partner.

I think it's been mentioned before, but at this point I trust your writing enough that I think Iwanako's thought process won't exactly be, "Hmm, I can't use birth control pills, and pregnancy is a death sentence. Who can I have sex with where those two things don't matter?" :lol:
Leaty wrote:"Enter Stage Left," though, wasn't important at all, but at the same time it can't happen offscreen, either, for pacing reasons and because going more than four or five chapters in without introducing one of the five canon love interests is going to drive readers away. I did consider something like moving the vacant desk in the classroom closer to the center or far end of the room so she could meet different characters, but I am resolute that this is a single point of departure fic, and I couldn't come up with a non-contrived reason as to why Iwanako having the heart attack instead of Hisao would shift the position of an empty desk in a classroom several hours away.

My original draft of this story was basically just the canon scene, drenched in Iwanako's inner monologue, because that was all I could manage to offer. My beta liked it, but I thought it was crap, and shelved it until I reread Chapter 4 and realized Iwanako came to Yamaku early, so the classroom didn't necessarily have to be full of students when Mutou walked in. This provided me enough wiggle room to change the pacing of the scene and the dynamic between Misha/Shizune and Iwanako, which is what I needed to write something I didn't utterly hate.
You made a good choice. Nice that you worked Molly into it as well. I assume you're planning on pairing Iwanako with one of the five main girls—based on your single point of departure desire—but it's a good idea to be different with the side characters.
Leaty wrote:Image
I'm stealing this too.
Leaty wrote:
griffon8 wrote:BTW, don't feel obligated to include choices and bad ends like you said earlier.

Yeah, at this point I don't think that's going to happen. Definitely not until the main story is finished, if at all. Don't get me wrong, I still think Rika Story is the proverbial gold standard for writing a route, and the first bad end Rikabro wrote absolutely gave me chills, but Mean Time to Breakdown isn't a route in the same mold as a fic which sets out to pair Hisao with a side character. I do write it with Original Flavor as a priority, and write it as though I intend to mod the fic into the actual game, but speaking practically, nothing you do in "Life Expectancy" is going to shift you into this story.
Thankyouthankyouthankyou!
Leaty wrote:Some people probably think I'm crazy for thinking about this fic in such literal terms, but I'd probably tell those people not to rain on my parade.
I think Silentcook's praise for doing just that is well deserved. As he said, keep up the good work.
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Re: Mean Time to Breakdown — (Iwanako, Divergence) (u 2/14/2

Post by LorSquirrel » Wed Feb 20, 2013 1:12 pm

this route has actually given me a couple of ideas for the fic i'm writing (although my god awful grammar will probably spell its doom)

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Re: Mean Time to Breakdown — (Iwanako, Divergence) (u 2/14/2

Post by Panthour » Wed Feb 20, 2013 2:04 pm

I just reread the whole thing once I realized it was updated, and I'm really enjoying it.

I'm still wondering if there will be a pairing and who it will be with. If you don't want to spoil it or you haven't decided I don't mind, but I was just curious I guess.

Keep up the good work, I'll be looking out for updates!
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Re: Mean Time to Breakdown — (Iwanako, Divergence) (u 2/14/2

Post by griffon8 » Wed Feb 20, 2013 3:00 pm

He has stated that there will be a pairing and that it will be with a girl. He hasn't, IIRC, stated that it will be one of the main five girls, but that is my impression.

I expect Iwanako's equivalent to 'Lunch Evolution Theory' will tell us a lot about what happens. After that scene in the VN, Hisao's possibilities drop by 1–3 girls.
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Re: Mean Time to Breakdown

Post by Leaty » Thu Feb 21, 2013 8:38 pm

griffon8 wrote:You made a good choice. Nice that you worked Molly into it as well. I assume you're planning on pairing Iwanako with one of the five main girls—based on your single point of departure desire—but it's a good idea to be different with the side characters.
This should in no way be taken as an indication or implication of what I'm going to do, but this doesn't really follow. The main girls are the main girls because Hisao went after them, that's all. They'll all be prominently featured in this fic because KS isn't really KS without them, but as for a romance, you'll have to wait and see.
griffon8 wrote:He has stated that there will be a pairing and that it will be with a girl. He hasn't, IIRC,
You guessed incorrectly. Image

On another note, I've been mulling over whether or not Iwanako should have an arc question in the same vain as the main love interests, and the best one I can come up with is "Can I give myself a second chance?" It's in first-person instead of second-person, because Iwanako serves dual roles in MTtB as a protagonist and a canon love interest (Iwanako is like the Green Ranger of love interests in Katawa Shoujo, but I'd argue she deserves an asterisk after the main five.) "Second chance" also has dual meanings, both in the context of her guilt, torment, and disappearance in the canon story and her self-loathing in MTtB. If I decide I like it, I'll probably put it right before Frozen Sopor. Any thoughts?

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Re: Mean Time to Breakdown

Post by griffon8 » Fri Feb 22, 2013 12:37 am

Leaty wrote:
griffon8 wrote:You made a good choice. Nice that you worked Molly into it as well. I assume you're planning on pairing Iwanako with one of the five main girls—based on your single point of departure desire—but it's a good idea to be different with the side characters.
This should in no way be taken as an indication or implication of what I'm going to do, but this doesn't really follow. The main girls are the main girls because Hisao went after them, that's all. They'll all be prominently featured in this fic because KS isn't really KS without them, but as for a romance, you'll have to wait and see.
Fair enough.
Leaty wrote:
griffon8 wrote:He has stated that there will be a pairing and that it will be with a girl. He hasn't, IIRC,
You guessed incorrectly. Image
I'll keep that in mind if it comes up again. 8)
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Re: Mean Time to Breakdown — (Iwanako, Divergence) (u 2/14/2

Post by Comrade » Sat Feb 23, 2013 5:13 pm

I remember, a long time before I made this account I've read the beginning of this, and out of all of the things I've read here, this is probably my favorite
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Re: Mean Time to Breakdown — (Iwanako, Divergence) (u 2/14/2

Post by YOTC » Mon Feb 25, 2013 2:18 am

Oh hey, this is alive again? It slipped through my radar apparently. Good to see it's going again.

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Scene Six

Post by Leaty » Thu Mar 07, 2013 6:09 am

____________________________________________________
Breaking the Loop

Lunchtime passed very uneventfully. I wasn’t very hungry; despite a prodigious selection of foods available, I decided to save my adventuring for another day and settled for a cup of weak tea and a boiled egg. It’s possible the medications are interfering with my appetite, but for once the more rational answer is probably that I’m simply a little stressed.

At Misha’s insistence, I agreed to pass the hour sitting with her and Shizune, but after I told them I didn’t have any questions for the class representative, the two of them spent the rest of the time speaking to each other in sign. Silently.

There’s something... off about these two, though I can’t quite place what it is exactly. The fact that the three of us are alone in this part of the cafeteria strikes me as especially peculiar. Don’t they have other friends? Where are they, if not here? I can see a scattered few other conversations in sign language at other lunch tables, so it isn’t as though Misha is the only person Hakamichi can speak to.

The impression that I’m getting is that Shizune is either highly misanthropic or otherwise not well-liked. Or maybe it’s Misha that’s the problem, though she doesn’t strike me as offensive; ostentatious and inscrutable, certainly, but otherwise harmless.

If they looked like they were very interested in befriending me, I might be concerned that they would cut me off from forming other relationships, but they hardly seem to notice I’m here. Misha occasionally turns to smile at me, but Hakamichi hasn’t even looked at me. Maybe their conversation is absolutely riveting, but I refuse to go along with it any further. I’m done eating, anyway.

“Shizune, Misha,” I say, bowing my head slightly in gratitude, “thank you for showing me the cafeteria. I’ll see you back in the classroom.”

Misha blinks, seemingly ruffled, before her smile returns. “Oh, no problem, Iwacchan~! Feel free to ask if you want to know where anything else is!”

They’re her words, not Hakamichi’s, because the latter merely waves me a nonchalant goodbye.

“I will. See you in a bit.”

I’m delighted to escape the cafeteria, especially since today I’m still wearing the uniform from my old school and I stick out like an erupting volcano. Dozens of students have shot me glances since I walked in and the attention was getting to be a little much. Nobody came up to me, though, for introductions or anything. Either people at this school aren’t very proactive, or Shizune’s presence is powerfully dampening.

Our classroom is almost empty when I walk back in, but the dark-haired girl in the back row is sitting quietly at her desk. Her hair falls like velvet curtains down the sides of her head and onto the desk surface, almost completely obscuring the book she’s reading.

She’s almost like a tableau. For some reason it feels subversive even to acknowledge her existence, but I decide to greet her anyway.

“Good afternoon,” I say, lightly, crossing the room.

The girl shoots up like a piston, gasping, hair flying everywhere. Her dark eyes briefly touch upon mine before vanishing back into her hair.

“G, good aftern-noon.”

Her voice is even softer than mine, and there’s a hint of a panic in it. What on earth...

“Sorry... I didn’t mean to scare you,” I say, more confused than apologetic.

The girl mumbles noncommittally and sinks back into her seat, returning to her original posture like a ruffled dove taking over a newly abandoned park bench. As I return to my own seat, I’m tempted to check my reflection to see if I’ve somehow turned into some kind of terrifying predator at some point between leaving the cafeteria and entering the classroom. Generally, I can't even chase away stray cats.

It isn’t long—unfortunately—before Shizune and Misha return as well, and their sweeping, obstreperous lunge back into the classroom creates enough of a perturbation that the purple-haired girl flinches and drops her book onto the desk. ...Wow. I can’t even imagine what would make a person so jumpy. She makes me look outgoing.

For their part, Shizune and Misha seem to continue their conversation from downstairs, leaving me be. I pass the time staring out the window while the remaining students slowly file into the classroom, burying themselves in their own discussions and waiting for our afternoon teacher to come in to resume our lessons.

I’m glancing back over our classroom when the door opens and Molly walks back into the room. I look over to her passively, only to double-take when I realize she’s walking on... prosthetic legs. In fact, she doesn’t even have real knees... Despite that, her gait is perfectly effective, albeit unnatural.

How could I have failed to notice before? She was sitting right in front of me...

Molly meets my eyes and gives a wan smile, and I realize I’ve been gawking. Embarrassed, I turn back to the window, hiding the heat rising to my face.

For a few hours, I’d actually forgotten that this was a school for the physically disabled. This is actually a pretty odd and noteworthy place, but I’ve been too distracted to take it all in.

And now I can’t help but be self-conscious about the way my nebulous first impression of Molly shifted as soon as I noticed her prosthetics. Well, it didn’t change, but now I have two different impressions, and it’s as though they’re irreconcilable. Is the one I had when we spoke this morning the “truer” one? Should I pretend I still don’t know about her prosthetic legs?

“Hey, how are you doing?”

She’s standing in front of her desk, facing me, leaning her right shoulder relaxedly against the wall. With mild chagrin, I recall that she’s almost certainly figured out I was recently hospitalized based on what I foolishly let slip during our earlier conversation.

I give her what is surely a weary-looking smile. “I’ve been worse,” I sigh. “Thanks for asking.”

She peers at me curiously. “Is it the first time you’ve been this far from home? I mean, by yourself?”

“I guess you could say that, after a fashion. I’ve lived in Tokyo my whole life.”

She nods. “Oh, cool. I’m from Kobe. Same deal.”

I blink at her. “Your whole life?”

She nods, finally moving to take her seat. “More or less, until I graduated middle school. Been here since then.”

That explains why she doesn’t have an accent. Well, she has a bit of a Kansai accent, actually, now that I think about it. I’m actually finding the conversation a good distraction from my thoughts, but the teacher coming in and starting class puts it on hold.

Hearing the teacher drone on about uninteresting subjects makes me realize how tired I am. I’ve spent the last four months in a sedentary existence. Even simply sitting upright in a desk and giving someone my full attention is a taxing experience.

Eventually the final bell tolls, liberating me from my chair. Shizune stands up and moves for the door before I’ve even put my pen down. Misha follows along diligently, waving at me when I glance up at them.

“Bye, Iwacchan~! See you tomorrow morning!”

I halfheartedly wave back at her. I really don’t understand what’s going on with those two. Sighing, I gather my belongings together and stand up from my desk, though I suddenly realize I don’t really know where I’m supposed to head to from here.

“Molly,” I say, addressing her as she gets to her feet, “Are you going back to the dorms?”

“Um… not right this minute,” she says pensively.

“Oh, so you’re in a club or something?”

“Er… No, I’m not in a club or anything… It’s complicated,” she says, tugging anxiously on one of her braids. “Sorry, did you need me to help you find them? It’s kind of a no-brainer: when you go out the way you came, look where the stream of people are going and you should see it okay. Trust me, you can’t miss it.”

“…I see,” I mumble, a bit surprised at her sudden evasiveness. “Well, see you tomorrow, I guess.”

“Yeah, we’ll chat! I have to go, though.”

Moving surprisingly fast for not having legs, she grabs her bag and speed-walks out the door.

...Well, that was certainly a little odd. Would it be overstepping my bounds to ask her about it tomorrow morning? If I even get a chance… Shizune and Misha seem to monopolize a suspicious amount of my attention, considering their questionable levels of affection for me. Maybe they just feel responsible for me, because I’m a transfer student.

Well, there’s no point to staying here. I don’t have anywhere to be, either. I pick up my bag and head for the dorms.

It’s just like Molly said; there are students walking to the dorms, and it’s not far off, either. It’s quite a bit warmer than it was this morning, and the air smells nice. After spending as much time as I did breathing nothing but recycled air, this is a refreshing change.

I’m almost tempted to slacken my pace a little and enjoy nature for once, but my black-and-burgundy school uniform is too a stark contrast from the sea of white and forest-green clothes I’m walking through, and I'm attracting a lot of puzzled or curious glances.. My mother should have acquired my Yamaku school uniforms while I was in class, so this won’t be a problem from tomorrow on, but for now I’d rather avoid the stares as much as possible.

The dorm looks nice from the outside, its architectural style well complemented by the landscaping around it. What would that be called? Neoclassical? Are there neoclassical buildings in Japan? …Anyway, it looks promising.

The inside is clean and white, but sterile and institutional. There hasn’t been a lot of effort to make it look like anyone’s home, really. I suppose it’s analogous to a hotel hallway. Those aren’t very interesting either.

My room number is 314… I should be able to find that without too much trouble. I walk past the common room as I head for the stairs; a clique of underclassmen girls is in there sitting among a circle of couches, emphatically gossiping about some mutual acquaintance not present. A few of them glance at me suspiciously as I walk past the door, so I hurry along. The chatter is asinine anyway.

Upsettingly, my room is on the fourth story. I climb three flights of stairs, exiting into a long hallway that breaks off into several smaller hallways, like the prongs of a fork. Seems like a good way to keep students organized.

It’s easy enough to locate my hallway, not far from the stairs. Apparently each smaller hallway has four rooms, with a restroom and shower at the end. Hopefully that means I won’t have to duel anybody over a shower head in the mornings.

As I pass by the first pair of rooms to reach my own in the back, I suddenly hear a deep, obstreperous groaning coming from the room to my left. It makes me stop in my tracks, turning worriedly towards the closed door. What was... It almost sounded like...

“Woof!”

...Woof? What, like...? No, there’s no way...

“Woof!!”

That is definitely a dog. There is a dog in that room.

“Woof, woof!”

There. Is a dog. In that room.

Suddenly the door swings open.

“My dog can read minds, you know. He knows you’re thinking evil thoughts.”

...What.

I stand there, gaping, utterly nonplussed. There’s a tall girl leaning in the doorframe, glaring at me from behind an oval-framed pair of sunglasses with a tint such a deep shade of crimson that they're practically opaque, completely impractical for anything. Her long hair is dyed a similar, equally unnatural scarlet, and the expensive-looking silk bathrobe she’s wearing highlights her precociously top-heavy frame. I almost worry she’s going to fall on me in an explosion of red.

Resting on its haunches beside her is a long-haired, liver-colored German Shepherd of rather considerable size. It’s eyeing me with a mix of suspicion and eagerness.

“Well? ” Her voice is a slightly nasal soprano, so breathy she almost sounds like she’s purring. Is she doing that on purpose? “I know you’re standing there... I can smell your perfume. Why are you stalking around my room?

She knows I’m standing there? Isn’t that obvious? Is she... Oh, no... This girl’s blind, isn’t she?

“I, er,” I stammer nervously, “I wasn’t stalking. I’m a new student. I was just going to my room.”

She quirks an eyebrow at me, and then gives an amused half-smile. “Ah. Well then, I apologize. The dog can’t actually read minds. It’s just something I say.”

“That’s... good?”

Smirking now, she gives me a small bow. “I suppose we’ll be neighbors then. I knew having a whole hall to myself was too good to last...”

I can't tell if she's blaming me for that, or just being uncomfortably frank.

Not knowing what else to do, I default to my manners. “I, ah, I’m Iwanako Daidouji. It’s nice to meet you...”

“Momomi Matsumoto. Charmed. And this handsome beast–” she says, gently caressing the side of the dog with the outside of her left leg, “–is my guide dog, Susano’o. You must not be allergic, or they wouldn't have assigned you this hallway...”

I furrow my brow. “Susano’o?”

“Sadly, I didn’t get the luxury of naming him,” she sighs irritably. “The trainer was an eccentric.

“Um... Okay,” I say, flatly. “So... you have a guide dog? Does that mean you’re blind?”

I already know the answer, of course, but for whatever reason I’d like the comforts of her own confirmation. Perhaps she’s not completely blind? Or can only see movement, like some kind of predatory reptile?

“I should hope that would be obvious... Unless you’re blind, too? Hm, I didn’t see you in class today... Well, I suppose I wouldn’t one way or the other...”

“N, no,” I answer, embarrassed. “I’m in class 3-3...”

I’m starting to feel a bit uncomfortable speaking to this girl. She seems... derisive. And maybe a little aggressive?

“Hakamichi’s class? You poor thing.

I don’t get a chance to appreciate the weight of that statement before she bends down, reaching out and placing her right hand atop my head. I have no idea what in god's name she's doing, and I squirm under the weight of her arm.

“My, so short. And your hair is lovely, ” she says, running her fingertips through my hair before I have a chance to protest. “I can tell you’re pretty...”

This is absolutely, immensely awkward, and the fact her that bending down causes her ponderous breasts to hover inches away from my face only multiplies the effect. If the point of this isn't to make me flustered for her own entertainment, then I just have absolutely no idea what's going on.

Still smiling as her hand falls back to her side, she asks, “So... what characters does your name use, Iwanako?”

I hesitate a little before answering, trying to determine the best way to pull out of this conversation. “Err... Gan as in rock, Gyo as in fish; you know the rest.”

She grins impishly. “Mind if I call you ‘Rocky’? I think it’s cute.”

“That... that doesn’t sound anything like my name,” I protest.

“Feh, who cares? Does it have to?” She crosses her arms, raising an eyebrow at me challengingly, as if to say ‘Isn’t my nickname good enough for you?

“N... No, I guess.”

I never would have thought I’d be so easily browbeaten by a blind girl. Even such a tall, zaftig one.

Seemingly satisfied, she grins again, as Susano’o yawns and sinks onto the floor. “Great! Well, Rocky, I look forward to speaking with you some more, but I’m waiting on a call from my boyfriend, so we’ll chat later, hmm?”

“Um, bye, then...”

“Goood even-ing,” she says in a singsong voice. “Avoid the harpies downstairs.”

“Woof!

With that, she promptly closes the door.

I’m... lost. I thought she was teasing me... but could she just be that weird? I would have presumed the former, but... That garish hair color and those glasses... I’m not sure what to think. I’ll worry about it later, though. For now, I just want to lie down. I insert my key into room 314 and open the door.



For a moment, I’m puzzled by what I see, but then clarity hits. You didn’t have to do this, I want to say.

Mother didn’t just bring in my belongings; she actually decorated my room. The entire wall behind the bed is adorned with a massive poster of the Tokyo skyline at night, and the grey, low-maintenance carpet is covered up by a fluffy, brightly-colored rug. Even the white linens standard with these rooms are obfuscated by a satin duvet cover. A old family photo with my parents and brother stands on the desk against the far wall.

This was meant as a surprise. I didn’t see her buy any of these things when we went out shopping. Mother must have had them hidden in the car and gone back for them after dropping off my bags.

There’s a note on the night table; I immediately recognize her lackadaisical handwriting.

To my perfect daughter—

I hope you like the room! It was so dreary when we saw it last weekend and you deserve better. Please think about your father and I whenever you’re in here. We just want you to be happy. We love you more than you could ever imagine.

P.S. I bought you some topsoil and flowerpots, etc for the windowsill. Sorry I forgot to water your plants at home.

P.P.S. They told me they were out of uniforms in your size. Said they would place an order, but just wear your old one for now. Sorry.
Take your meds!

Before I finish reading the note, the tears are sliding down my face. Suddenly feeling bereft of energy, I have to fall onto the bed.

My mother is a kind person but she never acted like this before I collapsed in the snow. She and my father were always more concerned with my older brother. It’s only now, as I’ve been wrecked by this condition, that she’s refocused on me, and though the love I feel from her makes me better than I ever would have guessed, it also... makes me hurt inside. A normal girl my age shouldn’t have to lean on their mother so much for spiritual support. Her mother shouldn’t have to buy her a mass of expensive clothing and jewelry just to keep her from plunging into despair.

Mother shouldn’t feel like the only friend in the world I have, anymore. Making her sad shouldn’t be the only reason I would feel guilty if I died the day after tomorrow. She shouldn’t have to be my lifeline.

It... I don’t know. I don’t know why I’m here. I still feel hollow, like I don’t have a future. And Yamaku Academy, at the end of the day, is just a high school. It can’t give me meaning. It can’t promise me anything but a diploma. And then what?

“You're going to live a long time, provided you don't lie around sulking.”

That’s what the doctor said, the day before yesterday. But what’s the alternative? What am I supposed to do?

...Pragmatically speaking, it probably isn’t even appropriate for me to ask such meaningful questions when I’m still mired in such a toxic state of mind. Maybe the reason I’m here is to distract myself until I forget about my problems? The students I’ve met today are certainly distracting, to say the least.

I don’t have a better solution, so I guess that’s as good as any.

I turn to the night table. My nightly medications are already arranged in a seven-day container, so I swallow them down unceremoniously, then undress and hang up my uniform in the closet. I grimace as I suddenly remember what my mom wrote in the note about school uniforms.

Well, great, I guess. I get to be the one girl in the whole school wearing a different uniform. A special snowflake among special snowflakes.

...I try to be upset, but I can’t help but smile sardonically as I slip on my nightgown. It figures, of course.

And, on that thought, I bury myself under the covers of my bed and let my consciousness slip away.

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Last edited by Leaty on Mon Jul 06, 2015 8:06 pm, edited 10 times in total.

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