Tomorrow's Doom ~ Up: 04/30/16 ~ recommitted to completion.

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Mirage_GSM
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Aiko Kurai (OC) Updated 8/22

Post by Mirage_GSM » Wed Aug 22, 2012 7:28 am

“I meant what you knew.”
Intentional?
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
Sore wa himitsu desu.

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Helbereth
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Aiko Kurai (OC) Updated 8/22

Post by Helbereth » Wed Aug 22, 2012 1:53 pm

Mirage_GSM wrote:
“I meant what you knew.”
Intentional?
Yes.

Colloquialism. Decided I wanted to use it, regardless of the relative difference in continental location.

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BlackWaltzTheThird
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Aiko Kurai (OC) Updated 8/22

Post by BlackWaltzTheThird » Wed Aug 22, 2012 11:22 pm

Well holy pants. I finally got through all this. You guys are making me feel bad, writing fan fiction like this. Not only is it better quality, but larger in quantity as well. I really like reading this. Aiko is a cool character, and her refusal to submit to dirty thoughts amuses me to no end. I like the positive portrayal of the Student Council in this (not to say they aren't elsewhere, but they're definitely not on as good terms as they are in this story), as well as the extensive cast of creative and enjoyable characters accompanying them. Good sir, do continue being awesome.
Cheers, BlackWaltz.
BlackWaltz's One-stop Oneshot Shop - my fanfiction portal topic. Contains links to all my previous works, plus starting now any new ones I may produce (or reproduce)! Please, check it out!

BlackWaltz's Pastebin - for those who prefer to read things with no formatting and stuff. It's mostly the same as in my thread. Also contains assorted other writing!

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Helbereth
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Aiko Kurai (OC) Updated 8/22

Post by Helbereth » Thu Aug 23, 2012 1:06 am

BlackWaltzTheThird wrote:Well holy pants. I finally got through all this. You guys are making me feel bad, writing fan fiction like this. Not only is it better quality, but larger in quantity as well. I really like reading this. Aiko is a cool character, and her refusal to submit to dirty thoughts amuses me to no end. I like the positive portrayal of the Student Council in this (not to say they aren't elsewhere, but they're definitely not on as good terms as they are in this story), as well as the extensive cast of creative and enjoyable characters accompanying them. Good sir, do continue being awesome.
Cheers, BlackWaltz.
Reading this made me grin like an idiot, so thank you.

It's nice to know it's working.

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Mistoffelees
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Aiko Kurai (OC) Updated 8/22

Post by Mistoffelees » Fri Aug 24, 2012 7:41 pm

Tired of having me post here yet? Haha, no misc. or nits to pick at this time. Just writing in to say I enjoyed the newest addition to this story, although you seem to get that a lot already! I figured I owed it to you though. Cheers.

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DelusionsOfGrandeur
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Aiko Kurai (OC) Updated 8/22

Post by DelusionsOfGrandeur » Mon Aug 27, 2012 7:08 am

Helbereth, your avatar has made me VERY wary about Aiko's future prospects of being happy.

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JTemby
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Aiko Kurai (OC) Updated 8/22

Post by JTemby » Mon Aug 27, 2012 7:14 am

DelusionsOfGrandeur wrote:Helbereth, your avatar has made me VERY wary about Aiko's future prospects of being happy.
I thought the same until I realised it was Amaya. (No blonde streak)

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Helbereth
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Aiko Kurai (OC) Updated 8/22

Post by Helbereth » Mon Aug 27, 2012 8:32 am

JTemby wrote:
DelusionsOfGrandeur wrote:Helbereth, your avatar has made me VERY wary about Aiko's future prospects of being happy.
I thought the same until I realised it was Amaya. (No blonde streak)
Indeed. That's Amaya after the day spent in class during 'the maudlin zone'. I slipped the image into the chapter right about where it fits, too.

Here's a happier Amaya:
Image

Your avatar, DelusionsOfGrandeur, is almost enough to make me let slip a spoiler, but I'll contain myself.

Still finishing up chapter 20. Made you look, though, didn't I?

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Helbereth
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Chapter 20 - Sunny Haze (part 1)

Post by Helbereth » Wed Aug 29, 2012 8:00 pm

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to ME!!

Yeah, so, anyway, this chapter took a little longer than I thought to work out, so I'm posting late in the day. It's still Wednesday, though (where I am), so no complaints!

It's split in two again, since it ran a little longer than expected. Nothing unusual there, though.


Previous Chapter|Part 2|Next Chapter
________________________________________________
Chapter 20 – Sunny Haze

With a thick, soft, twin-sized bed set against the far wall, and two half-open windows flanking it, the bedroom Amaya picked is rather large. Set up against the left wall is a bunk-bed, so we won't have to sleep on the floor, and against the other wall is a large dresser with a big mirror set behind it and a small, decorative wooden chair standing alongside. A large closet with an accordion door is set into the wall next to the dresser.

Warmly decorated, the walls are painted a pastel green with dark green trim, while the floor is hard wood with braided area rugs under the furniture. Colorful paintings hang around the room depicting typical seaside scenes. Across from the closet there's a door hanging half-open, through which appears to be a small bathroom; convenient. It's really what I expected, honestly, after seeing the other rooms.

Stepping over to the open windows, I marvel at the excellent view, straight out at the rolling surf. Noticing how little weathering there has been on the interior, and the location, I imagine this bungalow is not cheap to maintain. Inquiring about it seems like looking a gift horse in the mouth, but I'm worried it might be too exorbitant, even if only for a few days. Since this was mostly her plan, I turn my questions to Amaya as she starts unpacking.

After some prompting, she explains that it belongs to her aunt. Evidently, the woman is a real-estate mogul of sorts, and adores her niece enough that, when asked whether she would let her use the bungalow for the Sea-Day weekend, her only stipulation was the removal of all the alcohol. Frowning at that information, I want to ask why her aunt would place that kind of restriction on her favorite niece, but it probably has to do with her epilepsy, so I don't bother; it's a little disappointing, still.

Not that I'm a lush, but, hey, I'm on vacation!

As it turns out, Misha's enormous suitcase opens into a closet, complete with a crossbar and shelves beneath. Drawing our attention as she locks it into position, we marvel at her unusually versatile luggage. Grinning broadly upon noticing our interest, she lets out a booming, “Wahaha~!” and sheepishly remarks, “you didn't think I'd lug this thing around just for the workout, did you~!”

Neither of us bother answering, but I manage a wondrous little chuckle while Amaya shakes her head and goes back to unpacking. Joining her, we make use of the closet to hang up some of our things, and she hands me the pillowcase; filled with my bikini, several pairs of shorts and tank-tops. Hidden among my belongings, there is also a set of objects that I know aren't mine. Lacy black lingerie, still hanging on a plastic hanger from the store that I know aren't hers, either; the cup size is much closer to my own.

Lifting the brazier and panties out of the pillowcase, I raise an eyebrow at Amaya. Unabashedly holding them up for both girls to see, I curtly inquire, “is this some kind of hint, or a joke?”

Misha laughs heartily, “Wahaha~!” while Amaya puts on a conspiratorial smirk and rubs her hands together. Apparently it's a bit of both, judging by her dire expression, but I'm not sure if she intended anyone else to know about her plan. Misha looks away, noticing Amaya's glance, and busies herself with hanging some of her blouses as Amaya treks across the room, glowering.

“Early Birthday present,” she claims, “consider it a just-in-case~!”

Grabbing the set out of my hand, she shoves them back in the pillowcase and smirks at me playfully. Leaning close, she whispers, “I'm giving you a chance to be dressed up for it.”

My eyes widen as I realize what she means, as well as what she seems to know. For a moment, I hold onto the hope that she didn't notice my early return to the shed, but that's quickly dashed by her following comment, “unlike the situation you left me in.”

Dammit... she does know! Dammit, she thinks we'll... Dirty little Amaya!

Standing there, dumbstruck, I don't have an answer for either suggestive line of reasoning. My shocked, apologetic expression probably explains enough, but I feel I should say something. Taking a deep breath, I stutter and almost get a word out, but she raises a finger to press against my lips, silencing my attempts at verbalizing the apology. Seeing her look over at Misha, I realize she probably doesn't want her asking about why I'd be apologizing, so I relax my shoulders and simply nod.

“We're good,” she says, smiling brightly, apparently forgiving my trespassing. With that, she spins and heads back over to continue unpacking. “I get the top bunk~!” she exclaims, but I'm still too befuddled to argue; not that I'd want the top bunk. My tendency leave bed repeatedly, in the dark, would make the climb rather annoying.

Finally breaking out of my trance, I stuff the pillowcase, along with its contents, into my suitcase and close it up, taking my hairbrush as an afterthought. “I'll take the bottom bunk,” I say, more to Misha than Amaya, “you can take the bed.”

Nodding, Misha remains eerily silent after watching our uncomfortable exchange. While I hate to leave her out of the loop, it's personal business and I think she understands that. Going back to making herself at home, she hums an aimless tune and smiles brightly.

Removing my hooded sweatshirt finally, I toss it over on the lower bunk and run a hand through my messy hair, frowning. Matted and tangled, I set about brushing it back to some semblance of neatness while Amaya gets herself set up on the top bunk. Sitting down in the decorative wooden chair set up near the dresser, I regret not brushing it out after the shower.

Picking out a pair of khaki shorts and a turquoise tank-top, I close myself in the little bathroom, which is just big enough for a sink, shower and commode, and change; grabbing my green sandals to put on when we head out. Readjusting my hair over by the dresser, looking into the mirror, I notice Misha watching me and smirk at her reflection. Her expression is somewhere between curious and jealous.

“I wish I had your hair, Aiko-chan~!” she says simply.

“It's more a curse than a blessing,” I retort, laughing a little, “but, thanks.”

“It's hereditary,” Amaya comments, “you should see her mom's hair~!”

Rolling my eyes, and seeing Misha's interested expression, I explain, “Italian great-grandparent on my mom's side.”

“Wahaha~!” Misha's booming laughter fills the room. Calming herself after a moment, she explains, “I have a German great-uncle.” Grinning widely, apparently happy to have some similar family history, albeit culturally different, she takes a few steps closer and places her hands on her hips. “That's how I got the nickname, Misha,” she explains, “from a cousin on that side of the family~!”

I always wondered about that.

Everyone calls her Misha, of course, but her name is Shiina; Shiina Mikado. Many of my distant relatives have Italian names, though I've only met a few. Perhaps if I spent more time with them, I might end up with my own familial nickname; I can't imagine what it would be, though.

Aria, maybe... okay, probably not, unless I had the courage to sing for them...

Seeing my intrigued expression, she adds, “he couldn't pronounce Shiina right, so he just started calling me Misha~!” Nodding happily, her explanation makes a certain amount of sense.

Part of me wonders why she introduces herself as Misha, though, instead of Shiina, especially to students at a Japanese school. However, I won't get the chance, as Amaya seems ready to leap out the door. Rolling off the top bunk and dropping to the floor in a stealthy crouch, she stands up quickly and grins, showing off a little. Sometimes I forget Amaya studied Aikido for most of her life before coming to Yamaku.

Tadao probably appreciates her limberness... oh, God dammit!

“You two ready?” she inquires, looking each of us over before remarking, “we should go look for lunch before the boys waste away.”

“I forgot I hadn't eaten~!” Misha exclaims, apparently forgetting our conversation as well, “that boardwalk smelled like heaven, though~!”

Nodding agreement, I head for the door, fighting back the image of Amaya crawling around on Tadao. After quickly knocking on the door across the hall, telling the other girls we're headed out to find sustenance, and tearing the boys away from the television, the nine of us head out of the bungalow. The prospect of finding food is enough to quickly convince all of them.

Misha heads off with Shizune, ahead of all of us, apparently having made plans to visit some of the shops along the boardwalk. Amaya and Tadao walk in tandem close behind, while keeping their own pace. Kenta hobbles past Hisao and I, eagerly catching up to and joining Yoko and Naoko as they crest the little hill ahead of us. Meanwhile, I'm looking around at the sights I didn't get to see, so we lag behind.

For once, pointing out all sorts of oddities along the path, I'm the one lecturing him about something, and it feels weird. He has been to the beach before, he says, but not frequently enough to have retained much knowledge. Telling him about conch shells and how hermit crabs migrate between them, I keep expecting to hear him scoff and explain how he already knows that, but, if he does know, he's keeping it quiet.

As we crest a small hill, the boardwalk comes into view; along with a marina in the distance. The clear blue sky and scattered wisps of clouds hover over a peaceful low-tide beach with a rushing surf. The noontime sunny haze lights the faded boardwalk, which is a couple miles long at least. There are numerous booths with brightly-colored signs, and probably hundreds of people walking between them, or sitting on one of the numerous benches and picnic tables set up along its length.

Storefronts line the edge of the walk, mostly small boutiques and a few restaurants from the look of them, and a grand, multi-story hotel looms along the far end. Looking at it, I can imagine the view from those high balconies must be spectacular, but I'm glad Amaya had connections to get us the private bungalow; having all those tourists around would make this a lot less enjoyable, I suspect.

Flocks of seagulls congregate near the boardwalk, making their home on a patch of sharp rocks naturally arranged along the shoreline. Their chirping calls rise over the din of crashing waves, and I smile at the sight, though seeing so many flocking together makes me a little nervous. Several of them appear to have left their perches and are circling above instead, or flying down to land on the wooden rails or the faded decking.

Climbing up a short staircase onto the boardwalk proper, I understand why. Resting against the rails or on benches, there are several gaudily dressed people casually ignoring the signs professing not to feed the birds. Breaking up bits of bread and tossing them into the squawking frenzy, they appear to be typical, blissfully oblivious tourists. Smirking and rolling my eyes at them, my reaction draws a quizzical look from Hisao.

Taking his hand, I turn him toward the distant postings. “See those signs?” I ask, watching him nod before explaining, “locals hate when tourists start feeding the birds, 'cause it just makes them show up in droves.”

“Don't seagulls hang around here anyway?” Hisao asks, looking at me like I just told him the Earth is flat.

“Yes, but if you feed them, they tell their friends,” I explain, waving toward the jagged rocks, “and their friends tell more friends.” Dramatically pointing at the sky with both hands, I exclaim, “and soon you've got a Hitchcock movie on your hands!”

“It couldn't get that bad... could it?” Hisao questions, clearly only half-believing my diatribe.

Shrugging, I smirk derisively and pull his arm around mine. “Maybe,” is all the answer I offer, coyly.

“I read that movie was based on actual events, though,” Hisao says, assuming his Mutou-like tone. “Some kind of algae fed on by the fish the birds ate caused a kind of dementia, and they attacked a town near where Hitchcock was staying.”

“Yeah, right!” I scoff. Looking up at him, I raise an eyebrow and protest, “you're just trying to scare me!”

“It's true! Happens every thirty years or something,” he claims, making me believe him even less. Seeing my look of disbelief, he adds, “remember, sometimes reality is stranger than fiction.”

“Whatever,” I say dismissively. Leaning against him, I playfully add, “if we get attacked by birds, I'm using you as bait!”

He laughs, but I nudge him with my elbow and nod suspiciously with shifty eyes. Looking like he's formulating a protest, he narrows his eyes at me and smirks, but decides not to voice his discontent. Seeing his eyes wander away from mine, I follow his gaze and see Kenta quietly shaking his head and grinning.

“Y'know she'll steal your soul if you give her the chance,” he says, still grinning. Pacing us nearby, along with Yoko and Naoko, he's too far away to kick him, so I sneer at him instead. “Wily, that one is,” he continues, feeling relatively safe from my jabs, “she tempted me once, but, alas, I resisted her charms.”

Oh, he's bringing that up!? Dammit...

Naoko smirks knowingly, but Yoko seems a little confused, though it's not really surprising. Truthfully, I've tried to forget about the attempt Kenta and I made at dating; it seems like it was so long ago. Naoko was around back then, but Yoko wasn't, of course, and neither was Hisao. Looking back at him, I can see his interest is piqued.

Deciding to freeze the bomb before Kenta can arm it, I quickly explain, “we went on one date, two years ago. Nothing-”

“I very nearly fell under her spell,” Kenta interjects. Yoko giggles as Naoko rolls her eyes and starts beckoning her away from the conversation. Noticing a complicit smirk and a quick exchange of glances between her and Kenta, I think he had this planned. “Vexed and tempted, I followed after her like a dutiful sow,” he claims, which is kind of true, “fit to be slaughtered.”

I never considered murdering him until now, actually...

Leveling a murderous gaze on him, I fold my arms and scoff, but don't reply verbally. From behind me, I hear Hisao saying, “I knew it was a good idea to stay away when you offered to si-” My elbow to the ribs cuts off Hisao's comment. After looking at me with a shocked expression for a few moments, he finishes his sentence, “sing.”

“Ah, that, yes,” Kenta says, “keeps that tucked away for those whom she deems fit to lead astray.”

“I never sang for you,” I say, looking back at his grinning face and smirking derisively, “you weren't worthy.”

Grabbing his chest woefully, Kenta exclaims, “hark! An arrow to pierce my heart!” Stumbling forward, he catches himself before falling and breaks out laughing; giving up the facade.

Hisao laughs as well, and I join in after a few seconds. Always treading the line between blatant sarcasm and dramatic overplay, Kenta tends to confuse people. Finding his sense of humor infectious rather than antagonistic, once I got to know him, that is, I had a slight crush on him back when I first started at Yamaku. It led to a single date, through which we both concluded our friendship was completely platonic.

“Aiko's probably worth the trouble,” he says finally, between fits of laughter, nodding toward Hisao, “just don't piss her off; Amaya's got nothing on her when it comes to angry-mode.”

“Noted,” Hisao replies, earning another elbow to the ribs. Although I shouldn't be surprised by his agreement; I've yelled at him before, back when we barely knew each-other.

That was a helpful yell, though, wasn't it?

“Can we find something to eat now?” I ask, changing the subject.

“Indeed,” Kenta says, sniffing the air, “I smelled crab rolls around here somewhere.”

Nodding, I recall smelling them on the way to the bungalow. “Only thing I don't want is sashimi,” I say, recalling the experience with a grimace, “Uncle Aki might taunt me, but he's not here.”

“Don't have the stomach for raw fish, I take it?” Hisao inquires.

“The smell, mostly,” I admit, “cooked fish is fine, but the raw smell makes me queasy.”

“I don't have much experience with fresh seafood,” he admits, looking a little bewildered, “most of what I've had was from a can or out of a freezer.”

Smirking happily, I remark, “well, we'll have to fix that, then, won't we?”

Kenta, apparently feeling brave, walks up alongside us and smiles. The look on his face rides between happy and somber, so I wonder what he's about to say; he's rarely serious. “Happy Birthday, in case I forget,” he says, “I know it's early, but last year...” Trailing off, he frowns and glances at Hisao.

Realizing he's wondering if I've told Hisao about Dad, I nod and offer a slight smile. “It's okay, he knows,” I assure him.

“I'm glad to see you're not taking it so hard now,” Kenta says somberly. “Wherever you disappeared to,” he continues, “we missed seeing you around.”

Last year, as my birthday approached, I became reclusive. That's as good a word as any, I suppose. Being my first without Dad, wanting to shut the world out and be left alone, I looked for a place to hide, reminisce and ponder my fate. Finding the pool building rooftop, I wandered up there after class every day for the two weeks following Tanabata. Amaya eventually inquired about it, and that's when I told her about my tainted inheritance; the secret she still keeps.

The secret I keep from everyone else.

“Thanks,” I say, offering an affirming nod, “it's getting easier to deal with.” Seeing his sympathetic look, and Hisao's, I consider telling them it's because of the friends I've made, especially the one clinging to my arm, but I decide to keep that to myself; it feels more genuine leaving it unsaid.

Looking back at Hisao, I notice he looks a little perplexed, likely by Kenta's sudden change in cadence. Most people never get to see Kenta's soft side, so I'm hardly surprised. He and I have been friends for a long time, even after our failed attempt at dating. Sitting next to me in class during our first year, I initially misinterpreted his interest as teasing. Being used to kids calling me names, I didn't quite understand he was kidding, so his sarcasm was lost on me at the time.

When he took it upon himself to help me patch things up with Amaya, after I unintentionally told half the girls in the dorm about her epilepsy, I realized his jabs weren't malicious. Once we fixed things up with her, the three of us became friends. They helped me get acclimated to life at a boarding school, something they were both already experienced with, even as I was still moody and reactionary; unaccustomed to genuinely friendly behavior from my peers.

I've changed a lot since then... I think.

“He's not always a pain in the ass, Hisao,” I explain, nodding toward Kenta, “sometimes he acts almost like a human being.”

Nodding happily at my compliment, despite the veiled insult, Kenta holds up his hands in a surrendering motion and exclaims derisively, “I've been called worse!”

Smiling at Kenta's theatrics, Hisao pauses for a moment, his eyes narrowing. “So,” he leads, “you and Kenta?” His tone is rather playful, but I can sense a tinge of jealousy in his query.

“Friends,” I state firmly, deciding not to be coy, “even when we went out the one time.”

Kenta smirks hearing that and adds, “we were kinda too alike, I think.”

“Amaya thought we'd be great together,” I say, recalling her attempts to push us into dating, “but we just didn't work romantically.”

“Hmm,” Hisao raises an eyebrow, “so you never...” His indirect, half-spoken question hangs in the air. Neither Kenta nor I attempt to answer, both apparently deciding to keep him in suspense, which causes his face to warp into a bewildered smirk.

After a few long moments, I break the tension by remarking, “no, of course not!” Placing my hands on my hips, I pout mockingly and add, “he had cooties!” Both Kenta and I break into laughter as I watch Hisao shaking his head at our synchronous mirth.

Never pulling punches with Kenta, he once said the reason he befriended me was due to my approach to his condition. Instead of dodging around the issue, like with Hisao, I bluntly asked him what was wrong with his disfigured limbs; I was somewhat lacking in tact back then. Explaining about his affliction, I remember he didn't hold back either, immediately asking what condition landed me at Yamaku.

I wasn't completely honest with him, though.

After calming down, Kenta glances back toward Yoko and Naoko, who continue to walk along nearby, mostly ignoring our conversation. “I'm gonna head off with Chatty Cathy and the red-head,” he says as he begins angling his hobbling toward them. Once out of range, he smirks at Hisao and adds, “remember; she's a temptress, so gird your loins and be wary!”

Merely rolling my eyes at Kenta, I look toward Hisao to inspect his reaction. Noticing my interest, he grins and takes my hand again, deciding not to comment. Whatever truth there might be hidden in Kenta's cryptic warnings, Hisao doesn't seem terribly concerned. Walking along with him, I feel like I've come full circle in a way.

Once the delinquent, moody outcast who avoided social contact and tried to hide away in her room, I've spent the past month helping someone else get used to being different; or feeling different, at least. The tall, handsome, darkly troubled boy I met by happenstance last month, when I was already overwhelmed with responsibilities, has become an integral part of my life. We share secrets, friendships, interests, activities, and, thus far, we've done so without judgments. Kenta and I didn't work romantically, but I think Hisao is different; he's cuter, at least.

Okay, he's adorable; in a manly kind of way.

More than that, I think he understands me better than he lets on, this trip being partly his idea is proof of that, and that's probably why I don't feel apprehensive about telling him things I usually keep to myself. Never once has he questioned my reasons for acting out the way I once did, nor does he seem to think negatively of the way I try to push my friends together – romantically or not.

Yoko and Kenta, though; that I wonder about.

“You see that too?” Hisao asks suddenly, apparently noticing my eyes wandering toward the newly formed trio. Looking back up at his brown eyes, I smile lightheartedly and shrug. He continues by saying, “he pretty much spends all his free time thinking about her.”

“Yoko?” I ask, surprised by the revelation.

Nodding sagely, Hisao smirks and says evenly, “don't go poking the bear, though.”

Pulling him closer, I shake my head and reply, “I'm just glad it seems to be mutual.”

Though neither seems aware of it...

Finding our way to the aforementioned booth selling crab rolls, we're joined by Amaya and Tadao; Kenta apparently followed his two charges to some other booth. Reminded of the festival day when we went seeking takoyaki with the tittering couple, I nudge Hisao and whisper, “remember to catch me if I fall.”

Chuckling lightly as the four of us make our way to a picnic table, complete with a big shady umbrella, Hisao smirks at the sandwich and looks a little squeamish. Sitting down next to Amaya, across from Hisao, I pick up my sandwich and smirk at him derisively. Evidently he really doesn't have much experience with seafood, not the fresh kind, at least, so I decide to encourage him by taking a big bite.

Seeing my display, Amaya eggs him on, crooning, “c'mon, Swooner, it's just cooked crab chunks, diced vegetables, aioli and slaw; nothing you can't handle~!” Tadao just sits and watches expectantly, wearing a detached, smug expression; it used to be him Amaya and I would coax into trying new foods.

Hisao watches me chewing for a moment, and I try hard not to laugh at his bemused expression; if only to keep from spitting my lunch all over the table. Finally, he gets a handle on the clumsy, messy sandwich and takes a big bite, engulfing a quarter of it in his gaping maw; copying my approach apparently.

Deciding to be mischievous, I swallow my bite fast, then cross my eyes and stick my tongue out at him playfully. Slamming his eyes shut, he cracks up for a second, but gets control back before making a mess of the table. “See,” I say, giggling at his tight-lipped reaction, “seafood is fun!”

After taking a moment to work the enormous bite down, he replies, “it's probably better that you don't try making me spit it all over the place, then.”

Amaya rolls her eyes and mocks, “if you can't stomach it, we won't think less of you.” Grinning at Tadao she adds, “well, okay, we would, but we wouldn't tell you that~!”

Tadao slaps Hisao's shoulder and remarks, “we'd just snicker behind your back.”

“I thought as much,” Hisao replies sardonically.

Laughing, Hisao goes back to his sandwich. After that, we finish our lunch in relative silence. The crashing surf and din of laughter from people walking around the boardwalk fills the air with enough distractions to keep us glancing around.

Finishing before everyone else, I turn around on the bench and focus on the people passing between me and the rolling surf. Some of them seem to be local, or at least more familiar with seaside life. Tourists usually stick out like a sore thumb, often wearing gaudy shirts with cameras dangling around their necks. Dad used to sit and watch people, pointing out oddities in their gait, or the way they were smiling, or whatever other details he could ascertain in the brief seconds they passed by his vision.

A young couple with a set of twins stroll by lazily, seemingly oblivious to the bustling crowd. Their daughter, no more than three, wearing an adorable, ruffled purple dress with a yellow cardigan, cradles an orange stuffed cat as she plods alongside, her other hand wrapped in her mother's. Noticing my casual glance, the little pig-tailed girl stops, and her mother notices her gaze. The little girl takes a few steps forward, a curious look in her eyes, and I look to her mother, offering a smile.

Standing a few feet away, she tilts her head left and right, her eyes fixed on me. After a few seconds, she giggles and shyly runs back to her mother, evidently having gotten a look at whatever held her interest. The woman smiles at me and they continue walking along, leaving me to wonder what had made her so curious; though I think I have some idea.

Hisao, who apparently watched the whole thing happen, whispers behind me, “it's your eyes.”

Amaya bumps my shoulder and nods, unable to speak as she's still chewing. Rarely do many new people encounter my minor genetic anomaly anymore, and I often forget about my eyes being different colors. Whatever the little girl might have thought about my heterochromia, I'll probably never know, but the giggle seemed to indicate it didn't frighten her, at least.

Soon, the other three have finished their sandwiches and I turn back around to inspect Hisao's reaction. Seeing him picking his plate clean, doing everything short of licking it, I grin and rest my chin on laced fingers, sighing contentedly. “So,” I prompt, “Swooner like?”

“That was a lot better than canned tuna,” he replies looking a little embarrassed. Perhaps some of my table manners, or lack thereof, have rubbed off on him.

Though if we're both slobs, who's going to keep the house clean?

Playing house is probably the furthest thing from my mind right about now, so I shake the thought away. Turning my attention back toward the brown-eyed boy across from me, I retort, “well, that's just an introduction.”

“You said you had a billion things to show me,” he says, echoing my earlier statement. Grinning at me, he leans forward and inquires, “so, where do we start?”

You asked for it!

Taking his hand, I offer Amaya and Tadao a short bow, and start dragging him toward the beach. “Follow me,” I reply.

Leading him along with a grin, I look back and wink as we near the edge of the boardwalk. Not being close enough to a staircase, and not caring to find the long way around, I climb over the rail and hop the short distance to the sandy ground below. Looking back, I beckon him to follow, swaying playfully as I remove my sandals; hanging them in one hand.

Looking at me with subdued interest, he climbs over and hops down. Digging my toes into the sand, feeling the grainy bits squish between my toes, I motion for him to do the same. Complying with a raised eyebrow, he removes his shoes, carrying them in one hand similarly, and starts digging his toes into the soft, slightly damp sand. Tilting his head, he comments, “that feels... weird.”

Reaching out with my empty hand, I beckon, “c'mon, it's not far.”

Nodding suspiciously, he takes my hand and I pull him alongside, angling us toward the jagged rocks. Seagulls are about the same everywhere you find them near beaches, so I don't expect many to remain there. Lunch time is when they scatter up into the sky to circle and watch for dropped bits they can collect from the boardwalk; they're natural scavengers. Seeing they've dispersed, I grin and look at Hisao, inspecting his reaction.

“You knew they'd be gone,” he surmises, “what are you showing me?”

“Something cool,” I reply evasively, “you'll see.”

Leading him along the edge of the jagged rocks, which he mentions look a lot smaller from the boardwalk, I find a way around to the ocean side. Scanning the rocks, I find a series of tidal pools, water trapped in gullies between the worn rocks, containing all matter of sea-born wonders.

Stepping lightly, trying to avoid the white droppings, I hold my arms out to balance myself against the chopping breeze. Watching Hisao's curious glances down at the pools, I grin at his expression. Crouching down when I finally find what I'm looking for, I beckon him over with a wave of my hand and set my sandals down so I can point with the other.

“Starfish,” I say, smiling down at the five-limbed creature sticking against a rock In the bottom of the pool. When Hisao steps up next to me, I continue, “they get caught up here when the tide comes in and spend the day being as still as they can so the gulls don't notice them.”

“They'll eat them?” Hisao asks, sounding intrigued.

“If they're noticed, yeah,” I explain, “when the tide comes in, they'll escape into deeper waters.”

Pointing out a few of the other creatures, mollusks, clams, snails and a few tiny fish, many of which you can easily mistake for rocks or jutting outgrowths, I see Hisao's analytical side starting to creep into his eyes. Not wanting to suffer another scientific lecture, I stand and grab his arm, pulling him along and asking, “pretty isn't it?”
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Helbereth
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Chapter 20 - Sunny Haze (part 2)

Post by Helbereth » Wed Aug 29, 2012 8:00 pm

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Stepping down off the rocks, sinking into the wet sand, I turn us back to look at the myriad colors and outgrowths clinging to the sides of the rocks. “Natural paintings,” I say, “like a mural spread across the rocks over millennia.”

Letting him go, I back away toward the rolling whitecaps and wade into the rising tide. Following me a few moments later, he stands alongside me as the next wave rolls in, tickling our ankles with the foam. Silently standing there for a few more waves, I remember standing like this with Dad and a wistful smile spreads across my face.

“Dad used to bring me and Midori out to places like this to show us the details,” I explain, feeling nostalgic. “Mom came along, too,” I add, smirking, “she did the cooking.”

Hisao doesn't respond, though his eyes are set on me as intently as that little girl; I don't mind the attention, really. Lost in my memories, happy ones this time, I remember the song Dad always seemed to be humming; an old Irish tune. The English lyrics escape me, but, using the crashing waves as a metronome, I start humming the melody.

Listening intently, Hisao's attention is fully on me as I sing through it heartily, knowing my voice won't carry far enough for anyone to hear, grinning happily in blissful nostalgia. It's a short, mournful song, but Dad use to harmonize around it enough to keep it fresh. According to Mom, she taught it to him when they were dating, but he never really mentioned why it stuck with him. When I've finished, I finally look over and meet his eyes with a happy smile.

Smiling back, he asks, “what was that? It's strangely familiar.”

Feeling a little embarrassed, I blush and shyly glance at the ground, replying with a question, “did you like it?”

“It's lovely,” he answers, “you looked so happy humming it, too.”

“Dad used to hum it wherever he went,” I say, relating the good memory. “Or whistle it, or even sing the lyrics,” I explain, adding, “I don't remember them, though.”

“My dad can't carry a tune to save his life,” Hisao says, chuckling a little, “neither can I, really.”

“Oh you can't be as bad as Amaya!” I blurt, then laugh nervously. It's not a big secret, but it's a sore spot for her. Feeling a little embarrassed by my indiscretion, I request, “don't tell her I said that, though.”

“Tadao mentioned it before,” he replies with a smirk, “I didn't really believe it, though; she has a kind of melodious speaking voice.”

“Yeah, well, they call singing, controlled screaming,” I explain, “and Amaya... lacks control.” Giggling at the double metaphor, I notice Hisao joining in and elbow his side for good measure; just to keep him honest.

Feeling the waves crash around our ankles as we laugh, I remember the name of the song. “It's called The Minstrel Boy,” I say, remembering the story. Looking over at Hisao, I explain, “it's about a young bard who harps his way through battle and cuts the strings with his dying breath.” Looking back out at the rolling waves, I add, “so his enemies can't steal his song.”

Remembering all that, I don't really know why I told Hisao, but he doesn't look quite as perplexed as I feel. Dad used to sing that all the time, but I never really understood why. Perhaps he just liked the melody or the simplicity of the story. Standing here, wondering what possessed him to carry it around all the time, I feel a little empty; I can't ask him now.

Waves continually rapping against my shins, I hardly notice Hisao's hand come up to my shoulder, nor the soft kiss he plants on top of my head. What I do notice is the tear rolling down my cheek, and I guess that's why Hisao is holding me; he sees it, I guess. The reason that song followed Dad around perpetually will remain a secret unless Mom knows, but I doubt that.

“You okay?” Hisao asks, snapping me back to reality.

“Yeah,” I lie, still feeling empty. Looking over at him and offering a weak smile, I want to be honest and tell him what's bothering me, why I'm crying at least, but I don't want to bring him down like that.

He doesn't look convinced by my claim, but I think he understands I still have issues when it comes to Dad; his offered support is more than enough. Having him here to hold me close, whether he can do anything about it or not, makes me feel better, almost. I think if I asked, he would listen, but he seems content to just be there for me. Maybe that's all I really need from him, though that seems unfair.

Since meeting Hisao, I've never really questioned why he hangs around with me. At first, I think, it was because I was helping him get used to Yamaku, but he hasn't needed help with that since his first week. Later, I think he stuck around because of the swimming; getting his heart in shape. Now, though, I don't know.

Other girls have been looking at him, though I try not to notice. Shizune may have had a crush on him, maybe she still does, and so did Emi; according to Rika. Rin remembering him, even though they've hardly met since before the Yamaku Festival, might be some kind of indicator, as well. Any of them might be a better choice than myself, but, here he stands, his hand draped across my shoulder, looking perfectly content as his gaze shifts between the ocean view and myself.

For a few minutes we stand in silent reverie, both looking out at the rolling blue ocean, squinting at the sunny glare. The hand on my shoulder starts to gently rub up and down absently, and I have to suppress a giggle; he still doesn't know I'm ticklish there, I think. At least, I don't think he knows. How much Tadao, Kenta, or even Shizune has told him about me remains a mystery. Though I think Amaya is the only one privy to that bit of information.

Whatever is keeping him at my side, I don't think I want to find out; I'd rather he keep that mystery. Instead, I think about the beach, the bungalow and the gathering of friends this trip has brought about, and I'm inspired to offer my gratitude.

“Thanks,” I say, looking up at him adoringly, “for your part in planning this.”

Looking me over for a second, probably gaging my expression, he settles on a warm smile and replies, “no problem.” A cross expression comes over him as he adds, “I was starting to think it was a bad idea a minute ago.”

“Don't worry,” I say, leaning against him and wrapping my arm around his waist, “just lost in thought. I can't think of a better place to spend a weekend with my friends.” Meaning every word, I fix my eyes on his and smile brightly.

“Can we find a dry spot, maybe?” Hisao asks, looking back up the beach, “I think my toes are staring to prune.”

“How about a proverbial walk on the beach,” I suggest, leading him around and back over to the rocks to collect our shoes.

“Sounds like a plan,” he replies.

Carrying our shoes in our trailing hands, we set off along the beach in the direction of the bungalow. Instead of talking, we enjoy a comfortable silence as the tide begins creeping closer. The wind riding in with the waves buffets against us, but it's a warm breeze carrying an invigorating salty scent. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the beach, we don't need words to communicate our mutual contentment.

Nearing the bungalow, I notice we're not the first ones to return. Rummaging around on the beach, I can see Naoko diligently stacking buckets of sand into some kind of sculpture. Nearby, Yoko and Kenta sit on the sand watching her work.

Yoko is wearing Naoko's wide-brimmed hat, and Kenta decided to remove his shirt, tying it to his head like a turban. Both of them seem rather comfortable together; even Yoko, who typically looks like she's about ready to run and hide somewhere. Observing the two of them, sitting next to each-other, they seem like an odd pair, but, so do Amaya and Tadao, and Hisao and myself, I suspect.

The rule of opposites attracting, I suppose.

Naoko's sudden movements distract me from considering things further. The curious look on Hisao's face is priceless as we watch the deaf girl darting around the sandy creature using some tiny plastic tools to carve away bits of wet sand. Kenta laughs heartily as he observes a similar face on Yoko, and we exchange a knowing glance. Both of them are seemingly awed by the display happening in front of them.

When she isn't collecting bits of gossip, Naoko is an avid sculptor in the Art Club. Evidently she felt inspired by something and decided it was worth turning her pretty sun-dress into a sandy mess. Kneeling beside the sculpture, which appears to be some kind of mythological creature, she starts chipping away around one of its heads, apparently carving eyes.

[Don't shake the ground!] Naoko signs with a frustrated look as we approach, but it quickly turns into a giddy smile. Her tongue rests against her upper lip as she uses the handle of the plastic shovel to extract sand from around the creature's gaping maw.

“What is it?” Hisao inquires. Standing there for a second, realization dawns on his face; she can't hear him. Smiling sheepishly, instead of trying to get her attention, which might break her concentration, he simply takes a few steps back and starts circling the scene. That narrowed look comes over him as he analyzes the features and comes to a conclusion, finally surmising, “it's a chimera.”

Not knowing much about mythology, I can't exactly confirm his assessment, but Kenta chirps an agreement, “there was something like that in a store window.”

“One creature created from many,” Hisao explains, “with the head and body of a lion, a goat's head jutting from it's back, and a tail formed into a venomous snake; in Greek myths, anyway.”

Looking over the sandy creation, I marvel at the detail she's worked into the delicate medium. Not able to make it free-standing due to the nature of the sand being prone to collapse, the chimera rests on the ground with its feet splayed to one side, like it's lazing on the beach. The lion head rests on the ground with its eyes closed, seemingly asleep, while the goat is more upright and alert with a frightened look in its eyes. The snake wraps up around from the back and drapes across the lion's rump, its mouth open and teeth bared, though it seems to have a mouthful of sand; likely only because it wouldn't stay up otherwise.

Finished with the goat's eyes, Naoko stands and sways as she looks it over. Brushing her face to wipe away beads of sweat, she ends up getting sand all over herself, causing me to giggle. Noticing my movements, she looks over and smirks at me, but she doesn't complain; she knows how silly she looks.

Kenta stands and hobbles over, getting her attention and signing, [are you done?]

Flipping the shovel down to land in the sand sticking up, Naoko grins and shrugs. [About as done as it's gonna get before the tide claims it,] she signs, turning and looking forlorn as she watches the rolling waves. Judging from the rate the water is rising, her chimera will be fine for another hour or two, but that's still a fleeting lifetime for so beautiful a creation. Looking back she laments, [maybe I should have built it further up.]

Kenta laughs and shakes his head. [Don't worry,] he signs, pointing toward the bungalow, [I'll get my camera.] Offering a thumbs up, he starts hobbling toward the bungalow. “I'll be right back,” he calls over his shoulder, looking at Yoko.

The red-haired girl stands and smiles, her eyes wandering over the sandy creature. Brushing sand off her dress as she walks over, she looks toward Naoko and nods approvingly. Looking toward me, she asks, “she's done, I gather?”

“So she says,” I reply, “Kenta went to get a camera for a visual record before the tide comes in.”

Frowning at the thought of seeing the sculpture washed away, she offers a mournful expression to Naoko, who simply shrugs in response. Quickly beaming a bright smile, Naoko slows her normal signing speed to inquire, [what do you think?]

Motioning as though to respond verbally, Yoko catches herself and frowns. Fidgeting with her hands for a moment, she looks a little lost, but Naoko waits patiently. Part of me wants to help her out, but I think Naoko is testing her in some fashion, and I don't want to interfere. Giving her an encouraging nod instead, I smile but leave her to figure out the response herself.

Drawing on my confident look and Naoko's patient smile, Yoko steadies her hands and replies, [I like it.]

It's about as incomplex an answer as one can give, but it's progress. Naoko apparently agrees, bounding over to wrap Yoko in a quick hug, which could either be for her approval, or her accomplishment in signing; probably both, it doesn't matter. Despite barely being able to communicate, they seem to get along quite well, which makes me even happier to have had a hand in setting them up.

Maybe I could be a matchmaker -er, friend-maker?- instead of a mathematician?

Shaking the thought away, I look over at Hisao, who is now kneeling beside the sculpture with a wistful smile. Walking over, I give the chimera another glance as I step up behind my analytical boyfriend and ask, “trying to find the power button?”

“W-what?” he sputters, looking up at my derisive expression. “Just admiring the details,” he explains, “I didn't expect Naoko to be so creative.”

Of course, Naoko can read lips pretty well, so I'm not surprised to see her waving at us with a disdainful expression. Hisao notices the look and flinches, blushing a little. [Sorry,] he signs, [nobody really looks like an artist unless they try real hard.] Accepting the apology, and apparently agreeing with his assessment, Naoko smiles and nods.

Kenta reemerges from the bungalow a short time later with his digital camera, and defers to Naoko's keen eye to photograph the creature. After taking a number of pictures, she hands it back to Kenta, requesting copies, and heads inside; saying she needs to get the sand out of her hair. The shifting light of dusk begins to cast the beach in bright orange a short time later, and we retreat to the patio to watch the tide reclaim the mythical chimera; returning it to the ether.

Sitting in a nice plush chair, I lay back and snooze, though I don't actually fall asleep, feeling the last few weeks of tension being massaged away by the calm breeze. Naoko returns a short while later in a fresh outfit, jeans and a pink t-shirt, and Hisao heads inside when Kenta claims there's another ball game on television. Tadao follows similarly when he returns with Amaya soon after; leaving the girls outside. Shizune and Misha saunter up to the patio just as the sun is dipping below the horizon, each carrying a few shopping bags; apparently they did more than window-shopping.

[We brought dinner,] Shizune claims, wearing a wicked grin. Lifting one of the bags up, she produces a cleaned and gutted fish, wrapped in wax paper. Placing it back in the bag, and nodding toward Amaya she requests, [would you mind helping?]

Since Misha can't translate with both hands full, Amaya looks a little perplexed, but gets the gist of what Shizune is asking. Looking over at me, she sighs, “she wants me to cook, right?”

“Hey, it's a talent you should be proud of,” I say, nodding to her question. Seeing her frumpish expression, I ask, “want me to help?” Having never really gotten along with Shizune, a little trepidation on her part is to be expected.

After a few seconds of careful consideration, finger pressed to her chin as always, she smirks and stands. “Nah, don't wanna have too many cooks in the kitchen,” she claims, starting toward the stairs, “besides, you seem to get along with her, so I might as well try.”

“That's the spirit,” I say, rolling back into the seat and closing my eyes; I didn't really want to help, anyway.

Lazing about on the patio with a nice gentle breeze, I almost forget Yoko and Naoko are even still there as I quietly smile to myself. Not only are all my closest friends in one place, but I'm practically being waited on hand and foot; so to speak. Of course, that's not completely true, but not having to worry about cooking or any of the normal daily doldrums is a weight off my shoulders.

Evidently my relaxed expression is too deeply set for the girls to bear. Feeling a pillow land on my face, I sit up with a start and glare at the likely suspects. Innocently looking away, sitting on either side of the little table, playing a card game, Yoko and Naoko pretend like nothing happened.

Sneering at them, I pick up the pillow and almost decide to throw it at them before a voice interrupts me. “Hey,” he says, ”don't blame them!”

Looking up where the voice originated, I see Kenta with that silly baseball cap on backwards, still shirtless. Standing, I shake my fist at him and exclaim, “oh sure, attack me from the high ground! I see how it is!”

“You looked like you needed a pillow,” he claims, shrugging derisively, “and the one with the messy hair is busy.”

Frowning disdainfully, and blushing, I look straight at my feet. Hearing his laughter fading away as he heads back inside, I drop back down in the chair and look over at Yoko and Naoko, who really were innocent, apparently, and smile stupidly. Both of them shrug and go back to their card game. Stuffing the pillow on my face, blotting out the twilight, I start giggling as I lay there.

“Why did I invite him?” I ask of nobody in particular.

My question causes a shuffling of feet from the table, but I don't hear any answers forthcoming. That's fine, though, it was a rhetorical question anyway. Whatever jabs Kenta throws at me, it's not really all that bad; nothing compared to the torment I faced back in middle-school. At least he's honest about it, and doesn't hide when I reciprocate, or laugh at me without explaining.

Maybe that's why I worry about why Hisao is with me?

Insecurities plague me still, I guess. Despite being surrounded by friends, it's hard to forget being the butt of everyone's jokes. Sometimes I still wonder why people hang around with me; and not just Hisao. Amaya swears up and down that she became friends with me because of me, and not because of our dorm situation, but I still have trouble believing her sometimes. Had Kenta's seating arrangement been different, I don't know if I would ever have gotten to know him, either. Despite being so cheerful, I doubt I would have befriended Naoko; especially if I hadn't decided to learn sign language.

Maybe it's that quantum reality thing Mutou discussed, rearing its head again. The hand of fate, or something similar, sweeping through and pushing me toward a certain path; my path, to whatever end. Things keep moving forward regardless of how much I might want to slow them down, or try stopping in a moment. Lazing on this comfy chair under the light of a halogen lamp with a pillow over my face, I wonder if this is where I would always have ended up, or if some other path passed by; a path whose bends I'll never get the chance to walk.

This line of thinking is way too deep for vacation.

Realizing that, I leap out of the chair, wave to the card-playing pair and head up the stairs into the bungalow. Whatever concoction they're brewing in the kitchen, the smell is certainly intoxicating. Misha stands by the island, out of the way, and gleefully nods at me, but holds up a hand to prevent me from walking into the culinary area. Amaya and Shizune whirl around, knives in hand, chopping, dicing, sautéing and generally doing a number of things I'm awful at, with practiced skill. Deciding not to bother them, I head into the living room and flop down in a chair across from the couch where the three boys sit, each regarding the television with a different level of interest.

Kenta sits on the edge, leaning forward, making animated gestures with both hands whenever a play is made, or not made, with his eyes fixed on the television. Tadao leans back with his legs crossed, one arm draped across the back of the couch while the other casually flips a pencil around. There's a bit of text scrawled on the notebook in his lap, but he's casually bantering with Amaya more than he's writing, or watching the game. Hisao sits with his elbow on the arm of the couch, resting his head in his hand as he observes the ballgame with passive interest; like he's more interested in the technical part than the emotional attachment.

Not being particularly interested in baseball myself, I'm content to sit in the distracted company of my friends and wait for dinner. Closing my eyes, I listen to the game a little, but mostly I'm chuckling to myself as Amaya repeatedly barks orders at Shizune, which I assume Misha is translating dutifully. Knowing how animated Amaya can be in the kitchen, I'm hardly surprised, but I didn't actually imagine that Shizune would defer to her so easily. Looking up a few times, I can see Shizune's frustrated expression, but she follows Amaya's lead with little argument.

Maybe they'll finally find some common ground... probably not.

Dinner turns out to be excellent. Whatever arguments the process sparked, the results are undeniable. Amaya has a name for the dish, but it's full of ridiculous words, half of which I'm sure she made up, that I couldn't remember if I tried. All I really know is that it's good.

The boys meander back into the living room, choosing to sit in front of the television to eat, while the girls hang around in the kitchen and adjacent dining area. Compliments to the chef resound from every corner of the bungalow, and Amaya beams with pride, though she does defer some of the credit to her silent sous-chef. Shizune brushes the compliments off, though I can see the pride in her eyes.

Having all gotten up before the crack of dawn, by the time we finish dinner, most of us are too bleary-eyed to think, much less converse. The majority head to bed right after dinner, except for Kenta, Tadao and myself. Hisao makes an effort to stay up and watch a movie with us, but when he falls asleep in his chair, I tell him to go to bed.

Eventually it's just Kenta and myself watching the rest of the movie, but he soon starts drifting away. Deciding to nudge him and offer a raised eyebrow at his fatigued expression, he smirks at me but doesn't protest. Grabbing his suitcase, which he apparently never bothered to take into their room, he offers me a tired salute and marches off to bed.

Left alone in the living room with only the glowing hue of the television to light it, I curl up on the couch. Staring blankly at the imagesI never really was paying attention to, a little voice in my head says that I should go to bed, but my inner-insomniac is winning. Still, after a short while I turn the television off, leaving the room bathed only in the pale moonlight bouncing through the bay windows.

Somehow, perhaps because of the napping I did on the bus, or the lazing about on the patio furniture, I simply don't feel tired; maybe I'm just restless. Sitting alone on the plush couch in the dark, I blank my mind and try to find the tiredness hiding within me, but to no avail. Quietly staring out the distant window at a cloudless, starry sky, I feel nothing but betrayal from my insomnia. The sunny haze of the day has melted into a serene night, perfect for sleeping, but, here I am, wide awake, trapped in unwanted consciousness.

Remaining delightfully ambivalent about the whole situation, I watch the digital clock on the cable box as it continually reminds me that I should be asleep. Even though nothing is happening, time presses onward. An hour passes, then another. Ticking away precious seconds, the clock continues its cycle unabated as I await some signal that I might be able to sleep.

Considering heading to bed, just to lay down and try forcing myself to sleep, I stand and take a few tentative steps toward the hallway, but my resolve falters. Quickly sitting back down, I don't want to disturb Amaya or Misha with my restless tossing. Another thirty minutes passes, midnight ticking by as I shift uncomfortably in my seat. Somehow, even with eight other people in the house, I feel lonely.

A sudden sound breaks the silence, something like shuffling feet on carpet, causing me to spin around. Looking in the direction of the noise, I can barely see a darkened figure standing, stopped in place, between the bedroom hallway and the couch. Lit only by what moonlight manages to bounce up to her frazzled countenance, Yoko looks a little terrified for a second, but that's replaced by confusion as she leans forward to get a better look.

“Aiko?” she whispers, squinting; at least I think she's squinting.

“Yeah,” I reply in a whispering, cheerful tone. For a second I'm happy there's someone else awake at this hour, but that thought is quickly dashed when I realize the strangeness of the situation. Fidgeting where she stands, I finally notice she's carrying a pillow and blanket, clutched tightly in front of her, evidently planning to make use of the couch. Furrowing my brow, worried there might be something really wrong, I stand and inquire, “what are you doing up?”

“Something's been keeping me awake,” she says, shyly looking away, “I thought I'd use the couch, but if you're using it...” Trailing off, she looks a little forlorn as she glances back down the hallway.

“I just haven't been to bed yet,” I say, walking over and flopping down in one of the chairs, “feel free.”

Standing there, staring at me for a moment, her face goes from forlorn to relieved, then ends on concerned. Taking a few light steps toward the couch, she sits down and then turns to me as she sets the pillow down, asking, “can't sleep?”

“Just don't feel tired, I guess,” I admit, “happens to me a lot.” Shrugging, I explain, “I didn't wanna disturb the other girls with my insomnia.”

Her concerned expression doesn't change, but she does crack a sympathetic smile. Why I'm telling her this, I'm not sure, but, considering the situation, I don't seem to have much choice. It's a better explanation than some of the other things I might be doing here in the dark.

What did she think I was doing?

Furrowing her brow at me for a moment, I think she's formulating some kind of suggestion. However, before she can put her thought to words, I interrupt the incoming line of questions with one of my own, “why couldn't you sleep?”

Falling back against the plush cushions, she lets out a long sigh and seems to roll her eyes. Her gaze turning toward the bedroom hallway, she takes another deep breath and sighs, “I thought she was a mute.”

“What?” I prompt, uncertain what she means.

“Shizune,” she explains, “she's supposed to be a mute, right?”

Uncertain where this is leading, I offer a nod, which she can probably just barely see in the darkness.

“Well...” she trails off, looking up at the ceiling. Her face contorts into a grimace, but slowly twists into a smirk as she shakes her head and finally blurts, “she snores!” Her smirk widens as she pauses to see my reaction; which is one of disbelief. “Loudly! Like a wounded dog!” she adds, seeing my incredulous expression. Her whisper rises to a frustrated crescendo as she finishes her lament, “Naoko's blessed with being deaf in both ears, but I couldn't stand it!”

We're both quiet for a few seconds as the information sinks in, but I soon find a bubbling laugh, threatening to erupt into a full-blown guffaw, shaking its way from deep inside. The thought of quiet, self-contained Shizune sawing wood in the middle of the night is just too ludicrous, and I can't contain myself for long. Trying to stifle it, so as not to unintentionally awaken any more of my friends, I close my eyes and huddle around myself, shuddering as the mirthful laughter cracks its way through my defenses.

While I make strange gurgling noises, trying to keep my jaw locked shut, Yoko is similarly afflicted by laughter; though she has more control over herself. While I'm tearing up, imagining the deaf-mute snoring loud enough to disrupt someone so naturally passive as Yoko, she just has a subdued smirk on her face as he shoulders lightly bob with an internal chuckle.

Is that why Misha had no objection to sleeping in another room?

As we calm ourselves, both glancing toward the hallway wondering if anyone heard us, I see the concerned expression make its way back onto Yoko's face. Being too caught up in getting control of myself to stop her inquiries, I resign to hearing her concerns. Leaning forward she wonders, “ever try taking anything for it?”

“For what?” I ask, trying to avoid the subject.

“The insomnia,” she rebuts, rolling her eyes at my attempted evasion. “I have some Ambien in my bag,” she states, “I, for once, didn't dip into it myself 'cause I figured the noise would wake me up anyway, but you could try it.”

While I appreciate the offer, and understand why she asked, I simply don't want to use drugs to sleep. Dad used to get insomnia, probably for similar reasons, but he never used anything to fight the insomnia. More than that, I don't want to end up relying on the drug to get a good night's rest.

“No thanks,” I reply, probably more curtly than I desired. “No offense,” I say, honestly hoping I don't offend her, “but I'm not big on using drugs to deal with my problems.”

For a moment she looks a little bewildered by my response, as though the thought of not using a simple drug for a simple problem didn't make any sense, but she doesn't look offended. Once that confusion clears, she smiles and replies, “alright, but don't blame me if you're up 'til dawn.”

Strangely, hearing her mention dawn makes me yawn, which is surprising, but also quite welcome. “I think I'm finally feeling tired, actually,” I say as I stretch with the yawn, “maybe I'll shuffle off to bed after all.”

Standing up, I observe as she tosses her pillow in the corner and flops down across the couch. “Remind me to get some earplugs tomorrow,” she says hazily as she begins drifting off almost immediately.

“Earplug, you mean,” I retort, smirking at my brief moment of wit.

“Whatever,” she replies, rolling over to face the back of the couch. “Go to bed,” her muffled voice says, “next time just ask me; it's not a weakness to use something to help you sleep.”

Maybe, but I just don't like the idea.

Taking her advice, well, half of it, I lazily walk to the bedroom and quietly push my way through the door. Lit only by the moon, an eerie blue haze falls across the shapes, but it's difficult to distinguish the shadowy figures in the deepening dark. If I didn't know the sleeping arrangement, I wouldn't be able to tell who was in which bed. Hearing Amaya's soft snoring, and Misha's breathing, and trying not to disturb either of them, I tip-toe across the room and sit down on the bottom bunk.

Finding my sweatshirt there, I toss it over at where I think I left my suitcase and roll into the soft bedding. Wrapping myself in the covers, I find the softness and comfort quite familiar, even though I know I'm in a strange bed. Whatever was keeping me awake seems to have left, and I find my eyelids closing of their own accord, while I quietly reminisce about the day; a day spent with friends I seem to have been fated to meet.

Sinking into slumber, the worries I hold onto about the sincerity of their friendships continue to whisper dark thoughts, but I shove them away. They've begun to feel like regrets of some kind, and none of this should be regrettable. They've sought my trust, my friendship, and my loyalty, and I've earned theirs in return; at least that's what I like to think.

I shouldn't be so worried about this...
___________________________________________________
Previous Chapter|Part 1|Next Chapter

Typical spoiler warning; we've been over this, several times:
The first day of the trip, or, rather, the second half of it. Wisps of new information, some solidification of other information, and a few revelations threaded along a nice, sunny, hazy day by the beach.

So, Aiko is still insecure about certain things, even some really big things she probably shouldn't feel worried about. That's totally normal, and not surprising considering her background.

Spoiler 2, the sequel. This time it's a little more serious:
I'm not going to explain myself here, for fear of revealing too much.
Last edited by Helbereth on Thu Nov 21, 2013 7:23 pm, edited 7 times in total.

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BlackWaltzTheThird
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Aiko Kurai (OC) Updated 8/29

Post by BlackWaltzTheThird » Wed Aug 29, 2012 10:58 pm

Ha! Shizune snores! Loved that. Pretty sure that has nothing to do with the vocal cords though, more of a pharynx-ical thing, isn't it? I dunno. Anyway I liked the background you gave to some of the characters, and though the thought of Shizune acting as a second-in-command is a new one, I found it to be plausible given the context. Looking forward to a singing -> banging scene at some point. :P Nice work, as always.
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Mirage_GSM
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Aiko Kurai (OC) Updated 8/29

Post by Mirage_GSM » Thu Aug 30, 2012 10:51 am

“I don't have much experience with fresh seafood,” he admits, looking a little bewildered, “most of what I've had was from a can or out of a freezer.”
Wair... Hisao didn't grow up in Japan?
he stands along side me...
"Alongside" should be one word.
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
Sore wa himitsu desu.

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Helbereth
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Aiko Kurai (OC) Updated 8/29

Post by Helbereth » Thu Aug 30, 2012 12:13 pm

Mirage_GSM wrote:
“I don't have much experience with fresh seafood,” he admits, looking a little bewildered, “most of what I've had was from a can or out of a freezer.”
Wair... Hisao didn't grow up in Japan?
he stands along side me...
"Alongside" should be one word.
He grew up in a modern Japanese city. I assume he has had some fresh fish, but, being alone a lot, and not a cook, probably didn't get exposed to it quite so often. I grew up a stone's throw from the ocean -less than a 2 hour drive through crowded highways; just about 50 miles- and most of my experience with seafood has been from a can or a freezer.

It didn't feel like much of a stretch for him to be inexperienced in that way, despite it being an anomaly culturally.

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Mirage_GSM
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Aiko Kurai (OC) Updated 8/29

Post by Mirage_GSM » Thu Aug 30, 2012 12:52 pm

I don't know where you live, but in Japan, I've been to places where there's nothing else on the menu...
If you have a menu in a restaurant, roughly a third of the courses consist of raw fish of one kind or the other.
I wasn't able to live in Japan for three months (and not even particularly close to the ocean) without being exposed to raw fish, let alone 18 years. I didn't try particularly hard to avoid it either, but I think that's what it would take ;-)

Edit:
Just to clarify - I don't think it breaks suspension of disbelief either. It's just some minor thing I thought to point out.
Last edited by Mirage_GSM on Fri Aug 31, 2012 2:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
Sore wa himitsu desu.

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Mistoffelees
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Aiko Kurai (OC) Updated 8/29

Post by Mistoffelees » Thu Aug 30, 2012 6:30 pm

Hello again! Great chapter, love the character development, etc, etc. Although I personally don't think it breaks the suspension of disbelief, about this seafood in Japan discussion- having lived in Tokyo for a few years, I can definitely attest to fresh fish being everywhere. You'd have to actively try to get canned fish, which is a good deal sparser than their still-smell-of-the-sea cousins. It's just anecdote, of course, but from where I lived I could walk for ~10 minutes to a store and buy (relatively) fresh raw fish any time on any day.

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