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

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Re: Tomorrow's Doom ~ Up: 7/22/13 ~ C.39 - The Loneliest Num

Post by Etokie » Thu Jul 25, 2013 5:33 pm

Oof, was trying to avoid that. I know how much pressure affects he subjects performance.
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom ~ Up: 7/22/13 ~ C.39 - The Loneliest Num

Post by Etokie » Thu Jul 25, 2013 5:37 pm

Also, how do you follow posts here? Can't seem to find a button for it. :/
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom ~ Up: 7/22/13 ~ C.39 - The Loneliest Num

Post by Reese8 » Thu Jul 25, 2013 5:43 pm

Etokie wrote:Also, how do you follow posts here? Can't seem to find a button for it. :/
There are two ways that I've found to do it (following threads, that is; if you meant literally following posts... well, I'm not sure what you'd mean by that). When posting a reply, there's a series of checkboxes under the composition box; one of those is "Notify me when a reply is posted", and checking that follows the thread when the reply is posted. You can also follow the thread by scrolling down to the very bottom of one of the thread's pages; there's a bar down there with a subscribe to topic button.

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Re: Tomorrow's Doom ~ Up: 7/22/13 ~ C.39 - The Loneliest Num

Post by Etokie » Thu Jul 25, 2013 5:44 pm

Thank you :)
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom ~ Up: 7/22/13 ~ C.39 - The Loneliest Num

Post by Helbereth » Thu Jul 25, 2013 8:42 pm

Reese8 wrote:
Etokie wrote:Also, how do you follow posts here? Can't seem to find a button for it. :/
There are two ways that I've found to do it (following threads, that is; if you meant literally following posts... well, I'm not sure what you'd mean by that). When posting a reply, there's a series of checkboxes under the composition box; one of those is "Notify me when a reply is posted", and checking that follows the thread when the reply is posted. You can also follow the thread by scrolling down to the very bottom of one of the thread's pages; there's a bar down there with a subscribe to topic button.
Personally, I follow threads by commenting on them. Any time you post a comment, you can then search your own posts by thread (through the 'view your posts' link) and any thread with new replies will have the icon beside it highlighted in red. That, of course, requires visiting the site often rather than getting an e-mail, but I'm not fond of cluttering my inbox with "<random person> has commented on <thread you're watching>" mail.

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Re: Tomorrow's Doom ~ Up: 7/22/13 ~ C.39 - The Loneliest Num

Post by Etokie » Thu Jul 25, 2013 9:01 pm

I like it that way, since i otherwise are frantically checking every ten minutes. This way i get an email when someone commwnts or posts a new chapter.
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom ~ Up: 7/22/13 ~ C.39 - The Loneliest Num

Post by dewelar » Mon Jul 29, 2013 4:05 pm

Finally caught up on this great story. Definitely my favorite OC story to date, and in my top four fan fics overall. Looking forward to seeing where it goes.

One thing I have to ask: are you perchance an old-school wrestling fan? I couldn't help chuckling when I saw the name Toru Tanaka randomly thrown into the story :) .
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom ~ Up: 7/22/13 ~ C.39 - The Loneliest Num

Post by Helbereth » Mon Jul 29, 2013 6:41 pm

dewelar wrote:One thing I have to ask: are you perchance an old-school wrestling fan? I couldn't help chuckling when I saw the name Toru Tanaka randomly thrown into the story :) .
Considering I know almost nothing about wrestling, past or present, I'm going to chalk it up to coincidence. There's a chance I've heard the name before in passing, or in a TV commercial, but, consciously, I practically pulled the name out of a hat.

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Re: Tomorrow's Doom ~ Up: 7/22/13 ~ C.39 - The Loneliest Num

Post by dewelar » Mon Jul 29, 2013 6:45 pm

Helbereth wrote:
dewelar wrote:One thing I have to ask: are you perchance an old-school wrestling fan? I couldn't help chuckling when I saw the name Toru Tanaka randomly thrown into the story :) .
Considering I know almost nothing about wrestling, past or present, I'm going to chalk it up to coincidence. There's a chance I've heard the name before in passing, or in a TV commercial, but, consciously, I practically pulled the name out of a hat.
I figured as much, but thought I'd ask. My dad was apparently a fan back in the day, which is where I'd heard the name.
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Chapter 41 - Summer Lull (part 1)

Post by Helbereth » Fri Aug 16, 2013 3:14 pm

So, this is why I made no promises about a schedule--I can't guarantee the pace of my writing will maintain itself. Apart from that, I should probably mention that the previous 38 chapters (prior to the last one) attempted to keep each post under 6500 words--sometimes unsuccessfully. As of chapter 39--the last chapter--I'm working toward keeping the number under 3000. That's why the previous chapter ran for 3 posts at only 9000 words, and this one is 4 with only 11,000.

Of course, the only person who probably cares is a certain mod who shall remain nameless, but I always write something in this space, so why not that?


Previous|Part 2|Part 3|Part 4|Next Chapter
________________________________________________________
Chapter 40 – Summer Lull

The buzzing noise is subtle, but incessant, and my subconscious almost manages to ignore it, but I stir from sleep with a frustrated groan. It's pitch dark in my room, and my eyes are half-closed, but I can see well enough to notice the screen on my phone lighting up with each vibration. Someone is calling me in the dead of night, and I'm tempted to just shut the device off and roll over, but late-night phone calls usually carry urgent messages. That thought makes me reach over to answer, though if it isn't an emergency, I'm not going to be happy.

Or forgiving...

“Hello?” I croak, slamming my eyes shut when the light brightens next to them.

“Hey, did I wake you?” a concerned voice asks, its whispering tone making it difficult to figure out who's calling.

“No... well, yeah, but...” I mumble, still trying to place the voice.

“Sorry,” he apologizes, and I'm starting to recognize the voice, “I couldn't sleep and-”

“Wait,” I blurt, finally realizing the caller's identity. “Hisao...?”

Him calling I can forgive...

“Yeah,” he replies, followed by a disappointed harrumph. “Am I really that forgettable?”

“No, of course not,” I protest groggily, trying not to sound as tired as I feel. “It's a new phone... and I'm-” I stop talking and smirk to myself; I'm trying to justify being hazy to someone who woke me up in the dead of night.

It's not my fault I'm barely coherent...

“I could let you go back to sleep,” he says, but I'm not about to take that offer.

“I'm up now,” I claim, hefting myself up into a sitting position. “Sorry, I didn't check the ID and you sound different on the... Um... What's up?”

I wonder if I sound as scattered as I feel...

“I missed you,” he says flatly. “And... I couldn't sleep,” he adds, his voice taking on that shifty quality it gets when he's uncomfortable, “and... I thought you might be up...”

“Sometimes I actually sleep at night,” I say, nodding to myself in mock triumph. “But, hey, no worries! I'm always happy to say hi,” I assure him, grinning as a strange realization dawns on me. “Are you homesick for Yamaku, or something?” I ask, glancing at the darkness outside as though I could actually see the school—never mind that my window faces the woods. “I mean, I wouldn't blame you... It's a pretty nice place to be—nice scenery, safe environment...”

I'm rambling... stop rambling...

“No, that's ridiculous,” he retorts sharply, “Why would you even think that?”

Methinks he dost protest too much...

“Aww, c'mon~!” I goad. “Obviously the place grew on you, and you're feeling depressed about not being here... in the hills... smelling the clean, back-water air and enjoying-”

“If I were to miss something about Yamaku,” he interjects, “it would be the people... especially a certain mathematical genius I've been spending all my free time with.”

“Who is this person!?” I demand, grinning mockingly as he starts to laugh, “I'll hunt them down and make them do fractions until their eyes bleed!”

“You'll know her by the scheming glint in her eyes...”

“Her~!” I yell in mock outrage. “The harlot! Seducer! When I get my hands on her, I'll...! Um... Uh...” I trail off as my mind goes blank.

I don't think I'm awake enough to be clever...

It seems neither of us is really coherent as we both go silent for a few moments. My brain takes it as a chance to start shutting down, but I snap my head up before it can turn off completely—I'm really not awake. While he starts sputtering incoherently, which he might be doing just to keep me from falling asleep, I turn a glance at my alarm clock and squint to read the numbers. Apparently it's a little after two in the morning, which makes our mutual incoherence completely plausible, though for some reason I don't think Hisao has been to sleep at all.

I'm not sure why I think that, but there's something in his voice...

“Are you okay?” I ask, lifting my knees up so I can rest my chin on them, “Something sounds... off.”

“No, I'm alright,” he claims, though I don't think I believe him. “I'm just not used to sleeping with all the traffic noise—can you hear it?”

Taking a moment to try listening more closely, I don't hear any such thing, so I reply, “No...”

“The mic must not be sensitive enough,“ he sighs, “suffice to say the city never sleeps...”

“How about you? Have you slept at all?” I ask directly, mostly because I'm too tired for subterfuge. The long sigh I get as a response is a reasonable enough indicator that I'm right, but I'd rather not guess. “You have to sleep—it's important,” I add, trying to think of a more specific reason.

“Yeah...”

“No, not just yeah,” I retort, smirking as a reason comes to mind, “You'll need to be well-rested when I get there—limber, strong, and ready for... anything.”

My suggestive comment results in a long pause, followed by a dismissive grunt, “Insatiable...”

“Hey, I'm supposed to make sure you stay fit—healthy in mind and body... sleep is part of that,” I retort, smiling as some more cobwebs clear. “So, is it just medication-induced insomnia?” I ask, suspecting otherwise, “or did something else happen?”

There's a short delay before his dismissive reply, “It's... nothing...”

That means it's something...

Unfortunately I can't see his face to tell what he might be thinking, so, unless he elaborates, I'm stuck taking whatever he says at face value. “It kept you up, though, right?” I ask, trying to lead his answer, “It has to be something... I can help... if you let me...”

Or I can at least try...

“I just... wish you were here,” he says, his somber tone making me frown reflexively.

“I wish I was there,” I reply, trying to push back my frown, “and... I will be... soon enough...”

“Hmm,” he grunts, which sounds like an affirmative, but there's still some doubt in his tone. “Anything happening over there?” he asks, which makes me sigh and roll my eyes, “Your mom still keeping you busy?

I think a subject change is in order...

“Here and there,” I reply, “Midi dragged me out to a movie with Mom the night she got back, which you know...”

“Right.”

“What I didn't mention—because I didn't want you to worry—is that Mom,” I pause, taking a deep breath and shaking my head wistfully, “well, she kind of... plowed into a parked car...”

“Um...?”

“No injuries,” I quickly add, which gives him permission to start chuckling a little, “but, the rental company wasn't happy...”

“What happened?” he manages to ask between laughs.

“She claims the brakes failed... but if you ask me, I think she temporarily forgot which pedal did what...” I explain, holding back my own laughter, “her story convinced them, though, so they let her swap the van for a sedan.”

“Long as nobody got hurt,” he chokes out, starting to lose his breath from holding back the guffaws—no doubt his parents are trying to sleep.

“Other than that, not much—it's pretty boring here,” I say with a resigned shrug.

“Did Yoko decide on that job yet?”

“She starts Saturday—which I guess is tomorrow now,” I reply, glancing at the clock again, “I'd have brought it up sooner, but I didn't think you'd be interested—even I'm barely interested in fashion.”

“I'm interested in seeing her succeed,” he says, “as a friend, y'know...?” It's a reasonable explanation, but there's a devious twinge to his trailing query that stops me from replying—I don't think he's finished. “But,” he adds, and the mirth in his voice already has me smiling, “on a fashion-level, I wouldn't complain if you stopped wearing clothes altogether...”

Suddenly I'm disappointed that he can't see my deadpan stare, and I surmise he intended to leave me dumbfounded, but I've got a worthy retort in mind. “You should know I'm not wearing a stitch as we speak,” I lie, then revel in the his sharp, shocked gasp. Now that I've started down that road, I might as well take it to the end, so I add, “I was even thinking about going streaking, now that I'm awake...”

The sound he makes as I finish makes me wonder whether he would have done a spit take had he been drinking something—working as intended. Whether he believes me or not—which he probably shouldn't if he knows me at all—it's probably fueling his imagination—it's certainly fueling mine—so I'm not surprised when he doesn't respond for a while. Either he's trying to recover some semblance of self control, or he's plotting an equally dirty retort. For some reason, I think I've won no matter which way he goes.

During the silence, I shuffle over to look out the window—perhaps to inspect the area in the event he dares me to follow through on my streaking idea. The low-hanging clouds are blocking the moonlight, resulting in an almost unnatural darkness; the only discernible light comes from a few distant fireflies hovering near the tree-line. If I were feeling particularly out of my mind, it's probably dark enough out there to streak across the school grounds without being seen, though I think that would defeat the purpose of streaking.

Why am I even considering this...?

“Maybe we'll both go when I get back,” he suggests, causing us both to start laughing, though there's an anxious edge in my tone that might sound suspicious.

“I'll hold you to that~!” I blurt, trying to hide my background thoughts with humor.

“There might be an exhibitionist in you, have you thought of that?” he jokes. From his deadpan tone I can tell he's baiting me, but I'm not sure whether it's merely out of fun or because he suspects he might be right—it's probably both.

I'm not sure if he's wrong... I did drag him out behind the pool building...

“It's fun being naked with someone you love,” I reply, turning the bait against him, “well, maybe not anyone you love... but... you know what I mean.”

“No, I don't,” he goads, “please, explain so I understand.”

I probably shouldn't hitchhike down this conversational road...

“Me, you... seclusion... desire,” I rasp, flitting my eyebrows seductively despite his being unable to see them. “Maybe add a little music and dancing, some whispered seduction... kissing, hugging, groping-”

“I get it!” he interjects, clearing his throat, “You certainly... paint a picture...”

From the pitch of his voice going up, I realize I may have overstimulated his imagination, but that will probably distract him enough not to detect my anxiety. Dropping the seductive tone from my voice, I add, “See, even thinking about it is fun~! Now don't you feel silly for doubting me?”

While I giggle, he blows out a sharp sigh and replies, “You're evil, y'know that?”

“It's for the greater good,” I retort, “One of us has to do the enticing... otherwise, what's the point?”

“You're good at it, certainly,” he quips, “so, how long have you been thinking about going streaking?”

“Ah... Uh... I was... um...” I sputter, which is probably the worst response possible. “Never!” I blurt, attempting a late denial, “I've never...”

“Yeah...” he drolls, “I'm getting better at reading your voice, so if you could just answer the question that'd be great...”

“For about two minutes now,” I admit.

“That's all?”

“It might be fun, but I never thought of it before...” I add, thinking as I speak, “exhilarating at least... the idea of running across a crowded campus stark naked with you is... inspiring.”

“That's not quite the word I'd use, but,” he pauses, probably to nod and file away another mental image for later use, then finishes, “If you ever feel up to it...”

“I don't think I could ever actually do it,” I protest, shaking my head dismissively, “It's more of a fantasy—the kind one doesn't go telling anyone about!”

“I got ya,” he replies, hopefully catching my secondary meaning, “but I would be remiss if I didn't point out that Yoko and Amaya managed.”

“They were just topless, and it was only us there,” I retort, “real streaking is... different.”

“Well...” he says, trailing off with a devious tone, “perhaps it's just the venue that's the problem...”

“What do you mean, venue?”

As though the location would make a difference...

“Nothing—never mind,” he dismisses with a slight laugh, “a thought for another time...”

Leaving it like that should probably make me worried, but maybe I'm just being paranoid. “Okay,” I say, leaning against the window sill, “so, what else is on your mind, Mister Nakai?”

Aside from what I'm sure you're thinking...

“Plenty,” he says wryly, “but we probably shouldn't talk about most of that... there's no sense risking temptation.”

“Not when there's plenty of wholesome things we could talk about at two in the morning,” I intone, “like... um... I got nothing...”

Even though it's a lot of fun, neither of us wants to tempt the other into violating our pact, so he's probably right. It was almost a week ago when he proposed the idea of long-distance celibacy, and I wasn't on board right away, but it really has provided the intended tension. Every night I find myself eagerly awaiting my phone's ring so I can pick it up and hear his voice; it's that eagerness that makes me forgive him for waking me in the middle of the night. Although, as I think about it now, I don't know what else to talk about.

I guess we could try to figure out why he's still awake...

Now that the haze of sleep has cleared more thoroughly, it occurs to me that we just got off the phone shortly before I went to bed. That was a little over four hours ago, which is a rather short time for him to have started missing me enough to wake me out of a sound sleep; whatever he's worried about, it's probably important. Unfortunately he's a little like me in that he's not usually forthcoming about what's really bothering him unless cornered, and he's just as likely to act dismissively—it might take some trickery to get it out of him.

Luckily, I'm in a tricky mood after that streaking discussion...

“So, aside from your parents, have you been getting along with the locals?” I ask, plying for information indirectly. “You said something about some friends at the arcade a couple nights ago—anything like that lately?”

“I've been keeping to myself mostly,” he says, which sounds familiar.

I've hardly left my room since Wednesday...

“You haven't been skipping your swims, have you?” I inquire, making sure my tone sounds appropriately overbearing and accusatory; I'm responsible for his exercise, one way or another.

I admit I enjoyed the other way more...

This time his pause is probably because he's squinting at the phone in mock anger, but that's part of what makes teasing him fun. “Of course not,” he finally replies, “they're about the only thing getting me out of the house...”

In the spirit of teasing, I giggle girlishly and ask, “Meet any cute girls while you're there?”

When I'm confronted with an awkward silence instead of an immediate denial, my laughing stops and I feel a knot developing in my stomach. He stutters a few times, but nothing audibly coherent escapes his lips. It's possible he's just teasing me—he's done it before—but this feels different somehow. There's a certain jovial quality to his voice when he's acting evasive just to tease me, but he sounds genuinely bewildered. It's disconcerting to say the least, but considering it's late at night and I'm still not completely awake, I decide not to express my misgivings.

I'm not the most reliable witness right now...

“No, nobody,” he says, finally breaking the silence and adding a laugh for good measure—I can practically hear the guilty expression on his face. “Hey, I didn't mean to wake you up,” he says hurriedly, “I should let you get back to sleep.”

“Uh... huh?” I sputter, confused by his sudden change in attitude.

“It's two in the morning—we should be asleep,” he adds, still talking faster than normal.

“Are you sure, Hisao? You're the one who-”

“I know, I shouldn't have called—it'll just worry you,” he answers before I can finish my question. “I'll be fine, really...” he trails off for a moment, then he breathes out a sharp sigh and adds, “and thanks for the- just... thanks.”
________________________________________________________
Previous|Part 2|Part 3|Part 4|Next Chapter
Last edited by Helbereth on Thu Feb 27, 2014 4:38 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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Chapter 41 - Summer Lull (part 2)

Post by Helbereth » Fri Aug 16, 2013 3:14 pm

Previous|Part 1|Part 3|Part 4|Next Chapter
________________________________________________________
Whatever he's hiding, I'm not likely to find out now; I can't physically stop him from hanging up the phone. “You're welcome,” I reply, keeping my voice steady, “Love you—try to get to sleep.”

“I will—love you too,” he replies, “Sorry for the wake-up.”

“Don't worry about it... talk to you tomorrow?”

“Of course, definitely... good night.”

“Okay... good night,” I say, though I'm not sure if he already ended the call.

What the hell just happened...?

That question haunts me as I sit and stare out at the darkened trees with the phone in hand, counting firefly blinks. Most of the time I think the twinges of jealousy I feel are irrational, and I don't want to doubt Hisao based on one suspicious incident, but I can only base my conclusions on what I heard—none of which sounds wholly innocent. In a perfect world, I would be able to read his mind and know for certain whether I should be worried, but I'm stuck with just a sinking feeling and an overactive imagination—neither of which are telling me anything good.

All I know for sure is that Hisao did something—or something happened to him—that I should be worried about, and I'm trying not to blow it out of proportion, but each thing I imagine is worse than the last. There are plenty of innocent possibilities, but he started getting evasive the moment I mentioned cute girls, which tells me the two are probably related. Picturing Hisao with a team of cute, half-naked, morally bankrupt servant girls attending to his every need—carnal or otherwise—nearly makes me call him right back, but that wouldn't accomplish anything.

Aside from making me seem like a crazy person...

Unfortunately, even if I thought my imaginings were hinting at reality, there's nothing I can do about it from here—half a country away. Maybe it makes me a hypocrite to want full disclosure while I'm still keeping secrets, but if it's really nothing like he says, I don't know why he couldn't just tell me anyway. Even if it's something potentially incriminating, I can try to keep an open mind. Whatever it is, I can't quite shake the fear that he's hiding something terrible, but maybe I should see this as a test of trust.

I trust him, don't I...?

There are other factors besides our relationship involved—namely his relationship with family—and he might just be trying to save me from worrying about something he thinks is insignificant, rather than illicit. Knowing him, it's probably something totally innocent that he's either too embarrassed to admit, or too tired to discuss, so maybe I ought to think positively. On numerous occasions, Hisao has shown that he loves me, and he promised to act faithfully, so he probably deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Whatever helps me get back to sleep...

Sitting here in the dark thinking about it will just make me crazy, so I set my phone down on the nightstand, dig my way back under the covers, and try to clear my head. As things go, I'm probably making a mountain out of a mole hill. Somewhere deep in the recesses of my subconscious lives a little green demon that makes up stories, and it's trying to paint Hisao as some kind of womanizer. It sounds ridiculous, but if I apply some flawed logic, he did get me into bed with him just before jumping on a train headed for the other side of the country—he got his conquest and left for greener pastures.

But he wanted you to go with him, idiot...

It was flawed logic to begin with, so I'm not surprised I already found holes in the theory. Although, perhaps that was just part of the cover story; maybe he has another girl back home—Iwanako, even—and he made sure to give me the option so as to assuage suspicion. Even if I thought he were capable of something like that, which I don't, it's definitely the kind of devious maneuver a modern Casanova would implement. It's also exactly the kind of romantic trickery he might use to make me feel jealous, which has had positive results in the past—I should avoid thinking about it that way.

Honestly, I should stop thinking about this altogether...

However, having nothing special planned for tomorrow gives my brain free rein to batter itself by imagining ridiculous scenarios—most of which are less than innocent, though many seem like they might be fun all on their own. Time seems to melt away—or at least I'm unaware of how much of it is passing—as discordant neurons continue firing, fueling the flames of my seemingly infinitesimal neurosis. Eventually my eyelids stay shut on their own, and I finally sink into a comfortable position, my body having decided it's done letting my brain delay the inevitable.

I can continue the internal argument tomorrow...

~^~

Sometime later, morning sunlight beats through my open window, piercing my eyelids with its unwanted illumination. A few hours of sleep hasn't brought much clarity, but I feel a little better after a particularly vivid dream. In the dream, I recall Hisao climbing in through my window, but I wasn't in my room, and he looked different—I'm not sure why that's important. Whatever that means, the Hisao who didn't look like himself told me everything was alright, and that I shouldn't worry about whatever his real-world doppelganger did, then he proceeded to comfort me with an erotic massage.

I think my subconscious is just horny...

What happened after that is a blur—a delightful, gratifying blur—and it's probably meaningless, but the sinking feeling I had last night is gone somehow; his imaginary reassurance apparently felt real enough for my subconscious, though I'm not sure what that means in reality. It's possible my id is convinced there's nothing to worry about, and it's trying to tell me that in as direct a way as it's capable, but maybe it's just willing to let things go in the hope of fulfilling its carnal needs. That seems like a stupid reason to ignore possible indiscretions, but perhaps not everything has to make sense.

The real question is why I'm arguing with myself...

It's after eight, which means I slept through my alarm clock and missed my usual swim time, but I doubt Joyce will mind if I show up a little later than usual—I can't say I wholly share her indifference. Losing all sense of time is a common affliction when I have few obligations to fulfill—or in this case, none—and I'm trying not to let that happen. As it is, I'm already staying up later than usual, and I've been ignoring my alarm clock more frequently than I should, but there's just so little to do around here during the summer that it's difficult to maintain any kind of schedule.

Phone calls at two o'clock in the morning aren't helping...

The water feels good, at least, and it's nice stepping out into sunlight rather than twilight while I'm still partially soaked. The good thing about not having a schedule to keep is that I can take my time, or stop to have a look around if I want. That's how I found the rooftop access to the pool building—walking around while bored—and I see no reason why it couldn't be turned into an advantage. Since I've already gotten my exercise for the day, and I'm out here anyway, I decide to take a seat on a bench and engage in an activity I used to do back in middle-school: people watching.

It was a defense mechanism back then...

Although the school is mostly deserted, there are still plenty of people around. Most of the faculty is away for the break, but a few die-hard academics stay close by—some of whom get involved with summer clubs, while others simply live nearby and can't resist driving up to check on things. Along with them are the custodial staff, security, and grounds keepers, though most of those tend to disappear from sight, or at least it seems that way; I rarely notice the vacuum cleaner running anymore, but someone cleans out the dorm hallways every few days.

I should try to find out who does that... like how Hisao got to know the night watchmen...

Students are rarer, but there are still several of them around. My floor of the dorm feels like a ghost town, but that's because it's dominated by third-year students, most of whom have travel plans. The floors below mine have been filling in with underclassmen as the older students graduate, and fewer of them have anywhere to go during the summer. That means most of the fellow students I'm seeing are unfamiliar, though I do recognize a few faces. Luckily, none of them seem to recognize the bathrobe-clad girl watching them from the bench.

I'm not sure how I'd explain myself...

From my vantage point I can see both dorm entrances, the main school entrance, and, if I crane my neck, I can just barely see the iron gate along the street. There isn't much traffic around, but I catch a glimpse of my academic nemesis, Miss Miyagi, cutting across the lawn, heading for the auxiliary building. Apparently she's working with the literature club again, though I'm not sure what they're doing this summer; last year they did some Shakespeare in the park, which basically amounted to a lot of poorly-acted soliloquies for an audience of birds and squirrels.

After Miyagi disappears, my attention is drawn to a blond girl walking with a cane, headed toward the girls' dorm. From this far away it's difficult to discern who she is, but there's something familiar about her graceful, though rigid stance, and bow-laden ponytail. A few more seconds watching her move and it finally dawns on me: the cane is for seeing, not for walking. That realization puts a name to her distant face: Lilly Satou. The only reason I know her is that she's her class' representative, and I've worked with her through Shizune on occasion—I haven't seen her much since June.

According to the rumor mill, I'd heard she was heading home for the break, so I'm not sure why she's back so soon—assuming that was true—but that makes one less vacant room. Strangely, seeing her reminds me of Hanako—I recall the two of them being friends—and the fact that I still have her copy of Life Of Pi sitting on my desk. Honestly, I've been avoiding that particular problem as it would require visiting Yamaku's resident skittish, asocial wallflower. There's nothing wrong with that, and I think we'd get along famously if given the chance, but talking to Hanako without scaring her away is somewhat difficult.

Read: close to impossible...

My one experience talking to her was when she followed Lilly to a Student Council meeting—touching base with all of student government just before winter break, as I recall—and we traded some idle banter while Misha parroted Shizune's incidentally meaningless speech. Despite living in the dorm only a few hallways away for nearly two years, I'd never actually had the chance to talk with the dark-haired Ikezawa girl, and it was going swimmingly until an argument broke out between Lilly and Shizune. The two of them are always at odds, it seems, but watching the confrontation nearly sent Hanako into a panic attack.

I haven't spoken to her since she ran out of that room...

“Did it rain today?” a familiar, throaty voice inquires from behind me, startling me into standing.

Spinning around, I catch a glimpse of a familiar tuft of short, crimson hair disappearing behind a maple tree, but it doesn't emerge right away. “Rin?” I ask, leaning sideways to try and see around the trunk, “Is that you?”

“Probably,” she says, stepping into view with her eyes pointed skyward.

Recalling that she hasn't been around for a while, I ask, “What are you doing here?”

She slowly turns to face me, but her gaze remains fixed on the sky, her unblinking green eyes staying half closed—I wonder if that's her thinking face. “Asking whether it rained,” she replies flatly.

For just a second, I thought I might get a straight answer...

“I mean... I thought you left for the summer...?” I clarify, shifting uncomfortably on my bare feet—the morning sun is starting to heat the walkways.

The one day I decide to forego wearing sandals...

After an elongated pause, she simply answers, “I did.”

“But...” I trail off before finishing that thought—I might as well try asking the grass what it thinks about balloons. “Okay, never mind that,” I say, stepping off the hot pavement onto the cool grass, “what were you asking before?”

“Whether it rained.”

“Right!” I announce, sending my gaze upward. “I don't think so,” I say, pausing for a moment to scan the sky, “why do you ask?”

“You're wet.”

“U-um...” I stutter, “I suppose I am...”

It's almost comforting knowing she still thinks in odd directions...

Finally she turns down to meet my blank stare, but instead of continuing her explanation, or offering any indication that she knows why else I might be wet, she just stares at me with her cloudy green eyes. The last time I talked to her, it was almost a month ago, and I haven't seen her around much since—not at all, actually, if I recall correctly. She looks a little more disheveled than normal—the buttons on her shirt are misaligned, and her collar is ruffled—but there's a lightness in her expression that tells me she's in good spirits.

“I've never heard of a raincloud being that precise,” she says, apparently deciding to elaborate on her strange logic, “I wonder if you might have a cloud stalker—I've heard of those. Or, at least I think I have. Maybe I made that part up, but it doesn't seem that strange when you think about it. Clouds move on their own, so why not think and-”

“I was swimming,” I blurt before she can continue babbling.

“Oh...” she says, her eyes opening fully for just a moment. After a few seconds, I begin wondering whether she might argue my logic, but she nods finally and agrees, “Yeah, that makes more sense.”

The blank stare that follows is accompanied by a slight tilt of her head and an almost imperceptible gust of wind brushing a few of her messy locks across her brow. The strange coincidence reminds me of Kodama, the tree spirits—she's even standing near a tree, though that could be said of anyone around the school grounds. Of course I know Kodama aren't real, but folklore has to come from somewhere, and there's plenty of mystery surrounding Rin—she almost has folklore status at Yamaku.

I'm probably not the only one who thinks so...

It's a fleeting thought that's dispelled as she adjusts her gaze back toward the clouds. “So...” she continues, pausing long enough to make me lean forward in anticipation, “you're sure it didn't rain?”

“No.. or yes...?” I stammer, trying to get my answer right, “I'm sure it didn't rain... I think,” I laugh and shake my head in dismay, “at least... not on me.”

Unless you count the metaphorical downpour last night...

“That's good,” she says with a slight smile that disappears almost as fast as it forms, “Getting rained on can make you sick,” she pauses for a moment to smirk ever so slightly, “though that isn't all bad, either...”

I don't know if I'm supposed to know what she's talking about... but I don't...

If I continue letting her lead the conversation, I'm worried I could expose myself to premature brain damage, so I decide to shift the topic onto something less existential. “So are you stranded here for the summer, too?” I ask, glancing around the school grounds as though it might support my case, “I thought you were gone for the summer.”

I'm backtracking technically, but I'm curious...

Judging by her blank stare, I'm guessing her attention span is waning, but she manages to glance at me sidelong to reply, “I went somewhere, and came back again.”

I now have the image of an armless Hobbit trekking across Japan stuck in my head...

Trying not to show my wandering thoughts on my face, I remark absently, “Oh... so, I wasn't imagining things...”

“I'm not so sure,” she says cryptically, turning to face me directly, “Maybe I never left, and you only imagined I had gone.”

I think she's messing with me now... I think...

“But, you just said you were gone,” I retort, thinking I have her logic trumped.

“Maybe I'm still there and this is all a figment of your imagination—you, me, that raincloud... all illusions you imagined,” she replies, shattering my hopes of winning this illogical argument.

I shudder to think I could concoct such a ridiculous story on my own...
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Chapter 41 - Summer Lull (part 3)

Post by Helbereth » Fri Aug 16, 2013 3:14 pm

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“Well played,” I compliment, nodding briskly.

“What were we playing?”

“I- uh... I...Um...” I stammer, completely bewildered by her reply.

Why- how does Emi deal with this...?

After a few moments of staring at her, blinking repeatedly, I give up and shrug. “Nothing, never mind,” I sigh, turning toward the dorms, “I think I'm gonna get out of the sun before my brain melts...”

One way or another...

“Watch for that sneaky stalker-cloud,” she calls after me, and I resist the urge to roll my eyes and smirk—she's definitely messing with me.

Although she sometimes makes my head spin, I've always found Rin's perspective enlightening in some way, though I'm not sure what to take away from this encounter. As I'm walking away, carefully avoiding the cement pathways with my bare feet, I turn a perplexed glance over my shoulder to wave, but notice she has gone back to staring skyward. Whatever else is on her mind, which is probably a lot more than it looks, there's now a kind of quiet calm about her presence—that much is different, at least.

I almost feel like I've just had a conversation with a ghost...

Thinking of it that way seems strange, as though Rin is some kind of elder spirit from folklore, here to expel wisdom in exchange for inspiration, but she has that effect on people. Despite her misleading statements, I'm almost certain she left for a couple weeks; I haven't seen her around since just after finals. Assuming she went home, it seems to have been a productive trip; I'm not the best judge where she's concerned, but I got the sense she has her head back on straight—though it's no less crooked than usual.

I'll keep that Kodama comparison to myself...

With thoughts of my brief Rin encounter still playing through my mind, I barely notice when I've walked through most of the girls dorm. It's strange how my body can basically function on auto-pilot while my mind wanders elsewhere, but now there's a new oddity piquing my interest. As I pass by Yoko's room, I notice a pair of shoe-box-sized packages stacked on the floor outside her door. There's nothing particularly strange about someone receiving packages, but, in the midst of the summer lull, almost any change in the daily routine is worth taking a moment to investigate.

My curiosity almost gets the better of me as I stop and consider picking one of the boxes up to find out where it's from, but I think better of that course of action and decide to kneel down and examine them with just my eyes. Only one of the packing labels is exposed, and it's in English, but I can read it well enough to understand it's from someplace called Montreal, Canada. Thinking on that for a moment, I surmise they're probably care packages from her parents, which makes sense considering she'll be here instead of going home for the summer, but something about it feels strange.

Why are there two...?

That question bothers me more than it probably should. If Mom were to send me a care package, which she has done a few times in the past, it would likely be in just one box. Unfortunately, without disturbing the packages, I can't find out why there are two unless I ask Yoko. Standing, I consider knocking on her door right this instant, but I'd feel silly doing so in a swimsuit and bathrobe. To remedy that, I take my questions and continue along to my room so I can change. Jean shorts and a plain green t-shirt with sandals at least feel more presentable, so I head back over just in time to find Yoko peeking out to find the boxes.

“Morning, Red,” I say casually, trotting over to stand nearby, “I was just about to come say hi... What's in the mail?”

The summer funk is starting to settle over everyone, as even Yoko has opted for casual sweatpants and a tank-top, both in school colors. On closer inspection, there are kanji symbols written in gold along her left pant leg identifying a different school—probably her old one. Her hair is tied back loosely, and she looks a little tired, though that could just be from boredom. She glances at me briefly and offers a slight smile, but there's a look in her eyes I can't quite identify; it's either annoyance or surprise—maybe both.

“Morning, Aiko,” she says with a smile, “They're just care packs from,” she pauses as her brow squeezes in consternation, “home...”

I get the feeling she isn't happy to see them...

Ignoring her strange expression for the moment, I take a step closer and spring up on my toes to peek at the label—I'd rather she not know I was already snooping—then sound out, “Mon-tre-al, huh?”

“Yeah, Mom always sends me cosmetics and perfumes and stuff,” she sighs, reading over the box, “I don't have the heart to tell her I never use them.”

“What do you do with them, then?” I ask, which prompts her to beckon me into her room.

Heading for the closet, she remarks, “They usually end up in here...”

She pushes the accordion door open and reaches up onto the top shelf where she draws out a similar box. As she pulls it down I hear rattling, and soon find that the box is full of little perfume bottles, bath oils, and other niceties. Some of them are a little dusty, like they've been in there for a while, but if the labels are any indication, they weren't cheap. Rummaging through the box, she draws out a tube with an indecipherable label and pops it open to sniff the contents. Rolling her eyes, she closes the tube again and drops it back in the box with a discordant sigh.

“She's always worried about my skin,” she says absently, turning her attention to the other box, “but... Dad just wants me to have fun...”

Setting down the first package, she lifts the other box and shakes it near her ear. Whatever is inside must be well-packed because I can't hear anything shifting. “What does he usually send?” I ask, leaning sideways to try reading the packing label, “Anything good?”

I'm not sure why I'm so interested...

“Books, games, movies... sometimes other stuff,” she says, starting to peel the tape.

While she's distracted, I lean a bit closer and manage to catch a glimpse of the return address, which reads, [Quebec City.] For a moment I'm confused, but then I remember my geography and realize that Quebec is another city in Canada. Perhaps that explains why there are two boxes—her parents are traveling, and sending things from different locations. Although, she did just say the first box was from her mom, and this second one is from her dad, which probably means... nothing good.

I hope that's not what it means...

With the box opened, Yoko grins giddily for a moment and starts rummaging through the packing material. After a few seconds, a storm of packing peanuts falls to the floor and she draws out another smaller cardboard box from inside. “Dad...” she groans, tossing the first box aside, “He probably thinks this is funny...”

A package in a package... I think it's hilarious...

“Yeah, totally not funny,” I reply with an agreeable nod, trying hard not to snicker, “who does he think he is?”

She rolls her eyes at me, but chooses not to say anything about the sarcasm in my voice. After tearing through the second box, she turns away to hide its contents from me, giggling all the while. As I respond with an appropriately sorrowful groan, she taunts, “That's what you get for taking his side...”

“Okay, this time I mean it: he's a mean, crotchety old man with no sense of humor and... um...”

I can't think under this much pressure...

“And what?” she chirps, peering over her shoulder slyly.

“Oh, I dunno—what's in the box!?” I blurt, trying to see around her guarding arms.

Laughing and shaking her head, she spins around with the box in hand, holding it tight to her chest and grinning broadly. “First, tell me why you looked like you saw a ghost this morning,” she requests, the insinuation making me recoil. “And don't just say it's nothing,” she adds mockingly, “something was bothering you...”

I didn't even see her this morning...

“It's...” I stall, trying to think of a different word. “None of your business,” I decide to say, smirking deceptively as I look away with contemptibly narrowed eyebrows, “I don't even care what's in the box, anyway...”

“It's really co-ol~!” she lilts, rattling the contents ever so slightly.

Whatever is inside, it sounds hollow, which means it probably isn't a book. Of the remaining options—movie or game—I'm leaning toward it being a movie since Yoko isn't much of a gamer, though I'm not sure if her dad knows that. Either way, this is obviously extortion, and I'm a school official on some level, so there might be a regulation I could quote, but I've never paid much attention to the rule book—except when a certain Class President throws it at me. The real question I'm left with is whether I want to talk with someone about what Hisao said last night, and the answer seems obvious.

“Fine!” I concede, throwing my hands up in exasperation, “Hisao called last night—woke me out of a stone slumber—and it ended weirdly... the phone call, I mean.”

For a moment she maintains the giddy smirk, but when my expression sinks into one of somber contemplation, she gives up the smile for a sympathetic frown. “Oh... sorry,” she says, reaching out to pat my arm, “are you okay...?”

It's perhaps not my finest moment, but while she's distracted with trying to offer a comforting hand, I take the opportunity to snatch the box out of her grasp. “Mine!” I declare, taking a few long steps backward to get out of her range, “You got your payment—I'll reap the rewards!”

She almost moves to intercept, but decides against that, instead nodding complicitly. “You can borrow them if you like,” she says, nodding toward the box, “or we can watch them together sometime...”

Opening the cardboard flap to examine the contents, I'm perplexed at first by the extraneous packaging, but underneath a bubble of plastic there are three individually wrapped cardboard sleeves: a collector's edition Lord Of The Rings box set—the movies, not the books. In an attempt to appear cool and detached, I contain my squeal of glee, but she can probably read the excitement on my face. For some reason I hadn't taken Yoko as being a fantasy nerd, or whatever kind of nerd likes Lord of the Rings, but it's a positive addition to her paradigm as far as I'm concerned.

“Now that you're done gushing about the movies,” she says, leading the conversation back toward true north, “would you mind explaining what happened a little better?”

I don't really want to, but a deal's a deal...

Usually it's Amaya taking an interest in my romantic woes, so I'm not used to having a sympathetic ear rather than an irate one—Yoko listens more and complains less. The truth is there really isn't a lot to explain outside of my own imaginings, which is a point I try to keep to myself; she doesn't need to know how much crazy is driving my actions. Yoko takes a seat on her bed and starts sorting through the care packages more thoroughly while I describe the conversation—leaving out the bit about streaking—and the sudden shift when Hisao became evasive.

Other than a few nods, she doesn't have much to say about it, but it feels good telling someone either way. Anything I can get from a different perspective could be helpful, though some part of the somber expression on her face has nothing to do with my story. She's doing a pretty good job masking it behind justifiable concern, but it's clear there's more on her mind than my lover's quarrel. After I finish explaining, we find ourselves in an appropriately contemplative silence, which gives me a chance to give her demeanor a bit more thought.

Unfortunately, I end up back at the one fact that bothered me from the beginning: she received a separate care package from each parent—each from a different city, no less. If my thought process is right, then there's a good chance her parents aren't only taking a new direction in business. Knowing that Yoko tends to guard herself, and seems uncomfortable discussing personal problems, I realize I'll have to be tactful if I'm going to ply for answers, but perhaps all we need is time, and there's twelve hours worth of cinematic-bliss resting in her hands.

I think it's time we did some bonding, anyway...

“Hey, how about a marathon?” I suggest, pointing toward the movies.

“My TV kinda sucks,” she replies, nodding toward the tiny, disused culprit hiding in a corner of her room, “Is yours much better?”

Realizing it isn't, I frown and try to think. One doesn't sit down to watch three of the most visually spectacular movies ever created without the proper equipment, at least not if they plan to enjoy every nuance. However, there may be a solution to that problem that's just crazy enough to work. Aside from the symbolic gesture, Hisao did say I could use his room as a hideout during the summer, and he has a brand new flat screen television in there just begging to be used; I doubt he'll mind if I bring a guest along to watch a movie the way it was intended.

“Do you have a problem going a little... outside the box?” I ask, grinning mischievously.

She pauses for a moment to inspect my expression, blinking a few times before nodding slowly. “Tall, fair-skinned, freckled red-head at a Japanese school?” she questions coyly, “I'm not even near the box...”

Taking that as an agreement, I stand, grab the set out of her hand and take a few steps toward the door. Before reaching for the knob, I turn back and inquire, “Snacks?”

“Vending machines,” she says, standing to follow.

“Good idea,” I agree, nodding as I open the door. Before going any further, I decide to mention, “We'll need to be a little sneaky getting there...”

“Where?”

“Our journey will take us into the mines of Moria,” I reply, resisting the urge to try an awful accent.

“Um...?” she prompts, arching an eyebrow as she joins me in the hallway.

“The boys dorm,” I clarify.

“Oh... I'm not much of a burglar,” she says, giving her voice a Hobbiton twang.

“Nonsense, Miss Guidot,” I retort, stroking my imaginary beard, “burgling is the least of your talents!”

She stares at me for a moment while I continue my imaginary beard stroking, then tilts her head and pleads, “Can we just go?”

“Yeah, that was getting creepy,” I agree, laughing as I turn toward my room, “I'll need my satchel—meet me downstairs?”

Nodding agreement, she stops and looks back in her room before turning to mention, “We'll need to bring my player—they're localized for Canada.”

“Go rip it out of the wall, then,” I advise, waving her toward her room.

She ducks inside, then quickly emerges to add, “You better not get me in trouble...”

Giving her an innocent smile, I reach for my doorknob and reply, “Now, why would I go and do that?”

The tone of my voice leaves her to squint at me suspiciously, but she decides not to comment further. While she goes back to fetch her localized DVD player, I grab my satchel and a few essentials—namely my pills and phone—then head out. She doesn't know I have a key for Hisao's room, but that's not the part that worries me. Although I've been lucky so far, I'm pretty sure Kenji knows Hisao has left for the summer, so if he hears someone in his neighbor's room watching a movie, there's a possibility it might force an encounter, and Hisao won't be around to explain things away.

I think it's worth the risk...

~^~

There's something poetic about stealing away into Hisao's room while we're in the midst of an argument, one-sided as it may be—which is something Yoko delights in mentioning several times. She thinks I'm being an idiot, blowing the whole thing out of proportion, and she might be right. If I were observing my situation from the outside, I might conclude that the busty, dark-haired math girl with the two-toned expression is just trying to make things fail between her and the unassuming, thoughtful, deceptively handsome science geek she's dating, but I'm trapped in my own head, and it's currently filled with suspicion.

I need to get out of my head for a while...
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Chapter 41 - Summer Lull (part 4)

Post by Helbereth » Fri Aug 16, 2013 3:15 pm

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Despite Yoko's misgivings and my latent worries about Hisao's neighbor, once we reach his room and get the movie set up on his impressive hardware, we both settle down. Making use of his blankets and pillows, we set ourselves up in a ring of sorts—appropriately so—flanked on all sides by little bags of chips, juice cans, and an assortment of invariably unhealthy snack foods—all that's missing is the mead. Since the movies are the director's cut versions, there will be almost four hours between intermissions, but that's the price of admission to spend a whole Friday embracing our inner geek.

I think I heard Yoko practicing Elvish on the way here...

Before long the lights are dimmed, his window is blocked with an extra blanket, and we sink into cinematic bliss. Within minutes of the opening, we're both reciting lines verbatim from the script, even before the actors can say them. That's saying something considering it's an English version, and I still consider myself lucky to have passed that final exam. However, it's possible that, like Yoko, I have a better grasp of the language than I think, though it probably just means I've seen these movies entirely too many times.

The latter seems more likely...

Toward the end of the first movie, Yoko starts getting fidgety, and the reason for that becomes apparent when she bolts upright as soon as the credits roll, heading for the bathroom. While she's gone, I go about getting the second movie into the player, and notice a light on my phone is blinking through my satchel pocket. Having left it set to vibrate, I'm not surprised I didn't notice a call coming in, but they apparently left me a voice-mail. There's static for a few seconds, and what sounds like water moving, but that quickly gets replaced by my boyfriend's tentative voice.

“H-hey, um... I guess you're busy, so I'll be brief,” he starts, his whispering tone making him sound anxious, “I probably left you with more questions than... well, than I intended...”

At least he realizes that much...

“Anyway, something happened,” he admits, “but I don't... it's better if we talk directly... just, don't let your imagination get ahead-”

“You done over there?” an unfamiliar feminine voice asks from somewhere in the background.

Who the hell...?

“What? No... I mean-” he stops, and it sounds like he's covering the microphone.

For a few seconds all I can hear is muffled voices, and it sounds like Hisao is getting defensive, but I'm not sure if it's because of the interruption or the interrupter. Finally he uncovers the microphone and stutters, “S-sorry about that... a couple friends invited me to the pool—we're in the middle of a heat-wave, they kinda kidnapped me, and err-”

While he pauses, probably to collect his thoughts, I look down and notice my fist is clenched. Not only that, but I hear Yoko exiting the bathroom with all the grace of a cave troll; she probably doesn't want to miss the movie—not that I'd start it without her. She steps in and immediately notices I'm on the phone, so she tiptoes over and stands over me for a moment before motioning to sign a question, but I interrupt her with an upraised finger as Hisao starts talking again.

“Anyway, I'll talk to you later, I guess. Um... stay frosty?” he jokes, which manages to make me smirk, “love you—don't be mad at me.”

“I'll try,” I whisper, barely loud enough for Yoko to hear.

I know he can't really hear me, but I hope he does anyway...

As the message cuts, and the electronic voice starts asking if I want to hear the message again, Yoko sinks down into the sea of pillows and turns an inquisitive look at me. “Who was that?” she asks, taking a few moments to read my silent reaction before adding, “What'd he say?”

“How do you know it was a him? It could have been Amaya...” I suggest, but she's not convinced.

“If you don't wanna talk, fine... don't assume I'm oblivious, though,” she remarks, folding her arms and turning toward the television.

Now I feel bad...

The cold look she's directing away from me fills me with remorse—she's just trying to help. “It's just a dumb message—I guess he called while we were watching...” I explain, shaking my head and setting the phone aside, “I guess he realized I might think something's wrong, and he wants to explain, but...”

“Do you wanna call him now?” she asks, and I consider it for a moment.

If I did that, we'd probably end up talking on the phone for half an hour, and I doubt Yoko will wait that long before skipping out on our marathon. “No, he and I can talk tonight like usual,” I say, picking up the remote, “we have eight hours of Middle-Earth ahead of us—no boys allowed.”

“Except Legolas?”

“Oh, and Aragorn, right...” I say, glancing toward the door, “first, though...”

“I promise I won't listen to your messages while you're in the bathroom,” Yoko jokes as I'm standing, which leaves me with no other choice but to bring the phone with me.

“Not that I don't trust you... but, I don't trust you.”

I think she's learning from Amaya...

~^~

Eight long hours goes by quickly when you're with good company, and good cinema—so fast that upon opening the curtain and finding the school grounds darkened by nightfall, we're both a little surprised. Evidently Yoko forgot where we are, so when she steps out into the hall, she immediately walks back inside with a confused frown on her face. Yawning heavily, she points over her shoulder and mumbles something, but I'm not paying attention—I doubt it was anything important. Despite her cheerful demeanor, she looks dreadfully tired, and I feel bad for keeping her awake.

“You start your job tomorrow, right?” I say, to which she nods and smiles.

“Promptly at nine,” she sighs, turning a wistful look toward the ceiling, “You really think it'll be good for me?”

“Definitely—Satoru thinks she's great, and I consider that high praise,” I say, closing up the last DVD case and stacking them together. Handing them over, I add, “Photography is joined at the hip with the fashion world—you know that—so it should be good experience.”

“I know, but-”

“No buts!” I balk, patting her shoulder roughly. “It'll be fun,” I assure her, “trust me!”

After she returned from the interview feeling indecisive, it didn't take much to convince her it was in her best interest, though I think she regrets sacrificing three days a week for the rest of the summer—one must suffer for their art, I've been told. Unlike myself, she has apparently kept to a regular sleep schedule because of the obligation, which should have started half an hour ago, but she insisted on staying to watch all the ending credits. It's possible that she's actually a bigger fantasy geek than myself, which probably shouldn't surprise me, but Yoko never struck me as the geeky type.

I guess even a poised, posh princess can be a pariah...

“Should we just leave the mess?” she asks, and there's an almost devious tone in her voice.

“No, Hisao left it orderly, so I'll leave it orderly,” I reply, then shrug and smile, “but, that doesn't mean you have to stay—you have a big day tomorrow.”

“You're sure?”

“Positive,” I assure her with a sleepy nod, “I'll get this all back in its place, and head back after.”

“Lydia will probably understand if I'm late...” she offers, but I shake my head commandingly.

“She shouldn't have to—this is my problem, so thanks for asking, but no,” I refuse, glancing around at the spectacular mess, “I'll deal with it.”

The now-infrequently-seen meekness she once displayed regularly makes a brief reappearance as my narrowed expression—designed to intimidate Amaya—bears down on her. “Alright, if you insist,” she concedes, the brief moment of weakness making her shake her head in dismay, “Just don't stay too late—you wouldn't wanna end up stuck here overnight...”

I'm not sure if she's joking or not...

“I'll keep that in mind...” I reply with a casually raised eyebrow. “Now, vamoose!” I bark, waving my hand toward the door, “go make sleepy-time so you can get started on that fashion empire!”

“It's just a temporary assistant position at a photo studio,” she retorts, her attempt at downplaying the importance making me redouble my grin.

“Have to start somewhere, right?” I say, reaching over to pat her shoulder again, “I don't know any designers, but I'm sure they all started at the bottom.”

“My parents aren't thrilled with the idea,” she adds, which makes me frown.

“Well,” I say, realizing this might be a land mine subject, “they probably just worry because-”

“It's an uncertain profession,” she interjects, making quotes with her fingers, “All Dad could do was quote statistics—all the bad ones—and Mom kept saying stuff about wasting my education...” The way she stares at the floor with a hard expression tells me she's more bothered by their assessment than the disapproval—they basically told her she doesn't have a chance.

I think they're wrong...

“So, prove 'em wrong,” I advise, regaining my smile as she fixes a determined stare on me, “Be the one percent—the statistical anomaly. Take it from someone who knows numbers: even the smallest probability still has a chance of being the result—and that's before counting things like talent and determination.”

Her nodding is probably enough of an indicator, but she replies anyway, “Thanks... I think I needed to hear that...”

“You're welcome,” I respond, taking a breath as I recall the question I wanted to ask her earlier. It's probably too late to delve into it now, but she should know I noticed something strange—I'm hoping she can deny it truthfully. Trying not to sound accusatory I tentatively add, “Also... we need to talk.”

“About?”

“Two boxes,” I reply flatly, starting to usher her toward the door. “One from each parent—from two different cities... I didn't mean to snoop, but...”

She looks away and rubs her hands together nervously as we step into the hall, then turns a sheepish expression at me and replies, “I was hoping you didn't notice that...”

Stopping to lean against the door jamb, I shrug and say, “Well, I noticed... and I guessed what it means... and I'm hoping I'm wrong.”

“My parents are... separated,” she admits, sighing disdainfully.

“Separated?” I question, unsure what she means exactly.

“The divorce isn't final yet,” she explains, rolling her eyes as she practically spits the words, “they're in and out of meetings with lawyers, and courtrooms, and...”

Seeing her go from relatively happy to positively angry makes me feel bad for bringing it up, but knowing for sure what's been bothering her is probably a good thing. Still, the look she had a moment ago—that determined stare—is gone, replaced with a somber look, one that's probably borne from frustration. The relatively strange circumstances that led to her enrolling at Yamaku suddenly make sense, and, as I recall, she never actually lied in describing her parents—she just left out the part about them being separated.

There's more to it than that, I'm sure, but right now I'd rather see her smile than get my questions answered. “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to dredge it up,” I say, trying to salvage her mood, “you don't have to explain everything now, but... I wanted you to know you can talk to me.”

After taking a deep breath and rolling her shoulders to release some tension, she nods and replies, “Thanks, and don't worry about dredging it up. I should have said something a while ago—I told Kenta, even...”

Smirking slyly, I inquire, “Pillow talk?”

“Hardly...” she answers, rolling her eyes, “though the two are related...”

The meaning behind that escapes me for the moment, but I can bring it up again later. “Well, I won't keep you—you need sleep, and I have a room to clean,” I say, pointing a thumb over my shoulder, “if you feel like talking, let me know—you have my number.”

“I will,” she says, starting to walk backwards down the hallway. “If you need advice on Hisao,” she adds, smirking sideways as she turns, “call Amaya.”

“Noted,” I reply, nodding as I step back into Hisao's room.

I think she probably has a point...

Looking over the mess, I realize the two of us probably went through half a vending machine worth of junk food, and I have the queasy feeling to prove it. We were a little too caught up in the toils of Middle-Earth to notice Hisao's room turning into the death-caked battlements after the battle of the Pelennor Fields. Empty chip bags, juice cans, and snack-cake wrappers litter the floor like thousands of Orcs before the gates of Minas Tirith. Also, somehow—probably during a more tense moment—we managed to drag a web of wires across the carpet, mirroring the spilled gore left in the wake of battle.

All that's missing are the trebuchets and Grond...

When I've finished clearing all the trash away, I find that I've filled his waste basket, so I tie it up and head for the garbage chute down the hall. The dorm buildings aren't quite mirror images of each other, so I get a little lost and have to backtrack a few times. Each time I come to a corner, I pause to peer around it and see if anyone else is there—technically I'm not supposed to be here after ten o'clock. Despite not seeing anyone, I still feel like I'm being watched, but I attribute that to the late hour, near silence, and a youth spent playing survival horror games.

I wonder if my phone would pick up static...

With my hands hanging loosely at my sides, barely keeping their grip on the basket, I yawn heavily as I walk back along the halls. Although I had planned to go back to my room, the prospect of walking that far in my zombie-like state doesn't sound appealing—or safe. The obvious solution to this problem is to stay in Hisao's room overnight, but I don't know if that's such a great idea either. The more time I spend here, the greater the risk of someone discovering my presence—someone who might not understand or appreciate the situation.

Someone with giant coke-bottle glasses and a ridiculous scarf...

However, there hasn't been any sign of Kenji all day, and I don't even know if he's here for the break or whether he went home. It occurs to me that I could have asked Hisao about his neighbor's summer plans, but I didn't think it was important enough to bother—I never predicted being in this situation. What really confuses me, though, is why I'm even worried about running into Kenji. The last time that happened, he mistook me for a boy despite some rather obvious details, so I could just pass myself off as some other dorm occupant.

As I step back through Hisao's door, my body seems to make the decision for me. Once I've replaced the bag in the waste basket, I flop down on the bed and roll into a blanket. It's a little strange that I feel this tired after spending the day watching movies, and there's a lingering sense of dread about waking up here tomorrow morning, but I'm barely conscious enough to turn off the light. As I relax into the comfort of his mattress, I remember that Hisao and I haven't had our nightly talk yet, but that can wait until morning.

I almost feel like I'm with him sleeping here...
________________________________________________________
Previous|Part 1|Part 2|Part 3|Next Chapter

OH MY GOD! HISAO IS CHEATING ON AIKO!?
Wild speculation ensues.

Writing boredom without being boring is difficult--I hope I'm being successful.
Last edited by Helbereth on Thu Feb 27, 2014 4:38 pm, edited 3 times in total.

Silver
Posts: 11
Joined: Mon Jul 01, 2013 11:48 am

Re: Tomorrow's Doom ~ Up: 08/16/13 ~ C.40 - Summer Lull

Post by Silver » Fri Aug 16, 2013 4:08 pm

I was going to say Hisao would never cheatbut I remembered Shizune's bad end.
Anyway good work, really enjoying it.

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Minion of Chaos
Posts: 69
Joined: Mon Jul 29, 2013 3:04 pm

Re: Tomorrow's Doom ~ Up: 08/16/13 ~ C.40 - Summer Lull

Post by Minion of Chaos » Fri Aug 16, 2013 5:38 pm

An update to Tomorrow's Doom with some entertaining (and accurate, imo) Rin-dialogue and complete geeking out over LOTR? One might say/yell "Happy Day!!!" Sadly, I am not an enthusiastic person.

Anyways, fantastic update as always!

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