So, here it is, as promised, the next chapter of Hanako's Story! It's another short one again, so apologies, but there's a good reason for that - the chapter in the VN ends here and the next segment is what you've all been waiting for... Hanako's birthday party! I did consider adding that to the end of this but instead I decided that instead of writing a single super-long chapter I'd rather have a shorter one with the build-up, and give the party its own chapter from scratch. So I'll try and get that out within a few weeks, though no gurantees - considering the next chapter will be much longer, and given my propensity for delays, it might be a bit of a wait. I'll endeavour to make that wait as short as possible, though .
Act 3 – Chapter Five: White Knight Sacrifice
I avoid lessons the next day. I don't feel up to it, I don't want to go down there and face the stares and the judgement from everyone, people harassing me and asking what happened yesterday. Not to mention I was advised to stay in by Miss Yumi. Normally she tries to get me out there, talking to people, making some effort to get past my issues, but she's nothing if not tactful. I wonder why she even tries to help me? It's just a job for her, surely? Again I find myself torn in two. On the one hand, I don't feel like anybody should bother trying to help me, as if I actually deserve the sympathy or the aid. On the other hand, I want to be helped. I want people to be there for me. When the times are less hard, when everything is calm then I can find some balance, and I can feel as if, for once, I do deserve the support given by those few who care. It's all I want. When we move closer to the tough times, though, and breakdowns like this become commonplace, I find it so much more difficult to cope and find the common ground. My despair triumphs over my hope, and all that's left is darkness.
A void in my heart and screaming in my head.
I find myself sleeping in, unable to wake from the noise in my mind. My own voice muffled by the confines of my brain, no physical thing, but a purely mental torture. When I do finally wake up, I stare at the ceiling. After a while, I take a shower, taking advantage of the fact that everyone is in lessons, but when I return to my room wearing my dressing gown I return immediately to bed. No food in my stomach, nor water, my body fights against me but I can barely force myself out of bed to find something to eat or drink. I'm given no motivation to do so, until I hear a faint knocking on the very edge of hearing.
A pause. I wait in silence. The knocking comes again.
This time it's louder, just a little. I try to get up as the sound gradually increases in volume, but when I finally place my feet on the floor the knocking stops.
I stagger across to the door, hoping against hope that whoever it is hasn't left. I'm in two minds – it might be Lilly or Hisao, in which case I want to see them. I want something to take my mind away from all this, to reassure me that everything will be fine. However, it could just as easily be one of my neighbours, or other classmates, wanting the latest gossip on my condition. I couldn't face that. Chances are higher to be the former, though, so I want to see. If only the faculty would let me install a peephole on my door! Things would be a bit easier, perhaps...
I reach the door and open it just a crack. In the corridor stands a young man with a slight smile on his face. My heart misses a beat, just once, and I feel a little relieved. Maybe it would have been better for me if he'd not come at all. Then again, I'm finally out of bed. I try to hide my hunger pangs and thirst (I have snacks and water in my room to keep me going anyway – after the previous years I've learned preparation is key), as I watch his face through the opening.
We're both silent for a while. I'm waiting for him to speak, lost at the same time in my own thoughts. Hisao doesn't say a word, however, and I can only assume he's waiting for the same thing. We each expect the other to begin our conversation, yet neither of us can bring ourselves to do so. Eventually I move away from the door, wondering what he must be thinking now – does he believe I'm simply leaving him out there, about to shut him out again? If so, I must be surprising him now, as I pull the door open a bit more.
He can see me fully now, my pink silk dressing gown, my hair still damp from the shower. I can't help but wonder why he's really here? I don't want to speculate, but after yesterday I feel like I can barely talk to him. Not because I don't want to. This is one of my rarer moments in these troubled times, when I feel calm and lucid. My tears have run out, my nightmares are limited to when I sleep, and now I'm awake I can look around me and try to come to some semblance of normality. I'm not saying it's not difficult. It's tougher than anything else I've ever done. But I've been fighting this for half my life, and now with Lilly and Hisao I feel like maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to get through it. At least, I felt that way until yesterday morning, and less so when I found out that Lilly would be leaving for a fortnight. I still don't know Hisao well enough to deal with this so easily, as if it was ever easy, and I know that right now, we just don't really have a clue what to say to each other.
Hisao steps inside my room and closes the door behind him. I fiddle with my gown, weaving my fingers in the folds in my nervousness. I realise he's not going to say anything, and in a moment of clarity that surprises even myself, I speak instead. “Why...”
A simple comment, but it's enough to break a fragment of the iceberg building between us. “Because... uh... I uh... I... um...” He sighs as he finishes stammering. His speech now is worse than even mine at my worst. He continues: “I don't know. I just... wanted to see you, I guess.”
I stop fidgeting and look up at his face. The look of concern, coupled with the worry and hint of surprise in Hisao's face, warms my heart a tiny bit. I feel a little better, and smile, nodding just once. “Um...” I start, “since you're here...”
How can I say this? Maybe we can get some degree of normality here. “I'd like to... play a game of chess with you...”
I've finally let him in. It's taken me so long, the build-up crumbling to pieces at the slightest provocation, but it was worth it for this moment. “It would be my pleasure,” comes the reply, with a smile to match my own. I fetch a board from the cupboard, one of my very few personal possessions, and set a game up on the floor. The smiles continue as we start to play...