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Re: For Want of a Nail - Misha Route (Happy Birthday, Misha!)

Posted: Sat Jun 09, 2018 11:13 pm
by ProfAllister
I hesitate. Up to this point, she’s done any undressing by herself, and I’ve given her all the space she’ll let me give. But when she comes out and asks me like that, how could I say no? Why would I say no?

With unsteady hands, I reach for her bow and fruitlessly fumble at it for a minute or so while she watches patiently. Eventually, the knot gives way under my fingers, revealing the next obstacle: the blouse’s buttons.

You wouldn’t expect buttons to be difficult, but these don’t seem to follow the normal rules that I’ve known all my life. Why must girls’ clothes be so mysterious and inscrutable?

Right as I feel I’ve figured it out, Misha speaks up.

“Hicchan~… there’s a zipper~.”

Looking where she points, sure enough, there’s a small zipper, expertly hidden. It’s actually a bit disappointing, but I guess it makes sense. I smile at her. “That’s no fun.”

She smiles back as I return to the buttons. The second button gives up faster than the first, and the third faster still, revealing a familiar pink and black bra. Unable to resist, I dart my head in and plant a quick kiss on her bare cleavage. Her surprised gasp quickly turns into a pleased coo as she wraps her arms around my head. Effectively trapped, I turn my head slightly back and forth in a flurry of quick kisses. Losing herself in the sensation, her arms loosen, and I’m able to work my way up her neck one kiss at a time, until my lips reach hers.

Back in a more manageable position, my hands return to her buttons, quickly undoing the remainder. Once those are clear, Misha tries to wriggle out of her shirt, half helping and half hindering my efforts to get it off her.

Bra straps hanging loosely off her shoulders from the struggle, she reaches up and grabs my tie, holding me in place while her left hand undoes the buttons on my own shirt with a surprising, almost alarming speed. Her hand lingers around my belt for just a moment, giving the barest exploratory brush before she grabs me by the shoulders, pulling me down onto the bed.

Unwilling to let her control the situation the way she did last time, I make sure to maneuver so that her back is on the bed. Leaning forward, she works with me to get my shirt off, bizarrely making sure my tie stays on.

Once my shirt is off, I stop to take in the situation. We’re both shirtless, her bra is barely on, and I’m kneeling over her, straddling one of her legs. Evidently impatient with my pause, she squeezes my knee between her legs, pressing herself against me. Leaning forward, I push against her, eliciting a pleased sound as I reach around her back, pulling us closer together.

Our mouths meet once again, and she aggressively brings her tongue into play this time. I respond with my own, turning our kiss into an impromptu tongue-joust while my hands explore her back. After a few minutes of this, Misha seems to find something funny, trying to laugh around our entwined tongues. Pulling away, I give her the opportunity to compose herself.
She makes a cute little giggle, then looks at me with a mischievous grin. “This one fastens in the front, Hicchan~.”

Damn. She saw right through me. I take a moment to admire her - she’s still wearing her glasses, and that lovely smile of hers that always brightens up the room; her hair spills out over her bare shoulders in those distinctive curls of hers; and her body is pleasantly curvy in exactly the right way.

“You were never planning on just getting changed, were you?”

“Eheheheh~, nope~!”

Confirmed in my suspicions, I carefully remove her glasses and set them aside on the nightstand, then turn my attention to the real prize. The clasp is hidden pretty well, but easily undone. She helpfully arches her back so that I can easily slide the bra off her arms and out of the way.

Today is a good boob day. As I attend to them with my hands and mouth, she responds with alternate gurgles and moans of pleasure. Recalling her earlier comment about sensitivity, I resist my urge to linger in that area, opting to run my hands up and down her sides, or explore her soft expanse of belly. As my hands near the waistband of her skirt and underwear, I slide the tips of my fingers under, tracing the edges of this still-covered area.

Driven to new heights by this latest approach, Misha hooks her arms under mine and pulls me close until our bare chests are touching, making me all the more aware of the warmth and pressure of her lower body around my leg.

Our lips meeting once again, she reaches down to my waist, fumbling with my belt. As with last time, my attempts to help are batted away. After a little effort, belt and button give way, and she slides of my pants, leaving me clad in nothing but a tie. Reaching for her skirt to return the favor, I’m surprised to find Misha grabbing my hand.

“No, Hicchan~. Leave that on, please~?”

Instead, my hand in hers, she guides me under her skirt to one side of her panties. As I move my other hand to her other side and wrap my fingers around the thin material, she gasps involuntarily.

“Sorry, Hicchan~. It’s just… a little scary, for a boy to be taking them off.”

I smile at her, then give a reassuring kiss to her belly button before I slide them off. Then, both of us as naked as we’re going to get, my eyes meet hers. “Are you ready?”

She closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, then nods. Taking that as my cue, I position myself between her legs, take a breath of my own, and push.

The first thing I notice is that the different angle makes for an entirely new experience. A surprised gasp form Misha indicates that she notices it, too.

“I’m okay, Hicchan~,” she reassures me, her voice surprisingly breathy, “please don’t stop~.”

Leaning forward, I press into her, my hands finding and then gently massaging her breasts. A few minutes later, I slide my hands behind her back as we kiss once more. As our bodies find a mutual rhythm, I explore her shoulder blades, and the uninterrupted contours of her back, until I find my hands resting under her plump, pleasantly round bottom. Giving and experimental squeeze, I’m rewarded by a wave of pleasure and a surprised squeak.

“Ohhhhhh~,” she sighs, cooing wordlessly, “do you think you can do that again?”

I readily comply, quickly becoming lost in the feel of our bodies together, the scent of our sweat intermingling with her various hair products, the salty taste of her skin, and the sounds of our exertion. Before long, I feel a familiar pressure, growing more intense, until it culminates in a blinding release.

Completely spent, I slump down on her chest. We stay like that for a moment, until Misha pushes me off, rolling me over next to her. As her eyes meet mine, she smiles brightly.

“I’ll miss you, Hicchan~.”

I smile back.

“I’ll miss you, too. But don’t let that keep you from enjoying your trip with Shizune, okay?”

“Okay, Hicchan~. I won’t~.”

Act 3 Scene 8 Part 3 | Act 3 Scene 9

Re: For Want of a Nail - Misha Route (Happy Birthday, Misha!)

Posted: Sat Jun 09, 2018 11:14 pm
by ProfAllister
!!!WARNING!!! This is a joke chapter, for those who would rather not read about sexytimes

Just as I’m about to respond, the door flies open, revealing a panicked-looking Kenji. After glancing around, he returns to his standard demeanor. He probably thinks it makes him look cool. I’d be more inclined to say it makes him look dangerously oblivious.

“‘Sup, dude?”

“It would be too much to expect that the answer to that is obvious and you’ll walk right back out that door, huh?”

He glances around the room for a moment, then a knowing smile forms. “Ah, now I understand. That can wait. Come out to the hall with me. This will only take a minute.”

I glance over to Misha for some kind of help, but it looks like it’s all she can do to not burst out laughing. With a defeated sigh, I leave the room with Kenji.

“This better be worth my time.”

“Relax, dude, I’ve got you covered. Good job, by the way.”

I stare at him. This seems entirely too normal for him.

“You took my advice,” he explains, “The robot clone. You made her fatter. I don’t think she wears glasses, though. That’s the other one.”

Right. Of course. “So what was so important that you had to pull me away from… uh… calibrations?”

He smiles approvingly. “Straight to business. Good man. I’ll keep this simple. Shit’s big. Bigger than you, bigger than me, bigger than this whole school. The bitches’ve got us by the balls, man!”

He cuts me off before I can respond. “But don’t worry, dude, I’ve got it covered. If I pull this off, I’ll blow the lid on the whole operation. Feminist bitches’ll never see it coming! That’s where you come in.”

This can’t be good. “Go on.”

“Okay, man, here’s the deal. If anyone asks, I went home for the break to build a bomb shelter.”

“But in reality, you won’t be building a bomb shelter?”

“Hell, no! I took care of that shit ages ago. Can’t let the bitches catch you with your dick out, you know?”
That’s three.

“Just between you and me, dude, I’m going undercover. Deep undercover. So undercover that I could be standing right in front of you, and you’d never know it!”

One could only wish.

“Is that all? I really should get back to my, uh-”

“Look, man, I’m putting my life in your hands right now. That’s a big fucking deal. I’m gonna be dealing with some sensitive shit, you know, so I need you to promise me something. I know you aren’t used to it, but it’s for the greater good. I need you to promise me, whatever you do, that you not attempt to contact me. We can’t afford to compromise my cover. No matter how dire the circumstances, we need absolute radio silence. You dig?”

This could quite possibly be the easiest promise I have ever made.

“Got it. I don’t see you, I don’t hear you, I don’t talk to you. For all intents and purposes, you don’t exist.”

He gives me a smart salute. “Good man. We’ll make a soldier of you yet.”

“Anyway, since I have no idea why I’m standing in the hall all by myself, I think I’ll be going back into my room.”

Before he can process my comment, I’ve already ducked into my room and shut the door, locking it. I can vaguely hear something to the effect of “What the hell, man?”

“Okay, Shiina,” I begin quietly, but trail off. She’s already lying in bed, fast asleep. Without another word, I turn off the lights and join her in bed.

Act 3 Scene 8 Part 3 | Act 3 Scene 9

Re: For Want of a Nail - Misha Route (Updated 6/9/18)

Posted: Sat Jun 09, 2018 11:38 pm
by Hoitash
Holy Mother of Christina Vee :)

Great to see an update, and quite the update as well.

Re: For Want of a Nail - Misha Route (Updated 6/9/18)

Posted: Sun Jun 10, 2018 1:38 am
by kschmidty3
I'm glad to see that you're still working on this story. Easily one of my favorites on this site.

One thing I've always wanted to ask is why you've written Lilly as such a passive-aggressive bitch? I get that she doesn't like Shizune so by association she wouldn't get along with Misha and Hisao but she seems to take a little too far.

Re: For Want of a Nail - Misha Route

Posted: Sun Jun 10, 2018 7:53 am
by ProfAllister
Craftyatom wrote:
Sun Jun 03, 2018 4:02 pm
In 1977, the deadliest aviation disaster in history occurred on a runway in Tenerife. And if you've heard the story once, it hurts every time you hear it again. Every sentence brings the disaster closer, and you wish that even one thing would change, and stop it from happening. That's what Act 2 was like for me. Hisao joins the student council - lots of traffic is diverted to Tenerife airport. Hisao and Misha are both incredibly imperceptive - a thick fog obscures vision at the airport. Hisao misunderstands Misha's question of whether he 'likes' Shizune, and she misunderstands his answer - the flight crew misunderstands Air Traffic Control, and a radio error happens to block two subsequent messages that would each have prevented disaster. Misha and Hisao kiss - two fully-loaded 747s collide at 160mph.
You know, generally when a story is compared to a slow-motion disaster, the implication is that it's so terrible, you can't look away. :p

That being said, the build-up and confusion was the intended effect, so I guess it was a success.
Fortunately, your Shizune is an absolute gem. She joins the list of incredibly well-written Shizunes on this forum, all of whom I'd love a full route for. The sheer amount of work she does for Hisao and Misha, the amount of control she has over the situation, the fact that she actually gets emotional... I was a bit surprised, at the end of Act 2, that she acted so unfazed, but of course that got put to rest in Act 3. I really appreciated the way you wrote her.
One of my goals from the outset of this project was to help people see the Shizune who's been standing in front of them the whole time. Shizune (and by extension, Misha) is unique among the girls in that she's always Hisao's friend. In Hanako's route, Misha and Shizune are essentially the only non-family contacts Hisao has on his phone (besides Lilly and Hanako).

I do object to your comment about loving a full route for this Shizune, since the goal was for this to be the Shizune you already have a route for. It seems to me that you want a Shizune who's as comfortable in a romantic role as she is in her platonic role - unfortunately, her discomfort and awkwardness in a romantic role is a key facet of what makes her who she is, meaning you're only likely to see the Shizune you like a) in a platonic peripheral role; or b) in an epilogue after she's addressed/resolved the key points of conflict from her route.
I also liked that there was actually some resolution to the Lilly line of things - it's not perfect, but it wouldn't be. Definitely a plot point you didn't have to use, but that you made the most of, in my opinion.
Funny story about that. I am to Lilly the way a lot of people are to Shizune - I love the character, but can't stand her route. Unfortunately, while I believe Shizune's route gets better with age, I feel Lilly's route gets worse with age. In either case, Shizune is one of the few contexts wherein Lilly's facade of being "practically perfect in every way" cracks. So it's got a lot of potential for interesting exploration.
One thing I was a bit surprised by was how humorous the writing was. It bordered on memey at times, especially with the references to canon (which I'm well aware not everyone enjoys), but overall I quite liked that style. The future conditional tense joke had me doubled over for a bit. And of course, there were meta references to Hisao's own social ineptitude, as well as the old "all girls crush on Hisao" trope - again, not everyone's cup of tea, but I can appreciate them when they're well-done.
The presence of humor was very intentional. Nearly all of my favorite stories/movies/etc recognise the value of well-placed humor, as well as the refusal for humor to be constrained to "dramatically appropriate" occasions. On top of that, joie de vivre is a very important concept to explore when it comes to Misha.

As for the "bordering on memey," I'll confess that this fic has been heavily influenced by the community, but I've taken special care to avoid putting things in just because funny. Arguably the biggest offense is the focus on the sweatervest (which seems to have received significant criticism in other recent fics), but that's kind of unavoidable when appearance/clothing/fashion is a key thematic element.
This story definitely deserves a spot on my favorites list, especially since it's so well-developed (took me about 5 hours total). I'm a little surprised I never got to reading it back in 2013, but hey, better late than never!
Yeah... I've got a few fics like that for me as well...
kschmidty3 wrote:
Sun Jun 10, 2018 1:38 am
I'm glad to see that you're still working on this story. Easily one of my favorites on this site.

One thing I've always wanted to ask is why you've written Lilly as such a passive-aggressive bitch? I get that she doesn't like Shizune so by association she wouldn't get along with Misha and Hisao but she seems to take a little too far.
The most Frequently-Asked Question, it appears. Aside form what I just said earlier in this post, I've got a question for you to answer to yourself: Given that the choices define who Hisao is, and Lilly's behavior changes differently between Emi's, Shizune's, Hanako's, and her own routes, which route are you using as a baseline for Lilly's behavior? And, given the differences between that route and this one, how do you anticipate those changes would modify Lilly's behavior from the baseline?

Re: For Want of a Nail - Misha Route (Updated 6/9/18)

Posted: Sun Jun 10, 2018 3:46 pm
by Hanako Fancopter
I'd like to note that I fully support any and all sweatervest memeing.

Re: For Want of a Nail - Misha Route (Updated 6/9/18)

Posted: Tue Jun 12, 2018 8:13 am
by Mirage_GSM
NIce to see you back in action.
Sorry I didn't get the proofreading done in time, but I got the notification that the new chapter was up on Friday, and I was a bit busy on the weekend. Well, there wasn't a lot to comment on anyway, since your writing was superb as always.
Personally, I preferred the Kenji Ending to this chapter to the other one, though :-)

Re: For Want of a Nail - Misha Route (Updated 6/9/18)

Posted: Tue Jun 12, 2018 2:56 pm
by AlexFDSR
A couple of spelling mistakes here and there, but all in all it's good to see you back! Also, that "No Sex" scene was pure comedic brilliance.

Re: For Want of a Nail - Misha Route (Happy Birthday, Misha!)

Posted: Tue Jun 12, 2018 4:14 pm
by Craftyatom
Good chapter, regardless of ending. I liked the dynamic between Hisao's parents and Misha (despite the obvious similarities - Freud would be proud), and loved Hisao taking all day to realize what his dad said. I've had days like that, and it fits Hisao perfectly, given the situation. The conversation with Lilly is sad due to the extra knowledge we have as readers, but it's a tragedy that makes sense, and I love that you included it.

I'll admit I'm a bit confused regarding Hisao's health - he wasn't immediately knocked out as a result of the fall down the stairs, but passed out afterwards. Furthermore, he remained unconscious for a good few hours, even while being given CPR/taken to the nurse's office. That makes sense if his heart acted up, but we now know that whatever happened, his heart was fine a minute or so later. I know, it's a nitpick, but as someone who has fallen down stairs, it felt a bit off. That said, maybe I should be more willing to suspend disbelief on something so small.

The sex was pretty well-written. I liked the "emphasis" on how much clothing they each had to work though. The ending was sweet, though I have my own premonitions regarding next chapter. Anyways, as mentioned, a good chapter overall.

ProfAllister wrote:
Sat Jun 09, 2018 11:14 pm
uh… calibrations?
"Can it wait, Shiina? I'm in the middle of some calibrations."

Re: For Want of a Nail - Misha Route (Happy Birthday, Misha!)

Posted: Tue Jun 12, 2018 4:52 pm
by ProfAllister
Craftyatom wrote:
Tue Jun 12, 2018 4:14 pm
I'll admit I'm a bit confused regarding Hisao's health - he wasn't immediately knocked out as a result of the fall down the stairs, but passed out afterwards. Furthermore, he remained unconscious for a good few hours, even while being given CPR/taken to the nurse's office. That makes sense if his heart acted up, but we now know that whatever happened, his heart was fine a minute or so later. I know, it's a nitpick, but as someone who has fallen down stairs, it felt a bit off. That said, maybe I should be more willing to suspend disbelief on something so small.
Not to relitigate the past discussion on this (conversation was... extensive), but it's a little easier to discuss in "hindsight".

My mental concept for what "actually happened" here dealt more with shock(psychological, not physiological) than actual heart issues. It's possible that he had a heart flutter, and potentially even the actual cardiac arrest event that the chest impact warning alludes to. Whatever the case, any heart issues had been effectively resolved by the time Emi returned with the AED.

I expect the others would be seeing a wide-eyed, rigid Hisao, likely including some rapid, shallow gasps for breath (assuming anyone was in the state of mind to assess his condition). Misha was working off instinct/training, while the other girls were more or less too dazed to do anything other than follow Misha's orders.

By the time the nurse arrives and assess the situation, he'd likely conclude that Hisao was okay, and still conscious, but in severe shock. With the context of the precipitating event, he'd definitely want to take Hisao to the office for observation, to make sure everything was in fact okay.

At some point after the nurse's "all clear," Hisao falls asleep, without ever regaining coherence. This allows Hisao to have his "am I dying?" experience because he is in fact aware of what's going on, but the shock has more or less psychologically removed him from any conscious interaction (or really considering the experience more than some sort of crazy unreliable out of body experience).

...that may be a bit muddled, and even medically inaccurate at places. Short summary:
- Hisao and the girls fell down the stairs
- Hisao gets a solid blow to the chest, potentially triggering some sort of cardiac episode
- Reacting more to the idea of a cardiac episode than to the episode itself, Hisao goes into shock, primarily by disassociating himself from his experiences
- Misha responds to the perceived cardiac episode by performing CPR
- Emi arrives with the AED
- The AED is set up, and says "why are you bothering me? the boy's fine"
- The nurse arrives, checks Hisao out, and concludes that he's physically fine, but in shock
- Hisao is moved to the nurse's office and falls asleep, not necessarily in that order
ProfAllister wrote:
Sat Jun 09, 2018 11:14 pm
uh… calibrations?
"Can it wait, Shiina? I'm in the middle of some calibrations."
Wouldn't it be Kenji in this context?

Re: For Want of a Nail - Misha Route (Updated 6/9/18)

Posted: Wed Jun 13, 2018 7:52 am
by Mirage_GSM
- Misha responds to the perceived cardiac episode by performing CPR
- Emi arrives with the AED
- The AED is set up, and says "why are you bothering me? the boy's fine"
- The nurse arrives, checks Hisao out, and concludes that he's physically fine, but in shock
There are quite a few problems, especially with this part of the sequence, but I think we exhaustively discussed them when the chapter came out...

Re: For Want of a Nail - Misha Route (Updated 6/9/18)

Posted: Thu Jun 14, 2018 3:31 am
by Hanako Fancopter
She still seems a little unsure as she takes my phone, but she slowly gains confidence as she taps in the phone number. Waiting a few moments for an answer, she begins speaking. “Hello mommy, it's Shicchan~. Yeah~, I'm borrowing a friend's phone. No, he said it wasn't a problem~.”
Man this messed me up when I was reading this scene and this first popped up, before I got to the part where she explains it. I thought it had to be a typo because I forgot Misha's name isn't actually Misha, but Shiina. Using the term "mommy" also seems a bit childish even for Misha, but I can't really claim that it would be out of character, so meh. Also wondering what reference she was making with the Sakura joke.

Still really enjoying the fic overall. My one complaint was the "make up and get together" scene, not the scene over all (it was really heart warming and I liked it), but the fact that Misha refers to herself as "fat and ugly" in particular (and Hisao doesn't even deny it out loud--I would've expected him to address those statements more directly, since they suggest a pretty serious inferiority complex and this is the girl he's falling in love with, but he is the Master of Romance, so meh). Misha may have some self esteem problems but they seem tied to her relationship with Shizune, not her appearance. In fact she refers to herself as cute in the VN and seems fairly aware that she can use her looks as one way to guilt Hisao into doing stuff. That was my interpretation at least. I might just be triggered because I'm a Misha fanboi and I don't want anyone to call her fat and ugly, especially not her own self >.>

Re: For Want of a Nail - Misha Route (Updated 6/9/18)

Posted: Thu Jun 14, 2018 6:45 am
by ArDent42
I love this! Everyone's personality seems spot on (except maybe Emi and Lilly being more bitch-y than in the VN but eh). Loved the Ramones reference and how Misha keeps hinting to Hisao that she's bi. Having just 100 percented the game I was upset there wasn't a Misha route and this has filled that void. Thank you!

Re: For Want of a Nail - Misha Route (Updated 6/9/18)

Posted: Thu Jun 28, 2018 1:26 am
by Hanako Fancopter
Alright I finished the whole fic up to where it is now! Really great work, I agree with a previous comment that you did a very good job capturing the feel of the original game in your writing. I think an adaptation of this would have made a fine actual Misha route in it. I do have one complaint about the scene where Emi breaks down and starts punching the pavement, but I already shared my thoughts on the Discord about that bit. Additionally, you still have numerous typos, maybe a final go-through will clean those up later. My last bit of feedback is that I do have to object to your use of the word "gurgle" during sex scenes--unless you meant to make them un-sexy (very well-written otherwise, especially the first one, but that particular word just does not fit the tone imo)!

I can only hope for more chapters!

Re: For Want of a Nail - Misha Route (Updated 6/9/18)

Posted: Thu Jul 05, 2018 3:54 pm
by ProfAllister
The first thing I notice when I wake up is Misha's distinct scent surrounding me. When I open my eyes, though, she's nowhere to be seen.

With a soft sigh, I remind myself that she and Shizune left yesterday afternoon, along with Lilly and Akira. That part still confuses me, but I guess they are family. It's Saturday, the first day of our summer break.

As for Misha's scent, it seems she traded out my pillow for hers at some point. Hence the slightly girlish, frilly pillow resting on my bed. That's a little odd, I'll grant, but it is nice to have that little piece of her here with me.

Right on schedule, my alarm goes off. Misha’s not here, but she told me that she “made arrangements,” so I guess I should go find out what those “arrangements” are.


After getting changed, I enter the pool area and am greeted by a familiar voice.

“It took you long enough. Now let’s get this over with.”

As a general rule, if one were to chart the amount of area covered by swimsuits as compared to the figure of the woman wearing them, you would wind up with a roughly parabolic graph. While shamelessness is positively correlated to the surface area of erogenous zones as compared to overall surface area, desperation takes on a negative correlation. However, both shamelessness and desperation are inversely proportional to the overall surface area covered by swimsuits. Emi’s current attire is a textbook example of this principle.

In other words, she’s wearing little more than dental floss. She’s also sitting by the edge of the pool, legs free. I’d probably be a bit more surprised at seeing her legless if I weren’t simply surprised at seeing her at all.

“Emi? You’re who Misha got to cover for her?”

She scowls. “Yes, me. I may hate swimming, but it’s not like I can’t swim. Besides,” she continues as her expression softens, “I kinda feel like I owe it to you after, you know, nearly killing you? Twice.”

“Three times, but who’s counting?”

She gapes at me for a moment, her lips trembling as she tries to figure out what the third time was, then goes back to her scowl. “Ass.”

Slipping into the water, she calls back over to me as she treads water, “I don’t know what it is you two get up to in here, and to be honest I think I’d be happier not knowing. I’m just here to make sure you don’t drown.”

I can really feel the love here.

Halfway through my stretches, she speaks up again.

“Has anyone ever told you that you’ve got a nice butt?”

“... No, not that I can recall. Why do you bring it up?”

“No reason. I just wanted to make you uncomfortable and self-conscious.”

Mission accomplished.

My warmup finished, I throw myself into the water. This has the added benefit of tuning Emi out. I’ve got nothing on my mind right now, so I just put myself totally into the strokes, reaching one end of the pool, then turning around and swimming back.

When I’m done, I emerge to see Emi toweling herself off. I’m so used to seeing her with her legs that I almost forgot that she’s missing her real legs. Or should I say her regular legs, considering her prosthetics are technically “real?” Regardless, she manages surprisingly well without either, relying heavily on her deceptively strong arms.

Glancing over in my direction, she speaks up. “Sundays off, right? So same time Monday?”

I nod. “See you then. And thanks for the help.”

I almost think I see her blush before she looks away from me. “Don’t keep the nurse waiting, Hisao.”


After a slightly extended but otherwise uneventful visit with the nurse, and then a shower and changing into regular clothes, I make my way to the cafeteria. Being the first day of the break, a lot of people haven’t left yet, so it will still get pretty busy later, but right now, it’s the normal morning quiet I’m used to. A posted sign notes the reduced hours and availability over the summer break - something to keep in mind.

I was a little concerned that I might have trouble picking out food, since I'm so used to Misha picking out items, but I seem to have managed well enough. Although the cafeteria’s nearly abandoned, I’m still interrupted about halfway through my meal.
“It looks like you’re an orphan this year.”

I glance up to see Natsume placing her own tray of food opposite me and slowly, painfully easing herself into the chair. Must be a bad day for her arthritis.

“An orphan? My parents were just here yesterday.”

“I know,” she giggles, “That’s how I can tell you’re an orphan!”

Recognising my utter confusion, she clarifies her statement. “‘Orphan’ is what we call the students who stay here over the long breaks. Your parents left, and your girlfriend left, and you’re still here. Orphan.”

“... do you have cute nicknames for everything?”

Another giggle. “Pretty much!”

“I can’t imagine the actual orphans appreciate the name.”

She shrugs. “The ones I’ve met didn’t mind. Anyway, you’re in good company. I’m an orphan, too.”

“And I’m guessing that Mimi isn’t, hence why you’re looking for company.”

This earns me a frown. “That’s a pretty mean thing to say, Hisao. Accurate, but still mean. She and Hana are planning to gallivanting all over the country for the break. You can imagine how much fun it would be to drag Gran’ma Natsu around on that kind of a trip. Not that I mind, of course. Gran’ma Natsu isn’t too keen to be dragged around herself.”

“Anyway,” she continues, cutting off any opportunity for me to respond, “how’s your ticker doing? You can probably guess that that’s all anyone’s been talking about. Nothing serious, I hope?”

I sigh at the inability for anyone in this tiny school to mind their own business, but there looks to be genuine concern in her eyes. And it does feel kind of nice to know that people care enough to talk about it.

“The nurse said it looks to have been a false alarm - probably nothing.” But still enough for him to recommend I stay here.

Surprisingly, Natsume seems to pick up on the unspoken bit. “That sucks. I’m guessing you would have visited Pucchi’s family otherwise? The way your girlfriend’s talked about it the last couple years, she lives in a palace.”

Pucchi? Oh, yeah, that was her nickname for Shizune. I shrug. “It is what it is. No sense wishing it were different.”

She frowns slightly as she considers the idea. “I guess you can look at it that way. Anyway, I’ve got somewhere to be in about an hour. If I start now, I might not be late. This place is going to be a ghost town soon enough, so I’m sure I’ll see you around!”


On my way back to my room, I notice someone standing in the hallway of my wing - it's Keiko. She's standing near my door and seems to be looking at something in her hand. Seeing the perfect opportunity to get back at her for the prank she helped pull on me the other day, I quietly sneak up behind her and place my hands over her eyes.

“Guess who?”

The stupidity of my action hits me nearly as quickly as her open palm hits my jaw. Between the speed of her turning around and the force of the blow, I'm thrown off balance and knocked off my feet.

“Okay, joker! What. The. Shit?”

Finally taking a moment to size up her assailant, I see her eyes widen as she covers her mouth in surprise.

“Omigosh, Hicchan! I'm so sorry! I thought you were someone else! Are you okay?”

Quickly kneeling down to offer any assistance she can, I notice genuine concern on her face. Luckily, it wasn't high or low enough to cause any real damage; it mostly just stunned me.


“Oh, right, sorry. You prefer Hisao?”

“I was under the impression you preferred 'Honorable Senior Student Council Deputy.’”

She snorts. “Fat chance.”

Okay, something clearly isn’t right here. “I think I may have hit my head harder than I thought. I should probably sit down.”

Nodding, Keiko ducks under my arm and supports me as I open the door to my room and sit down at the desk. She takes a look around the room, her eyes lingering on the pillow ever so slightly, before electing to sit on the edge of the bed.

“So,” I begin, “I don’t mean this as an insult or anything, and it could be all in my head, but you’re acting… different.”


“Yeah, you know… not excessively formal and proper?”

She seems a little taken aback by this, and it looks as if she’s studying me. Finally, she speaks up.

“I’m guessing the President never told you the terms of our membership?”


“Of course she didn’t… After the cultural festival, back in June, Aoi and I were so impressed at what she had managed to pull off - that festival was bigger and better than any of our Student Council’s earlier accomplishments - and with only two members! Or was it three? When did you join?”

“Right before the festival. It was mostly just Misha and Shizune who pulled that one off.”

Her eyes widen, clearly impressed. “Anyway, we wanted to know if the Student Council had any plans for Halloween. So we found the President, and tried to talk to her. Without your girlfriend, it made for quite an adventure.”

Laughing softly, she cuts herself off. “I’m rambling, aren’t I? You don’t care about any of this, do you?”

I shrug. “To be perfectly honest, I’ve been wondering how Shizune roped you two into joining.”

She looks at me incredulously. “She ‘roped us into joining?’ More like we had to fight for her to even consider the idea. Once we finally managed to communicate our idea to her, she got really angry, and flew into one of her rapid-fire signing rages - you know how she gets. But without the Vice President to translate, we just looked at her stupidly. I guess she had enough time to calm down, because when she started writing in her notebook, she just had a few questions about whether we were serious about doing the necessary work. We told her we were, and she agreed to let us on as ‘provisional members’ - under probation and all that. Including all the rules.”

She rolls her eyes at this last bit.

“Okay,” I reply, “that explains your behavior, but what about Aoi? She’s been acting a lot more… assertive.”

“That girl…” she sighs, clearly exasperated, “Aoi can break nearly any rule and get away with it scot-free. On the other hand, I get in trouble if I even think about breaking a rule.”

“That all makes sense. Why the change now?”

“Because,” she says, a triumphant gleam in her eye, “just before the break, the President let us know that we were officially full members! She even gave us a key to the room, so we could start preparing for the Halloween party over the break.”

I feel a little jealous. I was never given a key.

“Anyway,” she continues, producing a battered-looking envelope, “that’s actually why I’m here. We were cleaning up the room and rearranging desks and stumbled across this. It’s addressed to you.”

I get up to take the letter, but the moment it’s in my hand, I stop dead in my tracks. The envelope has a cute sunflower design, but what catches my eye is the clashing pink handwriting on the address.

It’s a letter from Iwanako.

In the back of my mind, my brain faintly registers Keiko saying something, but my attention is focused entirely on the letter. Removing it from the envelope, I begin to read.
Dear Hisao,

How are you? I hope you are well and happy at your new school. Everyone here misses you. Almost all of our second-year class got put together in class 3-1 for the final year, so we are pretty comfortable right from the beginning of the year. I'm sure you would've been assigned to this class as well.

The mood among the third-years seems to be very anxious about the final exams, even though they are so far away. The teachers are badgering us about it all the time - even old Mr. Tachibana who is, by the way, our homeroom teacher this year. Would you believe it? I was sure that he'd retire after our second year, but here he is, nagging everyone about studying for exams.
I can practically hear her voice, in that airy way she would talk about nothing as if it were of the utmost importance. A part of me misses that, while another part is glad that I don’t have to put up with that kind of facade anymore.
I think things like that are the main reason why the mood among the third-years is so nervous. I must admit that I'm somehow losing confidence in myself as well, even though I've always fared reasonably well in exams.

It's so weird to think we are already seniors, isn't it? Time has really flown past. I wonder where it went. The new first-years seem so young and somehow really innocent. I keep wondering if I was like them in my first year. I've been feeling nostalgic like this for the whole first trimester.
My eyes are about to glaze over with these trivialities, but the tone of the letter suddenly takes a dramatic turn to the serious. Even the handwriting changes a little, looking a little more careful and labored.
There are other things I want to say. I'm writing to you because I felt that there are things I should've said after the incident back in winter. I really regret that I wasn't able to say them in person, and I have no excuse for it.

The truth is, the times when I visited you at the hospital made me worried about you. I am not talking about your health. You seemed to become more distant and disheartened. It was natural after something like that happened, I'm sure, but somehow I got the feeling that you had given up on something back then. Happiness, maybe?

I wanted to somehow express my feelings, but the right words didn't come to me. I couldn't say anything to comfort you. I am really sorry for not being able to support you when it mattered the most, even though I like you so much. At least now, finally, I can be more honest.

If I could go back to those quiet days in February and March, I'd tell you to not give up on yourself. That's what I would say. Maybe you wouldn't have drifted so far away if I had just said something. I hope you've managed to get back on your feet on your own.

Now that the distance between us is also physical, it also feels more final, somehow. I wonder if we will meet again. Perhaps it's for the best if we don't? Still, if you would like to correspond with me, by all means write me back. I'd very much like to hear about your new school and how you are doing. I wish you all the best.

Sincerely, Iwanako
I stare at the letter. Everything I wished she’d have said to me, right there, pen and ink, plain as day. It’s so thorough, I’m almost angry. Each line answers the question that the previous line makes me want to ask. Unsure how to respond, I just stare blankly at the sheet of paper in my hands.

“Are you okay?”

Keiko’s question pulls me back to the present.

“I think so. This is just… a lot to take in at once.”

She glances at me, then the letter. Grasping the letter between a couple fingers and looking me in the eye, she tugs gently.

“May I?”

Wordlessly, I let go. Then, realising I was standing this whole time, I sit back down.

Her eyes quickly scan the page before she looks up at me.


I nod.

“And the ‘incident’? That’s what brought you here?”

I nod again.

“ long were you two dating?”

I wince. I was afraid that would come up.

“Not long. She confessed, I had a heart attack on the spot, then she visited me in the hospital for six weeks. This is the first I’ve heard from her since March.”

“I see… Wait a minute. She confessed?”

I notice that Keiko’s trying (and failing) to hide her smirk behind the letter. I sigh.

“Yes, she confessed. I was too much of a coward to do anything more than admire her from afar. Is that what you want to hear? Given what happened, I probably would have killed myself if I tried…”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to tease you. It’s just… cute.”

‘Cute’ - the archenemy of manliness. Not that I can say it’s undeserved in this instance.

“Since I’m already elbow-deep in your personal affairs,” she begins, chuckling, “do you mind If I pry a little further?”

I shrug. “There’s no real point in hiding anything now. What is it you want to know?”

“Did you ever tell her how you felt? After she confessed?”

Ouch. Another bullseye.

“No. It’s like the letter said. I had given up. At first, I wanted to wait until I got out of the hospital and back in school. But that didn’t happen. Days turned into weeks, then, one day, she stopped coming. Shows how much she really cared…”

Seriously? are you even listening to yourself? She put her dignity on the line because she felt it was the only way she’d get a chance! She visited a broken shell of a man who wouldn’t even tell her he shared her feelings for six weeks before deciding she was just annoying him! She even went so far as to find out where he had moved to in order to write a letter to apologize to him! And you have the nerve to say she didn’t care that much?!”

I stare at Keiko, completely stunned. Realising what she just said and did, she turns scarlet, then bows her head in apology.

“My apologies. I forgot myself.”

“No,” I say, brushing it off, “you’re right. Everything you said is true. The only question is, what now?”

“Well, judging by the letter, she wants you to forgive her. But what you should do is apologize.”

“Even though she said she didn’t want to hear from me again?”

“She said no such thing. She thinks you hate her - that you’ll take one look at the letter from the clingy girl who just can’t let go, and throw it away without reading it. She’s trying to convince herself that that would be a good thing.”

“So you’re saying I should write back?”

The glance she gives me practically shouts “of course.” I guess she’s picked up some of that from Aoi. “And be sure to apologise for taking so long to reply.”


“Look at the date.”

I glance at the top of the letter, and, sure enough, the letter’s pretty old.

“Early June.”

“Yup. And now it’s mid-August.”

Of course it couldn’t be that simple.

“I… think I need to think about all this. Thanks… for the letter, and the advice.”

With a smile and a polite bow, Keiko excuses herself, leaving me alone with my thoughts.

Now the question is: How did the letter get delayed so long? Mail is handled by the Student Council. And that’s too early for Aoi and Keiko to be there. And Misha and I were spending most of our time with swimming and sign language. This would’ve arrived around the time that Shizune was holding down the fort by herself.

Now, if it were anyone else, I wouldn’t think twice about the likelihood that she was simply overwhelmed by the work and got sloppy. But this is Shizune - she doesn’t make mistakes. And she’s always double- and triple-checking her work. But then that means…

I need to call her.

This isn’t something that can be done with a text message; I need to actually talk to her. Through Misha, of course.

… No answer from Shizune’s phone.

… Misha’s phone doesn’t even ring - did she let the battery die?

Well, I have one more option. Misha gave me a number to call the landline. She said that the best time would be between 8 and 11. Since it’s not even 10, yet, that’s perfect timing.

I punch in the number, hear the phone ring once, and then a voice on the other end practically shouts at me.

“Hakamichi residence, this is Jigoro.”

It’s not an angry or irritated shout. In fact, it’s almost pleasant. More like he’s trying to carry his voice all the way from Saitama without any help from the phone.

“Hello, I’m looking for-”

“I need to interrupt you. Your phone is broken.”

“It is?”

“I didn’t hear you introduce yourself. Only an inconsiderate moron demands information without introducing himself. Or a bill collector, but I do not carry debt.”

“Uh, sorry, I, uh-”

“Gods, man! Speak with conviction or don’t speak at all! Pathetic. Only two sorts of people display such an unapologetic lack of conviction: Dutchmen and pedophiles.”

His voice suddenly takes on a menacing edge. “You aren’t a Dutchman, are you?”

The threat in his voice jumps right past the rational portion of my brain, convincing me that, at this point in time, I want to be anything other than a Dutchman.

“No, sir. I am Hisao Nakai, 18 years old, Yamaku High School Class 3-3, Student Council Deputy. Full-blooded Japanese, and able to declare my lineage to the sixth generation! Shall I begin?”

“The hell? Who cares about your great great great great grandfather? … You rich, boy?”

“No, sir. Dirt poor, in fact. Both of my parents have to work to make ends meet!”

“Don’t sound so proud of that. There’s no honor in being poor. Honor comes from earning your place in the world. Remember that."

He gives me a moment for his wisdon to sink in, then continues. "Class 3-3? One of Shizune’s classmates, then? I’ll get her on the line.”

Wait a minute… doesn’t he realise she’s deaf?

“Actually, sir, I was calling to speak to a houseguest of yours. Miss Shiina Mikado?”


That’s not a good sign. I’m hoping it just means he doesn’t know her real name.

“She goes by Misha. Shizune’s friend, pink hair in a fancy style… some difficulty in volume control?”

“Do not insult me by implying I do not know who I am entertaining as a guest! I do not perform background checks on all visitors, but I am not unaware of who crosses my threshold! Why would you use a name that she doesn’t use herself? Absurd.”

I’m about to reply (against my better judgment) when I hear a beep, followed by hold music. Why would their home phone line have hold music? Regardless, there’s no question that that’s Shizune’s father.


I’m surprised at how relieved I am to hear Misha’s voice. Am I really that pathetic? She only left yesterday afternoon.


“Oh, hi, Hicchan~! I didn’t know you were Dutch~!”

“I’m... not. I think Mr. Hakamichi got a little confused.”

“Wahahaha~! Why would he think you’re Dutch~?”

“That’s… a long story.”

“Ahahaha~!, Okay~! What’s up~?”

“... I had a reason to call, but now, for the life of me, I can’t remember.”

“Oh, Hicchan, I know why you called me~.”

“ do?”

“Of course I do~! You called me because you missed me~! You don’t need to make up an excuse to call your girlfriend~! Ahahaha~! Besides~, I missed you, too.”

I’ll admit that I’m glad to hear her voice, but I wasn’t that desperate. Why was it that I called again?

Oh, right.

Iwanako’s letter.

Now that I’m on the phone, though, it occurs to me that things would be more than a little awkward and uncomfortable to discuss this with Shizune through Misha. Clearly, I didn’t think this through. I guess the truth of the delay will have to wait until they get back.

“Huh~? What’s that~?”

I can hear the sound of another voice talking to Misha on the other end, but not clear enough to make out any words.

“Okay, thank you Mr. Shicchan’s dad~! … Are you still there, Hicchan~?”

“Yeah, I’m here.”

“Shicchan’s dad gave me a phone number to give to you so you can call the guest room directly~! He said that it will keep us from getting in the way of ‘important business’~!”

Even with the excuse that seems surprisingly generous. But that may be normal for the kind of guy who seems to run his business out of his home.

“Anyway, Hicchan, what’s up~? Did Emi do a good job as your swimming buddy? And if you see Aocchan, make sure she doesn’t forget to take care of Mr. Fish-chan~!”

Act 3 Scene 8 Part 4 (18+) (Disable Adult Content) | Act 3 Scene 10