Direction (post Rin neutral ending)(complete)

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nemz
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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Post by nemz » Tue Dec 18, 2012 3:33 am

Interesting bit of symbolism there as well, if I'm not reading too much into things... sensing things your eyes can't see, probing with a light touch that could destroy the subject if you try too direct an approach. Still, I do hope the focus will be more on characters and less on the less glamorous side of science.
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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Tue Dec 18, 2012 5:00 am

Muphrid wrote:Well, like I said, Hisao can realize it fine and choose to keep his realization from the audience. The narrator is no way constrained to reveal his every significant thought to the reader. He can even actively phrase things in the hopes of obfuscating the truth (hence making him unreliable).
Well, yes, there is such a thing as an unreliable narrator, but that is one of two things:
a) A narrator who is genuinely mistaken - be it because he is drunk, insane or he just misremembers. I think we can dismiss the first two and since the story is present tense, misremembering is also out.
b) A narrator who is actively trying to deceive the reader. And that implies that he is even adressing the reader, in effect damaging the fourth wall. Unless you want to come up with a line like "Actually, I'd known that from the very moment I saw the painting; I just didn't want to tell you." I think that version is also out.
Nevertheless, I agree that it is probably best if he does point it out at the time. I'm thinking of adding the middle paragraph here:
...
Definitely better.
Still a pretty mild reaction, but at least he noticed and can come back to that thought later.
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griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Post by nemz » Tue Dec 18, 2012 10:59 am

About the oranges...

1) We don't know how recent that is. She may have painted that years ago and be completely over whatever that was about.
2) It may have nothing at all to do with Hisao. It might not even be about her.
3) Even if something is wrong she may not want his help, and it would be incredibly presumptuous of him to try and push on this.
4) Considering this is Rin, it might even be a mistake to assume this is negative. Maybe she thinks the mold is interesting, perhaps even beautiful?
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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Tue Dec 18, 2012 1:03 pm

1) Maybe. Still if it was about a friend of me, I'd still be concerned until I was sure about that.
2) Why should it be about Hisao? It's pretty obvious it's about Rin, though.
3) Partial agreement. Pushing would indeed be unhelpful. Offering not so much. He did offer, though, even if without that motivation...
Now that I think about it...
"So, I'm in town for a while," I say. "I guess I'm actually living here now. My place isn't far. Maybe fifteen, twenty minutes tops? So it wouldn't be any trouble to get together from time to time, if you wanted."
This would probably be a good place to insert a stray thought of Hisao hoping she would come for help if she has problems.
4) You don't believe that yourself, do you?
Last edited by Mirage_GSM on Sat Aug 24, 2013 4:42 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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

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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Post by nemz » Tue Dec 18, 2012 1:20 pm

I doubt #4 is where the story is going, yes, but considering her line about the homeless people as part of the park's charm and her generally unusual view of things, it's not something to discount out of hand. And honestly, looked at in the right setting some molds CAN be rather interesting and perhaps even beautiful. Take THIS for example... I certainly wouldn't eat it but it does have a certain visual appeal. (yes, pun intended)
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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Post by Muphrid » Tue Dec 18, 2012 2:48 pm

Yeah, I think this is more a question of what is Hisao likely to think. Under the circumstances, I don't think he would assume the best case. Regardless of what Rin actually intended with the piece, Hisao has reason to be concerned. That's enough to make him offer, at the very least.

Edit: I'm also considering this edit to the end of the exhibition.
[...]I look to the sky. The light's fading, and I'm not familiar with the city at night. I'd rather head back while there's still daylight, if I'm going to be doing it alone. I'm grateful, though, that we have some degree of privacy here. Maybe that's what was on Rin's mind, too.

It gives me the chance to say something, to part with her again on a different and better note. But what should I say? What is it I came here to do?

Seeing her lean back against the wall in quiet contemplation, I realize the answer:

I wanted to see that she was all right, that she'd coped and moved on, that she hadn't let the past hold her back. By all appearances, Rin has done that. She's beautiful right now; her green eyes have never been more striking. She's successful and progressing in school, and she has an advisor who's keenly attuned to her needs.

But a doubt hangs in my heart. Rin's paintings were always windows into her soul, even if I could hardly see the meaning in them. Her demeanor is often inscrutable even now, but I think of her painting of the fruit bowl, with the orange isolated and decayed. What does that say about what she's feeling? There's a flyer on the door with a cubist face—a logo taken directly from one of Rin's works, too, but half of the face is missing. I can't know for sure, but these pieces speak to me of isolation, of being incomplete, of change that can't be stopped, leading to decay. I can't know that these feelings lie in Rin's heart, though. She was never so transparent as that, and standing with me now, she doesn't betray any distress.

So I say the only thing I can—I make an offer, one she's free to take up or ignore.

"So, I'm in town for a while," I say. "I guess I'm actually living here now. My place isn't far. Maybe fifteen, twenty minutes tops? So it wouldn't be any trouble to get together from time to time, if you wanted. If you're looking for someone new to talk to, or if you're having trouble thinking about things, I'd welcome seeing a familiar face."

Rin looks up, her gaze wandering among the trees. "I'll have to think about that." She frowns. "But if I have trouble thinking about that, that might be a real problem. Then I might decide to visit without having decided to visit. Very problematic."

I have no idea what she's saying, but her reasoning is so much like what I remembered. I think that's what I feared the most—that I'd meet Rin and she'd be unrecognizable. It's not so. Rin is still Rin, still herself, in a lot of ways. That's a comfort to me, too.

"I should probably go inside," she says, pushing off the wall.

"Yeah, I need to get going, too. It was good to see you, Rin. Take care of yourself."

She nods, and I turn to head off. It may not have gone exactly the way I expected, but all in all, I think everything went for the best. Rin seems to have found a good place for herself here. That's what counts in the end.

I turn for the nearest road, not exactly sure which way I need to go to get back to the main street, when a voice calls out to me.

[...]

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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Post by Muphrid » Thu Dec 20, 2012 1:04 am

I have more reason to get out of Professor Tanaka's lab than just fear of being locked up with pumps and lasers and other devices that could be hazardous to my health, though. (And if you think that's a joke, it's not. Our EM professor told a story about a student who found himself driving a shorter stick shift after a run-in with a laser cutter.) I rush to the dining facilities to pick up some breads and juice before the lines get crazy, and even then, I have to fight my way out. I have an appointment to make, after all, even if the person I'm meeting doesn't really do schedules or punctuality.

By the time I get back to the department, she's waiting for me—or rather, she's got her head cocked to the side and is staring at some chalk writing on the sidewalk. It's the 3D Schrödinger equation.

"What does it mean?" she asks, pointing at the equation with her big toe.

That's no simple question. Physicists have been arguing about what quantum mechanics means since before it was even developed. And if you're puzzling over the contradiction in that sentence, you've glimpsed a fraction of what we go through trying to figure out quantum. "It tells us about the motions of particles," I say simply. "An electron or a proton can only move in ways consistent with the equation, not in any other way."

"How rude," says Rin, still staring at the chalk. "Do physicists always have the nerve to tell small particles what to do? Why don't they pick on particles their own size?"

"There are no particles the size of human beings."

"Really?" Rin meets my gaze before closing her eyes in contemplation. "It's not hard to imagine. Just take a big closed loop that vibrates fast enough, and it would look like a particle, wouldn't it?"

Remind me never to introduce string theory to Rin. I'm pretty sure the results would break my brain.

Then again, she might just have the insight to make sense of it and win the Nobel Prize.

This is actually the third time Rin and I have met for lunch since I came to Tokyo. I caught her wandering around the Toudai campus late Thursday the first week, looking lost and puzzled. She said she was just looking around, but what she was looking for she wouldn't say.

"If you want to visit, I guess I could give you a tour?" I offered. "Around lunchtime, maybe next Tuesday?"

She found that agreeable. There was very little actual showing her around since there was "no place in particular" she wanted to see at Toudai, and we settled in to having lunch outside the physics department, largely in quiet contemplation.

It was like going back in time.

On a normal day, Rin looks mostly the same as she did four years ago, too. She prefers a white, long-sleeved shirt, but she's foregone any tie or other decoration. Her pants are usually dark khakis, which hide the occasional spot of paint rather well.

It's amazing, really, how we've picked up with these casual lunches. It's like for four years, we allowed life to carry us with its current, and only now are we able to guide ourselves back to shore and continue where we left off. Here I'd feared that Rin had changed. I see now I had nothing to be afraid of. It's not that Rin hasn't become a different person. Instead, the person she's grown into is still recognizably her, yet subtly different, too.

"Hisao?" she asks.

We sit on a bench outside the physics department building, under the shade of a pair of trees. Rin stares at the sidewalk some more. It must be something that's caught her attention today.

"Yeah?" I answer.

"Why do things like this break?"

I feel like a three-year-old suddenly thrust into the Pacific Ocean after having dipped my toe in a wading pool. With floaters. "I wish I knew…."

Her head rises, and her stare goes through me. "So physicists don't know very much about the world, either," she concludes. "I thought asking why this concrete cracks and breaks would be an easy question."

I follow where her gaze had been just moments ago. The sidewalk in front of us has a noticeable ridge, thanks to the tree root that runs under the bench.

"Oh!" I exclaim, feeling foolish. But then, Rin can make anyone feel foolish at times. "It has to do with stress and strain. Pressure, I guess, would be the easiest word to use. Even concrete can only hold together so long when it's being pressed on. But even if it wasn't being subjected to some kind of force, eventually the concrete would break down, as everything in the universe breaks down. It's entropy."

I suddenly have a sinking feeling. This is not the direction I wanted this conversation to head in.

"Physicists are cynical," she observes.

I chuckle. "How many physicists do you know?"

"Just you, but it seems like the right conclusion until I meet more physicists. I don't know when that will happen, though. I can't see the future anyway, and what you're saying makes sense to me."

"It does?"

She nods. "You see over there, down the road? They were able to patch up one of the cracks, but it's not as strong as the original slab was, is it?"

"Probably not," I admit.

"It hides the cracks and almost makes up for them, but not quite. It almost looks whole, but not quite. Still, it's good enough to walk on, isn't it? It's safe. For most people, that's all that matters."

The patched-up sidewalk may feel safe to walk on, but I feel like I'm walking on eggshells with Rin. What am I to interpret from this conversation? "Rin, what's all this about?" I ask.

"Do you agree?"

"Agree with what?"

"It's safe to walk on."

"Well, yeah, of course."

She nods conclusively. "I think I could be a physicist then. I've been collecting people since I came here, you know. So far, I've met a banker, an archaeologist, an insurance salesman—" She cuts herself off, and a brief, intense look coming over her, rendering her mute.

I've come to recognize that look. I saw it at the exhibition, and it's returned a few times since. When Rin senses she's about to go on a long tangent, she catches herself and tries to think of some other way to get to her point without following the same long, winding path. Sometimes she doesn't see a way around at all, and the detour truly becomes an impasse, but other times, she's able to get her meaning across in a more succinct way. Regardless, it's a strain for her, demanding serious effort. I take it a sign of her dedication, her determination, to make herself understood.

After five long, silent minutes, she continues like she only needed a moment to catch her breath. "Anyway, I try to see what they do and what their opinions are on the world. A lot of people think their jobs are really hard while others' are easy. I think all jobs are hard, but if I can be an artist, then I think I can be a physicist, too, if I wanted to be. But it would be hard. Like driving a tank through a pinhole. You can do that on television, but not in real life." She looks away. "There are lots of things you can't do in real life."

I think it better if we start steering away from that direction then. "So," I say, "how has school been?"

To my relief, she shrugs. "It's been okay. It started off like a beachball when wet, but now it's more like a golf ball."

I interpret that to mean she can get a handle on it, which would be good. She doesn't seem to have much unease talking about it, at least.

"How was your school?" she asks. "Before you came here."

That catches me off guard. It's not like Rin to make small talk. If she's asking, she's genuinely interested, and that puts me on the spot. "It was good," I say, and her expectant stare forces me to elaborate. "Kyoto is an interesting city. There's a lot of history there that I wish I'd made the time to explore, but it's hard, you know? Treating the city you live in like a place you'd want to visit isn't natural. College took some adjusting to, and I admit I struggled at first, but I got my act together in time to find a spot here. The change of scenery hasn't been too much of a shock. I think I'm used to pulling up my roots and settling down in a new place now."

Rin peers under the bench, at my feet. "Oh," she says. "Not real roots. Imaginary roots."

Don't say that to a physicist or a mathematician. They'll think about something a bit more, uh, complex.

"Anyway," I go on, "if not for Kyoto, I wouldn't have had such an easy time settling in here. I'm living with a friend's little brother—well, a friend from Kyoto, that is. Aside from the terribly inapt baseball analogies, he's cool."

"Did you have a girlfriend in Kyoto?"

My jaw about drops. This is uncomfortable territory, and I feel exposed to have Rin asking about it. "A few," I say. "Three. None of them quite worked out, but I'm still friends with two of them, and I don't regret any of those relationships." That's a bit of the simple and abridged version, but if I were really to go into more detail than that, I'd need more than this lunch break, I think. "It is what it is," I conclude. "Not everything works out sometimes."

Rin nods. "I dated a boy once, a few years ago."

"You did?"

"He was a musician, and he composed a piece just for me. He played the piano."

"I bet it was beautiful," I say.

"It made me think I really wanted to have a kumquat for lunch."

I about fall out of my seat. "Rin!"

"I told him that, and we didn't see each other for a while. I think that counts as breaking up."

I think it does, too, and I admit, I don't know what to feel when she says this so flatly. I know Rin has feelings, but it's like there's a scrambler somewhere inside her that keeps most common expressions of those feelings from getting through to her face or lips. I don't know whether to comfort her or let the subject drop. I try for a middle ground.

"Did you like him?" I ask.

"He was kind. And patient. It takes a lot of patience to deal with me."

That's very true. And I'm glad someone else had the persistence to try. There has to be someone who will wander into her life with the magic combination of patience and understanding to make her happy, and I hope she finds that person. I really do.

"The one thing I didn't like so much about him was that he couldn't make me orgasm the way you did."

My eyes go as wide as saucers. Did anybody within earshot hear that? "Rin!"

"Is that what scientists do, too?" she asks innocently. "Do they experiment with women to see what gives them the most pleasure?"

I glance around nervously. No one's wandered by, but that doesn't stop the blush from rising in my cheeks. Rin turns away from me slightly, but far from the impassive expression she usually wears, I see a slight upturning of the corner of her lip.

She has changed. A lot. She's aware of herself, enough to make a joke when the situation calls for it. I wasn't feeling too great just a moment ago, reeling from the weight of past relationships, both mine and hers. We may never have understood well enough to be what we wanted for each other, but we understand enough now to cheer each other up, at least in a small way.

That's all I want to do, all I want to be for her now: a small source of comfort. I can do that. I believe that now.

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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Post by Bacon Elemental » Thu Dec 20, 2012 1:24 am

Muphrid wrote:"The one thing I didn't like so much about him was that he couldn't make me orgasm the way you did."
The guy had an even worse problem in his pants, then. :D

Anyway, that was great.

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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Post by nemz » Thu Dec 20, 2012 3:24 am

"How rude," says Rin, still staring at the chalk. "Do physicists always have the nerve to tell small particles what to do? Why don't they pick on particles their own size?"
Sadly, this is actually a common misunderstanding. Scientific laws are descriptions of phenomena, not limits upon them. If an observation shows the equation doesn't cover all the possibilities then that equation needs updating.
On a normal day, Rin looks mostly the same as she did four years ago, too. She prefers a white, long-sleeved shirt, but she's foregone any tie or other decoration. Her pants are usually dark khakis, which hide the occasional spot of paint rather well.
Does she still tie the sleeves off in knots?
She nods. "You see over there, down the road? They were able to patch up one of the cracks, but it's not as strong as the original slab was, is it?"
"Probably not," I admit.
"It hides the cracks and almost makes up for them, but not quite. It almost looks whole, but not quite. Still, it's good enough to walk on, isn't it? It's safe. For most people, that's all that matters."
The patched-up sidewalk may feel safe to walk on, but I feel like I'm walking on eggshells with Rin. What am I to interpret from this conversation? "Rin, what's all this about?" I ask.
"Do you agree?"
"Agree with what?"
"It's safe to walk on."
"Well, yeah, of course."
Yeah, that's a problem. I get a definite sense she's saying something without saying it here, and I don't much like what I'm hearing. If it was me I think I'd try and move things in a cheerier direction by mentioning that some things actually get stronger from being broken as long as it's only a little at a time and it gets time to settle, like bones and muscles. Or people, for that matter.
"It made me think I really wanted to have a kumquat for lunch."
I about fall out of my seat. "Rin!"
Hmm. Is that because she wasn't really paying much attention or because the song seemed particularly kumquat-y (sweet on the outside and sour in the middle)? I can see how either might be insulting though. Not sure why he'd be so shocked at such a reply though... it's just Rin being Rin.

Not sure why he's so uncomfortable talking about past relationships either seeing as he's apparently entirely over them. He doesn't seem to have any trouble probing her relationships, so what the deal?
"Is that what scientists do, too?" she asks innocently. "Do they experiment with women to see what gives them the most pleasure?"
Some of them actually do, yes. It's probably not nearly as sexy as it sounds though. :wink:
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Re: Direction (post Rin bad ending)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Thu Dec 20, 2012 4:08 am

"But even if it wasn't being subjected to some kind of force, eventually the concrete would break down, as everything in the universe breaks down. It's entropy."
"To reduce the entropy in something, you have to put in energy. Are you going to put in energy, HIsao?"
Sadly, this is actually a common misunderstanding. Scientific laws are descriptions of phenomena, not limits upon them.
Yes, I'd think that distinction would be important enough for Hisao to point out.
Does she still tie the sleeves off in knots?
Yes, he said so in the last chapter.
Some of them actually do, yes. It's probably not nearly as sexy as it sounds though.
How right you are...
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
Sore wa himitsu desu.

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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Post by Muphrid » Sun Dec 23, 2012 11:42 pm

As the day wears on, something stays with me from lunch with Rin. Why did she ask me about my relationships in Kyoto? I mean, I guess it was related, but it really wasn't. And she didn't have to tell me about her last boyfriend, either. Was that just reciprocation? I can't be sure. Rin doesn't tend to think in those terms, but whatever her real motives were, they remain a mystery to me.

In point of fact, I'm glad that she entered into a relationship with someone at all. It means there are more people out there with the persistence to try dealing with her. It'll only be a matter of time before she finds someone she can be happy with, who will understand her feelings exactly the way she wants them understood. Then, she will no longer be the lonely artist crying out for the world to hear her with her paints and inks. She will just be Rin, a person like anyone else.

I look forward to that day. I look forward to it because so far, I've only seen her with Professor Adachi for any length of time.

The afternoon passes slowly. Sumi and I have two classes, neither of which is particularly enjoyable that day. I'm not ashamed to say that. Not all of physics is fun. Most of it is working through awful amounts of math just to get to a result. I'm a lazy guy, though. I don't like brute-forcing my way through a calculation if there's a simpler way. It may require me to learn something new, but I'd gladly do that and engage my mind than go through the tedium of a lengthy, involved calculation. Pages upon pages of math may look intelligent to an outside observer, but most of it is no more interesting than turning a crank.

After classes, Sumi and I go home early. I like to get some work done by myself, just so I feel like I didn't completely mooch the answer to a problem from a classmate. The way these quantum mechanics problems are going, I'm beginning to regret the idea. Exponentials of operators on wavefunctions aren't much fun, and we've reached the point where resources online are pretty scarce. It's probably best if Sumi and I get together to make some headway. She tends to be more willing to ask around for help than I am, so she may know something I don't.

But as dinnertime rolls around, Sumi has yet to knock on our door and summon Mitsuru and me. I wander into the living room and check the clock on the wall, even though my watch is perfectly good.

"She's probably just scrambling to get things finished," says Mitsuru, who's sprawled on the floor, reading comics.

He's likely right. Still, time is a precious resource for us. "I was just hoping we could get together and knock out some of our work. There's quantum due Friday (if our professor doesn't blithely give another extension) and classical due the Monday after. If we don't make some progress soon, it's going to really pile up."

"It'll be fine. I saw you guys when you were grinding out that assignment last Wednesday night. Even down to the wire, you guys get things done. You two are like Matsuzaka at the Summer Koshien Tournament in '98."

I've learned over the course of a couple weeks with Mitsuru that there are few things more important in life than the National High School Baseball Invitational, which is held at Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya every summer. Hence, "Summer Koshien." Now, I'm not an ignorant person. I know how popular high school baseball is in this country. Still, it catches me by surprise that anyone could have such encyclopedic knowledge of what's happened at each and every tournament since 1924.

Then again, this is Mitsuru we're talking about. If there were baseball on Mars, he would know about it.

"All right, Mitsuru," I say, humoring him. "What did Matsuzaka do at Summer Koshien in '98?"

"First, he threw a complete-game shutout with 148 pitches," says Mitsuru. "Then, the very next day, he threw 250 pitches in 17 innings, another complete game. He threw 15 pitches the next day, getting the save, and then in the final round, he threw only the second no-hitter in tournament history."

Four hundred pitches in two days. I have to admit, that does sound rather impressive. Even without my condition, I doubt I would've had the stamina or focus to do that. That's a lot of times to be throwing a baseball. And seventeen innings? Isn't that almost two full baseball games already?

"So," I conclude, "Matsuzaka showed an incredible amount of durability and fortitude to work himself so hard in such a short span, and you're saying if Matsuzaka could do it, Sumi and I can, too, in a pinch?"

"Right! See? Isn't that inspirational, Hisao?"

I frown. "What's Matsuzaka doing now?"

Mitsuru flinches. "He went over to America and injured his hip a couple years ago. The last I heard, he was trying to come back to the game after doctors had to rebuild his elbow."

"I thought you said he injured his hip, not his elbow."

"He hurt both."

Mitsuru, I'm sorry to say, but you're terrible at these pep talks.

SLAM! Mitsuru and I shudder. The cabinets rattle and settle down. After that, there's a meek knocking at our door. I turn the knob gently, and I see Sumi outside. Her eyes are wide, and she looks jittery. Maybe if you didn't know her you wouldn't notice, but for the most part, Sumi goes at her own speed through life. Even when she panics over leaving a burner on or forgetting her colored pens, there's a steadiness to her that keeps her easy-going and upbeat.

Except now. She breathes quickly and reacts to every small movement of my hands on the door as I study her expression.

"Sumi?" I say. "What's happened?"

"Happened?" she echoes back. "Oh, nothing, nothing. I just made a mistake." She slaps herself on the forehead for good measure. "I mixed in some vinegar by accident instead of cooking wine, so dinner's fucked up. Do you guys mind if I order out?"

"Sis, what was that noise?" asks Mitsuru.

"Oh, that? I was just pissed at myself. Sorry. Must've rattled you guys."

"It happens to all of us," I say. "I'm fine with ordering something. Accidents happen."

"Yeah. Can I come in? You guys have all the good take-out menus."

I don't know if I'd say that. There are maybe three or four stuck to the refrigerator by magnets. I step aside to let Sumi in, and she takes up the kitchen phone, going back and forth between a few of the menus. She picks Indian, which I'm a fan of, so I don't complain, but when she hangs up the phone, she lingers.

"What were you guys up to before I so rudely interrupted?" she asks.

"Hearing about some guy named Matsuzaka, who blew out his hip and arm in the States," I say.

"A baseball player," Sumi concludes.

"Got it in one."

"Mitchan, what have I told you about distracting Hisao with your stories?"

He salutes sarcastically. "Sorry, Mommy. I won't do it again; I promise."

"Damn right you won't."

She's still standing there, by the door. Usually we'd be in her apartment with Ryou by now. I haven't heard a peep about him, either.

"So, Hisao, what were you doing?" she asks.

"Killing time before dinner," I answer. "After that, I was going to look at quantum some more. Actually, I wanted your help with that."

"My help? I think the chances of me being of any help are pretty slim."

"Don't sell yourself short. You want to look at a problem or two while we wait for delivery? I'll go get my books if you want to go back and get your things."

"Ah, no, that's okay. I've hardly made any progress the last few problems anyway. Do you have any spare paper I can borrow? I'll just work here."

Then it's like I thought. Sumi's being evasive, and the only reason I can think of is that she's not over here just because she messed up dinner. It explains why Ryou hasn't come looking for her yet. He knows she's here. And she knows he's over there. She doesn't want to go back across the hall right now.

Mitsuru picks up on this too, and he's about to say something, but I catch his eye and shake my head. It's just a hunch, but I don't think we should press this. Not yet.

Sumi and I work on an onerous commutator identity until our food arrives. There are four orders, and we eat three of them, leaving the extra on the kitchen counter, boxed up and getting cold. Even Sumi can't help but glance at it from time to time—at that and the clock.

"You need to take that over," I remark. "You know, if Ryou isn't feeling well."

"That's not—" She stops herself, understanding. It's a convenient pretext. We all know we're lying, but pretending that everything's okay smoothes things over, at least right now. "You're right. Let me drop this off real quick. Hopefully he's feeling better."

She takes the plastic bag with the fourth order of takeout and opens the door. Discreetly, I rise from the table and follow her. She goes across the hall for just a moment, but she leaves the door ajar. Even from outside, I can smell soup broth and seaweed. There's rice all over the floor, with pots and pans scattered and overturned on the kitchen counter.

Sumi sneaks in, tiptoeing around the mess, and gingerly leaves the takeout on a dry spot on the counter. She turns back to leave and catches my eyes. There's a brief flash of panic, and then a look I don't expect from her: a pleading, frightened expression. She puts a finger to her lips, and I nod in support. She sneaks back out, and only after the door is closed does she breathe again.

"Sumi—" I begin.

"This isn't your business," she whispers, cutting me off.

"It is. You're my friend."

She shakes her head vigorously, making her ponytail flap around behind her. "Please, please don't. You wouldn't understand."

"Why not?"

"Because your closest relationship was with a girl in high school who ran away from you after knowing you for less than four months?"

I feel a stab in my gut. Sumi's words are like a sword. They pierce me, and they're no defense. If I say anything back to defend myself, it'd be like pulling the sword out, opening the wound even further. Just the stark, blunt reality of her statement takes me back to that rainy day when Rin walked off. I knew then, even if I ran after her, even if I chased her, there was no changing Rin's mind. Even if I stopped her body, her heart and mind had cut themselves off from me.

Sumi's face twists in a mixture of shock and regret. "Oh, oh, Hisao, I am so sorry. It just came out. I didn't mean…."

But she did. At the time, she did. She knew it would wound me, that it might make me go away rather than be stabbed dozens of times by what else she might say.

That's what she did, and we both know it, but if you expect your friends to be perfect, you won't have many friends for long.

"You want to get some air?" I ask her.

Meekly, she nods in silence.

We take the stairs down to the lobby at a slow, leisurely pace. It's less awkward than taking the elevator, I'm pretty sure, even though we go in silence. I think just keeping our feet active keeps our minds off what's been happening, but the spell is dashed when we reach the ground floor. We wander outside the main door to the building, feeling the cool nighttime air on our faces.

The city lights change how I see Sumi. To be candid, I don't think most people would consider Sumi particularly sexy or attractive. She's not especially tall, nor short enough to be considered cute just for that reason. Her complexion is actually a bit poor, and with her hair tied back, her forehead is a large and noticeable. But for all of this, she's always had a sense of surety about her, of direction and purpose. Even when she's panicking over something, she's attacking a problem with all her intellect and strength.

And that's what I liked about her, at one time. I still like it, but in a different way. It's not an uncontrolled fire that's inside her. It's a steady flame.

But the person standing before me isn't sure where to go or what to do. She's pensive and lost. That steady flame is dimming with each second, so I break the silence, trying to save it—and by extension, her.

"Can you tell me what happened?" I ask.

She doesn't face me. She stands by the edge of the sidewalk instead—close, but not close enough that I need to worry. Cars rush by, and the gusts of wind blow through her hair, but she doesn't even flinch. "I've been trying to get him to eat pork," she says. "It's the silliest thing. He doesn't like pork. He'll eat it, but he always complains. So I keep trying to find a way to dress it up so he'll like it. Not too often. Maybe once every other week. Is that unreasonable?"

I don't think so, but it all sounds surreal to me. "You had a fight over pork?"

She shakes her head. "It's not really about pork. I mean it is, but it isn't. You know Ryou just got out of SDF, right? He did his two years in the service, and now he's a free man, able to do as he pleases. Except he isn't because, if Ryou had it his way, he'd still be in SDF, applying for non-commissioned officer courses, but I didn't want that. I had an acceptance letter from Toudai. I didn't want a long-distance relationship. We'd been together since high school, you know? I'd never experienced anything like that.

"So I asked him not to go through with it, to accept the terms of his service and leave SDF. And he did. He didn't argue with it. It was actually pretty civil, at the time. But ever since then, he's been growing frustrated and angry. Frustrated he can't find a job. Angry with me for making him accept his discharge. I'm frustrated, too. He sleeps late. He plays video games, taking time away from filling out job applications. But I know why. It's because his heart's not in it for any of those openings. It's not what he wants to do. And the only reason any of it's turned out this way is my fault."

"Sumi," I say, "I have to ask: did he…? Are you hurt?"

She turns slightly, so I can see one of her eyes. "Did he what? Oh, no, no way. He wouldn't. I wouldn't let him. If he did—" She stops herself, not wanting to think about that. "No. He's holding himself back. He knows that's not the way to fix things."

I nod. She has that going for her at least. Still, I'm concerned. "If he's getting violent, you need to be careful."

"He'll calm down," she says, though I can't make out any confidence in her voice. "He will. He's a good man. Behind that tough exterior he projects, he's a softie. Did you know when he proposed to me, he did a backflip? He was that excited. He just doesn't like to show it in front of others. He's very traditional like that. If he believes he can find something worthwhile in his life, then it'll all work out." She nods, convincing herself. I'm not sure it works, though, so I offer something more substantive.

"I can talk with him," I say. "I was in a pretty bad place after my heart attack. Maybe we can relate. I don't know."

"I'd like that. I think he'd appreciate that, too."

There it is. The steady-burning flame in Sumi's eyes is back. This hope is real, desperate and necessary though it may be. A car passes by, casting her in the glow of two headlights, and she's almost radiant with energy.

"Shall we go in?" I ask.

"Yeah." She goes first, and I open the door for her. "Thanks, Hisao," she says, pausing at the threshold. "I'm really glad you're here."

Me too, Sumi. Me too.

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nemz
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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Post by nemz » Mon Dec 24, 2012 5:09 am

Well, that's an interesting dichotomy. Hisao and Rin are struggling to reconnect after a long separation, and now we see a couple whose decision not to separate temporarily is driving them apart. A lot of potential here.
Rin > Shizune > Emi > Hanako > Lilly

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Mirage_GSM
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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:02 pm

Interesting development...
If I had to nitpick, I'd say you should have introduced Ryou a bit more detailed if you want to make his relationship with Sumi a central plot point.
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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

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Muphrid
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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Post by Muphrid » Mon Dec 24, 2012 2:20 pm

nemz wrote:Well, that's an interesting dichotomy. Hisao and Rin are struggling to reconnect after a long separation, and now we see a couple whose decision not to separate temporarily is driving them apart. A lot of potential here.
Interesting; this was not an angle that I'd thought of, but it does fit quite well.
Mirage_GSM wrote:Interesting development...
If I had to nitpick, I'd say you should have introduced Ryou a bit more detailed if you want to make his relationship with Sumi a central plot point.
Yeah, I think I realized around this point that Ryou needed to be seen a bit more to make this conflict concrete. There's more coming with him later on just for that reason, but the next couple parts are going to focus more on Rin (which I suspect no one will be unhappy about).

Thanks for your continued comments, both of you.

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Muphrid
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Re: Direction (post Rin neutal ending)

Post by Muphrid » Tue Dec 25, 2012 1:59 am

I have no real idea what I would say to Ryou on Sumi's behalf, though. I take all the next day to think about it, only to go to dinner and find everything seems to be back to normal. Mitsuru brags about taking out three enemies with one shot of a rocket launcher in an online game, only for Ryou to point out,

"It's easy to take out three guys with a rocket when you're standing right next to them and get yourself killed, too."

Even Ryou can't keep a straight face when Mitsuru fumes over this uncomfortable truth.

When dinner is over, Ryou makes a point of getting Sumi's attention. "It was delicious," he says, rather stiffly. "Thanks, Sumi."

She smiles at him sweetly, and with two sets of dishes in her hands, she leans over and kisses him on the cheek, which makes him go bright red.

"Sumi…" There's a hint of irritation in his voice—from the public display between them more than the act itself—but that's all he shows.

It amazes me how fast things can change. Yesterday wasn't a good day. It frightened me. It frightened me to see what happened with Sumi and how hard on herself she was being, but today, everything is fine, and I don't know what to do. Is this normal? Maybe it is. But it might just be a moment of hope, bright and soothing. Whether it lasts…well, it's too early to tell.

It makes me think back, though. It makes me think about Rin. I remember going about the city with her one night, into the wee hours of the morning. She'd been stymied and frustrated by her work. She needed to get out and experience something, so we walked. We didn't have any good ideas about where to go, but I remember feeling hopeful then, that that was a time we came closer again.

It didn't last.

Still, that was a long time ago. We're okay now. Or we should be okay now. We've been seeing each other now and then for a couple weeks, and we haven't fought or avoided each other. It's been good. But at the same time, there's this whole gap of time we've been avoiding. Neither of us has talked about her departure or what we want to do with the future. Rin probably never would talk about things that way. She's not the type to think consciously and deliberately about what's to come, but I am, and I want to build something that lasts. If whatever we build between us can't last, can't withstand the truth, then perhaps it's better to sever things now.

Before I do something stupid like fall in love with her again. After all, avoiding the issue and letting it fester came up and bit Sumi and Ryou pretty hard.

Then again, maybe it's still too soon. You have to lay down concrete before you try to construct a house on top of it. Concrete isn't that expensive. A house is. If I try to push things too fast, it might do more harm than good.

And I'm reminded of our conversation before. Even concrete, as strong as it seems to be, can break.

In truth, I really have no idea what the right thing to do here is or if there's even a right and wrong choice to begin with.

I struggle with that question all through the walk to Rin's school the next day. After putting in more time at Professor Tanaka's lab, it's my turn to visit her, as we've tentatively established. It's refreshing, to me, to see her more in her own environment instead of mine. As often as not, when she's just around her studio for the day, she doesn't even bother to change out of her working overalls. All she needs to do is wash her feet clean of paint, and she's ready to eat. Some of the paint specks prove stubborn after they've dried, though, and Rin seems to welcome it if I help scrub her feet with water from the studio sink.

On this day, however, the double doors to her studio don't budge, and I knock twice to make sure she's not just zoned in on a painting or something. "Hello?" I ask. "Anyone home?"

"Nakai?"

A voice from down the hall catches my attention. It's Professor Adachi, who sticks her head out from a room three doors down on the left.

"Don't you know not to make a racket when artists are working?" she teases. "What will we do with you, hm?"

I trot down the hallway gingerly, trying not to make too much noise. "Sorry, Professor," I say. "I'm just looking for Rin. Is she around?"

She purses her lips, thinking. "I believe she went to the art supply store. She's very picky, you know. We have an extensive variety of paints in all different colors, but if she can't mix exactly the shade she wants, she goes looking for something closer to what she has in mind. It could be days until she comes back."

I make a face at that. If she's gone that long, won't they have to lock her in the store?

"I kid; I kid!" she says, delighted with my confusion. "If she's not back in half an hour, you and I can form a search party. How does that sound?"

I think we'd be looking for a long while. If anyone is the type to wander aimlessly, it's Rin.

"Come, Nakai, sit with me. A young physicist with such an interest in art fascinates me."

I thought we established I didn't have a strong interest in art in itself. Then again, Professor Adachi took that to mean I had a strong interest in artist girls, which isn't necessarily true either, so it seems better not to correct her.

I take a seat across from the professor, whose desk is largely covered in layers of art books and photographs. There's only a small cleared space for her boxed lunch, which is half-eaten.

"You know," she says, "you and Rin seem to get along quite well. Most people just don't have the drive to get to know her. She's like the pond in the middle of a forest—secluded, isolated, hard to see from a distance, but once you find her, she must be worth the journey."

You're wrong, Professor. The forest of Rin's mind defeated me, too. I just stuck with her longer than others, if that. "So you'd say you know her?" I ask.

She waves me off, like I'm misunderstanding. "Weren't you listening? I said she must be worth the journey, not that I knew for sure. Alas, no, I only know her so well—well enough to pick up on her most obvious cues, but that's all. You could say I can see the pond in the distance, but I still don't quite know how to reach it. I'm not going to stress myself out trying to close that gap, either. Rin moves at her own pace. A snail's pace at some times, a hare's at others. She can be quite frantic when she gets in a mood, and she was in quite a mood when she got here."

"Really?" I ask.

Professor Adachi looks at me sharply. "Why so interested, Nakai? It can't be you've already developed a crush on my young student. If you have, I must warn you. She's a heartbreaker."

That I know well, so I try to come up with a more innocent explanation. "I had a hard time in high school," I explain. "I have a heart condition—an arrhythmia. It caused a heart attack while I was in second year, so I had to go to a school that could handle my needs if something happened again."

"I see," says Adachi. "So that's why you were there."

"Excuse me?"

She waves her hand like it's nothing. "At my cardiologist. I thought it was so strange to see such a young man at a heart doctor. I was sure that's where I recognized you from."

I haven't even been to a cardiologist in town yet, though I do have an appointment for next Monday. It's not something I've been looking forward to.

"Anyway, I guess I'm just saying I know how it feels to undergo a bit of culture shock," I finish. "At the time I changed schools, I wasn't really ready to accept my condition, so that put me in a strange position when I started out, trying to make new friends and so on."

"Different people go about that process differently," says Professor Adachi. "And they take that shock of a new place, a new expectation, in their own unique way, too." She puts her empty boxed lunch aside and rises. "Come with me, Nakai. I want to show you something."

I stand up and follow her. It's actually pretty amazing how Professor Adachi has this voice that almost you do what she tells you. I find myself following her a lot, even when I'm not sure why. Maybe it's her connection to Rin, but it still puzzles me. She's nowhere near commanding or anything like that, but when she makes a suggestion, it just seems like the most reasonable thing to do is to follow it.

"I don't paint much anymore," Professor Adachi admits. "When I do, I do it for fun. My own amusement, under the guise of research. It's really much better that way."

"What made you stop?" I ask.

"Reality, I suppose. Art is no different from any other hobby turned into a profession. There are times you must paint even when you don't want to, at least if you're going to make a living from it. Very few people have the luxury of making money off their work and only painting at their leisure." She frowns. "That's one of the things Rin did not quite understand when she came here. She had an idea, an inkling of it, but I don't think the notion had fully taken to her heart. That's a separate issue, though, and something she struggled with later.

"You see, when Rin came here, she was still technically in high school. The faculty put her on an accelerated study program to get her to pass all her nominal qualifications to get into the undergraduate program. So as a point of fact, art should've been the last thing on her mind while she had other subject areas to pass. But all she wanted to do was paint."

Professor Adachi fumbles with her keys, but she goes on.

"I was away on sabbatical at the time. I don't have many students, and I felt I was getting too old to take on many more, but the faculty here practically begged me to come back and look after Rin. She was that brilliant, that prolific, and…" She sighs. "And that troubled, too."

The lock clicks, and Adachi shows me into her studio. For an artist's work area, the room is actually quite clean. I guess she really doesn't paint here very much. What strikes me most, though, are the paintings hung up on the walls. There's an array of landscapes in one section, paintings of animals in another. Even more works of art take up the back wall, hanging from pins stuck to the windows. Their frames block out some of the sunlight.

"I keep my students' works in here, ones they can't or won't hold on to yet feel comfortable enough leaving in my care," Adachi explains. "Most of these are from students before your time, or before Rin's. Her corner is over here, however."

She leads me away from the door, to a nook that's out of sight of the hallway. What first catches my eye is a series of paintings that run vertically along one corner. In the first, there's a black striped bug hanging from a twig. In the next, it casts its skin away and hides in a green shell. In the third, the shell's darkened, showing a distinct pattern of spots and veins. In the last, a butterfly emerges and flies away into the sunset.

"For a few weeks, she would paint nothing but scenes like these," says Adachi. She points out the last in the sequence. "This happy ending was rare for her, though. Look to your left. That line is her favorite."

To the left is another sequence of caterpillar growth stages, similar to the first, except instead of the butterfly escaping the chrysalis, the pod falls from its anchoring twig and is covered by ants. Their mandibles slowly tear the chrysalis apart.

" 'It shows that even butterflies can fail to change.' "

I blink. "Excuse me?"

"Those were her words," Adachi explains. "And I took them to mean it was a comfort to her, a dark solace she could turn to when she questioned the change in herself. They convinced me how despondent she had become. I couldn't understand why at the time, but I see now she was desperate."

"To have others understand her heart," I say.

Surprisingly, Adachi shakes her head. "I don't think she even dared to hope for that much. She just hoped she could capture some meaning, some embryonic idea, and put it into form with oil and canvass so that others could understand. Anything more than something simple, however…"

I follow her gaze to the opposite wall of the niche, seeing a disorienting array of butterfly wings all overlying one another in a dazzling array of color. What this could mean I can't even begin to fathom.

"The Growth of a Caterpillar series is too simple to capture Rin's mind," says Adachi. "The abstract is more like her. She doesn't paint this way often anymore because it's inevitably met with confusion. Her simpler paintings still contain nuggets of her inner self, I'm sure, but they are only the smallest glimpses of what she herself understands. You saw the painting of the fruit bowl at the exhibition, didn't you? That was from around this time, too. Lonely and isolated, the orange decays, separate from the others."

"They're her favorite fruit," I note.

"Perhaps she was the orange, and she felt herself decaying inside. But if you ask, why did she feel that way? What was the cause? She won't tell you. She can't. Maybe instead it is the loneliness she feels at being incapable of eating oranges on her own. They inevitably go to waste, and she is helpless to change that. You see? Even an apparently simple piece has multiple interpretations, and it leaves us guessing what she really meant. Rin's explanation of the butterfly series is the exception, not the rule. More often than not, only she knows what she means when she paints.

"And even now, there are paintings that Rin doesn't let leave her studio. She uses them to exorcise her own demons. Some people might say it's healthy, that putting such disturbing imagery in work is natural, but that doesn't apply to Rin. Rin doesn't consider it enough to give her feelings form. They must be comprehensible to others. It's like she paints shouting at the top of her lungs, but no one is close enough in the forest to hear. We've had to carry her out of her studio more than once, but I know that if we took art away from her, she would just continue on her own.

"She is my only student right now. I wouldn't dare take another. And as desperate as she is, Nakai, make no mistake: there's more to her than that. When my husband died, she stayed up for days trying to paint something that would help me overcome my grief. She is a very sweet, caring, passionate girl. She just lacks the insight into herself to see that. For my part, my only regret in teaching her is that, as much as I think I understand about her, the distance between the two of us is still very great indeed."

And she's had over four years to get to know Rin, to understand her.

"But!" She brightens, smiling at me. "But, young Nakai, I dare say you've had an effect on her. She's entering one of her bursts of creativity. It is really quite nice to see her get along with someone new. I think the experience really invigorates her."

I say nothing, and with a satisfied expression on her face, Adachi leads me out. My gaze lingers on Rin's small corner of Adachi's studio. Adachi's story has put a pit in my stomach, and it's hard to feel good about it. Rin hasn't had it easy here. I see that now, and to not have realized it sooner makes me feel inattentive and stupid. Rin is still isolated here. She mentioned a boyfriend, but only one, and in the past at that. I just know that before she left I was so frustrated with her. I thought she didn't bother to try to see things from others' points of view. How wrong I was. In a way, that was all she thought about, through her painting and everything else she did.

What Adachi's told me is that Rin basically gave up trying to have anything more than a surface layer about herself be understood. That's why she simplified her painting styles, conforming to established standards and styles. Her pieces now give an impression of her, but only that, and anything deeper is already lost before the paintbrush hits canvass.

It makes me enormously sad. To think she decided to cope with the barriers between her and other people in this way…

I can't let it stand. I want to be a friend to her. I want to do right by her this time. I want to tell her that, even if I can't feel exactly the way she does, I will feel something, some small fraction of what she means.

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