Redshift - Rika Route [10/2]

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Retrograde01
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Re: Flowing Red - Rika Route [6/14]

Post by Retrograde01 » Mon Jun 17, 2013 1:43 am

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Scene II: Clear

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I conquer the last few steps on my way to the roof for my little lunch get-together with Emi. Acknowledging me with its characteristic metal creak, the door opens, and it becomes apparent that I'm the only one on the roof. Emi and Rin must have run into traffic on the way here, so I wait for them, avoiding boredom by taking in the view. I stare off into the wooded mountains surrounding the school, a sight that I really haven't seen much of since I grew up in the city. I wonder how nice a camping trip would be out there, but I wouldn't know, since I've never been camping either.

My eye's wander to the school's courtyard below. From three stories up, the students bustling around down there all look so small. I pick one unlucky victim from the crowd and pinch my fingers just in front of my face, effectively crushing him from my point of view. Each student gets their turn being smashed by the almighty Hisao, resident giant of Yamaku. I'm having myself a little chuckle when I notice one student at the base of the building waving up at me, tall, slender, and pale.

Rika sees that I've spotted her, and waves in a different direction now, beckoning me to come down. I would gladly obey, but I already have obligations to Rin and Emi, so I begin waving for her to come up to the roof. She shakes her head and her gestures become even more exaggerated, ordering me to meet her on the ground. I return her orders with my own, telling her to meet me on the roof. A battle of wills has broken out that I have no intention of losing. Eventually, we're both gesturing so wildly that I notice people beginning to stare.

After realizing how ridiculous she looks, she concedes, and I watch as she moves into the building. The door to the roof opens behind me within a mere two seconds of her entrance, but my theories of a teleporting Rika are debunked by the twin-tailed blonde head that emerges from the stairwell.

"Hi, Hisao!" Emi says in her usual energetic voice, "Sorry we're late, but Rin insisted on finishing one of the faces on her painting," she explains, lightly scowling at the girl exiting behind her.

"It needed more red," she confirms, maintaining her usual aloof mannerisms. "Or was it more orange? What's between orange and red?"

"Uh... Orange-Red?" I take a shot in the dark.

"Yeah, it needed that, but more red than orange. Maybe it needs more orange?" At this point the words red and orange have begun to feel awkward bouncing around in my head. "Or maybe yellow... like a dandelion? No. Yellow is too much on the orange side."

"Uh, I guess...?" Emi says, looking at me and tilting her head, evidently just as puzzled as I am.

Thankfully, before Rin can continue her ramblings about colors, the white veiled savior arrives, peeking her head out of the noisy door.

"Hisao, I swear to god. Making me climb all those-" she starts, cutting herself off as she notices the unexpected company, "Oh. Hey," she greets them cautiously, her posture stiffening and her hands darting to their positions holding her braid.

"Oh, uh. Hi, Rika," Emi greets her awkwardly, seeming to know who she is.

"Hi Emi. I should've guessed Hisao had company since he wouldn't come downstairs for me," she says, pursing her lips at me, trapping me in her accusing gaze.

"Yeah, sorry, I was waiting for these two. We eat lunch together sometimes," I explain, "You and Emi know each other?" I ask, seeing as they both seem to know the other's name. Emi seems like a girl who would know a lot of people, but Rika doesn't strike me as the particularly social type.

"Rika was my old running partner," Emi informs me, looking off to the side and fiddling with her hair, obviously somewhat uncomfortable. There's a certain tension in the air after she says it, a tension that doesn't seem to completely register with Rika.

"Yeah," she begins casually, "Nurse assigned me to her when I started here. I wasn't exactly big on the whole idea of running," she explains to me as she begins swaying side to side, the strands of hair not bound in her braid swinging in the air.

"Yeah. How do you two know each other?" Emi asks, not continuing off of Rika's account.

"We met at Nurse's office. We both have heart problems," I tell her.

"Ah," she says impishly, simply to acknowledge the fact that I responded. The awkward silence hanging over us makes the air seem heavier, and I'm suddenly aware of how hot the sun is, and the location of every point on my body where my uniform touches my skin. Me and Emi are getting fidgety, and Rika is still swaying back and forth to a silent metronome. Rin doesn't seem to have noticed anything has gone amiss in the conversation, continuing to stare at the sky and mumble something about Prussian blue. Rika and Emi obviously aren't on the best of terms, I conclude.

"Anyway, I just needed to talk to Hisao about something," Rika finally speaks up, her quiet voice having been amplified by the silence that was previously choking the three of us, "Can I, uh, take him?" she asks, suddenly stopping her sway and loosening her grip on her hair.

Emi puts on a smile, but her voice betrays the facade. "Go ahead," she says, trying a little too hard to sound friendly. At Emi's approval, Rika motions for me to head inside, and as we start down the stairwell, I start to feel guilty about ditching the two girls on the roof.

"What was that all about?" I ask.

"Emi and I used to run together. After I quit, it made things a little awkward between us," she explains. Keeping up with her pace as she glides down the stairs is getting a bit difficult, as she doesn't take steps. She just slips her feet off the corner of the stair down to the corner of the next, and repeats. It's little more than a controlled fall.

"She feels like you insulted her or something?" I ask again, trying to clarify, my breath already feeling a little short.

"Yeah, I guess you could put it like that," she answers, leaving my curiosity only half satisfied. By the time we reach the bottom of the stairwell, Rika is already a full set of stairs ahead of me. She spins around and waits for me to finish the race that she's already won before continuing.

"What's the thing you need to talk to me about?" I ask as I clear the last staircase, before Rika can make her way into the hallway. She does another 180, but continues walking backwards.

"I don't really need to talk to you, per se," she begins, her eyes wandering to the ceiling, "My class's festival stall has been put up, and I need to get it ready for the festival... By the way, you're my eye's right now; I really have no idea where I'm going," she adds with a playful grin.

I take a look over her shoulder before continuing, "You're pretty clear. Keep going straight," I tell her, "Where are your classmates?"

"The other two that volunteered to help out are conveniently sick today," she says, rolling her eyes, "And you were the nearest person at hand."

Do I have another Shizune situation at hand here?, I think to myself. "And now I have to help you out?"

Her hand goes up to where her braid usually is, but it's actually behind her back the time around. Getting confused by its absence, she runs into a trashcan due to her backwards walking shenanigans. So she begins walking by my side, her braid back in its rightful place, between her chest and her hands.

"I guess that's enough of that," she states, walking the way she's supposed to, now. "You don't have to help me out," she explains, "I'm completely prepared to do it myself. It's just that it's the day before the festival and I'm not sure I would be able to do it fast enough." The way she says it isn't pathetic or pleading, but once again a testimony to her situation. A simple 'this is what's happening.' I guess that I can't turn her down if it really needs to be done by tomorrow.

As soon as I agree to assisting her in her festival duties, she picks up the pace, no longer needing the time to explain herself to me. I guess she wants to make sure to squeeze out every second of work that we can. The stall she leads me to is little more than that, a plain wooden stall with a box of supplies lying next to it. I look around and see other students working away on their own stalls, and several faculty members using ladders to string up the lights throughout the space. Most of the people seem to be at least half finished by now, a fact I point out to Rika.

"Yep. It's a race against the clock, but I like a challenge," she says nonchalantly, "Thankfully, it isn't too labor-intensive, just lengthy."

"What exactly is this shack going to be?" I ask.

"One of those ring toss games where you throw the rings, hoping that they land on a bottle. That's what these are for," she says, pulling out a rather heavy looking rack of identical empty glass bottles. It's off-putting how she manages to lift them when her arms are little more than twigs. Her entire figure looks as if it should be getting knocked over by the change in center of mass, but, like the coin and fork trick you do with cups, she stays on her feet, setting the box to the side to expose the other materials. "Honestly, who puts the heaviest things on top?"

We start by getting the canvas roof over the stall. How Rika expected to do this by herself is a mystery to me, since even this first task is a feat with our combined efforts. It doesn't feel like it's taken that long to put As soon as we finish stapling it down, the lunch bell rings, showing how time seems to have flown by.

"You don't have to stick around," Rika says once the bell is done ringing, driving the final staple into the top of the stall, "This was the only part that really needed two people. I know you have class to get back to."

She's right, I do have classes to get back to, I decide to stay and help her out some more, ignoring the academic call to action. They'd understand that I was doing work the festival I assume, as many other students stay out, resuming work on their own stalls. Once the pink and red striped canopy is above us, we put up the front banner of the little station, which consists of a few graphics of rings and bottles with the words "Ring Toss" scrawled across it in big letters. Rika agrees with me that it's terribly corny, but it is just a carnival game after all.

The busted old register gave us quite a bit of trouble, but after some fiddling, and Rika's attempts to scold the old geezer of a cash machine, it finally springs to life. She pats it on the little monitor and tells it 'good job,' and I can't help but to laugh at her.

We work together trying to put the shelf up for the smaller prizes. We're stumped for about a half hour before we realized that some genius had ripped out a whole page of instructions. Eventually, after much delegation and debate between to two of us, we finally figure out how the damned thing fit together.

We hang the larger prizes up around the rim of the canopy, and as I hang them I wonder where the students go to get them. Do they order them online, or do they head into town and just buy them? I could never be the guy doing the latter; my cheeks would be as red as the faces of Rin's painting, though they have been getting yellower as she progresses. I guess she decided on that little debate she was having with herself on the roof. Once I'm done hanging them on my side of the shack, I move on the bottles and start arranging them into the pattern that Rika told me to. When I'm about half done, I hear her cry out behind me.

"Ow! Damn it!" she yells, dropping her hammer and knocking the box of nails off of the step stool she was standing on as she came down. We'd been pretty quiet except for when we were cooperating, and as a result, this sudden outburst catches me off guard.

"What?!" I twirl around to face Rika, shaking her head and smiling as she sucks her thumb.

"I hith my darm thub," she explains, keeping her thumb secured firmly in her mouth. She releases it and shakes her hand about before inspecting the damage. "Oh, yup. It's bleeding a bit," she says, returning it to her mouth.

"Can I see?" I ask, slightly concerned.

"Ith naw a big deal," she says.

"C'mon, just let me see it," I ask her again. This time she agrees, and holds out her left hand for me to see. "Ouch," I say, observing the wound for myself. She hit right on the edge of where skin meets nail, tearing a nice little gash in the junction, along with the side of her nail next to the wound being a light shade of purple, bearing a crack as well. I can see blood beginning to pool up in the cut. "Do you wanna get some ice on that?"

She pulls her hand away and wipes the blood off on her blouse, leaving a red streak. "No, no. It'll be fine. It's just a tiny thing," she says, disregarding it.

"Are you sure? It could get infected," I explain.

"A little smashed thumb isn't going to stop me, Hisao. Come back when I fracture a rib. Then, maybe I'll stop," she says sarcastically, giggling to herself. She picks up the hammer, calling it a 'little bastard,' and continues. I look down at my phone to check the clock and realize that we've made good time, having started at around noon, and being nearly finished at four. According to math, she would've needed eight hours to do this by herself, although with her apparent work ethic it might've been nine. Nine hours to put up a shack? That math must be off, but I'm still proud that I was able to help her.

Rika seems like an easy going girl, who doesn't like to cause too much trouble for other people as well. She's been extremely easy to work with for these past few hours since she's been shaking any annoyances off with her slightly odd brand of humor. She likes to give inanimate object their own little personas, I've noticed, getting slightly attached to them in the brief time she uses them.

I bet she's a cuddler, I think to myself. The thought brings a small flutter in my stomach, and a light shade of pink to my face, and I look over to my little construction partner on on the job. When she's reaching up like she is, she seems even more slender than usual, but her curves are still prominent. She finishes putting up her last stuffed animal, and steps down with the grace of a hummingbird, while turning around at the same time. Her movements are always so lazy and loose, but flow so well. Her motions are so fluid that you can hardly distinguish where one ends and the other begins.

"You want some help putting up the last of those bottles?" she offers, pulling me out of my thought, leaving me slightly embarrassed by my daydreaming. She doesn't seem to mind, and begins setting up the bottles in our pattern. After another fifteen minutes, we're done, and the stall is all set up.

We both step out and take a look at the fruits of our labor. It looks like a functional little shack that you'd find at a carnival somewhere, the ones behind the rides and main attractions. I look over and see that there are other, even more last minute stalls beginning to be put up, while others that were being worked on when we started are now finished.

"Thanks for all the help, Hisao. That's a great way to make a second impression on a girl," she says.

"It was no problem really," I respond, turning my head to face her. My eyes wander down and I'm reminded of the little bloodstain on her blouse. "You know you got blood on your shirt right?" I ask.

She looks down and notices it, "Damn. Well, it's just a little stain. It'll come out," she shirks it off. She doesn't seem to care very much about the bad little things, even though she enjoys the good little things. I wonder if that's why I'm having a hard time adjusting to life at Yamaku, because I've been focusing on the bad things too much. I look over at Rika to see her pale face smiling brightly at the finished product, an effect amplified by how low the sun is in the sky. We both have nearly the same problem, the same reason we'ere here, but she's still been smiling this whole time, and I realize I've only smiled a few times today.

That's still more than I've done in my almost my entire first week here at Yamaku.

Maybe Rika's philosophy is just the thing I need right now.

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Last edited by Retrograde01 on Thu Jun 27, 2013 11:45 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Flowing Red - Rika Route [6/16]

Post by bpgbcg » Mon Jun 17, 2013 2:45 am

Yay, chapter 2! I'm quite enjoying this so far. As a ton of people have already commented, it's quite different from Rikabro's route.

(Also, conceits==>concedes was just a minor thing I caught.)
Piano music for the KS soundtrack; I've done a few transcriptions which are on page 43 of that thread. Also, I wrote a musical theme for Scissorlips' amazing Suzu pseudo-route, which I then recorded here.

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Re: Flowing Red - Rika Route [6/16]

Post by CaptainFalcon » Mon Jun 17, 2013 2:50 am

Well that was a lovely chapter! There were a couple of minor grammatical errors here and there but it's no biggie. I'm definitely interesting in seeing how this pans out!

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Re: Flowing Red - Rika Route [6/16]

Post by Mirage_GSM » Mon Jun 17, 2013 3:03 am

We worked together trying to put the shelf up for the smaller prizes.
A few lines of past tense slipped in here and in the following paragraph.

Also, there are some small problems with the timeline:
You said it was the day before the festival, but that would have been Saturday.
The lunch on the roof with Emi and Rin was on Friday, and there wouldn't have been any adternoon classes on Saturday.
Then Hisao said he eats lunch together with Emi and Rin sometimes, but if this story is set still before the festival, this would have been his first lunch with them up there.
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: Flowing Red - Rika Route [6/16]

Post by Joonwoo » Mon Jun 17, 2013 1:30 pm

Enjoying this immensely please keep it up! Unfortunately, I'm not a grammar nazi so I can't help you much. :(
Cheers!
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Re: Flowing Red - Rika Route [6/16]

Post by Guestimate » Mon Jun 17, 2013 9:26 pm

Haven't read Chapter 2 yet, I just wanted to say that I looked up Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, and it is terrifying...

EDIT: Alright, well, can't say much besides looking forward to more!

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Re: Flowing Red - Rika Route [6/16]

Post by Helbereth » Mon Jun 17, 2013 11:03 pm

Okay, so I'm late to the party. That doesn't stop me from being my usual critical self and being specific about some flaws I found in the first part.
Retrograde01 wrote:"Hold up a sec while I finalize Ms. Katayama's prescription..."
I'm not exactly certain on this, but I doubt he'd be so blatantly obvious about what he's doing at the computer, especially when it pertains to another patient's information. It's more likely he'd just say he needs a moment, and not specify. As a matter of fact, I'm apprehensive about the whole sequence occurring right in front of Hisao--it seems unprofessional and careless on Nurse's part, not to mention out of character for him.
3
This is just a pet-peeve, but, especially in dialogue, I hate seeing numbers instead of their literary equivalent.
"Yeah, she does seem like a twig, huh? Come on over and let's see how you're holding up to Emi's runs," she tells me, returning to his nonchalant attitude. But, then again did he even leave it in the first place?
Er, what? Nurse is a 'he' not a 'she'.
We have our usual checkup. Pulse. Blood pressure. How I felt after the run.
This could be done with a colon and commas instead of periods: "We have our usual checkup: pulse, blood pressure, and how I felt after the run."
"You've been keeping up on your meds, right Hisao?" That's an odd question for him to ask when I've had a prefect check up this time.
First, it's unlikely he'd slip back to the informal reference "Hisao"--consistency in how someone refers to a character is important. Also, think of how often you actually call someone by name... especially when they're the only one in the room. I really doubt Nurse would bother calling Hisao by name unless he's being terse. Second, I believe you meant 'perfect' and not 'prefect'--typographical errors are awesome, especially when your error is still a word.
"Of course I have," I say.
Normally, I let 'say' slide because it's fine most of the time. This, however, is a direct response to Nurse's question, so a word like 'reply' or 'respond' might be more suitable.
"Good. That's good," he breathes seeming relieved.
A comma after 'breathes' seems required here, as they're separate descriptions.
I was such a large prescription that he probably wouldn't hold it to me if I asked.
'It' instead of 'I' might be in order. Also, this sentence, on the whole, seems to need revision. While it does manage to get the point across, the wording feels strange. The section following this is more of the 'Nurse probably wouldn't discuss this because patient confidentiality' problem. At most, he would probably comment on why Hisao is asking, or try to redirect the discussion some other way--it's literally his job not to talk about other patients.
...healthy, do you?" He asks,
First, don't capitalize 'he' here. Even though the dialogue ends in a question mark, the following is a continuation of the sentence, and you should think of it as though you have a comma in that question mark's place. Second, this dialogue from Nurse is disjointed and seems to need a pause. The first statement about Rika seems disconnected from the second half where he redirects the question at Hisao. It either needs a bit of exposition in between, or at least an ellipsis to show a longer break. Personally, since he's saying the first part and asking the second, I'd separate them into two quoted statements with a bridge of exposition.
near miss
George Carlin is doing somersaults in his coffin...
"Heh, yeah. I'm fine. I have a bit of a history with running into people,"
This is another spot where you seem to need an ellipsis after 'fine'. This reads a little robotically without a longer pause between the two statements. A lot of your dialogue reads like that, actually. You should consider doing some research on dialogue punctuation. Ellipses, hyphens, commas, semicolons and such do really well at breaking up dialogue into the little chunks people tend to converse with. Periods are good, but using them too much can get a little robotic.
There are people at this school born with disabilities, and others like me who have only just found or acquired them.
Fun fact: Hisao likely had the arrhythmia from birth, rather than acquiring it later, and it went undiagnosed until something caused its symptoms to manifest more obviously: IE Heart Attack. He might not realize that at this juncture, but he's probably in that 'from birth' crowd.
I consider it sad that I have to confront my mortality at such a young age.
This sort of blatantly existential thought hemmed into Hisao's internal monologue feels forced at this juncture. This early in the VN, he barely had the concept of having a disability down, never mind deciding how he felt about it, especially not so adamantly.
bum heart
This vernacular seems out of place with Hisao...

You, like so many first-person perspective writers, need to cut back on your use of 'I' to start sentences. It's alright sometimes, and there are occasions when it's really the only good way to write a sentence, but if you use it constantly, it begins to sound like you're reading a 'choose your adventure' novel, or the combat log from an RPG. There are dozens of ways to start sentences, and you don't always have to identify the person taking the action with the first word--you almost never have to, actually.

With all that technical jargon out of the way, allow me to offer some supportive comments:
It's a different take on Rika, which is refreshing, but I'm uncertain exactly how different. As of this first part, she seems more mousy and dainty than the one this fandom is used to (Hearts' version), but she seems as aloof and observant as other writers have established. That isn't much to go on, really, so I'll leave any further comments for later developments.

Your version of Nurse needs work if you plan to reuse him much. Like most medical professionals, he tends to dance around an issue rather than be direct, and the stuff about him being discreet concerning his other patients is something you have to consider. In the VN, Nurse tends to reply with bad jokes, big, unreadable grins, and never answers questions directly unless it's something pertinent about health care. His line about Hisao watching Rika leave is completely within norms, but him going on about getting prescriptions written up and such is at least unprofessional.

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Re: Flowing Red - Rika Route [6/16]

Post by Retrograde01 » Tue Jun 18, 2013 3:06 am

Helbereth wrote: (Lot's of good criticism)


At first glance, your post was a bit overwhelming. I was thinking, oh geez I goofed, but after reading it I realized that most of it could've been avoided if I would proofread a little more thoroughly.
There are people at this school born with disabilities, and others like me who have only just found or acquired them.
The keyword there is found. I'm aware that it's a birth disorder, but I really could've worded it differently.
I consider it sad that I have to confront my mortality at such a young age.
I've removed that line, after thinking about it and realizing how out of place it is.

The nurse isn't a character I plan to use often; he was mostly just supposed to be a catalyst for Hisao and Rika to meet. His character has always been a bit of a mystery to me, and I couldn't seem to really get in his head. If I do use him again, I'll tread more carefully.

You're a great writer, and I'm very honored that you took the time to write all this out. Thank you. <3

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Re: Flowing Red - Rika Route [6/16]

Post by Mirage_GSM » Tue Jun 18, 2013 5:13 am

I agree with most of what Helbereth said, except for the stuff about nurse.
He's been known to act a little... unorthodox if it serves his agenda, and I definitely wouldn't put it past him to drop some subtle hints to get Hisao interested in Rika without outright violating his confidentiality.
And teasing him for ogling Rika is definitely what he would do!

But reading this I noticed something else:
When there was only the first chapter it wasn't clear that this was set in Hisao's first week. If that's the case the first scene has to be Thursday after his first run with Emi.
In the VN, he doesn't visit the nurse after that; he goes straight to the showers and then to class. In fact the choice to visit the nurse and thus being able to meet Rika makes for a very convenient divergence point from Emi's route.
However it does feel strange for Hisao to refer it to "our usual checkup" since he hasn't had one before (not counting the first day).
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.
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Re: Flowing Red - Rika Route [6/16]

Post by BlackWaltzTheThird » Tue Jun 18, 2013 6:10 am

I have been quietly observing. There hasn't really been much for me to say that hasn't been covered already. I will reaffirm Mirage's suggestion to make the date and time of the first chapter more clear, as well as to make note of the decision to visit the nurse versus going to class as in the VN. If you're going to change a part of accepted canon, or refer to otherwise unchanged canon, it is worth fact checking the scenarios beforehand, so you don't get those little continuity errors like "usual check up" and "lunch on the roof". Always know what everyone else is doing.

Anyway, since I'm posting I may as well say that I am interested in this thus far. Your characterisation of Rika, while different to the commonly accepted version made famous by Rikabro et. al, is interesting to say the least. It's always nice to have a fresh take on things, so I hope you continue to do well. Good luck!
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Re: Flowing Red - Rika Route [6/23]

Post by Retrograde01 » Mon Jun 24, 2013 12:14 am

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Scene III: Shock

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I wander outside, taking in this fine Sunday morning. The air is laced with the smell of freshly cut grass, and the mixed aroma of various fast foods being fried up. The atmosphere is filled with the light senseless droning characteristic of a small crowd. The festival has begun.

Stepping out into the outside world, I see the beginnings of a gathering, with the first of the festival-goers already having arrived. I can see people playing some of the games we set up, couples going for a stroll, groups of friends gathering in the outskirts of the shack village the student collectively built. I look over and see Rin, asleep by her mural, having stayed up all night to finish it, I assume. The mural is very... nice? I can't say that it looks bad, as it's actually very well painted. I just don't understand anything going on in the picture.

Maybe that's the point...?

Trying not to short-circuit my brain, I begin moving into the crowd, wondering if Rika is manning the stall we constructed together. After a short walk, and a tad bit of distraction by the other booths, I see that she isn't. In fact, nobody is. I look around and behind the station, and realize that it's been left completely unattended. My first thought is, Where the hell are Rika and her classmates? My second thought is, Has anything been stolen?

I head inside and, after taking a quick inventory, establish that nothing has been stolen, because really, who would take the time and effort just to steal a stuffed animal? The whole place looks untouched: there's a shallow layer of dust on the screen of the empty register, the tossing rings look undisturbed from where we placed them yesterday, and the grass beneath the booth stands tall as if no one has walked on it in a while. There are still even drops of dew still hanging onto it from the night before.

As I'm surveying the abandoned attraction, a boy and a girl, who I guess are a couple, approach the booth.

"Hey, is this stall open?" The nameless boy asks, leaning over the counter with his hands in his pockets, his friend standing next to him with her hands behind her back.

"I- uh..." I stammer, considering what to say. I'm not a part of Rika's class, so I'm not sure if I'm allowed to run this place. Then again, I did help to build the thing, so maybe I am qualified to attend the shop while they're out doing whatever it is they're doing. Coming to a conclusion, I say, "Yeah, we're open."

"How much?" he asks, reaching deeper into his left pocket.

"250 Yen for four rings," I guess, trying to refer back to a brief conversation about money Rika and I had yesterday. That sounds right, but it might have only been three rings per payment.

He hands me the money and begins his attempts at a prize. The first toss simply bounces off of the worthless one point outer ring of bottles with a clatter, while his second nearly lands in the three point middle ring. The third one bounces away as well, but the fourth ring finally lands, albeit on a bottle that doesn't win him anything.

"Here, let me try," the girl steps up to the plate, depositing another 250 Yen, and receiving another four rings. Toss one lands on a bottle, but it's only a one pointer. You need at least three points to win a small prize. Her second toss scores once again, bumping her up to two points, while her third misses, leaving a lasting ting from the point of impact. The girl sticks out her tongue, carefully lining up the last shot. Her arm goes up and down, practicing, until she finally releases the ring, bouncing off the three pointers, and landing her one last point.

"You know, it's not very gentlemanly making a girl win prizes for herself," she says teasingly as I hand her a little blue stuffed monkey. The boy says something about dumb luck before turning back and saying, "Thanks, have a nice day!"

I'm not about to let my work on this station thus far go to waste, so I take a seat and begin attending to any other customers that drop in to play. I wouldn't exactly call this a job, since all it really is is taking people's money, watching them play, and occasionally giving out a prize. It's good for practicing small-talk as well, since everybody seems pretty upbeat and talkative today.

By noon, I've already collected about 8,000 Yen, and the festival has only just started to pick up the pace as more people drive up from town and more students leave the dorms to partake in the fun. I finish catering to a small group of guys when I hear a familiar voice coming from down the line of shacks.

"Hachiro! Ai! How're the profits coming along?" she calls, her voice drawing nearer, "You guys better not be stealing money out of the-" she stops when she sees that the only operator here is myself.

"Hi, Rika," I greet her awkwardly.

"Hisao?! Where are Hachi and Ai?" she asks, craning her neck, looking around the shop just like I did, with her hands having firmly secured her ponytail once again. She's not wearing her school uniform today, having it replaced with a plain white t-shirt, jeans, and a bark blue hoodie. The jacket compliments her eyes.

"I don't know who Hachi and Ai are," I explain, "I came here to check up on you, but nobody was running the stall, so I just eh... took over."

"Goddamn those bastards!" she exclaims, stepping into the shack, "We had an agreement that they would work the damn stall because I put it up all by my lonesome yesterday!" She takes a seat across the room, and faces my way.

"'All by your lonesome,' huh? I'm pretty sure I helped out yesterday," I say, acting mildly insulted.

"Well yeah, of course you helped. They don't need to know that though, do they?" she asks with a clever wink. We make idle chit chat for a while, and she cracks a joke here and there, in her odd humor. We talk about the weather, what's going on in sports, and other mundane things, until she asks a question that I get stuck on, "So, what do you think of Yamaku so far?"

My first response was something along the lines of 'pretty good' but she wouldn't accept that as my full answer. What do I think of this school? When I first got here, I thought everyone would be broken and... strange, for lack of a better word. I've realized that this school is actually abnormally normal for what it is.

"I've been getting more comfortable here, but..." I answer her, still trying to fully figure out what to say, "It's almost disturbingly normal as a school for people with, problems-"

"Disabilities," Rika states, twirling the end of her braid in her hand. The word feels out of place to me for some reason, "There's no need to beat around the bush here, Hisao. At least not with me," she adds.

"See, that's another thing. I still don't really know what can and can't be said, and I feel really bad about remembering kids I see in the hall as 'that girl who's missing her arm' or 'that one guy with the crutches,'" I explain.

She takes a second to think before responding, "Really, the best way to go about it, I think, is to not make a big deal out of things. If you said 'I'm just pulling your leg' to Emi, or something else to that effect, the person probably wouldn't mind. A lot of people here have had their disabilities for a long time, and it's hard to get offended about something you've had for years," she explains, "As for the thinking thing, I'm sure most people remember me as 'that one albino chick.' There isn't much to be done about that."

That actually cleared a few things up for me, I think. Then, another thought crosses my mind. "You're albino?" I ask.

"White skin, white hair, and red eyes aren't normal for Japanese girls, you know?" she begins, throwing us off of the subject, and back into our banter.

It turns out it was 250 Yen for three rings instead of four, and after learning that I was giving everyone an extra toss earlier, she throws a ring at me with malicious intent. "You're dumb," she says as the ring makes contact with my shoulder. I throw the ring back accompanied with my own remark, and before long, we're playing catch with it. After our back and forth jabs die off, we're left idly throwing the ring back and forth while Rika leans on two legs of her chair and rocks to her usual rhythm. As we toss it we make more small talk, commenting on some of the student's casual wear. One of my shots gets thrown wrong and she gets disoriented in her rocking, flailing her arms in attempts to catch herself before gravity swiftly claims it's victim with a triumphant thud.

"Are you okay?" I ask, before I realize that she's giggling, and trying to keep from bursting into laughter. In her attempts to escape the fall, Rika brought some of the medium stuffed animals down onto herself, making it look like she got tackled by a colony of rabbits. Her laughter proves contagious, and before long, I'm doubled over with small tears forming at the corners of my eyes from my own laughing.

After our little bout, I help her up and put the prizes back on the shelf, while she still giggles every few seconds. I don't even notice that we have two more customers until they speak up.

"You two having fun in there?" one of them asks.

I turn around, slightly startled. "Sorry, sir, that'll be-"

"Hachiro!" Rika interrupts, her laughter gone, "Ai! You two were supposed to be running the shack today!" she suddenly scolds.

"We eh... Forgot," The girl who I'm guessing is Ai says sheepishly, looking at the grass and hiding her face.

"Forgot? The stall was left all alone! We're lucky Hisao here took over for us before I came to check up on this place," she keeps going, her chest puffed out to make her seem bigger, "You were supposed to be here at nine AM!"

"Sorry," Hachiro says, his hand behind his head and red flowering to his cheeks. I realize that I've slowly backed into the corner of the stall, away from the argument.

"I swear, you two are more irresponsible that I am," she states, continuing to hound them. She essentially would've been running this thing by herself if I hadn't stepped in, so her nagging is warranted, I think. "Well, now that you're here, you can take over for us. It's already three o'clock," she says, after making sure to guilt trip them.

"Okay," they both say dutifully, straightening up.

It's three o'clock? Already? I flip out my phone to confirm what Rika just said, and the LED display reveals it to be true.

It's already been three hours? All we've done is shoot the breeze and serve what I thought of as a few customers, but during Rika's briefing of the two replacements, she tells them that we've already made 12000 Yen. Time really flies when you're having fun, huh?

We leave the stall, and head out into the warm festival air. The crowd has really picked up now, and I'm afraid I might get lost in it. While I'm looking around at the various stalls set up, Rika takes my forearm to grab my attention.

"So what's the first thing you want to do?" she asks up to me. I look around and try to decide, but I have no idea what I'd like to do. There are games, food stalls, even a small karaoke place, but the line for that is too long to be worth embarrassing myself.

"Maybe you should decide," I say, but my suggestion is met with rolling eyes.

"Don't be so indecisive," she jabs, poking me with two fingers. Spinning around once more, and being forced to make a choice, I settle on one of those games where you pop balloons with darts. I remember I used to be pretty good at darts.

We head over and officially begin our shenanigans, dropping 250 Yen for our first three darts. My first dart makes a direct hit as far from any balloon as physically possible, while my second one seems to get a little farther than that. Rika is giving me advice like 'actually aim next time,' which I take to heart as I practice my final throw a few times before loosing it. The dart flies from my hand, striking my target with a loud pop!

"Nice one, but you still lost," Rika informs me teasingly, with a sly grin.

"Let's try this again," I say, depositing another 250 yen, along with another player at my side.

"Maybe I can win something," Rika challenges me, putting her own money on the table. My pride may or may not survive this ordeal. The cashier hands us six darts, and our battle begins, with Rika hitting her first balloon, and my throw once again missing terribly. Her second shot is met with another loud pop, and mine is met with the same, but I hit a red balloon, so it's a two-pointer. We're tied, as we both make the last shot at the same time, both darts hitting the same balloon. The cashier has been watching us throw, and looks at the two darts side by side.

"Heh, never seen that happen before," he says, inspecting the phenomena, "Hey, Haru, who do you think gets the point?"

"Uhh... Both of 'em I guess," the other boy says from the back, tossing two small stuffed cats, one pink, and the other green, to the front. The cashier hands us our prizes and says, "Have a nice day!"

Rika and I start debating who's dart got to the balloon first as we walk away. "You don't deserve that little pink kitty!" she insists, "My dart was the one that popped it."

"You can't prove that," I say, defending my case. It's a lasting debate as we continue to blow nearly all of our cash on games, saving just enough to have ourselves a sizable carnival-junk-food supper. If Emi saw us, she'd probably chew our ears off. We take our extremely unhealthy meal, and head out to the grass outcropping where there aren't any stalls. The sun has begun to set, and the festival lights have come on. making it seem even more full of life than it did all day. Other couples and small groups are here too, enjoying the relative peace, away from the festival, now in full swing.

I bet we look like a couple, I think to myself. Thankfully, the lines of the world have begun to blur as the light level drops so that Rika can't see my awkward glances and the redness on my face. We take a seat, and begin whiddling down our food supply.

"Y'know, I'm actually glad that Hachi and Ai were so late today," she says, breaking the peaceful silence.

"And why is that?" I ask.

"Because if it weren't for them forcing me to take early shift, I'd probably have been stuck there now," she explains, "It's funny how things work out like that."

"I guess every cloud does have a silver lining."

"Yeah," she says, leaving the conversation open ended for one of us to continue. Neither of us does, and we just lay back in the grass, quietly munching away. The stars have only just begun to come out, Venus shining brightest in the western sky. The moon hasn't gone down with the sun yet, and there's but a sliver of light coming from it. We eat quietly, listening to the murmur of the crowd. Rika is rocking again, and this time I fully begin to notice it. She always sways to some invisible beat when she stays still for too long, sometimes it's side to side, and sometimes it's too and fro. She always needs to move.

"Hey, Hisao."

"Yeah?"

"You wanna go somewhere nice?" she asks, suddenly sitting herself upright, getting ready to get up.

"Uhh, sure," I comply as she takes my hand and pulls me up. We grab what's left of our food, and set out for whatever destination Rika has in mind. We make our way through the festival and past the crowds, but I start to get curious as we leave the school gates.

"Where are we going?"

"Somewhere."

"Really? That's descriptive," I say sarcastically.

"Yep," she giggles to herself as we begin making our way up the hill to the side of the road towards the trees. It's a long climb to wherever we're going, and I feel myself getting winded, with cold sweat forming on my hot forehead. The combination feels odd. Rika's also breathing pretty hard, and she begins to slow down. I'm about to recommend a break when her foot slips out from under her. She falls down, catching herself with her hand, but then she stops resisting and rolls over on her back, letting out an urgent "Oh, shit."

I run up to her to figure out whats wrong, a task mad difficult by the fading light. Her eyes are squinted shut, her breathing panicked, and her hand clutching her chest. There's a thin layer of sweat reflected off of her forehead. As the full realization of whats happening sinks in, my eyes get hot, my stomach fills with locusts, and my own heart skips a beat.

She must be having a heart attack!

My mind freezes, and my feet debate what to do. Should I run for help? Should I stay with her? Can I help her? Is there any thing I can do?! Is Rika gonna die right here?! A million questions race through my head, and I begin to feel dizzy, like I'm going to be sick. All my mind can end up deciding on is to stare at her while this unfolds. Everything is screaming at me, but it all falls on deaf ears in my panic.

Rika's breathing slows down, becoming deeper as she attempts to fill her lungs. She finally takes one deep slow breath, holding it in for a moment, then letting it out in a low whistle that ends with a shallow chuckle.

"Boy, that was a close one," she let's out, finally opening her eyes. My mind is still trying to process what just happened, and I feel my own heart tugging at my chest for a moment. The murmur is enough to bring reality back to me. I look down at Rika, whos taking deep slow breaths and doing a systems check on herself, all while wearing a smile. Her casual attitude should've been enough to make me mad, but I can't help but to feel relieved that she isn't dead.

"Rika, I think we need to get you to the nurse after that," I state.

"No, I'm okay. It was just a small episode is all," she says, maintaining her casual attitude.

"No, Rika. You just about scared me into my own heart attack," I say sternly, "That was bad. You need to see the nurse."

"I have little bouts like that all the time, and that one wasn't even that bad compared to others," she says, pleading her case to the jury, "I've been living with it all my life. It happens," she says, more forcefully this time.

It was just a little bout? That's all? I think. My mind takes me back to when I ran into Emi in the hallway. Is that really what I look like when I'm having chest pains?

"I still-"

"Hisao. I'm not going to the nurse," she commands, ending that discussion. Maybe I am just overreacting. "C'mon, we're almost there," she tells me, just as a flash lights up the sky, and a booms rattles our bones.

We both whirl around to see the remnants of the first blast, with golden shards of light raining down. Two more beacons are sent up, with blue and green explosions lighting up the night. The fireworks display has begun.

I can hear the oohs and ahhs of the students below us, watching the same spectacle. The lights seem closer since were this high up, and we can see where they're launching from. One firework goes high than all the others, illuminating the smoke left behind by previous explosions, and releasing a shower of golden sparks that last. It's been years since I last saw fireworks, but this is a great way to see them again. They send them up one and two at a time before the finale, then they stream up, as if somebody released the floodgates. So many explosions and bursts in the sky create what almost sees like a flickering artificial sun. Blue, green, white, red, and every other color on the spectrum flies through the air, creating a show you'd expect to see at some big special event, and not some dainty school festival. One final firework flies up and pops to create a red smiley face. The smell of gunpowder is in the air, along with the cheers of the festival goers.

My gaze shifts back to Rika who somehow made her way to my side without me noticing it.

"Is this why we're up here?" I ask. She shakes her head and grabs me by the hand, walking me to our true destination.

We make our way up the rest of the hill, and through the trees ti come out into a large grassy area, enclosed by the forest. It's a large circle, and Rika runs straight into the center, lying herself down in the tall grass.

"This is where we were going!" she calls back to me.

I jog to the center as well, and take my place laying next to her. The is a nice secluded spot but I have to ask, "What's so special about this place?"

Her response is a light sigh as she settles into the grass, and a soft, airy voice. "That," she says, pointing to the sky. My head turns from Rika to the heavens, and the view is wonderful. The Milky Way slices through the sky, as clear as day, and there are more stars than I ever knew existed. I grew up in the city, where light pollution made it so that only the brightest stars shone, but here, they all come out.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" she says, her voice so small and quiet that you'd think she's about to fall asleep, but her eyes are wide open, the universe reflected in a reddish hue. "I've always been a stargazer. Every night as a child, I would stare into the sky, wondering exactly what's up there. Afterwards, I would always feel better about whatever was worrying me. It's a good way to idly sort things out in your head," she finishes. I look up, and start trying to think like she says. Staring up into the sky, I remember how each and every star is as big as or even bigger than our sun, yet we still see them. It takes four years for the closest star's light to reach us, I recall. I try to imagine such a vast distance, but it's impossible, and yet this starlight has traveled all that way.

"You start to feel small don't you?" Rika says, interrupting my thoughts. It's undeniable that I feel insignificant compared to these distances, but while the Earth may be a single drop in a vast ocean, it's still my drop. From my perspective it's the most important thing in the world to me. The wind rustles the trees and I hear the girl next to me shudder as she yawns. My thoughts some back down to Earth, taking notice of how cold Rika is, but I don't have a jacket to give her.

I consider moving closer to share my warmth with her, but my mind keeps telling me no. My thoughts wander back to the stars, and I think to myself, How much does it really matter if she rejects it?

I move in to put my arm around her, and to my surprise, she immediately clings to me, her whole body having tremors. She puts her face to my chest and starts breathing out slowly, trying to use her breath to warm herself up against me. Her body slowly stops shaking and she lays with one arm around me, and the other holding her braid.

"I'm sorry for scaring you earlier, but I really don't like being in the nurses office," she mumbles into my shirt, holding me slightly tighter.

"It's fine," I respond. Thinking back, I really did overreact. We both have broken hearts, and we'll both have chest pains now and then.

"...And, Hisao?" she asks after a moment of silence, pulling her face away and looking up at me.

"Yeah?" I say, prepared to answer whatever question she has. But what comes next isn't a question, and instead I feel something cool and soft touch my lips. After a moment of confusion, I realize that Rika has her face against mine. I close my eyes, relax, and accept the kiss, while she calms down as well, taking her hand off of her braid, and wrapping it around me. She pulls away and puts her face into my neck, which causes me to shiver from the chill. It's been an eventful day today for sure, and this is the best way I think it could've ended.

"I'm sorry. That was stupid," she mumbles.

"No. No it wasn't," I assure her. Here we are, two people with only half a heart each.

Maybe two halves make a whole.

[End Act I]

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Last edited by Retrograde01 on Fri Jul 05, 2013 3:12 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Mirage_GSM
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Re: Flowing Red - Rika Route [6/23]

Post by Mirage_GSM » Mon Jun 24, 2013 4:42 am

Nice chapter.
Towards the end a couple of typos or misplaced commas slipped in - especially in the fireworks paragraph.
Drop me a PM if you need any help finding them.
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Re: Flowing Red - Rika Route [6/23]

Post by BlackWaltzTheThird » Mon Jun 24, 2013 6:06 am

Aside from those niggling spelling and grammar issues Mirage mentioned, there were a few places where you slipped into past tense; those should be easy enough to catch. More difficult to find, however, are the times when you switch from present simple tense (I walk over to her, the smell of gunpowder laces the air, etc) to present progressive tense (I am walking, the smell of gunpowder is lacing the air, etc). While both are present tense, it isn't really appropriate to mix the two tense types like that. In general, for this form of writing, try to avoid abstract verbs like "am" or "is" followed by a word ending in "-ing". "-ing" words by themselves are okay, but frame the sentences such that they don't end up like the following examples.

"Stepping out into the outside world, I see the beginnings of a gathering." - OK
"I step out into the outside world, seeing the beginnings of a gathering." - OK
"Having stepped out into the outside world, I see the beginnings of a gathering." - OK
"I am stepping out into the outside world, seeing the beginnings of a gathering." - not OK

If that doesn't make sense, I can link you to a few websites that explain the concept.
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Re: Flowing Red - Rika Route [6/23]

Post by Sperance » Mon Jun 24, 2013 7:00 am

Very nice! Still, I'm surprised at how fast these two go, but You've made them have some good chemistry

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Re: Flowing Red - Rika Route [6/23]

Post by Retrograde01 » Tue Jun 25, 2013 1:32 pm

Mirage_GSM wrote:Nice chapter.
Towards the end a couple of typos or misplaced commas slipped in - especially in the fireworks paragraph.
Drop me a PM if you need any help finding them.
Thanks. I do get a bit trigger happy with the comma key.
BlackWaltzTheThird wrote:Aside from those niggling spelling and grammar issues Mirage mentioned, there were a few places where you slipped into past tense; those should be easy enough to catch. More difficult to find, however, are the times when you switch from present simple tense
I went through and caught a few of those before posting. I understand the concept but when I'm writing, I forget sometimes.
Sperance wrote:Very nice! Still, I'm surprised at how fast these two go, but You've made them have some good chemistry
That's a part of the plan.

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