Developments (Post-Lilly NE) [Complete, 2015-08-11]

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Maristo
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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 34 up 2/

Post by Maristo » Fri Feb 21, 2014 4:07 pm

Mahorfeus wrote:I disagree with the assertion that "it would all be for nothing" if Hisao wound up with Lilly. All of the characters involved in this love trapezoid have had significant character growth, so everybody "wins" in the end - that was the case even when it was just Hanako and Emi we had to worry about.
Yeah, a Lilly ending could feel a little cheap. If Lilly shows back up, immediately confesses again to Hisao, and they wander off into happily-ever-after land together like nothing ever happened, we'd probably all be disappointed. This is dewelar we're speculating about here, however, so that seems a highly unlikely scenario.

I actually think that Lilly's reintroduction to the situation will open up some great character development opportunities. If Lilly and Hisao do start exploring a relationship again, I can easily see Hanako and Emi joining forces against the romantic incumbent. The dynamic between Hanako and Emi has already been developed in a unique manner, and since we know that Hanako strongly desires friends that view her as an equal, it isn't all that far-fetched to imagine a situation where Hanako and Emi become very close. Emi has already treated Hanako as an equal rival; a Lilly/Hisao reunion certainly provides the opportunity for Emi to treat Hanako as an equal ally. In fact, an ending that uses a temporary reconciliation between Hisao and Lilly to further develop Hanako and Emi, and then saw Hisao eventually choose a stronger, more matured Hanako or Emi would be very plausible.

Of course, the story can still go in thirty different directions from here. I guess I'm just trying to point out that a Lilly/Hisao story arc can, if written well, be just as satisfying. I mean, nobody expects Lilly to show back up and not reconnect with Hisao at all, do they? Just my $.02.

If nothing else, these discussions prove what a great piece of fan fiction Developments is. Keep up the good work, dewelar! We're all looking forwards to seeing where you take things.

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Crimson
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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 34 up 2/

Post by Crimson » Sun Feb 23, 2014 4:54 pm

Reread both interludes earlier to refresh my memory and it occurred to me that I forgot to mention in my previous comment how much of a kick I got out of the second one. I absolutely love how you introduced Yoshiro and his connection (or lack thereof) with Rin and the exchange between him and Hisao ended up giving me a good chuckle.

Anyway, with that aside I put together a short piece for the first interlude, which can be heard here.

I ended up googling the lyrics and doing a bit of research last night. It led me to some really interesting stuff about Tanabata in general. I came across a transcription of the lyrics and decided that that would make for the perfect accompanying theme given the nature of the drabble. I didn't want it to solely be just that melody though, so I made some alterations here and there and dubbed it over with another melody in an attempt to reflect Hisao's mindset at the time of the festival despite him not going. Hope it's to your liking!
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dewelar
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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 34 up 2/

Post by dewelar » Mon Feb 24, 2014 3:29 am

I've been giving this one a few listens, and I like it. I had to kind of refresh my own memory of what was happening with Hisao specifically at the time of the first interlude, and he was just starting to turn himself around but was still pretty depressed. I think what you've done with this fits nicely.

And, yeah, I read a LOT about Tanabata myself in preparation for writing those drabbles, despite it not even being part of my original outline (then again, my original outline also called for only about 20 chapters, and the one I'm working from now is at 50+, so a lot has changed :) ). Good to see it inspired someone else to do the same thing, because it's a fascinating piece of Japanese (or, if you prefer, borrowed-Chinese) culture.
Rin is orthogonal to everything.
Stuff I've written: Developments, a continuation of Lilly's (bad? neutral?) ending - COMPLETE!

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emmjay
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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 34 up 2/

Post by emmjay » Mon Feb 24, 2014 6:10 am

dewelar wrote:...and the one I'm working from now is at 50+...
So there are 16+ chapters to go? Hoo boy. Things are gonna get worse before they get better, aren't they?
Yuuko > Akira > Miki > Meiko > Sae.

Some one-shots I've written (Updated 7/29/2017)

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Blasphemy
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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 34 up 2/

Post by Blasphemy » Mon Feb 24, 2014 5:07 pm

This story continues to be an excellent read for me. At this point however I sort of want to remove myself from the entire discussion, in particular speculation, to enjoy the story a bit more purely. Since you've gotten so many avid readers by now there's just too, too much speculation and people start listing up almost all possible scenarios, to a point where I feel 'spoiled'. So, just like I do with any good currently ongoing series etc. I'll stop myself from reading anything that isn't the story itself until it's finished! Of course if something seems off to me I'm still gonna mention that.

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dewelar
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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 34 up 2/

Post by dewelar » Thu Feb 27, 2014 3:52 am

I've gone ahead and put links to both of Crimson's pieces in their respective interludes. Thanks again for your effort, Crimson, and I will gladly do the same when the third is complete.

Chapter 35 is about two-thirds written, so my recent pace of two weeks per chapter is on course, which should mean it'll be ready early next week.
Rin is orthogonal to everything.
Stuff I've written: Developments, a continuation of Lilly's (bad? neutral?) ending - COMPLETE!

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dewelar
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Developments, Chapter 35

Post by dewelar » Tue Mar 04, 2014 12:55 am

"Emi, can't it wait for..."

Emi opens the door, then turns around and says, "Sorry, Hisao. I was supposed to be back ages ago."

I'm about to try and object further, but the look in Emi's eye stops me. This isn't just her trying to dodge my concern; she's almost in a state of panic. I know if I push any further it would be disastrous, so I just have to accept it, at least for now. I slump back against the bed, feeling frustrated at my uselessness. "Yeah, okay. Tomorrow, then."

"Yeah, tomorrow," she says weakly as she backs her way out of the room. I close my eyes in synchronization with the door, letting my head drop to my chest.

So much for a fresh start.

Today was supposed to have been the day Emi helped me put everything aside and have fun. Certainly it started out that way, but it feels like the last five minutes set things back, maybe even beyond where they were before. Even worse, the one who did it was Emi herself, and I haven't a clue as to why. All I can do now is hope that Emi will be willing to talk about it after our run tomorrow.

Then again, I've been hoping for some kind of clarity for what seems like forever. Every time it seems like I'm close to an answer, some other piece of the puzzle has disengaged itself. It's like Heisenberg is personally slapping me in the face. Just knowing that Lilly coming back is currently the least of my problems is enough to make me want to crawl under my blanket and not come out until the second semester starts.

Still, I have to admit that there are some things that are starting to resolve in my mind. For instance, when I noticed Hanako was trying to push things forward while Emi seemed to be pulling back, I thought it was just an anomaly. After the events of the past few days, I've had to reassess that. It isn't what I would have expected, but it's definitely a pattern.

Up until now, I'd preferred how things had been going with Emi. Especially since Hanako confessed to me, I've felt like I haven't been able to relax around her. That's why I'd decided to live up to the promise I'd made at the beginning of the break, to spend more time with Emi. The fact that Hanako never left on her trip had thrown those plans out the window, but I'd still made that promise, and I really did want to live up to it. Of course, as soon as I'm ready to tell her that, things go badly sideways.

There was another motive for wanting to do that, too. Now that Lilly is coming back, I know that she and Hanako will want to spend time together, and that will be easier for them if I'm not in the way. It also wouldn't hurt for Hanako to have someone to talk to besides me. With Naomi and Natsume gone, she's got nobody with whom to discuss our relationship, and that might have something to do with why things have been rocky between us.

Of course, it's not as though I don't share in the blame for those rocks. The day after her confession, I tried to go to the tea room and pretend that nothing had changed, which worked about as well as I should have expected. The morning after that, I went and nearly killed myself. Since then, it's no wonder neither of us really has a handle on what's supposed to happen next. At least I know she'll be in the tea room for lunch tomorrow, so maybe we can sort some of it out then.

In the meantime, I still have the rest of today to get through.

With some effort, I push myself back up to my feet. I need to clean up, and I start by picking up the pieces of the Kamisaka poster. Looking it over, the damage isn't too bad and could probably be patched with some tape. I don't think I have enough focus to deal with it right now, so I set it aside and go over to pick up Rin's drawing. Although I'm still not sure what to make of it, I put it back up where it was before.

Well, at least I accomplished something here, I guess.

My mind is filled with thoughts of these past few days, which means I need a distraction. Some fresh air would probably do me some good as well, so I decide to head outside. I walk along the path to the main building, and decide to see if Shizune might have something to occupy my time again. I feel a little guilty about only going over there at times like this, but I tell myself that at least I'm making some effort to repay her and Misha for all they've done for me.

When I get to the Student Council room, I notice that the door is open a crack. Peering through, I’m somewhat surprised to see Shizune working by herself. I walk over to her and stand across the desk from her, waiting for her to notice my presence – or for Misha to show up, whichever comes first.

After a few moments, Shizune looks up from whatever she was working on. She waves at me vaguely, glances around the room, and frowns slightly. She then holds up a finger to me as she reaches into the desk, producing a small pad and pen. She writes something on the pad and passes it to me.

{Hello.}

Ah, for communication.

I write {Hi, Shizune. Where's Misha?} on the pad, then pass it back.

{Gone for the day. Is there something you need?}

{I just thought I'd see if there was anything I could do to help.}

Shizune raises an eyebrow at me before passing her response back, her eyes flickering playfully. {Why? Are you bored again?}

I try to keep my expression neutral as I write my next message. I'm not feeling in a particularly competitive mood. {"Restless" is probably more accurate.}

Shizune looks at me appraisingly. {Does this have something to do with my cousin's impending return?}

I chuckle at reading that. I should have guessed that Shizune would know. {Yes and no. There are a lot of things going on right now.}

{I see. Are you happy about Lilly returning?}

I look at Shizune, who seems honestly curious. {Yes, I'll be glad to see her again. What about you? Do you intend to continue to antagonize her?}

As Shizune reads my note, her expression shifts from smiling to indignant in an attosecond. {My expectations of her haven't changed.}

I smile back at Shizune, and she shakes her head as I write. {I doubt hers of you have changed, either.}

Reading that, the gleam returns to Shizune's eye. {Nor should they. Will you be meeting her at the airport?}

In lieu of writing a response, I nod affirmatively and pass the pad back to her. Her eyes continue to glitter above a bobcat grin as she prepares to write, but before she puts pen to paper Misha comes bursting into the room and stands directly between us.

"Hi Hicchan~!" she says before turning to Shizune and signing rapidly. Since Misha doesn't verbalize her signing, I have no idea what she's saying, but looking around her at Shizune, I can tell that the latter is not pleased. After a few exchanges, Misha turns back to me. "Shicchan and I need to discuss~ something. Would you mind?"

"Not at all," I respond. Not that I'd be able to eavesdrop anyway, but I should at least respect their privacy.

"Thanks, Hicchan~!" Misha replies with a broad grin. "Oh, by the way, Hanako is in the tea room if~ you're looking for her!" I turn to Misha with a questioning look. "Um...I told her that Lilly was coming back," she says, a contrite expression on her face. "I didn't know she didn't know."

I blink a few times in surprise at Misha's statement. "Oh...um...I see. Thanks for letting me know. I guess we'll talk later?"

"Right~! Right~! Later!" Misha says with her broad grin, and I sense that there's something hiding behind it. Deciding I probably don't want to know what that is, I walk out with a wave to both of them.

What I don't quite understand is why Misha would be trying to get me to go see Hanako. Several thoughts come to mind, but I don't want to put stock in any of them. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to check in on her, though; while the news of Lilly's return might be good, I can see how having Misha deliver it could be...disturbing.

Somewhat nervously, I climb the stairs and head to the tea room. However, seeing the closed door gives me pause. The last time I breached that barrier, things did not go well. I stand there debating with myself for a few seconds, but decide that if she wanted to see me, the door would be open, and so I turn around and walk away.

Once I get to my room, the full weight of the day finally hits me, and I collapse onto the bed. I had been planning on making myself something for dinner, but for now, I think I just need to relax for a while. Looking out the window, I see that the sky has turned a brilliant orange. For a moment, I think about how nice that poster would have looked in this light.

Heh...maybe I'm starting to appreciate art a little bit after all.

I'm not sure whether Hanako knowing about Lilly's return is going to make meeting her tomorrow easier or more difficult. I know she'll want to go with me to meet Lilly at the airport, so I really want to try and avoid any lingering awkwardness over yesterday. Right now, though, I'm not even sure how to approach the issue.

For a while, I reflect on my conversation with Shizune. It was an interesting experience talking to her without Misha's presence. I've always wondered how much filtering Misha did, and a part of me wishes I'd signed up for that sign language course. I like Misha, but all too often she's a distraction from trying to read Shizune. After spending some more time staring at the ceiling and thinking about how to handle everything, I finally fall asleep.

* * * *

The next morning, I start to wonder if I made the right choice when I left my ceiling bare. I haven't gotten any closer to knowing how to deal with Hanako today, and as I think about it I don't think I ever have come up with anything brilliant while staring at that blank space. At some point, I'll ponder whether to put something up there, but I vow not to actually be looking up there when I do.

I quickly get dressed and head for the track, hoping that figuring out what happened with Emi yesterday turns out to be an easier nut to crack. As I make my way down the hill, Emi waves to me, and I immediately notice that Emi's forearms look like they've been scratched up. There's also a bandage around her right knee. When I reach her, I say, "Hey, Emi! What happened to you? Is that from you falling off my desk yesterday?"

For a split second, a look of alarm crosses Emi's face, but then she just waves me off. "Nah, I just tripped last night and scraped myself up a little. Nothing to worry about. You ready to run, Hisao?"

Warning bells go off in my head, but I know I have to wait until we're done to broach the subject. "Yeah, I am. What about you?"

"Me? I'm always ready to run," Emi says with a wink. As we start our stretches, she says, "Hisao, I think you're ready to take a step up today. You've been picking up your pace in the four-lap run and handling it pretty well, so today we're going to increase your distance to six laps and see how that goes. Sound good?"

I grin. "Yeah, bring it on."

Emi returns my grin. "That's what I want to hear! So, today, I'll do my usual pacing for the first four laps, then when I start my sprints, just keep up the pace for two more before you start cooling down. All right, let's go!"

For the first four laps, things go as usual, except that Emi is again glancing back a little more often than usual. Once she takes off on her sprints, I try and keep up the pace. It's a bit of a struggle, not the least of which is that I'm distracted by watching Emi run. There's usually such fluidity in her motions, and today is no exception. Whenever I look over at her, I can't help but think of Rin's drawing. As I do, I really can picture Emi as an unbroken line of motion under the blue sky...

...with that little glint of ferocity in her eyes...

THAT'S why the eye was there...

The two extra laps go by more quickly than I expected, and I reach the end only slightly more worn out than usual. I start cooling down, and Emi soon joins me. "That was pretty good today, Hisao," she says with a smile. "Looks like you're finally ready to start testing your limits a little more."

I smile back at her. "I don't think I'd mind spending a little more time out here in the mornings." Once again, for a brief moment, a cloud crosses over the brightness of Emi's face. "Hey...what's wrong?"

"I knew you were going to ask that, Hisao." Emi sighs heavily, looking down at the track. "I know better than to tell you it's nothing. It's just...not something I'm ready to talk about right now."

"Okay, but you know that if you ever need me to help you, I'll be there."

I put my hand on Emi's shoulder, and rather than easing her tension it only serves to cause her to flinch. "Hisao...someday, you're going to realize that sometimes...there are things that you can't help with. This is something I need to work out for myself." Emi looks back over to me, and there's a hint of sadness to her expression. "It's all right, Hisao. You don't need to worry about me over this."

"You do know what saying that means, right?" I say jokingly, trying at least to lighten the mood.

Emi sighs again, rolling her eyes. "Yeah, you're just going to worry more, aren't you?" She takes a deep breath, then continues, "Hisao, you've got a lot on your plate right now. You've got...whatever's going on with Hanako, and you've got to go meet Lilly at the airport tonight, right?"

"Yes, but..."

"So, just for now, you need to make that your top priority. I'm used to working through stuff on my own. I've been doing it since...well, for a long time. Go work out what you need to work out with those two, and then we'll see where things stand. Okay?"

I'm not sure I like the sound of that, especially the part about being used to doing things on her own. Still, if this is the same thing that was on her mind last night, I don't think pushing is a good idea. At the same time, given what she just said, I can't very well say I was intending to leave Hanako and Lilly to themselves and spend more time with her without sounding selfish.

Selfish...

I suddenly realize that I was about to fall into the trap I'd been in when I was with Lilly. I was going to let her be the one to deal with Hanako, and allow myself to be a leaf on the wind again. I mentally thank Emi for reminding me of that, then say, "Yeah, you're right. I'll do that."

"Thanks, Hisao," Emi says with a relieved smile. "Now, let's get up to the nurse's office." She takes off at a jog, and I follow, this time jogging myself rather than walking. Emi reaches the auxiliary building a few steps before me, and as she opens the door she spots me right behind her. "Wha? Hisao, are you sure you're all right to do that?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," I reply, slightly annoyed by the query. I was hoping she'd appreciate the fact that I could keep up with her.

"Well, I suppose you'd better go in first today, Hisao," Emi says as we walk down the hall. "You're the one with the busy social calendar, after all."

I force a laugh at that, then walk into the office. "So, Emi sent you in first today, hm?" the nurse says as I sit down, sounding dubious. "Well, let's have a look." He listens to my chest and comments, "A bit more elevated today than it's been lately. Anything unusual happen?"

"Emi had me go a couple of extra laps today. I didn't feel anything out of the ordinary, though."

"Well, that's a good sign, at least." Once my examination is over, the nurse puts on his serious face. He asks, "What about Emi? Did anything seem out of the ordinary with her?"

His question is unusually straightforward, which takes me by surprise. He must be concerned as well. "Well, she did have a bandage on her knee, and her arms were a little scraped up. She said she took a fall last night."

The nurse looks at me seriously. "Well, that much is true. Did she say anything else to you about what happened?"

"No, she was pretty closed about the whole thing."

"Hmmm...I believe I've mentioned that she does that a lot. Still, you've been the exception to that rule often enough lately that you being out of the loop this time is a bit troubling. Did something happen between the two of you yesterday?"

"Well, I'm not sure if it's important, but I probably should tell you. We were hanging up posters in my dorm room, and she lost her balance and fell onto me." I absent-mindedly start rubbing my scar as I continue, "Her shoulder hit my chest, and for a few seconds I focused on my heart to make sure it was okay. There didn't seem to be any pain, or even a flutter, but I think it shook her up a little."

The nurse frowns. "Mmmm...yes, I'm sure it did. I wasn't on duty when she was treated, and even if I was I couldn't tell you anything about it. However, I can say that if I were you, I wouldn't take her concerns about your condition lightly."

"She feels more than a little responsible for you, you know."

His words, and perhaps even more so his expression, remind me of the last conversation we had about Emi. He said that she's always had to look out for herself, and that looking out for someone else was something new. Suddenly, one of those puzzle pieces clicks in as I realize why her words to me earlier were so troubling, and I kick myself for getting upset a few minutes ago. "I won't. As for yesterday, I'm sure she'll talk to me about it when she's ready."

The nurse smiles with a wink. "You're catching on quick, Hisao. Just remember, as long as you look out for Emi, you won't have to look out for me, if you know what I mean."

I chuckle at that. "Yeah, I think I do."

"In that case, Hisao, I think we're done for today." He pauses for a second, then says in a much louder voice, "So you'd better get your pants back on, Hisao!" I raise an eyebrow at the nurse, but before either of us says anything, Emi enters the room. "Hmmm," the nurse says, "I expected a quicker response time than that."

"Well," Emi replies with a grin, "you should probably know that I've seen Hisao without his pants already."

I start to blush a bit, and the nurse replies, "You just weren't in any rush to see it again, then."

I blush somewhat more furiously as Emi sticks her tongue out. "I'm trying to show Hisao that I'm working on being patient."

At this comment, I can't resist saying, "Patient enough to wait a whole two seconds. Impressive." Emi turns to me, her eyes wide, and then bursts out laughing, and the nurse and I both join in.

"Get going, Hisao," Emi says, shoving me playfully as I walk out the door, both of us still laughing. More than anything else that's happened today, that moment really felt like Emi was being herself, and I find myself smiling for a while afterwards. It gives me some hope that whatever's bothering her, it's going to work out all right.

Thinking about the conversations I just had, I really can't blame Emi for being shaken by the possibility of my heart acting up. If that really is what's bothering her, there's not much I can do about it. It's had an effect on both relationships I've had, and is going to have an effect on any I have in the future. It's not something I can ask anyone to live with, so if Emi decides that she can't...well, I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

After showering and taking my medications, I still have an hour or so before lunch. At first, I decide to try fixing the Kamisaka poster, but a survey of my desk drawers shows that I don't have any tape, so that will have to wait.

Rather than sit around, I decide to head over to the main building a little early. Maybe someone in one of the club rooms will have some tape. As I'm walking over, I spot a familiar figure a few dozen meters ahead of me. "Hey, Hanako!" I call out as I quicken my pace to catch up.

Hanako stops and looks back. "H-Hisao! I was just on m-my way..."

"So was I. Guess we might as well walk together."

"S-sure," Hanako says with a relieved smile, and she falls into step with me.

For a while, we walk side by side, neither of us saying anything. It's a bit unsettling given how we left things. Once we get to the main building, I break the silence. "Looks like neither of us brought anything for lunch. If you want, I can go to the cafeteria and get something for both of us while you start the tea."

"O-okay," she says.

We part company at the stairwell, since we're going in opposite directions. "See you in a bit," I call out with a wave, and Hanako waves back, an unreadable expression on her face.

As I make my way to the cafeteria, I try to get my own thoughts in order, hoping that we can at least communicate over lunch. When I get there, I take a quick look around for Yoshi, hoping to ask how things went with Yuuko yesterday. I don't see him, but I do see Noriko at a table with a few others, including a girl with long black hair who I think is in my class. I immediately head towards the counter, hoping she didn't see me.

After picking up our lunches, I turn to see Noriko winking at me. It's almost enough to make me put my lunch back down. Even worse, I see a couple of others at the table looking at me, then talking and laughing about...well, probably me, but hopefully not. Either way, I beat a hasty retreat.

I make my way up to the tea room, where Hanako is already placing the tea set. I sit down and put our lunches on the table while Hanako pours the tea. Our mutual silence continues as we eat, and it's easy to see that we're both nervous. I realize that if anyone's going to break the tension of these last few days, it's going to have to be me.

Time to stop being a leaf.

Once we finish eating, I start with the more pressing subject. "Misha said she told you Lilly was coming back. I'm sorry I didn't get the chance to tell you myself, and I know Lilly is, too."

Looking down, Hanako says, "It's not y-your fault. If I h-hadn't turned my phone off..." She takes a deep breath, then says, "I'm sorry, Hisao...I shouldn't have shut you out, but I...I just c-couldn't face you after...after what..."

I guess Pandora's box is open now.

"Don't worry about it. I'm the one who walked away from you, remember? After that, I thought we both needed some space, so I was planning on waiting until today to talk to you anyway. The only reason I even knew you weren't answering your phone is because Lilly told me."

Hanako looks back up at me, and her expression looks somewhat clouded. "So...when Lilly c-couldn't reach me, she got worried." There's a trace of what sounds like resignation in her voice, which seems strange. "I sh-should have expected that."

"What got me worried was the way she sounded when she was talking about it. It reminded me of...when she was in Scotland and you had shut yourself in your room."

By not mentioning her birthday directly, I'd hoped to avoid agitating Hanako. However, it seems to backfire, because as soon as I say that, Hanako's sits straight up and looks me in the eye with an almost frightened expression. "No! This wasn't anything like that!" I look at her expectantly, hoping for an explanation. She quickly looks away again and continues, "I...I just knew that I'd...m-made a mistake, and I...didn't want to talk to anyone."

...made a mistake...

"Hanako, tell me...why do you keep saying it was a mistake?"

"W-why? Because...it was a mistake." She looks up at me again, "W-wasn't it? You said you w-weren't...that we weren't..."

I lean back in my chair and sigh. "I don't know, really. I just know something didn't feel right to me, but maybe that was because I was confused." I close my eyes for a moment, trying to put my thoughts into words. "Ever since you confessed to me, I feel like something’s changed, and not just that I know about your feelings. It feels like you've been under some kind of pressure to move things forward in a way that doesn't feel...natural. I just don't understand why." I pause for a moment before asking, "Does that make sense?"

Still looking at me, Hanako nods. She then puts her head down, as though she's also trying to gather her thoughts. When she finally speaks, her voice is quiet, but clear. "When we were in Hokkaido, after Lilly confessed to you...you made love that same night. I...could hear some of it. I thought..." She hesitates a moment, and I think back to that night, when we thought Hanako was asleep. We hadn't even told her about our mutual confession yet. Recognition begins to dawn.

Then, she continues, a little less clearly. "I thought...y-you and Emi might have, too. I thought that...maybe you hadn't returned my f-feelings...b-because...because I hadn't...because we hadn't..."

Her voice trails off, and all I can do is bow my head. Her reasons for her actions over the last few days have suddenly become crystal clear. I know there's at least one thing I need to say in response, and I pick my head back up. I wait for Hanako to do the same.

After a few moments, she does, and I say, very deliberately, "Hanako, Emi and I haven't done that, either. That's a commitment I'm not ready to make with either of you, not yet." I reach out for Hanako's hand, and her breath catches slightly. "I know you're willing to be patient. Please, if you can, trust me to be patient, too."

Hanako nods, saying, "You were right, though, the other day. I...wasn't ready either, I just...thought I needed to be." I nod in response, but before I say anything else, she says, "Hisao, I want to make sure there are no more...misunderstandings, so...I want to tell you something." She takes a deep breath, and with visible effort moves her hand up to the lock of hair that covers the right side of her face, tucking it behind her ear before continuing. "I need you to know why...I avoid everyone around my...my birthday. I've...never told you why...that day is so painful for me, and I need you to know...so that you never think that's...what I'm going through."

Seeing the serious expression on Hanako's face, I lean forward to make sure she knows that all of my attention is on what she's about to say. "Okay, I'm listening."

"I've told you before about...what my life was like after the accident, about how everyone...t-treated me." I nod. Although I know she hasn't told me the whole story, I know she was bullied pretty badly. "Well, there was...one day out of the year when everyone pretended...that things were different. One day that...made me feel worse than any other day, because...I c-couldn't escape it. I knew it was a lie...I knew I d-didn't really matter...and I couldn't pretend."

Hanako takes another deep breath, and I reach out my other hand to take hers. I can only imagine what that must have been like. I remember the hollow feeling I had when I was in the hospital, when my old high school class sent me cards as a project, rather than out of any real feelings. Her experience must have been like that, but several orders of magnitude larger and more devastating.

After a moment, she continues, "Then, I came here, and...the bullying mostly stopped, but how that...how my b-birthday made me feel...didn't change. I was still a burden to Lilly, and to you...so I made sure I wasn't." I start to open my mouth to deny it, but she interrupts. "Maybe...the last part is different now," she says, a small smile briefly crossing her face. It quickly turns to a frown, though, as she continues, "B-but if Lilly was worried that...I was feeling that way again...then maybe I'm s-still a burden to her."

I shift uncomfortably at the direction this is taking. "I might just have been reading into it because of the similar circumstances. If Lilly knows what you just told me..." Hanako shakes her head to indicate otherwise. "Then maybe you need to tell her as well. I know with some certainty that Lilly never thought of you as a burden. You can talk to her about it yourself when she gets here. You will...come with me, right?"

Surprisingly, Hanako hesitates a bit before answering. "Okay. W-what time is her flight coming in?"

"Eight o'clock. We should probably try and get to the front gate no later than six."

Hanako's small smile returns, and she gets up. "In that case," she says as she brings out the chess set. "I w-was hoping we might...play a game or two?"

I return her smile, feeling comfortable in her presence for the first time in a while. As we set up the pieces, though, concern strikes me from a different corner. Some of the things Hanako said, some of her reactions to what I said, start me wondering whether Lilly coming back will be a good thing, for either of them. I idly move the white king's pawn to start the game.

I guess we'll have to take it as it comes.

~~~~

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Last edited by dewelar on Fri Mar 14, 2014 11:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 34 up 2/

Post by brythain » Tue Mar 04, 2014 1:06 am

Oh, excellent. It's like doing KS all over again but with new and wonderful things to discover. The juggling act, a polygon rather than a triangle: you're keeping a balance I would never be able to attempt myself.
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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 34 up 2/

Post by dewelar » Tue Mar 04, 2014 1:38 am

brythain wrote:Oh, excellent. It's like doing KS all over again but with new and wonderful things to discover. The juggling act, a polygon rather than a triangle: you're keeping a balance I would never be able to attempt myself.
Heh...it's been an interesting ride, to be sure. Looking forward to reading Lilly-3 tomorrow!

(Also, apologies for taking so long to update the thread title...)
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Re: Developments, Chapter 35

Post by forgetmenot » Tue Mar 04, 2014 1:46 am

dewelar wrote:I idly move the white king's pawn to start the game.
And it begins, not a moment too soon I might add. While the last few chapters (this one being no exception) have been very well-written, I'm glad the story is breaking out of its holding pattern and commencing its denouement, using Lilly as the catalyst. If this all goes how I think it will, then your pacing has been impeccable up until this point. Then again, I could easily be off-base and the story will still tie up nicely after lilting about in indecision for another 50 chapters.

Anyhow, good work, and I look forward to seeing how events unfold from here.

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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 35 up 3/

Post by Mirage_GSM » Tue Mar 04, 2014 6:21 am

I rather thought this chapter was throwing any progress from the last one out of the window and moving everything back to the state of equilibrium...
And the next chapter might change that from a two-party equilibrium to a three-party one.

As much as I like this story, take care not to drag it out too long.
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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 35 up 3/

Post by bhtooefr » Tue Mar 04, 2014 6:38 am

Well, this actually advanced quite a lot.

Hisao's realizing that Lilly and Hanako's relationship may turn quite toxic, he's talking with Hanako about their respective issues in an adult manner, and they're getting things out in the open, some of their deepest concerns.

Emi is shutting down and starting to push Hisao away even when she's not in a panic attack.

The balance swung a little towards Emi, then just swung HARD towards Hanako. (I'm ignoring the Lilly axis here.)
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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 35 up 3/

Post by Flarezium » Tue Mar 04, 2014 7:06 am

This story is interesting. I have a couple thoughts/questions, but for most of them I'll wait to see how things turn out.

There was one though: Why Yoshi? You know there's already a Blind guy who likes Yuuko who's in bro-mode with Hisao in the game, right? Why add another character who essentially fulfills the same purpose?

Anyway liking the story so-far. There aren't very many post Lilly neutral fics out there.
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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 35 up 3/

Post by Mahorfeus » Tue Mar 04, 2014 7:11 am

I figured that both girls are following their natural progression from their last respective PoV chapters.

Emi is following her downward spiral pattern, and Hanako opened up to Hisao more, which I assume is what she resolved to do at the end of the last chapter.
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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 35 up 3/

Post by Mirage_GSM » Tue Mar 04, 2014 7:49 am

Flarezium wrote:Why Yoshi? You know there's already a Blind guy who likes Yuuko who's in bro-mode with Hisao in the game, right? Why add another character who essentially fulfills the same purpose?
Because Kenji is not really the go-to guy for relationship problems?
Because fresh OCs are more interesting?
Because some authors don't like writing Kenji?
Because some readers don't like reading Kenji?
Because Hisao doesn't really like Kenji?
...

The list could continue, but I think I've covered the most obvious answers.
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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