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

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emmjay
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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 40 up 5/

Post by emmjay » Fri May 09, 2014 3:46 am

dewelar wrote:One of the themes for Hanako in this story is that she's made progress that she doesn't even realize she's made, and in fact denies to herself that she made it.
A lot of people don't realize how strong Hanako really is. The sad part? One of those people is Hanako herself.
Yuuko > Akira > Miki > Meiko > Sae.

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

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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 39 up 4/

Post by poopooface » Sun May 11, 2014 2:10 am

bhtooefr wrote:
Also, poor Yoshi. I've been in his shoes way too many times. :?
I've always been too direct. :lol:
Hanako>Lilly>Emi>Rin>Shizune

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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 40 up 5/

Post by poopooface » Sun May 11, 2014 10:30 am

So as it stands:
Lilly: Hanako-Hisao
Hanako: Hanako-Hisao
Shizune: Lilly-Hisao
Akira: Hanako-Hisao
Rin: Who the fuck knows
Misha: Hanako-Hisao/Lilly-Hisao
Hisao: Unsure (LIKE ITS BEEN FORTY CHAPTERS, OR 3 WEEKS. MORE THAN ENOUGH TIME TO DECIDE)
Emi: Emi-Hisao
Naomi: Hanako-Hisao
Natsume: Hanako-Hisao

But we probably have 200 chapters left at this rate, so that could completely change. :lol:
Hanako>Lilly>Emi>Rin>Shizune

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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 40 up 5/

Post by bhtooefr » Sun May 11, 2014 10:34 am

Actually, Emi's throwing the contest, and she's getting behind Hanako-Hisao.
dewelar (in Chapter 38) wrote:You really are a mess, Ibarazaki. Maybe Hisao really would be better off with Hanako. He'll live longer, and he won't have to deal with all your baggage.

...and...she'd be better off with him.

"...you'll do what you think is right..."


I can't do that, though, because I had to make that stupid promise not to give him up for her.

Well, I guess I just need to get him to give me up. That, at least, is an area I have some experience in.

I just need to get history to repeat itself.
And I'm starting to get the impression that Misha's actually gotten off the Lilly-Hisao ship entirely, now, given that she wouldn't even translate for Shizune.
bhtooefr's one-shot and drabble thread
Enjoy The Silence - Sequel to All I Have (complete)
Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfucking zombies on this motherfucking forum!

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Endofone
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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 40 up 5/

Post by Endofone » Fri May 16, 2014 5:08 pm

I haven't been back here for a couple of months and I am pleased to see where this is going. The story is very tantalizing; I'd like to know the ending romance! Keep up the good work though dewelar.

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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 40 up 5/

Post by dewelar » Sat May 17, 2014 10:42 am

Fair warning, folks: Chapter 41 is going to be my longest chapter to date. My previous longest one was ~5600 words. This one has already gone over 6K, and the editing/rewriting process (which should start sometime today) usually adds 10-20% to the word count. Hopefully it won't take more than a few days to finish.

*re-applies nose to grindstone*
Rin is orthogonal to everything.
Stuff I've written: Developments, a continuation of Lilly's (bad? neutral?) ending - COMPLETE!

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Developments, Chapter 41

Post by dewelar » Thu May 22, 2014 12:34 am

Between browsing through the stacks and eating in the café, I'm not sure how long I spent in the bookstore. It had to have been several hours, though, because by the time I get back to my room, it's already been dark for a while. I put the bag with today's purchases on my desk and stow my new umbrella in its sleeve against the wall. I glance at the latter, and instantly the voice of the person who reminded me to buy it echoes in my head.

"Hisao, I know you want to know what's bothering me, so I'll tell you straight. It's you, Hisao. You're bothering me. And...and I just wish you'd stop."

Her words continue to cut through me like the lightning through the sky outside. I'd stayed in the bookstore as long as I did mainly to wait out this rain, but also in the hope that immersing myself in that comforting place would help put Emi and her words out of my mind, if only for a while. Obviously, it was a pretty dramatic failure.

I change out of my damp clothes as I take another stab at making sense of our encounter. Whatever's bothering Emi, I've been trying to show her that I'm going to leave it be for now. The problem is that it's gotten to the point where the subject doesn't even have to come up before she swats it down. Today was the second time it's happened, and it almost made me think that it's not worth the trouble. However, all it took was for me to remember how I feel when I do get to spend time with her and that thought ran away like...well, like it was the Fastest Thing on No Legs.

I guess it's just another example of what the last few weeks have been like for me. I finally have an idea of the path I want to take, but I can't actually take it. Maybe I waited too long – after all, Emi keeps saying that she's not good at being patient. Still, she also said that if I could pick up my pace, she'd be willing to meet me somewhere in the middle. I just wish I knew where that middle was.

...if it even still exists.

Actually, I don't think that's it. I'm fairly sure there's something deeper causing her to push me away. If that something really is me somehow, whether she can't deal with my heart condition or there's something else that I don't know about, then there's not much I can do until she tells me what it is. So, I'll be at the track tomorrow, and keep being at the track every morning until she's ready to talk about it. As long as she keeps showing up, then I know she's not shutting me out entirely, and that's all I can ask right now.

I just need to stop thinking about this.

Just as I'm about to open one of the books I bought today, my phone rings. I recognize Lilly's number, and I remember there was the possibility of a tea party tonight. It's a bit later than I remember them starting, but I could definitely use the company right now. "Hello?"

"Good evening, Hisao."

"Hi, Lilly. It's a good thing you still have your old phone number or I might not have answered."

Lilly laughs a bit, but it sounds sad for some reason. "There was still time on the plan when I left, so I thought perhaps I might give it to someone. Now it seems I'll be needing it myself after all. If nothing else good comes out of my return, at least I won't have to go through the hassle of getting a new one."

I can't help but notice that Lilly doesn't quite sound like herself, and that last statement worries me. "Nothing else good...Lilly, what's going on?"

Lilly sighs heavily. "Hisao, I'm afraid there won't be a tea party this evening. I...don't think I'll be joining you and Hanako for lunch tomorrow either."

If that's the case, things must really be serious. "Did something happen between you and Hanako? After what you said this morning, I..."

Lilly interrupts me, saying, "Perhaps it's best if I explain that to you in person. It seems...there's a lot I need to discuss as well. Would you be willing to meet me at the front gate at two o'clock tomorrow afternoon?"

"Yeah, I should be able to do that. I've got to say, though, you sound like you've been through the wringer. Are you sure you don't want to talk about things now?"

Lilly laughs sadly again. "'Going through the wringer' sounds like a pretty accurate description of today. Actually, that's why I don't think we should talk now. I'm quite tired, and I'm afraid I might say something I shouldn't."

That sounds like Lilly, all right – always wanting to be able to put up her best appearance. "Okay, then. Get some sleep, and I'll see you tomorrow."

"Thank you, Hisao, and you sleep well, too."

"Good night, Lilly." I hang up the phone and pick up my book again, if for no other reason than to block my view of the blank ceiling. After reading for a while I start to doze off, but just before I fall asleep a stray thought crosses my mind.

Tomorrow is going to be a LONG day.

* * * *

I wake up the next morning and get dressed as quickly as I can. My intention is not to dwell on anything in my immediate future, and especially my immediate immediate future. I step out of the dormitory and take a few deep breaths of the cold, moist air. My head as clear as it's going to be, I make my way down to the track.

The fog is so thick this morning I can barely see the track as I come over the top of the hill. I do, however, see a small figure in pink and red standing next to the bleachers, already stretching. When I reach the bottom of the hill, Emi shoots me a sideways glance, but when I try to catch her eye she quickly looks away. "Morning, Hisao," Emi says, sounding almost like her usual self. "You ready to run?"

The clash of wills begins again.

"Yeah, I'm ready," I say, starting on my own stretching. Emi continues to avoid my gaze, and after a minute or so of eye-chasing I give up. Instead of what I'd wanted to say, I settle for, "Honestly, I wasn't even sure you'd be here this morning."

Emi sighs dramatically, looking offended by my remark. "Hisao, just because you've been annoying me doesn't mean I want you to keel over or anything. I told you I don't like people who give up on things, and I..." Emi stops, and swallows whatever else it is she was going to say. "Anyway, if you're finished stretching, let's get out on the track!"

Before I have the opportunity to respond, she's already making her way out, so I have no choice but to follow. The first four laps of my routine follow the pattern of the past few days, with Emi keeping the same close watch on me. Whatever ideas she had yesterday about increasing my pace seem to have been forgotten, as the only feedback I get from her is an occasional nod.

Once lap four is done, Emi takes one last, wordless glance back at me before taking off on her sprints. At first I try to watch her as I usually do, but once she gets around the turn the fog turns her into little more than a pink-and-red blur. I turn my focus to my own running, picking my pace up slightly. Just as I'm hitting the final stretch, I begin to feel the runner's high, only to lose it again when I have to slow down a few strides later. I watch Emi zip past me once more as I start my cool-down.

Well, captain, I didn't keel over on you, did I?

After another lap or two, Emi joins me. "You looked a lot better out there today, Hisao," she says with a satisfied smile. "You had me a little worried yesterday, but I think pretty soon you're not going to need me out here at all."

The sound of those words feels a lot like yesterday's thunderstorm. "Emi, whether I need you or not, I want you to run with me. I don't know how long I'd be able to keep it up by myself."

Emi looks troubled for a split second, but it turns into a look of determination, like the one I sometimes see during her sprints. "I know that, Hisao. It's like I said before, it's easier to have someone else there, but...it can't always be like that." She turns away from me again, staring straight ahead. "When the break ends, I...may not be able to run with you anymore. The track captain asked me to help him with coaching the wheelchair team next trimester, and I'm going to have a lot of other work to do, too. Hopefully, you'll be able to keep things up on your own by then, but if not, let me or Nurse know and we'll get you someone else to help you."

This takes me by surprise, so much so that I can't even respond. Has she known this all along, and that's why she's been pushing me away? No, she'd have known about this before we even started running together, so why keep it from me?

But then...that would be a lot like what Lilly did to me...

As I try to push that thought from my mind, I notice that Emi is already moving off the track. "Come on, Hisao, we've got to get to the nurse! I'm going first this time, so don't worry about catching up!" She's already halfway up the hill by the time I get to the bleachers, so once again all I can do is follow, shaking my head.

When I walk into the auxiliary building, I'm just in time to hear the door to the nurse's office closing. With nothing else to occupy it, my mind fills with thoughts about yesterday, this morning, and whether history is repeating itself. Fortunately, I don't have time to dwell on things, because it's only a few minutes later that the door opens again and the Fastest Thing on No Legs dashes past me. I'm left watching her retreating form, as the sonic boom left in her wake sounds like, "Gotta run! See ya tomorrow, Hisao!"

I hope she doesn't mean the first part of that literally.

I enter the nurse's office and sit down for my examination. Before he can say anything, I comment, "Well, that was quick."

Nurse nods, looking both bemused and frustrated. "Yes, it was," he replies. "I take it things haven't changed with you two since yesterday."

"No, they have," I say with a rueful smile. "They've gotten worse." Nurse raises an eyebrow and frowns. "I ran into Emi on the bus into the city yesterday. At first things seemed fine, but then when we got to her stop, without me even saying anything she said that if I wanted to know what was bothering her, that it was me." The nurse's frown deepens, and he nods at me to go on. "Then, this morning, she barely even talked to me, except to say that once the break is over she doesn't think she'll be able to run with me." I sigh dejectedly. "Am I missing something here? I've been trying not to ask about her problems, but now she's telling me to stop before I even get a chance."

"Hmmm...that's troublesome, especially the part about her not running with you. I don't need to tell you that it's not as though she'd stop running altogether."

"No, I know how much it means to her. So, this is just the excuse she's using to avoid me."

Nurse nods again. "I've seen her do this sort of thing before, too. Still, saying that you're what's bothering her isn't exactly off the mark. It just may not be the way you think."

That...does nothing but confuse me further. "I'm not sure I follow you."

"You're a smart guy," he says, "at least, I think so. Maybe all that running is shaking up your head too much," he adds with a wink. "In the meantime, since you haven't had any issues for a while, you can probably stop coming in every day, unless, of course, you notice anything unusual."

"Okay, sounds good," I say as I get up to leave.

However, the nurse says something else that stops me in my tracks. "Mind you, I won't stop you from coming in, either," he says with another wink and a grin, and...I think I understand what he means.

"Got it," I say, returning his grin, and start on my way back to the dorms.

After taking my shower and medications, there's still some time before I'd usually meet Hanako, so I pick up the book I started last night and try to relax. Unfortunately I don't find myself getting immersed, so instead of brute-forcing my way through I decide to go down to the tea room a little early. On the off chance that Lilly does come, I think I'd rather be walked in on than the other way around.

I stop by the cafeteria to pick up my lunch. The place is nearly deserted, which for today is a good thing. When I get to the tea room, there's nobody there either, which isn't surprising since I'm about an hour earlier than usual. I set my lunch on the table and sit down, but barely five minutes later the door opens and Hanako walks in. "Hisao!" she exclaims, her surprise evident in her voice. "I...wasn't sure if y-you'd come today..."

"Is there some reason I wouldn't?" I ask, legitimately puzzled.

"I thought...if you had talked to Lilly last night, that...she might have..." Hanako's voice trails off as she sits down, and she immediately starts pulling at the lock of hair that covers her right eye. Whatever happened between her and Lilly, it obviously has Hanako on edge.

"I did talk to her, actually, but she was pretty evasive about things. Then again, that's pretty typical for her."

Hanako looks down at the table, her hand covering her face in a gesture I haven't seen in a long time. I brace myself for whatever she's about to say, but nothing could prepare me for what she says next. "She...she still l-loves you, Hisao."

I freeze, not believing what I just heard. When I can finally speak again, I stammer out, "She...she...what?"

"Yesterday," Hanako says, her voice wavering, "L-Lilly told me that...that when she had time to think about things in Scotland...she realized that she still...loves you."

That time, I know what I heard, and it hits me like a ton of bricks. I collapse against the back of my chair, nearly tipping it over. I look at Hanako, and she's looking up at me again, her face still half-hidden. I want to say something to her, but right now my lips won't even form words.

"H-Hisao? Are you...okay?" Hanako says, sounding scared, and I realize that she might think I'm having another heart flutter. Somewhat to my surprise, I'm not.

"Yeah, I'm fine...physically anyway," I say, and Hanako relaxes slightly. "I just...I didn't expect that." As for me, the shock is wearing off, and is slowly being replaced by irritation. "But then, that's the story of my life lately, one hit between the eyes after another. Just when I think I've recovered from one, the next one hits me out of the blue and starts the cycle all over again!"

I stand up abruptly, the chair screeching as it slides across the floor. I feel like I need to say more, but then I'd just be taking it out on Hanako, which isn't right. Instead, I turn to face the sink, and start working on preparing the tea. "I'm sorry," I say as I try and focus on the particulars of the preparation. "I didn't mean to snap at you. It's not..." I'm about to say it's not her fault, but in the end I realize that part of it is. I decide it's better to stop talking altogether.

When I finally turn back around with the tray, I realize why Hanako hasn't responded to me. Her arms are on the table, her face buried in them, and the sounds of soft sobbing are coming from within. I put the tray down as gently as I can and bring my chair around to sit next to her.

"Hanako, I'm sorry, I didn't mean..."

"Stop apologizing, damn it!" she says, lifting her head as she does. What I can see of her face is red, from tears...and from anger of her own. I can't help but flinch a bit. "I don't need you to take the blame for me! I know all of this is my fault! I've screwed up everything...I screwed up with you, now I screwed up with L-Lilly...but...that's just who I am, right?" Hanako pauses to take a ragged breath. "I'm someone who's not worth dealing with in the first place, so when I screw up, I might as well just walk away from everybody!"

Looking into Hanako's face and seeing the anguish written on it, I have to catch myself before apologizing again. While I don't know the source of this, exactly, I can definitely relate to it, given my own feelings. Hanako doesn't say anything else, slumping backward in her chair. I move my own chair closer and put my arm around her shoulders. She leans into me, still shaking a bit, and I stroke her hair to try and help calm her down. After a few moments, I ask, "Do you want to talk?"

Hanako nods, but doesn't move from where she is when she starts. "When we were walking to town, I tried to get Lilly to talk...a-about Scotland, about her feelings, but she wouldn't. She was...being evasive about everything, just like with you...and she kept trying to...turn the conversation back to me. Eventually...I let her, hoping that...we would come back to her later...that we'd both share with each other."

"But it didn't happen that way, right?"

"It did, but only because I...forced the issue," Hanako says, sighing sadly. "While we were at The Shanghai I...heard her talking to Shizune. She...said something about coming back...to undo mistakes. Shizune asked her...if she was talking about you, but Lilly didn't answer. I just...kind of...kept pushing until...she told me." Hanako buries her face in my chest, saying, "I just w-wanted her to think she could...talk to me. I th-thought I could handle...whatever she said, but..." As Hanako takes a breath, I can feel the warmth of her tears coming through my shirt. "Why did she...if sh-she didn't know how...how she felt...why did she tell me I could...I d-don't understand, Hisao...I DON'T UNDERSTAND ANYTHING!"

Hanako's grip on me tightens with the outburst, and I can't even tell what she's saying anymore. I just know that right now, all I can do is let her let this out. After a little while, she starts to calm down again. "I-I'm the one who should be sorry, Hisao. I...wanted Lilly to help me understand...what I'm doing wrong, but...but all I could think about was how...she never let me help her. Then...when it happened again...I walked away from her. I h-haven't even tried to talk to her...since then."

"You know, that...ugh, I just realized that Lilly asked me to meet her this afternoon, too. She said she had a lot she wanted to discuss. After what you just told me..."

Hanako looks up at me again, a worried look on her face. "You don't think she's g-going to..."

I sigh in response. "I doubt it. Whatever else Lilly might be, she isn't vindictive, and she wouldn't intentionally hurt you."

Hanako nods in agreement. "You're right, but...are you sure you're ready to...face her?"

I take a deep breath and let it out slowly. "No, I'm not sure. I just know I won't be able to avoid her for long, so maybe I shouldn't bother trying." I shift in my chair slightly to face Hanako. "Besides, I did tell her yesterday that I wanted to talk to her. I don't really want to explain why I might not want to meet her now."

"You...saw Lilly yesterday?"

"Yeah, when I was coming back from my morning run, she was coming down to the auxiliary building. She said she was going to talk to you about meeting with me this afternoon. She didn't tell you?"

"No," Hanako replies, "she never said anything about it. Maybe...I just didn't give her the chance." Hanako sits up straight, disengaging from me, and says, "You're right, though. You probably should...meet with her."

I look at Hanako, slightly surprised, but what she said reminds me of the other reason I wanted to meet with Lilly in the first place: to find out for myself if I still have any lingering feelings of my own. "Thanks," I say. "After everything that's happened, it would be good for us both to know where we stand with each other."

"And...where is that?" Hanako asks, trying to sound nonchalant.

"As far as I'm concerned, in the same place we stood an hour ago, before you told me any of this. I have no intention of returning her feelings." I get up from my chair and pick up the teapot. "We should probably eat our lunch soon, but this has to be getting cold by now. I'll make a fresh batch."

"And...what about Emi?" Hanako asks, the same odd tone in her voice. "Where do you think you stand...with her?"

"I...don't know," I say bowing my head. "Something's been bothering her lately, and she won't talk to me about it."

"That sounds familiar," Hanako says with an awkward laugh.

"It does, doesn't it?" I say, joining in the laughter. "Anyway, yesterday, she told me that what was bothering her was me. I'm not even sure exactly what she meant by it, and I don't think she's inclined to tell me. This morning, she barely even talked to me. I feel like she's been pulling away from me, and I don't understand why." I sigh heavily and look back at Hanako. "Maybe I don't understand anything either."

After a moment's silence, Hanako says in a quiet voice, "Maybe...I could talk to her."

I open my mouth, intending to object, but then I remember Emi checking in on Hanako the other day, and wonder if maybe it would be a good idea. "If you think it would help, then...why not?"

"It's the least I can do for her. She was...concerned for me, so I can't be any less. Besides...maybe it'll keep you from having to worry about her."

Hanako smiles at me, and I feel...a little bit warmer, somehow. She gets up and comes over to where I'm standing and looks me in the eye as she tucks her fringe behind her ear. "Hisao, I just want you to know that...if something was bothering me, I'd always tell you. I told you before...I d-don't ever want to hide anything from you again. Promise me that you'll always...remember that."

It suddenly strikes me how close Hanako is standing to me, and how much I find myself...reacting to that fact. After what I've been through with Lilly, what I'm going through with Emi, there's something undeniably appealing about what Hanako just said. "I promise," just barely makes it out of my mouth before my lips are drawn to hers. The kiss is gentle, soft, warm...and a part of me wishes it would never end.

However, end it does, interrupted by the tea kettle going off. When we finally do separate, Hanako says, still smiling, "That...wasn't a mistake."

I smile back gently. "You're right, it wasn't. Now, what would be a mistake is wasting a second pot of tea."

I reach for the kettle, and Hanako gives my hand a squeeze before sitting down. I bring the other chair back to the other side of the table, and the two of us start our lunch. After finishing, we play a quick game of chess. It's obvious that neither of our minds is focused on it – mine even less so than hers, since I wind up losing pretty badly. All too soon, it's time for me to go and meet Lilly. I give Hanako a hug before departing, and my heart feels lighter than it has in a while.

When I get to the first floor, I hesitate for a moment in the hallway outside the stairwell. Second thoughts about the wisdom of meeting with Lilly right now start to creep into my mind. I've been saying for days that I'm over Lilly, but hearing that she still loves me planted a seed of doubt. I pull out my cell phone, ready to call her and cancel our meeting, but then I put it back in my pocket.

All the more reason to make sure that seed isn't going to germinate.

I need to find out, once and for all, whether my feelings for Lilly are gone, or just laying dormant because I thought she wasn't coming back. Both Emi and Hanako have encouraged me to do it, and frankly there's never going to be a better time than today. Thus resolved, I make my way down to the front gate, and maybe my pace is just a little bit quicker now.

Once I'm through the gate, I quickly spot Lilly standing a short distance off to my right. "Hi, Lilly," I say as I walk over to her. "Looks like I'm on time," I add, trying to sound neutral.

Lilly turns in my direction and smiles faintly. "Good afternoon, Hisao," she says, sounding a good deal more normal than she did last night. "I thought we might take a walk down to The Shanghai, if you're feeling up to it."

"I'd been wondering where you'd been planning to go, but...why there of all places?"

"Isn't it enough that I like visiting it?" she says, taking mock offense at my question. After that, though, her smile fades until it's almost imperceptible. "I also wouldn't mind the opportunity to banish some bad memories, which I seem to be accumulating of late. However, I would understand if you would prefer to go elsewhere."

"No, that's fine," I say truthfully. "I wouldn't know where else to go anyway." It does seem fitting, in a way, to be going back to the place where I first realized our relationship was ending. "Shall we get going?" I ask, and Lilly nods. Just as I turn to start walking down the road, out of the corner of my eye I see Lilly reach her hand out towards my arm, but then slowly pull it back. For a moment, I feel a twinge in my chest, but it passes quickly.

Neither of us says anything at first, but once we're out of sight of Yamaku, Lilly says, "I know you just came from having lunch with Hanako. There are...some things that I told her yesterday that I probably should have asked her not to mention." I reel a bit from hearing Lilly broach the subject out of the blue, so I don't respond immediately.

Okay, I'm starting to feel a bit punch-drunk now...

After thinking about it for a moment, I decide it's best to approach it head-on. "If you're talking about your feelings for me, then yes, she did tell me." I pause for a moment before adding, "That...complicates things just a bit, doesn't it?"

"I would think so," Lilly says with a sigh. The faint smile never leaves her face, though, as she adds, "This is your last chance to turn around without hurting my feelings, Hisao. You'd have every right to do so."

"I'll be honest, when Hanako told me, I almost called you and cancelled, but I decided not to." I take a deep breath before continuing, "Does it make you uncomfortable?"

Lilly giggles slightly. "Don't be silly, Hisao. Of course it does. Still, I do appreciate your honesty, and if we're both uncomfortable then at least we're on equal footing." She pauses, and her expression darkens. "I just wish it could have been so easy with Hanako."

I catch myself nodding before I remember to speak my response, "She was pretty upset about what happened between you two yesterday, and she blames herself for it."

"I don't doubt it. She's quite good at doing that." Lilly bows her head slightly, then adds, "I think all three of us are, aren't we?"

"That we are," I say with a sigh. "Well, in this case I'd say there's more than enough blame to go around for what's happened these past few weeks."

"I...can't deny that. We are a bunch of right old fools, after all."

"Playing at being adults?"

Lilly smiles again, but it's an odd sort of smile. "Actually, not so long ago I came to the conclusion that it was never exactly playing. I think we were all looking for someone in our lives to guide us, and we did our best to be that for each other." Lilly laughs ruefully as she continues, "We just weren't all that good at it. I think even Akira's come to that conclusion about herself. We all have people we think we can lean on, but when that support disappears, we take what we can get, from whoever will give it."

At first, I think she's talking about coming back here, leaving Akira and the rest of her family behind. However, thinking about it, she could just as easily mean what happened to Hanako and me when she left Yamaku. We both depended on her for a lot, and her departure left a hole in both our lives that in some ways, I think we're both still trying to fill. For Hanako, that was the second such loss – much less painful than the first, but certainly traumatic in its own right.

No wonder she's so concerned that everything she does is a mistake.

"Hisao?!" Lilly shouts to me, and I look back to see her stopped several yards behind me. I'd been so preoccupied with thinking about the situation that I walked right past where we needed to turn to get to The Shanghai. When I rejoin her, she says, "I was going to apologize for being so quiet, but it seems I wasn't the only one lost in thought." She smiles again, and this time it isn't quite as sad.

"Well, that is another thing we're all good at, isn't it?" I say, trying to keep my own voice light. Lilly hums her agreement as we walk into the tea house. Lilly's typical slower pace means that the walk here wasn't too taxing, but it will still feel good to sit down and rest for a bit. An unfamiliar server greets us and leads us to a booth. As she takes our order, I try to think of the last time I was in here and didn't see Yuuko, but I can't remember it happening.

As we're waiting for our tea to arrive, the continuing silence starts to make me feel restless. I decide to take advantage of the opportunity to act on Emi's suggestion from yesterday, and focus my attention on Lilly. It's not a difficult task, as Lilly is still one of the most beautiful visions I've ever had the pleasure of viewing.

But...what do I FEEL?

I close my own eyes, and the first thing that flashes in front of me is the moment Lilly told me she was leaving. I remember the promise I made to her in the wheat field, and that even then she knew she might not be able to keep a similar promise if I'd asked it of her that same day.

I search myself for leftover feelings of betrayal, or animosity, and I find none.

The wheat field stays in my mind's eye, and our mutual confession, held back unnecessarily. I remember the far-too-few days that followed, the burning passion that we shared, so bright it nearly killed me, literally, and perhaps figuratively as well.

I search myself for leftover feelings of that desire, of the aching that I felt when I was deprived of it after that day...

...and I find...

...none.

Another image flickers in front of me, but it passes by too quickly as I'm disturbed by the sound of tea cups being placed on our table. Once the server leaves, I hear Lilly's voice asking, "What were you doing just now, Hisao?"

I open my eyes, blinking a couple of times, to see Lilly leaning forward, concern on her face. Still trying to make sense of what I just felt, I try to pass off the question. "I'm...not sure what you mean."

"I heard your breathing change, but you weren't saying anything. You're not having problems with your heart, are you?"

I should have expected her to notice something like that. "Oh, no, nothing like that," I reply. "I was just thinking."

"Hmmm...I don't know about that," she returns with a smile. "That's not how you normally sound when you're just thinking."

"You're too good at that sometimes," I say, half-jokingly. "You're right, I wasn't just thinking. I was...well, I guess the best way to put it is that I was performing an experiment."

"Hisao Nakai, ever the scientist," Lilly says teasingly.

I chuckle, then say, "Well, scientists must always test their theories when there's new data to be examined."

"New data?" Lilly says, her brow furrowing. After a moment, though, a look of comprehension spreads across her face. "So, tell me, what did this new data reveal?"

Looking at her now, I'm suddenly reluctant to answer that question. I know very well what's behind it, but I've never had to do what I have to do now. I brace myself as I say, "Nothing new, I'm afraid. It just...confirmed my existing theory."

Lilly lets out a breath that I didn't know she'd been holding and inclines her head slightly. She picks up her teacup and takes a drink from it, then a second one, before putting it back down. When she does, her placid, empty smile has returned to her face. "I understand," she says evenly. "Was that the expected result, then?"

Well, Hisao, there's your closure. Maybe it can be hers as well.

I stare down at my own cup of tea, and I find myself feeling a bit empty as well. A part of me is reliving that moment from three weeks ago, right down to the reflection staring back at me from the surface of the liquid. This time, though, I'm on the other side of the equation, and I need to make sure that things don't disintegrate like they did before. We were supposed to have a lot to discuss, but I find myself searching frantically for a topic until I light on something Hanako mentioned.

I lean back against the seat, which feels oddly cold, and say, "So...um...you still haven't told me what happened when you told your parents you were coming back. Hanako said you didn't tell her either, so...I was...curious."

My voice trails off because instead of helping, the change of subject only seems to have troubled Lilly further. "I suppose there's no reason not to tell you now," she says with a heavy sigh. "What happened, Hisao, was a fine example of supreme dramatic irony. My parents, it seems, were testing me."

"Testing you..." I parrot, not sure where this is going.

"Apparently," Lilly says, showing a brief flash of anger, "my father wanted me to refuse the summons in order to show my independence. My mother..." Lilly laughs bitterly, "my mother thought I would stay in Japan out of my feelings for you."

I thought I'd been close to reaching the limits of my capacity to be surprised, but this pushes me to a whole new level. "I...can understand why you wouldn't have wanted to mention that," I say lamely.

Lilly smiles wryly at me, then quietly says, "I might have, you know."

Still trying to get my bearings, I valiantly rally my mental faculties. It results in me saying, "Might have...what?"

Lilly says nothing for a few moments, sipping her tea, and now it's my turn for belated comprehension. Just as I'm about to respond, though, she simply says, "Never mind. Right now, I'm more interested in what's happening with you and Hanako. You gave me the impression that things were a bit rocky between you."

While I'm happy to put the other topic behind me, this one is only a bit less perilous. I suppose it's only fair, though. "True, things haven't exactly been smooth. I just...wasn't ready for some of the things that happened."

Lilly hums faintly in agreement. "Hanako told me about what happened the other day," she says, her expression unchanging. "You showed...admirable restraint, I think."

"Maybe," I say, thinking that I probably could have shown more. "I'm still not sure where things are going to go from here, but I think I'm getting closer to an answer. Still, just once, it would be good to have some time to think about these things, you know?"

Lilly looks wistful for a moment, then says, "I understand. I think Hanako might be starting to understand as well. This is, after all, her first relationship, and the only guide she has is the one relationship she witnessed first-hand. Between that, and feeling as though she's having to compete with a certain track star, it shouldn't be too surprising that she thinks she needs to...move things along, as it were."

For the first time in a while, I feel like I'm seeing Lilly in her element again. She's always been most comfortable playing the shepherdess, guiding the strays like us toward something better. It's fascinating in its own way. "I know that now. But, things might be even more up in the air with Emi right now." I close my eyes and lean my head back, remembering the events of this morning. As I do, the vision that I saw earlier, but didn't quite see, comes back, and this time I know exactly what it is.

...a blur of pink and red...

"Something's been bothering her," I continue, "and she's starting to avoid me so that I won't ask her what it is. Now I just want her to know that I'm there for her, but she won't even let me get the words out."

"Maybe she has a reason she wants to keep it from you. Maybe she thinks what's bothering her would cause you pain if she told you about it."

I sigh in frustration. "I suppose that's possible, but I don't want her to feel like she needs to worry about that. I want her to be able to share anything with me, and it kind of hurts that she won't, you know?"

Lilly's face turns thoughtful as she picks up her cup and drains it. "I think your problem with Emi sounds a lot like how Hanako thinks about her relationship with me. Admittedly, I never thought to compare myself to Emi, but it seems we may have more in common than I would have expected. I...really have been derelict in my duties toward Hanako, haven't I?"

"That's not really for me to say. Still, it wouldn't hurt if you showed her you're willing to trust in her more than you have."

Lilly sighs, saying, "That's as good as a confirmation coming from you, Hisao. In return, I'll tell you something as well: I believe you're closer to understanding your feelings for both Hanako and Emi than you think you are."

"What do you mean?"

"Hisao, maybe you haven't changed all that much after all," Lilly says, her sad tone returning. "Your problem is that you don't have enough trust in yourself. It's...something I'm still trying to learn, but I think it applies to you, too. You depended on me too much when we were together. Some of that was my fault, I know, but..."

"I know. It's something I've been trying to work out, but it feels like I'm walking into the teeth of a typhoon sometimes."

Lilly laughs a bit, saying, "In that case, may we both be more successful at it in the days to come."

"Agreed," I say with a chuckle of my own.

"In the meantime," she says as she runs her fingers across her watch, "I need to get back soon. The rest of my things should be arriving from Scotland this evening, and I need to be there to receive them."

"Do you need a hand with anything?"

Lilly smiles warmly and lays a hand on mine, saying, "I appreciate the offer, Hisao, but if I do need help, I think there's someone else I should ask. Besides," she continues, unfolding her cane and getting out of the booth, "like you, what I need right now is some time to think about things. If you don't mind, I think I'd like to walk back by myself."

"That's understandable," I reply, feeling a bit guilty for being relieved. "Just...take care of yourself, all right?"

Lilly giggles. "I'll do the best I can, and please, you do the same. Good afternoon, Hisao."

"Talk to you later," I reply.

As Lilly walks away, I finish off the cup of tea in front of me, then order a second one along with a sandwich. Once I feel like I've given Lilly plenty of space, I start back as well. I take my time walking up the road, glad to have a bit of space of my own. I quickly decide that this is a better setting for thinking than staring at a blank ceiling.

If I keep doing this, maybe all this thinking might lead me somewhere other than around in circles.

~~~~

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Last edited by dewelar on Tue Jun 24, 2014 4:00 am, edited 2 times in total.
Rin is orthogonal to everything.
Stuff I've written: Developments, a continuation of Lilly's (bad? neutral?) ending - COMPLETE!

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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 41 up 5/

Post by brythain » Thu May 22, 2014 12:58 am

Urgh. Wonderful as usual but… my reading fits this pattern a bit.

"If I keep doing this, maybe all this reading might lead me somewhere other than around in circles." :D

Probably triangles. Or rectangles...
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 41 up 5/

Post by dewelar » Thu May 22, 2014 1:09 am

brythain wrote:Urgh. Wonderful as usual but… my reading fits this pattern a bit.

"If I keep doing this, maybe all this reading might lead me somewhere other than around in circles." :D

Probably triangles. Or rectangles...
Or squares, if you're Rin. :D

And seriously, how the hell did I just write 7000+ words? I must be crazy...
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Stuff I've written: Developments, a continuation of Lilly's (bad? neutral?) ending - COMPLETE!

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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 41 up 5/

Post by brythain » Thu May 22, 2014 1:12 am

dewelar wrote:And seriously, how the hell did I just write 7000+ words? I must be crazy...
It is a craziness that we have all come to appreciate, and which appreciates itself with time… :)
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 41 up 5/

Post by hyroglyphixs » Thu May 22, 2014 2:14 am

Welp. There goes any possible rekindling between Hisao and Lilly.. I'm pretty sad that that had to happen to my favourite girl, but I can understand why you went down this route.

Every chapter has been steering the story more and more towards a Hanako "ending", but I still think that Emi will end up being the one to end up with Hisao. I say this because all these elements from Emi's own route in the game are now surfacing and I think that with Hanako's upcoming talk with her combined with a possible Lilly-Emi conversation (Lilly did say that she and Emi had more in common that she thought) Emi will be back to her old self again.

I also say this because an Emi ending would make the most sense. Hanako and Lilly's once unbreakable relationship is in shambles and the only way that it could recover would be Hanako not getting with Hisao. If she did, Lilly would only feel resentment towards her. On the other hand, if Hisao ends up with Emi, Lilly and Hanako can build upon the fact that they both "lost" Hisao and have a possible stepping-stone to reform their friendship.
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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 41 up 5/

Post by poopooface » Thu May 22, 2014 2:38 am

Fantastic read as always, can't wait for the next installment. At that point we may actually get somewhere. :lol:
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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 41 up 5/

Post by Mavensage » Thu May 22, 2014 2:43 am

Hisao only needs to end up with Emi if the author wants a certain kind of neat-and-everything-all-wrapped-up ending. Life doesn't work that way and Emi could easily serve as the lesson to the others about what happens when you refuse to deal with your problems.

I personally don't think Lilly would resent Hanako if she won Hisao. She may feel sad but Lilly will blame herself for her own poor choices as she is already beginning to do.

Although there are elements of Emi's route beginning to show there are also differences. At this point it could go either way or the author could really surprise us with something unexpected.

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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 41 up 5/

Post by Lost In The Fire » Thu May 22, 2014 2:43 am

hyroglyphixs wrote: On the other hand, if Hisao ends up with Emi, Lilly and Hanako can build upon the fact that they both "lost" Hisao and have a possible stepping-stone to reform their friendship.
That is assuming their friendship does need to reform. This may come across as cold, but some of the closest friendship sometimes just can't be mended when enough of the small damage is done over a long period of time.

Any way, great chapter dewelar.

Seems like everyone but Hisao and may be Shizune are getting on the Hanako ship. Interesting.
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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Chapter 41 up 5/

Post by bhtooefr » Thu May 22, 2014 4:06 am

Seems like Hanako's starting to win Hisao over here, by explicitly not making Lilly and Emi's mistakes, and telling Hisao that she won't make those mistakes, to be honest.

And, what's rather telling is that the reason why Emi was starting to win, was that Hisao was able to feel at ease with her, and always on guard with Hanako. Now that's not the case, and he's starting to feel at ease with Hanako, to the point that they can share a kiss and conclusively say that it wasn't a mistake.
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