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

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LilyKitsune
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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Ch.49 posted 9/4

Post by LilyKitsune » Tue Sep 09, 2014 12:43 pm

dewelar wrote:
LilyKitsune wrote:I'm so curious for real answers from the author, though x.x
Hopefully, you will find them over the course of the next few chapters :D. There will be a Hanako PoV chapter soon, after all...
I hate you =(

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Lost In The Fire
Posts: 62
Joined: Thu May 30, 2013 9:49 pm
Location: Oregon

Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Ch.49 posted 9/4

Post by Lost In The Fire » Sat Sep 13, 2014 5:05 am

Welp. Just caught up with the last few chapters.

Holy hell things are getting intense.

Good work. Can't wait to see where this goes from here. -_0
Some one-shots.
He Didn't Listen - Hanako Bad End
Observations - OC POV
Mmmmm'yep.

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dewelar
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Location: The Fifth Thing

Developments, Chapter 50

Post by dewelar » Thu Sep 18, 2014 9:42 pm

"No, Hisao, I can't do that. I'm not going to let you push her away over a little misunderstanding. I did that to you once, and it hurt us both. I can't let that happen to her, or to you. So," Emi says, closing her eyes, "it's better if we just stop talking about this, okay?"

"But that's not..."

"Just...stop!" she shouts, looking at me again. I can see the pain in her eyes, and I don't know if it's because she doesn't know what I'm about to say...or if it's because she does. "Hisao, if this is how it is, then I think I need to leave. Just...do what you need to do, and...take care of yourself, okay?"

Suddenly, Emi turns around and runs off, not towards the rest of the campus, but towards the woods behind the school. "Emi! Wait!" I call out, and I start to run after her, but realizing the futility of chasing the Fastest Thing on No Legs, I pull up after a few steps. I trudge back over to the bleachers, where I sit down heavily with my head in my hands.

Why does she keep doing this?

This is the third time I've tried to tell Emi that I wanted to spend more time with her, and each time the end result has been the same. While I'm not particularly superstitious, I've become somewhat more cognizant of the significance of the number four since my heart attack. That isn't the only occurrence of that particular number hanging over me like the Sword of Damocles either, because there's also the number of confessions I've received approaching from the other direction. As I sit here, I can't help but wonder if this is what fate had in store for me all along.

Is that what it's trying to tell me...that I need to accept that Emi's not interested in me anymore?

I think back to the day Emi and I had our picnic, when I first learned about her feelings for me. I asked her if she expected it to be a date, and she told me not to ask unless I knew I wanted to hear the answer. I wasn't ready, and we both knew it, so she promised to give me space until I was. If I had been in better condition that day, or if I hadn't been wallowing in self-pity over my inability to figure out my own feelings, things might have been different. Instead, we wound up in this nebulous in-between state, and it's been like that ever since.

Since then, she kept up her end of that bargain, sometimes to a fault. Today might have simply been more of the same. Emi's been conscious of Hanako from the beginning, after all. The first thing Emi said on the day of that picnic was that I should spend more time with Hanako before she left on her trip. Today, before she ran off, Emi said I needed to straighten things out with Hanako, too. That could be all this is, but the more this kind of thing happens, the less I can believe it.

And yet, even now, I still WANT to believe it.

I'm not going to work this out now, so I need to get myself moving again. Slinging my bag over my shoulder, I slowly make my way up to the auxiliary building. After everything that's happened over the past couple of days, I think I owe the nurse a visit. Although his door is open, he's engrossed in reading something on his clipboard, so I knock to get his attention.

He turns around unhurriedly and looks at me. "Oh, Hisao," he says with a wink. "Looks like you're alive after all." I raise an eyebrow at him, and he grins. "Emi was worried about you when you didn't show up for your run this morning, so she came here looking for you. I assume she found you."

"She did," I say sheepishly. Not wanting to let her be the one to tell him why, I continue, "I...had a little bit to drink last night, and didn't wake up until Emi showed up at my door."

"I see," Nurse replies, swiveling around in his chair to face me with his eyes narrowed. "I'm sure I don't need to remind you how stupid that was, because Emi's probably already done that." I wince at the memory as I nod in agreement. "Well, I appreciate that you told me, at least," he says as he gets out of the chair and motions for me to sit down. "Let me just check you out and make sure you didn't do any serious damage."

I take off my shirt and Nurse runs through his usual examination. Afterwards, he says nothing, but looks somewhat distracted. "So, everything look okay?"

"Mm, yes, everything sounds normal, fortunately. Were you with Emi just now, then?"

"Yeah," I say, pulling my shirt back on. "We just finished our routine. I ran into her in the cafeteria, and we went out to the track after that. For the most part, she seemed like she was her usual self, making sure we both cut back on our pace because of the heat." Throughout this, Nurse nods along, until I finish, "Nothing unusual happened – that is, not until after we ran."

Nurse seems entirely unsurprised by my statement. "She's right back to avoiding you, I'd guess."

"Not exactly, but..." I let his words sink in for a moment, then realize he's trying to tell me something again. I raise an eyebrow again and ask, "How did you know?"

Nurse straightens up and looks at me with a hint of resignation. "I had a feeling that would happen once I heard what happened this morning. You already know I won't say any more than that, but knowing Emi, I think you're smart enough to at least get partway there."

"So, what...happened this morning...is another sensitive topic for her, like the accident?"

"Mmm...it's a bit different, but that's basically it."

As I feared, it wasn't just about Hanako. It wasn't even about Noriko, because I didn't even mention what happened with her. It was about the drinking, and not just the danger of what I did, either. Hopefully, Emi will explain all of this to me soon. Then again, if she's not interested in me, maybe she won't. Trying to put that aside, I chuckle ruefully. "Well, if nothing else, it gives me another good reason not to do it again."

Nurse grins at me. "Good. That means I won't have to run any unnecessary tests next time." When I don't respond, he turns a bit more serious. "Don't worry, there's no way you could have known about this. Anyway, you're free to go, Hisao. Just try not to do anything else stupid."

I hear that way too often lately.

"I'll try. It's just not as easy as it sounds sometimes."

Nurse laughs at that, then says, "Hopefully, I'll see both of you back here tomorrow."

"Right," I say, picking up my bag again and walking out of his office. I head back up to the dorm and take my second shower of the day. I need to talk to Hanako soon, but I don't want to disturb her while she's straightening things out with Lilly, so once I'm dressed I head down to the main building. I figure if anyone knows when Hanako will be back, it'll be the Student Council duo, and even if they don't there might be something to keep me occupied, even if it's just playing a game or two.

However, when I get to the Student Council room, I find the door locked. I check the cafeteria, but there's no sign of Shizune or Misha. I'm tempted to just go back and bury myself in a book, but I decide to take one more look in the tea room. It's a long shot, but if there's even a slight chance that Hanako's there it's worth a chance. When I emerge from the stairwell, I'm thrilled to see that the door is open. I walk briskly down the hall, but when I get there, it's not Hanako inside. Instead, I see Lilly sitting at the table, a cup of tea in front of her. "Lilly?" I ask quietly so as not to startle her. "I didn't expect to find you here."

She heaves a heavy sigh before responding, "Good afternoon, Hisao."

I didn't notice before, but she looks very worn out. "Not even going to try and put a face on for me?" I say jokingly. "You must be really off your game."

"Thanks a lot," she replies bitingly. "I'm sorry, Hisao, but I'm...not exactly in the mood for humor right now."

"I'm sorry, I just..." Not wanting to continue that line of discussion, I ask instead, "Do you want some company?"

"I'm not really sure," Lilly says mockingly. "Certainly not if you're going to continue to make such comments." On the surface it seems like Lilly's usual quick recovery, but I can tell that she's having to try much harder than usual to bring her smile to the surface.

"I'll try and keep them to a minimum," I counter. I walk to the chair opposite her and sit down. "For instance, I won't mention how worried you made Hanako and me when you disappeared without telling us."

"Oh, you won't mention what you just mentioned? That's good to know, Hisao."

Her spirits seem to be picking up a bit, which is good. "So where have you been these past couple of days?"

"I needed some time to myself, so I was staying with my Aunt Mayoi. Her home is just outside the city."

"That's...Shizune's mother?" Lilly nods. "Yeah, I noticed that when she had me doing data entry on the student records the other day. I thought it might have been some kind of misprint, since it listed her family home as being in Saitama. Anyway, I thought Hanako was going there to visit you."

"She was," Lilly says, her expression darkening. "At least, until she tried to call you this morning." I immediately know what she means, and I bow my head. "Tell me, Hisao," Lilly says with a dangerous edge to her voice, "What exactly were you thinking, letting Yoshimura answer your phone? I'm surprised Hanako was even able to talk to me after that!"

Since I can't really defend myself, I decide to just tell her plainly. "Well, I wouldn't say I actually let Noriko answer my phone, so much as she picked it up by accident. I had passed out from drinking with her and Yoshi last night."

"Wh-" Lilly starts, then gasps slightly. "You're serious, aren't you? Why would you do something like that? Especially after what happened at Hanako's birthday party?"

I sigh heavily before answering, "I know it was a stupid idea. Emi already read me the riot act this morning. I was just feeling down over everything that's happened lately, so when Yoshi asked me to drink with him, I agreed. Then..."

Lilly puts a hand up to interrupt me. "Wait a moment, Hisao," she says, sounding incredulous. "This was Kamisaka's idea?"

"Yeah, I guess he...didn't want to be alone, because he'd finally gotten up the courage to ask Yuuko out, and she rejected him."

Lilly puts a hand to her face. "I told him he needed to back off until he was ready. I didn't expect him to try so soon, because I knew Yuuko would be skittish about it." Lilly shakes her head, sadly. "Perhaps something could have developed between them, in time...but after this, I don't think that's possible at all. Maybe I really should be questioning his fitness for being class representative."

"I wouldn't blame him entirely. I could have declined, after all. Besides, are you sure you're willing to go down that road?" I ask teasingly. "You haven't exactly had the best judgment on display recently yourself, you know?"

"Ugh...must you remind me of that?" Lilly's words are reproachful, but she has a mischievous look on her face. "Still, you have a point, Hisao. None of us should judge such choices too harshly, I suppose. However, we should get back to the main issue, which is Hanako."

"Right. Actually, that's why I came up here. I was hoping she'd be here so I could explain what happened this morning."

"I'm not certain that would be a good idea right now, Hisao. She was really shaken by this, so it might be best to give her some space. If it had been anyone but Yoshimura, given her reputation..." Lilly trails off, and I realize I hadn't even considered that aspect of the situation. "You are aware of Hanako's insecurity in that regard, I presume."

"We've talked about it, sure. I tried to express to her that she didn't need to feel like she had to push herself." Apparently, I'm still a bit slow, because something else just occurs to me. "You came back here for Hanako, to talk to her, didn't you?"

"I did," she says with a heavy sigh. "After her first call, she tried to bring herself to call you back, but couldn't. That's when she called me and asked me to come here. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out very well." She holds up something that looks like a key in her hand. "She gave this back to me when she walked out a few minutes ago. She said she didn't want to come back here for a while."

The key to the tea room?

"It seems like neither of us is having much luck communicating with Hanako lately," I say, shaking my head. "Hang on, you said she just left here a few minutes ago?" Lilly nods. "I wonder why I didn't run into her on the way here, then."

"I was wondering that myself. I stayed here because I didn't want to meet her back at the dormitory just now, so perhaps she had the same idea. Perhaps she might have gone back up to the roof."

I raise an eyebrow futilely. "The roof? I don't remember ever seeing her up there except that one time she came with us."

"I'm given to understand that she used to go there quite often before I moved into the dorms. It seems she's started doing so again, and had come from there to meet with me."

"Well, that would explain why she wasn't here at lunch, either. Misha told me she was going to meet you, so I figured she'd left already. If what you say is true, I guess it's a good thing our paths didn't cross. Still, she seemed pretty desperate to talk to you, so what happened to cause things to go so badly between you?"

Lilly bows her head as she says, "I'm afraid that it was my fault. I wasn't really ready to face her, but I came here despite that because it was more important to me that she needed to talk to me. She didn't tell me what had happened, but I knew it was likely about you. After all, beyond the two of us, who else does she have?"

I think about that for a moment, and the answer that pops up in my head surprises even me. "Emi?"

Lilly looks a little surprised at the answer too, as she sits back in her chair and furrows her brow. "Have the two of them gotten that close, then? Hanako mentioned something about trusting her, at least with certain things, and I guess I didn't quite believe her. It seems a bit counterintuitive, after all."

"It does, doesn't it?" I say with a chuckle. "If I hadn't heard them both talking about each other being friends for myself, I don't know that I'd believe it either. They do really seem to care about each other, though, and I think they have more in common than it would appear on the surface. I can't necessarily say they're close friends, and Hanako definitely has issues with trusting people. I know she came to trust me somehow, but I'm not sure she's gotten to that point with Emi."

Lilly hums softly in agreement. "I think trust is the core of the matter all around. Hanako may know that you would never do anything with Yoshimura, but remember what happened when you referred to her by name. She likely felt you were keeping something from her, and then this happens. Hanako already fears losing you, and this incident fed those fears." Lilly sighs again. "I'm afraid I unwittingly did so as well."

"Ah...is this about your feelings for me?"

"That's part of it, of course. The other part is that I chose a poor time to accede to her wishes."

"I'm not sure I understand."

"When I learned about what had happened, and that it involved Yoshimura, I decided that she needed me to challenge her regarding how she was feeling. I told her that, if she thought that you would betray her like that with Yoshimura after everything you'd been through, then perhaps..." Lilly takes a deep breath before continuing, "...perhaps she wasn't ready to have a relationship with you."

I whistle through my teeth at that. "Yeah, I can see how that might not go over well. I understand what you were saying, but under the circumstances...well, I can't pretend to know everything Hanako's going through, but she's trying. Yes, she tries too hard sometimes, and other times I feel like I'm hitting the same bumps in the road over and over again..." I lean back in my own chair, looking up at the ceiling. "...and sometimes I wonder if all of this effort is worthwhile, because times like this I feel like I'm right back where I started."

"I think I understand that feeling, Hisao. What I did may have been the right thing in a vacuum, but it came at the wrong place and time. I just have to hope that things haven't gone too far for us to recover."

"I wouldn't worry too much about that," I say. "After everything we've already been through, I think we'll all still be friends after this too."

As the words come out of my mouth, I realize just what I said. I'd said it without thinking, and I wonder, is that still how I feel about Hanako? That we're friends, and nothing more? I remain silent for a while as I ponder that thought along with Lilly's comment from a few moments ago.

I need to get this straight.

"Lilly," I say cautiously, "exactly what kind of relationship do you think Hanako wants with me?"

Lilly drains what's left of her tea, then puts her cup down and thinks for a moment before responding. "From what I gather, she wants something like what you and I had. She really saw us as happy when we were together, and that's probably the only happy relationship she's seen since she was very young."

"Yeah, that's what I thought, too. When she first kissed me, I wasn't ready for that kind of relationship yet, either. Then that day in her room...if I'd been ready then, I wouldn't have stopped. I said before she's been trying, but she's just been trying too hard."

Lilly seems to think about something for a moment, then leans in toward me. "Hisao, do you mind if I ask you a rather sensitive question?"

"More sensitive than this?" I ask with a hint of sarcasm.

"Perhaps," Lilly responds in all seriousness.

I'm a little surprised, but I reply, "Okay, as long as you won't be offended if I don't answer."

"Since I'm the one who's prying, I can hardly take offense. I'm not even sure if you'll have an answer right now, and in fact I'd be surprised if you didn't need to at least think about it a little."

For a moment, I'm nervous that she's going to ask about the two of us again. Either way, she's got me curious. "I'm not sure what you mean, but go ahead."

"All right, then, tell me: if the same thing were to happen again today, would you still stop yourself?"

"Yes," I say confidently.

"Why?"

"I...don't think the reason has really changed, either," I reply, a bit more hesitantly. "I'm not sure..."

"One more question, then. What if it was Emi instead?"

That was definitely not the question I expected. If I'd been given until the heat death of the universe, I don't think I'd have anticipated that question. Part of me wants to give the polite response, to say that of course I would have done the same thing. When I do think about it, though...

Oh.

Now I see what she's doing. Earlier, I was saying that I wasn't ready for that kind of relationship. That was a lie, I realize. It wasn't an intentional one, but it was a lie all the same. In the moment, I could see it happening, but now, it's just not there anymore. I've never really had to confront the idea before, but the fact that I can picture myself with Emi, but not with Hanako, proves it pretty definitively.

My physical reaction at the picture isn't helping, either.

When I don't respond right away, Lilly continues, "Hisao, I'd say the fact that you have to think about it at all is important. Wouldn't you?"

"Yeah, I would." I'm not sure whether to thank her for pushing me into this realization or not, so I leave it unsaid.

Lilly smiles sadly. "I suppose it's good to know I haven't entirely lost my sensibilities. Now probably isn't the best time to tell you this next part, and maybe I don't even need to tell you, but keep in mind that Hanako wants nothing more from you and me than to be treated as equal to everyone else. When you do finally get the chance to talk to her, make sure to consider that before saying anything. Don't make the same mistakes I have, Hisao – for all our sakes."

"You're right. You didn't need to tell me."

Lilly smiles gently as she responds, "Hisao, it seems you already know Hanako better than I do, and perhaps better than I ever did. I rather envy you for that."

"Without your help, though, I would never have been able to know her at all."

"That's...kind of you to say," she replies as if searching for the right words. "I won't insult you by questioning the accuracy of it."

"You'd only be insulting yourself, then," I say teasingly.

For an instant, Lilly looks troubled. "You're that sure of me, then?"

"I am indeed," I say, smiling. "I've never been sure why you always seem to downplay your own abilities in these matters, but now I suspect you do it on purpose, so that you can listen to other people tell you how great you are."

"While I'm pleased to hear you say that," Lilly says with an odd edge to her voice, "I can only wish it was true." Her breath starts to get short suddenly, as if she's holding back something that's about to burst out of her. "Hisao, if I'm so...great at helping people, like you say...then...then why haven't I been able to do the same thing for myself?"

As if this entire conversation had been building up to this, I see a tear starting to form at the corner of Lilly's eye. Her cool exterior collapses entirely in a fraction of a second, replaced by the look she wore when I walked in. Her eyes closed, her lips turned into a frown, her head bowed – she looks like she's lost a long battle with...what? Herself?

I try to respond, but I have no idea what to say. Instead, she starts to talk again. "Damn it, I tried, Hisao. I did everything I thought I was supposed to do, and everything I did turned out for the worse. I didn't understand my family, I didn't understand Hanako, I couldn't even help Kamisaka and Yuuko! And the worst part? Do you know what the worst part of it all is?" I remain silent as Lilly takes a deep breath and pulls out a handkerchief to wipe her eyes. "I never understood you, Hisao. I thought I knew what each of you was asking of me, but each time I turned out to be wrong. If this is something at which I'm supposed to be so great, then what does that mean about who I am?" Lilly tries to take a breath, but it comes out as something like a hiccup, and then her shoulders start to shake. "Who am I, Hisao?" she asks, her face turned toward me plaintively. "Who am I?"

In the time I've known her, I've never seen Lilly like this. I've seen her break down, like she did on the day we confessed to each other, but even then it was out of concern for me. I've never known her to question herself like she's doing now. She was the one among us who always knew who she was, and what she wanted, even if she would never show it outwardly. It took something nearly catastrophic to get her to bring herself to tell me her feelings.

All that changed when she got the summons to join her parents in Scotland. Suddenly, her two worlds collided, and whatever path she chose, someone would get hurt. Unfortunately, the person who was hurt most by it was Lilly herself. She had herself convinced that I had given up on her, when I never really did until Hanako told me Lilly had given up on me. Then her parents told her why they had asked her to return, and everything started to fall apart in earnest.

Up until leaving Scotland, Lilly had always had Akira as the person on whom she could rely when all else failed. Now she's left even her sister behind, so that she could be with the family she thought needed her – her small, misshapen family, made up of Hanako and me. Then, the day after her return, Hanako pushed her away. The next day, I affirmed that we weren't ever going to be a couple again. The toll all of that has taken on her is written all over her face.

We may not be a couple any more, but that feeling of kinship is still there. I may not know what to say right now, but I can at least be here for her. I reach out to Lilly and take her hand, and she gasps slightly as though she didn't expect it. "You want to know who you are, Lilly Satou?" I say gently, and Lilly picks up her head slightly. "You're someone who's got a really bad case of jet lag. You've been away from home for two weeks – maybe the craziest two weeks that ever were – and you haven't let yourself catch up yet. Heh, I was here for those two weeks, and I think I'm still trying to catch up."

Lilly's look softens a bit, and I continue, "I can't speak for Hanako, but I for one am glad you came back. I know you think I depended on you too much when we were together, and you're right about that. The thing is, I could do that because I knew you were someone that I could rely on. You just wouldn't allow yourself to rely on me, or on Hanako, or on anyone except Akira. Do you think we're not reliable?"

"No, of course not," she says firmly. "But..."

I interrupt her, saying, "Then until you have your feet under you again, the least you can do is start relying on us."

"But...Hanako..."

"...will forgive this, too. You know that as well as I do, if not better. It's just going to take time."

Lilly sighs and replies, "You're probably right about that, too – all of it. I was beginning to feel like I might regret returning as much as I did leaving in the first place, but after what you just said, I can't." Her gentle smile returns once more as she continues, "Quite a bit has changed since I left, including the one thing I most would have wished to stay the same." Lilly removes her hand from mine. "But my aunt told me something very important this morning, Hisao."

"What's that?"

"She told me that love doesn't die easily, but sometimes it takes on a different form. I do still love you, Hisao, and I believe I always will. Someday, though, maybe that love will change into a form that's more appropriate." Lilly sighs, but this time some of the weight has gone. "I need to stop thinking about what might have happened if I'd stayed, and instead think about what will happen now that I've returned."

I understand her meaning all too clearly, and so I also understand that any response I give will just be redundant. After a long, somewhat uncomfortable silence, I rise from my chair. "Well, I should get going, I guess."

Lilly lets out a long breath. "You're right, and so should I. I'm not looking forward to going back to my room tonight. Perhaps I should return to my aunt's home for now, and return here once I've actually sorted out my feelings."

"It's probably a lot more comfortable there anyway," I say jokingly, and we both laugh awkwardly. I start to leave, but hesitate. "Lilly, you don't really regret coming back, do you?"

Lilly gets up from her own chair and comes over to where I'm standing. She reaches a hand out toward my face, and I bring it closer so that she can touch it. "Oh, Hisao, don't make me answer that, please. Ask me again in a month, or a year, or ten years. I may not know the answer even then, but by then I might at least be able to smile while saying what I'm supposed to say."

I reach out to put a hand on her shoulder, but instead she wraps me in a hug, burying her face in my shoulder. I reach my arms around her, and I'm reminded of the day she left for Scotland, when I had to fight myself to let her go. I didn't know then that my own instincts were totally wrong, and back then I would have given anything to have known it. Now, though, I realize that maybe my instincts were trying to tell me something, and that if I hadn't listened to them, I might have been a leaf forever. I would have been happy to be a leaf, sure, but eventually something would have had to give, and at the rate things were going it was likely to be me.

Noriko, we each had it half right. I need to live as long as I can...AND as much as I can. I wish you could do the same.

Finally, Lilly separates from me with a smile. "Take care, Hisao. We'll meet again soon."

"That we will," I say, and I leave the tea room. This time, I make it all the way out the door.

I briefly consider heading down to the cafeteria, but I find myself not really wanting to eat very much. Instead, I return to my dorm room, where I close and lock my door. Tomorrow still feels like it's long way away, and now it's even more imperative that I talk to Hanako as soon as possible. I need to tell her that I can't accept her feelings, but I have no idea how to go about it, especially if she's still agitated about what happened today. What I do know is that putting it off is only going to make it worse.

Deciding it will be best to approach it with a fresh perspective in the morning, I grab one of the books I bought the other day and settle in to read. I'd started thisone the other night, but after the events of the past few days I find that I have no idea what I'm reading. I keep trying for an hour or so, but all I manage to accomplish is getting myself more frustrated. Finally, I put the book back down, vowing to start it from the beginning again next time, and decide to try and get some sleep. I lie down on my side, facing the wall where Rin's art is hanging. As I drift off to sleep, a stray thought crosses my mind.

I wonder if you'd still see us as one color now...

* * * *

I wake up after a relatively good night's sleep and quickly start getting dressed. Given what likely lies ahead today, I'm looking forward to my morning run even more than usual. Yesterday's afternoon run threw off my rhythm in more ways than one, so it will be good to have this part of my routine back to normal. At least, I hope it will be normal. Lately, I've learned that I can't even expect the routine to be routine.

As I come over the top of the hill, I see a familiar sight. Emi waves up to me, and there's a smile on her face. "Hey, Hisao!" she calls out as I approach. "Glad you could make it this morning! You look a lot better than you did yesterday," she adds with a wink.

"Yeah, I feel better, too. A lot of that is because of you, so thanks."

Emi's cheeks redden slightly. "R-right, well, I'm glad I could help. Listen, I'm sorry about running away yesterday. I promise I'll explain things later, but for now you need to stretch so that we can get out there and run."

I raise an eyebrow. "Run first, then talk?"

"You're only catching onto that now?" Emi says, sticking out her tongue as punctuation. I laugh, and we both start stretching. Now that I'm getting a better look at her, I notice something other than her usual cheerfulness. That in and of itself used to seem out of place on occasions like this, but I've grown accustomed to that. No, today there's a different kind of energy there. There's a hint of nervousness about her – not anxiety, like I've seen recently, but more like anticipation, like there's something about to happen that has her almost excited. I'm not quite sure what to make of it, but given my own feelings about today, it definitely makes things feel a bit off.

My reverie is broken by Emi's voice. "You ready, Hisao?" she asks, a grin spreading across her face again.

Grateful for the interruption, I respond, "Yep, let's go."

Emi poses with her fists balled up in front of her, something I haven't seen her do in a while, and nearly shouts "Great!" She strides out to the starting line, and I trail behind her, wondering if I'm missing something. For our first four laps, things are pretty normal. Emi engages in her usual encouragement, still flashing her grin each time she calls back over her shoulder. My usual rhythm feels more relaxed today, too, and I feel an unusual urge to pick up my pace. However, I decide not to risk it. The prospect of putting off Hanako for a day might be tempting, but not at the risk of spending that day in a bed in the nurse's office.

After that, Emi takes off on her sprints. It's been a while since I allowed myself to watch her run without feeling self-conscious about it, so I decide to take full advantage. This is a sight I doubt I could ever get tired of watching. After my own fifth lap, Emi zooms past me, and for a moment all I can see is the pink and red blur of her running outfit. In my head, it somehow starts to combine with other images – the pink and red blur I saw when I was talking to Lilly the other day, and the pink and red lines of Rin's drawing. For a half-second, I forget where I am, and I close my eyes.

When I do that, I don't see pink and red.

I see...blue?

I quickly open my eyes again before I wind up going off the track. It's a good thing I was on one of the straight-aways, or I might be going to the nurse's office right now after all. As I finish my sixth lap, I gradually slow down and put my hands behind my head. Emi takes a couple more sprint laps before falling in next to me, the sun glistening off the sweat on her face. The determined smile she wore during her sprints transforms back into the easy one she usually wears, and suddenly it feels like all of Japan is powering up all over again. I try to say something again, but I don't, out of fear the aftermath of having it cut off a fourth time.

"I know that look, Hisao," Emi says, interrupting my thoughts. "You're thinking again."

I chuckle lightly. "You caught me."

"Hisao," she starts, her expression turning slightly more serious, "there's...something I want to ask you."

"Hmmm...you want to talk again?" I say teasingly, trying to lighten the mood. "That's twice this week. Who are you and what have you done with Emi?"

She rolls her eyes and socks me in the arm. "Very funny." She looks back at me and continues, "You wanna know something weird, though? I've kinda been wondering the same thing lately. It's like, there's something that's been building up inside me, and I need to say something about it."

Something about that sounds a bit ominous for some reason. "Does...this have anything to do with what happened yesterday?" I ask, not sure if I should hope that I'm right or wrong.

"Yeeeeah, I guess you might say that."

Now she wants to talk about this? My head starts to spin, wondering what she wants to say. On the other hand, I'm not even sure I want to know right now. I need to be focused on what I'm going to say to Hanako, and if I believe the signs, having Emi tell me she's not interested anymore...no, I can't walk into that conversation in that frame of mind. Besides, Emi said yesterday that I needed to deal with Hanako first, so that's what I'm going to do.

I guess it's my turn to be the one running away.

"I'm sorry, Emi," I say reluctantly, "but I can't, not right now. I want to talk to you, too, but when we talked yesterday, you reminded me of something very important. Before I say anything else to anyone, I have to make things right with Hanako. Can we talk about this another time?"

Emi frowns, which is the last thing I wanted to see. "Yeah, I guess we can. I might already know the answer, though."

"Don't be so sure," I say, because I'm not entirely sure of anything myself. "I don't know what you want to say, but whatever it is I promise I'll listen, as long as you'll listen to me, too. I just need time to figure out what I need to say to Hanako, and then follow through. I hope that happens soon, but in the meantime I don't want to make things in my head any more confusing than they already are. One way or the other, I'm going to find a way to talk to her today."

Emi looks at me out of the corner of her eyes. "You mean at lunch, right? So, we'll definitely talk after tomorrow's run?"

"Unless you want to try and talk tonight. I can't promise what condition I'll be in, though."

Emi looks straight ahead again. "Yeah, tonight's...probably not a good idea. I have something I need to do myself. But...tomorrow morning, definitely."

"All right, I'll be here. Just promise me one thing." Emi looks back at me, her expression uncertain. "That you won't run away this time."

For a moment, Emi pinches her lips in thought, but after that she replies, "Yeah, okay, I promise." She then quickly shifts into teasing mode. "You'd better be here, though. You don't want me to have to hunt you down again like I did yesterday."

"Heh, that's true, you did say you'd do that, didn't you? So, tell me something, then."

"Tell you what?"

"If you don't show up, do I get to hunt you down, too?"

Emi looks surprised for a second, then laughs. "Nope, sorry! Captain's privilege only!" She strikes her now-famous pirate pose, and I start laughing again. "Now come on, let's get up to the nurse's office."

"Actually, the nurse told me I could skip today. I'll definitely go tomorrow."

Emi looks at me with her pouting eyes, and I almost relent on the spot. "You're sure he told you that? I'll ask him if he did, you know."

Wincing, I say, "Caught again. Actually, he told me last week that I didn't have to come in every day anymore."

Emi's expression changes to one of mock anger. "Well, why didn't you just say so? If you didn't have to keep going all this time, then why..." She stops in mid-sentence, and her eyes go wide. "Oh, yeah, I forgot," she says, giggling, "we're supposed to be spying on each other!" She winks at me, then turns toward the auxiliary building. "Well, then, I guess I'll see you tomorrow, Hisao!" she calls as she starts running up the hill. "Morning talk, don't forget!"

Morning...wait, WHAT?

I stare after her as she retreats toward the auxiliary building. I shake my head, convinced I must have been hearing things, because I couldn't have heard what I thought I heard. I start on my way back to the dorm, but before I get too far up the path I hear a girl's voice shouting, "Excuse me! Excuse me!" I look toward the source of the voice, and I see an underclassman I don't recognize coming towards me. "Ah, excuse me, but are you Hisao Nakai?"

A bit confused at why she'd be looking for me, I simply reply, "Yes, I am."

"Ah, then you are the person I need. My name is Takako Hamaguchi," the girl says, bowing deeply. I return the bow, and she continues, "I am a member of the newspaper club, and I'm working on a story about our school's track star, Emi Ibarazaki. It's going to be a retrospective of her wondrous career at Yamaku."

As Hamaguchi talks to me, alarm bells start to go off in my head as I realize what the subject of this discussion is likely to be. "Why do you want to talk to me, then?"

Hamaguchi looks slightly nervous. "Ahaha, I...thought it would be obvious, but perhaps you are not yet aware of how much is already known about you around the school." Hamaguchi lowers her voice and leans a bit closer. "Everyone here has been talking about you and Miss Ibarazaki sharing a kiss not long ago."

My fears confirmed, I narrow my eyes at Hamaguchi. "I don't know what business it is of yours whether or not that's the case."

"Ah, I see," Hamaguchi says, nodding sagely. "You are not yet willing to reveal your relationship to everyone. Ooe warned me that such things would occasionally happen, and that I must dig deeper to find what I need."

That sounds suspiciously like Ooe, at least as Hanako has described her. She's quite serious about her duties as a reporter, and Hamaguchi must be one of her disciples. "So what you're saying is that if I don't say anything, you'll find someone else who will and print the story based on that?"

Hamaguchi's eyes twinkle as she says, "It is not our preferred method, but since the story is already common knowledge, leaving it out would be questioned by our readers. It is expected that Miss Ibarazaki's personal life would be reported alongside her impressive feats of athleticism."

And I'm caught in the middle. How wonderful.

I sigh in resignation. "Well, if you're going to print the story either way, it would be better coming from my own mouth, right?"

Hamaguchi smiles mischievously. "That is up to you, Mr. Nakai."

I sigh in defeat. "Very well, Miss Hamaguchi, but I'm afraid your readers might be somewhat disappointed." She raises an eyebrow at me questioningly. "Miss Ibarazaki and I are just friends. There was a time when there might have been something between us, but I'm not sure she's interested anymore."

Hamaguchi looks at me, and it's obvious that she is disappointed. No, actually, it's not disappointment I see in her eyes, it's sadness, which makes even less sense. "Hmmm...if you say that, Mr. Nakai, then that is what I shall record as your response. However, you should know that the story I have heard elsewhere is a different one."

Elsewhere? What does she mean elsewhere?

"Different...how?"

Hamaguchi brightens a bit at the question. "My sources have told me that Miss Ibarazaki still cares for you a great deal, but she believes that you love someone else."

Hearing that, I realize that it should have been blindingly obvious. Still, how would she know something like that? "What...sources are you talking about, Miss Hamaguchi?"

"Mr. Nakai," she says coyly, "you should know that, as a reporter, I am not allowed to divulge that information. However, I have no reason to doubt my sources, given their proximity to the subject."

"Proximity? Did Emi..."

Hamaguchi closes her eyes and crosses her arms. "I have already revealed too much information, Mr. Nakai. I already have what I need, so I will not delay you any further. Good day, Mr. Nakai."

"Um, good day, Miss Hamaguchi." Almost before the words are out of my mouth, Hamaguchi spins on her heel and walks briskly back up the path. I reflect on how odd that conversation was, when I suddenly realize something.

I didn't see her writing anything down, or any kind of recording device. What was that all about, then?

Still, the answer to a fair amount of Emi's behavior of late has just dropped in my lap. If Hamaguchi's right, then Emi thinks I've already chosen Hanako. Here, I've been thinking that she's been avoiding me because she wasn't interested. I can't let that go on.

I can't.

Emi knew Hanako liked me even before I did. She's been making sure I spent time with her all along, to the point that I wound up neglecting Emi. It can't be coincidence that over the past few days, as I became more and more unsure of Emi's feelings, I started responding more strongly to Hanako's. It's as if somewhere along the line, Hanako became the back-up plan, because I never doubted what her feelings were, or what they would be. It doesn't matter that it wasn't intentional on my part – it was still a pretty lousy thing to do.

Another apology I have to make.

My feelings for Emi were another matter. When the stars finally aligned and we went into town with Rin, it wound up getting spoiled by Emi's fall. Yesterday, it was sullied by the fact that Hanako and I had fallen out. I've been spinning my wheels, and I've been excusing myself for it by blaming everyone else for making me feel like a leaf in the wind, but that's wrong. It's me who's let my own indecisiveness become a habit, never allowing myself to reject Hanako, and by the same token never allowing myself to accept my growing feelings for Emi.

And just what are those feelings? Am I sure even now? Or am I still making excuses for not admitting it, even to myself, because I'm still unsure of her?

I close my eyes and clench my fist, and I let out a scream of frustration. I look around, and I'm a little disappointed that nobody was around to hear it.

It doesn't matter. I know what I need to do next.

When I get back to my room, I take my medications, and then dig in my bag for my phone. I sit down on my bed heavily, and for a while I just stare at it, hoping that maybe it will ring and I won't have to make this call myself.

I've never had to reject anyone like this. Lilly and I mutually went our separate ways, and I never really responded to Iwanako. I suppose this situation is similar, in that Hanako's confession has been sitting in limbo since she made it, just like Iwanako's did for all those months in the hospital. After everything that's happened these past few days, Hanako might even think I've accepted her feelings.

I've REALLY screwed things up.

Despite what I said to Lilly earlier, I wouldn't blame Hanako if she didn't even want to be friends with me after this. I would deserve that, too. I already know that putting this off will only make it worse, so I just have to depend on Hanako's strength. Finally, I open up the phone and dial Hanako's number. As I should have expected, her voice mail picks up immediately, and I have to say what I'd prepared myself to say to the answering service.

"Hanako, it's Hisao. I need to talk to you, about a lot of things. I met with Lilly, so I know we can't meet in the tea room. Instead, I'd like to meet with you on the roof of the main building. I'll be up there at the time we usually meet for lunch, so I hope I'll see you then." I hang up the phone and slowly let out a long breath, feeling like all the energy has gone out of me.

Hanako...

I collect my things and head down to the bathroom to take my shower. I spend a good deal longer in there than necessary, until I can't find a reason to delay any further. When I step out I check the mirror, and I look like a wreck, which is pretty damn appropriate. I comb my hair as best I can, not even trying to get it to behave, then head back to my room to get dressed.

Once that's done, I set out on the longest walk I've ever taken. Even though I know I have to do this, I don't think there's ever been anything that I wanted to avoid doing so strongly. Despite what she did with Emi, Hanako has been nothing but accommodating to me since I broke up with Lilly. Under different circumstances, maybe our relationship could have been what she wants it to be. Unfortunately, the circumstances are what they are, and now it's up to me to break her heart and deal with the consequences.

I trudge along until I reach the main building, and I'm thankful that it's essentially empty again this morning. I haven't been up to the roof in weeks, but I do remember these stairs being noticeably more difficult back then. The door is open a crack, and I slowly push it until I can fit through it. I notice that the sky has turned grey, and a light drizzle has started to fall. I suppose it's fitting.

As I step out onto the rooftop, I see that Hanako is already here. She's wearing the cap and denim jacket she usually wears when she's away from Yamaku, and I wonder if she's trying to hide herself from me again. Her hands are resting on the chain-link fence that surrounds the roof, and she seems to be looking out over the town beyond. I try to say something, but my words catch in my throat, and all I can hear is the accursed, normal, abnormal sound of my heart in my ears...

~~~~

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Last edited by dewelar on Thu Nov 10, 2016 8:15 pm, edited 4 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) - Ch.50 posted 9/1

Post by brythain » Thu Sep 18, 2014 10:28 pm

What struck me:
  1. The nebulous Hisao/Emi thing — like quantum entanglement, very Mutou-ish.
  2. The mischievous glint in Lilly's eye — left or right (silly question, I know), and how does that happen for a blind person (serious question)?
  3. Lilly's 'Who am I?' immediately reminded me of Jean Valjean, and stuff associated with that.
  4. You could end it here, right now, deliberately without closure; everyone would hate you for it, but it might work… (kidding!)
I particularly liked this chapter. Easier to reflect on things, somehow, and a sense that matters are resolving rather than knotting up. Thanks!
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.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Ch.50 posted 9/1

Post by azumeow » Fri Sep 19, 2014 12:22 am

Why....? No, no no no, this can't go this way.

Dammit all....
"I don’t want to be here anymore, I know there’s nothing left worth staying for.
Your paradise is something I’ve endured
See I don’t think I can fight this anymore, I’m listening with one foot out the door
And something has to die to be reborn-I don’t want to be here anymore"

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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Ch.50 posted 9/1

Post by Guest Poster » Fri Sep 19, 2014 12:32 am

To be honest, and this is coming from a Hanako fan, this is probably for the better. In fact, the signs have been pointing in this direction for quite some time. It'll still take Lilly quite a bit of time to get over Hisao, Lilly knows it, Hisao knows it and Hanako knows it. Hanako getting involved with Hisao would damage her friendship with Lilly and it wouldn't be the three of them hanging out and relaxing like it used to before. At least now Hanako and Lilly can bond over the fact that both were turned down as romantic partners.
Sisterhood: True Edition. Hanako epilogue I wrote. Now expanded with additional chapters.

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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Ch.50 posted 9/1

Post by azumeow » Fri Sep 19, 2014 12:39 am

Guest Poster wrote:To be honest, and this is coming from a Hanako fan, this is probably for the better. In fact, the signs have been pointing in this direction for quite some time. It'll still take Lilly quite a bit of time to get over Hisao, Lilly knows it, Hisao knows it and Hanako knows it. Hanako getting involved with Hisao would damage her friendship with Lilly and it wouldn't be the three of them hanging out and relaxing like it used to before. At least now Hanako and Lilly can bond over the fact that both were turned down as romantic partners.
Stop making arguments using logic and facts.

But yeah, you're probably right, I just didn't wanna watch this ship sink so miserably.
"I don’t want to be here anymore, I know there’s nothing left worth staying for.
Your paradise is something I’ve endured
See I don’t think I can fight this anymore, I’m listening with one foot out the door
And something has to die to be reborn-I don’t want to be here anymore"

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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Ch.50 posted 9/1

Post by Minion of Chaos » Fri Sep 19, 2014 12:52 am

azumeow wrote:
Guest Poster wrote:But yeah, you're probably right, I just didn't wanna watch this ship sink so miserably.
It was a rather abrupt turn in the train of thought. The beginning of this Chapter had me thinking the circle would continue again. It is kind of true to life though- a lot of times, it only takes one sudden or abrupt realization for an entire relational dynamic to change. I know this is true for myself more often than not

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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Ch.50 posted 9/1

Post by brythain » Fri Sep 19, 2014 1:17 am

Minion of Chaos wrote:It was a rather abrupt turn in the train of thought.
Dang! It's going to be a Misha epilogue after all! :D
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.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Ch.50 posted 9/1

Post by FelOnyx » Fri Sep 19, 2014 1:21 am

So Emi has a problem with people getting drunk, a hang-up over hangovers, if you will. I hadn't considered that, but it does make sense.
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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Ch.50 posted 9/1

Post by Frankyo » Fri Sep 19, 2014 1:42 am

Personally, I've lost faith in the author's Hanako after what she said after Lilly challenged her. Judging by her response, she really wouldn't be suited for a relationship with Hisao.

@Hanako, please don't do something crazy to try to win Hisao.


50 chapters and counting; Inb4 huge momentum shift back to Hanako :twisted:
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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Ch.50 posted 9/1

Post by forgetmenot » Fri Sep 19, 2014 2:26 am

I've been known to say that I have great respect for Tennessee Williams, not because I particularly enjoy his stories, but he manages to find ways to make me feel intense hatred and annoyance toward his characters. Any author that can elicit that strong of an emotional response from me deserves my utmost respect.

Dewelar, I tip my hat to you. Hisao, Lilly, and especially Hanako and Emi have all earned a great deal of my ire over the previous few chapters.

I think my favorite character in this story is now Noriko. Sheesh.

Edit: I must point out that I don't hate any of the characters in this story. I'm just irritated with some of the decisions they've made. Sorry if the above comes off as overly acerbic.

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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Ch.50 posted 9/1

Post by Mahorfeus » Fri Sep 19, 2014 3:53 am

Ahhh... Silly, far-fetched predictions aside, I suppose this was the inevitable outcome. I'm glad to see that Hisao and Lilly's conversation went smoothly - they really are adults.

I really do hope that Hanako can pull herself together and salvage her friendship with Lilly, while still being able to be friends with Hisao.
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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Ch.50 posted 9/1

Post by bhtooefr » Fri Sep 19, 2014 4:02 am

Eesh. This is gonna get ugly, and the timing for this is downright awful, really.

I wonder if Hanako's going to think that Hisao chose Lilly. Hanako is almost as prone to breaking out the Jump to Conclusions mat as Jigoro is, after all... but then again, so is your Emi.
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Re: Developments (Post-Lilly Neutral End) - Ch.50 posted 9/1

Post by Mirage_GSM » Fri Sep 19, 2014 5:06 am

Minion of Chaos wrote:It was a rather abrupt turn in the train of thought. The beginning of this Chapter had me thinking the circle would continue again.
Actually for me it did not.
Is that what it's trying to tell me...that I need to accept that Emi's not interested in me anymore?
...
And yet, even now, I still WANT to believe it.
After those lines, I would not have accepted a Hisao x Hanako ending as a happy one, because it would've been clear she was second choice.
Last edited by Mirage_GSM on Fri Sep 19, 2014 9:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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