Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (12/28)

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Jaspirian
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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/4)

Post by Jaspirian » Tue Nov 05, 2013 1:28 am

It's all in there, dude. Just read between the lines. Symbology.

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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/4)

Post by Machoman » Wed Nov 06, 2013 12:26 am

Liking it so far

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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/4)

Post by Jaspirian » Sat Nov 09, 2013 9:33 pm

“I’m impressed you’ve kept so up-to-date on the course material despite your absence from school, Nakai. Not many students care that much about their studies. It’s refreshing to see.”

“I, uh, thanks.”
What can I say to that? “I’m not a very good student; it was just something to pass the time?” “Science comes easy to me so it was the simplest thing to focus on?” The real truth, of course, is much more depressing. I wanted to come back to school with a brave face and a flawless understanding of the material so I could say “look at me: I’m fine, nothing’s changed.”

I guess it was a childish wish. Everything has changed. Pretending it hasn’t is stupid. I can’t put a brave face on a heart attack. I stopped studying the day it became clear I wasn’t going back to my old school; I can’t pretend I’m good old Hisao Nakai anymore. But I have the feeling if I let Mutou catch wind of this he might cry. It looks like he’s truly moved by the fact I’m so far ahead of what he expected.

“No need to thank me,” he replies. “It’s the truth. Always keep moving forward,” he states emphatically, then pauses. I think he had something else to say but forgot it. “Always forward,” he repeats, and nods to himself. “Just like the flow of scientific progress, we must always look ahead.”

Clearly his energy for the pep-talk, if that was what this was, is running out. I agree with him just to shut him up and after a few more pleasantries we head back to the classroom. Always forward… what does that even mean? I can’t see which direction is forward and which is backward, so how can I keep on moving?



The class ends not a moment too soon and I join the flood of students rushing to their last-minute festival preparations. I don’t have any work to do so I just start heading back to my room. Halfway there I stop and let out a sigh.

I really don’t want to spend all afternoon sitting around, and I guess I don’t have that much else to do. I could hang out with someone if I really had friends here, but somehow I get the feeling that no one would take me up on an offer. Well, maybe Shizune and Misha would, but then I’m sure I’d get roped into yet another project. I’ve been lucky to evade them so far, and I have no intention of jeopardizing my good fortune.

I could head to the pool, but it doesn’t empty until around 7:30. The only other option is to read something, and I’ve run out of books. The solution, I realize, is simple. I about-face and head to the library. Maybe they’ll have some books that would be fun to read.



I paw through the science fiction section, looking haphazardly through titles. The way I usually pick books is by looking at their covers and selecting the ones that jump out at me, but I can’t quite understand the organization system at work here. At some points it seems alphabetical by author, sometimes by title, and then a few books are so out of place they utterly defeat any previous notions of order.

Nothing catches my eye until a familiar name leaps out at me: Isaac Asimov. I’ve read a short story of his in an anthology before, and I think I liked his writing style. I pull the book out and read the title: Robot Dreams. I guess this book is as good as any, although a little taste of it might be in order. I head to the back in search of a beanbag and almost don’t see the motionless figure of Hanako sitting in one of them. I might have sat on her if I was paying a little less attention.

“Hey there,” I manage, before taking a seat in a beanbag somewhat near her. She mumbles a hello and buries her face in her book, quite literally. I open mine and flip through, trying to decide where to start. “The Last Answer” seems as good as any.



I lay back and close my eyes, thinking about death. Death was something that wasn’t real--something that happened to other people but never really got a hold of me. My grandparents are all living, though I have very little contact with them, and though a few people I knew have died it was never anyone close to me. I always thought of death as an abstraction.

Until my heart attack, I guess. Now death isn’t only real, it’s creeping up on me. If I was fifty years older arrhythmia would be a normal worry, the doctors told me. But the fact that my heart is this messed up when I’m so young means I probably don’t have very long to live. The only real figure I was able to squeeze out of the doctors was a vague, “20-ish years” estimate. I could die before even reaching 40. I’m pretty sure no teenager thinks about living beyond that, anyway, but I do. I’ve been forced to.

I wonder what death is like. I wonder if we all go up in the sky or if death is just nothingness, forever. It’s a scary idea.

With my eyes closed my hearing is much better, and I notice that Hanako’s stopped flipping pages. I didn’t hear her leave, so… I open my eyes and catch her looking curiously at me, her face unprotected. The second we make eye contact she practically leaps back, shutting herself off in her book again.

“I’msorryI’msorryI’msorry! I d-didn’t mean to s-stare, I just t-thought you were asleep--”

She seems likely to apologize for the next hour non-stop, so I wave a hand to get her attention. She immediately quiets down and I try to smile encouragingly at her. “Don’t worry about it, Hanako. I was just thinking.”

“O-okay.” She doesn’t come out from behind her book, and I could swear I hear her mumble another apology. I guess some habits die hard.

I open my mouth and shut it again. For a brief moment I was considering asking Hanako about life after death, but I quickly decide that’s a bad path to go down. Given her response to something so small as staring, I don’t want to trigger her with something bigger. I’ve already got my mouth open, so I think up something and ask it.
“Hanako, do you like science fiction?”
Great, Hisao. Real smooth.

Hanako drops Life of Pi slightly as she ponders the question, then jerks it up again when she realizes she let her guard slip. After a moment she replies: “I… I guess I’ve never r-read that m-much.” Her eyes lower, then seek mine. In a timid voice she asks, “Do you?”

I smile a little. I hadn’t thought much of Hanako before, but seeing her come out of her shell is very cute. “Absolutely. I started getting into fantasy but I guess swords and magic never really appealed that much to me. Science is much easier for me to imagine so once I got a hold of a good science fiction book I was a goner. ”

Hanako giggles slightly. Okay, definitely cute. I might have to retract what I said to Kenji. “T-that’s good. I think Mutou really l-likes you.”

“What makes you say that?”

“H-he… calls on you a lot. I think it’s b-because you always know the r-right answer.”

I frown. “I don’t always know it. I think he just picks on me because I’m not passing notes, sleeping or reading.” Hanako blushes and I try my best to backpedal. “I mean, I would be too if I had a book.”

She shakes her head emphatically, and I’m surprised to see the passion in her eyes. “D-don’t think of it like t-that. You’re really g-good at science. I th-think that’s why he l-likes you s-so m-much.” The fire burns out pretty quickly and halfway through she seems to become embarrassed about how much conviction she has. By the end her stutter is worse than ever and she’s hiding behind her book again.

I’m taken aback by the force in this timid girl’s words. It sounds like I touched on something that meant a lot to her, though I can’t for the life of me figure out what it was. “Thanks, Hanako,” I say at last. “Maybe I am being a little too hard on myself.”

All I can see behind the book is a slight, embarrassed nod. We sit there for a few more minutes but I can’t return my focus to reading. I feel way too awkward, and I can’t help but worry I’ve only reinforced her fear of socializing. I walk to the front, check the book out, say hello to Yuuko, leave.



By the time I get back to my room it’s almost 8. I putter around for half an hour, then grab my towel and head off. I get to the gym without incident but stop short at the doors: there are still lights on inside. I circle the building and peer in at the pool, only to find a cleaning crew putting chemicals in the water and cleaning the decks. I guess Saturdays aren’t any good at all for late-night swimming.

I head back, more disappointed I couldn’t see that mysterious girl than anything. A night patrol nearly catches me on the way back and I have to do some sprinting and weaving (Kenji would be proud); by the time I get back to my room I’m breathing heavily and my heart is racing. I take a quick shower and pause by my desk, looking at the long line of pill bottles. I haven’t been taking my pills recently. I should probably choke a few of them down.

My heart beats as steadily as it can and I feel absolutely fine. Maybe that run did me some good. Tomorrow, I decide. I’ll take the pills tomorrow. There's no hurry.

I fall asleep halfway through a short story about a robot who can dream. And I dream, but not about electric sheep; my night features a girl who comes bursting from the water and catches me in her ethereal gaze. In my dream I study her face, realizing I can see it far more clearly than I had a chance to at the pool. The moon in my dream still paints her black-and-white, but it's enough. She opens her mouth to say something but the high-pitched buzzing of my alarm interrupts her. I look up at the ceiling and blink sluggishly. Despite my grogginess there's a smile tugging at the corners of my lips.

Freckles.

If that's not a reason to smile, I don't know what is.

I can find her.
Last edited by Jaspirian on Tue Nov 12, 2013 7:41 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Kyler Thatch
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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/9)

Post by Kyler Thatch » Sun Nov 10, 2013 2:40 am

Four chapters in, and the only interaction between Hisao and Karen so far is 1) Hisao arrives at the pool, 2) Hisao and Karen notice each other, and 3) Karen leaves. When they first met, you sparked a good deal of curiosity and created a lot of anticipation. (At least, that's how it felt for me.) After so long, though, that anticipation is draining fast.

The thing, I think, is that for something called "a Karen pseudo-route", we've hardly seen any Karen in it so far. Heck, I don't think Hisao even knows her name yet!

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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/9)

Post by Comrade » Sun Nov 10, 2013 2:44 am

timid void
I believe you mean voice.
So we still don't have a clue about mystery swimming girl. With this build up i expect her to be nothing short of a giant squid lady, or a maremaid or some other sea creature.
Hisao is such an idiot for not taking his pills, considering he worries so much about his health and death
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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/9)

Post by monkeywitha6pack » Sun Nov 10, 2013 3:02 am

Definitely peaking my interest I like the slow build up to knowing Karen, it's building your hisaos character. :D
Wahahaha~.
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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/9)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Sun Nov 10, 2013 4:16 am

a maremaid
An unmarried female horse? ;-)
I agree with the other posters here. For something called the "Karen-route" there's not enough Karen in here. Meeting Hisao twice and both times leaving without saying a word, she certainly is a very strange girl...
And Hisao neglecting his pills - not out of forgetfulness but out of sloth - in not really consistent with the Hisao you present in the rest of the story. The Hisao who thinks deep thoughts about his own mortality. If you want Hisao to have a heart attack sometime soon, you can have that without him neglecting his pills.
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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/9)

Post by Jaspirian » Sun Nov 10, 2013 7:27 am

My bad. Thank you for catching the spelling mistake.

Glad you're enjoying the development.

I warned you about the beginning--and I'm afraid if you hated the last chapter for not including Karen, the next is going to be just as bad.
Problem is, this is the best way to do it. I apologize for the slow start and if I knew a better way to do it I would.
As always, I welcome criticism and constructive feedback. If you have an idea for how she could be better introduced I am all ears.
I can only ask for your patience.

As to pills: yes, Hisao is an idiot, but an understandable one. Mirage, I don't think what's going through his head is clear to you, and that may be my fault. Let me make it plainer, at least out of character.
Throughout all the arcs but (I believe) Rin's and Emi's, we see Hisao neglecting his pills and his health. This is a lamentably poor decision and seems, to us, pretty damn stupid. After all, isn't he going to die if he fails to attend to himself?
Death is ever-present for him, and that's a very difficult concept for a teenager to suddenly find himself with. There are three ways to deal with something of that magnitude: accept it, try to escape it, or let it mold you. For evidence of the first you can look to the Hisao of Rin's arc, at least in part. For the last check out Rikabro's Rika arc, which I've linked in my OP.
Hisao is unable to cope with this sudden change so he tries to run away from it. Taking pills to him is an admission of his own mortality and his own changed state: I am going to die unless I take these pills. Running is like saying because I have arrhythmia, I have no choice but to exercise. This outlook changes with RIn when she forces him to look at himself honestly.

The Hisao of my story is having a great deal of difficulty handling the fact that he is different, indelibly so, from the person he was a year ago. He is no longer "normal." He cannot be. He is broken, and there is a looming possibility that one day he will simply fall apart.

Since he lives so firmly in his head (need to understand Rin, need to let Lilly be happy) he is quite willing to ruminate on his new fate.
He is absolutely not willing to live it.

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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/9)

Post by CaptainFalcon » Sun Nov 10, 2013 8:09 am

I'm liking the current pacing of this story, it's leaving me with a lot of anticipation about who Karen is and how a proper interaction between her and Hisao will go. It's only 4 chapters in, so give it a bit more time methinks and then we will see her. Plus I get the feeling Karen will be a rather mysterious person, an enigma if you will, which kind of suits the interactions her and Hisao have had thus far (or at least that's how I see it anyway, personal opinion and all that jazz)
All in all you still have my interest and attention, so keep up the good work!

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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/9)

Post by Comrade » Sun Nov 10, 2013 8:53 am

Well, we know basically nothing about your OC, so I can't really tell if the slow build up is necessary for her introduction. It looks like hisao is obsessed with finding a person he didn't even talk to (at least we don't know it). I don't really get an air ofmystery from a girl that barely had any screen time "
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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/9)

Post by Jaspirian » Sun Nov 10, 2013 9:06 am

Glad you like the pacing.

Chapter 3 is called "Nimue." Given that, if it's still not clear to you then I'm not being obvious enough.

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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/9)

Post by Oscar Wildecat » Sun Nov 10, 2013 10:37 am

As much as I would like to know more about the mysterious Karen, I do like the fact how you're fleshing out Hisao for this particular pseudo-route. (Or could it be a pseudopod-route? :D )
I like all the girls in KS, but empathize with Hanako the most.
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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/9)

Post by Mader Levap » Sun Nov 10, 2013 9:31 pm

That Karen barely glimpsed so far does not bother me. Pretty obvious foreshadowing is pretty obvious. Fact that whole setup is predictable is okay... but neglecting pills just because he could not bother with gulping them is rather OOC for me. Ah well, let's see how it will unfold before judging.
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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/9)

Post by Jaspirian » Tue Nov 12, 2013 7:42 pm

I've edited the end of the last bit to make the pills clearer and also to give a small hint towards Karen.
Next chapter incoming.

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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/9)

Post by Jaspirian » Tue Nov 12, 2013 8:00 pm

“Dude, I’m telling you—stay away from that festival. It’s dangerous, man.”

I nod sagely, as if I know what the hell Kenji is going on about. He probably doesn’t see the motion, but that sure doesn’t stop him.

“The booths are the worst part. You never know what sort of mind-control ingredients they’ll add to the noodles… and don’t get me started on the fireworks. It’s a classic feminist trick: keep people’s eyes glued to something and just when they’re distracted… BAM!”

“Bam,” I echo, wondering if Kenji ever watches movies. Does he think the film industry is overrun by feminists? I decide asking that question is a bad idea. “Is that when they knife you?”

Kenji angrily shakes his head. “No way, man! Have you ever held a good knife? That heft, that weight, that danger—there’s no way a feminist would use such an undeniably manly weapon. They’re sneaky and mean, so it’s gotta be garrote wire. Or maybe a taser…”

Kenji’s lost in his thoughts: that’s my cue to leave. I’m beginning to realize my hallmate’s theories are grounded neither in fact nor in his own experience.

“Hey, Kenji, I have to get going. I’ll see you later.” He grabs my shoulder before I can leave and for the first time in this conversation it feels like he’s actually looking at me. I can smell the garlic on his breath.

“Listen man, we’re buds, right?” I nod slowly, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I guess we are, though it’s pretty depressing that he’s the closest thing to a friend I’ve got at this school. “You and I are the only ones at this school who know what’s going on.” I can barely see his eyes narrow behind his thick glasses. “I think. Maybe there are some other survivors here, but they must not have HAM radios since no one’s answered my broadcasts.”

“You have a—never mind.” I realize almost too late that I’m just getting dragged into his crazy fantasy world. He continues on despite the interruption.

“I’m the only sane man and you’re my sidekick, the partially-sane-guy. Everyone else is just sheep. Sheep people. Sheeple. Hey, that’s not bad. I like it.” He ponders the word he probably thinks he just made up and I clear my throat to get his train of thought back on track.

“And…?”

“Man, you don’t get it?” He claps my shoulder and I’m pretty sure I see a pitying look cross his face. “I don’t blame you. It’s a hard world out there, Hisao, and friends are hard to come by. But we’re hard men, and we look out for each other. Listen, I understand if you gotta check out the festival. But make sure to lie low, and meet me on the rooftop after sundown. Just so I can be sure you made it out okay. We can have a picnic.”

“I… thanks, Kenji. I’ll do that.” Despite myself I’m actually touched by his concern. Is it depressing that he’s shown me more thought than my parents?

He squeezes my shoulder and looks quickly from side to side. “Good man. I’ll see you tonight, or I’ll mourn you or something. Remember the password.”

Right, the password. That must have been what the slip of paper he gave me while I was out with Lilly meant. I just wish I knew what it had to do with anything, and despite my better judgment I ask. “Kenji, why honeymu--”

But he’s gone, in a flurry of locks and bolts slamming home. Door closed, sanctuary sealed. The madness is, however shortly, kept at bay.

Time for the festival. Maybe I won’t get choked while watching the fireworks.



I’m struck by the sudden diversity shown by the campus visitors. Usually adults are rare at Yamaku unless they’re teachers or medical personnel, but today we’ve got all sorts. It even looks like we have some kids from other schools who dropped by or wandered in. I gather most of the visitors are family of the students, come by to check up on their children or siblings.

A tinny voice comes on the speakers and makes some boring announcements that the young ignore and the old treat like gold. It makes me feel… I don’t know. I’m not jealous; more than anything I’d hate having my parents try to run my life or get overinvolved. Maybe I should feel good about being so independent, but it doesn’t feel like anything at all.

No more people-watching, I decide, partially because my stomach is growling. I look over the stalls but nothing really catches my eye until I spy a blond-haired girl in animated discussion. That settles it: I’ll give her class some patronage.

As I approach, however, I realize that there might be bigger things afoot. It takes Lilly a solid minute to finish a whispered conversation with someone who looks like a teacher and finally make her way to the counter. “I’m sorry,” she apologizes in her sweetest tone possible, “can I get you something?”

I glance at the menu, realizing I should probably have been reading up while she was busy. I pick the first thing on the menu that looks appetizing instead of taking more time and making her even busier. “I’ll take the soba noodles, I guess.”

A smile appears on her face, doing only a little to dispel her distressed expression. “Hisao, is it?”

“Very good,” I reply, and she gives me a small mock-bow in response. “Something wrong? You look kind of flustered.”

She frowns, maybe irritated that she let it show. “I’m afraid we had a small mixup with our supplies. We’re running low on food and to make matters worse, we’re understaffed.”

She’s telling the truth: though other booths have as many as eight people working at once, 3-2’s booth seems to only have four. And that’s counting the teacher. Lilly lightly clears her throat and begins running her hands over the cash register.

“But don’t worry, Hisao, we’ll come through. Soba, you said?” She has that tightly controlled expression on her face again, and for some reason it makes me feel a little guilty. Maybe I should have been more involved in my own class’s stall, even if I did transfer in. I spot a little furrow in Lilly’s brow and realize she’s been searching for the right button for about thirty seconds now. The stall isn’t the most popular, but there’s a line starting to form. And am I really doing anything else right now?

“Listen, Lilly, can I help?” She raises a hand to her mouth in surprise, but is just as quick to shake her head.

“I couldn’t ask you to waste your time at the festival like that, Hisao. I’m sure something else deserves your attention more than helping with our food stall.”

I waver until a fellow student taps Lilly on the shoulder and starts whispering in worried tones. Besides, the sad truth is that I don’t have anything better to do at all. “Not at all, Lilly. Just tell me what to do and I’ll get right to it.”

She gives a warm smile and steps back, motioning for her peer to wait. “Then the front is all yours. I’m afraid no one saw fit to give us a braille register, so we’ve been making do the best we can; maybe your eyes will have an easier time than our hands.”

I step forward and run my eyes over the register. Seems simple enough: these buttons calculate the cost and one of them… not that one… there, this opens up the till. I tell Lilly I’ll do my best and I prepare for the first order.



“You are an excellent clerk, Hisao. Have you thought of pursuing it as a day job?”

I blink, too surprised to follow up her light teasing. “Students at Yamaku are allowed to get jobs? Even though, you know…”

Thankfully, she brushes over my fumble. “If a student is medically able and doing well in their classes, then yes. Some students in your class help run a small restaurant called the Beijing, in fact. I hear the food is quite good.”

“Oh, I see. That makes sense. Listen, Lilly, remember...”

“Yes? Remember what?”

“Never mind. It was nothing.” What can I possibly say? Remember that girl I was talking about? She had freckles, have you seen her around? That would be as bad as asking Shizune what her favorite bands are.

Lilly pouts at being left out but gives up when it’s clear I won’t elaborate. She extends her cane and begins to tap her way towards me. “I’m going to see how Hanako is faring. She doesn’t like the crowds, so she’s probably in the library. Would you be interested in accompanying me?”

I’m about to answer, but something turns my head. What did I see? Everywhere I look there’s just people. Faces I don’t recognize fade into gray and slide through my vision, but there…. There! A familiar freckled face, lit just right by a neon sign. It’s her, I’d swear it. I’m moving before my mind can catch up, and I turn back to call an apology to Lilly. She nods, smiling, and moves on while I try my best to catch another glimpse of the girl from the pool.

It’s no luck. After five minutes of hectic weaving I sit down on a bench and do my best to catch my breath. Somehow I’d forgotten how much my heart complains about prolonged exercise, and more than once I’d almost had a collision with someone’s shoulder or arm. I’d never seen crowds as dangerous before, but now I realize a very real threat hidden in them. Maybe if I got knocked down and couldn’t get up I’d get trampled. What a way to die. I can see the headlines now: “boy has heart attack, gets crushed by crowd in search of food.”

Speaking of food, I’m hungry. Somehow I never got my soba from Lilly’s stall. I sigh and get to my feet, mentally preparing myself for another trek. Before I get five feet a hand grabs me from behind and spins me around.
Last edited by Jaspirian on Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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