Learning To Fly - A Saki pseudo-route (Updated 11/10)

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Re: Learning To Fly - A Saki pseudo-route (Updated/New Art 5/26)

Post by Eurobeatjester » Tue Nov 10, 2020 8:27 pm

I close my eyes and let out a deep breath. “I want to, but it’s strange. I love you but the last few times I’ve been back, it just hasn’t felt completely right. Not with you two, but...I don’t know how to explain it.”

“You don’t feel like you can come home because it doesn’t feel like home anymore, right?”

I close my eyes and run my hand over my forehead when I hear this, as if a wound has been opened up.

“It’s okay,” she says, placatingly. “I understand the feeling better than you think. I felt the same way after we got married,” she says, looking to my father. “The first few times I went back home to visit, I didn’t feel like I was home. It was the same house I grew up in. I wanted it to be home, and I felt worse because it didn’t.”

“Mom, I didn’t even have a chance to adjust,” I say, surprised at the bitterness in my voice. “I got one night back home after getting out of the hospital and then the next day we immediately came up here.”

“We thought it was best to get you back into a normal routine…”

“Nothing about that was normal, Mom! I had just spent months in the hospital and I couldn’t even have a weekend to adjust or rest. Do you know how awkward it was to go home for the first time since February and all my stuff was already packed and ready to go up to Yamaku?”

“Son, calm down,” my father says.

I give a deep sigh filled with regret. “I didn’t have a chance to tell my friends what was happening. I wasn’t even able to tell them goodbye before I left. I could have, I don’t know, gone back to the school one last time.”

“You had their numbers. You saw them again this summer, and you said you even made up with them,” my mother counters, concern in her voice.

“I didn’t call them because I thought I would have had at least a few days to get used to being back home and could have said goodbye then! They were planning a party for me when I got back to school, but Mai told me they found out I was gone after I had already left.”

“If this has been bothering you this whole time, why didn’t you say anything to us about it?”

I shake my head. “Would it have done any good?” I ask, barely loud enough to be heard.

A silence settles on all of us for a few moments. I didn’t think the conversation would go this route. I thought that I had come to grips - and subsequently peace - with everything that had happened.

I guess I was wrong.

“We’re sorry.”

I look up at my parents, and see the hurt on their faces. I’m slightly taken aback by this.

“W-what?”

They glance at each other again before my father continues. “We’re sorry. We were doing what we thought was best, but we didn’t know that’s the way you felt about it. You’re right. We should have given you some time back at home before we brought you up to Yamaku.”

I lean back in my chair again thinking back to that weekend, and the conversation we had where I was informed I was going to be coming up to Yamaku. I was angry and bitter about it, but at the time, I don’t think I realized just how much I was. My entire life had been turned upside down to that point, but I didn’t fully realize all the nuances behind that feeling of anger and dread that had been hanging over my head for the last four months. I don’t know if I would have even been able to articulate it. I never quite realized it until I went back in the summer for the first time and reunited with my friends, and even then it never quite crystalised until this conversation.

My parents have never really treated me like a kid, but they’ve never really treated me quite like an adult, either. Maybe living apart from the two of them has given all of us time to restructure our relationship.

Saki’s words play in my head. I haven’t seen them very often this last year, but I know I’ve changed from the person I used to be. If I can admit that to myself and take pride in it, then I have to acknowledge that this is new for them too, and give them the same patience I’ve learned to give myself.

Maybe we all need to spend some time to figure out what the new dynamic is moving forward. They’ll always be my parents, and I’ll always be their son...but I’m not a child anymore.

“Thank you,” I finally manage to say, a weight being lifted off my shoulders. My vision blurs slightly as I blink back a few tears. I didn’t know how purely vindicating it would feel to hear that.

My mother reaches across the table and clasps my hand, trying to change the mood and the subject. “So, what about Saki, then?”

I shake my head slightly to clear it, trying to focus on what we were talking about earlier before that detour.

“I love her, and I just…” I try to answer, bringing a hand up to rub at my temple. “Can I just...I don’t know, say some stuff out loud to see how it sounds?”

My father leans forward a bit, and the two of them nod.

“She did more to help me than anything or anyone else did. She helped me deal with what happened but she never once tried to downplay it or make it seem trivial. She helped me face it head on but was always right behind me to keep pushing me forward or catching me when I fell and...she deserves better,” I say. “She doesn’t deserve to end up like that...to die like that.”

“So you think that if you get married, you’ll be the one who can make medical decisions for her?” he asks.

I nod.

“That’s a lot to take in.”

I pinch the bridge of my nose. “I know. But...with everything going on, waiting a full year might take too long…”

My parents shoot each other a concerned glance. “Have you talked to Saki about this?”

I shake my head. “Not yet.”

“What do you think she would say?”

“I…”

I stare off into the middle distance as I fall deep into thought. I know she loves me. We’ve stuck together this year and become closer than I ever thought we could. I know we both want to give a relationship a try after graduation, despite all the challenges that it would present...but that would eventually be the end question, wouldn’t it? Chisato and Mitsuru have already made up their minds about it, but Saki…

Saki’s never sugarcoated her condition or her intentions regarding it, knowing it’s pushed other people away, and worse - and that’s what gives me pause.

I would be doing this because I love her and I want to help her, but...is my help something that she wants? Her independence is fiercely important to the core of who she is, and she’s never let the world tell her she couldn’t have something, but...she’d still be giving that up if she said yes.

Do I even have the right to ask that of her? And if I do ask and she says no...where does it leave us?

“...I don’t know,” I finally admit.

They glance at each other again. “Well...when you figure it out, let us know.”

“Does that mean-”

“There’s going to be a very long discussion when we get to that point. I just want to make that clear,” my father clarifies.

I nod one last time.

------------------

The gate looks the same as it did the first time I walked through it nearly a year ago. The ornate iron framed by red brick pillars was imposing back then; a symbol in a chain of events that showed me how much my life had changed and would continue to do so.

I feel slightly nostalgic now as I walk through them again, realizing I’m only going to do so a handful of remaining times. With the recital tonight and graduation tomorrow, I might be spending another few days here...but that’s going to heavily depend on what Saki’s plans are.

The spring air is brisk and sharp as I draw it into my lungs. The temperature is pleasant, with only a few clouds scattering their way across the sky. I see a few students and faculty walking through the grounds as I do the same, idly making my way along the paths that split up the manicured lawns.

Checking my watch, I see there’s just under an hour or so before Chisato and Saki are supposed to meet up with their music teacher. I haven’t heard from Saki yet, so she must still be with her family. She said she’d probably be a little late in getting back anyway.

I’m not quite sure how to kill the time between now and then. I think about going to finish packing up my room, but there’s not that much left after Saki helped...still though, there’s really nothing else to do.

The courtyard in front of the main building doesn’t take too long to cross, covered in shifting shadows from the trees above. When I get to the top of the stairs next to Rin’s mural, I see a familiar face come out of the entrance to the female dorms and begin speedwalking away.

“Hey Chisato!” I call out, causing her to stop and look around for a second, searching for the source of the voice. Her face brightens when she sees me and picks up her previous pace, but in my direction this time.

“Hisao!” she says, giving me a hug. “You just get back?”

“Yeah, I did. I was going to spend a few minutes trying to do some cleaning. What are you doing right now?”

Chisato pouts. “Cafeteria. We slept in late this morning. I don’t know if I’ll get the chance to eat again until after the recital.”

I cast a glance back towards the dorms, thinking about how I really want to spend the next half hour. “Want some company?”

“I thought you just ate?”

“I could go for a coffee.”

She smiles. “Sure.”

The two of us head back the way I came earlier, through the courtyard and into the main building. We turn the corner into the cafeteria and see that it’s fairly deserted. It’s the strange period of the afternoon where the cooks are working on the evening meal; there’s not much left over from lunch.

Chisato looks at the three wrapped sandwiches that are left and picks one, along with an instant noodle cup. She spends an impatient few minutes in front of the microwave while I go to the vending machine to get two cans for us. I slide one over to her when she finally joins me at the table.

“Thanks,” she says, ripping the paper lid fully off the top of the noodles. A puff of steam rises to meet her face, and she breathes deeply. “Ahhh. Not as good as the city, but not bad.”

“My parents took me to Nagina this morning,” I mention. “I kind of wish it happened later so I could have gone to the stand again instead.”

“Yeah? What did your folks think of the city?”

“I think they liked it. They were going to spend a few more hours down there before they came up for the recital.”

“Really? They’re coming?” she asks excitedly. When I nod, she claps her hands. “That’s great! I really want to meet them!”

“Sure, I’d love to introduce you after the recital,” I answer. My parents and Saki get along well, and there’s no reason to think they wouldn’t do the same with Chisato. I think my mom would instantly like her.

Chisato takes a minute to dig into her food, moving quickly to get a few bites before sipping her coffee. “What did you guys talk about?” she says from behind a napkin.

I hesitate for a moment. “I’m still trying to figure out what my options are after leaving Yamaku. I was going back home for a few weeks at least no matter what, but I don’t know if I’ll end up staying there or moving somewhere else,” I sigh. “I haven’t even figured out what cram school I want to go to.”

She pauses, noodle-laden chopsticks halfway to her mouth. “Where else were you thinking of going?” she asks, resuming with a hungry bite.

“Well, I really was thinking about Tokyo, but…” I say, letting it trail off.

Chisato gives a small cough and swallows when she hears this. “Hisao, what I said about you and Tokyo still stands. I still need a roommate if I don’t want to live in the dorms.”

It’s my turn to be surprised. We haven’t talked about this since right before Christmas, when all three of us had been casually mentioning getting a place together. I know we were all open to the idea, but we never got around to considering it seriously before the end of the year. I had just assumed that it wasn’t happening, because I’m not sure I could have acted differently if the situations were reversed.

“I, uh, kind of thought that wasn’t an option after what happened…”

She sighs heavily. “Yeah, well, considering we graduate tomorrow morning, I can’t put this off any longer,” she says, giving me a weak grin that’s more relatable than it should be. I’ve felt that same sentiment about a lot of things leading up to this week.

“What about Saki?” I ask, saying the thing that’s on both our minds.

(continued...)
Last edited by Eurobeatjester on Mon Nov 23, 2020 5:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Learning To Fly - A Saki pseudo-route (Updated/New Art 5/26)

Post by Eurobeatjester » Tue Nov 10, 2020 8:28 pm

A handful of seconds tick by as she thinks about her answer. “I don’t know, Hisao. I want to, but...it hurts. After we met up in the city, I just wanted to get away from it for a few days and see how I felt about it.”

I sip my coffee to stall for a moment. “Do you know how you feel now?”

She pushes the cup away from her, a little more than half finished. “I don’t know, Hisao. I really don’t. Every time I come up with a reason for it, I can think of a reason against it. So no, I can’t tell you which one would be better, so...I might as well go with what I want to happen.”

“Yeah?”

Chisato pinches the bridge of her nose. “I just wish that things could go back to the way they were.”

“Me too,” I sigh, both of us knowing that it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible.

“Well, the university starts classes at the end of April,” she says, finally getting around to tearing the cellophane off the sandwich. “I’ll be living at home until then, so I don’t have to make a decision on the housing thing yet.”

I nod, refraining from saying anything. I spent the last two months trying to plan for something else, but finding out that there might still be some small chance that it could happen gives me pause. It’s not that I don’t want to do it - I do - but I can’t shift gears quite that fast.

The way that Chisato framed her last statement is also telling. This isn’t something that should be a unilateral decision, but I know that her feelings on the issue hold far more weight than my own.

She’s right; as long as Saki and I are planning to try and make a relationship work.

“Saki and I are going to try to stay together after we graduate,” I say, putting that card on the table.

“I know,” she says, surprising me. “She told me.”

“Wait, she did?”

Chisato dips her chin. “When we talked at the coffee shop. It was one of the things we talked about before we...talked about Kayoko.”

I hesitate. “How did that conversation go?”

She brushes me off with a wave of her hand. “I’m sure Saki told you about it.”

“Chisato, look,” I start, trying to figure out the best way to phrase what I’m about to say. “Both of you are very important to me. You’re my friends. Hell, you’re more than that. I may have seen my parents this morning but you three have been more family to me than they have this last year. I want to know how you feel.”

Chisato cocks her head to the side as she considers me, narrowing her eyes and giving a knowing smirk. “You really don’t want to live back at home, do you?”

The smile I give is a sad one. “No. And I don’t think I realized it until just now. I think I could be content, but I don’t know if I could be happy.”

“Interesting way to put it.”

“I’m glad it made sense, because I couldn’t think of any other way to say it. I don’t think I’m quite ready to be content just yet.”

“You’d still have friends from your old school, right? I mean, it’s not like everyone could be moving away.”

I shake my head. “From what Mai told me, about two thirds of the class ended up getting accepted into university. They might not get the ones they applied for but enough of them are moving away...and even if I do go to a cram school nearby, I don’t know if I can make friends with anyone else from my old class I might run into.”

“But you were able to reconnect with a few of them.”

“Four of them, but those were pretty much the only friends I had. I wasn’t very popular at my old school. I never got picked on or singled out, but I, uh...didn’t have to try too hard to slip under the radar. And all of those friends got accepted so they’ll be moving or busy as well...”

Chisato takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly, setting aside the rest of her unfinished meal. “Well, I can’t just ask you to be a roommate and say that Saki can’t visit. That’s not fair to the two of you. But if you and I ended up getting a place together, having her visit wouldn’t exactly be fair to me.”

I immediately see her point. If we’re not able to move forward, then there’s no way that living situation would work out regardless of Saki being there as a roommate or a guest. We’d all end up being resentful over it, and there’s one other truth to consider.

I’m not leaving Saki, even if that means this idea falls apart.

“What can she do to make things up to you?” I ask her.

“It’s not a scale, Hisao! You can’t just try to throw good thoughts at something and magically expect it to balance out. That’s not the way that life works!”

“You think I don’t know that, after how this last year’s been for me?” I fire back, a little more heat to my voice than I intended. “Saki didn’t know how much she would hurt you-”

I’m cut off with a sharp look and tone. “Do not defend her.”

I back off and take a calming breath before trying again. “I’m not defending her. Chisato, I can’t even begin to understand the pain you have...but I believe with all my heart that Saki wants to make things right.”

She grimaces. “I know that! I know that, damnit.”

A few moments pass in silence before I speak again. “Is there any way?”

Chisato rotates her body slightly, turning her face away from mine and staring off into the distance as she thinks. It’s an agonizing few seconds, but I’ll wait as long as I need to for this answer.

“She never came to me,” she finally says, so low that I barely make it out.

“Kayoko.”

“No. Saki.”

I’m momentarily taken aback. “Saki? What do you mean?”

Chisato turns to look at me again. “Saki thinks that she’s alone. She can make friends easily but it’s hard for anyone to really get to know her. She’s always been that way.”

I think back to all the conversations I’ve had with her over the last year, specifically when it comes to the attitude she has towards her ataxia. She’s fighting as hard as she can to ward off the progression, but she’s also fighting equally hard to not let any progression show. She said it was because she didn’t want people to pity her, but now I’m not so sure.

Chisato sees the concerned expression on my face. “Neither of us will ever be able to truly understand what she’s going through and it’s only going to get worse. You know that, right?”

I nod. Yeah, I know that. All too well...but something doesn’t make sense.

“You’ve known her longer than I have...but if that’s true, then why did she become friends with Noriko? Why did she decide to become my friend the first few weeks I was here?”

Chisato closes her eyes. “After everything that happened during our first year, Saki lost a lot of friends and didn’t get many new ones after that.”

“She’s still friendly with a lot of them, though, like Miki and Suzu.”

“Being friendly with someone doesn’t mean you’re close friends with them. I mean, would you say the two of them are your friends or are they more acquaintances?”

“More than acquaintances for sure. There are people in my class I’ve spoken maybe a dozen words to outside of the classroom. We’ve hung out with the two of them before.”

“Yeah, but we all have our cliques. They’re not as close as you and I are, or you and Noriko.”

“I guess when you put it that way, you’re right,” I sigh. “But that still doesn’t answer my question.”

“Noriko was a bit of an outcast. Saki saw that and I guess thought they had that in common. She introduced her to me properly when she invited her for lunch and we all became friends after a few weeks...as for you though? I have an idea, but it might sound bad,” she frowns.

“Go ahead.”

She shrugs “She didn’t have to worry about any baggage with you. You were the only transfer in our year. You didn’t know what had happened like everyone else at the school did. Nobody knew everything - shit, I sure didn’t,” she says with a low grumble, “but her breakup with Maeda was pretty ugly. If she was going to make another friend, or find someone to date...it would have been a lot harder to do it with a student that had been here for the last three years. She didn’t date anyone after she broke up with Maeda until you came along.”

I shake my head. I’m not liking the implication, but I’m unable to dismiss it out of hand. Sure, she was friendly to me that first week, but so was everyone else in their own way. For some of them, it came off more like an obligation to make the new kid feel welcome, but Saki felt different.

“You know...even if you’re right about that,” I say, “I don’t think it matters.”

“Why is that?” Chisato inquires, curiosity seeping into her voice despite herself.

“It might have started out that way, but it became more than that. Especially since we’ve been together for seven months now, and she even told you she wanted to try and make it work after Yamaku. If what you say is true, wouldn’t she just find it easier to start over again after graduating? To make new friends, or just cut everyone out completely until...” I answer, letting the implication hang in the air.

Chisato turns her head again and scowls for a fraction of a second. “When did you guys make the decision about it?”

“A few days ago...”

“So, not until after Christmas then?”

“...what exactly are you implying?”

“After Christmas, she wasn’t going to be going to Tokyo,” she nearly scoffs.

The annoyance in her tone takes me aback. I think I know what she’s getting at, but when I follow where that line of thought leads for a second, I turn down the idea. There’s no way that’s what it was. “Saki only wants to stay together now because I was her second choice? Is that really what you believe? Come on.

“No, but with the way she interacts with others...Saki’s never tried to drive you away before?” she retorts, her voice softening.

I swallow hard, knowing I can’t lie to myself or Chisato about it. “She did. During the summer break when she came to visit me.”

“Really?” Chisato asks, surprised. “You two seemed even more lovey-dovey when you came back.”

Remembering that night, the emotions I have are so strong it’s like living them all over again. It was the night she wanted to break up, scared for the future.

The night she told me about her motivations, and what she was planning when her time was short.

The night I realized that I loved her, told her that for the first time - and the way she fell into my arms afterwards.

They’re some of the happiest and most intense memories I have, but even so, shards of this conversation burrow their way in and cause me to consider them differently, if ever so slightly.

“She was scared of what would happen if we stayed together when she got worse. I told her it didn’t matter to me, and that I loved her. Actually...that’s kind of how it came up the other night.” I pause for a moment, other things coming to my mind. “And she wanted to make that album with you. She wanted to do the recital with you.” I reach across the table and touch her upper arm. “She was also excited about the idea of all of us living together. Chisato, if I start to second guess everything, I won’t be able to stop doing it.”

Chisato sets her forehead down on top of her folded arms, hiding her face from mine. “You’re right. I’m sorry. You’re right. This isn’t fair to you, Hisao. I just...once you start thinking about it like that you look back over everything you did and said and everything you talked about and it’s hard to not see things, you know? I’ve been doing it so much to myself the last few months and I just don’t know what to think anymore.”

She was mad at Saki, and had every right to be. But beyond that, there’s more than just the hurt of what happened with Kayoko.

“Has Saki ever tried to push you away?” I gently ask.

She lifts her head when she hears me. “No. She didn’t...and that’s the problem, Hisao.”

(continued...)
Stuff I'm currently writing: Learning To Fly: A Saki Enomoto Pseudo Route
Two Turtledoves - A Lilly/Hisao Christmas Oneshot
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Re: Learning To Fly - A Saki pseudo-route (Updated/New Art 5/26)

Post by Eurobeatjester » Tue Nov 10, 2020 8:29 pm

Now it’s my turn to be shocked. “Problem? How is getting along a problem?”

“It’s not, but…” she strains, finishing with a frustrated growl as she reflexively balls her fists. “She didn’t come to me. After Kayoko died, Saki never opened up to me the way she used to before. I would have been upset at her, I know I would have been. But I thought she trusted me more than that…”

Chisato’s eyes begin to water up as she struggles to maintain her composure.

My hand slides down to cover the back of hers. “She loves you, Chisato. You know that.”

She continues, her pace fast. “I believe she did it because she didn’t want to hurt me, Hisao, but fuck, it hurts so bad. I kept thinking that maybe if I noticed something with Kayoko, or if I listened to her more, or if I was there that night, that it wouldn’t have happened. She would have told me and I’d be mad and then we could get through it together. I’m not upset she talked with Kayoko about suicide, I’m upset that she didn’t think she could come to me afterwards!”

Her mouth sets into a hard thin line and she squeezes her eyes shut under pained brows. A few tears force their way out.

“I’m sorry, Hisao,” she finally continues, taking a quick second to brush a finger under each eye. "I know there are ways I can’t be there for her, but I want to be there in the ways I can. But it’s more than that. I want her to realize she isn’t alone, that I want to be there for her as much as you are. I’ll do anything I can to help her, but god damn it, I wanted her to ask me for help and not just assume I'm either going to give it to her or not!"

The impact of her last statement hits hard, and I struggle to find any words to say to it.

She shakes her head to clear it. “It won’t do any good anyway right now. The recital is tonight and I need to focus on that.”

“Let’s all try to get together tomorrow after graduation.”

She turns away again. “We can’t.”

“Come on,” I say, trying to cheer her up. “You, Mitsuru, Sa-”

“Mitsuru’s leaving to go home right after the ceremony tomorrow.”

She says it so quietly that I almost don’t hear her, but maybe part of that is my brain wanting to block it out before I can consciously comprehend it. When I do, I feel horrible for how I just learned it. I try to give her hand another squeeze.

“Chisato, I’m sorry. I didn’t know about Mitsuru not b-”

She pulls her hand away, clearly agitated. “I don’t want to talk about Mitsuru, okay?”

I open my mouth a bit to reply, then shut it again when I realize that I’ve been rambling on about my relationship to a close friend that’s losing hers.

“Sorry. Okay.”

Chisato sits up straighter. “Ask me about the recital tonight.”

“Are you ready?” I comply, helping both of us get onto a better topic of discussion.

“I think I am. I play my piece, Saki plays hers, and then we play together.”

“Can I ask you a question?”

She nods.

“Why are you still playing with Saki, if this is how you feel? I’m sure Mrs. Sakamoto could have changed it for you if you asked.”

She doesn’t answer me for a few seconds, but surprises me when she does.

“Sensei asked me about that, while we were at the studio. I was so mad at the time, but...I didn’t know what would happen the next few months, if it was something that we would be able to work out or if I’d feel differently about it. And besides...I figured it would be easier to put up with if I was still angry, instead of trying to arrange it so we could play together again if I wasn’t.”

“Sounds like you put some thought into it.”

“I didn’t, actually. I can play while I’m upset. I mean, I managed to record just fine,” she answers sardonically. “I fucking nailed it, too.”

I take a moment before replying. “Saki said she’s going to do her best.”

“I’m sure she is,” Chisato says, but the way she does implies she’s being polite rather than showing an interest.

“She is,” I stress. “She told me that she wants to do the best she can. Not for her teacher or for her parents, but for her.”

Chisato perks up when she hears this, then nods again. “Okay then.”

It’s really hard to decipher what she’s thinking at the moment, but when I look at my watch, I see we’ve run out of time to talk further about it right now.

“There’s about fifteen minutes before Mrs. Sakamoto wants to see you. Mind if I tag along?”

“If you want. I just find it weird that she wanted to see us so early.”

My brow furrows. “She didn’t tell you why either?”

She shakes her head. “Not a hint. She just called me out of the blue after we all had dinner and told me to be there at two.”

I nod. “Yeah, that’s what happened with Saki too, although she’s going to be a little late.”

“Let’s get going then. I’m nervous but I’m curious to see what this is all about.”

Chisato stands up, prompting me to do so as well. It only takes a minute to gather our trash, and another minute to deposit it in the bin on the way out of the cafeteria for what is most likely the last time.

----------------------

Our journey through the campus is much the same as it was to get to the cafeteria; uneventful yet pleasant. The sun is a little lower in the sky and the temperature has cooled off a few degrees, hinting at a beautiful evening to come.

Well, relaxing for some of us.

“What time did your parents say they were going to get here?” Chisato asks.

“Probably about half an hour before the recital starts, maybe a little earlier. Why?”

She frowns. “Shoot, that’s too late. I wanted to meet them, but I think it’s gonna have to wait until afterwards. All of us are going to be warming up in the band room.”

“How? The piano’s not in there anymore.”

Chisato laughs. “Okay, the others are practicing. I’m going to be changing into my costume for the show tonight.”

I raise my eyebrow. “This is the one you got the tie for, right?”

“Yep!” she nods happily, clearly excited. “It’s a pinstripe suit with a vest and a hat! It makes me look like a mobster. I’ve had it for a few months and I can’t wait to finally wear it.”

“Why didn’t you wear it at Halloween?”

“I didn’t have it back then. I only bought it when Saki ended up getting that red dress from Plus Two so we could have something to wear together tonight.”

“Ah.”

Hearing Chisato get excited about her suit seems to lift her spirits about tonight, not even skipping a beat when she mentions Saki’s name.

Maybe tonight will go smoothly after all, and after that...it can’t hurt to hope, right?

We enter the foyer of the arts center, and soon after we reach the door to the music room. I open it for Chisato, who smiles slightly at me and steps through. I follow her, but bump into her as she comes to a complete stop barely past the threshold.

“Chisato? You okay?” I ask, leaning a bit to the side to see what caused her to stop moving.

“Ah, Chisato! Come in, come in!” I hear the voice of the music teacher call out, causing Chisato to take a few shaky steps. When I get a clearer view of what’s going on, I’m surprised.

Near the front of the room, I see Mrs. Sakamoto stand up from the chair she was sitting in, along with two other people. One of them is Takamura, his pompadour shining black in the overhead lighting.

“Mr. Takamura?” Chisato asks, just as confused as I am.

“Yo, Chisato!” he says, filled with his typical joviality.

The other person is someone I don’t recognize. She’s a woman slightly taller and thinner than Mrs. Sakamoto, her wire-rimmed glasses perched on the bridge of an elegant and sharp nose. Her graying hair is pulled up into a tight bun on the back of her head, and the blue pantsuit she wears provides a nice contrast to her white blouse.

“M-Mrs. Nanahara!” Chisato says, her eyes going wide. She hastily bows much deeper than usual to the newcomer, and I take a step back, not knowing what to do.

“Hello again, Miss Souma. Glad to see you’re doing well,” the older woman says, giving a slight bow in return.

I scan everyone’s faces, trying to get a read on the situation. Takamura is grinning from ear to ear, obviously enjoying this. Mrs. Sakamoto’s smile is a little more reserved, but it’s clear she’s happy too. When our eyes meet, she speaks up.

“Ah, Hisao. Good to see you as well. I’d like to introduce you to someone,” she says, gesturing towards the other woman. “Hisao Nakai, please meet Haruka Nanahara, the director of admissions at Tokyo University of the Arts.”

“P-pleased to meet you,” I stammer, bowing just as deep as Chisato did while I try to figure out the implications of what’s happening.

“The pleasure is mine, Mr. Nakai,” I hear her say. Her voice is refined and elegant, with a hint of an accent I can’t quite place. “Are you in Yamaku’s music program as well?”

“Ah, no, I’m not. I’m just here to support my friend,” I clarify, straightening up. My confusion is obvious, but so is Chisato’s. She turns to me.

“Hisao, this is Mrs. Nanahara,” she starts, clearly flustered to the point she repeats what was just said. “She was the one I had to interview with and audition for to be accepted into Tokyo University of the Arts...but...” she continues, turning back to the woman in question. “Why are you here? Tokyo is several hours away…”

Mrs. Nanahara’s face softens a bit. “I was invited here by Hana and Shogo.”

I raise my eyebrows. “You all know each other?”

“We do,” she answers. “Hana and myself have been friends for, oh, twenty years or so. I’ve known Shogo for about half that long.”

I guess that would make sense, given the overlap of the fields they’re all in, but that still doesn’t answer the question. Fortunately, it doesn’t take more than a brief pause before she continues.

“I’m actually here to see you, Miss Souma.”

Chisato’s body language turns defensive, a very subtle gesture you would never spot unless you knew when she was on guard. I know it’s an illusion, but I swear I can hear her heart thudding against her ribs.

“I-I’m sorry, but why? Is there a problem?” she asks, swallowing hard at the end of her question.

The music teacher clears her throat quietly, barely getting Chisato’s attention. “She’s not here for a bad reason, I promise. I invited her up here to watch the recital. Don’t worry, you’re still accepted to Tokyo,” she finishes, a warm smile on her face.

“Indeed,” the other woman says, taking on a similar tone. “Relax. You’re still in.”

Chisato slightly - yet visibly - sags at this. “Th-thank you,” she sighs, her relief turning back into confusion. “You came all the way up to hear me play?”

“Not just you.”

“Then who-” Chisato starts, then pauses as her eyes go wide, along with my own. We both realize who she’s talking about at the same time. “Saki?”

Mrs. Nanahara nods. “It is. I’m also here to listen to Miss Enomoto as well.”

When Chisato can’t manage a response, Mrs. Sakamoto speaks up.

“I’ve been trying for the last week to convince her to come up here,” she says. “She may still be able to help Saki get accepted to Tokyo as well.”

I turn to the teacher, my understanding of the situation not diminishing my shock at it one bit. “So, this is what you had planned?”

Chisato turns to stare at me. “You knew about this?”

I shake my head. “Not specifically. Your teacher said she might be working on something, but-”

“Hisao’s telling the truth,” Mrs. Sakamoto says, cutting off any suspicions her student might have. “I told him I was trying to do something for Saki, but I asked him not to bring it up in case it fell through. I didn’t tell him anything else about this.”

Chisato subtly shifts her weight from one foot to the other, still not convinced. “But, how? How could Saki still be eligible to get in? There was a deadline, that’s why we were supposed to do the recording together during the Christmas break…”

The admissions director gives a short laugh. “She started the application process back in October the same time you did. She just never finished the requirements, but technically the application is still open.”

“But she’d still have to submit a portfolio and perform an audition, right?”

“You’re absolutely right.”

(continued...)
Last edited by Eurobeatjester on Mon Nov 23, 2020 5:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Learning To Fly - A Saki pseudo-route (Updated/New Art 5/26)

Post by Eurobeatjester » Tue Nov 10, 2020 8:31 pm

“Then how-”

“Part of that is on me,” Takamura says, the first time he’s spoken since greeting Chisato. “When I gave Hana the final CD with the music you recorded on it, I may have slipped her another CD or two with some earlier stuff.”

“Shogo was right to do so, Miss Souma. I didn’t tell you at the time, but it definitely improved your chances of getting accepted.”

The poor girl sits down heavily, not quite sure what to make of this. I’m even more confused than she is.

Mrs. Nanahara continues. “I think that your growth as an artist is just as important as where you currently are as an artist. You have an amazing amount of talent, Miss Souma. But it truly shines in ways we don't usually experience when we hear submitted works for applications.” She sits down next to Chisato before continuing. “You improved remarkably the last few months when it comes to your composition and adaptability. Your teacher told me everything that happened with Miss Enomoto, and it’s nothing short of incredible that you were able to adapt your playstyle at the last minute to accommodate an unfortunate change in circumstances. There’s not many people who are able to do that, musicians or otherwise. I have no doubt that if you wanted it, you’d be more than capable of getting first chair some day.”

Chisato’s face has been turning redder the entire time she was being complimented, flushing with embarrassment at the praise. “Th...thank you...but, what about Saki’s audition?”

This draws out another knowing smile. “Why do you think I came all this way?”

“Y...you’re kidding.”

“I assure you, I am not.”

“Sensei, is this why you wanted us to get here early? So Saki could play for Mrs. Nanahara?”

Her teacher nods. “Yes, but she’s going to be a bit late.”

Takamura pipes up, walking towards us and me specifically. “Come on, Nakai. Let’s give the girls some time to themselves.”

“Uh, right,” I answer, giving an unsure glance at everybody else, but ultimately choosing to follow him out the door.

We walk through the foyer, making our way out into the afternoon sun. Takamura scans the area for a moment. “Any place we can talk without being interrupted?”

“Sure? I don’t think there’s anyone by the stage door.”

A minute or two later, and it turns out I’m right. I’m confused as to why we needed to go this far when we could have just talked in the foyer...but then Takamura pulls out a pack of cigarettes and lights one up.

“Not a bad place for this,” he says, exhaling a long stream of smoke. “Every school has a few.”

“I wouldn’t know.”

Takamura leans back against the wall. “You seem pretty confused about what just happened.”

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. What’s all this about an audition, and the CD, and...everything else?”

“Not much more to it than what you heard, but you probably want to hear about it from the beginning.”

I nod. He takes another drag before continuing.

“Right. So, late on Christmas Eve I got a phone call from Hana telling me what had happened. She was upset, and she knew there was no way that Saki was going to be able to make it for the recording because she might have been suspended or sent home, and well, you saw how angry Chisato was. I told her to bring Chisato the next day anyway.”

“But the two of them were supposed to record together, so why-”

“No point in both of them losing their shot. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true. There wasn’t anything we could do for Saki, so we ended up working with Chisato to rewrite some of the music at the last minute. We finished recording it and I was mixing it to get ready to send to Haruka.”

I start to catch on. “And you included some of the earlier stuff that they had practiced together on.”

“I figured it couldn’t hurt. It ended up working out for Chisato.”

I think for a minute. “How exactly does the admission process go? I didn’t really learn, and then after Christmas, I didn’t talk to Chisato that much about it except when she told me she got in.”

“Right. So there’s several stages to it. The first is that someone has to start to apply with the paperwork in the late summer or early fall. Pretty much the same way with any other university. But that’s just the start when it comes to the Academy for the Arts.”

All of this is making sense so far. “The next step would be the recording?”

“All schools look at grades, but you need more than that for specialized ones. Any art school requires a portfolio, and for a music school, instead of paintings or drawings you submit music that you’ve written or played. If you make it past that stage, you go to the school to play live in front of the admissions director to see if you’re the real deal.”

Saki went home immediately after the fallout from Christmas, so she wouldn’t have been able to do that, especially with her father dictating her actions. She was only able to get away from home one time and-

“Oh shit.” I say, realizing something.

“Hm?” the older man looks at me, sensing my change in mood.

I cover my hand with my mouth. “Her brother.”

“Saki’s? What about him?”

“Her brother brought her up to visit me when I was in the hospital,” I say, thinking about that day in a new light. “He could have taken her to Tokyo to have her audition!”

Takamura shakes his head. “If it makes you feel any better, it wouldn’t have been that simple. She wouldn’t have just been able to drop in for it.”

“So what’s the difference between then and now?”

“Hana called in a favor. She knew Saki was going to be back for the recital so she’s been trying to get Haruka to come up for the last few weeks.”

“Then why not tell Saki?”

He takes another draw from his cigarette before he answers me. “Two reasons. The first is that we didn’t find out until yesterday evening that Haruka was willing to make the trip to Sendai. The other was that we didn’t want to get Saki’s hopes up if she wasn’t able to.”

Suddenly, everything Mrs. Sakamoto said clicks. She didn’t know when I talked to her the other day, so that’s why she didn’t elaborate further and why she asked me to not talk to Saki about it.

The crazy thing is, she was right not to tell me. If she had told me that this was in the works, I don’t know if I would have been able to keep silent.

I shake my head. “So does Saki have her audition when she gets back to Yamaku?”

Takamura sighs. “Yes and no. Hana said she only asked the two of them to show up an hour earlier than everyone else, and you said Saki was going to be a bit late getting back, so there wouldn’t be enough time to do it properly.” He bends down and rubs the end of the cigarette on the ground, extinguishing it. “Besides that, it might be too much for her to handle before the recital. If she gets worn out beforehand, it won’t do her any good when she gets up on stage tonight.”

“Then that means…” I trail off.

“Yep,” he says, standing back up and flicking the butt into a nearby trashcan. “The recital is the audition.”

It all makes sense, but it’s hard to take in. “So the idea is to tell Saki when she gets back. Why didn’t the teacher tell her when she learned about it last night?”

He looks at me. “You think she would get any sleep last night and be ready for today? You two were on a date anyway. Maybe she wanted the two of you to enjoy it.”

Logically I know he’s right, but I still feel guilty about it and I know it shows on my face.

“You really do love her, don’t you?” Takamura asks me.

I don’t even look at him, instead just swallowing hard and nodding. “Yeah, I do.”

“In that case, you better be in the front row tonight,” he smiles.

“...first three rows for sure,” I say, causing him to laugh.

“Hana and I have our own predictions, but what do you think? How’s Saki going to react to this?”

I think hard for a few moments, playing out different scenarios in my head. Sadly, I don’t see a clear winner. The only thing I know for sure is that she’ll be shocked when she hears about this. She could be excited that she actually gets to go through with the audition, or she could be upset that she wasn’t told about any of this plan sooner. Hell, you could switch the reasonings and outcomes for each case and they’d still have an equal chance of being true, but…

“She’ll go for it.”

“Oh, will she now?”

I nod again, with more conviction than I had a few minutes ago. “She told me she’s going to do the best she can, for nobody else but her.

Takamura grins. “That’s a good attitude to have. I think she’ll be fine.”

Before I can give him an answer, my phone vibrates in my pocket. I quickly reach for it and read the display, seeing I have a new text message from Saki.

Should be back in about fifteen minutes.

“Is that her?”

I turn towards him. “Yeah, it is. She’s going to be here pretty soon. I just...I have no idea what to do here…”

“What do you mean?”

“I want to meet her at the gate when she gets here, but I don’t know what to tell her. Do I mention this so she has a warning about what she’s about to walk into, or is it better to let you all talk to her?”

He considers this for a moment. “She doesn’t strike me as someone who likes surprises, and no matter what you tell her or don’t, this is a hell of a surprise.” He sighs. “Up to you. You know her better than I do.”

Just because that’s true doesn’t mean the answer is easy.

Takamura senses my hesitation and gives me one more piece of advice. “If it was you in this situation, would you want to know?”

My instinct tells me that yes, I absolutely would. And if there is one thing I know about Saki, it’s that she never shies away from truths and realities, no matter how unpleasant. It’s one of the reasons I love her.

“You’re right. I’ll meet her at the gate and at least give her a heads up so she doesn’t walk into the music room blind.”

He nods. “All right then. I’m gonna head back in and see what they’re up to. See you in a few minutes, yeah?”

“Y-yeah,” I reply, my mind understandably distracted. “Thanks.”

He waves to me as he walks back towards the foyer entrance, leaving me alone to stew in my own thoughts. I take a deep breath, wondering just what the hell I’m going to tell Saki.

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Re: Learning To Fly - A Saki pseudo-route (Updated 11/10)

Post by Peorth » Tue Nov 10, 2020 9:27 pm

Yay words!
3bc360d6-de1a-472c-981e-7f08d20c2308[1].png
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Even if the author is silenced, the performance is stopped, the story will not end.

Whether it's a comedy or a tragedy, if there is cheering, the story will continue on.
Just like the many lives.
For the us who are still in it and still in the journey, send warm blessings.

---We will continue to walk down this path until eternity.

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Re: Learning To Fly - A Saki pseudo-route (Updated 11/10)

Post by Blackmambauk » Wed Nov 11, 2020 5:47 pm

We are a patience lot mate, we would wait a decade if that's what you needed to get the next chapter done. Because we know you will make it well worth it and because we understand rl always comes first and this year has affected us in the way it has. Hope your meds continue to help in your recovery, but please, never be afraid to reach out to your friends, family or anyone here.

Wow.... seriously, what a chapter i have just read.

I was hanging on every single bit throughout the chapter, on every bit between Hisao and his parents, between him and Chisato and on the final bit where we learn of what's coming soon for Saki and for us.

Everything between Hiso and his parents was something I wasn't expecting, I certainly wasn't expecting Hisao to confront them on how they shunted him to Yamaku the way they did. On how he feels about it nearly a year later. Of how far he feels he has come. The plan he has in mind is something I had been suspecting was coming. It certainly makes sense and is a way for him to have input on the decision Saki is prepared to make when it happens.

I am looking forward to seeing what she makes of it, if she will feel the same way he feels about it and how she may feel about it when it does happen.

Then the stuff between Hisao and Chisato, boy was that a powerhouse for Chisato as a character, we have come to know her in a number of ways as the fic has gone on, of her constant hilarity, of her relationship with her boyfriend and how it contrasts to Hisao and Saki's relationship. Of her diabetes and her future plans etc. But here, here is where we really gain firsthand like Misha in Shizune's route of the hurt she is feeling of what happened between her and Saki, of her doubts and questioning of everything that has happened with her on one hand wanting to believe she can believe in her friend again, but on the other doubting on if her friend will actually trust her and confide in her if she does. Which lets us truly get insight into how their meeting went between them.

And how Hisao handles it without taking sides per say, but also wanting to push the two to reconcile fully and being questioned about his position on it all.

You truly nailed it between them and i have to say this is truly some of your best writing of the fic and there are many in this wonderful fic. Chisato is to this fic truly a major highlight and her scenes with Hisao and Saki have so much nuance to them and have kept me engaged every step of the way.

Mr. Takamura once again makes his time short and sweet but adds so much with his words and how he helps Hisao to make his decision at the end.

Wonderful chapter mate and I seriously can't wait to see the next part. Don't rush it, take your time until you are fully happy with it.

Blackmambauk
"I think the greatest skill a writer can have is simply having confidence in themselves to tell the story they want to tell, and to have confidence that their audience will make up their own minds on their story and characters." Blackmambauk

Favourite Route= All the Routes were done well. Each had it's strengths and weak points. But none were bad, a brilliant achievement by the KS Team.

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Re: Learning To Fly - A Saki pseudo-route (Updated 11/10)

Post by Razoredge » Wed Nov 11, 2020 8:25 pm

As I just told you, this is a wonderful update. You got me on some points, and the part with Chisato struck me. You nailed this part, I have to say. Also, it brings some new stuff about Hisao's personality, and I really like it, especially how he tries to handle it without taking sides, as Blackmambauk said. Your writing, filled with emotions and twists, is by far my favorite here. And I have to say, I'm never disappointed when you post an update. This was wonderful, like everything you did before. I'm excited for the next part, and I'm sure it will be great, as usual. I trust you.
Lilly = Akira > Miki = Hanako > Emi > Rin > Shizune

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Re: Learning To Fly - A Saki pseudo-route (Updated 11/10)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Mon Nov 16, 2020 1:34 pm

On one hand marriage right after high school is such an anime trope...
Is it? I know hardly any anime where that happens... In fact just one, and that one is airing right now. Usually ralationships in anime rarely progress beyond holding hands let alone marriage...
At the same time, this doesn't surprise me that japan has this sort of legality to it, since its still very much a patriarchy society along with if and when Saki's condition deteriorates to the point that she may need someone to make medical decisions for her.
While Japan is a more patriarchal society, as long as a woman is legally of age (currently 18; 20 at the time this story is set) she would still be entitled to make her own medical (and other) decisions for herself up to the point if and when her condition deteriorates to the point where she cannot - and even then a notarized document should override anything her parents might have to say. So I don't think a marriage would be strictly necessary. It makes for a nice plot point in the story though...
I’m not upset she talked with Kayoko about suicide, I’m upset that she didn’t think she could come to me afterwards!”
...
Everything I thought I knew about the dynamic between Saki and Chisato changes in that instant.
Should really not have been a surprise to him, because that's exactly what Saki told him the other day:
“Chisato said the thing that hurt her the most was that I never came to her after Kayoko died,” she starts. “She had a right to know about the conversation and the fight with Maeda, and...she’s right. I told her she was, and that I was wrong to keep it from her.”
As always a great update - even if Mrs Sakamoto's great surprise wasn't really much of a surprise, because - well, what else would it be except for a new chance at auditioning...

One minor thing is that I thought the scene with Hisao and Takamura at the end felt a bit superfluous. That dialogue doesn't introduce much new information and certainly nothing that Mrs Sakamoto could not have explained with all of them present.
Anyway, looking forward to the recital!
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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