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

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Re: Learning To Fly - A Saki pseudo-route (Updated 6/17)

Post by Eurobeatjester » Mon Aug 10, 2015 2:35 am

Well, it's later than I wanted it to be, but technically it's still earlier than I typically update!

This one took a while to get done, but I'm finally happy with it. Writing roller coasters is hard, and as a lot of you have guessed, there's a lot of it in this chapter.

This chapter ticks in at just under 7k words, bringing the total up to nearly 70k. I've never written anything this involved before in my life!

As always, comments and questions are appreciated and will be answered :)

The art for this chapter is from tediusman. You may have already seen it, but there was a slight tweak to it! :D

I usually try to find a piece of music that fits the chapter, even if I don't name it after the piece. The one I listened to heavily is Lamentations Of The Heart by Philip Wesley.

Act 2: Countdown

Scene 7: Ask Me No Questions

I've made my share of regretful decisions in my life, but I'm having a hard time thinking of anything in recent memory that tops the one I made yesterday.

My head still reels from the jargon and all its implications. I don't remember exactly what time I left the library yesterday, but the sun was low enough in the sky to cast some very long shadows on my way back to my dorm.

There will never be a time in my life again where I won't know what I learned yesterday.

I learned about spinocerebellar ataxia yesterday.

Spinocerebellar ataxia, commonly abbreviated as SCA, is a progressive, degenerative, genetic disease with multiple types.

I learned about its multiple types. About how there were over a dozen different known types, some well documented, some only having a handful of cases.

Spinocerebellar ataxia is a hereditary and often fatal neurodegenerative disorder.

I learned about the symptoms. From balance problems, to twitching eyes and limbs, to losing coordination and strength, to body tremors, and other things that can get progressively worse.

There is no known effective treatment or cure.

I learned about different prognoses. I learned about the time clock each sufferer faces. I learned at what years they could expect to see their bodies break down, and in what order it would happen. I learned if they could expect the clock to stop at a certain point, or continue to its inevitable conclusion.

Spinocerebellar ataxia can affect anyone of any age.

Oh yeah. I learned, alright.

And most important of all, I learned that yesterday I made a huge mistake.

The worst thing about it all? It was all fruitless because I don't even know what type of ataxia Saki has.
Because of this, it's been impossible to keep from jumping to conclusions. I've been replaying everything Saki's said and done the last few weeks, along with what others have been saying about her, trying to find mental reassurance that the ataxia she has is one of the ones that isn't that bad. She can play the violin after all, and she's in the art club, so she can't have one that's serious, right?

I'm back in the library, during our lunch hour. I managed to trudge through another day of morning classes, and working with Maeda and the dynamic duo. Shizune seemed annoyed at first that my portion of the answer packet was woefully lacking, but a silent conversation with Misha combined with the facial expression I must have been wearing this morning quickly dismissed any thoughts of her chiding me.

At any rate, we managed to get some more work done on the project, with Shizune stepping in to take up my rather obvious slack. I simply told them I wasn't feeling too well, and that the new medication I was on must have been messing with my sleep schedule. It wasn't entirely a lie. Maeda seemed indifferent and bored like he always does, and the two girls didn't pry any further.

Nobody mentioned Saki.

The rest of the morning classes went rather smoothly. I learned to coast on autopilot quite early in my academic career, and while I normally use that skill to cover me while I daydream or think about more interesting things, I find it very useful for when there's heavier things on my mind.

So here I sit again, staring at the same packet, the same book in front of me. It's almost enough to make me wish I had simply dozed off here at this desk and the last twenty four hours was just a bad dream.

I'm interrupted in my thoughts by a voice I recognize.

There you are.”

I look up and see a girl with short, dark hair walking towards me, concern in her green eyes.


“Hey,” I wave, trying to put on a smile. I haven't seen her or Noriko the last two days either, not since the night we went to the city. I wait until she's a little closer to the table I'm at before speaking again, out of respect to the other people in the room. “What's up?”

“We hadn't seen you in a few days,” she starts, pulling out a chair and turning it backwards. In one smooth motion, she straddles it and crosses her arms to rest on the back. I'm shocked for a second at what a, well, unladylike gesture it is, but Chisato doesn't seem to notice or care at all.

“Yeah, um, sorry. Class has been busy the last two days. We've been working on a group project,” I offer up lamely.

“So that's why you've been skipping lunch with the two of us, huh?” Chisato teases, her trademark twinkle in her eye. “It's alright. We've been kind of exhausted after, you know.”

“How is she?” I ask before I can stop myself. I hadn't received any texts from Saki since the ones two nights ago, and Chisato's disarming demeanor is making me forget that it's pretty rude to talk about someone when they're not there in your presence.

“She's okay, for the most part,” Chisato answers, a little bit of light fading from her cheery expression. “More ego than anything, I think.”

I nod. I think about asking her about the strange interaction the two of them had that night, with Saki on the ground and Chisato helping her, but I think better of it. I know that would be out of line, and I already did enough of that yesterday.

“That's good.”

“That reminds me,” she says, back to normal. “Can you do me a favor? I had to run back to class to get something I left, so Saki's down in the cafeteria...do you want to go see her? I don't know if I'll be able to make it back before the break ends, so I can't wheel her to her next class...”

That sounds equally lame to what I said earlier, and flimsy to boot. But there's something in the way Chisato says it that makes me pause.

“She'd probably be really happy to see you,” she continues, a bit softer, the unspoken subtext painfully clear, even to an obtuse idiot like me.

“Alright. I'm hungry anyway.”

Chisato smiles and bounds up, easily flipping the chair back to its normal position. “Good! Glad that's settled.”

“Chisato,” I ask, my eyes narrowing, “were you actually looking for me?”

“Who, me? Of course not,” she says. “I just stuck my head in the door passing by and you happened to be here, that's all.”

“I thought your class was down the hall, by the elevators. Your class isn't even in this part of the building.”

Chisato shrugs, refusing to admit anything. “Scenic route.”


I round the corner into the cafeteria, nimbly dodging a few students on their way out. A quick glance around doesn't reveal anything, except that the stockpile of pre-made items available for selection seems to have been raided pretty thoroughly. Great.

Another, more attentive look around this time. I scan the back of student's heads, not immediately seeing Saki. It's not until I realize there's only about a half dozen tables that a wheelchair could be parked in front of that I finally see her. Her back's to me, so while I can see a tray of food in front of her, I don't see what's on it.

Seeing her in a wheelchair, even from a distance, sparks a flash of pity in me. Not because I feel sorry for her, but because even from here I can see from her body language that she's not feeling well.

Maybe there was something to what her friend said and seeing me will cheer her up. After yesterday, it will be good to see her, even with my self imposed circumstances.

I take the long way around, grabbing an apple out of a bin. Contrary to what I told Chisato, I'm not actually hungry, but I should be eating something anyway.

“Hey Saki,” I offer by way of greeting when I get close to her. She looks up from her food, startled for a second.

“Hisao! How are you?” she says, making my heart skip a beat with the radiance of the smile she flashes me. I instantly know that Chisato was right.

“Not too bad,” I say, taking a seat next to her. I look casually in her direction, taking in as much as I can in the short second. She's seated quite comfortably in a school wheelchair, a small bookbag hanging off one of the back handles. A large bandage wraps around her right knee, making me wince internally when I see it. I don't see her cane anywhere on her though, so she must not be walking at all yet. I can't see if she's wearing something on her ankle, and I don't think it would be wise to sneak another peek.

“How about yourself?” I ask, a bit more somber.

“Oh this?” she says, gesturing down her body. “I've been through worse. Nurse even made sure I got the new chair with the padded seat. Nothing some prescription painkillers can't take care of. Where's Chisato?”

“She found me in the library, and said she was on her way to her class to get something.”

Saki nods before picking up her sandwich from her otherwise empty plate. “Glad she did. I didn't see you this morning at the pool...” she says, before taking a bite.

“You went to the pool?” I ask, incredulously. “But, you can't swim like that, can you?”

Last edited by Eurobeatjester on Sun Nov 22, 2015 8:54 am, edited 9 times in total.
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Re: Learning To Fly - A Saki pseudo-route (Updated 6/17)

Post by Eurobeatjester » Mon Aug 10, 2015 2:37 am

Saki makes a small noise of surprise, then takes a moment to finish the bite in her mouth before answering me. “Well, um...no...” she says, blushing slightly. “Not for another few days, at least.”

The pink stains on her cheeks make my own heat up. I rapidly take a bite of my apple to give myself something to do. Too late I realize it prevents me from replying.

“Are you still going to the pool in the mornings?” Saki asks, seeing me about to swallow.

“Not every morning,” I answer truthfully. She didn't ask me if I was swimming, so technically, I'm not lying.

“You should keep it up. Just because I'm not there doesn't mean you should give up on it, you know?”

“That sounds like something Nurse would say,” I nonchalantly scold. This makes Saki laugh as she finishes the last of her sandwich.

“I mean it. If I can still lap you when I get back in the water with an ankle like this, you'll have some explaining to do.”

“And that one sounded like Emi.”

Despite the easy banter, there's an underlying tension below the surface. We both seem to know we need to talk about the other night, and at least one of is aware it might spiral into another conversation that will wipe out whatever positive vibes our current talk is building. As a result, neither of us seem to want to steer the discussion in that direction.

A few more minutes of talk drags on as I finish my apple and Saki her drink.

I look at my watch and see there's still about twenty minutes left in the break, and that Chisato is nowhere to be seen. I'm not naive enough to think she's not here on accident. Normally I would be content to sit a few more minutes, but I remembered my promise to get Saki to class, and I want to give myself plenty of time to do that.

Saki seems to read my thoughts. “Chisato was helping me out, and she's gone off somewhere. Do you think I can borrow you for a while?”

The inside joke makes me laugh, something I needed, if for no other reason than the momentary reprieve it gives me. “Sure.”

“Thanks,” Saki says, wiping her mouth with her napkin before dropping it onto the empty tray. “I can push myself to the elevator, but I don't really feel up to it, with the medication the doctor gave me.”

I nod and stand up, grabbing her tray to put it near the trashcan. “I'll be right back,” I explain.

The brief moment away gives me a rudimentary plan. On the way to class, I'll ask Saki if she wants to get together later to talk. We both know it's something we need to do, if for no other reason than I really know I should take Nurse's advice.

At least, that's what I tell myself. Maybe it will make me feel better about how I spent my time in the library yesterday.

<<Art by Tediusman>>

Even with the elevator taking us up to our floor, the design of the building means there's ramps on each individual floor. My muscles strain with the effort of pushing Saki up one, especially since it's my own fault for not getting any speed beforehand. I do a good job of not showing it though.

“So you said you're doing a group project, right? Who with?”

“It's a science packet. I got teamed up with Shizune, Misha, and, uh...Maeda,” I answer, hesitating slightly on the last name.

“Oh lucky you,” Saki says. I can hear her eyes rolling. “That sounds like it must be fun.”

“You wouldn't believe just how much,” I reply, under my breath yet loud enough for Saki to hear. She laughs.

“I'm only kidding. Seriously though, good luck with that.” She turns halfway in her chair to try and look behind her, but it's fruitless. “Can you hand me my bag? I forgot something.”

I pluck the strap from the back handle of the chair and hold it out in front of her so she can grab it. She does, with a quick thanks.

I see Saki digging through her handbag for something, finally finding what she's looking for. Even though I don't get a clear look at the object before she palms it, I would recognize a bottle of pills anywhere now. She looks back and forth.

“Hisao...can we make a pit stop?” she asks me. “I can't really use one of the water fountains right now and it's time for me to take some more painkillers...”

I nod, then realize she can't see it. “Okay.”

I look around and further down the hall. Unless I'm mistaken, the room that Lilly and Hanako use for tea should be coming up soon. As if the universe reads my thoughts, we round a corner in the hallway and I recognize the area from my first day here. The tea room is the first door to my right.

“I think this should work,” I say, turning us to back through the door. I'm able to get both myself and Saki through before the door manages to bump her foot while closing with a swish. The air is much cooler and pleasant in here that in was in the corridor. All the better; pushing the wheelchair is taking a bit more effort than I thought it would and I'm welcoming the change in climate.

I immediately make my way to the sink and cabinets set along the back wall. The counter is bare, and crouching down to open the first two cabinets proves fruitless. Come on, I know it was here...

“What are you looking for?” I hear Saki call out from behind me, her voice curious.

“There should be a set of cups here somewhere,” I reply, standing up and repeating the process with the cabinets above the sink. “Lilly uses them for...ah, here they are.” A set of cups and matching saucers is resting on the bottom shelf in the third cabinet, the porcelain gleaming impeccably white. I reach up to delicately grab one.

Sorry, Lilly. I'll at least make sure it's cleaned and put back properly.

I quickly run the water for a second or two before filling up the cup. I carry it back to where Saki's wheeled herself to, near the front of the room. She smiles appreciatively and takes the cup from me.

“Huh,” she says, examining it. “This isn't a coffee mug...what is this, a tea cup?”

“Yeah,” I answer, sitting on the edge of a table and crossing my arms. “I remembered there being a set of them in here.” I look out the window, remembering the events of that first day, and week. “I stumbled in here while Lilly was having tea.”

“Oh, did you now?” Saki says, teasing. “She didn't offer you any, did she?”

“She did, as a matter of fact.”

“And you accepted this generous gift?”

“Of course,” I chuckle.

“She's never made me tea.” Saki pouts, the corners of her mouth turning down in a completely unconvincing gesture.

“Even if I could make tea, which I can't, I have no idea where she puts it,” I laugh. “Besides, she's already going to know we used the cup.”

Saki has taken the time during my exposition to extract two small pills from the bottle which she holds in her other hand. She pops them into her mouth, and then raises her cup in a mock toast to me before downing it completely. I can see the muscles in her throat work as she drains it.

“Ah, that was good,” she says, relaxing into her seat a little further. I can see tension leaving her body as she seems to become a bit smaller with a deep sigh.

“Feeling better?”

“Not as good as I'm going to feel in about twenty minutes,” Saki states. She leans her head back. “Can we stay here for a little bit? It's really nice in here.”

“Sure,” I say, taking the cup from her and setting it on the table next to me. It creaks with my weight as I sit back down again.

Neither one of us say anything for a few pregnant moments. I can hear the hum of the air conditioner, and the steady ticking of the clock on the wall.

Saki's eyes are closed, her chest raising and falling with her steady, light breathing. It almost feels like a crime to disturb her like this, but this is as good a time as any to segue into what's been on my mind for a while...or at least steer the conversation that way.

“How bad is it?” I ask, casting a concerned glance down to the bandage on her right knee. She's not wearing a brace on her ankle, but it could be under her sock and I'm just not seeing it. At any rate, that should mean it isn't that bad, right?

“The bandage?” Saki says, opening her eyes and brushing her hand over it. “This isn't too bad. It's just here for a day or two until the skin scabs over. I can't go swimming until it comes off.”

They wouldn't have given the pain medication to Saki, nor recommended that she use a wheelchair simply for a knee afflicted with road rash. “What about the ankle?” I prod, my voice a bit softer.

Saki's face becomes a bit clouded as she looks down at it. “That's going to take longer...I didn't break anything but I sprained it pretty badly. My therapist said she's going to give me some exercises to do for it, and I should be back to normal in a week or two.”
Last edited by Eurobeatjester on Wed May 27, 2020 5:12 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Learning To Fly - A Saki pseudo-route (Updated 6/17)

Post by Eurobeatjester » Mon Aug 10, 2015 2:41 am


I wince when I hear her say that, then instantly feel guilty and hope she doesn't notice. But if there's one thing I should have learned by now, it's that Saki's one of the most incredibly perceptive people that I know.

She picks up on my mood, but to my surprise, she assumes it's for an entirely different reason and runs with it.

“It's not your fault, Hisao,” she says, looking into my eyes, her voice dropping an octave with exhaustion. “It was a long day, I pushed it harder than I should have, and it happened, you know?”

I nod weakly.

“I am glad I got to see you today though. I wanted to thank you,” she says. “I didn't see you yesterday so I didn't have a chance to, but...the way you helped me...it means a lot. So...thanks.”

Saki's never been one for hesitation when it comes to doling out thanks or praise, but the tone in her voice is different. I have a few ideas of what it might be, but I don't know what's causing it for sure. It could be several different things, or a combination of them for all I know.

I shake my head, part in answer, and part to clear it. “It's fine,” I smile. “I'm just glad it wasn't more serious, for either of us.”

Saki's brow twists in puzzlement. “What do you mean, “either of us'?”

I take a deep breath before continuing. “It's something Nurse mentioned to me when he called me into his office yesterday, something I didn't think about before but makes a lot of sense.”

Her face sets into an impassive mask at the mention of Nurse. I can see her replaying out what happened that night, and what might have happened since.

“What's that?” she finally asks me.

Here goes.

“Nurse thinks that if we're going to be spending more time together, I should tell you more about my heart condition,” I say, the subject in question beating rather loudly in my chest.

Saki perks up, looking at me. “I thought you told me that there was something wrong with the beat? Is it more serious than that?”

I nod, mentally preparing the statement that I've been going over in my mind to distract it from less pleasant thoughts. “Normally, if I just had an irregular heartbeat, I would just be fine with some medication and being careful. But we only learned that I had it a few months ago. I...had a heart attack.”

I brush my hair back with my hands, trying to remain impartial with this explanation, and stay detached from details like the sharp pain in my chest, the feeling of helplessness, how cold the snow was on my cheek when I hit the ground, or Iwanako's terrified cries for help.

“That was how they found it. They said that I was very lucky to have had no problems show before then, but it might have been better if they did. By the time they found what had caused it, it had gone untreated for so long that something that might have been better managed ended up, well...”

I sweep my arm in an all-encompassing arc, taking in not just the room, but the entire school and the situation it implies.

Hearing it like that, out in the open, knowing I can't take it back, is both strangely liberating and frightening.

“Do you have it under control, or...?” Saki asks me, concerned.

“For the most part,” I answer. “I take a lot of medications, and I try to avoid most things that are physically demanding, and that's kept it in check so far. I'm pretty out of shape though, and it's hard to get back to where I need to be like this.”

“So, that's the real reason why Nurse has you swimming,” she says, putting the pieces together. Her eyes suddenly go wide. “So the other night, when you were helping to carry me...oh God...”

I move quickly to assure her. “No no no, no problems. I was just a little winded but there was nothing wrong with my heart. I need to be careful, but I'm not that fragile,” I finish with a smirk, trying to lighten the mood.

It doesn't work. I can see Saki's not entirely convinced. “Could something happen, though?”

My head nods again. “I could push myself too hard, or could get a batch of bad medication, like Chisato. Or it could just happen again for no apparent reason.” I rush a bit through the next part. “I just wanted you to know about it, in case we're together and something like that happens. Nurse said it was a good idea to have a buddy system in place.”

“He said the same thing to Chisato about her diabetes, so she spoke to me about it,” Saki confirms. She pauses for a few seconds before continuing. “So what do I do, if you have a problem?”

“Call the hospital,” I reply immediately, in a Pavlovian response to how hard that point has been driven into me the last few months. “And let anyone who shows up know I have a card in my wallet.”

When my attack occurred, and I was warned that it might happen again, I was told I needed to carry around some form of information needed by the doctors who might end up treating me. I was given three options; a set of dog tags on a necklace, a bracelet for my wrist, or a card I could keep in my wallet. I opted for the card, with it being the least obtrusive, and I figured if I was going to Yamaku there would be enough medical staff around to where I didn't need to be wearing jewelry.

I hope I won't come to regret that decision.

“Alright,” Saki says. “But you have to promise me that if anything happens, you'll let me know, okay? No machismo.”

I sure as hell wasn't going to bring it up while we were carrying her up the hill, blood running down her leg and her in pain with every step. But now that she knows, I wonder if she'll be as attentive as Nurse seems to be and notice something even if I don't.

Yet another question I hope I won't find out the answer to.

“I'll try,” I answer. “That goes for you too, you know.”

The look on Saki's face when I say that makes me regret phrasing it the way I did. I quickly try to clarify.

“I mean, if we do anything like we did and you end up feeling tired or need to rest - ” shut the hell up Hisao you're only making the hole deeper “- or anything, you'll let me know too, right?”

Oh yeah, smooth, Hisao. Totally nailed that one.

“I will,” Saki says, but she won't look at me when she does. She stares at a spot on the far wall, her gaze zoning out, lost in her own world.

Damn it. Why does everything I try to do with good intentions backfire like this?

After a few more moments, it's Saki's turn to break the silence. “So...I guess this is the part where I tell you about my ataxia, right?”

“I didn't mean it that way,” I defensively reply.

“It's all right,” Saki says, with a heavy sigh that tells me she's resigning herself to a conversation she really doesn't like having. “I'm...not sure when something like that will happen again, but...I know it will. I guess I just have to take it a bit easier, is all.”

“Is it because of the type of SCA you have?”

Saki looks at me sharply, her eyes flashing with accusation. My pulse quickens along with my confusion. She just offered to tell me about her ataxia, and while I know that this isn't easy for either of us to talk about, I can't think of how what I said would trigger that reaction.

“How did you know it was called SCA, Hisao?” Saki asks me, in a low monotone.

“What do you mean?” I stammer out, a sense of dread mixing with my ever building puzzlement.

Saki gives an smirk that doesn't reach her eyes, which are still bright with anger. “Two weeks ago, you'd never heard of ataxia. Now you know you know it's called SCA and that there are different types,” she finishes, turning her face away from mine again, her mouth setting in a hard line.



Oh shit.

I was trying so hard not to bring it up like this. I spent the better part of a day specifically trying to figure out how to avoid bringing it up like this. But one simple betrayal of the tongue, a quick lapse in my concentration, and it's all out in the open.

I'm glad Saki isn't looking at me to see the shame that paints my face.

Neither of us say anything for a few more seconds. I can feel my heart beating hard in my chest, my face flushed. This was a mistake. It was a mistake to address this. It was a mistake to even look it up.

“You didn't answer my question, Hisao.”

Caught in the crosshairs, I take the only option available to me, and the one I know I should have taken from the very start. The truth.

“I was curious after what happened that night, and after Nurse spoke to me, I went to the library and looked up some information on it.”

Saki's countenance drops some of its anger, replaced by a mild panic that mirrors what I'm feeling. “Nurse didn't say anything, did he?”

“No, he didn't,” I reply, shaking my head. “He told me that it would be a good idea to tell you about my arrhythmia, and checked to see if I was okay, but that was it.”

“So, nobody said anything to you, then? You just decided to look it up on your own?” she asks, her shoulders slumping in a slight gesture of relief.

I can't figure out why she's acting this way. She seems more scared that someone told me about her condition than she seems upset about me looking it up. Saki's never been shy about her cane, or asking for help, or even jokingly using her condition to her advantage when it suits her, but this is something different entirely. It's like once the conversation turns serious, her priorities completely switch from...

From what? What I think they should be? What they would be if it was me in the same situation?

God, I screwed this up.

“Pretty much. I mean, after that night and what happened, and hearing from Misha yesterday that you were in a wheelchair, and Maeda commenting on it, I-”

“What did Maeda say?” Saki cuts me off, her tone sharp, yet incredibly brittle.

“He just said that he wasn't surprised you were in a wheelchair...whatever that means,” I offer feebly.

I watch Saki's face as it trembles with emotions. Her brow twitches along with the muscles at the corner of her mouth, as she takes a wavering breath. I can see so many thoughts rage through her mind, each causing a reaction that she can't settle on.

All at once, her composure breaks completely. She closes her eyes hard, blinking back tears. She buries her face in her hands, hiding it from me.

“That asshole,” she sobs. “That fucking asshole...”
Last edited by Eurobeatjester on Thu Aug 20, 2015 10:39 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Learning To Fly - A Saki pseudo-route (Updated 6/17)

Post by Eurobeatjester » Mon Aug 10, 2015 2:45 am

Her entire body starts shaking with the force of her crying. I raise my hand towards her but stop it, unsure of what to do. Every sound she's making is tearing at my very core, knowing I'm partially responsible for it.

I can think of nothing else but to get up and head towards the sink, my legs and arms moving in the wooden motions of a marionette with tangled strings. I'm guided on instinct and not conscious thought as I grab a clean cloth hanging from the rack to bring back to her.

“Saki,” I say, bending down to her and pressing the cloth into her hand. “Saki, I'm sorry...”

She doesn't answer me, but instead clenches the fabric so tight in her shaking fist that the knuckles turn white. She manages to bring it up to her face, pressing it against her forehead.

I don't know what to say, but I do know that anything I could say would be wrong. I decide to keep my mouth shut, biting my tongue.

Saki's sobs eventually start to quiet down, her shoulders shaking less and less. She wipes her eyes and then blows her nose, the sharp sound overpowering any of the ambient noise bearing witness in the room.

“You asked me what type of ataxia I had,” Saki finally manages to say, her voice shaky. A deep breath does little to calm it.

Her eyes, rimmed with red and alive with a golden fire of desperation, lock into mine. “Are you sure you want to know?”

This is the last moment I have to stop this set of events I put into place by sitting down at that damned computer yesterday.

I could say no, and end this, and let Saki alone. She wouldn't have to be having this painful conversation anymore, and we could just forget about it. Even as the thought forms in my head, I know it's futile.

I could say yes, and wipe away blissful ignorance. I don't know what the answer would be, but there's a very real part of me that's scared of finding out something I don't want to know...but all the wishing in the world doesn't make painful truths any less painful.

This moment has been building for the last few weeks, from the first time we opened up to each other under the stars of the festival.

No, even sooner than that. It's been building since the first day I met her, the day she caught me looking at her as she climbed the stairs.

Regardless of what happens here, our friendship will change.

There's been enough dancing around this issue on my part. Whatever the truth is, I owe it to Saki to let her tell me what it is, especially after pushing it this far.

I nod.

Saki keeps her eye contact with me.

“You read how some types were better than others?”

I nod again, a very, very dim ember of hope starting to burn in my chest. Maybe it's not as bad as I think, and it's just one of the types of ataxia that affects balance, or coordination...

Saki breaks her eyes from mine and turns her gaze to the floor again. The corner of her mouth curls in a sad smile.

“I don't have one of those types,” she says, in a voice so soft it amazes me with how crushing its weight is.

And just like that, the last puzzle piece falls into place and the assemblage flips over to show the whole picture. All the comments the last few weeks, from Saki, from Ms. Sakamoto, from Maeda and Chisato, to the therapy, the swimming, the twisted ankle, the recording studio...

It all makes sense, and now I know.

Damn me, I know.

“I-” I begin, but Saki cuts me off.

“Don't.” Saki says. “Don't apologize. Don't say something like 'I'm sorry' or 'I understand.' Just please don't, okay? Not right now.”

“...alright.” I answer, deep in my own thoughts.

“It's not that bad, yet...” Saki starts to say, for something to fill the silence. “Right now it's just my legs and balance, and a few small problems I can deal with from day to day. I mean, until that night, I'd only fallen like that once, and it was a few years ago, when I first...” she trails off, biting her lower lip.

I can hear the quiver in her voice. She gave me the chance to back out of this conversation, and I have to offer her the same. Besides that, I'm not sure I'd be able to handle much more of this anyway. My heart and soul hasn't felt this heavy since I was in the hospital, learning just how my life had changed.

“We don't have to talk about it right now, if you don't want to,” I say, my voice barely audible.

She pauses long enough to make me realize she's going to take me up on that offer, even before she nods her approval. But just when I think she's starting to recover, her face twists and she starts to cry again.

“Are you okay?” I ask, equally knowing that she isn't and that there's nothing I can really do.

“You must think I'm a horrible person,” she says to me. “I wasn't hiding it, I just...”

I'm genuinely hurt by that statement, and I can hear it in my voice when I answer. “Why would you think that?”

“I just...I...” Saki sighs. “How many people do you think you're going to stay friends with after we graduate, Hisao?”

The way she responds to my question with another question takes me aback. Reflex brings my answer quickly.

“I'm not sure...”

I really don't know. I can't sit here and say I would keep contact with everyone in my class, or this school, when I don't keep contact with anyone from my old school. Granted, there's a reason, but...

“I don't want pity. I wasn't hiding it, I just...didn't go into the details unless someone asked. And not many people have. As soon as word gets out it's going to be nothing but 'Poor Saki' this and 'Poor Saki' that and that's the only thing that's going to matter...If I can just get through this year and out of here, then it won't be as big an issue...”

I don't know how to respond, but I can't look at Saki. Whether it's the feeling of guilt I have that I can't define from bringing this up with her, or the way that her soft, intermittent sobs tear at my heart, I simply can do nothing but stare at the floor.

“I'm sorry,” I whisper, the words so inadequate.

“Why?” Saki laughs, her voice a sharp, derisive bark. “It's not your fault I'm like this...I mean, you'd find out eventually, right? Whether from Nurse or Maeda or looking it up online, you'd figure something out if we kept on like this because I simply can't come out and tell you on my own about it...”

Before I know what I'm doing, I'm kneeling in front of her chair, reaching up to take both her hands between mine.

“Saki,” I say, a note of desperation bleeding into my voice. “Saki, stop.

She stops talking, but I can't see her eyes. All I can see is the her cheeks below her bangs, wet with tears. I can feel her hands trembling.

“Saki, I'm sorry. It was wrong of me to do what I did. I shouldn't have looked it up the way I did. I should have talked to you,” I say, taking a breath. “After what happened the other night when you hurt yourself, I had no idea how to even approach you about it, but it's my fault I didn't.” I squeeze in what I hope is a reassuring gesture but I'm scared it's having the opposite effect.

“If anyone else finds out, I promise it won't be from me, okay?”

Saki nods silently, still not showing me her eyes.

I smile weakly. “I mean, as long as you don't tell people I have a time bomb for a heart.”

All the strength leaves Saki's body as she laughs through her tears, pitching forward. I'm startled, but have little time to recover as she tips too far forward for the chair. I panic briefly and move to catch her as she falls.

There's a clattering noise as the wheelchair rolls backwards and bumps into the wall.

We're both on our knees, my arms around Saki for support, her frame pressed against mine. Her arms wrap around my shoulders as I can feel her shuddering from barely repressed laughter.

After a few long moments like this, I sense something change in Saki's demeanor...she's still shaking, but it's somehow different. It becomes calmer, yet more sporadic. Her arms tighten around me, hard, and I instinctively return the gesture. After another few moments locked together like this, I feel a warm dampness on my shoulder where she's buried her face into it.

All I can do at this moment is hold her.

All I want to do at this moment is hold her.

“Thank you,” she manages to get out through a cracking voice.

I think about how we should have been to class a long time ago. I think about how ridiculous this looks. I think about what would happen if someone walked in and saw us now. I think about Saki's knee, and if this position is hurting her or not. I think about how this is too much to process in one sitting like this, and I probably won't sleep for the next day or two.

And right now, I think about how none of that matters.

<<Art by rtil>>

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Re: Learning To Fly - A Saki pseudo-route (Updated 8/9)

Post by Alpacalypse » Mon Aug 10, 2015 5:07 am

I've been hyped for this chapter since the cliffhanger in the last one. Allow me to be the first to say this: You did not disappoint, EBJ! :D

Seriously, that was beautiful. Just... aaahhhhahahahaha! I have no idea how to type that noise, so bear with me :wink:.

You have all of my "yes", Mr. Jester. Continue to be awesome. :)
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Re: Learning To Fly - A Saki pseudo-route (Updated 8/9)

Post by rimvydasm » Mon Aug 10, 2015 7:05 am

This chapter was so good,can't wait for the next update,keep up the good work :wink:
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Re: Learning To Fly - A Saki pseudo-route (Updated 8/9)

Post by timetravelzero » Mon Aug 10, 2015 7:40 am

My heart.
No pun intended.
Good update, as always EBJ. I am absolutely salivating for the next update even now.
Akira>Lilly=Shizune>Emi>Hanako>Mutou=Nurse>Saki>Misha=Rika>Yuuko>Meiko=Miki>Suzu>Kenji>Rin=Iwanako>Jigoro>Nomiya>{POWERGAP}>Hisao Eh, my opinion anyway

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Re: Learning To Fly - A Saki pseudo-route (Updated 8/9)

Post by Sharp-O » Mon Aug 10, 2015 8:03 am

What a fantastic chapter! It had such emotional weight behind it but in the end came out with a happier ending than I expected. Astounding work, Euro. Simply astounding.


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Re: Learning To Fly - A Saki pseudo-route (Updated 8/9)

Post by Blackmambauk » Mon Aug 10, 2015 8:30 am

Now this was quite the chapter eh, pretty much being the moment in act two when we start to see the hidden trauma that is inside the girl of the route.

But of course like the games routes what looks like the trauma that is most affecting Saki, another could be the real pain afflicting her.

I have noticed in this chapter Saki is somewhat of a mix between Lilly and Emi in a way. She has some of Lily's graceness style and habit of subtly teasing Hisao when he dances around certain stuff and telling him not to say sorry. Along with as a hint of having what Tvtropes would call type A stepford smiler vibe to her. Namely like Lilly to some degree she hides her inner sadness about her life and maybe her condition as well with a smile.

She has some of Emi's more stubborn traits of staying healthy and active, enjoying life where possible. And not wanting anyone to pity and while not noted here but from what I read between the subtext and context. Someone white knighting her in any way. That's the vibe I got from this chapter and from the pervious chapters in a few places. Though that's just how I read it and it might not have been what you intended to get across.

I really liked how in this chapter like in the main game, the recurring theme of no one wanting pity at all for their condition or disability. Something many real life people with either physical or mental conditions and I myself will attest to feeling the same way on me being autistic as well feel on the matter.

Hisao really put his foot in his mouth in this chapter in ways I expected him to, with the whole Saki condition bit being a site to behold of how Hisao can mean well but make cringe worthy mistakes. You could really see how Saki was somewhat furious at Hisao when she thought someone had told him about her condition. Along with I imagine with the fact Hisao from a certain point of view didn't trust her enough to just ask her about her condition.

Mishandled communication can really be quite the deadly in causing conflicts and arguments. I do wonder more and more how Saki and Maeda's relationship fell apart exactly, was it him being too much of an obnoxious cynical art deco type of artist, her in not being able to communicate and bond with Maeda, something else all together or just like how Emi's relationship went with her boyfriend before Hisao. I hope to see the details in the future and see the same nuance you have given to much of your story so far.

Liked Chisato's appearance in this chapter, especially her sitting in her chair like some kind of cool delinquent. She certainly knows Saki and Hisao well enough to get them to talk about the events that have happened. She's becoming a huge joy for me to read about, she enhances this route for me the way Misha enhances Shizune's route in the game.

I felt for Saki being in the wheelchair this chapter, another Emi similarity I noticed as well. Not saying it's a bad thing as it makes sense and it enhances Saki's negative feelings.

Do they have vicodin in japan? that's a very powerful pain killer drug for Saki to be on. It's only a level below methadone in how powerful it is and if someone overdosed on either it could be fatal.

Saki must really be in pain if Nurse gave her Vicodin to be on, granted my knowledge of Vicodin comes from show House and how much the main character is addicted to it and abuses it. This is just me as always spectating about a cigar that is just a cigar. But with any good KS story you can never tell.

Plus the whole therapist line god me wondering as well, especially since it can be quite hard for some disabled people to deal with, along with what I remember Hisao said about his own in the game, this seems like it ties into the route theme of dealing with potential morality of your condition.

Liked how Saki broke down at the end and the way Hisao and Saki hugged one another, you could really feel the emotions between the two, the feels that scene gave her. ooks like their friendship went up a new level here, not at romantic stage yet, but it's heading there.

Anyway rambled on long enough now.

Brilliant chapter overall and look forward to seeing how Act two end's. I imagine a few things will go down.

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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 8/9)

Post by HoneyBakedHam » Mon Aug 10, 2015 8:58 am

Good thing this was posted this morning. Had a bad day yesterday and you just started a new day off with a good one.

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Re: Learning To Fly - A Saki pseudo-route (Updated 8/9)

Post by MajorMadness » Mon Aug 10, 2015 10:55 am

Just what I needed after a bad week! I knew this chapter would be heavier than the others but it still surprised me a bit. I'm Really glad your still going at this! Can't wait for the next chapter.
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Re: Learning To Fly - A Saki pseudo-route (Updated 8/9)

Post by EMMSixteenA4 » Mon Aug 10, 2015 7:23 pm

Whew... That was a helluva chapter. Outstanding work, EBJ.
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Re: Learning To Fly - A Saki pseudo-route (Updated 8/9)

Post by Eurobeatjester » Mon Aug 10, 2015 10:13 pm

Home from work! I finally have a moment to reply to people's comments :)

First off, thank you so much for the feedback. This was an extremely challenging chapter to write. Finding a balance between horrible teenage angst while still trying to stay true to the subject at hand is very difficult. I tried to make the conversation as realistically awkward as possible.

Second, branching off from the first, it was really, really hard to stick to my decision from the beginning of the route to not have branching paths. No matter how I tried to write it, the choice between yes and no when Saki asks if Hisao wants to know about her condition was screaming at me to branch it. I actually did write two branches for it - one as a yes, and one as a no. After a day of thinking about it, I realized that if I put a split in the path here, I would have to add similar choices later on in the story, and that would involve an insane amount of work. I ended up going with the "yes" decision and blending in the important elements of the "no" decision to arrive at the finished chapter.

Third, I believe the next chapter will round up Act 2. There's still one or two more plot points I want to cover, so I might have two chapters instead if it ends up being too long or I can't weave the two of them in together.

On to specific responses, mostly to BMB :P
Saki being a mixture of Emi and Lilly's personalities
At first I was trying really hard to avoid this, but as Saki's character progressed, I realized it was futile and not something I should be worried about. Of the five main girls and the extras in the visual novel, pretty much every personality spectrum is covered. I think it's impossible to come up with an original character that doesn't at least resemble one or more of the existing characters, or else you have to go so far out into left field that the character no longer becomes relatable in any sense of the word. Noriko is very similar to Hanako, and Chisato is a mixture of Akira and Misha. In truth, one of the reasons I haven't done as much with Noriko's character as I have with Chisato's is because I don't think I've been able to differentiate her enough from Hanako yet. I'm getting there, though.
Saki being mad at someone possibly telling Hisao her condition
I'm so happy you picked up on that, because I wasn't sure if it would come across written out. Saki knows she's going to get worse, but she's not at a point in her life where she can change her social circle. If her condition deteriorates much further while at Yamaku, she'll have to deal with people treating her differently. Once she graduates though, things change.
:lol: That was a last minute decision. I had Star Trek TNG episodes playing in the background for some of the time I was writing this, and I remembered how it always cracked me up whenever Riker did something similar almost every time he sat down. It was something so small and simple but told you so much about his character. I thought it would be something Chisato would do too :D
Truth be told, I don't know the answer to this - I was basing it off of my experiences here in America. Whenever I've ever ended up in urgent care or the ER with some sort of painful injury, Vicoden seems to be the go-to prescription painkiller they prescribe unless you exhibit addict like behavior. It could be entirely different in Japan, but I went with it since I figured most people would be able to relate.

Also, Nurse didn't give her the vicoden. I don't explicitly state it, but Nurse wouldn't be the one doling out prescription medications.
hug scene
I'm hoping I can commission rtil to draw this scene when his commission schedule frees up :)
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Re: Learning To Fly - A Saki pseudo-route (Updated 8/9)

Post by brythain » Mon Aug 10, 2015 10:38 pm

Apart from ibuprofen being much more common as a painkiller in Japan, I've had few other random thoughts.

My main thought was about how deftly and bluntly and painfully Hisao and Saki have had to come to terms with each other's disabilities, and possibilities of death, and now with even higher stakes of each losing the other. Brutal, and an excellent point to stop just before the end of Act 2. Much appreciated!
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Re: Learning To Fly - A Saki pseudo-route (Updated 8/9)

Post by Eurobeatjester » Mon Aug 10, 2015 10:59 pm

brythain wrote:Apart from ibuprofen being much more common as a painkiller in Japan, I've had few other random thoughts.
Even as a prescription? Huh. I learned something today. I may go back and change it then.
Stuff I'm currently writing: Learning To Fly: A Saki Enomoto Pseudo Route
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