"Out Of The Blue" (Neko Book 4) Chapter 24b (20181116)

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NekoDude
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Re: "Out Of The Blue" (Neko Book 4) Chapter 14 (20170912)

Post by NekoDude » Tue Sep 12, 2017 2:10 am

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

2008-03-01

        “No outsiders?” Hisao glances at Neko’s phone to make sure that’s really what it says, rather than her interpretation. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
        “It means Mum wants to talk business, so don’t bring anyone who isn’t privy to that business.”
        “Is there anyone left in our circle that isn’t involved at least a little bit?”
        Let’s see, there’s Molly, Tadao, and… that’s pretty much it, exactly how Mum wants it. We all hang together, or we all hang separately. “You know what she means. Don’t bring anyone who might cramp the conversation. Do bring those who need to be there, even if it takes some pressure.”
        “Yeah. Have fun separating Katayama from her boy toy.”
        “She can read, and she must have been sent the same message. If she disregards it, it will be at her own peril.”
        I almost hope she tries, I could use the entertainment. “What’s with the location? I’ve never heard of the San Cristobal.”
        Neko shrugs helplessly. “You’ll know when I do. It’s pretty close though.”
        “It’s not the distance that concerns me, it’s the air of secrecy. It feels like we’re meeting with foreign agents or something.”
        The knock at the door puts an end to the prognostication. Outside, Rika and Suzu stand about as far apart as possible while still meeting a loose definition of ‘together’, while Junpei looks on awkwardly.
        “That didn’t take as long as I expected,” Neko says with a smile. “Shall we go?”
        The San Cristobal is not as conveniently located as the Shanghai, but it’s still not a bad walk. The lack of chatter is unsettling, though it is not clear whether this is due to trepidation over the meeting, or quiet hostility between Rika and Suzu. Junpei seems oblivious to the Cold War taking place two steps behind him. He is also not in a chatty mood at the moment, though he finds it necessary to state the obvious when they arrive. “It says ‘closed’.”
        “Really?” Rika chimes at a higher, more piercing pitch than usual. “Good thing you can read, what would we do without you?” She pulls at the door and finds it to be unlocked, though the interior is barely illuminated.
        To Neko’s considerable surprise, her Mum is already present rather than fashionably late. “Oh good,” Sally greets with a wave, “you’re early enough for a quick tour.”
        Neko and Hisao glance at each other for a sign one of them has a clue what is going on, then Neko steps out to lead the party. “Tour of what?”
        “Everything, if we have time. Come.” Sally pushes through the swinging doors into the kitchen, revealing Ben at work fidgeting with equipment.
        “Ah, there they are,” he says with his usual welcoming grin before launching into explanations of what everything is, and why it needs to be upgraded.
        “Wait,” Hisao asks, with a finger raised and touching the end of his nose. “Don’t you already have a restaurant and more business than you ever expected?”
        “One with a reputation for casual dining, and no liquor license,” Ben explains. “This location already has that license, and we can charge twice as much for the same food if we require a coat and tie. Also, no catering, delivery, or take-away, and the school won’t own half of it.”
        “What’s going to happen over there then?” Neko asks with concern. “Are you selling?”
        “Aw hell no,” Ben says, “but we’ve pretty much got that down to a routine. The place won’t fall apart just because I’m not in it every day.”
        Suzu cuts in. “No offense intended, but why would people pay double for the privilege of dressing up?”
        Ben nods as if anticipating the question. “None taken. There will be a few operational changes back at the Shanghai too. First, no more reservations. We never wanted to have them, it was forced on us by the queues. Second, some of the more elaborate dishes currently served there will be discontinued – but only there. We’ll still serve them here. We’ll also discontinue the Bring Your Own Booze model. The whole idea is to make it more casual over there, to offset the formality here. We want to split the clientele, rather than making them coexist in an uneasy, overcrowded balance.”
        Neko looks at her mother. “Mum, how much can I afford to stake? I don’t want to make the same mistake as last time and only grab a sliver.”
        Sally checks her phone. “You can ask our accountant. He should be here any time now.” The bell on the door rings. “Maybe that’s him.”
        “Hello?” calls out a male voice from the main room, causing Sally to retreat a few steps and poke her head through the swinging doors.
        “Come meet our prospective partners,” she says, leading the group back out of the kitchen to meet the new arrivals. Three are familiar, one is not.
        “Nice to finally meet in person,” Akira says with a smile as she offers a hand to Sally. Neko knew to expect it, but her buzz-cut hair and stocking cap still look quite shocking. “This is my Papa, but I’m sure he’d rather you call him Hiroyuki. I think you’re all familiar, but just in case – Lilly, Hanako.”
Hiroyuki refrains from shaking hands, leaning on a cane harder than is probably necessary as an excuse. Lilly bows to nobody in particular, and Hanako quickly mimics the gesture.
        Sally gives the minimum acceptable lean in response. “Enough of that, we’re all supposed to be on the same team here.” She goes through the list of introductions on her side quickly, aiming them squarely at Hiroyuki, and saving one in particular for last. “And this is my daughter Katelyn, who is as much to blame for dragging me into the restaurant business as he is.” She nods at Ben.
        “Ah yes,” Hiroyuki addresses to Neko. “Venus, the Bringer of Peace, we’ve been calling you. Nice to finally see you as well.”
        Sally makes a sweeping gesture. “I’ll let Ben give you the tour, we’d just get in the way. We’ll set up some tables in the meantime.”
        Once the new arrivals have made their way to the back, Sally directs traffic and lets the young, strong backs move the furniture. She doesn’t give Neko a pass either, despite being aware that the carbon arm is near useless for lifting. Fortunately, chairs can be dragged rather than lifted, and nobody else seems eager to test her frequent claim that she’s four-fifths as good with one hand as everyone else is with two.
        A male voice can be heard outside the door. “I’ll get that.” The owner of the voice is a mostly bald, fairly rotund middle-aged man in thick glasses, as can be seen when he opens and holds the door. Neko’s ‘bronze box’ can be seen parked outside, tailgate open.
        “Thank you,” says Abe as he carries in a tray, followed by Yuuko carrying another tray. “Hi babe,” he aims at Suzu.
        “Is there more?” she asks.
        “Two more.” He pauses as Hisao volunteers to grab the last one, freeing him from further offloading duty. “Dad’s giving a tour?”
        “Indeed,” Sally says with a nod. “Well that’s it then, everyone is here.” After the unloading is complete, Sally introduces the man holding the door. “For those who had not already guessed, this is my accountant, Kishō Hagihara.”
        “Her accountant too.” Kishō waves a hand toward Neko. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”
        Neko has no chance to respond before Sally grabs the conversation the way she so frequently does. “Before we get started, perhaps you should join the kitchen tour as well. After all, you’re welcome to throw your own money in the hat.”
        “I really appreciate the gesture,” Kishō replies apologetically, “but that would constitute a conflict of interest.”
        Sally shrugs. “There has to be a way to work around that, but that’s a discussion we can have some other time. I’ll sit there.” Unsurprisingly, Sally points toward the end of the table, then she wanders to the kitchen to check on the tour. It is not long before she reappears, holding the swinging doors open as best she can so that Hanako can push a metal cart bearing plates, cups, and all the other necessities of dining.
        “We’ve cheated a little by preparing this at the other location,” Ben announces to the reassembling group, “but you should consider this representative of our intentions.”
        “It certainly smells good,” Akira chimes.
        “Then we’re off to a good start, because you’re our authenticity inspectors. Before you insist it is not possible to bodge «Bubble and Squeak» – yes, it is. We know several ways not to make it.”
        “I’m not going to argue with that,” Hiroyuki says with a laugh. “Very well, let the trial begin.”

***
        “Do you want to do this,” Akira asks her father, “or should I?”
        “You’re the one who actually has to execute the plan, so you should probably explain it.”
        Akira takes the opportunity to stand up, deliberately letting her chair groan as it slides across the floor when she pushes it with the backs of her legs. She sets down her glass. “I should be able to draw up contracts for each investor in the next week, but we’re also here to discuss the other line of business. Sally, you have commercial property in Sydney, do you not?”
        “Well, we do – through one or more of our various shell corporations, that is. I personally have never seen the majority of it. We should probably get Sam patched in if we’re going to discuss that.”
        “Fair enough.” Akira nods and takes a seat again, as Sally flips through her phone’s directory.
        “«Paul? You’re answering phones today?»” Whatever response comes back makes Sally laugh. “«Whatever floats your boat. Can I talk to Sam? Oh, okay. Have him call me as soon as he’s out, right? Thank you.»” She disconnects. “He’s «inspecting the facilities».”
        Hiroyuki appears not to understand the euphemism until Hanako whispers in Lilly’s ear, and Lilly whispers in his. “Oh! Those facilities!” He finally laughs.
        “Right, the only facilities guaranteed to be visited by every client, vendor, and employee. That’s why they hang all the certifications in the hallway outside.”
        “Did they borrow that idea from Sting?” Akira asks. “He hangs his gold records in the loo and lets his guests find them on their own. He says it’s much more humble than having a trophy room.”
        “I don’t think he invented the idea any more than Sam did,” Sally admits as her phone buzzes. “Speaking of which, there he is.” She answers. “«I’m putting you on speaker, we have quite the crowd here.»”
        “«Uh-huh,»” comes from the phone. “«I’m at a disadvantage here. Could we do video?»”
        Sally glances around the room. “«I don’t know...»” she starts.
        Simultaneously, Akira answers. “«Will Skype work?»”
        “«Skype? That’ll work for me,»” the disembodied voice answers after a few seconds of lag.
        “Let me get my laptop out of the car. Someone either give him my details, or get his. I’ll be back momentarily.” It takes a bit of fiddling to get the laptop to tether to her phone, but after a couple minutes she declares success and accepts the contact request that is waiting for her, and the video conference that immediately follows.
        Sam appears on the display. “«Ah, that’s better. Still not as good as being there, but it will have to do. Point me at whoever I’m talking to at any given moment, would you?»”
        “«No worries.»” Akira points the selfie-camera in the lid at each person Sally introduces, then back at Sally herself.
        “«I think they’re looking to rent some… facilities. Am I right?»”
Akira spins the laptop around to face herself and her father. “«Not the one you were just inspecting, or at least not just that one. We want to open an office down there.»”
        Sam looks annoyed. “«Did Paul tell you I was… I reckon that’s what I get for letting him cover the front desk for five minutes.»” Then he smiles. “«What line of business? We’ve got warehouses near the docks and an office building downtown.»”
        “«Medical products distribution and service,»” Hiroyuki declares. “«We’ll probably need one of each.»”
        “«Well the warehouse spaces have offices attached, they’re just not central to the city. How soon are you looking to set up shop?»”
        Akira swivels the laptop again as she speaks. “«Late April, maybe the first week of May.»”
        Sam looks surprised. “«Right quick then. You’ve done the legwork already?»”
        “«Not as such. We wouldn’t be operational for a couple months at a minimum. It takes that long to train and certify service techs – and we have to hire some first.»”
        Sam nods. “«Right, you apparently know the drill. So let’s see…»” Sam begins typing and clicking. “«I’ve got a vacancy starting 1 April, which should give us time to inspect, and make repairs if need be. A hundred fifty square meters of stock floor, a rolling door for lorry access, and a small attached office of another twenty-five square meters. There’s also a loft in the space between the office and the true ceiling, which gives you another twenty-something.»” Sam’s eyes dart around, and soon a request pops up to receive a file. “«I’m sending photos, directions, and a floor plan.»”
        “Look,” Sally says quietly at the other end of the table, “I’m glad to have played the role of matchmaker, but this no longer really involves us. It’s between you and him now.”
        Akira has had plenty of practice reading between the lines the last few months, and catches on before her father does. She speaks to Sam. “«Right. We’ll take a look and get back to you soonest. Thank you kindly for your time.»”
        Neko doesn’t miss the hint either. “«Bye, Pops!»” she shouts, waving when the laptop is pointed at her.
        “«Ring me later,»” he instructs. “«We need to hammer out your details as well.»” He blows her a kiss before disappearing with a ‘bwip!’ noise.
        Sally cannot resist the smooth segue. “He’s right, we have some unfinished personal business to attend to after we’re done here, which would be oh…” She looks at her phone. “...right about now. If you still have an open item, bring it to me. Otherwise, thanks for coming.”
        Akira slams the last of her coffee and stands up. “No bullshit. I can respect that.” Just in case anyone had missed the point, she fishes out the car key with a deliberate jingle and heads for the door. Hanako assists Lilly, while Hiroyuki is forced to move at a pace faster than he feels comfortable. His wobble is visible, but he does not accept help until all of them are outside.
        “There’s streamlining your process,” Akira complains as she helps her father into the reclaimed Evo, “and then there’s just plain rude. Is she usually like that, or is this a new development?”
        “It’s n-new to me,” Hanako answers from the back seat.
        Hiroyuki buckles himself into the seat. “If you needed any further proof that she can be a valuable ally but not much of a friend, there you go.”
        Akira makes the walk around the car and slips into the driver’s seat. “With friends like that, I wouldn’t need enemies.”

        Inside, Sally is not finished. “Yuuko, do you have something to bring to my attention?” Body language says no. “Then you are dismissed. Take the car back. Don’t worry about rides.”
        Yuuko attempts to bow and stand up simultaneously, and when she clips her knee hard on a table brace, the reflex reaction causes her to bang her head into the table. It’s enough to make Sally wince for the briefest moment as Yuuko scampers to the parking lot.
        “That girl needs a crash helmet her entire life.” Sally shakes her head twice before locking in on Kishō. “And is there anything that needs to be said off the record?”
        “No madam, I’ll give you a call when the funds clear.” He closes his briefcase and thumbs the latches, then scurries for the door in an insectine manner.
        “Mum,” Neko inserts quietly, and with a subtle tone of approbation, “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”
        Sally stares for a carefully calculated two seconds. “Your approval of my negotiating tactics is neither required nor requested. You aren’t part of next year’s planning.” She prepares a ‘shh!’ in case Kat should blurt out a response, but instead the girl just gapes incredulously. “As for the rest of you, you would be well advised to remember that I am not your mother. This is business. Don’t ever forget that.”
        Ben chuckles quietly and excuses himself to the kitchen.
        Sally nods at Junpei. “You’re first.” She beckons him over and waves everyone else away. “I’ll call on you as I need you.”

***

        By the time Hisao’s summons comes, he and Neko are the only ones left other than Sally and Ben. He catches Neko locking gazes with her Mum, and the very subtle shake of the head that comes in response. He proceeds to the conference table alone.
        Sally wastes no time. “Are you taking the position?”
        I was warned my answer would be required today. “Yes, subject to the conditions we discussed.”
        “All minor details, Ben is fine with putting you on their payroll. As for Jōji’s car, I’m going to lease it from him, then lend it to you, once again via the restaurant. It already has seventy thousand kilometers on it and isn’t worth transferring. Your other conditions, save one, will be dealt with. I can understand why you want them, and they protect me almost as much as they protect you.”
        “Which one?”
        “You get a flat fee per meeting for being a bank courier, not a percentage. I will not expose the books to you, and you would not know what you’re entitled to unless I did. Again, this is for your protection and mine. You can’t let slip what you don’t know.”
        “How will I know what meetings are high stakes and likely to be troublesome?” Hisao makes a juggling gesture.
        “You won’t on the first, and I’ll tell you on the second. The two are almost entirely unrelated, you know. If some punter loses a hundred thousand and only has fifty to his name, he’s far more likely to act like a cornered animal than a high roller is. Even when they come up short, the big guys know they need to talk, not fight. They don’t get to that level without learning that much – with a few exceptions. But it has been just a few in all the years I’ve done this.”
        “I see. And if I do run into trouble?”
        “You walk away and I send Jōji around to take care of it. Or El Jefe and his goon squad.”
        “He works for you outside the school too?”
        “Occasionally, not often. Maybe two or three times a year. He still needs to keep on my good side, if he expects to be married into power.” Sally sees the concerned look on Hisao’s face. “To Miura, assuming she comes back in a few years as scheduled, or possibly to Katayama otherwise. Wouldn’t that be a riot? In any event…” She beckons Neko to join them. “I’ll let her decide whether she wants you at the table or not.”
        Either Neko can hear what is said from ten meters away, or she can read her Mum’s reaction or lips – or perhaps it’s all of the above. She gives a wave of dismissal as she hobbles over. “Of course he can stay.”
        “What’s wrong?” Hisao asks with concern, gesturing toward her legs.
        “Oh, I sat wrong for too long and it fell asleep from my arse down. It takes me longer to notice since there are no toes to tickle. Mind if I stand a while?” She manually bends the left wrist back, emitting several cracking noises that would be quite painful if coming from flesh and bone, and leans on the back of her chair with both hands.
        “As long as you’re here,” Sally says with a shrug. “I’m afraid I can no longer listen in on people on the other side of the room. Even when I could, I had nothing on you.”
        “I wasn’t trying to,” Neko protests.
        “That’s what makes it more dangerous. You just passively soak up everything.”
        “Then why did you save me for last? You could have sent me packing forty-five minutes ago, and told me to come back.”
        “I wanted to see how you two were getting on with Katayama. Evidently, still not well.”
        “She’s your pet snake, not mine, and I don’t have much longer to deal with her. There’s no point in trying to get cozy now. I still don’t understand your fondness for her.”
        Sally looks at Hisao for his input. “Oh, I just try to ignore her as much as I can, and when she’s right, I just let her be right. Why fight? It’s not worth it.”
        “As you were then,” Sally confirms with a nod. “She’s most likely going to do some things wrong. Feel free to tip me off, but let me deal with it.”
        Neko and Hisao reply as one. “Gladly.”

NEXT CHAPTER
Last edited by NekoDude on Sat Nov 11, 2017 7:27 am, edited 2 times in total.
Art is never finished, only abandoned.
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NOT A CHAPTER.

Post by NekoDude » Thu Nov 09, 2017 4:33 pm

REPEAT: THIS IS NOT A CHAPTER OR IN ANY WAY PART OF THE STORY.

The reason you didn't get a chapter last month is because I've been busy the last five months (and particularly the last two) writing the code for this game. Writing code is most definitely not my specialty, and I do so both slowly and poorly, but we were out of other options. Programmers bailing out on us seems to be a recurring problem – we've lost three. The first I had to fire for being a complete dick, the second barely got started and decided he didn't have time to do it, and the third didn't even submit any code or explain himself, he just disappeared. It's like Spinal Tap and drummers.

In any case, outside of the tiny chance this demo hits the right person who decides it's brilliant and wants to support it, it doesn't look like the world wants what we have to offer, so we're winding it down. I should be returning to writing once I dig myself out of the rather substantial depression induced by investing months of 14-hour days into something, only to be told "we never told you what we wanted, but this isn't it, therefore you suck".
Art is never finished, only abandoned.
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Re: "Out Of The Blue" (Neko Book 4) Chapter 15a (20171109)

Post by NekoDude » Thu Nov 09, 2017 10:27 pm

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

2008-03-03

        “This has been both entertaining and edifying,” Sam drawls, “but I’m expecting a call from my nearest and dearest momentarily, and I would like to ‘inspect the facilities’ first.”
        The round-trip lag is only a second and a half, but it feels like an eternity before Akira’s laugh comes back, followed by a cough. “Sorry, it seems I’m suffering a post-flight cold. Right, I won’t keep you any longer. I need to send the contracts anyhow. G’day!” The call ends.
        You’re trying too hard, but you’ll catch on. He grabs the shits-and-giggles netbook and heads for the restroom. He is still there when Skype starts boop-beeping at him.
        Sam opens the lid and answers voice-only. “Sorry love, I’m slightly indisposed. The previous call ran a bit long. So it’ll just have to be voice for a minute or two, and mumbly voice at that.” He closes the lid most of the way and stands the netbook on end.
        “Yeah? I only have forty minutes,” Kat reminds him.
        “I can’t rightly reel it back in now.”
        “I didn’t need to think about that.”
        “You don’t need to see it either.”
        “Granted. Do the necessary.”
        Sam 1 - 0 Kat. I’m already dialed in on that lag as my witty thinking time. He turns on the water to wash his hands, as he was further along in the process than he was letting on, then carries the small, almost toy computer back to his desk while it is still emitting sounds coming from the other side. Once back, he connects it to the mains and enables the camera. “Thanks for bearing with me.” It is then that he realizes there are two faces staring back at him, rather than one.
        Hisao waves, grinning broadly. “Did everything come out alright?” He trips over it slightly, as if it was rehearsed and then forgotten.
        Sam 1 - 1 Kat. Next point wins? “Of course. It also went away alright, which matters just as much.”
        “It bloody well better,” Kat says with a grin. “They’re your facilities.”
        Just then, his office door opens without a knock, and Paul lets himself in. After realizing Sam is on a video call, he places a set of keys on the desk quietly before giving a thumbs up and disappearing again.
        “Sure doesn’t feel like it sometimes,” Sam sighs. “At least we’ll remain over the 70 percent occupancy required by my insurance policy, now that you have so kindly directed the Satou contract toward me.”
        “Yeah? You’re not renting to your own shell corporations anymore?”
        “I am, in the downtown office building,” he reluctantly admits. “Conditions are getting worse there, not better. I may need to sell before I get too far underwater on it.”
        “I thought all the flooding was in the warehouse district.”
        “Not that kind of underwater, financially underwater. The Monroe West building has been a money pit from the start. Don’t make any plans that involve using it, unless you’re prepared to pay rent to someone else.”
        “The flats?” Kat looks concerned.
        “They’re in the East building. They’re separate properties, although on the same parcel. Those actually turn a profit, if you factor in market rate for the ones we occupy ourselves.” Which you should, it’s rent we’re not paying – and also not being taxed, coming or going. “That part of the plan is still sound, assuming we’re still on for August.”
        “Should be, unless you think the school won’t sign off on me.” She maintains a worried look for perhaps two seconds before it cracks. She and her father laugh asynchronously.
        “The zombie outbreak has been contained, you don’t have to worry about having your brain eaten – well, except in King’s Cross. I reckon that is about the only thing standing between you and graduating. Keep your head.”
        “Shouldn’t be difficult, unless you make Miura my teacher’s assistant.”
        “I’ll instruct them to keep her with the little ones, and you will work with the upper grades. That suits our needs all ways round. Well, you may get Jeb some of the time. He’s eight, but he’s sharp. They keep him with his age group for social reasons, but he’s easily four years ahead on his maths.”
        “You mean the autistic boy.”
        “Umm… something like that. If you’re the best tutor for him, you’re going to get stuck with him. Sorry.” Sam doesn’t look or sound sorry.
        “He’s not even our problem, he’s a neighbor!”
        “That’s because he’s not a problem. Or rather, he’s a minor problem and worth the bother. He may or may not be yours to deal with, and likely only for maths at any rate.”
        “‘Socializing the feral child,’ Mum calls it. She seems to enjoy it.”
        “I’ll be happy if you can just pull it off. You don’t have to enjoy it. It’s still a school, and you’re still there to learn as well. We have more than book learning in mind. Oftentimes the only way to learn is to do.”
        “Fake it ‘til you make it.” Kat nods understanding.
        “It’s all fun and games until someone loses a hand.” Yeah I went there. She must have been insufferable before.
        Kat goes full bogan. “Harden the fuck up.”
        “The motto of your life. I think that’s all we had to discuss.” Sam glances at the clock in the corner of the screen. “I still have twenty minutes, and the floor is open.” I like keeping schedules, it keeps people from trying to wedge themselves in when I don’t want them.
        “What are your intentions for Miura? I’d kinda like to know how long I have to expect to put up with her.” Well she sure isn’t wasting any time getting to the point, though I did open that door.
        “You’re not gonna relay this to your Mum before I tell her myself?”
        “Promise.”
        “I need time to peel her off Mira. She is having a hard time accepting that her fantasy girlfriend has found a proper home, and she’s going to have to move on alone or with someone else. Once that can be managed, I’ll give her until she fails out of UNSW, then ship her back to your Mum.”
        “You really think she’s going to fail out?”
        “I don’t know, but I’m not going to step in if she starts sliding that way, and I don’t expect you to do so either.”
        “The Russian girl is your problem now?”
        “No, she’s Paul’s, and he doesn’t consider her a problem. I’m pretty sure we can find work for her here. She has street smarts, but at the same time, she’s not a hoon – at least not yet.”
        Kat nods. “At least someone is coming out ahead for all that trouble.” After enough silence to indicate closure of the topic, she starts a new one. “Do you really care how I dispense the radio gear?”
        “I thought you were planning to give it to the school.”
        “That was the plan, yes, but I think I’ve come up with something better. What if I give it to him,” she says with a tip of the head toward Hisao, “and let him lend it to them indefinitely, just as I have been doing? That way, if we don’t like the way things are going, there’s still the potential to ask for it back.”
        “You might as well just keep it and continue lending it yourself then.”
        “Unlike me, he’ll actually be nearby. The threat of picking it up and carting it off is a realistic one.”
        “Makes sense, I suppose. You obviously trust him more than you trust them.”
        Kat snorts. “Bloody well right, I do.”
        “Me too, and I barely know him. Very well, you can proceed with that plan.”
        “It will be official as soon as we can print it out and sign it, then.”
        “The sofa too?” Hisao jokes.
        “Anything I added to that room becomes yours,” Kat answers with a nod, “from the sofa to the transceiver to the 2 and 6 meter antenna.”
        “I’ll have a rig in the car, but I might actually want the sofa. It has pleasant associations.”
        Sam breaks in. “Were you taking advantage of my little girl there, young man?”
        Hisao turns red and starts to sputter. “No, I – er, you see –”
        Kat counterpunches. “We haven’t rooted in the Radio Room, Pops, but only out of a lack of opportunity. We’ll keep trying. We won’t be the first, or the last.”
        “Maybe I don’t want the sofa after all,” Hisao sheepishly mutters.
        “I said we’d keep trying, you may make some new associations.”
        Sam clears his throat. “Ahem. Perhaps I should allow you a few minutes together before you have to return to class.”
        Kat grins and nods. “Accepted. We’ll talk later.”
        No goals, but plenty of shots taken from all angles. We’ll have to settle for a well-fought draw.

        Hisao waits until the laptop is closed and set aside, and switches conversation back to his native language. “Is it always like that between the two of you, when nobody else is around?”
        “Hmm?” Neko waits for further explanation.
        “The verbal jousting. It’s almost like you’re trying to one-up each other in making the conversation awkward.”
        “Oh, no. We don’t always go for awkward, and we don’t always target each other. Sometimes we’re on the same side. But if he wants to act like a twelve year old, I reckon I remember how to do that better than he does – it’s only been half a decade for me. It’s been three for him.”
        “You’re assuming he ever stopped. Some people don’t.” Like Suzumiya. “Maybe that’s why he’s not out of practice.”
        “And I am?”
        “You’re different. He sounds like a pre-teen obsessed with fart jokes, while you’re more the «nudge nudge wink wink» type.”
        “«Say no more!»” Neko sneaks a glance at the alarm clock before moving in for a kiss. “We have fifteen minutes, and I’ll need one of those to put myself back together, so let’s get to it.” She sheds both her skirt and her leg on the way to the restroom, carrying the latter in with her.
        Again? After what we did before the day even started? Hisao sighs in feigned exasperation, but he knows his goofy grin is a dead giveaway. I have to get it while I still can, he thinks, and nods to his own internal monologue before hurriedly undressing and following.

***

        “Sorry, father,” Hisao apologizes. “My summer break is already committed.”
        The voice at the other end is tinny as phones always are, but the incredulity still comes through. “Seriously? You can’t even take a week’s vacation? Who do you work for, the karōshi factory?”
        “It’s not like that, it’s just my only real chance to travel myself. If everything holds, I’ll be half a world away come Tanabata.”
        His father sighs. “It’s a shame. We were hoping to have an expert tour guide to drive us around. You know the area so much better than we do.”
        “In a sense, I suppose. I mean, I know where the things that interest me are. That doesn’t necessarily translate into places you’d want to go. You know, you could always let mother drive, while you enjoy the scenery.”
        There are several seconds of dead air before a response comes back. “No. Just no. I’d actually like to return the car in the same condition we received it, even if it is a rental. Speaking of original condition, how’s that shiner coming along?”
        “Give me a moment, I haven’t actually looked today.” Hisao rises to visit the restroom mirror. “It’s still a bit yellowish I suppose, but nothing I couldn’t easily hide with a bit of Neko’s makeup if it were required.”
        “She’d share?”
        “Why not? We share everything else.” Like wine, weed and Percocets. “Besides, she hardly uses it herself. In fact, she’s probably still using the kit she got for last Tanabata.”
        “Yet another sign you dodged the curse of the pretty girl,” his father says knowingly. “The beautiful ones spend far too much time, effort, and money trying to stay that way.”
        “I intended to ask about that, but forgot. What exactly did you mean that night when you were here? The implication seemed to either be that Neko isn’t pretty, or that mother is a curse.”
        “Be objective for just a moment, and you’ll have to admit you let the pretty one go. Still, your darling looks good to you, and that’s all that matters. What I meant is the effort involved in being synthetically pretty. All the face-painting, primping, and hairstyling can get quite laborious, and also quite expensive. You may not have realized just how hard your dear mother works to maintain her image of youth, although she mostly succeeds.”
        Actually, Neko’s ‘original condition’ suits me just fine. The less she wears, the better. “Yeah. I don’t think that appeals to Neko. It’s probably true of most avid swimmers, as it would wash off in the pool. I guess it just –”
        “Shit,” his father interrupts. “We’ll have to continue this some other time, I’ve got an «lp0 on fire» error to deal with – and it might actually be.”
        It’s a shame you have to be in the server room at work to feel you can talk to me freely. “Right, that’s what they pay you for.” But there is nobody on the other end to hear him.

***

        “As far as I know, there is no rule against it,” El Jefe says with a shrug, “although it is rather unusual for someone to join a club with only a few weeks left in their time at the school. If he wants in, it’s fine with me.”
        “He’ll need to be accompanied when transmitting,” Neko points out. “There is no time to wait on a license now, presuming he would even want to bother.”
        Momomoto shrugs again. “It happens every year, and it’s usually a chance for the new members to learn how not to be lids before they seek their own licenses.”
        Hisao chuckles. “He is a lid. All he would be learning is how to conceal it.”
        “It might be a chance to put Tadao to the test,” Neko offers, “before he takes over for good.”
        “Sorry, not sorry.” Momomoto grins wryly. “He’s still your problem.”
        Neko nods in understanding. “You should show up tonight. I wouldn’t want it to appear like watching him is my idea.”
        “I will. I always turn up for the first meeting of the year, and usually for the last one as well. I don’t know that I’ll stay, but I’ll be there long enough.”
        Neko nods again. “That’s all I ask of you. We’ll see you tonight then.”
        Outside the security chief’s office, Hisao picks up the conversation. “Are you still going to make it official?”
        “Of course,” Neko confirms. “It’s the last meeting of the year – and the last meeting ever for you, me, and Suzumiya.”
        “Now that you put it like that, I’m feeling a little bit sad.”
        “In that case, you can always come back and attend a meeting on your own time if you like. It’s your rig now, after all.”
        Hisao half-smiles and half-shrugs. “I might, at that.”
        Neko takes a glance at her phone. “We have two and a half hours. What say we put them to less than productive use?”
        “Again?”
        “Are you complaining?”
        “Uh, no. I’m just not sure I need another shower quite yet.”
        “Then you can skip that part and lay down towels instead, while I take care of the not-so-fresh feeling. I’ll make you want a shower afterward.”
        “«A nod’s as good as a wink to a blind bat.»”
        Say no more.

***
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Re: "Out Of The Blue" (Neko Book 4) Chapter 15b (20171120)

Post by NekoDude » Mon Nov 20, 2017 8:31 am

[Conclusion of Chapter 15]

        “So that’s it, then?” Haruhiko looks both stunned and bemused. “I anticipated a bit of pushback.”
        “Nah, man,” Hisao replies, clapping a hand on Suzumiya’s shoulder and shaking him gently. “It’s all good. There’s no rule on when you can join a club, provided they want you.”
        “That’s what I mean. They want me?”
        “I support you, and neither Neko nor El Jefe really gives a shit one way or the other, so unless you’ve got a beef with Hanako, you should be unopposed.”
        “So I just go to the meeting, and then I can talk?”
        Hisao hems and haws. “More or less. You’ll have to have a license holder present, since you aren’t one, but I’ll back you up again.”
        This causes Haruhiko to smile weakly. We’ll see how long that lasts. I gotta do it. I just gotta do it. He nods almost imperceptibly to bolster his resolve. I gotta break the bro code. Feels bad, man. He forces a goofy grin, lest he give away his thoughts. “Would you mind if I ran up the stairs and met you at the top? I could use the workout.”
        Hisao waves. “See you there.”

        Neko turns to the door when she hears it open, and the blast of cold air comes a few seconds later. She waits until the door is closed again before addressing the new arrivals. “That’s it for current membership, but I have to ask that you limit yourselves to one sandwich each until we know how many recruits will show up,” she says with a gesture toward the table in the corner. “I need to make sure everyone gets something.” She looks over her shoulder at Hideki.
        Haruhiko raises an eyebrow. “I was told there would be cake.”
        Neko returns the quizzical look. “We’ve never –”
        Hideki chuckles, and talks over Neko. “The cake is a lie.”
        “Nice to see someone gets the joke,” Haruhiko responds.
        “Uh, yeah.” Neko turns back to the whiteboard. “We are already at standing room only, so I should probably start.” She writes 1. Transfer of ownership, then turns back toward the crowd. “As you are probably aware, I won’t be back next term. I won’t even be in the country. Therefore, I thought it would be best to transfer ownership of the rig to someone who will be here.” She watches El Jefe’s reaction closely as she points to Hisao and delivers the punchline. “Him.”
        “But he won’t be a student here either,” Momomoto responds with more confusion than consternation. “I thought you planned to pass it to the school.”
        “You’re right. That was the plan, but I came up with a better one. He’ll be a better proxy owner than I will, by virtue of being nearby.”
        “I’m not so sure –”
        “Too late, I filed it this afternoon.” With the whiteboard marker dangling between her fingers, Neko pulls the executed agreement from her pocket and hands it to him. “That’s not the only thing that needs to be transferred, either.” She turns back to the board and writes 2. Transfer of leadership. “This is my last day on the job. It’s his Radio Club as of midnight, unless you’ve changed your mind.” She nods toward Tadao.
        “Uh, no, he’s still my pick,” Momomoto confirms. “Are you sure you want to do the transfer this soon?”
        “Why wait? I’ll surrender the keys in the morning, we may need them once more tonight.”
        “I already have keys,” Tadao points out.
        “You’re going to need a deputy, just as you have been to me for the past year, and he or she is going to need them. If you haven’t chosen yet, that’s not my lookout.”
        “I did, but she declined due to an anticipated lack of time. Sorry sis, I said I wouldn’t bring it up unless it was relevant, but now it is.”
        “I understand,” Mariko replies quietly, sounding more like her old, shy self than she has in many months.
        “We’ll figure it out,” Momomoto says with a dismissive wave. “As you said, it’s no longer your lookout.” He avoided making eye contact with Hideki, so he must have someone else in mind. “Do you want to introduce someone?”
        “Oh, yeah.” Neko writes down 3. Suzumiya. “Maybe I’m not qualified to introduce him, but I will anyhow and he can fill in the gaps. This is Haruhiko Suzumiya, famously from the cross-country team.” Neko does a head-lift in Mariko’s direction. “Her boyfriend’s teammate, and Hisao’s current and future classmate. You take it from here, that’s really all I know about you.” She extends her hand as if helping him to stand up, though he already is standing.
        “Uh, so, yeah.” Suzumiya shuffles his feet. “I’ve never been very good in front of a crowd. It’s easier to just run away from them, and I’m pretty good at that. So, like, my doctor said I should work on it and I thought maybe this would help.”
        Momomoto nods. “Sometimes it works.” He shoots a glance and a hint of a smile at Hanako. “In any case, welcome. I understand you’ve already been told about licenses and all.”
        “I can listen, but if I want to talk I need someone here. Right?”
        “That’s close enough to keep you out of trouble.” El Jefe turns his attention back to Neko. “Is there anything else that requires my attention?”
        “That depends how hungry you are. We’ll give them another fifteen minutes, then it’s open season.”
        “For anyone?” Tadao asks, phone in hand.
        Neko sighs loudly. “I suppose it won’t hurt.” This is enough to make Mariko reach for her phone as well. “But in the meantime, this is still Radio Club, and we seem to have someone eager to find out what that means.”
        “Go easy on him,” El Jefe says as he heads for the exit.
        “We will,” Neko confirms with a mischievous grin, “but we’re still going to pop some cherries. It’s my last chance.”
        “Go easy on them, too,” he adds as he closes the door.
        They’ll get whatever they earn. “Right then,” Neko says as she snaps her fingers and points at Haruhiko. “Let’s get you started.”
        “Is it going to hurt?” he asks hesitantly.
        Neko looks baffled. “I don’t see why it would. If it does, you’re definitely doing it wrong.” I’ll just stand back and watch.

        “This,” Suzumiya says while tapping the waterfall plot with a fingernail, “is pretty fucking sweet.”
        “Yes, it is,” Hisao confirms, “but language, dude. It’s safest to assume someone is transmitting at all times and speak accordingly. Keep a lid on it, lid.” He smiles at his own joke, but it seems to completely sail over the head of the target.
        “Sorry.” Haruhiko says sheepishly. “Sometimes I can’t help myself.”
        Hisao nods. I know. Mutou knows too, even if he pretends not to. At least you’re not Hideki. “If I get fined for something you say, I expect you to pay for it. Anyhow, yes, it is pretty sweet. We can see that there’s traffic a bit higher in the band – you can almost identify who is talking by the way it looks – and someone down ten, wondering why he’s so lonely.”
        “Actually,” Neko says as she leans over Hisao’s shoulder for a closer look, “it might be a split channel. Even the cheap handhelds can do that now. That would explain why it looks like one guy talking to himself. Watch the waterfall for a bit to see if there’s another broken line like his, only fitting in the gaps.”
        She’s right, although several signals fill the gaps rather than one. It only takes about 20 seconds for Haruhiko to spot it, once he knows what to look for. “There!” He taps a bit harder than necessary, causing the display to ripple in colors where he poked it. “Sorry.”
        It takes a moment for Hisao to realize the ‘sorry’ came from behind him. Turning around, he finds Tadao. This better be important. I’m just a bit busy. “Yes?” He lets the irritation come through.
        Tadao gives the barest of nods to acknowledge the implication, and gets straight to the point. “I just had to ask, can we trust you won’t pull the rug out from under us and suddenly collect everything? I know it’s awful to even imply you might, but I am tasked with making plans for the upcoming year.”
        Hisao is pretty certain Tadao’s vision is insufficient to catch his momentary and tiny recoil. Think fast, Nakai. “Umm, does thirty days notice work for you? I’ll put that in writing by tomorrow.” Now please go away. You picked a really bad time, he thinks as the 15 watt bulb goes on again. Oh, wait, it’s not an accident. That’s why you’re not leaving.
        “Do you have reason to suspect you would exercise that privilege in the next year?”
        “N-no, not as such. It’s not like I made any plans for the rig, if that’s what you’re asking.”
        Tadao’s brief smile and even briefer bow indicate that is indeed what he was asking, and he finally departs. This proves enough of an interruption that Neko has stepped in to give a call sign. Whether it was hers or the schools, he didn’t catch. “And now it’s your turn, if you can get a word in sideways. This is what we call a pile-up. Happens every time, it’s my Magic Girl Power.”
        In the plan, I was supposed to drive. However, I will bow to your superior improvisational skill. Hisao stands up and yields the chair to Neko, who takes it quite eagerly, but not before pushing the microphone to Haruhiko just in time for his ‘turn’.
        “Sorry, I’m the guest, if there was any confusion.”
        “I wasn’t confused,” says the other female on the channel. “And hello.” Definitely her. “You sound familiar.”
        “I - I should, you asked me to be here. I made it.”
        “I’m impressed,” Iwanako says a little bit sloppily. “But you haven’t quite completed your quest. Right?”
        “R-right,” he says to jump in ahead of the crowd, yet also give them time to blip their talk buttons before saying anything important. As if he knows what he is doing. “Iwanako, will you go out with me?”
        “If you promise not to get in any fights, I will. Think about where – not Gino’s, please – and let me know tomorrow. I’m not done holding court here.”
        You’re willing to dump me in front of your ‘court’, but you won’t discuss a date? Hisao shakes his head in dismay, suddenly glad Neko took over. The channel erupts in another pile-up, giving him a chance to speak. “A quest? That seems a bit of a stretch.”
        “She had to make sure you knew,” Haruhiko answers with obvious relief as he slouches in the cheap folding chair. “She said she wouldn’t do it if it was going to cause trouble, and that she wasn’t going to keep it a secret.”
        Hisao sniffle-laughs. “I ain’t even mad. I want her to be happy.” Just with someone other than me.
        “Don’t tell me, tell her.”
        “I have. She obviously had her doubts. How long have you been talking?”
        “On the radio? First time.”
        “No, I meant… oh, never mind. I guess it doesn’t matter.” Hisao waves and shrugs simultaneously.
        “She gave me her number when you were having a little lie-down at the party. She wanted me to update her on how you were doing, without having to ask you.”
        Hisao laughs out loud this time. “Testing you from the start, I see. She knew damn well how I was doing. I talk with her mother at least twice a week, sometimes on the phone and sometimes in person. Right?” He emulates the rising tone Iwanako had used a few moments prior. “I suppose she also told you how to survive a pile-up and hold the channel. Just be careful, man – not because of me, but for your own sake. Maybe you’ll be the one, maybe you won’t. I wouldn’t give you the greatest odds, but what was that line?” He nudges Neko.
        “«Never tell me the odds.» It’s appropriate, you have an asteroid field to navigate. Han and Chewie made it though.”
        “And you might also,” Hisao adds, “now that you know I’m not chasing you into it, and you’re not coming in with major baggage the way I did.” He gently taps his chest. “She felt guilty, and guilt is a horrible way to start a relationship. In any case, I’d give you… what were the odds in the asteroid field?”
        “3,720 to 1,” Neko answers.
        “Oh, yeah, I’d say your odds are a bit better than that. I was thinking more like 20 to 1.”
        “Gee, thanks,” Haruhiko moans. “Five percent. That’s so much better.”
        “You can’t win if you don’t run.”
        “Kenta says that to me all the time.”
        “I know,” Hisao says with no attempt to hide his smile. “Where do you think I got it?”
        “Certainly not from me,” Neko groans. “Even if I had both legs, I have other impediments to running.” Crossing her arms under her ‘impediments’, she gives them a bit of a bounce.
        “Don’t think of them like that, think of them as compensation.”
        “Compensation for whom? You, maybe.”
        “Uh, yeah.” Suzumiya squirms in his seat. “This is a bit uhh… too much information.”
        “Fine, we’ll spare you the details. Now back up.” Neko gently swats his shins with her hand. “I need to get in this drawer.”
        “Cherry soda time?” Tadao calls out from the sofa he currently shares with Lilly.
        “Indeed.” She pulls out a can, places it in the prosthetic hand, waits the few seconds necessary to establish a firm but gentle grip, and pulls the tab. She pours right-handed though, as the trick with the wine bottle that squicked her Mum was exactly that – a trick, not her preference. She waits until the small cups are passed out. “Cheers, another virgin busted. And it didn’t even hurt!”
        So far.
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Re: "Out Of The Blue" (Neko Book 4) Chapter 16 (20171225)

Post by NekoDude » Mon Dec 25, 2017 1:22 pm

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

2008-03-08

        “Stop trying to be a long-distance Cyrano de Bergerac, would you?” Neko complains from the hot tub. “I could use a leg massage.”
        “I just want to make sure he doesn’t step on his own dick,” Hisao insists as he paces.
        “Fine,” Neko sighs. “Put the bloody phone in a plastic bag and come here.” You know the massages work both ways. “Besides, you can’t help unless he asks for it. If he gets caught in a furphy, it’s not your lookout.”
        “I know, I know – and he is inclined to let them fly. You’re right of course, it’s really not my lookout. I just can’t shake the dread that he’s going to stuff things up, things I could have warned him about had I thought of them.”
        “He’s not going to have you there tomorrow or next week or whenever. She can either deal with his foot-in-mouth disease or she can’t. It’s not like he’s the only one hiding an ugly reality behind a veneer of social conformity.”
        “One second, there are no bags out here.” Hisao steps into the kitchen and slides the door closed behind him, returning a moment later. “It took me a while, you know, to see the world through your eyes, but now that I have I know exactly what you mean. It’s not just her, or just him, it’s practically everyone.”
        “«Everybody’s got something to hide, except for me and my monkey.» Why do you think people avoid potentially uncomfortable topics? Because as much as they’d like to know your dirt, they’re at least as afraid of having their own revealed.”
        “You also think the best defense is a good attack.” He slips into the water slowly, wincing a bit at the heat. He is wet to the waist when the phone starts to chime, causing him to open the sandwich bag he just sealed. “In trouble already, are you?” he asks as he places it in speaker mode.
        “Not as such,” comes the expected voice. “I just wanted to know if there’s a catch if I drive the family car.”
        “Indeed there is. You have to return it intact, without any tickets or unpaid tolls. Don’t go drifting. Just be a bloody good citizen.”
        “Thanks,” Haruhiko says after a chuckle. “I think I can manage that. I just wanted to make sure.”
        “Look man, I told you they’re straightforward people. They don’t play head games, so do yourself a solid and don’t play them either.”
        “Right, right. Gotta run!” A toilet can be heard flushing in the background just before the call drops.
        “I told you it would be trivial,” Neko says with a knowing look.
        “I’m glad you were right. It should be at least another half hour before he can use the restroom excuse to get away and call again.” Hisao re-seals the bag and sets the phone aside before slowly lowering himself to the neck in the bubbling water.
        “Be a dearie, make me cheery.” She reaches out with her foot, taking a moment to slide a bit closer so she can make her movements at something less than full extension. “I’ll do the same for you.”
        “I won’t doubt you on this one.” He takes the calf muscle in both hands and kneads firmly, as her toes work their way into the leg of his swim trunks.

        The next time Hisao’s phone chimes, it has a different ring tone. He raises an eyebrow as he decides whether to answer and interrupt the mutual manipulation.
        “Who is it? Your Mum?” Neko pauses to let him take a closer look.
        “No, but also not completely wrong. It’s her Mum.” He lets go of Neko’s leg.
        “«Rut-roh!»” Her Scooby impression is almost an octave too high, but otherwise not bad.
        “Yeah,” he says as he opens the bag, then answers the call. “Good afternoon, Ms. Daidouji,” he intones as neutrally as possible.
        “Oh! Shit! Am I interrupting something? You sound annoyed.”
        He shifts into conversational tone. “No, no, don’t worry about it. I just wasn’t expecting a call from you, and was trying to guess what it might be about.”
        “It’s about that friend of yours. He seems alright, but can he be trusted?”
        “You’ll get your car back in one piece. If you don’t, it probably won’t be his fault. Is that what you mean?”
        “So you’ve seen him drive?”
        “No, I haven’t, but he’s not likely to do anything stupid with a ton of metal and glass. It’s more likely to kill him than anything, so I would guess he’d be extra careful.”
        “Yeah, he brought that up pretty early. I was a bit surprised I didn’t have to drop a hint before he let it out. That’s not really what I meant though. What I really would like to know is, when the shit hits the fan, will he do the expedient thing, or the right thing?”
        Could you get any more straight to the point yourself? It takes a second or two to recover from the surprise. “My first instinct was to say I hadn’t thought about it, but that would have been wrong. I’ve thought about it, and there are some pretty well-known instances of him doing the right thing under pressure, but there are also counterexamples. I’m sorry, I just don’t know for sure.”
        One, two, three, four nods. Hisao can visualize her on the other end based solely on her pauses. “Ah, I understand. Your assessment aligns with my own – there’s something of the trickster to him.”
        “Don’t worry, he’s not very good at it. He’ll behave once you slap him down a couple times. I can’t say the same for his foot-in-mouth disease. It stands to reason that he’d solve that if he could, so the fact that he hasn’t probably means he can’t.”
        “You eventually did, mostly.”
        I’m glad you’re brutally honest, but sometimes it still stings. “It’s a work in progress.”
        “So are we all. If we’re not busy living, we’re busy dying. Would you do me a favor? The next time you visit me at work, don’t bring him. We’ll talk then.”
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Re: "Out Of The Blue" (Neko Book 4) Chapter 17 (20180123)

Post by NekoDude » Tue Jan 23, 2018 10:26 pm

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

2008-03-10

        Being observant is my job, Yoshizumi thinks as she scans the walk-ins on arrival. We don’t have a maître d'hôtel at lunchtime. Thus, she is pleased to spot the latest arrival before he spots her.
        “My goodness,” she says to Hisao as she leads him toward the last seat at the counter, “I didn’t mean you had to come alone.
        “I didn’t really have a choice,” he says as he settles in. “Someone had to run interference, and I still can’t guarantee he won’t show up on his own.”
        “Chili con carne and cornbread,” she says loud enough to be overheard, and lifts her eyes to indicate something happening out of his line of sight, “but only until 2 pm.” She catches the subtle nod that says he understands the need for the non-sequitur.
        “Have them make two orders to go,” he replies.
        Ben pushes through the hinged section of counter. “Nice try,” he aims at Hisao, “but I’m not that easily fooled. You can talk to her after I do.” With a nod, he leads Yoshizumi to the kitchen. “I’ve been thinking about our discussion from last week,” he begins, “and I see your point. We do need a second steady bartending crew at the San Cristobal – just so long as you understand that you are on the second crew. No complaining that I’m giving the best shifts to my girlfriend, right?”
        “I promise I can be of more value over there than I am here,” she insists.
        “I’m not disputing that at all, but the same is true for her. That’s why she’s there all the time now. Anyhow, you’re going to need to brush up on your skills first. How long has it been?”
        “Three years since this Christmas Cake was forcibly retired.”
        “Idiots don’t value experience.” Ben shakes his head. “You’ll need to take refresher courses quite soon if you’re to be there on Opening Night.”
        “Oh. I didn’t really budget for that this month.”
        “That’s alright, I did.” Ben holds up two fingers. “You’ve got two options: Start tonight, or start a week from tonight. It’s five nights either way. Sorry, I didn’t make the rules, and I especially didn’t make various prefectures each have different ones, but it is what it is.” He scoops out two containers of chili in between gestures. “I need to know your choice in the next hour, so go call anyone you need to discuss it with.”
        “Barring anything unforeseen,” she answers, “I should be able to start tonight – unless they expect us to dress the part. I won’t have time to go home and come back.”
        “You will if you just happen to make a delivery near your house.” He grabs an order tag off the call-in rack, checks the address, and writes her into the delivery slot. “This one, for instance. Now go take care of any loose ends.” After stacking two elegantly paper-wrapped pieces of cornbread atop the much less adorned bowls of chili, he holds out the lot for her to take. “Like this one.”
        “Yes sir.” She gives a genuinely relieved bow and takes the stack. Back at the counter where she can be seen, she places each item in the stack in a paper bag, along with napkins, utensils, and packets of red pepper. “I’m afraid I’ll have to call you later,” she says to Hisao, “as my schedule has suddenly become considerably more congested for the next week.”
        “Oh! I never order chili here, it’s rather bland,” Hisao admits. “I was just playing along to keep you out of trouble.”
        “Have you tried it lately?”
        “No, it has been a while. Has something changed?”
        Yoshizumi nods. “We put bourbon and chipotle peppers in the sauce now. It’s more tangy and smoky than hot, but it will still get your attention.”
“Your idea?”
        She nods proudly. “I had to make my mark somehow. If you don’t like it, I’ll pay for it myself.” She motions for one of the table stewards to handle the transaction while she steps out back to make sure Iwanako medicates the cat on schedule.

***

        Haruhiko tries in vain to ignore the vibration of his phone, fearing the worst. She’s calling to cancel, isn’t she. I knew this was too good to be true. He sneaks a glance at the display, confirming the origin, but cannot possibly listen to the message in class. Finally, he decides to invent an urgent need to visit the restroom, and his subtle yet desperate hand gestures to Miyagi get him a swipe of a finger toward the door. Yes! She bought it. I still can’t make a habit of this.
        Once securely locked behind a stall door, he begins the motions of using the toilet to further sell his story, then decides he might as well do the business for real. Thus, he is midway into ‘dropping the kids off at the pool’ when he retrieves the message.
        “Don’t stop at the train station,” Iwanako’s voice implores him. “Meet me at home. Call me soonest.”
        Calling back is out of the question, so he replies in text form. “Problem? We can reschedule.” He sets the phone aside and moves to clean himself up.
        He is washing his hands when the reply comes back, this time in text. “No, everything is good, just can’t go out today. You can still come here.”

        «There's a ringing in your brain,
        ‘Cause you could've sworn
        You thought you heard her saying
        “Good girls don't, good girls don't,
        Good girls don't, but I do.”»


***

        “You had a little emergency earlier?” Hisao asks as he catches up with a rapidly moving Haruhiko.
        “Yeah,” he replies. “Too much Pocari Sweat after my lunchtime run. Went straight through me.”
        “Mmm-hmm. I saw you peeking at your phone.”
        “Coincidence.” Haruhiko accelerates his pace.
        You may have fooled Miyagi, but you’re not fooling me. “In a hurry, are you? I’ll catch up with you later.” Hisao watches as Suzumiya weaves through four-way human traffic in the quad. That footwork looks familiar, but Ronaldo would throw in a nutmeg for good measure. He watches as long as he can before making his call, relaxing to wait out the message that never comes.
        “Hello?” Yoshizumi’s voice evinces acute interest from the first word, when she surprisingly answers.
        “You said we’d talk later. Is this sufficiently later?”
        “I was about to call you.”
        “I think you might want to keep an eye on the situation today. I don’t know where he’s going, but it sure seemed he wanted to get there fast.”
        “Really? She told me she’d cancelled the rendezvous. Actually, she shouted it. She was not pleased that I asked her to tend the cat.”
        Hisao lets his tone convey that he’s out of the loop. “I don’t know anything about that. I can only tell you what I saw.
        Yoshizumi sighs loudly. “I appreciate it. I’ll have to do what I can, I’m already committed to night classes this week. I have to recertify before I can be a bartender in Miyagi prefecture. Such bullshit.” The roll of her eyes is almost audible.
        “Is that why you got pulled aside at lunch? I thought I’d gotten you in trouble.”
        “No trouble, at least not this time.”
        “Well congratulations. I’m glad to hear you got the position, and I say that both as a family friend and as a stakeholder in the business.”
        “Thank you for that, and for helping me land the waitressing job that led to it. I’m sorry I have to cut this short, but I have another call to make, to ‘keep an eye on the situation’ as you recommended.”

***

        Mayuki slips into her former home unannounced, listening as carefully as she can given the limitations of her hearing. Nonetheless, she manages to make enough noise that heads have already turned to watch her before she has one foot in the door. “Sorry,” she bluffs, “I didn’t know you’d be here. I came to check up on Kobayashi. Where is that fat furball?”
        Iwanako gestures down the hall toward her mother’s bedroom. “Same place he usually is, asleep by the master bed. If I’d have known you’d be coming over to look after him,” she replies, “we wouldn’t be here. The plan was to spend the afternoon at an arcade, but I had to be here to make sure he got his dinner and pill on time – or so I was told.”
        “How is he doing?” Mayuki makes conversation while taking in the scene to see if they were actually busy playing video games from the sofa, or whether they were playing a different sort of game.
        “He still won’t eat. I have to put his food and pill in the blender and force-feed him with a syringe.”
        “I have been telling your mother that it might be time to prepare for the worst. Cats generally don’t do so well without teeth, and he is fourteen years old.”
        Both players quietly agree to suspend the game rather than just pause, so Iwanako puts down her controller and turns to face her aunt. “I know. It seems cruel to put him through this, but watching him starve would be far worse. He may be a brain-damaged twelve kilogram barrel on legs, but he’s her brain-damaged twelve kilogram barrel on legs. If there’s a chance of getting him through the current crisis, you know she’ll try.”
        “There is such a thing as trying too hard… but we’re obviously on the same side here, so I won’t belabor the point. I’ll keep trying to talk some sense into her, and I’m sorry if I startled you.”
        “Honestly, it did come as a bit of a shock to see you walk in,” Iwanako admits, “but I can’t really see why you would have done anything different.”
        “Since I’m here, I’m going to check on him anyhow,” Mayuki says with a nod, stepping quickly to the bedroom. Kobayashi lies sleeping on the floor at the foot of the bed, his head resting on a shoe. When she gives the cat a gentle petting, his eyes open halfway as he takes in the scene for a couple seconds before starting to purr. He seems pretty normal to me. When her hand strays too close to his face, he rewards her kindness by biting her on the side of the hand, and immediately forgetting. Idiot. After scrubbing the bite extensively at the kitchen sink and inspecting the minimal damage, she decides her mission is complete. “Good luck with him later,” she says on the way out. “He’s rather ill-tempered at the moment.”
        “I don’t intend to deal with him until I must,” Iwanako concurs, “and I’m not looking forward to it then.”
        “I’m sorry I won’t be of much assistance,” Haruhiko says.
        “Don’t worry about it. All an unfamiliar presence would do is make him flip out even worse.”
        “Call me if you need me,” Mayuki offers, “though I really don’t know how much good I can do.” She closes the door behind her and heads back to the International School for a meeting. The two block walk gives her time to make a call.
        Yoshizumi answers after two rings. “Anything to report?”
        “Not really. They seemed quite well-behaved, although they did hear me coming. I wish I could say the same for your cat.”
        “Oh no, what’s wrong with him?”
        Mayuki snickers. “Nothing that hasn’t been wrong for years, just amplified.”
        “Did they buy the story?”
        “I’m pretty sure they did, I have a bite on my hand to show for it. Don’t expect me to put myself in harm’s way again.”
        “I won’t. I didn’t expect you to do it today. I just... I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”
        Yes, you do. You’re stalling as long as possible, and at considerable expense, because you know exactly what you need to do. You’re just not ready to let go, and I’m not the only one who has noticed. “Mmm hmm,” is all she actually says before they say their goodbyes and she accelerates her walking pace.

***

        An alarm sounds.
        “It’s time to feed him,” Iwanako says with an air of resignation as she puts down the controller. “Keep playing, this may take a while.”
        Haruhiko nods in acknowledgement, and looks for the button to get back to the menu and change the settings to single-player. His thumb finds it just as he hears the scream, causing him to drop the controller and find his feet. His first two steps are frantic, but then he slows himself. You’re no help to anyone if you’re nursing a bleeder.
        His decision to not take off running is vindicated as Iwanako rushes into the restroom and slams the door. Retching can be heard, and it doesn’t take long before the stench follows along in her wake, a nearly palpable miasma rolling down the hall.
        What the fucking fuck? It smells like every kind of sick simultaneously, and he can feel his own stomach roiling in response. He takes three slow steps backward, then heads for the only other ‘good’ place to lose his lunch, the kitchen sink. He is able to resist the urge once he splashes a bit of cold water on his face. Finding a kitchen towel takes a few awkward, drippy moments, but the pause gives him a moment to build a plan of action. Soak the towel for protection, and go back in to help… whatever that may entail.
        After making his way back to the hall with his improvised gas mask, he taps gently at the restroom door. “Do you need help?”
        “You can open the door,” he hears her respond. “I think I’ve had the worst of it.” When he does, she turns her bright red face slowly toward him, then gives a head bob. “Could you get one of those for me too?”
        “A kitchen towel?”
        “Yeah, and wet. Thanks.” He has time to get one step down the hall before she amends her request. “Actually, bring all the kitchen towels you can find: clean, dirty, wet, or dry.”
        “What happened in there?” he shouts from the kitchen as he searches, but apparently cannot be heard over the fan in the restroom. He finds three more such towels, and returns to the hallway. “This is all I could find. What happened in there?” It smells like he exploded.
        “He lost all control,” she says through sobs, blotting at her tears with one of the towels she was just handed. “He let go in every possible way except blood.”
        “So he’s…” Her sad nod makes the rest of the question unnecessary. “I’m so sorry.”
        “I hate to, but I have to ask you to help me – not to clean up, I think that’s a job for professionals. But the body needs to be tubbed, or bagged, or something, before it leaks some more. It’s going to take both of us to lift him, I think.”
        That should be safe enough, as long as we can breathe. He gives a double nod. “Right now?”
        She shakes her head. “Give me a few minutes.”
        “Then I want to call someone. It might help.”
        When she shrugs and hunches over, breaking eye contact, he steps into the living room, which is already starting to fill with the scent of death. “When is your mother supposed to come home?”
        “Not for another three hours, at least,” comes the shouted reply.
        Yeah, alright. Gotta cash in this chip sometime. He calls the school switchboard. “Security, please. I’m looking for the boss,” he says with as much authority as he can muster. About ten seconds later, his call is picked up again.
        “Security.” It’s not El Jefe’s voice.
        He tries the same line again. “I’m looking for the boss.”
        “So I heard. Why?”
        “I need to ask a favor. Would you like to play messenger, or would you prefer to forward my call?”
        “Who might I say is calling?”
        “The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog.”
        “Right-o, Oolong. Calm your pancakes.” There is a click as he is placed back on hold, and he has started to wonder if he has been left dangling when he gets through.
        “What can I do you for, bud?” Yup, that’s El Jefe.
        “It’s time I called in that little favor. Don’t worry, you won’t be putting anyone at risk, we just have a mess here. Dead cat, major leakage, and three hours to deal with it.”
        “Son of a bitch. Alright, give me the details…”
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Re: "Out Of The Blue" (Neko Book 4) Chapter 18 (20180215)

Post by NekoDude » Thu Feb 15, 2018 6:43 am

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

2008-03-11

        “So he says he’s sending out some guy named Mareo,” Haruhiko explains with enthusiastic gestures, “and that it’ll be about half an hour. When he shows up he’s wearing overalls and a red baseball cap, and carrying a tool case. I didn’t mean to, but it made me laugh. I don’t think he was too happy about that.”
        Hisao nods. “I know the guy. He’ll get over it.” He knows who his wardrobe makes him resemble.
        “You do? I didn’t. Never seen him around here.”
        “He’s a ranch hand. I think he is in charge of the stables now, but I’m not sure.” Seeing the look of confusion, he clarifies. “The Rogers ranch up the road. Neko’s house.”
        “Oh, oh, right.” Haruhiko’s expression changes to understanding, then back to confusion. “So if he doesn’t work for El Jefe, why did he get the gig?”
        Hisao shrugs. “I don’t know, I can only speculate.”
        “Speculate away.”
        “You said you were calling in a favor. Maybe Momomoto turned around and did the same thing. They probably know each other.”
        Haruhiko nods. “That’s as good an explanation as any. Anyhow, he did about as good a job as I think can be done in two hours and change. The rug is a total loss.”
        “At least the cat was on the floor, not the bed.”
        “Agreed. Iwanako said something similar. Then we both fell asleep on the sofa with the television muted some time before her mother got home.”
        “Sounds cute. So how did you get back last night?”
        “I didn’t. It would have been past curfew. I ended up sleeping on that sofa, and her mother dropped me off this morning. I knew there was a risk I’d end up stranded, but I wasn’t going to leave her alone in that situation, trying to explain where the cleaner came from.”
        “A wise move. I have to admit I’m impressed by your resourcefulness.” I know who to call if I ever need a body moved, but I didn’t think you would too – or that they’d turn out to be the same people.
        “Yeah. I don’t think you’re the only one.” Haruhiko gives the ‘if you know what I mean’ face.
        “Uh huh. That’s probably more than I needed to know.” Not really, but it’s what you were expecting me to say – and it’s not like I’m telling you everything I know either.
        “I just hope she doesn’t expect me to pull something like that out of my ass again, because I won’t be able to.”
        “Sure you can, if you’re willing to pay for it. The guy has experience with deceased pets, right on up to horse size. You should probably let her know that though, just not quite in those words. You’ve burned your favor. She should understand.”
        “Do you think I should go to the funeral today? I mean, I spent more time with the body than I did with the live cat. It’s not like I had any attachment to him.”
        “Definitely. Funerals aren’t for the dead, they’re for the living.”

***

        Mutou summons Hisao at the end of class. “Suzumiya left early, claiming an emergency. This was not long after I saw you talking to him at lunch. Do you know anything about it?”
        “Yes.” I’m not going to lie to you. I’m also not going to volunteer anything.
        After a few seconds of awkward silence, Mutou breaks the impasse. “It doesn’t sound like you’re going to tell me.”
        “Not unless he says I should.”
        “Could you do me a favor and ask him to either talk to me, or allow you to? I just need to know if it’s medical in nature. The staff might need to know about it, we might have to reschedule tests…”
        “Oh, it’s nothing like that. He’s fine as far as I know. I can call and ask him right now.” Hisao pulls out his phone. “Mutou is pestering me on your whereabouts. Can I tell him what’s going on?”
        “Go ahead, I don’t care.” Haruhiko assures him. “He can’t deny my request now, I’m almost there already.”
        “Thanks for clarifying.” After the call ends, he turns back to his teacher. “He’s on his way to a funeral –”
        “Oh. I’m sorry I doubted his motives.”
        “– for a cat. His girlfriend’s cat, to be exact. He was there at the end, so he felt like he needed to show up today.”
        “Not unreasonable, but I can also see why he didn’t want to discuss it. I’m not officially supposed to dismiss someone to attend a funeral for a pet that wasn’t even his. Hey wait, isn’t his girlfriend your ex?”
        “One and the same.”
        “How is that working out? Is it causing awkwardness between you?”
        Hisao shakes his head. “Why should it? I introduced them.” And it’s not like we were close friends before.
        “I suppose it shouldn’t, but sometimes guys think with the wrong head, and you’ll be single again before too long, so –”
        Hisao waves off his reservations. “No I won’t. Neko and I will continue to keep things going long distance. I’m flying out there for summer break.”
        Mutou looks at him impassively for a few seconds. “As I said, you’ll be single again before too long…”

NEXT CHAPTER (if you don't want to read out-of-setting commentary)
Last edited by NekoDude on Sun Mar 25, 2018 8:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "Out Of The Blue" (Neko Book 4) Chapter 18 (20180215)

Post by Oddball » Fri Mar 02, 2018 8:18 pm

I noticed your story had been going on for a long time and yet nobody ever seemed to reply or comment on it so I decided I'd read through it and tell you what I thought. I feel everybody deserves some comments.

So I sat down and over the course of a month, maybe two, I read your story from start until the latest update.

That may have been a mistake. The story is ... not good ... Very not good... okay, let's put it this way, from a fandom perspective, it makes Mendacium look like Sisterhood. It just very well may be the single worst story I have read in these forums.

Now before you get upset with me and dismiss me as just not liking the material, I'd like to discuss the writing itself. The technical side of it. Ignoring the subject matter itself, it's really poorly written.

To start with, you're cast is far too large. It makes keeping up with all of them a chore, especially since they all seem to have their own plots and subplots going on at all times. Nothing gets the focus it needs to really thrive. This is especially apparent as you constantly move from character to character, and even major plot points get forgotten about. When things do get brought back, there's less a sense of "I can't wait to see what happens next!" and more a feeling of "Oh yeah. That was a thing that happened."

Any build up you do have is also hampered horribly by your tendency to start scenes with major events having already taken place. It makes the reader feel like they've either missed something or that they now have to catch up. By the time they do catch up, the story has moved on again and we might not see these characters for a few more chapters.

Further more, you have a bad tendency to not identify what character is speaking. Often times you'll go for several lines of dialogue before any character name is used, or you will have dialogue but at the same time, have multiple characters' actions in the same line. You did get much better at this as you went along, but there are still times when it's rough knowing which character is supposed to be speaking.

With the constantly shifting perspective in the early chapter, there's not even an anchor for the world.

Another thing that makes your reading a chore is the frequent heavy slang and foreign terms you use without explanation. What's worse though is when you feel the need to explain your pop cultural references by linking other sites or videos.

Never do that. Anyone that gets the joke doesn't need it and people that don't get the joke won't care. Either way, you're essentially telling your audience that you'd rather have them check out some other site than read your story. You have their attention. Don't send them away.

On a similar note, don't put song lyrics into your stories. EVER.
I understand the thought behind them, that the song will help establish the mood you're trying to create, but the problem is, not everyone knows the songs you use, and even if they do, not every one will like them. What may seem deep and emotional to you, may come across as cheesy and trite. It also interrupts the flow of your story. Mostly though, it just feels lazy. You can't write what you want to say so you feel the need to steal it from somewhere else.

Basically though, it just reads like you've written and story and randomly inserted pieces of somebody else's poetry into it. On top of all of this, I can recall at one point in your story, you used lyrics that weren't even in English. What is that even supposed to add to the story?

On another note, you're story sure has a LOT of pop culture references.

As if the story wasn't hard enough to read, your formatting style makes it even harder. Nobody really cares that you indent your stuff or how it looks on some other site or format. In the forum, it doesn't read well. Skip the indenting and leave line breaks between lines of dialogue and paragraphs. That way it won't look so much like a huge uneven wall of text.

I'm going to give you a bit of credit for something now. This isn't all me saying I hate you. When you switched from first person to third person, you're writing did improve. You couldn't rely on using your characters thoughts anymore, so you had to take more time to establish personality, setting, and actions. It's not something I would normally recommend, but it worked wonderfully for you.

Now I'll get back to criticizing. A LOT of your story feels like it only exists for shock value. You're not doing them because you have a story to tell, you just want to get a reaction out of people. Killing off Rin for example, I don't even remember Rin being a character in your story until the scene where you decided she needed to commit suicide. I can't care about that because none of the characters spent any time with her. She was a non-entity in the story. Even Emi seems to have forgotten she existed until that point. Then everyone moves on, emphasizing how pointless the whole thing was. Then a chapter later, Lilly's mother kills herself. She was also barely a character in the story and no real time is spent on the grieving process. (Really, by the start of Book ...3 was it?, there was a strong feeling that even you had started to hate your characters.)

You just have a bad habit of piling on tragedy after tragedy until it becomes humor. Akira has a FATAL DISEASE... and now she's in a car accident, and now she has to have brain surgery. Miki is some kind of sex slave/paid for bride or something. She lost her had because she got caught stealing, then watched her father die and her sister commit suicide (or was it vise versa?) Really at that point, I laughed. It felt like parody.

Molly having the EXACT same backstory as Emi was weird though. That was just sloppy.

I've strayed a bit into characters, and we'll get back to those, but I just want to get to the meat of your story now rather than the recipe.

I don't know where you thought your story was taking place, but it doesn't feel like Yamaku. It doesn't even feel like Japan. Drugs are a huge NO! over there. Capital N. Capital O. There is no casual weed use. Weed is viewed as being just as bad as cocaine or heroin and is associated with the Yakuza.

Now I know Neko's family is into organized crime, but there's no reasons people like Hisao or Hanako should see that and not want to get as far away from them as possible as quickly as possible.

Yet in your story, EVERYONE seems to do drugs and drink. It feels like drugs and alcohol are more common than food in your world and nobody has any problem with it. Not only is this far from Japan standards, but it's very far from the characters we saw in the game. Hisao found the rare use of alcohol questionable. Him being a straight up alcoholic is insane. Really, though, I don't get Hisao here at all. For the first book, if he was anymore of a doormat, they'd tattoo “WELCOME” on his back and leave him on the porch. Drug use? He doesn't care. Organized crime? Doesn't bother him. Iwanako comes back? Friendly terms, not even the slightest bit awkward around her. The second book (or when you switched to third person) Hisao actually started to feel like Hisao for a minute. He started questioning his relationship with and alcoholic drug addict who's family is into organized crime and wondered why he stayed around.

Yet he stays around. The girls tells him flat out to his face that she's going to keep sleeping with other people, he admits he's not sure they have any future, and basically she's terrible for him in every way, and he stays.

I'm also convinced that Hisao became immortal at some point. Somebody with a heart condition like he has, that's on as much medicine as he takes, should NOT be getting drunk constantly and doing drugs. Weed especially has been known to aggravate heart conditions. On top of that he lives a highly stressful life and has got the crap kicked out of him on several occasions. I have no clue how he's still alive.

I'm going to keep the next couple ones short. Feel free to ask if you want elaborations.

Hanako feels nothing like Hanako other than the stutter. She just suddenly gets social out of nowhere and shows no signs of any of her major psychological issues.

Emi is told she can't run in official contests so she gives up running completely and studies to become a lawyer. That doesn't even make sense.

There is also no way you can ever convince me that Akira would want to hook up with a teenager. It was obvious from the games that she viewed them as kids. She basically raised Lilly. She's not going to date her sister's best friend.

Why, by the way, did you feel the need to have TWO lawyers in your story that date highschool girls? Emi and Hanako maybe be 18 and 19, but Emi doesn't look it and Hanako doesn't act it. Plus, they're STILL IN HIGHSCHOOL. That is way to close to pedophilia for me to be comfortable with.

Sorry, where was I? Oh yes. For some reason, everybody talks about Miki like she's the worst person ever when she's hardly any worse than Neko, and often comes across as better.

Your Nomiya scene felt extremely unrealistic (even for this story) and unnecessarily mean-spirited. You just seemed to want to punish him for actions that your story didn't even mention.

Then we have Neko. I hate to say it, but Neko seems to have come down with a fatal case of the Mary Sues. If we had caught it earlier, we may have been able to save her, but I fear it's now too late.

The signs were there right from the start. NEVER share a username with your main character. Even if it's not a Mary Sue it's going to seem like one. Foreign exchange students are also usually really horrible. On top of that, she's described on several occasions as being the smartest person in the room no matter who is in the room. (Funny that she's never seems to act that way, but that's how she's described.) She has more money than god and can do whatever she wants whenever she wants it without anybody being able to say anything. She runs Hisao though three acts worth of character development in a week and has him moving in with her in the dorms with a huge waterbed in about a month. Really though, ti's not her Mary Sue qualities that make me hate her. It's everything else. She might simply be one of the vilest characters I've seen in a KS fanfic. She uses people, sleeps around, despite never seeming to have any romantic attachments to anybody, she's basically able to seduce anyone in minutes. She's an alcoholic drug addict that pulls people into her addictions with her. She's told Hisao to his face multiple times she's going to sleep around on him because he just needs to. On top of all that, she's admitted that once she found out what was wrong with Hisao, she knew she was going to break off their relationship... just not immediately, because you know she was still getting sex out of the guy. Twenty three pages of forum posts though, and I still don't feel like I know the character. She's in the radio club, she likes swimming … why? What drives her? What doe she actually care about?

Other than how nobody ever blinks when it comes to drug use, alcohol or criminal activities, one of the things that strikes me as particularity odd in your universe is how nobody really ever feels like they care about anybody else. They have sex, but there's no love, no romance. It just makes the whole thing feel empty and meaningless.

I think the big thing I want to know though, is “Why?”

Why did you even write this? Why is this even a Katawa Shoujo fanfic? You don't explore the school, in fact you spend as much time away from it as possible and completely change it when you do spend time there. Your characters only vaguely resemble the cast at the best of times, so writing for them seems to be out of the questions. That just leaves the themes of Katawa shoujo, and you ignore those compeltley. Your biggest theme seems to be “Drug addicts and alcoholics are good people. Do drugs. Everybody else does.” That's just am mentality I cannot get behind.

That being said, there's enough actual quality material and interesting ideas presenting in the fic that I know you could be a good writer if you just shake off your bad habits and stop trying to shock people. The plot about other schools trying to band Emi from running was really interesting. Shame it didn't go anywhere. All the details that went into Neko's prosthetics, testing them fitting them, getting used to them,. That was all fascinating. Even some of your questionably storylines, such as Lilly being the child of an affair could have proven to be interesting if it wasn't buried under so much other stuff.

As you've admitted that the story is only going to be more fantastical and less reality based from here, bringing in time travel and alternate dimensions, since Yamaku is now a thing of the past with the characters graduating, and Hisao has decided to get a job in organized crime, this just feels like a good place for me to stop reading.

I wish you the best in further stories … I just don't care to know anymore about this one, and feel free to stop by one of my stories sometime and tell me how horrible it is, if it makes you feel better.
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Re: "Out Of The Blue" (Neko Book 4) Chapter 18 (20180215)

Post by NekoDude » Mon Mar 12, 2018 5:38 pm

First, I'll explain the origins of the whole story. You may or may not appreciate them, but at least I'll put this out there.

Even while playing the game, I always felt like there was something... not right... about the setting. Like it was a Potemkin village. I started thinking about what might actually be under the surface, and decided the most logical (for me) reason for the place to exist, other than being a dumping ground for inconveniently hampered children (which I don't think anyone would deny), was as a money-laundering operation. So then I started thinking "okay, but whose money, and why?" That (plus Jigoro's unexplained wealth and apparent fame, and Kenji's belief that Lilly is a Mafia princess) led me to the whole organized crime angle. It's supposed to be noir. This is why everyone seems to get sucked into the axis of evil so easily, even if they should know better. Most of them are going to get away more or less unscathed by it, but not all. While not the most prominent character, most of the strings that make the characters dance are being pulled by Sally, who is not particularly evil for its own sake, but is absolutely a sociopath. Some of the characters have her read wrong, but when Neko says something about her, it's probably true.

As for the lead character, she actually sort of exists. I developed her as a composite of about six different people I have known, one of which has her physical traits, vices, money, and promiscuity, although the real life person is considerably older. You may find that package hard to believe, but I know her. Some of the events are based on my interactions with that person as well, like the scene where she can't find her keys and ends up pitching the arm across the room in frustration. (Also, the "nobody is going to love half a wife" prologue is based on her personal experience.) In addition, I have known two other one-armed girls: one was the daughter of my hockey coach, and I ended up building custom hardware for her to better support her FPS addiction (and learned not to waste time chasing Mormon girls). The other was my boss at a crappy job I had, and the scene using toes to fold the Tanabata boat is based on her (although that involved gift wrapping, not paper boats, in real life). The explanation for the "smartest person in the room" appearance actually gets explained in writing that has been completed but not yet posted, so don't think I'm lampshading that for your benefit. I've always known that would have to be dealt with. (Long story short, it's a learned compensation mechanism for being physically slower than everyone else, and it consumes a great deal of her mental and emotional capacity.) She's being set up for some major fails in the future, and she is even aware that her luck can't hold forever. Some of her major character flaws also derive from the fact (which I thought would be bloody obvious by now, without having to explicitly mention it) that she's bipolar. Mutou recognizes it, even at a distance (the guy is a textbook case of depression himself), and has been advising Hisao about what this can lead to, so he has long accepted "risky sexual behavior" and "poor control of finances" as just some things he has to deal with if he wants to be with her. It's why Hisao was put in charge of her day-to-day finances as well. Given the rather poor attitude in Japan about mental health issues, he also accepts that she's going to self-medicate rather than go through the system. (This is also why Hanako and Akira cut her a lot of slack even though they know she's using harder drugs than just cannabis and wine. Akira will lean on her to favor legitimate means when they are more socially acceptable, as will be the case Down Under.)

Too many plot lines, too many characters? I will plead guilty on this one. I had in mind something on the scale of A Song of Ice and Fire when I started out, and I was not prepared to deal with the consequences of that kind of massive world-building. That is something I have definitely taken away from this, but I'm not prepared to rewrite the first two books in the series to trim the fat or rework the writing style (which is admittedly problematic, but also derived from ASOIAF). All I can do is try to bring some of the plot lines back together, while others will continue to spin off in their own directions. The Emi story, for example, is not over. (She didn't stop running, either, as shown in the scene where the instructor calls her out for changing legs under the table.) It's just tied to the timing of some real-world events, namely the Oscar Pistorius case (the one about his legs, not the one about him killing his girlfriend). Her case can't resolve until that does in the real world. My only defense here is that I think GRRM is having the same problem of too much going on, and that's why The Winds of Winter is taking ten years to write. I followed a much more experienced writer down a rabbit hole I think even he regrets taking.

I think you have misinterpreted some events as having happened to Miki, when in fact they have happened to the girl she inadvertently rescued. The fact that similar events have been planned for her but have not yet taken place is supposed to represent cognitive dissonance on her part. She still thinks she can cheat the bargain, yet still gain the benefits. One or the other is going to have to give, and I know which it is, but I'm not announcing that here. One fundamental difference between Miki and everyone else of significance (other than Sally) is that she thinks murder is a potential solution to difficulties, but unlike Sally, she lacks the wisdom (and power, at present) to get away with it. She thinks that just because she got away with staging her father's suicide, she could do it again – when she isn't thoroughly convinced that it actually was a suicide, that is. That's part of why she's so fucked up. She knows she killed him, but can't admit it even to herself. In the few moments where her mental block breaks down, she rationalizes it with "but he deserved it" while she rebuilds the wall. (He did deserve it, which is why the authorities chose not to investigate too hard. Some of them knew she most likely had been responsible, but it has never been relevant other than as an unmentioned reason she can't go back to California. Sally doesn't know, but she suspects.)

I'd be the first to admit that when I started this project, I had no idea how to handle it properly. There are all sorts of details I'd do differently in hindsight, especially the first person narrative of the first two books. That was why I switched in the middle, I just couldn't work with that format any longer. I'd reduce the scope. I'd have the story end considerably sooner than it actually will, since I have threads I want to see to completion but which could have been omitted if I had planned better (like the Emi thread, which by necessity must continue into 2009 because that's when the larger case settles out). This also explains why some threads seem pointless. A few of them will be, because that's how life goes. Others are just taking years to play out to completion. Since I insist on writing in strict chronological order (aside from Prologues), that inevitably means they're going to be back-burnered until the moment they become relevant again. To a degree, my timeline is not under my control. Certain events happened in real life, and in order to use them as a framework, I have to accept their timing. Typhoon Fitow was one of those. The resolution of the Pistorius case will be one of those. So will the earthquake and ensuing tsunami in 2011. This is also why my account of Tanabata (as it relates to the school calendar) is so much different from the game – because that's when it actually happened, and how the Japanese school calendar for 2007 actually was. Game canon diverged from real-world events, and I chose to follow real-world events. I will continue to do so whenever I find a conflict between the two.

So is there a lot wrong with the writing? Yeah, of course there is. It was my first project of this kind of scope. It's going to get finished just the same, and serve as a prequel for the next story, which won't be posted here because it will be almost unrecognizable other than having some characters in common. It is in that story that things are going to take the sci-fi/lo-fantasy twist, so you need not fear seeing that. The current story is going to end in the world you recognize. Events are taking place elsewhere during the same time period that will be relevant to the next story but not to this one, so they won't even get a mention here.

In short, while there have been many mistakes, the biggest one was shoehorning this character into this setting. I could and possibly should have found another, much less verbose way to expand on the ideas I had about the setting, but this is the one I ended up choosing, and I'm stuck with it for better or worse. I don't feel the character herself was a mistake (or I wouldn't be carrying on with her for another couple centuries), I just thought she and the setting were a better match than they actually were, and didn't fully think through all the dissonance that resulted. Then I compounded it by trying to weave ten threads at once, rather than just a few. The takeaway from that is that if I expect people to work that hard, there better be a tangible payoff for it. No more "tied an onion to my belt" threads that don't go anywhere, even if some of my favorite writers are guilty of the same thing. Just because they succeed in spite of it, that doesn't mean I should indulge the same bad practice.
Last edited by NekoDude on Fri Mar 23, 2018 4:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "Out Of The Blue" (Neko Book 4) Chapter 19 (20180312)

Post by NekoDude » Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:18 pm

CHAPTER NINETEEN

2008-03-15

        Neko’s willpower to resist the obvious question has its limits, and reaches the breaking point as she and Hisao work their way down the hill. “So she hasn’t even kissed him yet. What the bloody hell does he expect you to do about it?”
        “Nothing, I’m sure,” he concedes with a wave of his hands, “but he needs to get it off his chest. I just wish he could find someone else to talk to once in a while.”
        “Is he expecting things to work out for him the way they did for you? I mean, it’s not like you were the only one driving those events.” She grabs the back of his neck and gives a good squeeze or two.
        “I considered telling him that, but I decided against it. I wouldn’t want to give him any stupid ideas.”
        “Hey! I resemble that remark!” Neko pouts until he glances over, then drops the drama. “She’s not stupid, she knew she couldn’t get you back if she didn’t offer most of the ‘benefits’ I did.” A single air quote will have to do here, Crabby doesn’t move that fast.
        “He’s not stupid either. I think he knows the deal. It’s just that he takes his own hero complex a little too seriously, and wonders why she doesn’t.”
        “I don’t think ‘hero’ is the right word. «Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.»”
        “Is that another Heinlein quote?”
        Neko shakes her head. “Alexander Pope wrote it about 300 years ago, though I’m willing to wager that he wasn’t the first to say it. He was just the first to write it down somewhere that survived this long.”
        “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”
        “If you steal from three or more sources,” she says with an impish grin, “it’s called research.
        Hisao laughs. “I’ll drink to that.”
        “We both will, soon enough.”
        “I was wondering about something. Our invitation said ‘casual but otherwise authentic’. What’s that about?”
        “There’s no point in dressing up, at least for us.” Neko gives Hisao another visual inspection. I understand the sweater vest was insufficiently warm, but is a Canadian tuxedo really a fashion upgrade? You look like you’re going to a Tragically Hip concert in all that denim. “I expect the staff will look sharp though. They need to get used to working smoothly in their penguin suits and cocktail gowns.”
        “Right, I follow that, but ‘authentic’?”
        “They want us to act like real customers. Don’t be overly polite, don’t try to help them out, don’t let them take the piss. I’ll make sure before committing, but I think we have the liberty to hoist a rag or three, so long as we can walk home.”
        “I plan on sampling everything on tap,” Hisao says agreeably, “though not necessarily today. After a certain point, it all starts to taste the same.”
        “Have you had draught beer before?” She spots the small turn of the head. “I have, but it was pisswater, so it may as well have come from a bottle. Hopefully they have chosen more appealing brews. If they have Victoria Bitter, I’ll order you a pint – but not because it’s particularly good.”
        “Vegemite all over again, huh? I’m game for just about anything once.”
        “Oh, no, that would be Foster’s. VB isn’t bad, it’s just… there. Sadly, I reckon there is a fair amount of it in my future.”
        “You don’t know what they stocked?”
        Neko slowly shakes her head. “They bought kegs off the shelf. There wasn’t enough lead time to secure a shipment from Mum this time. She can get just about anything, but that doesn’t mean she has it right now.”
        “Unless it’s Grey Goose.”
        “Too right. Running out of vodka would be a major existential crisis.”
        It’s Hisao’s turn to slowly shake his head. “Having only Suntory Red – now that would be cause to doubt her will to live.”
        “I remember.” Neko pulls two plastic-wrapped chocolates from her handbag, which is smaller than her coat pocket, but also less likely to be crushed. She hands him one, then unwraps the other with the support of the carbon fiber hand before popping it into her mouth without ever touching it. “Do you have any water?”
        “Umm…” He pats all of his front pockets. “No, sorry.”
        “I’ll make do.” She imagines sucking on a half a lemon to induce further salivation, then slips a gelatin capsule into her mouth. It takes three attempts to swallow before it slides down.
        “What was that? Molly?”
        She nods and grins equally enthusiastically. “I’m going to need your help later, so don’t get too drunk to fuck.”

        “I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch,” Akira says and does simultaneously, bumping the divider between booths, “to say Aunt May has primarily driven me away from her, rather than toward any rival faction. If I’m free to choose logically, I choose to work with Sally and her interests on certain limited issues rather than against them. I just couldn’t do that before, at least not to the point of investing in a bar with her.”
        “She’s still a snake,” Lilly mutters. “They both are.”
        You seem to believe Hanako’s analysis too. Don’t worry, I’m used to it. It’s my job to deal with people like her. “Snakes make fine pets, right up until they don’t. I seem to recall this one was characterized as a python, right? Don’t let her grab on to you, and you should be fine. Anyhow, if everyone only did business with people they liked, the whole country would grind to a halt. No, fuck that. The entire world would not only halt, but catch fire. We have to work with those who are merely not hostile. Sometimes that’s all you can ask for.”
        Tadao interjects, but quietly. “That, and another round.”
        “On one condition,” Akira objects. “Riddle me this. Had you already started your rounds before I got there?”
        Tadao shakes his head. “I had not.”
        By your specificity, do you mean to imply you know something, or are you merely unwilling to vouch for anyone else? Akira starts to nod back, then recalls the futility of the gesture. He makes it really easy to forget. “I just need to pace out those rounds so that nobody ends up looking foolish,” she explains while watching Hanako play charades. A tap on the wrist – time! And she’s pointing straight up so she means noon… okay, noonish. One for her and two for Lils. That shouldn’t be so apparent an hour-plus later.
        Suddenly, a yelp can be heard from the direction of the bar, and three heads swivel to track it although only two of them can actually determine what is happening at that distance. All Akira can tell with certainty is that Yuuko disappears from view, and that two others rush to her side behind the bar. One of the servers sees the activity as well and dashes for the kitchen, having to perform a spin move to avoid a collision with someone on her way out. When he emerges again moments later, he has towels in one hand, and is leading a rather annoyed Ben with the other.
        Ben’s annoyance breaks the moment he realizes the situation. He takes two steps toward the bar, stops in his tracks and retrieves the towels from the server, and then resumes his own mad dash to the site of the apparent accident. Barked orders can be heard, but Akira cannot parse them through the overall din of the place.
        The server who fetched Ben seems to get the message, and heads out the front door at nearly the same pace as before. In his haste, he nearly hits Neko and Hisao with the door. “Sorry, emergency!” he shouts before he disappears from view.
        Meanwhile, behind the bar, everyone is slowly returning to visibility. Yuuko is no longer crying, but trails of tears clearly stain her makeup. Ben and another man carefully help her hobble out of the crowded area behind the bar, and he seats her at a vacant barstool before wrapping her ankle with an ice pack. He finishes off with an expertly wrapped towel that relieves him of the need to hold the ice in place. “Who left ice on the floor?” he demands to know.
        For a moment, nobody speaks as glances are exchanged all around. Finally, Yuuko’s quavering voice can be heard but not understood.
        Ben sighs for a very long time. “Right then. As soon as the car arrives, we’ll get you to a doctor. I can’t tell if it’s broken, but you’re done for the day at the very least.”
        “I’m so sorry,” she sobs. “I’m an idiot.”
        “I know you’re sorry, you’re not the type to do this deliberately,” he reassures her, “but you’re not an idiot. Accidents happen.” He leans over the bar and fishes around for a while before locating the microphone he seeks. “Could I…” He maneuvers as the sound system squeals with feedback, finally having to crouch below the level of the bar. “Excuse me, could I please have everybody’s attention for a moment? I regret to inform you that mixed drinks and cocktails are off the menu for a short while, as we just ran out of bartenders. Beer and wine are still available, and we should have someone else on duty shortly, at which time normal operations will resume.”
        Neko and Hisao had been standing and watching from just inside the door, but she grabs his arm and leads him toward Akira’s table. “Did you see what just happened?”
        “Not the beginning of it,” Akira admits. “I looked up when she started to fall. Best I can tell, she slipped and turned an ankle, in addition to whatever injuries she may have sustained on the way down.”
        “Mmm. They seem to have the situation in hand, so…” Neko stops abruptly as she sees Ben gesturing her over. He whispers a message in her ear and releases her with a lift of the head.
        “He expects Health and Safety might show up,” Neko relays. “That means anyone lacking proof of age can’t be seen with a conspicuously alcoholic drink in hand. I’m afraid it’s rum and Coke, or something like it, for now.”
        “Would whisky and ginger ale be suitable?” Tadao asks.
        “It should, they’re pretty much the same color, but he just said –” Neko stops when she sees Tadao nodding.
        “I know, we have to wait for another bartender.”
        “I-is she going to be okay?” Hanako asks.
        “She doesn’t look grievously injured to me,” Neko says with a shrug, “but we’ll have to wait for a doctor to decide. I’ve done something similar, and I couldn’t walk for a couple weeks. That was the worst part.”
        “Not even on crutches?” Lilly asks. She still sounds a bit sloppier than she should once all consumption is accounted for.
        “In theory, yes,” Neko admits. “In practice, no. The leg I had at the time had very little ‘feel’ to it, and I couldn’t easily tell when the foot hit the ground. I also didn’t have this yet.” Small motors can be heard whirring as Neko makes a fist of the carbon fiber hand and thumps the table twice. “Mum made me use a wheelchair, even though I couldn’t operate it myself.”
        “That may not be the worst idea for her either,” Akira observes. “It’s a much shorter fall, at least.” And I don’t think she’d be safe to resume work on crutches. “Would you like to sit with us?”
        “Yes, but I reckon we shouldn’t,” Neko replies. “We’ve been asked to act as much like actual customers as possible, and that means not merging into one big party.”
        “That’s fair dinkum.” Akira shrugs with her eyebrows. “You might want to find a table then, while there are still tables to be found.”
        “Could you do that, love?” Neko asks Hisao. “I still have to spread the word about keeping the drinks inconspicuous.”
        “Of course,” he answers with a nod as the two head off in different directions.
        It is not long before the front door opens again. Yoshizumi enters, then heads directly for Ben and hands him a keychain. They converse quietly and briefly, then she takes her place behind the bar as Ben and a server help Yuuko to her good foot and out to the car.

        “Vanilla Coke,” the server says as she transfers the glass from her tray to the table, “and orange juice. Enjoy!”
        Neko picks up her ‘orange juice’ and first gives it a sniff, then a taste. It’s far from the strongest screwdriver she has ever had, but it will be adequate – provided there are about three more to chase it with. “How’s yours?”
        Hisao inspects his glass of dark, bubbly liquid. “It looks funny in a soda glass with the head scraped off, doesn’t it?” He takes a sip. “Tastes fine, though. Is it a problem that the bubbles are going the wrong way?”
        “I don’t think Health and Safety is going to look that closely, assuming they show up at all, so no. It looks enough like a soft drink from a distance.” She picks up his glass and takes a sip herself, then pushes her glass in his direction. “It tastes off immediately after ‘juice’, but that is to be expected.”
        “Likewise with yours,” he answers as he pushes the glass back to her. “Maybe we should have glasses of water as well, to cleanse the palate?”
        “Better just a pitcher or carafe that we can share, but I’ll ask the next time someone comes around.”
        The next person to come around is Yoshizumi herself, and she slips into the booth without bothering to ask. “This is not how I wanted to get promoted,” she says apologetically, “but I’ll take it. I have severe doubts Yuuko will be in any shape to stand for hours at a time, just a week from today.”
        “I’m inclined to agree,” Neko replies with a nod. “I also was thinking ‘this, again?’ Personal bad luck follows her like a cloud.”
        “It could just as easily have happened to me, from what I hear. She was scooping ice, dropped a piece, and tried to kick it into the drainage channel. She stepped on it instead.”
        “Could have, yes,” Hisao points out, “but not as easily. Does this mean she’s your backup now, rather than the other way around?”
        Yoshizumi shrugs. “I don’t know, and it’s not my decision. All I know for sure is that I’m opening next Friday. And closing. I have you to thank for helping.”
        “You did all the work,” Hisao points out, “not me. Give yourself some credit.”
        “There’s enough credit to go around. I just don’t know if there’s enough of me.” Yoshizumi slides out of the booth. “Break time is over. Is there anything I can get for you?”
        “A pitcher of ice water perhaps?”
        “So you’re good with my guesswork?” She gestures at their half-empty glasses. “Alright then, one pitcher of ice water is on the way.”
        “You could change up the juice,” Neko requests. “I like pineapple and cranberry, if you have them.”
        “We have both. I’ll keep it in mind.” She turns to address Hisao. “We are, however, limited on our dark beer selection, so you can have more of the same or something completely different.”
        “More of the same would suit me just fine. I like Guinness.”
        “I thought you wanted to sample,” Neko chimes in.
        “I wanted to sample beers,” he answers, “but if that’s not possible, I’d rather have more of this than go on a random walk of non-beers.”
        “I might be able to come up with something else, but it will be from a bottle.”
        “So long as it’s cold, bring it on.”
        Yoshizumi takes two steps away before remembering she had an announcement to make. She turns back around and speaks loudly enough to be heard over the din. “Chili and cornbread will be delivered in a few minutes. One order or two?”

***

        “She is going to be off her feet for two months, they say,” Ben says with a shake of the head, “and then rehab and limited duty. It didn’t look that bad to me, but that’s why she’s under a doctor’s care and not mine.”
        “She can’t be happy about that,” Yoshizumi answers.
        “She’s not, but she felt even worse that she was letting the rest of us down. I told her to concentrate on getting better, and we’d concentrate on running the business. I didn’t tell her we need to train up a replacement, and fast. I can’t expect you to work every shift for the next two months.”
        “Do you have anyone in mind?”
        There’s Jōji, but poaching my own replacement would not make Sally very happy. “Sadly, no, and we have about 48 hours to find them if we want them to be ready for the opening.” Ben locks eyes with Yoshizumi. “I’m sure glad you chose to take your classes last week.”
        “Me too,” she concurs. “It gives me a chance to catch my breath before the job ramps up for real. Hey… you might want to catch Hisao before he leaves. He might know somebody.”
        “What makes you say that?”
        “He found me, right?”
        “Point taken.” Ben finds his way to the table where Neko and Hisao are nursing their last round of ‘juice and soda’ before heading out, and seats himself. “We need a replacement bartender, and fast. They have to be at least twenty, and they have to be willing to start classes on Monday night. Know anybody interested?”
        Hisao is about to shake his head to indicate that he does not, until he catches the nod and grin on Neko’s face. He lets her speak.
“I think I might. He’s a pretty big guy too, so if he doesn’t work out as a regular bartender, you can always make him the bouncer and have an emergency bartender on call.”
        “Who?” Hisao has no clue who she is referring to.
        “Kaz. Kenta’s brother, remember?”
        “I do, but I didn’t know he was looking for a job.”
        “I don’t know if he is either,” Neko admits, “but we may as well ask.” She gets on the phone, first calling Kenta to get contact information for Kaz. “He says it’s ‘a definite maybe’, and to make the call.” She gets voice mail. “I guess I’ll call and let you know when I get a –”. She looks down at her phone vibrating in her hand. “– response.”
        She thumbs the button to answer. “Hello?” Pause. “It’s Neko. I’m a buddy of your brother, and we met a few months ago. You told me not to drink all your beer.” Pause. “And I didn’t, I only had one. How would you like to get paid to serve people beer and other spirits?” Pause. “Oh! He’s right, you don’t want to work for my Mum, and I wouldn’t ask you to. We need a real bartender. But don’t negotiate it with me, negotiate it with the boss. Here.” She holds out the phone for Ben to take.
        “Hello?” Ben starts hesitantly.
        “Is this legit?” Kaz sounds skeptical.
        “So legit you’d have to take classes for it, starting Monday night, and we’d pay for them,” Ben reassures him. “We’re opening to the public in less than a week. But you don’t have to take my word for it, you can check it out for yourself. How long would it take you to get to Moniwadai?”
        Kaz laughs. “The question is, how long would it take me to get out of Moniwadai. I’m already here. Where are you?”
        “Across the street from the supermarket. It’s called the San Cristobal, and…”
        “Now I’m sure this has to be a prank. I used to work at the door there, before they ran it into the ground.”
        “Really? I have to admit I never visited the place before it went up for sale. We bought it because it was easier and faster than trying to get a liquor license for the other restaurant.”
        “Mmm.” Kaz chuckles. “That seems plausible enough. What do I have to lose? I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”
        After concluding the call, Ben hands the phone back to Neko. “I have often said your Mum knows everyone in this city. Now I have to make an amendment to that – if she doesn’t, then you do.”
        “I’m glad I could be of assistance.” She slams the last of her drink and waits for Hisao to do the same. “Shall we go?”
        “You’re not going to wait for Kaz?” Hisao asks in mild surprise.
        “I don’t want him to feel like he owes me anything. I particularly don’t want him to feel pressured into taking the position if he doesn’t want it. I would also like to walk back in daylight.” Neko turns her attention to Ben. “Conversely, you don’t owe me anything here. If he’s not a good fit, then don’t feel obligated to hire him.”
        “He said he used to work here under previous ownership. I might want to bring him on in some capacity just for that reason alone. He may know the clientele better than anyone else.”

        “You were right that we are losing our daylight,” Hisao admits as they make the moderate walk back to the school, “but I have never known you to have a particular aversion to the dark.”
        “Look at my eyes.” Neko stops walking and stares straight at him, so that he can see that her pupils are significantly dilated. They’re not mushroom-level saucers, but they are enlarged considerably. “First, I didn’t need Ben noticing that I’m rolling. Drunk is expected, but it was becoming more difficult to avoid eye contact.” She resumes walking. “Second, my vision changes on this stuff, and I’d rather be in my own safe space before the bulk of it sets in. Have you ever looked through a diffraction grating?”
        “Of course. They can be pressed into service as spectroscopes, and they’re cheap, so we’ve used them in class.”
        “Well at night, it’s like I’m wearing one over each eye and can’t take them off. It’s pretty, but it’s also a hazard. The molly is also suppressing the more sloppy effects of the alcohol, but it’s not going to do that indefinitely. That’s why I’d rather be ‘home’.”
        The optical part doesn’t make sense to him, as larger apertures should create less diffraction rather than more, but he is in no position to argue with her subjective experience. “Alright, I understand.”
        The pair is still on their leisurely stroll back to the school when Neko’s phone buzzes. “Uh oh, it’s Ben.” She takes the call. “That went right quick. Is it good news or bad?”
        Hisao leans in close to hear both ends of the conversation. “A little of both, I suppose,” he can hear Ben’s tinny voice say. “Did you know this used to be a gay bar?”
        “No,” Neko admits, “but it doesn’t surprise me that Kaz would know that.”
        “This means we may want to change the name,” Ben continues, “just to break the association. I have no problem with gay bars, it’s just not what I set out to establish. On the other hand, he thinks a fair number of former patrons may return once the doors open, regardless of the name and even if it is no longer specifically a gay bar, just because there really isn’t anything else in this area.”
        “Is he a good fit for the job?”
        “Again, yes and no. He knows a fair bit about the operations of a bar, having been in this line of work before. I’m definitely going to hire him, and I’m willing to take a chance on him as a bartender even though he has never performed that specific job before. Even if he is more useful elsewhere, it’s nice to have a utility man around.”
        “It solves the immediate crisis though, doesn’t it?”
        “Unfortunately, no. He’s not willing to walk out on his current job, even though he hates it. He needs two weeks.”
        Neko hesitates a step as an idea comes to her. “What if you do it? It’s a temporary need, right? I know you have other things to worry about, but you can delegate them without running afoul of the law, can’t you? You wouldn’t be the first owner to tend his own bar, by a long shot.”
        “I’d still have to take the classes. Pouring martinis for your Mum does not qualify as a bartending credential, I’m afraid.”
        “That’s why I suggested delegating things out. Maybe even open just as a bar initially, or with a limited menu, and grow the restaurant as time and resources permit. I mean, you already have a restaurant, so clearly you know how to make that work.”
        “Hmm.” Hisao can almost hear the gears meshing in Ben’s head. “It’s not my preference to do that, but it may be the least bad alternative remaining if we can’t find someone fast. I guess we’ll know in two days.”
        “At least you know the temp won’t resent stepping aside when Yuuko comes back.”
        Ben laughs. “I hadn’t really thought about that, but you’re right. I suppose I’ll keep looking, but some of the pressure is off.”
        Hisao holds his own thoughts until after the call concludes. “I didn’t want to say this and have Ben take it the wrong way, but this might be for the best.”
        “What do you mean?”
        “If the whole operation was dependent on Yuuko staying healthy, isn’t it better that they make contingency plans now? She always seems to be getting hurt, it’s just who she is.”
        “A walking accident.”
        “Not even walking,” Hisao points out, “at least for now.”
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Re: "Out Of The Blue" (Neko Book 4) Chapter 20a (20180420)

Post by NekoDude » Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:05 pm

CHAPTER TWENTY

2008-03-16

        Akira can hear her father’s footsteps in the hall, slow and deliberate. She listens for some sign of what his intentions might be, such as a trip to the loo, but the footsteps alternately grow and fade in intensity as he paces the hall. Despite the significant risk that Hanako will claim the entire bed in her absence, she quietly rises and slips into a bathrobe, then waits until the footsteps are at their faintest point before opening the door slowly.
        “Papa,” she almost whispers as she closes the door behind her, “are you alright?” The dampness she sees in his eyes is a tell he cannot conceal. “You got locked in again?”
        He puts up a hand to wave off her concerns, and nods toward the living room to indicate she should follow him as he steadies himself with his cane. “I did, but I have nobody to blame but myself. I fear I must cease trying to drink with you kids.” He says the last word with a lift as an attempt at humor, despite the sincerity of the statement as a whole. “At least before bed, anyhow.”
        “It takes me longer to recover than it used to as well,” she admits with a shrug of the eyebrows as they settle into the sofa. Though the house is very weakly illuminated by concealed nightlights, she can make out Papa’s facial expression and presumes he can read hers as well.
        “I hope I didn’t wake you,” he says apologetically. “I just needed to move, and wanted walls on both sides to steady myself.”
        “You didn’t. I was awake, but I can’t rightly say why. I wasn’t afraid, or worried, or uncomfortable. I just wasn’t asleep.”
Hiroyuki twitches as if he had received an electrical shock. “Could you move?”
        It takes a few seconds for Akira to discern the true nature of the question and its significance. “I – I don’t know. I didn’t really try, until I heard your steps.”
        “But when you did?”
        “Everything seemed to be functioning. I don’t think it’s cause for concern. I reckon this will be one of the first things to go.” Akira raises a hand, forming a ‘live long and prosper’ gesture.
        “I’m sure you’re right,” he says with a distinct lack of conviction. “I think I’ll give my bed another chance.” He rises to his feet faster than he typically would, pushing off firmly with his cane, and heads for his bedroom.
        I’m not sure which is worse – his terror, or his unwillingness to let me see him cry. At that moment, an intense shiver runs down the length of her spine. I’m his millstone now, just as Lilly was to Mama, even though he knows there is nothing he could or should have done to prevent this.
When she gets back to her bed, Hanako has not moved a muscle. Akira tosses the bathrobe aside, climbs under the sheet, curls up in a fetal position, and lets the tears flow.

***

        “Hey there,” Daisuke says pleasantly as he answers his phone, Chapman Stick still slung across his chest. “I haven’t heard from you in quite a while.”
        “I’ve been busy,” Akira offers somewhat defensively, “between moving back, and preparing to move again, the investment thing, and trying to help the local office on their search.”
        “Investment thing?”
        “I was offered another chance to buy a share of a restaurant, which I accepted eagerly since I still regret not buying in bigger on the last one. How is your job working out for you?”
        “More of the same,” Daisuke moans, “only each day a bit shittier than the one before. At least I’ve been able to drive a nice company car most of the time, even if it’s not assigned to me.”
        “Do you have an exit plan, in case they’re looking to squeeze you out?”
        “Yes and no. I mean, I have been reaching out to my contacts, and could probably catch on somewhere else, but I’d have to come in from the bottom all over again, without any guarantee the advancement path would be any better than it is now.”
        “Then you missed one.”
        “Oh? I figured you would let me know if and when it was time to submit my résumé.”
        “I am,” Akira affirms, “and that time is now. Even if they aren’t interested, it’s part of my promise to replace myself. If they never call you back, you can still consider your mission complete. I have no control over their decision making process, I only submit people to the candidate pool. However, I do have the discretion to decide in what order I submit the applicants.”
        I’ve seen that work – put a good candidate immediately after a string of underqualified applicants, and sometimes management bites right then and there. “Clever. You spoke of moving again. What is it this time, south to the big city?”
        “South, yes.” Akira chuckles. “Way south, to open a new office. We’re headed Down Under in a few weeks.”
        “I thought you said your Papa wants to live the rest of his life in Japan.”
“He does, and he will, and he’ll have Lilly to help keep him company. I’m talking about me and my sweetie. You remember Hanako, I assume.”
        The girl that threw up in my kitchen sink and then apologized profusely even though she had cleaned up before I ever saw it? “Yeah, I remember. What makes her want to pull up stakes and leave? You I can understand, you’ve always been inclined to wander.”
        “University. For various… reasons, she didn’t get accepted into a program she actually favored at any of the local schools. She reckons – and I agree – that she has a better path by not declaring a major up front, an option that is not available to her here. Besides, it’s not like she really has any roots here, aside from me and a couple other friends. This would have been much more difficult on both of us if not for the help of the Rogers clan.”
        “Just the younger contingent, or…” If Sally is participating, she must see something in it for her.
        “All of them, worldwide. Do you know Sam?”
        “Only by phone. I dealt with him a fair bit when arranging to get the Russian girl out of the country.”
        “I heard about that. What prompted that whole chain of events?”
        “Miura ‘rescued’ her from a prostitution ring without bothering to make an exit plan first, wanting to be some sort of hero. This has led to much wailing and gnashing of teeth on Sally’s part, and retribution from the Russians, and ultimately Miura’s own exile, but even Sally couldn’t rightly throw the girl back to the wolves.”
        “Mmm,” Akira murmurs, apparently snacking on the other end of the line, and needing to swallow before speaking. “And now she’s married to a local. I wonder how that’s working out.”
        “Well enough, apparently. She’s already preparing for their first child.” If nothing else, it will dispel any reservations Australian immigration may have concerning the legitimacy of the union.
        “I suppose that explains why Sam was bemoaning the shortage of time to spend with his boyfriend.”
        “If he thinks they have little time now, just wait until the baby arrives.”
        “Hey… are you doing anything today?”
        “Just recovering from last night’s show, and getting in a little practice time. Why?”
        “So Emi has stopped trying to grind you into submission?”
Daisuke laughs. “Of course, she won that battle in the first two weeks of living here. Now it’s just whenever she actually wants it, which is still often enough.”
        “And she’s not staring at you for talking about her?”
        “She’s out babysitting her little brother today. What did you have in mind? I would have to walk to the office lot and fetch my car if I need it. She drove herself.”
        “That won’t be necessary. Better if neither of us drives, then I can cut loose a bit. I’ll take a train into the city and meet you. Would you have a place in mind?”
        “Do you mind if it’s a crowded place, where people know me pretty well?”
        “That might actually be a good thing,” Akira reflects. “It’ll give you an alibi if someone assumes you’re sneaking around with me.”
        “It will also greatly increase the chances my office will find out about it. Whether they would take that as a sign I’m being poached, I don’t know, but I’m not sure they would move to stop it even if they figured it out. So Namco Ario then?”
        “Sounds good. It will take me about an hour to get out there, so I’ll give you a call when I get close.”

CHAPTER CONTINUES HERE
Last edited by NekoDude on Sun May 13, 2018 4:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "Out Of The Blue" (Neko Book 4) Chapter 20a (20180420)

Post by NoticeMeOppai » Wed Apr 25, 2018 6:23 pm

First off, I am so impressed with the consistency and quantity of your work here, what is the word count so far on this? Especially given a lot of the responses you have had have been less than positive it's impressive that you have stuck with it.

Speaking of which, there's definitely room for improvement, as many have already mentioned, it stretches the boundaries of what is believable and really doesn't feel like Japan. It reminds me in a lot of ways of American teen drama programmes, where shock is overused to the point of not really being surprising any more.

That aside, SPaG errors are few and far between, and it's very enjoyable writing. I really enjoyed the technical descriptions of amateur radio and how the prosthetics were set up, and it's even got me interested in getting a radio licence myself. I'll definitely be keeping an eye in this.

How is that cat so fat though? My cats are 2 and 3kg respectively and even Maine Coons tend to not go much over 9!

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Re: "Out Of The Blue" (Neko Book 4) Chapter 20a (20180420)

Post by NekoDude » Sun May 13, 2018 4:24 am

I used the trappings of the original environment, but the people act as they do because it's how I'd expect them to act -- as an American. I just don't know anything else. This is the true reason why I used the over-used "exchange student" model. I intended all along to move the core of the story out of Japan at the end of the 2007-8 school year. Many other pre-determined notions have fallen by the wayside over the years, largely as a consequence of how I write my scenes. I try to make each scene hold together on its own, and this means sometimes characters do things that make sense in context but directly contradict the future outline. In that case, it has generally been the future outline that gets altered, but now I'm to a point where I need to tie up loose ends, so I have actually been tossing out segments that take me off the track for the last few months.

Teen drama? Yeah, I suppose there is some resemblance, although I can't imagine this ever making it to weekday afternoon television. Too much of both sex and drugs, particularly by underage participants, and of course racketeering in general. This will change somewhat in the future, but only because the characters in question won't stay underage for much longer. Sex, alcohol, and drugs will continue to feature heavily in the plot. If "shock" is overused, it's precisely because I wanted to convey that it isn't shocking at all within the core circle of the story. Those who can't roll with it don't get invited to participate (except for the massive fail with Molly).

One thing nobody seems to have noticed is my propensity for using names of Japanese baseball players familiar to American fans, whether those names are particularly common or not. I won't use a matching given and family name, but I will often assign one to one character and the other to a different character. Other times, I've used names of people I actually know, although there is no resemblance to speak of between the actual people and their namesake characters other than ethnicity. (This is particularly true with Sally -- my apologies to the real Sarii, should she ever read this.)

The cat is based on an ex-girlfriend's actual cat, right down to the brain damage and the missing teeth. This is not him, but it's pretty representative.

Word counts
...And Nakai Makes Three: 99,811
Three of a Perfect Pair: 122,333
Into the Dark: 150,195
Out of the Blue: 66,101 to date, roughly half the book.

The update that follows cuts significantly into my 30-page buffer, but (1) it doesn't really change anything if I were to wait another week to post it, and (2) there isn't much fear of continuity problems anyhow, since I am staying closer to my outline, and adding details to it as they appear in scenes.
Last edited by NekoDude on Tue May 15, 2018 2:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "Out Of The Blue" (Neko Book 4) Chapter 20b (20180513)

Post by NekoDude » Sun May 13, 2018 4:44 am

(conclusion of Chapter 20)

***

        Akira spots Daisuke before he can spot her. He waves when he finally realizes, and she spots the moment when his gaze turns to her slight limp. She smiles broadly before walking up to him and wrapping her arms around him for a few seconds.
        “You’re looking as good as ever,” she starts.
        “All things considered, you look pretty good yourself,” he responds. “I knew about the hair, but somehow it didn’t register that the color might be different as well.”
        “It’s always dark at the roots. It takes a couple months for it to sun-bleach, which was never going to happen in a Scottish winter, and I wore a hat until fairly recently because of this.” She taps her fingers to a crooked but thin scar hiding within her hair. “I may let it grow out more than before to help hide it. It’s in the awkward phase right now – long enough to get messed up, but not long enough to do anything with.”
        He leans to the side a bit to get another angle. “I can see it, but I can’t say I’d particularly notice it if I didn’t already know it was there. I say do whatever makes you happy and don’t worry about it.”
        “I haven’t let it grow out in many years. I found it annoying then, but who knows, maybe I’ve grown into it. If I don’t like it, I can always go back to my usual.”
        Daisuke shrugs. “Fair enough. There’s nothing wrong with trying something different, especially if you aren’t stuck with it long-term. Are you partial to any of the games here?”
        “Actually, I realized on the train that I’m feeling a bit peckish, and I’d like something more than a pretzel and a Coke. Is there something quick and nearby?”
        “Do you want noodles, noodles, bento, or noodles?”
        “Hmm. Does the bento place have passable tempura?”
        “They’re not bad. Not the best, but far from the worst.”
        Akira nods. “That will suffice.” She follows as he leads the way, and catches up once they’re outside the arcade. “I was thinking about other things on the trip over as well. You really dodged a bullet with me.”
        “Hmm? What do you mean?”
        “Back in law school, I was after you, not Kenny, but you were still in mourning, and I respected that. I watched from a distance, but the chance never came.”
        The way his head swivels slowly toward her seems to accentuate the height difference between them, both of them using peripheral vision to track one another. “I honestly never knew. This is the first I’m hearing of it.”
        It’s Akira’s turn to shrug. “It worked out for the best. I mean, you still want children, right?”
        “Yeah, it’s something that has come up lately. We haven’t gotten into when or how many, but the subject has come up.”
        “See, you dodged a bullet. I can’t.”
        “Oh… I didn’t know you had fertility issues. Perhaps –”
        Akira cuts him off with a hand wave. “No, you misunderstand. I physically can have children, but it would be wrong to do so. I knew even before Papa started into his latest difficulties, but I cannot in good conscience flip coins with someone else’s life.”
        “What do you mean?”
        “Spinocerebellar ataxia is caused by a dominant gene, meaning it’s a fifty-fifty proposition, and I got it. I can see how it pains him to look at me and think it’s his fault I’m destined to fall the same way he has.”
        Daisuke takes a moment to think of a response, something Akira wishes more people would do rather than blurting out whatever comes to the top of their minds. “Isn’t there any way to control it?”
        “Yes, and if there is anything that is Papa’s fault, it’s denying his condition rather than seeking diagnosis and treatment. His stoicism has probably cost him five to ten years. I may actually see the far side of sixty, even without any further medical advances. He won’t.”
        “I’m glad you are taking a proactive approach to your own health. I can’t guarantee it will help in the long run, but I can assure you it won’t hurt. What kind of treatment is available?”
        “A lot of it is aimed at slowing down the motor degenerative aspect. That won’t keep me alive, but it will hopefully help maintain quality of life for whatever time I have.” Akira chuckles bittersweetly. “When they brought up the idea of trying something I’d always wanted to do but had never gotten around to, the first person that popped into my head was you.”
        “Me?” Daisuke tilts his head quizzically before returning his attention to the street they need to cross. “Why me?”
        “Because I always wanted to learn to play the guitar. Sadly, I won’t be here long enough to hire you for lessons.”
        “That is a bit of a shame, I’d enjoy taking the job. I might still be able to help you out though.”
        “Really? Do you know someone you can recommend in Sydney?”
        “Not right now, but I can ask around. That’s not really what I had in mind though. I would like to give you one single lesson, consisting of a few basic chords and a scale or two, then moving on to something you can’t properly learn from a book – how to evaluate a guitar to decide if it is worth purchasing.” When the signal changes, he makes himself as wide as possible, acting as a lead blocker to make space for her to follow through the crowded intersection and along the sidewalk to their destination. I bet he does that for Emi any time they’re in a crowd. He may have done it for Julia before that. It seems too practiced – like he’s used to his companion having walking difficulties, and habitually carves a path for her.
        Once they get settled in at a table, he picks up where he left off. “Too many people try to sell guitar-shaped objects that in no way can be called playable instruments, figuring they’ll eventually come across some poor sucker that doesn’t know the difference. I want to make sure that’s not you.”
Akira nods appreciatively. “Your counsel will be graciously accepted.”
        The conversation takes a distinctly geeky turn as Daisuke extols the virtues of Stratocaster vs. Telecaster, and Les Paul vs. SG. “What kind of sound do you want to get?”
        Akira snorts. “I haven’t a bloody clue. It’s not like I’m going to start a band anyhow.”
        “Well there’s not that much to talk about. The guitar is responsible for feeling good in your hands and doing what you ask, but it’s mostly the pickups and the amplifier that determine your sound.”
        “I know amplifiers come in different sizes, and have always presumed that bigger means louder, but they actually sound different?”
        Daisuke nods enthusiastically. “Absolutely. I’ll show you later. My Fender Blues Junior sounds nothing like my Marshall, even with the same volume level and the same guitar in my hands. Also, the correlation between size and volume does exist, but it’s a weak one. Big amps aren’t necessarily more powerful, and small ones aren’t necessarily practice amps, especially once you get into solid state versus valve. Solid state is generally cheaper, always smaller, and usually more reliable for a given power level, but it doesn’t sound as good. There’s just something about a saturated valve that cannot be faked. They’re getting there, but they’re not there yet.”
        “I’ll be doing this on the cheap. I’m not planning to make a career out of it.”
        “You probably want something with a valve pre-amp but a solid-state power section. You get most of the benefits of each that way, and they’re reasonably priced because the small valves used in the front end aren’t that expensive. The power MOSFETs should last decades unless you go out of your way to abuse them or something else shorts out and angry pixies release the magic smoke.”
        Akira laughs gently at ‘angry pixies’ and ‘magic smoke’, even though she only half-understands the topic. “I wasn’t actually planning on buying an amplifier just yet. Between the move and the voltage change, I figured I’d be better off buying local once I get there.”
        “That is almost certainly the right choice. Some amplifiers can be voltage-switched, but practically all of them are made for switching between 115 and 230 volts, meaning you’re not going to find them around here. They work at 100 volts without modification, but they obviously don’t enjoy it, so anyone worth his salt uses gear tailored to local conditions. It’s a right bitch for touring bands, who have to take along transformers to accommodate whatever power they are provided.”
        Akira allows Daisuke to continue spouting information she didn’t even know she didn’t know until now, and nods periodically as she slowly claims all the shrimp from their shared tempura platter. Along the way, she gets amusement from watching him play air guitar using a fried onion ring as a plectrum.
        “Are you in the habit of eating your picks?” she asks as he pops the onion ring into his mouth.
        “Not deliberately. I did swallow one, once – I think. I’m still not sure. I had it between my teeth when I needed to do some fingerpicking, and then it came time to sing and I just sort of lost track of it. Fortunately it was during the days when I thought I got more control by making them as small and thin as possible, and I must have digested it because I waited and waited for it to emerge at the other end but never noticed it doing so. I’ve also witnessed someone inhaling and choking on a pick in a similar manner. Lesson learned: use a pick holder.”
        “I will try to remember that. I see no need to confirm it personally.”
        After splitting the bill for the tempura, Daisuke makes a call. “Hey babe, I just wanted to let you know I’ve got a combination student and possible guitar shopper coming by the apartment, so if you call and I don’t pick up, we’re probably busy.” Pause. “Yeah, you know her. I promise to explain later.” Pause. “Yes, I said her. Women play guitar too, you of all people should know that.” Pause. “No, only the neighbors need to be worried. She’s a complete noob.” Pause. Daisuke breaks into laughter. “I promise not to buy more guitars than I sell… today. I love you too, babe.”

***

        “So that’s the one then, is it?” Daisuke gestures at the guitar in Akira’s hands.
        “Assuming I can afford it.”
        “Take it. Seriously, it’s not getting much love around here.”
        “I haven’t the time or spare funds to respond in kind, and it would be wrong to simply walk away with a gift.”
        Daisuke wags a raised finger in the air. “I may not get another chance to repay you for the foot in the door you’re giving me. Would you accept it if I charged you my parts cost and left it at that? That’s not a terribly expensive piece of kit. Most of the reason it plays so well is because I installed the P-rails and locking tuners, and spent a lot of time setting it up properly.”
        “I thought a Les Paul Standard was a pretty high-end guitar.”
        “A Gibson Les Paul Standard, yes. That’s an Epiphone, lacking some of the niceties of an American-made Gibson. Think of it as an authorized Chinese knock-off, because it pretty much is. Even with the P-rails, which I picked up used, I’m only about 50,000 yen deep on that build. I assembled it in the hope that it would be an all-purpose guitar for those times when I really want to carry just one, but it doesn’t quite have all the sounds I want, even with the coil splits. I mean, it gets pretty close, but not close enough. It does a superb imitation of a vintage Les Paul with P90s, but everything else is just a little bit off – and I have a vintage Les Paul with P90 pickups.”
        “I’ll have to see what my finances look like. Moving is always a crunch, and this move is bigger than most.”
        “Tell you what – take it for now, on loan. If you end up taking it to Sydney with you, then pay for it. If you don’t, I’ll take it back. You can borrow those, too.” He points at the Pignose amplifier and the Line 6 POD they had been using. “I only still have them because there’s no money in selling them, and I played my first gigs through that POD so it has sentimental value even though it sounds kinda shitty sometimes.”
        “So I’m on my own to find one of these?”
        “I’m afraid so. I don’t want to part with that for what it’s worth on the open market, and I’m unlikely to acquire another one in the next few weeks. I’ve seen them go for under ten thousand, but sometimes they can’t be had at any price, and it is a nifty emergency backup in the event that all my expensive gear gets sick at the same time. Like the hot-rodded Les Paul, it does a passable job of emulating many things, but is spot on at just one or two of them.”

***

        Hauling her newly acquired gear back across the city by train is a less than enjoyable experience. The train isn’t crowded by Japanese standards, but she still feels like she is exceeding her allotted ‘personal space’. Scots require more personal space than Japanese. Deal with it. This thought gives her a moment’s smile, as she realizes she still hasn’t made the adjustment – and probably doesn’t need to. She also has to remain alert to make sure nothing ‘walks away’ or is lifted from the pocket on the case, even in Japan. She would feel awful if she were to lose the POD, more than she would be upset by losing a far more valuable bottle of fine whisky, or even the guitar.
        At the station in Natori, Akira takes a deep breath and steels herself for a limpy and laden climb up the stairs before collapsing in a heap on a bench. She grabs her phone. “Sorry babe,” she breathily sighs. “I need a pickup. I’m at the train station in Natori.”
        I am back to being myself, but only in short bursts.
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Re: "Out Of The Blue" (Neko Book 4) Chapter 20b (20180513)

Post by NekoDude » Wed Jun 20, 2018 1:01 pm

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

2008-03-17

        “I made tea,” Neko cheerily intones as she sets out cups to pour into.
        “Mmm-hmm.” Hisao spares them barely a glance as he erases the word he just wrote, then resumes writing.
        Ten minutes later, his cup of tea is no longer steaming but remains untouched. “If you don’t want it,” she tells him with slight annoyance, “I’ll drink it.”
        “Hmm? Oh, no, it’s fine. I could use the caffeine.” He picks up the cup and drains it like a shot before returning to his notes. Shuffling noises can be heard, and he slowly turns his head to find Neko bundling up to step outside.
        “I’ll be in the Radio Room,” she says in the same annoyed tone. “Come up and join me, if you can spare the time.”
        “Mmm-hmm.”
        He is still at the tiny desk over an hour later when she returns. After hanging her coat without a word, she heads directly for the restroom.
        When she steps out a few minutes later, she closes the door behind her with the fan still running. “«Do not go in there! Woo!»” She unfolds a chair to his left and takes a seat to remove her leg. “What has you so bothered?”
        “My English final is tomorrow, and it would help – if only slightly – if I could concentrate.” He makes no attempt to conceal his own annoyance, which only gets stronger as he catches the scent of cannabis smoke that she was unable to completely trap.
        “Need any help?”
        “Can I smuggle you in under my coat so you can take the test for me? Otherwise, no, it’s a bit late for that now.”
        “Alright, you don’t have to be snippy.” Neko uses the chair as a crutch as she returns it to its normal spot, folded against the wall, before hopping onto and then rolling into the bed. She digs through the drawer in the headboard and locates her earbuds and media player.
        “And you don’t have to try to lift my mood. I’m not depressed, I’m focused.” He puts his hands to the sides of his face like blinders on a horse. “You’ll be in my position next week, you know.”
        “A little bit,” she concedes, “but it’s not the same. I still have time to correct course if I should run aground, although I have no expectation that I will.”
        Hisao tries to recall his own attitude from years prior, but finds it difficult to relate to the memories. It is as if he were watching from a distance, as an observer rather than a participant. A lot of my ‘old life’ memories are like that. Is that why I choose the struggle of a long-distance relationship, because finding Neko was the best thing to ever happen in my ‘new life’? Or would she be the best thing even without the shift in perspective?
        Perhaps a minute after attempting to resume his studies, he throws in the towel. “«You know what?»” He asks over his shoulder and doesn’t wait for a response. “«Miyagi is going to disapprove of my – or should I say, your – accent no matter what I do. There is simply no path to top marks in this class. You were right all along. I need to sweat the petty things less, and pet the sweaty things more.»” He sighs loudly, closes his book theatrically, and stands to stretch.
        As he turns around, he can see that she didn’t hear a word he just said. I’m bloody well not going to try to recite that again. It’s a miracle I got it out once without tripping over it.
        Neko thumbs the pause button on her media player. “Hmm? You wanted something?” She gazes up from the bed where she lies on her back, knees crossed and raised. Compression marks on the end of the short leg show why she prefers to remove the prosthetic any time she can.
        He smiles warmly and nods, adding “Yeah. You.” He rolls himself into the bed next to her. She hooks her short arm behind his neck and pulls him in.
        “You can have me.”
        Mutou’s warning, spoken less than a week before, rolls around in his head like a BB in a boxcar. But for how much longer?
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