After the Dream—Shizune/Hideaki's Arcs (Complete)

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brythain
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After the Dream—Shizune/Hideaki's Arcs (Complete)

Post by brythain » Wed Feb 26, 2014 11:49 pm

This is the first part of Shizune's arc in my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic, 'After the Dream'.
Her brother Hideaki has his own arc, and it begins here.
You'll find that Shizune perhaps says too little, while Hideaki says too much. Or not.

Completed arcs: Shizune | Lilly | Emi | Hanako | Rin | Misha — Main Index

The Main Index contains the different parts in chronological order, along with other fragments.


Shizune's arc consists of:

Shizune 1 — Crush
Shizune 2 — Clash
Shizune 3 — Converse
Shizune 4 — Collapse
Shizune 5 — Critical
Shizune 6 — Contest
Shizune 7 — Complete

There are also six other fragments which are of interest:
Letter to Mother is dated 8th April 2005.
UBWS takes place in April 2007, in the first term of her final year at Yamaku.
Return Trip takes place in May 2008 and August 2024.
Paperwork takes place in August 2009, when she's at the University of Tokyo.
Nightfall takes place in December 2055.
Sunrise takes place just before part 7 of Shizune's arc, in late 2063.



Shizune 1: Crush (2007)

All problems are contests to be won, Shizune reminds herself. Her eyes hurt. Tiredly, she pushes her glasses up her nose. It’s not the first time she wishes she had a slightly longer nose. But that is a distraction. She needs to focus on the problem.

[He Australia-ed, Misha.]

She signs, quickly, sharply, using shortcuts that only her friend will understand. They are in a room that has been their second home for some time, a room of old memories, old brown desks, old paperwork and grey cabinets. Stacks of paper remain to be filed, but the work is done. Soon, it will be their past.

[Shicchan?]

The other girl has been keeping late nights. Normally well-groomed strands are now randomly bunched, little knots of pink around bruised eyes. She leans forward, as if seeing through clouds. Confused, not thinking straight.

[Defensive. Like our Risk game. He thinks he has too few resources and won’t fight till he has more. But he’ll be crushed first. Crushed in his little room.]

She feels the irrational pressure, sighs. It is not her duty that everyone should be made happy. Or at least, it will soon not be her duty even if it ever was. But this is a problem, and it involves family.

[That sounds bad! We have to do something! But what do you mean?]

Misha twirls escaping strands in agitation. Her eyes are sunset pools of worry now. ‘Crushed’ has got to her.

[You know my cousin has left him. She thinks she has to go to Scotland forever. He does not pursue. They love each other. Now she thinks he doesn’t. Now he thinks she doesn’t. They will not love anyone else. What a waste.]

[But he was doing so well!]

The thought has crossed her mind too. Hisao had been fast and accurate and clever under pressure, even though getting him to do work had been difficult. A man of action, but given over to sadness. Lilly’s love had made him strong again. And that was the problem. And here was a solution.

[Shicchan, it’s only a short time before our finals.]

Shizune loves her for stating the obvious. It is a way to focus and refocus.

[Yes. We cannot let him waste his talent. What would people say of us, if the Student Council let such talent fail?]

And besides, he has such sad floppy hair when he’s depressed. Distraction. Again. She shakes it off, runs her hands back through her short, thick, comfortable hair while seating her glasses firmly around her ears. Framing the problem, she thinks. That’s what it’s about.

[Misha, it’s all about making him get out of bed. We need to get him working. Get his mind into the idea of working. He’s a good friend to people in trouble, yes? People like us.]

[We're in trouble?]

She stands, resolved, sudden. The last light of the dying sun glimmers red around the darkness of her head. She moves to the cabinets and begins to pull out some files. She leaves the Braille ones neatly in place in the second drawer. Those would be a distraction. The rest will make enough work.

[Yes. We have so many files to put in the right place, and so little time. We too have exams. You need extra help with Chemistry and Physics — Mutou-san is difficult to understand even when he’s helping you. We have many things to do.]

Golden eyes gaze back at her. Shizune sees them go bright with understanding. Her friend will laugh, loud enough to see and feel.

“Wahaha~!”

To an outsider, the silence of the room would be shattered. But between these friends, gestures are enough.

[I think I see what to do, Shicchan!]

[Yeah, it would be great if he could file some papers for us.]

She signs this wryly, remembering a time that seems a very long while ago.

*****

“Go away!”

“Awww! That’s not very polite, Hicchan! We’re two sad girls who need your help because there’s no time and you’re a good man!” [He told us to go away!]

Shizune watches. She has never been good at communicating through doors. But Misha’s flashing eyes and bouncing hair make it look as if the door doesn’t exist. She signs while shouting through it.

The door opens. Golden eyes turn brown, from lion to puppy-dog. A shadow looms from inside a stale, reeking room.

“Hicchan? You look terrible!” [He looks terrible, Shicchan.]

The shadow becomes flesh. Sallow, exhausted, tired flesh. He is rumpled, broken.

“My life is over. I will pass the exams. Then I will become another Mutou-san. Leave me alone.” [He says his life is over and after the exams he will become like Mutou and he wants us to leave him.]

She shoves her way into the doorway besides Misha and looks up into his unkempt, unshaven face. Even in disarray, there’s one brown tuft that sticks out more than the rest, which makes him Hisao. She glares at him. Damn her glasses, damn her nose. She pushes the windows of her world up again.

[Translate clearly. There’s a lot at stake.]

Yes, and contests are not only about winning, but about making things better. She bursts into sign, and watches Misha carefully from the corner of her eye.

“Shicchan says your life is NOT over. Lilly had high hopes for you. You must at least show that this is worth something. If you are going to be a Mutou-san, be a great one.”

She cracks her knuckles. Misha flinches a bit and they both carry on.

“Shicchan says we are your friends, and friends don’t give up on each other.”

[Wha-at, do you want me to say this too?]

[Yes, say it to him. I want to see his face.]

“She says she would not have minded being related to you. It would have been an honour.”

There is a funny look on his face as Misha finishes. Shizune is not quite sure what it is, but his features are twisted, locked, turned against each other. She tries to read him. He looks angry, hurt, surprised. He opens his mouth, but his lips form no words. For a moment, she feels him almost as a soulmate.

His face crumbles. Loses tension. He is bowed, huddled. Misha instinctively moves to his other side, kneels beside him.

[He says he is sorry. I don’t know what he is sorry for, Shicchan. But he sounds a bit better.]

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Thu Jun 21, 2018 4:07 am, edited 51 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Re: After the Dream (Post Lilly Neutral End, Shizune Part 1)

Post by monkeywitha6pack » Thu Feb 27, 2014 12:07 am

I cant help but say I'm interested. In my eyes the neutral Lilly end has a lot of potential for fan fic, good luck writing the rest!
Wahahaha~.
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Re: After the Dream (Post Lilly Neutral End, Shizune Part 1)

Post by MyCaptain » Thu Feb 27, 2014 11:16 am

Hmm, this will be interesting to follow. The story you outlined in the notes of your one-shot seem like it would make for a good read. I'm looking forward to see what you make of it.

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AtD Shizune POV Part 2 - Updated 20140301

Post by brythain » Thu Feb 27, 2014 3:10 pm

Thanks for the encouragement! This is the next Shizune fragment in her thread. Update: It's been edited a little on good advice.

Shizune 2: Clash (2017)

Down a familiar corridor she walks. Her eyes have begun to hurt again. Tiredly, she pushes her glasses up her nose, her short, treacherous nose. But that is a distraction. She needs to focus on the problem. As so often before, Shizune reminds herself: all problems are contests to be won. Taking a deep breath, she walks into the school’s general office.

Yamaku has not changed much. On the left and further in, the principal’s room; on the right and much more exposed to the noise, her own. She has been away too long; life overseas has both hardened her and made her softer in a different way. She smiles professionally at the school clerk, greets him politely by bowing a little. He is already scrambling to his feet while her mind decides what to do next.

She triggers an appropriate greeting. At close ranges, the synthesizer works fine. She has no real idea what she sounds like, but it feels mellow, like the woody resonance of a cello vibrating from her breast pocket. She thinks they call her something like ‘Dr Hakamichi’; sometimes, she no longer needs to look at the digital display. At that moment, she feels something very much like homesickness coupled with nostalgia—Misha is gone, the time is past, she misses the dream of Yamaku.

And the problem is this: two teachers engaging in a public display of affection. It would have been laughable, another petty annoyance getting in the way of her administrative duties, except that she knows these two. In her mind, she sees with crystal clarity the shape of her tears, and she drops them like earrings into the handbag of her soul. It has been five years since she last met them, ten since they were students here.

She sits down, straightens her demure grey jacket, draws herself up. [Send them up] she sends over the intercom. The synthesizer is set to ‘cold’. She sees the deferential affirmative. She is quite sure the office is taking bets on what will happen. She sighs, takes a second deep breath to calm her annoyance, focuses on the problem.

They walk into the room. She feels them through the old wooden flooring before they enter, two very different cadences. Her brows draw together and her lips pinch, but she hardly realizes it. She leans forward over the old wooden desk. The door behind them remains wide open. There will be inquisitive eyes.

She looks at him first. Hisao Nakai, science teacher. Brown hair, as messy as ever. Once lanky, now muscled in long tight bands of sunbaked flesh. Under the circumstances, a little red in the face. It is a cheerful face, slightly drawn by long adversity, now slightly tinged with worry. It serves you right, she thinks to herself, before wincing at her own unprofessionalism.

The physiotherapist (‘nutritionist’, adds the file) looks sullen, a little hangdog expression lurking apprehensively. Ponytailed now, that strawberry-blonde colour is more subdued than it used to be. Ten years back, no running in the corridors. Ten years forward, no kissing in the corridors. Emi Ibarazaki is taller now, stronger, faster. New prosthetics, new materials, new training regimes allow her a certain new kind of grace.

Shizune turns her translation net and synthesizer off. Hisao raises an eyebrow before he realizes he’s being rude to a superior officer. Emi doesn’t notice, frowning at her painted nails.

[Nakai, Ibarazaki, you should know better than this.]

Hisao translates, still fluent, she notes with approval. They shuffle their feet. Hisao’s thud gently on the floor. Emi’s clack lightly. Her own thin soles pick up every vibration. Five years ago, we were friends.

The cold crystals in her heart ping softly. There is a ring on one lightly painted hand.

[I have to warn you about…]

Running in the corridors, using school property in scandalous ways, no, she will not go there. Hisao’s gaze brushes over her, tentative, wondering at her sudden stillness.

[… public displays of affection. We are role models for the children. They must learn that… ]

Why is it so hard? Why can’t she focus on a simple warning, issued by the administrative vice-principal of a school to two wayward staff?

[… even adults do not do such things in public.]

The lightly painted lips move. Emi is saying something. The lightly painted eyes, there is water welling in them. Hisao is signing. Time is slowing down. He is signing too politely, making distance between them like an accusation.

[Hakamichi-sama, we apologize. Emi says we are after all engaged to be married but we are sorry… ]

Shizune remembers him being sorry. She cannot stop remembering, how they sat in the cold, dim Council room ten years ago and she and Misha had made him work so that he would not mourn his loss so much. Then he’d found the blue Brailler on the shelf, and in one moment, all the ghosts had filled the room.

She, Misha, Hisao. Three in a room, and a fourth, the image of a pale woman sitting at a table making a testament for the blind. They could all have been friends, in some distant universe unreal. But Lilly had left for Scotland, and all hope had died with distance.

[What are you sorry for?]

She signs it somewhat more abruptly than she intended. Any more of this and she too will find water in her eyes, a lack of focus, a warmness that she cannot show.

As in the past, Hisao saves the day. He is firm and correct.

[We are sorry that we have caused inconvenience to the school and to you.]

And then he is not.

[We do not presume on past friendship, but we ask you for your blessing anyway. We want to help show our students that they too can have a life in the years before them. In an appropriate manner, of course.]

Lilly broke his heart. Hanako helped to patch it up. But I got it to work again. And now he is giving it away to someone else and asking me to bless them. How many times must I lose him? She feels the crystals in her heart tighten. Everything in the room looks sharper, clearer, almost black and white. The air is very cold.

She closes her eyes for a while. The problem has gone away. We can win this.

[Hisao, Emi, we are still friends outside this workplace. You have my blessing.]

Time begins to flow again. With it comes the realization that some things are inevitable and she begins to push her seat back.

Emi hugs her anyway, spilling paper across the battered wood.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Sat Apr 29, 2017 10:12 pm, edited 13 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Re: After the Dream (Post Lilly Neutral End) Updated 2014022

Post by Helbereth » Thu Feb 27, 2014 3:45 pm

All problems are contests to be won, Shizune reminds herself again. Her eyes hurt.
Fair warning. Starting a new chapter with an identical sentence almost made me stop reading immediately. If you insist on repeating it, put it at the end of the paragraph instead.
training regimes
This should be regimens. A regime is a political body, not a repeated activity.
The cold crystals in her heart tinkle a little.
Tinkle makes me think of bathroom activities. I'd use 'chime' here:
"The cold crystals in her heart faintly chime."

Otherwise it's a little hard to follow, and rather dream-like. Some of the language choices feel a little strange, especially coming through Shizune's outwardly uncluttered mind. Apart from that, the beginning is a little rocky; coming off the previous chapter, I wasn't expecting it to suddenly leap ahead what... 10 years? Also, some of the details seem out of place, like that she was recently in Chicago; nothing else is said about the trip, so I don't know why it was mentioned. She doesn't say anything else about her activities over the past ten years, so why dwell on something so insignificant so as not to even have its purpose mentioned.

Outside of those admittedly minor, nit-picky flaws, it delivers a double sucker punch of regret and unrequited love quite effectively. Is there more coming? It feels like there's more after this. I'm hoping there is.

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Re: After the Dream (Post Lilly Neutral End) Updated 2014022

Post by brythain » Thu Feb 27, 2014 8:50 pm

Helbereth wrote:
All problems are contests to be won, Shizune reminds herself again. Her eyes hurt.
Fair warning. Starting a new chapter with an identical sentence almost made me stop reading immediately. If you insist on repeating it, put it at the end of the paragraph instead.
Good point, that. Sorry, I tend to do this a lot.
Helbereth wrote:
training regimes
This should be regimens. A regime is a political body, not a repeated activity.
Both usages seem OK. A regime, technically, is a system of management. As 'course of physical training' or 'diet', it dates back to late 15c or thereabouts.
Helbereth wrote:
The cold crystals in her heart tinkle a little.
Tinkle makes me think of bathroom activities. I'd use 'chime' here:
"The cold crystals in her heart faintly chime."
Ouch! I'd completely forgotten about that, being from a part of the world which seldom uses 'tinkle' that way. Haha! Will change.
Helbereth wrote:Otherwise it's a little hard to follow, and rather dream-like. Some of the language choices feel a little strange, especially coming through Shizune's outwardly uncluttered mind.
I think this is a function of me trying a bit hard to think like a deaf-mute. It's hard to get into her head, and what must be a pretty strong internal monologue mode.
Helbereth wrote:Apart from that, the beginning is a little rocky; coming off the previous chapter, I wasn't expecting it to suddenly leap ahead what... 10 years? Also, some of the details seem out of place, like that she was recently in Chicago; nothing else is said about the trip, so I don't know why it was mentioned. She doesn't say anything else about her activities over the past ten years, so why dwell on something so insignificant so as not to even have its purpose mentioned.
Yes, I've got to deal with that. Chicago is part of my internal continuity and shouldn't be put in right here. It was where she picked up her doctorate in this universe.
Helbereth wrote:Outside of those admittedly minor, nit-picky flaws, it delivers a double sucker punch of regret and unrequited love quite effectively. Is there more coming? It feels like there's more after this. I'm hoping there is.
Thank you! Had drafted a plan for something like 42 possible vignettes/fragments etc within this continuity and will try to keep delivering. Much appreciated.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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AtD Shizune POV Part 3 - Updated 20140228

Post by brythain » Thu Feb 27, 2014 11:34 pm

This is the third part of Shizune's arc in 'After the Dream', my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic.

Shizune 3: Converse (2020)

She’s back in her old office. The battered desk welcomes her, its faded-honey surface glowing in the setting sun. A year as acting principal after Yamamoto-san’s operation had put her in an unfamiliar setting, attending meetings as an actor and not just as an observer. Also, her desk had caught the morning light. A distraction when one must work.

Today, an awkward conversation. It is unusual to have a problem to which a solution has been found, but which creates a new problem of transmitting that solution. She looks at the man before her, his too-long arms and legs somehow folded into and around the too-small chair. Is that the same jacket he has always worn? His hands are indeed very large, she notices, remembering the first time she had seen them.

She turns off her electronics. This will be done the correct way.

[Mutou-san, thank you for coming to speak with me.]

His signing is deliberate, steady, slow. It is formal and somehow fluid, so at odds with his style of teaching.

[Hakamichi-san, it is always a pleasure.]

[Please use ‘Shizune’, sensei. We have known each other for fifteen years, after all.]

She remembers being a small angry girl, signing [everyone is laughing at me] at him. He had stopped to talk to a student he didn’t know, but who looked as if she needed somebody to yell at. She had been surprised to see him sign back, clumsily with his thick, long fingers [I’m not laughing at you].

[Thank you for your kindness, Shizune. I am Akio to you.]

[You are very well-respected, Akio. Twenty-five years of service here, it is the mark of great loyalty.]

He gives her that look, the one Misha had dubbed ‘I see your molecules’. She leans back a bit, consciously not pushing up the glasses she no longer wears. He moves, pauses. He looks into the sun, as if seeing something faraway. He seems to come to a decision.

[Shizune. My modest self… I am proud of what you have become. I was happy when you transferred to my class instead of staying with others who had similar difficulties. I was happy when you told me ‘no-signing-please’. To me, you had turned seven defeats into eight victories. You still do that. You are my boss; you can say what you want.]

It makes it difficult, in this cultural context, to say what she must say. She has trusted him, wanted to do her best for him, seen him as a mentor and a friend. She respected him even when she became only his second-best student. And yes, now she is his boss, and she must say what she does not want to say.

[Akio, the board, the principal, they think their programmes are not being driven forward enough by the Head of Sciences. They think someone else should help you.]

They both know she means ‘replace’. She looks into the distant dark brown eyes, contemplative, controlled but serene. He looks back, expressionless except for a trace of… regret? amusement? She is not sure.

He looks like an older Hisao, perhaps a Hisao with two children after a divorce. Where did that thought come from?

[We know, my dear vice-principal, that there is only one cure for that.]

Cure for what? She starts, momentarily confused. She is unable to stop the warmth from spreading up her neck, into her cheeks.

But she sees that he knows exactly what the problem is and what the solution must be. She decides to present it in a more traditional way.

[How is Ibarazaki getting on in your department?]

The corner of his left eye twitches. He has realized that there will be a short dance. He signs firmly and exactly, as if placing counters on a board.

[Emi has turned out to be a fine biology teacher. She is doing things that do not break tradition, but bend them in good ways. She inspires students. The new Life Sciences programme is in good hands. Marrying Hisao has made them both better teachers.]

It is unusual for her to be surprised in any contest. But this, it is not a contest. Is it? She had not expected a blow to be struck from such a quarter. Her fingers suddenly feel stiff, alien.

[Good, good. And Hisao is doing well for Physical Sciences?]

[Indeed he is. He is a good administrator too, keeps track of things even when he hates doing so.]

Is that another point? She feels like she is losing this non-contest. It is unfair for Mutou-san to do this to her. He is taking advantage of knowing her too well. She needs to end this quickly.

[Ah. That is a bonus… do you think he is ready for higher responsibilities?]

He smiles, warmly, genuinely. In that moment, she regrets her previous thoughts. Akio Mutou has always worked hard to help everyone win. He will do it again.

[Shizune, madam vice-principal, to see my former students do things well – this is what makes an old teacher proud. I will serve anyone you choose.]

[I am glad we see things the same way, Akio.]

[You will have Hisao, then?]

If only, she thinks, totally out of context. She is angry again with herself at thinking unprofessional thoughts, but corrals them, puts them aside. This conclusion has been hanging over them for minutes now, and she realizes she has not trusted Mutou-san enough.

[Yes, we will announce the promotion in due course.]

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Sat Apr 29, 2017 10:13 pm, edited 6 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Re: After the Dream (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Shizune3 up 20140

Post by Hotkey » Fri Feb 28, 2014 2:59 am

Your writing is very good, I feel. The story is interesting so far, too.

I kind of agree with Helbereth, though. It's so good that I find it hard to grasp the context. You've mentioned this is due to Shizune's PoV and the fragmented/mosaic style of the story, so I'll keep reading.

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Re: After the Dream (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Shizune3 up 20140

Post by brythain » Fri Feb 28, 2014 12:13 pm

Hotkey wrote:Your writing is very good, I feel. The story is interesting so far, too.

I kind of agree with Helbereth, though. It's so good that I find it hard to grasp the context. You've mentioned this is due to Shizune's PoV and the fragmented/mosaic style of the story, so I'll keep reading.
Thanks very much for the encouragement! I will try to build in more context and connective tissue as I cover roughly 55 years of 'future history'.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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AtD (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Shizune4

Post by brythain » Fri Feb 28, 2014 12:20 pm

This is the fourth part of Shizune's arc in 'After the Dream', my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic.

Shizune 4: Collapse (2022)

She rises from the tangled sheets of dream. At once, she knows she’s had a relapse. She has dreamt what she has desired not to dream for years. Her dreams are always sharp, full of eyes and hands, because that is what she sees and knows. But these eyes and hands were only too familiar.

The images run past her before she can block them or catch them. She is powerless, angry. They are images of Hisao, and with him, the others.

Her cousin Lilly, tall, blonde, foreign; she holds his hands, her blind gaze holds his heart; she turns, and it shatters like a ruby. Hanako, deep in purple shadows; her half-burnt caress enfolding and keeping the fragments till they mend, but never heal. Emi, glowing gold; setting the mended stone in a ring, where it has come alive like a flame.

They always win. And she knows that even if she had won, she would have lost. Shizune wakes, and the red heat is only the half-light before dawn, cold, alone.

*****

She dresses briskly, efficiently. Her clothes frame her presence in the school. She is its head now, and there is nobody else to dress for. Grey is a good colour. It is not her favourite, and nobody can guess what is.

She forces herself to focus on the present. The past will fade and blur if she does this right. Lilly, pressed into unwilling service, now a successful businesswoman in Edinburgh, where they find her accent charming. Hanako, somewhere in Europe. Misha mentioned meeting her in the Hague, a travel writer or something of that ilk. None of them married. As for Emi…

The bright blue call light of her tabphone flashes. Incoming. She swipes at it, wondering who would be making contact so early. The screen comes to life, red text on a yellow background.

[Sis? You’re wanted at Miyagi. Hurry up!]

She knows it’s Hideaki from the garish colours. What she doesn’t know is why he’s sending this. She has a sense of foreboding. Miyagi General is the hospital closest to Yamaku. It used to be an obstetrics/paediatric specialist centre, and has since been upgraded.

[Coming. Fill me in on the way.]

She taps out a quick message to Yamaku, apologizing for the fact that she will be late for school and she does not know when she’ll reach the office. Driving while sneaking a look at her tablet at traffic junctions, she pieces together what she can from her brother’s somewhat incoherent transcript. [… Emi went into… (something) … emergency… (something something) … Hisao… (something) … Akira drove us down… ]

Wait. What is her cousin doing in Sendai? And why wasn’t Hisao driving? Not that it’s her business of course, but surely the welfare of her vice-principal is a legitimate concern. Or so she justifies it. Deep within her, an unpleasant feeling blossoms. Her car’s defensive-space sensors move into maximum overwatch as she turns up the speed.

This is Emi’s second child. Apart from being an easier pregnancy, it was probably a quicker delivery. Shizune tries to be optimistic, but her nature is to manage risk, to think about scenarios and solve problems before they manifest.

She pulls into the parking lot at high speed, dismayed by the cluster of vehicles and people at the front of the Emergency entrance. Immediately, she picks up the blonde head at one side, obvious in the crowd. In seconds, she is there, signing furiously. Her body hasn’t yet felt the adrenaline that is burning through it.

[Akira! What is happening?!]

Her cousin signs poorly, but technology has since made it much easier. Lion-maned dark-suited Akira points sharply at Shizune’s tabphone and mimes speech, then takes out her own.

She looks down to see what her cousin is saying, swiping aside Hideaki’s transcript. Irrationally, she wonders if her other cousin has come to plague her too.

[Thought you might want to come down. Your kid brother was with me. Emi’s fine. It’s a boy. But hey, listen… we had to check Hisao in.]

Her heart tolls slowly like an iron bell at the bottom of the sea. For a moment, she is afraid that the world has stopped.

[How is he?]

Akira gives one of her famous shrugs. This one, however, is not the throwaway one, but the I-am-worried-but-holding-up one.

[In surgery. Doctors were optimistic. Or trying to be.]

She wants to see him again. At least once more. She wants it badly, but she knows she might not get it. She feels the focus of her vision blur. Data. Information. It clarifies, it makes clear. All problems are contests to be won, she repeats, that mantra which has kept her going for so long.

[Tell me everything.]

And Akira, uncharacteristic tears held back, tells her everything.

*****

Emi had gone into premature labour after midnight, when her waterbag burst. Hisao had panicked, then collapsed. Rin, who lived with them and was looking after their daughter Akiko, had called 119. It had been one of her good days. With amazing presence of mind, she’d called a second time for a second ambulance, giving full details, and then called the Hakamichi home where Akira had been staying. Hisao had been rushed into emergency surgery, Emi was recovering.

Rin hadn’t called the school, nor its principal. She is surprised at how the little things hurt. And other things, too.

[Why were you in Sendai without telling me?]

[It was meant to be a simple thing. I was en route from Hokkaido to Tokyo, and Hisao wanted to make amendments to his will, now that he was about to be a father for the second time. Hideaki actually handles that now, but I drafted the original, so I stopped by for a short while. We would have met him tomorrow.]

She takes a deep, deep breath. It calms her, as always, to get the oxygen back in. It feels as if the heat in her spreads out, dissipates. If Hisao wins, they all win. She feels that she can afford to be human for a while.

[I’ve missed you. How is Lilly? Does she know?]

[She knows. She cried. But our business will keep her busy. Amazing, my sister – she keeps all the accounts in her head, for all three restaurants, says it is like being in a library and she can just pull out whatever… ]

Akira realizes she’s rambling, and catches herself before going on.

[I’ve missed you too. Next time we meet, it’s for a proper meal. Your brother pays. He’s handling payment in there.]

A skinny redhead in a shawl comes over and bends over Akira’s tabphone before either of the cousins can react.

[Hell-o. They said they wouldn’t be done for eight hours at least. We might be here for days. I’m hungry. Emi doesn’t make sense, she keeps asking for Hisao even though I tell her he can’t hear her. It’s a boy. Akira.]

[Yes?]

[They asked what name to put and Emi yelled Akira and that’s his name. I think.]

Shizune has not seen Rin since the wedding. She had learnt about Rin’s moving in with Emi and Hisao as a babysitter, and wondered briefly how an armless woman would manage. Rin was said to have given others a typical answer, “With my feet, of course. Or my mouth. And it’s called baby sitting, not handing.”

Akira looks stunned, and slightly uncomfortable. She is probably a godmother now, if that is how Catholic customs work.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Sat Apr 29, 2017 10:13 pm, edited 6 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

Hotkey
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Re: After the Dream (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Shizune4 up 20140

Post by Hotkey » Fri Feb 28, 2014 12:41 pm

It seems my reward for complimenting you is to be run over with the 18 wheels of feels in the very next chapter. Somehow, I feel a distinctly conflicted sense of both justice and injustice.

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brythain
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Re: After the Dream (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Shizune4 up 20140

Post by brythain » Fri Feb 28, 2014 12:55 pm

Hotkey wrote:It seems my reward for complimenting you is to be run over with the 18 wheels of feels in the very next chapter. Somehow, I feel a distinctly conflicted sense of both justice and injustice.
"Wahaha~!" was the first thing that came to mind. :)
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Helbereth
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Re: After the Dream (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Shizune4 up 20140

Post by Helbereth » Fri Feb 28, 2014 1:48 pm

gaijin
Damned weeaboos... can't you just use an English equivalent like foreign? I hate having to Google that crap.
blind blue-glaze gaze
Glaze right next to gaze just doesn't meld right. Perhaps try this (also the comma is appropriate):
blind, cloudy-blue gaze
Emi, setting the stone in a ring, where it has come alive, like a flame.
This bit drops the eye-color metaphor rather abruptly. Perhaps start with:
Emerald-eyed Emi sets the stone in a ring, where it has come alive, brilliant as a flame.

So, Emi goes into labor for their second child and Hisao has a heart attack? What the hell happened the first time?

Aside from that seeming incongruity, this is still reading quite well. It's very stream-of-consciousness in the exposition, which is perhaps why it feels weird for Shizune.

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dewelar
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Re: After the Dream (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Shizune4 up 20140

Post by dewelar » Fri Feb 28, 2014 2:26 pm

I have to say that I've really enjoyed this so far. I was a bit leery of this based on your original...proof-of-concept, I suppose you'd call it, but this has me hooked now. I'm very much looking forward to seeing how you handle the vignettes for the other characters, and how it all winds up integrating.
Rin is orthogonal to everything.
Stuff I've written: Developments, a continuation of Lilly's (bad? neutral?) ending - COMPLETE!

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brythain
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Re: After the Dream (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Shizune4 up 20140

Post by brythain » Fri Feb 28, 2014 8:26 pm

Thanks for the pointers. I will spend the next couple of days consolidating these four parts and making minor edits. I will then bring my next two pieces in line with the edits and put them up. :)
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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