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

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Frankyo
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Re: Interlude (20140526)

Post by Frankyo » Mon May 26, 2014 2:28 am

brythain wrote: I think Misha is female and primarily gay in my head-canon; Akira is female and pan-sexual, but not transvestite except in the sense that she prefers masculine power-dressing for the office; Hideaki is male and hetero, but transvestite in his early years because of a bunch of mental baggage and stuff. I tend to think of people in over-complicated ways, I suppose… sorry! :)
Yeah I agree on your viewpoint on Akira and Hideaki, since you've written Shizune as the favorite child.
but Misha... Hmm.. As a Mishabro I have to stand firm to the belief that it is possible to have a hypothetical relationship with her :cry:, thus I see her as also pansexual(?), I think.
Girls: Hanako/Misha > Lilly > Emi > Shizune/Rin
Routes: I realized that every route has its own charms, but felt that Shizune's was lacklustre. It has Misha though!

"No masters or kings, when the ritual begins"

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Re: Interlude (20140526)

Post by brythain » Mon May 26, 2014 2:33 am

Frankyo wrote:
brythain wrote: I think Misha is female and primarily gay in my head-canon; Akira is female and pan-sexual, but not transvestite except in the sense that she prefers masculine power-dressing for the office; Hideaki is male and hetero, but transvestite in his early years because of a bunch of mental baggage and stuff. I tend to think of people in over-complicated ways, I suppose… sorry! :)
Yeah I agree on your viewpoint on Akira and Hideaki, since you've written Shizune as the favorite child.
but Misha... Hmm.. As a Mishabro I have to stand firm to the belief that it is possible to have a hypothetical relationship with her :cry:, thus I see her as also pansexual(?), I think.
I agree with you in one sense; I think that like most people, Misha has a potential range—she's most comfortable hom (in my head-canon), but she might just be able to do het. 'Pansexual' tends to imply ANYTHING within personal sense of reason. People are… complicated. :)

However, I try not to discuss that particular thing directly in the fanfic forums because it bloats the threads and reduces the fiction-to-comment ratio. Instead, I tend to go over to the public discussion area for that… :)
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—Hideaki's Arc (Part 2 up 20140527)

Post by brythain » Tue May 27, 2014 2:40 am

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

It takes place while Shizune, Hanako, and Hisao are all at Tokyo University, and young Hideaki is growing up in 2009-2010.



Hideaki 2: Shadow (T -15)

I am Hideaki Hakamichi. Yes, I know I have made a habit of introducing myself each time I write. It’s a tradition, and my father is… very much in favour of tradition. I have a very beautiful sister (I think I may have mentioned it a few times already) but she is not marrying Hisao Nakai, and this saddens me…

That is the kind of guff I used to write when I was fourteen. But you’re not here to listen to little Hideaki moaning about his unfulfilled dreams (and if you’re my sister, you’re not here to listen at all). Ow, wife, please stop hitting me on the head.

You’re probably here to get the inside story on other people’s lives. For example, the life of the great Shizune Hakamichi, or the life of the great Hanako Ikezawa, lives which have become part of the mythology of modern Sendai, or of the legend that is the Nakai Foundation. Not my life, oh no, not poor Hideaki’s life.

Still here? Ah, very well then. Let me introduce you to a life that isn’t about those people (well, not much) and the school they went to (at least for now). It’s my life, despite the constant editing that my story undergoes at the hand of the feminist conspiracy. Haha, wife, that tickles! Did you say you’d abandon me? Well, for this chapter, I completely understand. Ouch!

*****

2009 is indeed a moody year for me. I will be fourteen in October, but now I am only thirteen, barely a teenager, and it is spring. Picture me: gangly, starting to grow taller, which makes my ankles show when I wear my usual trousers. I can’t fit so well into the casual clothes my sister sometimes dumps on me, and to tell the truth, I’m beginning to think that wearing her stuff isn’t such a great idea any more.

Right now, I am sitting in a park outside school, holding my best friend’s hand. If my father knew, he’d eviscerate me with his wakizashi. Except that he probably wouldn’t, since we haven’t gone through the appropriate rituals for that kind of thing yet.

“Hideaki, let go of my hand. Or I will cut it off.”

This thought fits in so well with my musings that I immediately drop her hand.

“Hmm. Sachi-chan, forgive me. My thoughts are far away.”

She looks displeased. Every bit of her little body trembles with suppressed rage, I imagine. And all that rage is focused out through her thick lenses and hits you like a pair of laser beams. Pew-pew!

“It’s no excuse. And all men are pigs, to be thinking of other things when they are sitting with friends. It is a masculine conspiracy. They telepathise with each other, whatever the word is, so that they can mutually ignore the women. By the way, it’s still Sachiko.”

“One more year together, Sachi-chan. We might never see each other again.”

“… ”

She is about to snap at me with her usual cultivated vehemence, but decides suddenly to keep her mouth shut. Instead, she turns away. How curious.

“Are we not friends?”

“… ”

I can see her jaw muscles working as if she is testing out words but is not ready to fire them off just yet. Times like this, I feel like Shizune. I don’t know how to talk. And if I try, it will make things worse. I am at a loss. My father’s solution would be to just say something, or yell, or whip out the katana that I don’t have and complain about the appalling disrespect that young people have for tradition.

I am just Hideaki, skinny and socially less than competent. So I keep quiet.

“You’re the only person who doesn’t laugh at me or try to take my stuff.”

Gah. Was not expecting that at all. It does not compute. Maybe it does. Whatever, I can’t cope with that.

“Oh. That’s nothing.”

She turns back to look at me. Her eyes are wet. As she glowers from beneath her cap of short, thick, dark-brown hair, the effect is that of being glared at by a rather fierce goat with spectacles.

“Maybe you’re just too dumb to think of doing that.”

Why am I being insulted? We’re friends, right?

“Why are you calling me dumb? Nobody in his or her right mind would waste time laughing at you or taking your stuff.”

Once the words are out of my mouth, I suspect they are perhaps the wrong words to use in such a situation.

“Hakamichi, you’re an asshole. If there is a masculine conspiracy, you must be the dumbest and most irritating part of it. Talking to you about serious things is a mistake.”

A mistake? Serious things? What the hell have I done? I mentally review what I’ve said. I don’t think such a response is logical nor deserved.

“That’s not true. You have not been talking to me about serious things.”

She makes a disgusted noise and wrinkles up her face. It’s May before she speaks to me again. I have no idea why.

*****

It’s at the end of July that I realize my best friend is not happy. She’s taken to hiding in corners, looking morose, and sticking her face in some damned book all the time. When I talk to her, all she can say is, “You don’t know anything. You just quote stuff in books and try to be logical. Men. All the same.” Then she sniffs and avoids me.

It’s a time of realizations. Not everyone has a best friend of the opposite sex. Not everyone has a best friend, actually. I’m fortunate, but I am clueless about what to do. So I ask the love of my life, who is not my best friend. Rather, she’s my cousin, back in town for one of her company-related quick visits.

“Aki-nechan, can I ask you about girls?”

She grins and flicks her latest Labyrinth-style locks at me.

“Why so formal, Shortie? Have you accidentally knocked one up? Bun in the oven? Cookies, maybe?”

I blush, quite sure I know what my beautiful cousin is implying. But I’m too far in now to pull out, as the saying goes.

“My best friend is a girl. But she’s all moody and won’t talk to me. She says I’m always logical and I get all my references right. Is that a bad thing?”

“Aww! I thought I was your best friend. But I’m not moody and I’m talking to you, so who’s the chick?”

“Her name is Sachiko, short dark brown hair and eyes, spectacles, sweet face…”

“Another Shizune lookalike? God, dear cousin, you need to try something different. But that aside, have you bothered listening to her?”

“Listening? She won’t say anything!”

“Shortie, she said that you’re always logical. Translation: you think too much when you should be nice and sympathetic. She said you get all your references right. Translation: too much by-the-book, not enough by-the-woman.”

What does that even mean?

“How old are you, Shortie?”

“I am fourteen in October. But you know this already. So that is a rhetorical question, and I’m supposed to guess what the point of it is.”

“The point is that you’re all going to high school in April. Something’s reminded her of that. Maybe she’s afraid you won’t see each other again. Maybe her parents want to send her somewhere faraway, like bloody Scotland.”

There’s a grim edge to Akira’s voice, the kind that used to make me want to run away and hide. Of course, I never did. She has animal magnetism: I swear I am hypnotized when she gets upset and I dare not move an inch.

I suddenly feel a deep sense of loss as those words sink in. I feel for Lilly and Hisao, separated now for almost two years. Is this a ‘manly feel’ that I am feeling? Am I growing up? I have an overwhelming urge to say something.

“Aki-nechan? I don’t want to not see someone forever again. Will you wait for me until I’m old enough to marry you?”

Uncomfortable silence, I think. My heart sinks. She has a smile. Her lips begin to move. She… shakes her head. Oh gods, I’m not man enough!

“No, no, Hideaki. It’s not that.”

Argh! Blinding embarrassment explodes in my head. I’ve said the last part aloud. I’ll never forget this conversation now.

I mumble, “Forget it, forget it, respected elder lady…”

Her smile has disappeared. My life is over. She grabs my shoulders firmly and looks me in the face. Animal magnetism, I tell you. An unfair advantage. But my mind freezes and I don’t complain.

“My dear cousin, I love you like a cousin. C’mon, you’re a very nice person deep inside. Very worth loving. But you gotta save it for someone whom you really love and who is willing to love you back just as much. Old Akira here, her heart’s all over the place.”

“B-but…”

“Dammit, Shortie, don’t make me cry. You can be a man without having to wave a sword around and yell at people. Your father’s manliness comes through when he’s being kind and tender and literary; the rest of the time, people think he’s a jerk. One day, you’ll grow into your true shape. You’ve grown four inches taller in six months, who knows what kind of man you might become? You’re still immature, you know.”

That hurts. I feel despondent. When someone you love tells you bluntly that you’re immature, that hurts a lot.

“What if I don’t find anyone to love?”

Then, will you be still be around, my beautiful Akira? I’m not going to say that. I bite my lip. But I guess she knows what’s on my mind.

“Take your time, Shortie. There’s this old song that says it’s sad to belong to someone else when the right one comes along.”

“Are you saying Sachiko’s the right one?”

“Nope. But I’m not saying she’s not either. You gotta grow into a man. Someone who can handle emotion and reason in balance, someone reliable. Someone you can hang out with for a beer or who will guard your back when you go for all-or-nothing. Someone educated and sensitive. That kind of thing. And if you’re not, at least you can try.”

“That sounds impossible to achieve.”

“It probably is. But a girl can hope, and some day, some girl will hope it’s you.”

She frowns at me. I feel like a bird waiting for a snake to strike.

“Y’know what, let me give you some advice. Decide what’s right and go for it. Don’t sell yourself cheap. Never feel ashamed of yourself. And never do something that will make you feel dirty.”

“That seems like good advice. Perhaps it comes from one of our revered ancestors?”

She winces. My beautiful cousin suddenly looks nervous, or sad. I can’t tell which.

“Perhaps. Whatever it is, don’t break your Sachiko’s heart. Okay?”

*****

“Sachiko?”

It’s a few days before my fourteenth birthday, and she’s agreed to go out for ice-cream with me. That’s a wonderful thing, because I’ve been trying hard to be mature and understanding when all I want is someone who can sit around with me like in the old days and talk about manga and classics like Ultraman.

“Nothing.”

Things are not the same. Over these months, I realize that my best friend has changed. She’s not into superheroes and the latest scientific theories any more. She’s fine with sundaes and parfaits, but she complains they make her fat. I’ve not noticed any such thing. She shops for cosmetics now. That’s just strange.

But to be a man, you have to try.

“Sachiko, are you sad that school’s coming to an end?”

She looks at me. For a moment, I sense a glimmer of interest.

“A little. Are you?”

“Six months ago, I did worry about not seeing you again next year.”

“Why?”

“We might be in different high schools.”

“Why should that make you worry?”

She’s looking at me the way Akira did, as if I have suddenly become a very interesting bird to a very hungry snake. I try to choose my words carefully.

“I think I’d miss you. If you have a best friend and they’re not around anymore, that is a sad thing. I worry about it because I would always be wondering if you were doing okay in your new school.”

She smiles, her dimples telling me that maybe I’ve said the right thing. Then she looks all downcast.

“Hideaki? I’m sad because we’ve been friends a long time. But my eyesight is getting really bad; the doctor said my retinas are detaching. It runs in the family. My parents are sending me to that special school in Sendai—Yamaku High.”

For a moment, I want to say what a great thing that is. My sister used to go there. So did Nakai and Ikezawa and cousin Lilly. In fact, I think my family donates money to that place. But Sachiko looks… resentful, perhaps? Best to keep quiet, I tell myself instead. Besides, I might be able to go to Sendai High, it’s only a few kilometres away from Yamaku.

She’s looking at me oddly. Oh damn, has she said something to which I’m supposed to respond?

“That’s nice. I hear that they have a lot of special resources there.”

“Yeah, for ‘special’ students like me. People who won’t be having normal lives in future. People who won’t be going to a normal high school with normal friends. But that’s just me. You’re not going to have any such problems, right?”

Now she sounds bitter. I wish I could make her feel better.

“Here. Have some more ice-cream,” I say, scooping up a delicious spoonful of pulped peaches and vanilla ice-cream and offering it to her. Food is always good for feeling better, even if it’s only my father’s haphazard but tasty cooking.

“So your best friend will not only be blind, but fat. Like a toad.”

“It’s okay. My sister and my cousin were both at Yamaku, you know. Now one’s at Todai and the other is at Edinburgh. They’ve got lives of their own. I have faith in you, Sachiko. You can do it too!”

“Knowing you, they’re both smart and neither of them is blind. Except maybe when dealing with people.”

That’s just wrong, I think. You should correct people when they’re wrong. But is that the right thing to do? Am I being too logical? What would Akira say? If I said what Akira would say, Sachi-chan might slap me.

“My cousin Lilly is blind, has been from birth. And you know that my sister’s deaf and can’t speak well because of it. I don’t know about smart, but they are competitive and they work hard.”

Suddenly, she’s blinking back tears. Girls are very complicated.

“I’m sorry, Hideaki. It’s just that I wasn’t born blind, and it’s h-hard… it’s v-very hard to know that… maybe one day I won’t be able to see your face. I won’t see you growing up.”

I reach out to hold her hand. That’s what we both want, maybe? She pulls back a bit at first, but then she clasps my hand tightly in both of hers.

“Hey, Sachi-chan, you’re my best friend. I’ll let you touch my face so you can know what I look like.”

The walk home takes place in silence. I think it’s a fairly comfortable silence.

*****

Six months later, I know how stupid I’ve been all along. Father had got all upset with the morning news. “Damn kids,” he was muttering. “Give the school a bad name. When I was that age, I never…”

What a bastard, my father. The headlines. The eggshells in my breakfast. Me, tugging the newspaper from his surprised hands. Him saying, “Read your own damn mail first, boy.”

I lock myself in my room and contemplate the traditional cost of failure. It is the manly thing to do, is it not? The man whose actions result in the defeat of his own friends, should he not end himself?

I look at the crumpled letter in my hand. Why didn’t she tell me earlier? Why post? She could have called.

[I wished you had come to Yamaku with me. But I was all alone and had no friends. Was I so ugly or so dumb that even my best, my only friend was willing to let me go? I know you probably didn’t mean it. I hope you didn’t. Please forgive me. S.]

*****

It’s August now. I’ve been to visit Sachi-chan. Several times. Each time it hurts like hell and no amount of reasoning has helped. But I’ve transferred to Yamaku, because that is the least I can do. That was Akira’s advice the last time she was in Japan.

And my father? He catches me going on a visit, with flowers in my hands.

“Boy! Sit down. We need to talk.”

I am about to commit suicide by giving him the finger. After all, he’d broken down the door to my room, taken back his weapons without a word, and then locked himself in his own room. And since then, for months, not much talking from either of us. I am that close from punching him and suffering the consequences.

But something just gives way. Damn. Gently, I lay my flowers on the table. Angrily, I look at Father.

“What.” It comes out flat, not even a question.

Cue an hour-long lecture, full of sound and fury, on respect for one’s elders, tradition, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I can feel it in the air already, like the bomb over Hiroshima.

“Boy. Hideaki. You want to be a man, you accept responsibility for your actions.”

Now I am more than annoyed. I am almost furious. It is a strangely unsanitary way to feel. It’s as if I am dirtying myself by thinking this way. Because somewhere in what he just said, is truth. And I am on the verge of saying that it’s not. I hold back for a few precious seconds, just because I am sure Akira and Sachiko would both approve.

My father looks at me fiercely. Fierce, but not angry.

“Listen. I am a bad father. There. Said it. But you have a house, and I can cook, and you are taken care of as well as you can be without… without another parent. And that you don’t have this, it is my fault. But I didn’t end it or walk away. I stayed with the consequences of my actions. I may be crazy, but part of me is still a man. Do you understand?”

I don’t know what to say. He’s said it for me. Damn it all, if I ever grow up to be like him, I would think I was a failure. That’s what I would have said five minutes ago. What if I’m not completely right about that?

“You asked to go to Yamaku. I facilitated that transfer. They have good teachers there, although some are more insane than your father. Whatever you need to make you a better man than this, I will help you get it. You are a Hakamichi. May you be a better offering to your ancestors than I am. I have my biography. Your own starts now.”

He looks at my flowers, already starting to wilt. He seizes them in his large fist. He passes them to me, and in some strange detached way I realize my hands are not that much smaller than his now.

“Go. I didn’t buy your mother flowers enough when she was here. You do what you can.”

Without another word, he gives me one last piercing glare and vanishes into his room. The door closes firmly behind him.

Huh. My father. Maybe not such a bastard after all.

*****

I think, my wife, that is when Hideaki Hakamichi starting growing into manhood. You have this dark time to thank for it.

But I only realize that this is true much later—when the healing begins, and when I no longer feel like dying each time I visit Sachiko’s lonely bed of earth.

====
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Last edited by brythain on Sat Apr 29, 2017 10:26 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—Shizune's Arc/Hideaki2 (upd 20140527)

Post by bhtooefr » Tue May 27, 2014 3:53 am

Ouch.

That's one hell of a way to be forced to grow up...
bhtooefr's one-shot and drabble thread
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Re: After the Dream—Shizune's Arc/Hideaki2 (upd 20140527)

Post by Hotkey » Tue May 27, 2014 7:04 am

I can't believe you introduced Sachiko just to do that! I was getting all attached to her, and then... another ingenious way to explain the character development instore.

I wasn't sure whether 'in store' was written as 'instore' or 'in store', so I Googled it. Guess what? I subconsciously typed in 'Sachiko' by mistake. Yeah...

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Re: After the Dream—Shizune's Arc/Hideaki2 (upd 20140527)

Post by brythain » Tue May 27, 2014 11:54 am

bhtooefr wrote:Ouch.

That's one hell of a way to be forced to grow up...
I've been wondering for a very long time what could possibly have induced our Hideaki to suddenly change so much. Can't have just been puberty, since his character changed a fair bit.
Hotkey wrote:I can't believe you introduced Sachiko just to do that! I was getting all attached to her, and then... another ingenious way to explain the character development instore.

I wasn't sure whether 'in store' was written as 'instore' or 'in store', so I Googled it. Guess what? I subconsciously typed in 'Sachiko' by mistake. Yeah...
I liked Sachiko, and I still do, even though it's obvious whose sister she is. :twisted:
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—Hideaki's Arc (Part 3 up 20140529)

Post by brythain » Thu May 29, 2014 10:50 am

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

It takes place during Hideaki's last year at Yamaku High.
Misha's account of the same trip can be found here.


Hideaki 3: Confusion (T -12)

I am Hideaki Hakamichi. The whole damn thing about being a teenager is overrated. You fall in love, you fall in love, you fall in love. You feel the pain in your brain. You love a girl, she goes away, the rain falls down the face of your day. Is that all there is? Growing up is hard to do.

That is the sort of angsty tripe I used to write, aged 17 and not very sure about what it meant to fall in love. My lady wife sees the twinkle in my now more elderly eye, is prepared to have a fit, and has already told me that her editorial pen lies in wait.

There were some years that were more important to me at this cusp of almost-adulthood, and looking back, I cannot help but feel sentimental. It all began with my first time out of Japan though, and so this is my account of the last summer vacation I had before I graduated from Yamaku.

And wife, you mustn’t use that pen! It would be a conflict of interest… Ow, your beautiful fingers are sharp.

*****

“There are four rooms, and five of us. I think I shall have to stick with you, Aki-nechan.”

I must say it sounds like a thrilling prospect. Here I am, in the prime of my life, in a Columbia University room with my dear cousin Akira for a couple of weeks. The only little difficulty for me is that cousin Akira seems to disagree.

“No, absolutely not, Shortie.”

I wince at that old nickname. I’m a lot taller now, above average height even for a foreigner.

“Wahaha!~ why do you still call him that, he’s so tall now!”

Thank you, Mikado-san. I’ve known my sister’s best friend for many years now, and she’s nicer to me than most.

“Because he’s my kid cousin, and he's going to bunk with his sister and not me.”

“But Aki-nechan…”

“Hey, that name means something. It’s about respect. You’re a bit big to be watching me change, and we have only one bathroom among the five of us. Your sister is fine, she won’t kill you, she hasn’t done it yet after all these years!”

Well, I suppose that’s all right. I haven’t shared a room with Shizune for ages, anyway. Misha is laughing herself silly and her hands are shaking. Sis snorts with displeasure and yanks me into the far room diagonally opposite the shared bathroom. There’s a bunk bed already there and she immediately throws her bag onto the top section.

Picture this. I have a healthy adolescent sex drive (as cousin Lilly likes to say) and I am sharing a temporary apartment with four lovely ladies. That is rather exciting. (Although one is my sister, and she is beautiful to me, it should still be one less for the effective count since I am not a pervert.) Wife, you are notably silent on this matter… is anything wrong? Heh, I thought not.

So, like any other healthy adolescent with a fully functional body, I decide to make a mental catalogue. One has to be honest about who one is, after all.

In the room next door is Akira Satou, my cousin and always my friend, a shaggy blonde with deep brown eyes who is sometimes embarrassed by her curvaceous body. Her sharp intellect is an even greater stimulant, and her deliberate occasional crudeness can seem attractive, because it spices things up. Lately, she has stopped ruffling my hair. That makes me feel sad.

The room after that is the bathroom, and I have just seen Hanako Ikezawa enter it. She is my cousin Lilly’s best friend, but cousin Lilly is obsessed with running her own business and is still in Scotland. Some childhood accident has left Hanako with old burn scars on various parts of her right side, but even with those scars, she is a beautiful woman with elegant carriage and a fine complexion. She’s very widely read, and it’s always interesting to hear what she thinks.

Next to Hanako’s room is that which is occupied by Shiina ‘Misha’ Mikado. Misha has been my sister’s best friend for many years. She is able to interpret not only my sister’s signing, but also add something to it that makes Sis seem less grouchy and more human. (That is not to say I have a bad sister, but she has her moods.) Misha is very pretty, always laughing and a good sport. She’s also nicely built.

I shall leave my sister out of this. But there is now another image in my head, and my mental catalogue fizzles out in a burst of melancholy. I would give a lot for my best friend Sachiko to be here with me. But she’ll never leave Japan, now. It has been two years.

I continue unpacking in silence, until Shizune jabs me in the hip. I turn to look at her.

[Are you not happy to be rooming with me?]

I’m not very good at sign, but I’ve learnt some basics from my sister’s friend Nakai-san, and I’ve had quite a bit of practice during my time at Yamaku so far. Sis is looking at me with that demanding expression that insists on an answer, so I sign back: [I am okay. Just thinking about people not here.]

[You miss Lilly?]

[No.]

[Oh. Sorry. Thinking of your friend who fell off the roof at Yamaku?]

[Yes.]

Sachiko’s letter to me is still in my wallet. No, my sister, that’s not the real story. And I will bear this heaviness with me forever. My jaw clenches.

I am totally surprised when Sis pushes me back against the bunk and gives me a very big, very warm hug. Whether it is manly or not, I suddenly find that I do not mind crying quietly on her shoulder.

*****

The evening is a better time. I stick my head out of the window and look down at the edge of Morningside. There’s a pleasant little park below, and the pleasant African-American security man has told us about how the park lies between what the university and what he calls Harlem. Americans are very diverse in their appearance and behaviour, here in New York City. It is something completely different from Tokyo, although both are big and crowded.

Tonight, my sister has dragged Misha off to look around the campus, while the rest of us are planning what to do tomorrow. I have come to understand that Akira does not really do planning; she has a list in her mind of things that might be interesting, and this changes as her emotional landscape shifts.

Thus, my cousin passes me a note that reads: [Interesting food. Shopping. Odd museums. Unusual buildings.] She then drifts away and lounges nonchalantly in a corner, chatting with some corporate client and/or friend. I end up sitting a little uncomfortably with Hanako at the old, slightly overworked wooden table at one side of the common living room, going through tourist materials.

I am always at a bit of a loss to describe the relationship I have with my current groupwork-mate. In the past, I have encountered her only on rare occasions, often when crossing paths with cousin Lilly. She is a very shy girl in some ways, but speaks her mind when provoked sufficiently. She is less shy when being motherly, and that seems to be her preferred role when dealing with me—to her I seem to be little Hideaki who needs firm but kindly guidance. That is different from Akira’s I-am-your-eldest-cousin-you-will-obey-me robust affection. It means that I am usually formal with her, but she can be playful with me and will allow informality to some extent.

“Hana-nechan, we could just go down this Amsterdam Avenue. Look, it has almost everything on my cousin’s list.”

“Hmmm…” she responds, preoccupied.

I take this opportunity to look at her. One cannot look at Misha long without feeling overwhelmed by exuberance and energy. Hanako is different. She is a calming influence as long as she herself is not panicking about something being not quite right. At the moment, the dim light is behind her as she sits on my right. We are on adjacent sides of the table, and as she draws circles on the NYC map that we share, I notice that she works systematically and seriously.

She has a slender, perfectly-formed left wrist. Long, sensuous fingers, with meticulously trimmed nails, some with little flower designs on them. The long sleeve that covers her arm ends in little ruffled details. She favours dark colours, so it is some sort of plum-coloured velveteen material I am looking at.

She coughs softly to attract my attention, which has obviously… wandered astray. I feel a little guilty.

“So, where shall we h-have our meals tomorrow?”

“Ah. Seeing as there appear to be many choices along that road, perhaps we can identify those that look interesting, and stop whenever we are hungry? If you like, you can tell me what you have circled and I can look it up on my tabphone.”

She smiles at me. I have not realized until now that she smiles almost like the Mona Lisa, but in a friendlier way.

“Okay.”

She turns back to the map, working her way down Amsterdam Avenue. Her hair falls forward from her right shoulder, and it is now as if a curtain or a wing has descended on that side. My view of this side of her face is unobstructed; the skin is remarkably smooth, neither dry nor greasy. When thinking, she tends to flick her hair back behind her left ear. As she does this again, I become aware that this is likely the first time I have examined that ear. Or even, the first time I have so closely looked at her.

Hideaki, I tell myself, aesthetic appreciation is fine, but you have a job to do, and Akira is not going to do it for you. Also, I can imagine Sachiko saying something like, “That’s right, looking at elegant ladies again and forgetting your fat toad of a best friend.”

No, Sachiko was never fat, nor a toad. She just thought she was. She was built more like Misha, I suppose, but with brown hair and… glasses… and…

“Are you tired, Hide-chan?”

My fingers are lying still on the tablet surface, where they stopped while looking up information. I cannot remember what I was looking up, so I automatically tap the screen, and a restaurant menu appears.

“Not really, Hana-nechan. Just thinking about something.”

“Maybe you’re s-suffering from adolescent angst,” she grins. “M-must be hard to be surrounded by all these older women. And then tomorrow, all that shopping.”

“Haha,” I laugh unconvincingly. “Shopping is not a big problem. I remember once following Hisao on his shopping errands and waiting forever for him to come out of an antique shop.”

There’s a funny look on her face, but it’s probably because she’s humoring little Hideaki, with his peculiar but somehow boring little stories.

“You must tell me about that some day.”

I am thinking that perhaps I could tell her right now, since once of the things he bought is certainly familiar to her. But Akira comes over, her phone calls done, and collapses into the chair opposite Hanako.

“So, kids, what’s up? Is there a plan? I can always trust you guys to do the heavy lifting.”

Hanako favours me with a small and rueful smile, then turns back to the map and begins to trace our proposed route for my cousin’s benefit. Ah well.

*****

Two weeks later, I am flying home alone. Sis has departed for Chicago, where she’ll be working on her doctorate. Akira’s staying in New York for business, while Misha and Hanako share an apartment at International House.

The flight is nearly 7000 kilometres of loneliness, except for two thoughts that keep me company. The first has been with me since I left: I will be coming home to Sachiko, whom I shall visit and have a chat with over a quiet cup of tea. The second…

It is our third Broadway musical. Les Miserables has been a deep and moving experience, The Phantom of the Opera likewise. Americans are fortunate: they have open captioning for many performances; Sis has really enjoyed herself—having Misha around just adds to the mood. We are feeling a little overwhelmed by all those feels, so Akira, who is feeling it more than the rest of us, has voted for Mamma Mia this time.

The girls are in a row, with Misha and Sis at the left end, and I on the right. Towards the end of the show, everyone’s getting married and even I, young Hideaki who is uncomfortable with his feelings, am feeling pretty happy.

Then I feel a hand grasp mine. Instinctively, I think of pulling back, but I remember what that would feel like, so I respond likewise and put my other hand on top. I have completely forgotten it is Hanako who is there, on my left. Still startled, I look at her.

There are tears on her cheeks. Her long hair hides the scars on the right side of her face, but I can see and hear enough to tell. Embarrassed, I look away. She does not look at me. Instead, her hand grips mine more firmly, and that is how it remains until the finale, when all of us are clapping instead.

Neither of us says anything after that. We return to our usual banter over supper and all the way back to our East Campus accommodations. I find that I cannot forget the feel of her hand in mine, the odd texture of old dry skin mixed with unnaturally smooth flesh, the strong grip of slender fingers. There is a faint fragrance, and I am drawn to a scent of flowers which I cannot recognize.

*****

“My very dear Sachiko, I am visiting you as I have promised. It is Summer, and there is heat and beauty all around us. You were born in Spring, and I was born in Autumn, and here we meet between one world and another.”

I place the little tea-set on the ground. My short journey from home has allowed the hot water to cool to just the right temperature. On one level, I know I am just a young person filled with teenage angst and self-importance. On another, this is tradition and ritual, and things that never really go away.

“The sun sets, the sun rises. I am here again.”

There are fresh flowers on her grave. I pour, for me, for her, and for an unknown other. Odd, always better than even. The air is warm and still.

“Let me tell you of my latest adventures, a city called New York, and a woman you never knew…”

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Sat Apr 29, 2017 10:27 pm, edited 3 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—Shizune's Arc/Hideaki3 (upd 20140529)

Post by dewelar » Thu May 29, 2014 11:45 am

Well written, as always, but...

Gawd, Mamma Mia? Seriously? Ugh...I mean, I get it, but...ugh...
Rin is orthogonal to everything.
Stuff I've written: Developments, a continuation of Lilly's (bad? neutral?) ending - COMPLETE!

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Re: After the Dream—Shizune's Arc/Hideaki3 (upd 20140529)

Post by brythain » Thu May 29, 2014 12:02 pm

dewelar wrote:Well written, as always, but...

Gawd, Mamma Mia? Seriously? Ugh...I mean, I get it, but...ugh...
"Akira needed something light-hearted. With open captioning for Sh-Shizune. So… I went d-downtown with Hideaki to find something for her and, well, I'm sorry we couldn't f-find anything better."

*looks resolute*

"B-but I liked it."

=====
Edited for more accurate stammering (see below). :D
Last edited by brythain on Thu May 29, 2014 1:01 pm, edited 1 time 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—Shizune's Arc/Hideaki3 (upd 20140529)

Post by dewelar » Thu May 29, 2014 12:51 pm

brythain wrote:
dewelar wrote:Well written, as always, but...

Gawd, Mamma Mia? Seriously? Ugh...I mean, I get it, but...ugh...
"Akira needed something light-hearted. With open captioning for S-Shizune. So… I went d-downtown with Hideaki to find something for her and, well, I'm sorry we couldn't f-find anything better."

*looks resolute*

"B-but I liked it."
:)

Admittedly, I don't know what shows would or would not have said accommodation, and, of course, everyone's taste is different, but...yeah, I never pictured Hanako liking something quite so kitschy. Although I do have a soft spot for ABBA...

And, for author-san, that should read "Sh-Shizune" ;-) .
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Stuff I've written: Developments, a continuation of Lilly's (bad? neutral?) ending - COMPLETE!

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Re: After the Dream—Shizune's Arc/Hideaki3 (upd 20140529)

Post by brythain » Thu May 29, 2014 1:00 pm

dewelar wrote:
brythain wrote:
dewelar wrote:Well written, as always, but...

Gawd, Mamma Mia? Seriously? Ugh...I mean, I get it, but...ugh...
"Akira needed something light-hearted. With open captioning for S-Shizune. So… I went d-downtown with Hideaki to find something for her and, well, I'm sorry we couldn't f-find anything better."

*looks resolute*

"B-but I liked it."
:)

Admittedly, I don't know what shows would or would not have said accommodation, and, of course, everyone's taste is different, but...yeah, I never pictured Hanako liking something quite so kitschy. Although I do have a soft spot for ABBA...

And, for author-san, that should read "Sh-Shizune" ;-) .
ARGH! Typing too fast! 'Sides, Akira was born the year ABBA disbanded, if I've calculated right. Akira loved it too! (Oops, the tinkling sound of smashed illusions fills the KS fanfic forum…)
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—Shizune's Arc/Hideaki3 (upd 20140529)

Post by dewelar » Thu May 29, 2014 1:12 pm

brythain wrote:'Sides, Akira was born the year ABBA disbanded, if I've calculated right.
Yes, most likely she was born in '82, although late '81 is also possible, since we have no canon birth date.
Akira loved it too! (Oops, the tinkling sound of smashed illusions fills the KS fanfic forum…)
Heh...I can picture that much more readily, but then I think I picture Akira somewhat differently than most other forum posters. (Of course, nobody's really argued with my take on her, either...)
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Stuff I've written: Developments, a continuation of Lilly's (bad? neutral?) ending - COMPLETE!

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Re: After the Dream—Shizune's Arc/Hideaki3 (upd 20140529)

Post by brythain » Thu May 29, 2014 7:22 pm

dewelar wrote:
brythain wrote:'Sides, Akira was born the year ABBA disbanded, if I've calculated right.
Yes, most likely she was born in '82, although late '81 is also possible, since we have no canon birth date.
I've got her down as Akira Katharine Anderson Satou (18 May 1982 - 6 Jan 2064) in this continuity.
dewelar wrote:
brythain wrote:Akira loved it too! (Oops, the tinkling sound of smashed illusions fills the KS fanfic forum…)
Heh...I can picture that much more readily, but then I think I picture Akira somewhat differently than most other forum posters. (Of course, nobody's really argued with my take on her, either...)
That's the fun of it. Some characters as described by others are clearly unlike mine, but yet just as real or more so. :)
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—Hideaki's Arc (Part 4 up 20140530)

Post by brythain » Fri May 30, 2014 3:04 am

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

It takes place around the time that Hideaki is preparing to be Hisao's best man.


Hideaki 4: Awareness (T -6)

I am Hideaki Hakamichi. This is the anniversary of my rebirth. I am taking it very seriously because whatever a man promises, he has to fulfill. And I have promised Sachiko that I will visit her every April because she was once my best friend. We Japanese can be very emotional. Manly feels are but the least of it.

That is the sort of thing I used to write in my diary at the ripe old age of twenty-two years and six months. It is a time when I am older than before, and my growth spurt has slowed to a more general filling-out. I am taller than Father, though still a bit skinny. He is proud of me but has taken to calling me ‘Sprout’.

There are some things that are very private because they are at the core of what it is to be a man. My father taught me that, and while I’m quite aware that many people mock him, I also know that he was okay with that, because he knew who he was. So this chapter is all me, and my beloved lady wife has deployed none of her cultivated editor-finger skills upon it.

To you, poor innocent reader, I confess that I have been saying too much about me and not enough of the women that you are looking for. So, let’s move on.

*****

At her graveside, Hideaki of House Hakamichi sits lightly on his haunches. His very black hair, almost blue in the dawn’s early light, is curling around his ears and has reached his collar. It is even darker than the charcoal grey of the fine suit that his cousin and his cousin’s friend persuaded him to buy a year ago for graduation.

“Dear Sachiko,” he says, his voice stiff with unspent emotion. “I am sitting here to tell you that it has been nine years. You are not forgotten. You will never be forgotten while I am here to remember. Though my heart may wander, a part of it is always yours. The sun sets, the sun rises. I am here again.”

He lays his gift of flowers upon the flat stone. He rises, steps back, bows deeply. She was once always six months older than he. Now, she will forever be fourteen, almost fifteen. He still owes her respect, and he acknowledges that with his words, his personal ritual, and the precision of his yearly act. He does not rush it, although soon her family will arrive.

He is always gone before they are anywhere near. He believes his debt is so great and the burden of it so massive that he himself will not survive contact with her family. He has never met them in person, although he has known them from afar. And so, like the ghost of a thundercloud, he vanishes into the shadows.

The reason he writes about himself in the third person is that it gives him the necessary distance for difficult thoughts. It’s not that the wound is raw. It is an old wound, the kind that keeps you awake when it is cold at night. He has spent the last few years making himself a better person because of this private grief. His cousins, his sister, his few friends, they know little or nothing of it; his father knows it all and it is one of the things that has made life easier between them.

*****

After my April ritual, I always feel that Sachiko stays with me a while. If she were still around, I’m sure she would be nagging at me about ways in which I could be more useful. I will always be little gormless Hideaki to her, an image of myself kept in older, sadder, wiser Hideaki’s mind.

I’ve shown you what I do. There’s not much religious or spiritual about it. It’s respect, that’s all, because the people you love deserve that much. When I talk to Sachiko, I have no idea whether she can hear me, although what is human in me hopes very much that this is the case. I talk to her anyway; if anyone deserves to hear what I think about my life, my long-lost friend is that person.

But we move on, because whatever keeps moving cannot be destroyed. And so I head home to have breakfast with Father. I have been working on his biography, not because I’ve been made to, but because I need to do this for myself.

The house is empty as usual at this time of morning. I was hoping to catch Shizune on spring break, but my sister works too damned hard and is probably still at Sendai. I’ve been meaning to catch up with her; there are only so many people that life provides for you to love, and if you miss them, they’re gone forever.

Father is still out practicing his kata and doing his own personal rituals. I leave my jacket on a convenient chair-back, then decide to remove my tie as well and roll up my sleeves.

I am going to make breakfast for once. I look around the kitchen, get some ingredients and materials ready. There’s a little thyme, on advice from a friend—I’ve brought some in a little paper packet. I hum to myself, slicing soaked mushrooms thinly, using a slightly different knife on some salmon, and making up two dishes of simple scrambled eggs. Today, I take special pains to remove the little eggshell fragments that men are sometimes prone to scatter when breaking eggs.

I am sure he’ll make negative comments about what he’s eating, but I always ignore that and listen to his chewing. A contented, rhythmic eating pattern means that Jigoro Hakamichi actually likes what he’s tasting. The voiceover is just inappropriate special effects.

I hear the door slam just as I’m done. He’s had a good workout, then.

“What’s that smell? Most untraditional!”

My father fills the room rather less than he used to, probably because I’ve grown almost as large as he is. Genes eventually express themselves, I guess. I smile at him and bow. He nods and comes over, bracing me with his large hands on my broadening shoulders.

“Ha! You got in from Narita just to make breakfast for your old father? Very good! But making breakfast in office attire, sprout? That’s ridiculous!”

“Not as bad as acting the samurai with a loud Hawaiian shirt, Father.”

He grins, but suddenly looks sober.

“Some day, boy, some day.”

He bustles off to his room to stow his weapons and change for breakfast. I think it’ll be a good day, except that my list of questions, constructed on the flight into Narita, is a dangerous one. He might be up for it though. The weather, as they say, looks sunny.

*****

“How are Aki-chan and Swordsman?”

“They’re in good health. Akira’s back in a few months’ time for the wedding, but cousin Lilly has declined to attend. Work commitments.”

Father gives me a knowing look.

“Ah. The Satou girls, all unfortunate in love.”

Oh, you should say, Father, I think to myself. But I keep my silence. He picks at his eggs.

“You know, sprout, you should think about getting hitched soon.”

Now, that is a direction I could not have imagined. This is supposed to be a manly breakfast, father-son bonding, that kind of thing.

“I think I’m a little young for that, Father.”

“Nonsense! You have a good job, you’re not soft anymore, you’re a man!”

Thoughtfully, he rises, nods at me, and brings the plates with him into the kitchen. What’s on his mind? Sometimes he washes dishes to buy himself time to think. I suspect this to be the case right now.

I have counterplay available, though. I take out my smartphone and call up my list of questions.

When he comes back into the room and sits down, I’m ready. It feels like a scene from some old samurai movie, where the two warriors lock gazes and the battle is half-won before a weapon is even drawn.

“How old were you when you started dating, Father?”

It rocks him, but only a bit. I realize I may have opened too weakly to win this.

“That’s rather rude. You young people these days! I first dated your… my first date was when I was twenty. But that’s not the point, boy. Let’s review your options.”

I hate doing this, but I have a weapon he cannot deflect.

“I visited Sachiko this morning.”

“… ”

He recovers quickly, though, while I’m apologizing to Sachiko’s memory.

“She would have wanted you to be happy.”

“I am happy.”

“Aha! Who’s the lucky girl?”

“There isn’t one. Well, not really.”

“… ”

Father looks very gloomy suddenly. I go down my list while he is off-guard.

“What was Mother like when you first met her?”

“Ah. She was beautiful.”

Classic evasive technique.

“She was very fierce, but always a lady. It runs in that family, you know. Long, light brown hair. Not pretty, but striking. Warm dark eyes, but they could burn you like fire. A way with words. And integrity. You want somebody like that to guard your back.”

I don’t see his reverse stroke coming.

“She told me I was immature, although she was four years younger. It made me want her more. It made me want to be more, for her. She always told me, Hakamichi, you are better than that.”

He sighs and disengages.

“But I was not. Enough. You find your own lady of shadows, and keep her. You would be a fool to lose such a person.”

He rises without proper ceremony and goes to his room. I can only look at his retreating back and wonder about the mystery that was Mother.

*****

At the main office, I busy myself with files and notes. I have work to settle for Hisao Nakai before he marries Emi Ibarazaki in August, because I’m now his family lawyer—and also, his best man. I wish I had time to ask him some questions too. Why not Shizune? Why not Hanako Ikezawa?

He has been using me as a go-between to deliver a few carefully-selected wedding invitations. I do not mind; in some cases, such as the hand-delivered ones to Akira and Lilly, I understand that it is more convenient for me. But there was the enigmatic Rika Katayama, to whom he could just have mailed his invitation. She was a very stern beauty, but that façade cracked slightly when she thought something had happened to him.

My dear cousin Akira once told me, “Hisao Nakai, he’s the master of accidental romance. If you ever learn anything from him, you must get his secret of how to listen, and talk about nothing in particular, and suddenly become the focus of a girl’s attention.” Of course, she was a lot ruder than that, but I got the point.

I stand up, suddenly restless and remembering a trick she once taught me. I bow towards the most senior colleague in sight, who looks surprised. “Family business,” I say, just loud enough for everyone to hear it, and I walk out of the office.

I have his number on speed dial.

“Hisao?”

“It is seven in the morning, and you are the wrong Hakamichi-san.”

“No, it is nine in the morning. I’m in Tokyo, not Paris, and you’re not fooling me with that fake time-zone trick again.”

“Ah. Hold on a while. Just went for a run. Changing.”

I hear a giggle in the background that sounds a lot like a certain Emi Ibarazaki, she whom Hisao affectionately calls ‘the fastest thing on no legs’, and whom Akira calls ‘the prettiest pitbull in all creation’. There are other sounds. I hold the phone away from my ear a while to avoid blushing.

After a decent few seconds, I say softly into the phone, “The other women. The feminist conspiracy. I need to know.”

Then, I flick the call away. Almost immediately, my call alert flashes. I send a message: [Need to meet. When? Where?] I refuse to answer the phone.

[damn hardcore bro not jpn 2 roast e groom lidat]

[Tradition is overrated.]

[tmr nn over here? office]

[Set.]

*****

Hisao Nakai. After all these years, I still see him as my friend and mentor. He is gone now, into the depths of history that swallow us all. Gone too young, as many have been; I never really knew him, as many have said. Perhaps he left too early for any of us to really know what he might have been.

But here he is, back in the 2018 of my youth—he with the careless brown hair, lean, distracted—a fairly good-looking guy who could be charming when not being sarcastic, cynical or depressed. He’s smiling warmly as he greets me at the main entrance to Yamaku’s administration building.

“Brother!”

I don’t really like that term, because it reminds me of what might have been. It’s sometimes awkward: I used to wish my sister Shizune would marry him, and now she’s his superior here. He treats it as a joke, but I don’t think Sis would be amused if she knew.

I bow to him, a younger man to his older friend.

“Hisao. I guess I should go pay my respects to my beautiful and temperamental sister first? Then we can go sit in the canteen, drink bad coffee over lunch, and talk about life.”

“Be my guest. I will wait outside.”

He opens the door to the general office for me, and I smile politely and walk in. I walk into an ambush of sorts, actually.

“Hakamichi-san!”

I flinch, but hide it as best as I can. We bow to each other.

“Shirakawa-san. How is my glorious sister this morning?”

She always seems flustered, but Yuuko Shirakawa is an effective school officer and archivist. She was head librarian when I graduated. She flusters me, but for a very different reason—I’ve learnt that she’s married to Kenji Setou, a man whom I have every reason to avoid. Fortunately, he works in Tokyo and his wife has no reason to introduce us. I think they have two infants, a boy and a girl.

“Eh-heh,” Yuuko replies, making a so-so gesture. “She seems distracted. But you’re her favourite sibling, it will be okay! Go on in!”

Ha, funny one. I’m Shizune’s only sibling, as far as I know.

“Thank you, Shirakawa-san!”

I cautiously make my way down the corridor and head for the first office on the right. Hmmm, strange… Shizune’s nameplate is missing from the door that says ‘Vice-Principal’. I knock on the door out of polite habit, but receive no reply. Of course. Even I make that mistake sometimes, and it makes me angry with myself.

I press the little button that will alert her with a flashing blue light. She likes blue lights, claims they help her respond more quickly. As I wait, I look around. The corridor is very ordinary-looking, except for some framed prints that look decidedly surrealist.

A door at the end of the corridor opens, and I straighten up and try to look decent. If Shizune’s boss catches me loafing around, it might not be good for her career.

[Come here] she signs, when I pause in confusion.

[Sister!] I sign back, walking briskly over to her prim, soberly-dressed figure.

She grins and gives me a big sisterly hug. Shizune has always given good hugs: somehow there is a kind of passionate expression in them that doesn’t appear in the other ways she communicates.

We let go, smoothing the creases we’ve made in each other’s jackets. I look at her carefully, noting the tired eyes and dry skin. She’s been working too hard again.

[I was hoping to see you at home, but you are still here!]

[Yes. I am acting principal now, so there is a lot of work to do. Always a lot, now more, and you cannot always trust others to do it as well.]

That’s my sister. Sigh.

[I have missed you, respected elder sister.]

[I too have missed you. But what brings you here? It can’t be me, surely.]

[Ah. Arrangements for Hisao’s event. I’m his best man.]

[So I hear.]

It is a touchy subject, even though Shizune and I are very close.

[Join us for lunch?]

[No. Thank you, but you should have a proper catching-up session. Also, I have too much work to do. After that you can drop by and tell me if there’s anything I need to know.]

Her mood has turned as grey as her suit. I am quite sure she liked Hisao, and Hisao liked her too. But love? I wonder. I am still pretty clueless and tactless about such things.

I nod and then bow.

[Dearest sister, I’ll do that. See you later!]

[See you!]

She grabs my shoulders firmly and squeezes. Although I’m about a foot taller than she is, her grip can be surprisingly strong and has the effect of almost making such differences irrelevant. I’m not surprised, having experienced this before. To me, it’s a sign of her deep affection, not some power play.

I squeeze gently back, looking down at her mop of hair with great fondness. Then it’s back outside to lunch with Hisao.

*****

We begin by getting some noodles and reviewing the parts of Hisao’s life that he has revealed to me so far. I remind him that I am honoured by his friendship and especially his wish that I should be his best man at the wedding. He nods in appreciation, so I continue.

“So, boss, tell me about the fabulous Rika Katayama.”

Hisao has some udon halfway to his mouth, but he’s not caught by surprise. He’s a clever man, that Nakai—a quick thinker when in serious enough trouble. In fact, he completes the action, chews meditatively for a while, swallows, then looks me in the eye.

“She’s very beautiful, isn’t she?”

No, not the answer I was expecting. Does the man have no shame? I decide to play along.

“That she is, indeed. How did you get to be on such… close terms with her?”

He tells me a story. At the end of it, I’m not sure how much he’s left out. This is my mentor’s gift: he is able to say a lot while giving away very little. His story can be summarized thus: boy meets girl, they enjoy each other’s company, they go to university together, nothing else really happens. Nevertheless, I have added to the little store of notes which I someday hope to transform into a hit Broadway musical called ‘Master of Romance’.

“Hisao,” I begin, rubbing my temples, “let me get this straight. You loved my cousin Lilly, and then she went away. You were very sad, but various lady friends helped to cheer you up. While waiting to start school at Todai, our venerable University of Tokyo, you lived with Miki Miura and also Rin Tezuka. You occasionally met Rika Katayama on campus, but mostly spent time with Hanako Ikezawa and my sister, probably more the former than the latter. This was around the time you started to romance Emi Ibarazaki after ‘bumping into her’ one morning on the street. Every one of them except Lilly has been introduced to your parents.”

He looks at me innocently and holds up his right forefinger. I pause.

“Actually, Rika’s never met my parents, and Miki introduced herself to them. But that sequence of events looks fairly correct.”

It’s as if I’ve tried to rough him up and he’s responded by patting me kindly on the head. I don’t think I’ll ever be a journalist; law school was about my limit.

“Did you love any of them?”

That unnerves him a bit. I think he’s a natural phlegmatic with a touch of melancholic—what we Japanese tend to think of as the AB blood type. I make a mental note to ask him about that later, although I hardly believe in such things.

He strokes his chin thoughtfully.

“Best man, that’s a very provocative and dangerous question. But I’ll give you a serious answer. It’s one I worked out over the last ten years.”

“As long as you don’t say you’re actually in love with my cousin Akira, we’re still friends,” I jest, hoping he doesn’t mention someone else in particular.

He gives me a very guilty look, and for a moment, my brain is on the verge of silently exploding. Then he cracks up and begins to snigger at my stunned expression.

“No, no, not… really. But who isn’t?”

We laugh together, although I think my laughter is a bit strained. Then he sobers up quite a bit.

“Hideaki. You never forget your first love, and there is a good chance you never stop loving her, even if it’s only just a bit. I love my friends in various ways, but aside from Emi, I can only say that… being seriously in love? As in romance? Lilly was the first great love of my life. Part of my heart will always remain with her. She keeps it in a box.”

What he says cuts too close to the bone for me to laugh at it. And there is such a box, a wooden music box. I’ve seen it. Lilly occasionally takes it out and looks at it, and I was there on the day Hisao bought it for her.

Suddenly, I feel morose. I have thought of such things, only yesterday.

“Ah.”

There’s a great silence. Picture us, two men contemplating their pasts and their futures over bowls of noodles in an almost empty school. Suddenly, a sense of peace fills me. The past is always there, but it is indeed another country, one that grows more distant with time. We remember, but we move on.

I may have heroic ambitions for the future, but for now, I am calmly satisfied. I don’t think I will ask Hisao if he ever thought of marrying my sister. That would break this pleasant mood completely.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Sat Apr 29, 2017 10:27 pm, edited 2 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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AtD—Hideaki's Arc (Part 5 up 20140601)

Post by brythain » Sun Jun 01, 2014 4:44 am

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

It takes place in 2022, a few months before the events described here in Shizune's arc.
For Misha's story, see here and here.
For the events in Edinburgh, see also here and here.


Hideaki 5: Learning (T -2)

I am Hideaki Hakamichi. In the cycle of twelve years since I abandoned my best friend to her death, and in the four years since my mentor was married, I have learnt many things. Sometimes, to drag your readers through pain with you is gratuitous. Sometimes, it is educational. I hope I will be wise enough to tell.

That is the sort of thing I used to write in my journal, aged twenty-seven and with some experience of death and grief, life and love, uncertainty and doubt. Most of all, Hideaki just past his quarter-century doubted that he was always right, and sometimes came to believe that he was often wrong.

For this section of my life, dear readers, I have sought counsel once more from my wise and beautiful lady wife. Yes, I have teased her about her editorial skills and her sharp fingernails (which are sometimes decorated with little painted flowers, and occasionally very cute cartoon animals)—ouch, ouch, woman, stop—but I have many things to say and am sometimes at a loss as to how they should be said. So I am grateful for her work. See, wife, I said it, and it’s true!

Many of our friends have shared these experiences with us, and you will meet many of them again. I trust that what I share tarnishes nobody in your eyes. I shall continue here from where I ended the last time, and bring you with me through four years of my life.

*****

The central event of 2018, for most people in the Yamaku circle, was the wedding of Hisao Nakai to Emi Ibarazaki in the dandelion field on Mount Aoba. Since I was Hisao’s best man, it was certainly an important occasion for me as well. I had few profound thoughts, however: in the main, I was concerned with the disposition of the gifts received, the honeymoon arrangements, and how Emi would murder me if I lost the rings en route to the ceremony. I spent time looking after Hisao’s parents, who were very nice people. I also wondered as to why Akira was hanging out with certain school staff.

But this was not the event which most shook me. Rather, it was what happened at the end of Autumn that year…

I have just returned on a chilly November evening from a visit to Sachiko. Being involved in a wedding and watching people had made me feel a little mournful. There had been so many hidden stories—clearly Hisao and Emi were happy, and their parents too, but some people had pain behind their eyes, and I didn’t know why. If their pain was like mine, then I could understand.

Preoccupied, I share a relatively quiet dinner with Father. Father was often noisy and dramatic, but he respected my need for silence on the days he knew I’d been with Sachi-chan. It is a clear, windy night, and the stars are out over Saitama. Even the glow from Tokyo can’t conceal them.

Then my hair stands on end. Somewhere outside, is that… the sound of a girl crying? My thoughts of Sachiko return like hunting hawks. We Japanese have all kinds of stories about spirits. Even if you don’t believe in them, it’s a cultural infusion that runs deep in our blood.

My father hears it a moment later, but responds differently. He growls, “Young people these days, taking drugs, vandalizing the neighbourhood, a man can’t get a peaceful night.”

He rises, strides to the wall and hits the floodlight controls. A brave man, Father. If there’s been a ghost, it will be shredded into ectoplasmic wisps by either his lighting or his katana.

But there is sobbing. I can hear it clearly now. Unnerved, I follow the angry presence of my father as he walks out into the yard and flings open the gates.

“Damn kids! I’ll kill them all!” he roars. If I’d been some spirit, I’d have floated away as fast as I could.

Then suddenly, he stops. I’m a little dazzled by the lights, and some distance behind him. I don’t hear what he says next, very softly, almost tenderly. He’s bending down over an indistinct figure in the shadow of the gatepost.

“Father, what’s happening?”

He turns smoothly but he’s lifting a load with careful effort. It’s a woman, and she’s keening softly, as if in pain or injured. A battered travel bag sits forlorn on the sidewalk under the harsh amber glow.

Father’s saying, again and again, “There, there, it’s okay, you’re safe now.”

He looks at me, “It’s Misha, Shi-chan’s friend.”

We bring her into the house, but she is dazed, moaning. There are old bruises and marks, on her face and elsewhere. Underneath is still the pretty face of the woman we know, but it has been brutally changed.

Someone has repaired her, looked after her. Her left arm is in a cast. I get a basin of warm water as Father holds her gently, and I wipe her face, arms and legs.

“Shicchan?” she whispers, tears rolling down her face and her eyes tightly shut. She repeats my sister’s name over and over again, unresponsive to what we say.

That night, Father and I bring her to Sendai, where Shizune is still at work. I hold her hand firmly, tell her that things will be okay, hush her to sleep again as Father drives our battered car swiftly through the darkness like a sword wielded by a demon.

We get to Yamaku hours after midnight. Father wakes the guards and demands to see Shizune. I can actually see the single office light still on in the administration block, where the principal’s corner office is located. He won’t take no for an answer, and the guard gets the point quickly and brings us to my sister.

Sis is shocked, but she reacts instinctively, and comforts Misha. She too begins to cry, as she sees the traces of what her friend’s been through. There’s anger in those tears, and a deep, deep love.

We spend the next few days in Sendai. My father takes care of everything. He makes soup for Misha, gently persuades her to eat. If I am to become a man, this is the kind of man I must be.

*****

A few months later, even as the year has turned and become new, I have come to know Misha and my sister much better. Indeed, I have learnt quite a bit about the tensions and the glories of a relationship in which two people care deeply for each other. It might be said that Father taught me how to distribute love, while Sis taught me to concentrate it.

I don’t know if that’s quite right. However, I learn something more when I find myself on a ‘dream date’ cunningly set up by the Master of Romance himself.

“Hakamichi-san. I am rather surprised at this odd, and possibly awkward, turn of events.”

The woman before me has just executed possibly the most flawless bow of greeting since Katsuyama herself. I flush a little, realizing that I have just, by Freudian slip, equated my companion with one of the most famous geishas of all time, and am filled with consternation that I am thus led to think of equally famous hairstyles. I do not normally think so haphazardly.

Hastily, I return the bow but with greater deference, knowing that I should have bowed first.

“Ah, respected senior lady. My friend Nakai-san is known to have a quirky sense of humour. He did me the honour of recommending this restaurant to me, suggesting that I would meet a friend and enjoy a good meal.”

“Tsk. Nakai-san is greatly respected also by this person, but perhaps the senior gentleman has overstated the degree of friendship which has been hitherto demonstrated.”

She is smiling a little as she says this. I am on my guard; in my studies, we have occasionally learnt things about certain ancient institutions, and to be sitting opposite the nominal heir of one such is indeed both peril and honour.

“I am greatly honoured, nevertheless, Katayama-san.”

We have met once before, on the day I delivered Hisao’s wedding invitation to her. I cannot remember seeing her at the wedding itself, and that contributes to my sense of imbalance.

Over the course of the meal, I imagine Akira laughing over my shoulder at my enforced formality. Hisao, of course, would be turning purple with helpless humour—this is the kind of Shakespeare-style ‘innocent coincidence’ he so enjoys. And… Sachiko would be mocking me for my taste in ‘tall elegant ladies’.

But Rika Katayama, while amazingly beautiful, is also terrifying. Subconsciously, she coils and uncoils her whiplike braid of silver hair with her left hand. I know she is trained in several martial arts, according to the stories Hisao tells, and I know why, according to the legends of the Families. It’s only over dessert that I’m finally feeling more comfortable.

“Hakamichi-san has the look of a man who is bearing a secret love in his heart. If this one may offer some advice?”

“Oh, of course, honoured lady.”

“One should seize the moment quickly, but increase one’s grip on its neck slowly. The river runs swiftly at its source; yet, it is most useful to all as it descends to the plain. To the point, if Hakamichi-san has decided that he has love for someone, it is time to focus on that person and perhaps test this love cautiously and sensitively.”

I do not know how to respond to that, since I have not decided yet. Or have I? Still a little discomfited by her reddish irises, I decide to put some cards on the table.

“Katayama-san, may I ask if you have perhaps felt this way before? Or, if that is too impolite a question from this inexperienced person, is there anyone you have seriously admired?”

She laughs delicately.

“It is long since any man has asked such probing questions of this unbeautiful person. This one shall answer once for each question.”

I await her answers with bated breath, and must confess a sudden disappointment at what she says next.

“Yes. And yes.”

Seeing my clearly crestfallen expression, she relents, still smiling.

“One used to think affectionate thoughts of a certain person, and made a fool of oneself doing it. It is perhaps unlikely that one will find oneself in such a position again. As to admiration, one can safely confess that one looked up much to one’s lady seniors at Todai—Hakamichi-san’s distinguished sister and her classmate, Ikezawa-san.”

That is certainly very interesting, I think.

“Hakamichi-san would do well if he found an interest in a lady of equivalent quality. Clearly, he would know his own sister well, but this would not necessarily help much—familiarity can be an obstacle to the kind of relationship considered here.”

Which leaves me…. where? Oh gods, Hisao Nakai, are you playing Grandmaster of Romance now? Clearly Rika has taken herself off the table, but that was never the game. I have been pointed in exactly one direction, and it is with surprise that I realize I have been looking there all along.

*****

Time passes. Too quickly, it is August in 2020, and I have accompanied cousin Akira and our friend Hanako back to Edinburgh on one of our increasingly frequent jaunts across the Eurasian continent. I am entertaining sad thoughts about the nature of love. The Anderson-Satou alliance is wealthy; Akira travels business-class at least once a month, and it would have been no great hardship for her sister Lilly to have done likewise over the last twelve years.

And yet… as I trudge around on a pleasant Tuesday evening in Edinburgh, all alone, I remember Hisao’s sad, sad face from summer break in August 2008. He, my sister Shizune and Hanako had decided to drag me along to Sendai. Apparently, they wanted to celebrate the Tanabata festival and enjoy the fireworks display from a quiet spot on Mount Aoba. Out of nowhere, as coloured fire blooms in the darkness, he whispers to me, or perhaps to nobody at all, “She said she’d be here.”

But of course, ‘she’ wasn’t. And neither was she at his wedding a decade later. As I half-heartedly look at happy Edinburghers (I’ve heard them referred to as ‘Dunedain’, but I am sure this is a joke), I wonder if she has deliberately avoided Hisao so as to spare herself the pain of failure if anything should go poorly. Did they really love one another? What is true love?

Because, dear reader, at this point in time, Hideaki is grappling with this. He owes a debt to lost Sachiko that he can never repay. He dreams of being the dashing warrior who will sweep Hanako Ikezawa off her feet. Is this love, or merely romanticism?

My phone buzzes softly. So early? Have the girls already decided to call it a night? I have kept sober, since I am designated driver and they have decided to celebrate Tanabata in their own way—in some mysterious ritual out of bounds to mortal men like me, but certainly alcoholic, since Akira is involved.

When I get back to Northern Light, the restaurant that Akira and Lilly own, my elder cousin looks embarrassed and the other two are in tears. Tanabata has got to them, with all its burden of unconsummated passion and unfulfilled dreams, I suppose.

The drive back to Inverness is somber indeed, and ends near midnight, as I haul my lanky frame out of the black Range Rover. Akira’s been riding shotgun, and has been uncharacteristically silent throughout. She favours me with a melancholic half-smile as she helps Lilly out on the left side.

Hanako’s on this side, and as I open the door for her, I take the opportunity to examine her face. Her fair complexion is blotchy in the moonlight, and her scarred side remains hidden by the shadow of her long tresses. She is still shaky, and on impulse, I press a little packet of tissue paper into her hand.

She looks down in surprise, and then raises her eyes to me gratefully. My heart stutters. I wordlessly grasp her other hand and escort her through the heavy doors of the Anderson-Satou mansion.

Later that night, I am finishing my latest journal entry in the library. A faint sound catches my attention—the distant tinkling of Lilly’s music box, that token of Hisao’s unforgotten love. What a strange thing love is, that makes people yearn to be together, and yet cannot bridge a simple gap across the world!

It appears that I am not the only one sensitive to this. A door creaks softly in the gloom of the half-lit house and soon, I hear the muffled sounds of slippered feet. I rise from my armchair and look out into the corridor, swinging the library door ajar.

Like a gowned spectre, beautiful but doomed, Hanako is gliding towards me. I shake that strange vision out of my head.

“So late, l-little one?” she whispers.

Hanako has called me that for years, even though I now tower over her. But I bow and invite her into the dim golden light.

“Elder sister, this one’s mind is always running around in circles. So he writes his thoughts down in vain attempts to keep them behaving well.”

She smiles and nods.

“That is a good habit, Hideaki. But you are twenty-five this year? Maybe you should just call me H-Hanako and I can try not to call you ‘little’, which you are obviously not.”

It’s a good start, and as we make small talk into the wee hours of the night, both of us find a certain measure of peace.

*****

There are many proverbs about failure from inaction, and about fools who storm castles. The ‘castle’ at hand is a familiar one, but as you will see, Hideaki is not the kind to take the most direct route. Sadly, he is still a novice at storming castles, and in some ways, a fool. Poor Hideaki.

Over the years, my life has come to revolve around the month of April. Both Hisao and Rika were born in the early part of the month, and after celebrating their birthdays, I return to Saitama to visit Sachiko on her death-day. The end of the month brings Hanako on her annual pilgrimage to her hometown, although she has never, as far as I can tell, invited anyone to go with her. It does, however, mean that when Shizune’s birthday rolls round in early May, I have sometimes had expert help in choosing a present.

“How was your trip, Hana-nechan?” I say, falling into step beside her outside Narita and lifting her rather heavy luggage.

“Oh! Hideaki! You n-needn’t have.”

“Ah, my sister invites you to Saitama for the Kachiya festival and her birthday, who else would she send to ease your travels?”

She looks slightly disappointed, as if I have done this only under compulsion. I hasten to correct this impression.

“But the best things in life are when you can please the women and please yourself, as Father likes to say. I came because I have missed you.”

Actually, I am surprised at my own boldness. That last line was not in the script. Looking her in the eyes, I see that she too is taken aback, and there is the beginning of a blush.

“Y-you’re joking, little one.”

“Perhaps, but it’s not much of a joke. Who else would help me buy an appropriate present for my sister? Father’s never been much help.”

I dump her luggage in the back of Father’s battered blue SUV.

“Are you tired?”

“Not really… napped on the plane. I always feel a little tired after visiting my parents. Why?”

“Ah, I thought we might take a more leisurely drive back.”

“Hideaki, you’re being devious again. Shizune will not be happy if we’re late!”

What I have in mind is a visit to Todai. The Faculties of Law and Letters sit entwined just next to the main gate, and I am anxious to see if Hanako will perhaps see some symbolic meaning in that. Besides, I can always pass it off as nostalgia for a shared experience of sorts.

The relatively short drive is filled with talk about Shizune and how appropriate the Kachiya festival is for her, commemorating an ancient victory as it does. We are in good spirits as we begin our stroll through the campus, still chatting.

“Did you enjoy your time here? I know I did.”

“This is a pleasant surprise. Yes, I had many g-good times here.”

“I am sure you broke many hearts each day at the Faculty of Letters.”

It is lighthearted banter, that is all it is. But a shadow passes over her face.

“Hideaki.”

We have stopped in the middle of the old buildings. I look at her, bemused.

“I appreciate that you’re being n-nice to me. Always. But nobody looks at me a second time except to look away. This is n-not the time to make fun.”

“I… I was not making fun.”

“I have known your sister for many years, and I’ve watched you grow up. You can be b-blunt and insensitive about Lilly’s blindness and Shizune’s deafness. But you do not dare talk about my f-face. W-why?”

The right half of her face carries the marks of healed burns, partly softened by time, but not pleasing to the eye. She wears her hair long to cover it. Of course, I have never mentioned this. She is beautiful in many other ways. What else can I say? My next words are blurted out, in some sort of desperation.

“I do not think it is relevant! I think you are beautiful.”

For some reason, she is getting agitated.

“Do not think to pity m-me. It is k-kind of you, but you must learn to be honest with your f-friends. We should go.”

She turns on her heel, pauses a moment to let me catch up, and begins to walk back to the car. She is wrong. I don’t pity her. Do I? Am I being honest? These questions swirl around me like flies, as we drive back to Saitama in silence.

Days later, she consents to help me buy a present for Shizune, but our relationship (such as it is) still seems strained, and things are not at their best between us. I am learning many things about myself, and I am not sure I like what I am learning. Poor Hideaki, indeed.

*****

April is the cruelest month, a great poet once said. But it need not remain that way. I am kneeling again, a year later on a springtime morning, at Sachiko’s grave.

“My dear Sachiko, I am here to tell you that it is once more the year of the Tiger. One full cycle has closed. I have not forgotten you. Though my heart seeks another, a part of it is always yours. The sun sets, the sun rises. I am here again.”

I stay to speak with her for a while, to unburden myself of the weight of the last few months. Perhaps it is too long after dawn, or perhaps my meditation has taken too long. Perhaps it is only a long-deferred event of fate, but I hear the voices before I can make my usual exit.

“Hey? What’s this?”

A loud, unpleasant, nasal voice—one which I cannot quite place.

“Good morning, may I ask what you’re doing here?” it continues.

I rise, looming over the speaker. And his family. Damn it. I know who this is, knew it would happen some day. I bow politely, hoping not to be recognized, and knowing that I will fail. They return my bow, and the children follow suit.

“Ah. I have come to pay annual respects to an old friend.”

“Hakamichi-san? Good morning! How unusual to find you here! Husband, this is Shizune Hakamichi’s brother, Hideaki.”

“I suppose it explains why he is putting flowers on her grave. He used to be best friends with her in school, if I remember correctly. Sachi-chan mentioned him a few times.”

“Really? Oh! What a coincidence!”

I have wronged this family. The old guilt returns, threatens to overwhelm me. What can one do, in the face of such a burden? Tradition and formality are designed to facilitate such things, as my father would point out.

“Ah, perhaps this is overdue. This person offers deep regrets on your loss. Very unworthily, he has not offered these regrets in person for twelve years. It is a matter of personal sadness and the sense that one has performed execrably with regard to one’s best friend.”

My gaze remains firmly pointed at the ground between us.

“No, no. It was a damn long time ago. There isn’t a debt between us, unless you’re a conspiracy theorist, haha.”

“Husband!”

The kids look at us in bewilderment. I am as confused as they. Especially when he launches into an emotional monologue that is loud and a little dramatic.

“Seeing as you were her best friend… Well, when Sachi passed on, it shook me up. I realized I’d been insane for years. I’d like to think it was a last kick in my butt from her. You don’t know you love people until they’re gone, you know. It changed me. People you love that much can’t be evil. Maybe I was wrong about everything. That sort of shit. Over, now.”

He looks reflectively at her grave, with my sad flowers already wilting there in the morning sun. He sighs, flips up his inappropriately bright scarf, and adjusts his thick glasses.

“Where are my manners? I’m still so rude after all these years!”

He introduces himself properly, but I already know who he is. Things fall into our moment of silence, as Kenji and Yuuko, and their children and I, look at the memorial of the one we share.

=====
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— to the memory of Sachiko Setou (18 Apr 1995 – 15 Apr 2010)
Last edited by brythain on Sat Apr 29, 2017 10:29 pm, edited 4 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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