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

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AtD (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Shizune5

Post by brythain » Sat Mar 01, 2014 12:43 am

This is the fifth part of Shizune's arc in 'After the Dream', my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic. Thanks again for all your feedback: it helped this piece emerge much more quickly!

Shizune 5: Critical (2024)

This is a still place. A gazebo by a lake, in the shadow of an ancient castle, in an ancient town. She sits, a lady clad in grey, demure and pleasant to look at, steely to the touch. There will be no words in this interlude, or at least, none spoken nor signed.

She has to be angry. What else is there left? Tomorrow, she will have to be polite. She will have to be nice. And all Shizune wants to do is howl at the sky, one of the few secret sounds she knows she can make.

It is not fair to do this. But it has never been fair, to herself or anyone else. She has not done this for a very, very long time. Ruthlessly, she counts the points, her eyes narrowed to slits like the gates of a dam. Everything she says will hold water. And everything will hurt, herself most of all.

Lilly won the first round. He loved her, probably never stopped. Then she walked away from the board. I thought she’d lost the game. And it was a game worth winning. If I had won, I would have quit while ahead, and I would have been the millionaire philanthropist, not the principal of a high school.

Hanako won the second round. Sweet Hanako, softly taking him out for tea, for movies, for peaceful walks around the park. But she built her own strength, and he gained nothing but comfort. She won a game with herself, and the knight was sacrificed. Did he love her? And with her gone, who was left?

Emi won it all, you’d think. She got the affection, the home, the family, the godparents, the grandparents. Emi, just making sure he took his meds, making sure he got fit. But it wasn’t enough. Defensive play, it’s never enough. All it takes is one blitzkrieg, and the war is over.

It is over. He’s gone. And you know what, Emi? I don’t think you won the game. It wasn’t a sprint, it wasn’t a relay. It was the traditional game, Go. You can think of it like this: you make space safe by guarding all the points around it.

She finds herself choking, swallows. Focus. Focus. Water blurs it all. She clutches at straws, at thirds and halves of points. She's lying to herself, letting the anger burn her clean.

What’s left of him? Two children and a mortgage. Winter kept him warm. I kept him warm. I kept all of you warm, I helped make a living for all of you at Yamaku. I changed my life to change your lives. If I have my way, your children will get full scholarships. Because of him.

But I’m not buying a win. I have won nothing. I have lost everything. Nobody wins. I loved him maybe more than all of you, and he is gone. And here is my gift to him, my lonely gift, because I wish he could have heard my voice.


It lasts for many long moments. Yet, there is nobody to hear the animal howl from her gazebo, beside the lake, beneath the trees, where flags flutter and dance in the shadow of an ancient castle.

*****

Shizune is different, the next day. They are all there, even her blonde cousins and her own brother. She knows they all look at her. Two years ago, Hisao’s second child, the heart attack, the surgery, the state-of-the-art engineering. Two years as her vice-principal, and then everything failed. He is, was only 35 years old. They probably think she killed him. She thinks she might have. Now she thinks she is thinking like Rin.

She cannot afford to. It has fallen to her to make the graduation speech for another phase of life, the last phase that has come too soon. She breathes deeply, regrets that she does not have the release that comes with snapping her fingers loudly, as in the past. So she sits, and watches while the minister’s lips mutter on, and tries to make sense of it all.

Hideaki, always a fan of Hisao for the silliest reasons, in a dark and sober suit. Akira, deflated and solemn, who will read the will after this is over. The teachers and ex-teachers of Yamaku, with old Mutou-san looking into the distance as always, impassive, his bony frame propped up by an ebony cane. Meiko Ibarazaki, the mother-in-law, in non-traditional mahogany and a black sash, holding her daughter, crying gently without shame. It must be anguish to see Hisao buried next to Emi’s father.

Lilly is weeping, in her expensive clothes, her favourite midnight-blue silk showing off her pale gold hair. If one hadn’t known better, one would think this woman was the widow. Cousin, cousin, this is unseemly. That is only what you would have been if you hadn’t abandoned him.

Hanako sits next to Lilly. She is still, she is like winter in a beret, her overcoat formal like armour. What do you feel in there? That would be cruel to ask. Whatever it is, in the last few months, she was the voice that read to him each day as he lay crippled and blinded at the end.

Rin. Who can tell with red-haired Rin? She often looks sad, as if nothing feels right and everything is wrong. There is an infant in a sling around her middle, Akira’s godson. There is a girl at her knees, holding onto Rin’s loose white trousers, Hanako’s goddaughter, the child of autumn. Shizune keeps track of such things: it is Akiko’s birthday today, a sad coincidence.

The widow. The real one. Emi Ibarazaki, soon to be Head of Sciences at Yamaku, of all things. She has finished bawling her heart out. Shizune remembers holding her when they pulled the plug. For a time, they were made one by the unthinkable. Emi now is frozen, held tight in her mother’s embrace; this statue in black, it is not the champion athlete, it is not the lively teacher — it is Hisao’s widow, with the failing sun gleaming softly on wisps of her darkened hair.

She suddenly wonders where Misha is. Hisao’s last words before he began his final descent into the dark were whispered to her. Whatever he said, she had laughed, even though it had cost her a lot. She had always tried to laugh for him, anyway.

Shizune cannot remember what she has typed into her speech. That is all right, those are only the required words, the traditional forms. Her own last words to Hisao? She had written them carefully, beautifully in the dark traditional ink, on the pale traditional paper. And then she had burnt the paper and swallowed the cold ashes, bitter on her tongue.

I am a widow too.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Sat Apr 29, 2017 10:13 pm, edited 5 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) Shizune5 up 20140

Post by Helbereth » Sat Mar 01, 2014 3:39 pm

I read this latest part last night, but I was too tired to offer any useful comments. Honestly, I still don't have anything to say except that I'm eagerly awaiting more (I don't think you're done, are you?) from the other characters. Your proof of concept visited each character individually, so I'm assuming you'll be focusing your literary lens on each one eventually.

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Re: After the Dream (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Shizune5 up 20140

Post by Mournful3ch0 » Sat Mar 01, 2014 7:13 pm

Bittersweet. I would not expect Shizune to be at all passive when she wanted Hisao that badly, but oh well. We never quite knew how Shizune dealt with her inability to seize him for herself, so I suppose the extrapolation is alright. I enjoyed it! :D

Unrelated, but do you do any coding, perchance? If you do, it shows...

os.postChapter("(postLilly_neutralEnd)_Shizune5")
end
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Re: After the Dream (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Shizune5 up 20140

Post by bhtooefr » Sat Mar 01, 2014 7:25 pm

I'll note that blond/blonde is one of the few gendered words in the English language that doesn't directly deal with gender. (Fiancé/fiancée is one of the other ones.) Blonde is the correct one to use for a female.

Interesting story.
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Enjoy The Silence - Sequel to All I Have (complete)
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Re: After the Dream (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Shizune5 up 20140

Post by brythain » Sat Mar 01, 2014 7:52 pm

bhtooefr wrote:I'll note that blond/blonde is one of the few gendered words in the English language that doesn't directly deal with gender. (Fiancé/fiancée is one of the other ones.) Blonde is the correct one to use for a female.

Interesting story.
Absolutely right. Grr, will have to put it down to thinking about Akira all wrong while writing, and it has leaked over to Lilly too... Thanks! (Fixed.)
Last edited by brythain on Sat Mar 01, 2014 7:59 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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Re: After the Dream (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Shizune5 up 20140

Post by brythain » Sat Mar 01, 2014 7:56 pm

Mournful3ch0 wrote:Bittersweet. I would not expect Shizune to be at all passive when she wanted Hisao that badly, but oh well. We never quite knew how Shizune dealt with her inability to seize him for herself, so I suppose the extrapolation is alright. I enjoyed it! :D

Unrelated, but do you do any coding, perchance? If you do, it shows...

os.postChapter("(postLilly_neutralEnd)_Shizune5")
end
*grin* I wondered at that a lot, hence this arc. As for the appearance of coding... chalk it down to computer science classes in the days of my youth.
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) Shizune6

Post by brythain » Sun Mar 02, 2014 4:14 am

This is the sixth part of Shizune's arc in 'After the Dream', my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic. I've made very minor edits to previous sections. Enjoy!

Shizune 6: Contest (2030)

This has been a year of great change, she reflects. She feels as if she is becoming whole again. It is a quarter-century since she first appeared at Yamaku, a small angry girl befriended by a man who has just gone to his reward. Beaten by depression and divorce, Mutou-san had still eked out life-changing wins for his students — one of them, herself. Her humble self, now; his passing had driven her to the other grave, and a confession of sorts.

Why? Maybe she has grown mellow, maybe it is because Hideaki has finally managed to sweeten the bitterness within his elder sister, maybe it is because of what her father said. Maybe it is all these things, and maybe it is because there are almost no victories left to win, and most of those were empty anyway.

But most likely, she smiles to herself, it is because she is to be something else. And this is why, having won that last victory just a few days ago, she is prepared to make peace with them all.

*****

She has the new implants now, and while she hates them, she can now listen in her head to what is said. She still uses a tablet; the device can be linked to her implants, and acts to record and correct what she thinks she hears. Shizune switches everything on, and the backup too, because this meeting is important.

Whoever is left with an interest in this, they are all here. They sit uncomfortably in Yamaku’s board room, her place of power; today, it is the place where the game ends. Hideaki, facing her across the ebony table. Akira and Hanako, each standing for another who is absent. And the old woman, still beautiful in her grief, reluctant but persuaded. For today, they make all things better.

“You’re still sure you want to do this? Not that I am complaining, mind. I am happy for you, my sister. But I have to check that it is indeed your will. And for once, I get to talk while Akira listens.”

Rudely, Akira snorts. But Shizune doesn’t mind. It was only six years ago that they changed the law such that this could happen. Her brother had made a note of it, for some reason. And this year, in the cold months before spring, he had summoned up the courage to ask her. She did not say yes then, but now she does.

With the ease of a professional, he silently swipes a document over from his tablet to hers. He seems barely able to control his excitement, while struggling to keep the solemnity of the moment.

[Read all of it] he signs, forgetting for a while that she can hear him, but the rest cannot. [Then append your signature codes or retinal scan to the document, and it is done. I will finish the paperwork for you.]

Hanako taps the table gently, and Hideaki blushes like a girl. “Sorry, Hana,” he whispers, bowing slightly. He repeats himself aloud.

Before them all, Shizune signs the document with a stylus. Her neat calligraphy makes digital ink across digital paper; the time for tradition is fading, but signature codes are not personal enough on their own.

*****

Two years ago.

Jigoro Hakamichi is passing, and only his children remain with him for his final words. Most of them would sound insulting to a stranger, but those who know him can read between the lines. He has loved them both, in his strange and outrageous way. Hideaki translates, while Shizune, stony-faced, looks on.

“… And Shizune, you could’ve been great. But years and years, you think about the cripple boy. Shit, you should have married him, at least have two kids like Ibarazaki did. But no, I have no grandchildren and Hideaki you should grow a pair and ask her, I don't care anymore whom you want to marry. Just don’t marry someone too old to have kids.”

He gasps for breath, frowns, irritated at his weakness. He still thinks of himself as samurai. Although he never smoked, this cancer in him has filled him from the lungs with undeserved self-destruction and he cannot fight it.

“Calm down, father.”

“You have the nerve!” There is no strength, nor much anger, in that tired reflex. “But I want to tell you one last time: read my autobiography! I finished it last year, there’s no more to write since now I’m crippled like an unwheeled cart. Inside, I put something about why your sister has that funny name. She must know!”

There is more of it. And then he is gone, and the brother and sister feel as if Mount Fuji had melted away from the landscape.

Days pass, and the family home is being cleared, so that Hideaki’s new bride can move in. Shizune sits on an old sofa, thinking of a fishing trip that never was; she thinks of what Hideaki had said about waiting for Hisao one half-forgotten night, two decades ago. Idly, her hand picks at the manuscript, always a part of her life, never something desired, which she thinks she should now read.

THE LIFE OF HAKAMICHI JIGORO it proclaims in disciplined but showy strokes. She flips to the end, shaking her head and saving the early years for last. An envelope falls out. It is sealed, has her name on the front. She frowns. She breaks the seal. There are some sheets in it, with many words in furious conflict. This writing is manic, palsied. It is only as elegant as a poet full of saké.

Dear Shizune, my dearest and best, it is a cold time and I hope you are warm.

I didn’t know where to put this, because your mother was so angry about the whole thing. And then things happened and she went away and I forgot to do anything, and I couldn’t tell you because you were too young and I kept shouting and you wouldn’t listen. So many years passed and then I wrote this and I saved it for you so I would be safely in the grave when you got it and I wouldn’t be around to make you any more unhappy.


What is all this? She feels confused, and a little lost.

Your name should be Kitsune. You were my Hokkaido vixen-girl because when you were born there you had a snippy face and big big ears, and you laughed a lot, but softly and quietly like a fox chuckling. But I was drunk then and I didn’t know what I was writing and the registrar had an odd face when I wrote the words. Heck, I’m drunk right now or I wouldn’t be writing this.

Your mother got mad at me, and it was just the first big fight we had, and I refused to change your name. It means ‘Silent Dear’ to me, but at that time, I had no idea you were really silent. I mean there you were laughing quietly, and so cute, and because of you, mother and I stayed together and remained friends.

My beautiful daughter, you remind me of her each time I see you, and that is why I always acted so angrily with you. I missed her every time I looked at you. Hideaki, he thought he had to look like you did, so that I would love him too. He always saw things nobody else could see. Maybe all children need a mother. Akira became his.

Now that you’re reading this, I’m dead. That’s good for everybody, especially on the Satou side. You can all be friends again, especially since I bet I died after he did. Oh gods, I’m a better writer drunk than sober. Forgive me for writing the rest without wine. But just forgive me. I was a bad father who wanted to be a good one.

Please take care of yourself.


And it ends there, carefully marked with the family stamp.

Shizune gets up slowly, as if it hurts to stand. There is nothing rational, nothing reasonable about what she wants to do now. All she wants to do is talk to a certain cousin, one woman to another, even it has to be across the world, in the emotionless voice of the bitstream.

*****

The odd thing, Shizune reflects as she finishes signing the document with her retinal scan, is that she had wanted approval from Lilly. All problems are contests to be won, her mantra for so many years. But she’d never noticed that in this case, the contest had been the problem. Wasted decades, and two years of uneasy friendship. Then, at the end, a miracle from the deeds of dead men, and reconciliation just a few days past.

And it’s done. They rise as Hideaki fiddles with his tablet. Akira hugs her, an unfamiliar but welcome embrace. Hanako clasps her hand between hers, and the unlikeliness of it all is only surpassed by the smile that creases the uneven skin around purple eyes.

It’s the old widow that Shizune thinks about first, though. She frees herself from friend and family, bows to her. Meiko, standing stiffly by herself, returns the formality with careful precision.

“Thank you, Hakamichi-san. I’m not one for tradition, but I’m grateful for your kindness in these difficult times, especially after Rin disappeared, and Emi… It’s amazing how the children have taken to you.”

In the background, she senses her brother’s unnecessary messing-around. Adoption papers don’t take that long to file. He is giving her time, and she appreciates it. Shizune gently places her hands on Meiko’s shoulders. The eyes of a hawk gaze sharply back at hers, then soften. She returns the gaze, trying very hard to show that she too is grateful. Meiko nods imperceptibly.

When she removes her hands, Hideaki draws himself up, clears his throat. “Ahem. Everyone, thank you for being witnesses to this. Sister, congratulations; you are now officially a mother.”

Mother of Hisao’s children. It is the best day of her life.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Sat Apr 29, 2017 10:14 pm, edited 5 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) Shizune6 up 20140

Post by Mournful3ch0 » Sun Mar 02, 2014 10:18 am

It's too bad... Didn't take ol' Shizune for a murderer :lol:

Neat story, but seriously: What the hell happened to Emi & Rin? I don't think that the resolution was very clear.
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Re: After the Dream (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Shizune6 up 20140

Post by brythain » Sun Mar 02, 2014 10:34 am

Mournful3ch0 wrote:It's too bad... Didn't take ol' Shizune for a murderer :lol:

Neat story, but seriously: What the hell happened to Emi & Rin? I don't think that the resolution was very clear.
It ain't over yet… :)
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) Shizune6 up 20140

Post by Mournful3ch0 » Sun Mar 02, 2014 11:08 am

brythain wrote:It ain't over yet… :)
Whoops... I thought your chapter 6 post said that that was the end. :oops:
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Re: After the Dream (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Shizune6 up 20140

Post by Hotkey » Sun Mar 02, 2014 11:20 am

brythain wrote:It ain't over yet… :)
Yep, I understand we've got a whole host of characters and their respective vignettes to come!

If they're as good as these ones, we're in for a treat (I even enjoyed the Jigoro bit, and I never enjoy scenes with him in them), but I hope they're not all sad ^_^.

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Re: After the Dream (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Shizune6 up 20140

Post by brythain » Sun Mar 02, 2014 11:40 am

Hotkey wrote:If they're as good as these ones, we're in for a treat (I even enjoyed the Jigoro bit, and I never enjoy scenes with him in them), but I hope they're not all sad ^_^.
Thanks for the compliment! Here I must confess that I wanted Jigoro to become something a bit more than douchebag comic relief, and I hope it worked out. They're not all sad, no, but hey… Hisao's dead by 35 because of his ailment and the strain of his relationship with Lilly (count the heart flutters in there). There's not much I can do about that without being a tad unrealistic. By that time, he's basically had a life which has warped (like a gravitational body) the lives of those around him, for good or ill. I'm just trying to see if I can squeeze everyone in, and make it meaningful at the same time!
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) Shizune6 up 20140

Post by dewelar » Sun Mar 02, 2014 1:26 pm

Another enjoyable vignette. That last line was a tad creepy, but understandably and believably creepy, so well done :) .
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 (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Shizune6 up 20140

Post by brythain » Sun Mar 02, 2014 1:44 pm

dewelar wrote:Another enjoyable vignette. That last line was a tad creepy, but understandably and believably creepy, so well done :) .
*grin* I happen to think that Shizune is actually the most stable of the entire bunch of characters. But she does have a little 'creepy' in her that she herself doesn't see… and there's a bit more of her to come — after all, she's only 41 when this vignette takes place.
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) Shizune7 (Complete)

Post by brythain » Mon Mar 03, 2014 2:10 am

This is the seventh and last part of Shizune's main arc in 'After the Dream'. I would like to write more Shizune, but this completes my framework.

Should you wish to fill in the blanks in the narrative, there are links in my sig below that will take you to the other arcs. Thanks!



Shizune 7: Complete (2064)

She is seventy-five years old today, and the blood runs thinly in her veins. The life expectancy of the typical human being these days goes higher than a century, but Shizune is a child of the late twentieth, and she suspects she will not see the twenty-second. This celebration is meant to be for her, but she has long stopped thinking about such things, although the man at the rostrum seems to be making a big fuss about it. She has tuned the words out, something she finds convenient.

Akira sits on her left, this lean young man (not that young, but much younger than she) with indifferent brown hair which never seems to stay in its desired place. She glances at his profile, remembers his father and how they (probably, but not exactly, for her memory fades) look so much alike. He is all that a mother could ask of a son. Except that he has chosen such peculiar enhancements, and has threatened a prehensile tail. No doubt, the bad influence of his late godmother, who went cursing to her grave with intravenous Glenfiddich.

On her right, Akiko, child of autumn, but looking like summer. The new principal of Yamaku has grown tall and powerful, a natural athlete now also in her middle years. Her long auburn tresses are worn to cover the right side of her face, a fashion that seems to have caught on with the impressionable young ladies at the school. Shizune barely remembers that time of her life, but she knows she was never like that. And she feels a mild distaste that Akiko seems to have made her own distant godmother and aunt into a totemic figure — and worse, sees no irony in such a fiery tint.

She catches sight of herself in the huge holodisplay above them. Switching to zoom, she zeroes in on herself, out of some rare vanity she had thought long lost.

The retiring chair of the Yamaku board has steel-grey hair, uniform and rich, like a baroque but functional helm. It frames her pale face (ah, I have not gone completely sour yet) and darkly penetrating gaze. Everything below the neck fades to dove-grey; it is almost legendary, she has been told, the way that her presence fills the room from the neck upwards. They are being polite. She knows that in her younger days, she had presence elsewhere, and still keeps some of it. She frowns to conceal a smile, and notes that the frown-lines are persistent.

She is happy now, happy to leave it all. The Nakai Foundation, formed by her almost in blood and fire and the unhappiness of friends, can now augment and support students with serious disabilities and pay for both base-level and advanced-level retrotherapy. In this time, there are few invincible problems; Yamaku’s charter has expanded, and it is now host to those with primarily social and cognitive difficulties, as well as those who have physical problems that cannot be set right.

She twitches her zoom a little, and looks down at the third and only other person at the table to whom she owes love and affection. That hair is still pink, although it is only a tint on what should be pure white. She looks across the table with her real eyes, and merges the views in her head. Misha is nodding along with whatever that fat fool on stage is saying, and… she’s translating automatically without realizing it. Shizune feels a thrill go through her. They have shared so much, and lost and gained so much together.

Everyone claps at once, and the sky unfolds. Although it is 6 May 2064, somehow it is also Tanabata, and suddenly, she remembers a red yukata and a handsome young man.

*****

He was cute! Innocent, sharp, even features – he’d be quite a looker, or at least with some judicious pruning and shaping. That hangdog expression would have to go. And he seemed quite bright. Doing group work with Misha was fine, Misha followed well, but her mind always seemed to be drifting off. The new boy seemed to be holding back, but Shizune knew how to tell when someone had hidden resources, and this one had quite a bit stashed away.

It was a pleasure and an irritation, both, to be working with someone who should obviously be leading the discussion but was letting you lead, letting you win. But he was new, and Misha was probably making her come across as a pushy bitch. Nuance, that was the thing hard to convey in translation.

You could push some people only so far. She had the feeling you could push this one and he could go very far. You could make people only so happy. Misha, for example… ah! Better not to go there. But this one, he looked as if he would be so much sweeter if his reasons for being sad went away.

In the whole graduating class, he was the best prospect in mathematics, chemistry, and perhaps physics. Shizune had seen the basic reports. Before Nakai had entered the class, she’d already sat down with Mutou-san to discuss how to integrate the new boy. It was her job, and it was her talent, to push and make better. Mutou-san had given her an odd look, though. Ah, but then he was always giving people odd looks.

Nakai would probably lose out to her in the humanities and languages. But it would be very close. She looked forward to the challenge. And if he won, it would be partly because of her anyway! She reviewed the plan, and saw only victory.

Then she had fallen in love with him. Maybe it was only the idea of him. Or the idea of him not spending so much time in that damned tea-room. But whatever it was, she had felt very strongly that he could do better. She had to be objective; perhaps he would improve his English.

She waited. Nakai and Satou got closer. Hnngh. It wasn’t as if his English was improving significantly. His appreciation for foreign teas was, but that did not seem to be of much value. She attempted intervention, only to be rebuffed. It was annoying, and even more so when Misha told her with rather curt gestures not to get personal. It hurt because Misha was right, and because she apologized for it while being right.

Then the thunderbolt. She got it from Hideaki first, and then in some peculiar rant from her father, loosely translated by an unnerved Misha. The Satous would be decamping to Scotland. Some part of her shed no tears. The more traditional part of her felt deep loss, because of Mother in particular. But, no more tea-room behaviour.

Events rollercoastered. They began to affect her academic sharpness a little, and Hisao, by then somewhat more of a friend, was nearly ruined. He’d fallen in love with Lilly. And she, apparently, with him. Not helpful, in the context of a distance of nearly ten thousand kilometres.

Hisao had died forty years ago. Lilly had left immediately after the reading of the will. It had taken years for the healing of old wounds. One day, she and Lilly, all alone beneath the trees, beside three graves. Lilly at last finding the message which no one else had seen. And she had felt sorry at last for her cousin, and sorry for herself, and for a poor lost man who had only wanted to do things right.

His hands, flashing in the light. His eyes, always in conflict. His careless stride and unnecessarily broad gestures. That hair. That hair and the breath of his mouth.

She had never come so close to him again, until the last moments in the hospital, when she had held his wife tight, because it was all she could hold, because through Emi, she could hold something of Hisao.

She thinks she dreams. Yes, it’s Tanabata. She is clad in a crimson yukata with a deep purple sash. She knows she is beautiful, her father’s fox-child. Hisao looks bashfully at her. And he reaches for her hand.

*****

Misha is crying.

“… blood thinners… nothing we could do… .”

“Aunty Misha?”

The gentle smile on Shizune’s face, fixed at the end of the speech. And she had never moved again.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Sat Apr 29, 2017 10:15 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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