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

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Re: After the Dream—Shizune's Arc/Hideaki5 (upd 20140601)

Post by forgetmenot » Sun Jun 01, 2014 5:34 am

Ahh, the fabled Kenji/Yuuko ship. I will say I've always thought that relationship was better left implied, or at least without a happy ending, but you seem to have justified it satisfactorily.

Something about Hideaki's arc seems... off. I think it's because of the relatively little time we got with Sachiko before her death. Because she's dead for most of the story, she seems less a person and more a plot device. I guess it sort of rings false the loudest in this chapter, as it's explicitly stated that she's Kenji's sister instead of just heavily implied. It's a lot of coincidence.

In any case it's a minor nitpick. It's also 2:30 am here so I may be blowing smoke out my ass, too. I'm still thoroughly enjoying these.

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Re: After the Dream—Shizune's Arc/Hideaki5 (upd 20140601)

Post by bhtooefr » Sun Jun 01, 2014 5:44 am

...goddamnit.

How did I not see that coming before the grave visit?

Literally, my reactions:
brythain wrote:“No, no. It was a damn long time ago. There isn’t a debt between us, unless you’re a conspiracy theorist, haha.”
Conspiracy theorist? Wait, what? It can't be...
brythain wrote:“Seeing as you were her best friend… Well, when Sachi passed on, it shook me up. I realized I’d been insane for years."
No, no, no, no, no... it CAN'T be Kenji...
brythain wrote:He sighs, flips up his inappropriately bright scarf, and adjusts his thick glasses.
FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUU-
Mind you, my headcanon has the Setou family being in either extreme northern or eastern Hokkaido. It actually aligns with some details of Kenji's rants, as well, due to the politics of Hokkaido, and the fact that the governor of Hokkaido is female (essentially, she displaced the Socialist/Communist alliance in Hokkaido, and Kenji rants about fascism...)
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Re: After the Dream—Shizune's Arc/Hideaki5 (upd 20140601)

Post by brythain » Sun Jun 01, 2014 7:09 am

forgetmenot wrote:Ahh, the fabled Kenji/Yuuko ship. I will say I've always thought that relationship was better left implied, or at least without a happy ending, but you seem to have justified it satisfactorily.

Something about Hideaki's arc seems... off. I think it's because of the relatively little time we got with Sachiko before her death. Because she's dead for most of the story, she seems less a person and more a plot device. I guess it sort of rings false the loudest in this chapter, as it's explicitly stated that she's Kenji's sister instead of just heavily implied. It's a lot of coincidence.

In any case it's a minor nitpick. It's also 2:30 am here so I may be blowing smoke out my ass, too. I'm still thoroughly enjoying these.
I have to confess that originally I had a whole arc for Shizune/Hideaki growing up and the big breakup between Mayoi and Jigoro. Then I canned it because it seemed a bit heavy to 'tack on' to the AtD-verse (Serviam's term, I believe), which is after all focussed on 'after' Hisao's time at Yamaku. But it's still somewhere in my filesystem… I used bits of it for Mutou's arc and Akira's arc, so you've seen a bit there.

That would have made Sachiko's passing less sudden and less like the author being deliberately evil. :)

"Author! You bastard masculine conspiracy jerk! You killed me off without exploring my friendship with Hideaki! I will set my phasers to Level 16!"

"Sorry, Sachiko! Arrrrgghhh…."
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/Hideaki5 (upd 20140601)

Post by brythain » Sun Jun 01, 2014 7:13 am

bhtooefr wrote:...goddamnit.

How did I not see that coming before the grave visit?

Literally, my reactions:
-very amusing account of reactions, much appreciated-
Mind you, my headcanon has the Setou family being in either extreme northern or eastern Hokkaido. It actually aligns with some details of Kenji's rants, as well, due to the politics of Hokkaido, and the fact that the governor of Hokkaido is female (essentially, she displaced the Socialist/Communist alliance in Hokkaido, and Kenji rants about fascism...)
Actually, that sounds like a good idea, and it will fly. The reason Kenji's here is that, at this time, he works for a certain ministry in Tokyo, as alluded to elsewhere.

I do believe, however, that I adequately foreshadowed the scene to which you had such awesome reactions. :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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Re: After the Dream—Shizune's Arc/Hideaki5 (upd 20140601)

Post by bhtooefr » Sun Jun 01, 2014 7:26 am

Well, it wouldn't adequately explain why Hideaki and Sachiko were friends before then, is the problem - by doing that, you've tied the Setous to Saitama. (Which doesn't square with Kenji's claim of a lack of military presence.)

And, yes, now the foreshadowing is clear... I do find the idea that Kenji's anti-feminist paranoia was triggered by a sexist (as opposed to feminist) sister kinda funny, to be honest.
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Re: After the Dream—Shizune's Arc/Hideaki5 (upd 20140601)

Post by brythain » Sun Jun 01, 2014 8:11 am

bhtooefr wrote:Well, it wouldn't adequately explain why Hideaki and Sachiko were friends before then, is the problem - by doing that, you've tied the Setous to Saitama. (Which doesn't square with Kenji's claim of a lack of military presence.)

And, yes, now the foreshadowing is clear... I do find the idea that Kenji's anti-feminist paranoia was triggered by a sexist (as opposed to feminist) sister kinda funny, to be honest.
The Setous may have been from Hokkaido, with roots there, but Kenji's immediate family (at least in the AtD-verse), have been working with a certain ministry in Tokyo. Kenji (see Mutou-5) works with what the West calls TRDI. Probably, Kenji's father is a military chauvinist or something, and all of them have their own version—different kinds of nuts? :D
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/Hideaki5 (upd 20140601)

Post by bhtooefr » Sun Jun 01, 2014 8:34 am

Basically, I'm saying at this point that your verse and my headcanon can't align, but that's OK. (That Kenji's parents live in Hokkaido in my headcanon, basically.)
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Re: After the Dream—Shizune's Arc/Hideaki5 (upd 20140601)

Post by brythain » Sun Jun 01, 2014 8:15 pm

bhtooefr wrote:Basically, I'm saying at this point that your verse and my headcanon can't align, but that's OK. (That Kenji's parents live in Hokkaido in my headcanon, basically.)
Yeah… too many ideas, too little 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—Shizune's Arc/Hideaki5 (upd 20140601)

Post by bhtooefr » Sun Jun 01, 2014 8:22 pm

To be fair, it would be rather easy to come up with an explanation.

That is, we're working off of what Kenji says in the VN.

Someone who is not prone to rational conclusions, and is very prone to getting things wildly wrong.
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Re: After the Dream—Shizune's Arc/Hideaki5 (upd 20140601)

Post by brythain » Mon Jun 02, 2014 5:23 am

bhtooefr wrote:To be fair, it would be rather easy to come up with an explanation.

That is, we're working off of what Kenji says in the VN.

Someone who is not prone to rational conclusions, and is very prone to getting things wildly wrong.
Oh dear. What an idea for that arc... :D
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 6 up 20140602)

Post by brythain » Mon Jun 02, 2014 12:12 pm

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

For some strange reason, Hideaki has elected to describe an unusually sweeping span of his life and times.
Perhaps the best places to seek clarification on the events he describes are the accounts provided by those closest to him.
Hence, your humble writer directs you to the arcs of his sister Shizune and her friend Misha, his cousins Akira and Lilly, and his lady wife.


Hideaki 6: Heroism (T +5)

I am Hideaki Hakamichi. Through pain and fear, forgiveness and joy, I have come to know who I am. I never wanted to be a hero. But now, for the love of a few particular women, I will be whatever I can be; I will be many things, but remain only one Hideaki.

That is the sort of thing I still write in my journal, although then I was in my early thirties, and now I am far older. A third of a century gone, that Hideaki was sure of who he was, but also sure that he would be mistaken at times.

It is not unmanly to be sentimental. Rather, sentiment can be appropriate or inappropriate, depending on circumstance. Men must choose, and even in failure, one learns what can still be done.

Here are seven years of my life. My lady wife once introduced to me Shakespeare, and the seven ages of man. I must disappoint you; here are only seven small pieces of Hideaki, like a tiny handful of woodcuts that depict Mount Fuji.

*****

Let’s begin in May 2022. This is without doubt the strangest meeting I have attended. It is also the first at which I have had the privilege of suffering while my dear sister has the chair, and the first I’ve had in Yamaku’s boardroom. She begins, signing rapidly—I suspect mainly for my benefit, because the others all seem to know what is going on.

[Agenda before you. Read. Main topic is our friend Hisao Nakai. Problem is dying, heart is failing. Method of life extension is proposed. Window is small. Introducing to all someone already known, honorable secretary for meeting Hideaki Hakamichi, who happens to be subject’s lawyer. Also my brother.]

That may seem cold to you, dear reader. But over the years, I must say that Shizune has never translated well into normal conversation as written. In person, she is much better, and her friend Misha is probably best at interpreting her sympathetically—although not always. Today, my sister is miserable, but also businesslike. The latter is holding back the former.

I am late to this meeting, having rushed from Miyagi General where I was handling some legal matters. On the way in, I have seen Rika Katayama’s distinctive black-and-red hybrid in the parking lot, and parked my battered SUV a distance away so as not to contaminate its beauty. Similarly, I have apologetically deposited my sprawling carcass two seats away from her elegant frame. At least, she favoured me with a wan little smile and did not strike me down.

I look around and see that Shizune has done her usual boss-thing of automatically balancing the committee. Three men, three ladies, alternating around the polished blackness of a long marble-topped table. Rika sits on my left, next to Kaneshiro-sama, the school’s doctor and head nurse. Shizune sits between him and Mutou-sensei, who is Yamaku’s senior science teacher. My sister’s best friend Misha is on Mutou’s left, some distance away on my right. She gives me a cheery little wave with her fingers, although her face shows a far less cheerful expression, and then comes over to sit next to me.

The whole meeting looks as if it will be conducted in sign. I already have my tablet out, ready to take notes. It will be quite a challenge. Misha whispers to me, “Hey, how’re you doing? I think it might be better if I help interpret, Hide-chan! Then you can record without having to keep looking at us. Don’t worry, I’m used to it, used to do the whole class for Shicchan!”

This is probably the reverse, sign-to-speech, rather than speech-to-sign, but I appreciate this very much and I smile with some relief.

“Thanks, Misha. That will really help,” I whisper back, just as Shizune taps the table to signify her impatience at our little conversation. She signs at me: [You know everyone? See list. Rika. Doctor. Sensei. Misha.]

There are three scientists and three laymen here. Fortunately, I have hung around Hisao long enough to pick up some of the jargon. I have to interrupt a few times to get them to spell out words like ‘ruthenium’ and ‘tachycardia’—just two examples—but I’m soon able to get the gist of what is said, with Misha’s help. She too has a few problems, but far fewer than I do.

It also helps that we all know each other somewhat. It means that I don’t have to waste time being too formal, and also that the others are willing to cut me some slack despite my ignorance and my stereotypical lawyer obsession with exact definitions.

At the end of the meeting, an audacious scheme has been hatched. Naturally, the scientists have gravitated towards each other and are hunched over a pile of papers, scribbling and furiously discussing their options.

Misha’s been checking my notes and helping me with some corrections. She smells of wild apples and musk, a terribly distracting combination. Thank the gods I am no longer a confused adolescent, I think, as Shizune leaves the other group and walks round the table to join us.

[Thank you for coming. Decided best to have either you or Akira over, but her signing is not as good as yours, she said. Also, she has a godson to look after.]

[Happy to serve. Kaneshiro-sama’s quick briefing last night made it very clear there are few options. At least we now have a chance, although very small.]

Shizune briefly grasps my arm, then lets go. [Yes. I too am uncertain. But a chance is still a chance. You roll dice, or you lose.]

*****

The next year or so is the only time in which everyone still has some happiness. We all know Hisao is now living a borrowed life; the question is how much is left. I begin to spend many hours with him, sorting out his complicated assets and trying to help him find ways to ensure his will is carried out when the inevitable happens.

There’s one night from earlier days which sticks in my mind, dear readers. We’re sitting in a café on the outskirts of Tokyo, a place where two friends can discuss important things without prying eyes and clever ears. I have finally plucked up the courage to ask a question I may never otherwise have a chance to ask.

“Hisao, would you ever have married my sister? I used to dream that you would.”

He laughs, little crowsfeet appearing at the corners of his eyes. He is losing weight from hard work, but still looks relatively healthy. Then he looks at me seriously, as if asking me to understand some unhappy facts.

“There was a time at Todai when Hanako seemed to want me to spend more time with Shizune. It took a lot of courage from her, I think. But it took more courage from your sister, because…”

I smile and complete his sentence, “… Shizune hates losing.”

“Yeah. Always has. But she risked it, when she asked me point-blank, [Do you think we can have a future together?]”

He signs the last part, and his long fingers emulate my sister’s shorter digits so effectively that I can almost see her doing it.

“She was smiling when she said it, that cheeky smile she has? The one that conceals all kinds of things?”

I nod and let him continue.

“That’s when it hit me. I could never do that to someone like Shizune. She had long-term plans, and if I fell in love with her, married her, I’d be abandoning her plans the day I died. A future together? I’d be breaking any such vow. So I promised myself not ever to fall in love with her. Then, stupid Hisao moment, I end up with Emi, whom I really love, and who will hate me for dying even more…”

He smiles sadly back at me.

“Hisao Nakai, that’s me, Master of Doing Idiotic Things. Hideaki, I don’t know how many years or months I have, but you’ve probably got a lot more. I’ve been an idiot, and if people ever find out how stupid I was in matters of love, so be it. You know the score. You’re probably the only one except Mutou, who seems to know everything even if I don’t tell him.”

“Did you actually say ‘no’ to my sister?”

It’s frustrating. Hisao keeps giving me this romantic act. I’m not going to let him evade me by kicking up all that old dirt and sentimentality.

“Huh. You’re very blunt.”

He pauses. I glare at him, knowing that this is important for both of us. Shit, I’m becoming like him in some ways.

“Yes.”

“What did she say?”

“She looked at me with her Madam President laser-beam gaze and said, [Well, that’s that then. I suppose I am fortunate that I did not pledge my love to you back in high school. You win some, you lose some.] And then she didn’t speak to me for three weeks.”

I had guessed something like that might have happened. To remember it now from Hisao, as the game comes to an end, is very painful.

*****

2024 comes. Hisao dies. Everyone has written their own memoirs of it. For once, I have none. You can ask my lady wife, hers more or less covers everything. I am Hisao’s lawyer, but Akira reads the will as a gesture of respect; she was his first lawyer after all. Mutou-sensei is executor, and we all get along fine.

Somewhere in there are my memories of the funeral itself. I remember some moments, in particular, beginning after Lilly runs out sobbing just before my sister begins to electronically deliver the funeral oration. Akira, always very quick in a crisis, nudges me with her left elbow and I slip away after her younger sister.

“Cousin Lilly?”

She is standing next to the gatepost, just outside the cemetery. I am relieved that she hasn’t run into a gravestone or something. Maybe she echolocates when moving at high speed. I mentally smack myself for being so crass, as she turns her face, veiled in midnight blue, towards me.

“It’s been so long, how can it hurt so much?”

I think of Sachiko. Yes, it can. I walk up to her and gently take hold of her arms. Her biceps tense reflexively, but she allows me to pull her into a deeper embrace.

“Cousin, let me bring you back to your rooms.”

She begins to sob into my shoulder. Lilly’s a really tall girl, and unfortunately, I have this ridiculous image of some tabloid reporting an encounter between a high-ranking Family officer (which I am not) and some foreign floozy lady (which she is not—well, not really). Okay, wife, I won’t describe your dear Lilly that way, but you don’t get to edit the rest of this part! Ouch, ouch, please stop tweaking my ear! With one arm around her waist, I escort her off the street and into my Hakamichi blue/silver hybrid.

I always keep a supply of little packets of tissue in the glove compartment. With my family, you never know when you’ll need them, for tears or puke or blood spatter. Or to polish one’s glasses. Lilly is on her second packet by the time I’ve escorted her back to her room, made sure she’s settled and shut the door behind her.

Back to the cemetery then. I look at my watch. Shizune’s not one for long speeches; she hates having to speak through a text-to-voice synthesizer, claiming that the vibrations throw her off and make her head hurt.

Indeed, when I get back to the gates, Madam Principal is bowing her farewells to various visitors. Hisao’s parents having passed on four years ago, Emi’s mother is the closest senior family member in attendance. Meiko Ibarazaki, in her dark yukata, contrasts strangely with Sis in her grey suit.

I catch my sister’s eye and do some quick signing: [Drove cousin Lilly back to her room. Apologies. She was unexpectedly quite distraught and is now resting.]

[Noted. No offence taken.]

I nod and make my way back inside. I am about to pay my private, personal last respects to an old friend.

It surprises me to find Hanako still there. She appears to be kneeling beside the grave and reading something from an old book. I move softly and sit some distance away, reluctant to intrude. As she reads, I find myself strangely moved by the words, some sort of poetry.

As the breeze teases a few long strands of her hair out, and the poem comes to an end, I am reminded of what Hisao once told me—that in some ways, Hanako could be the most beautiful woman on earth.

Later, we have dinner together. And not much later than that, I know that I am certainly in love.

*****

“No! Absolutely not! I won’t hear of it!”

Father is being unreasonable again, almost a year after Hisao left us. At that time, he supposedly lost it and said to Shizune something along the lines of, “I’m glad you didn’t marry him, it would have ended in tragedy. Then again, I would have had two grandchildren.” At which point, Shizune very quietly turned off her electronics and continued to enjoy her dinner. My source was Misha, so I’m not entirely sure what happened.

“She has bewitched you with her quiet charms. You’ll see. She… she’s Swordsman’s best friend, of all things!”

As if that has anything to do with it. I’ve come to understand cousin Lilly somewhat; in the last year or so since Hisao went, I’ve spent a lot of time with Akira and Shizune and got to know my family a lot better as a result.

“Scarface is a lot older than you. She’ll soon be past childbearing age.”

Oh gods. A combination of various factors has just eroded a path past my normally thick layer of indifference to his ranting. For a start, ‘Scarface’ is just plain insulting. And there’s the matter of marrying someone just to have children; this is Japan, but it is still a touchy subject.

But my killer stroke today is that he’s lied to me and I’ve ignored it. Time to draw. My friend Rika once demonstrated iaijutsu technique to me when she and Sis conspired to put me on a ‘training regime’ that hurt a lot but was extremely useful. The weapon flows and then it… is where it is.

“Father, mother was older than you too.”

“What?”

I’ve put him off his own stroke. He glares at me, but it’s a guilty glare, the anger of one who has been found out unexpectedly.

“Who told you that?”

“You’ve given her year of birth as 1965. But the Satou records show it as 1959. You dated an older woman, and we were born when she was in her thirties.”

He takes a deep breath.

“You had no right!” he grinds out, his amplitude increasing.

“I had every right,” I reply, sharply, with what Rika calls ‘the voice of command’.

He stops short.

“Father, this humble person is your son, but also the son of your wife Mayoi. You kept her memory from us. It is, in my lowly view, a dishonourable situation.”

My father never refers to Hanako as ‘Scarface’ again. We do have occasional disagreements, but in the end, he gives me my choice.

*****

Despite Father’s ill-natured attempts at derailment, we are still family. In the years before he himself goes back to the earth, he proves to be a fairly kind-hearted host to Shizune’s friends and mine. Indeed, he seems to have forged a strong friendship with Misha over the years, and he has come to accept my Hana almost as another daughter.

Father is sixty-five years old in November 2026, and we have all gathered for his birthday. Hana and I have been a couple for longer than a year now, and perhaps she has been with me all my adult life, were I to examine it closely. I am going to ask his permission, formally. It is not needed, of course, but it would be nice. We Hakamichis are like that.

In April last year, I’d already brought Hana to visit Sachiko. I’d never done that for anyone before, not even Sis. It was strange, but I felt that Sachiko would’ve approved. I could imagine her saying, “Hurry up you idiot, you shouldn’t waste time!”

We had tea, and on that occasion, Hana was there in person for the third cup. As we held hands, her uneven right hand in mine, I kissed her slowly and deliberately on her right cheek. I felt her hand tightening as I whispered, “Hana-chan, most beautiful to me, my love is yours. ‘Though lovers be lost, love shall not, and death shall have no dominion.’”

There were no cheers from a hidden audience, only the sounds of birds, and the sweet scent of springtime. And Hana’s soft reply, “M-mine too, Hide-kun.”

I am remembering this, and many other things, as we sit on my bed at the Saitama residence and I help her unpack before lunch. No! Really, wife, I was not intending to describe everything in your suitcase! Although the readers might enjoy it… Ouch! Sorry!

Lunch is, as usual, somewhat peculiar. We’ve bought Father an improved fishing-rod, lighter and stronger. Shizune has bought him a silk-bound version of some arcane treatise on swordsmanship. Misha’s gift is an outrageous array of seven brightly coloured floral shirts with butterflies, apparently designed by Rin Tezuka—it goes some way towards making up for the fact that Misha herself can’t be with us until tonight. There are lots of other gifts, but Father saves them for after lunch, which he himself has cooked.

Roast lobster with grilled beef and root vegetables sliced thinly. I am quite sure this is not something I’ve tasted before. The octopus is fine, but its combination with some kind of fig paste and grape leaves? Where does Father get all this stuff anyway? Nevertheless it is all quite enjoyable.

Then the fight begins. All happy and cheerful, we sit back. Shizune, sharp as ever, signs to me, [If you’re going to ask Father, do it quick.]

I grin foolishly for a moment.

“Ah. Father, again, we wish you many more good years. On this special occasion, Hana and I were going to ask you to give us your blessing on a special matter.”

He looks at me, his thoughts clearly elsewhere.

“Yes? Go ahead, man, say it.”

Everything blows up shortly thereafter. Father and I are stalking around the house snarling at each other and Shizune has taken Hana outside for a quiet conversation.

Then he tells me.

“I’m dying. You can do what you want when I’m gone. Maybe I’m wrong. You get what you can when you can. It’s over for me, and you know what? I don’t give a damn. You can have my blessing. Ha, you can have this house. You don’t have to listen to this foolish old man.”

What does he mean, he’s dying? He looks down where he’s stopped short. He sheathes his katana. He picks up the fishing rod, and for a moment, I think he’s going to snap it. But he sights along it absent-mindedly and gently flexes the shaft.

“That’s a good rod. The last time anyone bought one for me was when your mother last gave me a birthday present. I miss her very much. Always have.”

He puts the rod down and walks off to his room. I don’t know what to say. Why is my family so screwed up? I swear to myself that I will never do that kind of thing to my Hana. We will fight, but only for fun. Yes, wife, I know you remember this day too. See? I’ve mostly kept my promise!

*****

I spend most of the next year watching my father cough blood and get thinner. If not for my dear Hana, who is patient with me when I am moody, I would be a wreck. She has also begun to get along fairly well with Father, although she feels uncomfortable when he starts asking for ‘Mayoi’.

As she finds out more about our family from him, I realize that I too have much to learn. I never knew Mother had three sisters as well as a brother—I’ve only ever known that Akira’s father was Mother’s brother. I guess that Father has almost given up on keeping secrets, although he occasionally gives me a sly smile and whispers, “Wait for my biography, there are more chapters in it now.”

Father survives beyond his 66th birthday, which is a much more peaceful affair than his previous one. It is marred by the tabphone message that Shizune receives late that night, after the birthday dinner.

Hana and I are woken by a gentle tapping on my bedroom door. I kiss her under the right ear, throw on a robe and make my way there in the familiar darkness. Of course, I have to open the door, or Sis will be quite inconvenienced.

As the door opens, she thrusts her tabphone at me. Her swift jab at the glowing screen shows me all I need to know.

[Rika’s heart just failed, 0216h. Prepare for worst. Say prayers for the operating team. They’ll need it. KG.]

Kaneshiro-san. Shit. I nod at Shizune, sign [5 minutes] and duck back into the room. Hana is sitting up, her arms around her knees on the bed. She sounds very concerned.

“What’s up, love? Is it your father?”

Normally, that leads to bad jokes from me, but this is not the time. I tell her what’s happened, and she says, “You must go. I’ll l-look after your father and you can drive Shi-chan to the hospital. I’ll say the prayers.”

I give her a grateful hug and quickly get my stuff together. It will be a long day.

*****

The prayers might have worked, but what is beyond doubt is that what sits in Rika’s chest is something very much like Hisao’s final heart, but with more than five years of intensive technology review and evolution thrown in. Hana and I are sitting in a fairly modest staff apartment in Sendai, where Rika is convalescing after surgery.

If she had been thin before, she is pure beanpole now. One pale foot sticks out from under the thick blanket that Mutou-san keeps throwing over her reluctant body. It is so white that her veins appear like cloud-dragons playing peek-a-boo in their natural element.

“I shall be fine, young Hideaki,” she says, pretending to be grim. But I can see past her intimidating façade now, and she cannot sustain it beyond Hana’s gentle giggling. Even Mutou snorts, which triggers a slender chain of thought in my mind.

When Mutou-san and Rika Katayama suddenly got married in April three years ago, it had come as a shock to me. Clearly, we’d all missed something. All, except perhaps Shizune. She had that knowing smile on her face which meant she was keeping extremely juicy secrets.

So I had taken it upon myself to ask Sis what she knew, and she had done something that was mysterious even for her—she’d signed to me: [Family secrets. Some day you may be told.]

My immediate response was: [Our family or one of the Families?]

All I got in return was another mystifying smile, tinged with something else I could not identify. It was pretty frustrating for someone like myself, who loved information and always wanted to find things out. When I told Hana, she merely gave a little laugh and said, “You should’ve been a journalist.”

I look at the long, slim woman in the bed, and at the old but respected teacher next to her, and I think of what friends they have been to me. I still do not know how their secret is connected to what Shizune knows, but I can wait until she tells.

*****

And then Father dies.

I realize, in July that year, that all my life I’ve been shadow of sorts to Father—larger than life, and now smaller than death. With him gone from home to hospital, the house is an empty shell, and even my memories of Mother are fading from my mind. Am I ‘just a living legacy’, a ‘poor attempt to imitate the man’, as the old song says?

In that moment of self-doubt, two things change my mind forever. The first is that I am suddenly seeing more Hakamichis than ever before. My father has cousins all over the place, despite being an only surviving son. When they ‘bring me in’ and begin to ask questions about where Father’s data is kept, I realize I need consultants of my own.

The second outrages me no end, and I am so furious that I drag Sis into it. The Hakamichis bar my cousin Akira from Father’s wake. I tell them curtly that he is my father and I choose whom I will invite. Their reply is that he belongs to them, not me. Shizune smuggles Akira in anyway, while I run interference with the help of an old friend whose heart is forged from ruthenium.

I will be better than my father, because he has always asked me to be. I will be better than Hideaki, because my friends have encouraged me to be. There are escalating complications. Months before I am to be married to the love of my life, we fly to Edinburgh to escape the madness.

The year that Shizune and I wrest our legacy free is a year of dire portent and sometimes-violent negotiation. Someday, the truth will be known in full. But it is during the spring of 2029, at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Edinburgh, that Hana-chan at last walks up the aisle towards me. Her god-daughter Akiko bears flowers of joy and remembrance. My cousins Akira and Lilly are her honoured supporters. The saltire of Saint Andrew alternates with the Hakamichi colours—banners of white on blue, flags of blue on white—and our hands are joined forever under the bright vault, amidst the applause of those we love.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Sat Apr 29, 2017 10:30 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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AtD—Hideaki's Arc (Part 7 up 20140603)

Post by brythain » Tue Jun 03, 2014 12:37 pm

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

For his own strange reasons, Hideaki has elected to describe an unusually sweeping span of his life and times.
Perhaps further enlightenment on the events he describes may be found in the accounts provided by those closest to him.
Hence, your humble writer directs you to the arcs of his sister Shizune and her friend Misha, his cousins Akira and Lilly, his comrade Rika, and his lady wife.


Hideaki 7: Apotheosis (T +55)

I am Hideaki Hakamichi. In a while, she will be gone. Whom will I be then? I have been defined by my love for her for so long.

I have been looking at these words 'for so long' that I do not know how much time has passed. I realize I really cannot answer that question, that my life has always been measured against the women I loved: my long-dead mother, my departed sister, my brave cousin, my best friend, my stern comrade, my beloved wife. In that sense, I am a failure to become what I perhaps should have been; I have certainly not always been a success in becoming what I wanted to be.

‘In a while, she will be gone.’ Who writes that kind of line and does not feel grief? I am human, I weep. I am weak. I became the Sword of the Hakamichis because I was the last one to hold the keys, and not because I was the best. And then, only because I loved her, and I love her still.

This is a tribute to them all, and as befits the task, it begins the year after we were married, and it ends where love alone can find no answers. It will be my last journaling. I have purged all the rest, lady wife—my beautiful girl of flowers and delight. Farewell.

*****

Begin.

[This family keeps too many damn secrets] I sign to Shizune as she sits perched on the armchair where she too is going through the last few bits of Father’s belongings. She gives me a sympathetic look.

[When are you moving in for real?]

[I don’t know. Maybe we’ll move to Europe, get away from all this.]

[From me?]

Am I that selfish? I suddenly realize that I’m the only family Shizune has left. It’s a freezing January, and to deprive my forty-year-old sister of warmth seems like another classic Hideaki failing. But I know why we will stay a while—we owe her much, and besides, we have a surprise for her.

Hana’s pregnant, due in March—that’s not the surprise. But we have already decided on a name. Our firstborn is a girl, and her name will be Kitsune. It is the name my father first wanted to give Sis, and she’ll be both aunt and godmother.

*****

Continue.

It’s been a bad year. Emi in May, then Mutou in July—Mutou-sensei, who was my uncle, and whom I never knew as such.

We look down at the grave, my cousin Akira on my left, my Hana clasping my right fist on the other side. I cannot help but snatch a furtive glance at the three people on my left; as my literary wife would say, a classic trio—bold Akira, elegant Rika, pretty Aunt Michiko. The last is a person I’ve always known as my youngest Satou aunt, Mother’s sister; I never knew her whole story until recently.

Shizune and Rika have ringed the mountain with our guardsmen, the combined might of two Families, in blue and silver, black and red. The citizens of Sendai must be wondering what arcane ceremonies are being held up on Mount Aoba this evening.

No, nothing but an honest farewell for a man who tried to do his best.

*****

Continue.

There is good with the bad. The light comes back to my sister’s eyes when we arrange a successful adoption. She will legally be mother to Hisao and Emi’s two children; Japanese law now allows a family unit to adopt, and I have drafted these papers so that they show two names: Shizune Hakamichi and Shiina Kobayashi. The law is a funny thing, but we have it to thank in many ways for that latter name.

I swipe the digital document over from my tablet to Shizune’s, and make slow, deliberate signs to her for the benefit of the video recording. Behind me, Hana taps, to remind me to vocalize so that those behind me can tell what I am doing. I see the happiness on my sister’s face—she has always had a soft spot for orphans, and a soft spot for Hisao Nakai. Now, as she signs, she is fulfilled.

Meiko Ibarazaki watches me from one side, her expression unreadable except for a touch of tired relief, or something very much like it. But the atmosphere in the room is one of anticipation, the understanding that a new dawn is approaching, and all our mistakes and sorrows may soon be fading with the light.

Upload.

*****

Continue.

The years go on, and as my lovely wife says, the leaves fall from the trees, the flowers fade, the trees themselves are gone.

I too saw them fall. Each year, I brought Hana with me as we paid our respects to more and more people. There was a year in which I realized who one of my deputy directors really was, but it was not my story, and I sent her to Yamaku to seek the truth. Hana’s god-daughter Akiko, who became Principal there, later told me enough; I knew then that Iwanako Endo had found her own peace too.

I remember that year because it was when poor old Meiko Ibarazaki left us. Her grandchildren found her in her pottery room, her hands frozen amidst the cold clay. Strangely, she had left one complete little work behind: a perfectly glazed little butterfly, mahogany with orange spots.

Two months before, my old co-conspirator Miki Miura had succumbed to leukaemia. Instrumental in my purge of the corporate dross at Fukuoka, I had never been close to her, and neither had Shizune. But she seemed to respect my sister a lot, and now I will never know why. When we went to pay our respects at her grave, we found a very similar butterfly carved deeply into the black stone marker.

Flowers, leaves, and butterflies. And my dearest wife saying very cryptically, “You never know, with Rin.”

*****

Continue.

“If I were his father, I’d say no. Ten thousand times, no.”

“Why? They love each other. We’ve seen so many people who are different, who make such odd couples, who love each other.”

“But she’s Indian! How can he do that? It is not… Japanese!”

“Husband, now you sound like your own father.”

I am a fool. How could I have said that? I, whose own family rings with the faint and brittle warning chimes of the Fragile-X variant gene, whose dearest cousins are… not Japanese in the way my father would have thought. And of all things, he loved them anyway.

Akira Nakai marries Rekha Pillay in San Francisco, his unruly brown hair reminding me very much of his father’s own locks; she, on the other hand is small and neat with very distinctive cheekbones. He has his own bony features inherited from Hisao’s mother, and a wild streak clearly from his own mother’s side. She turns out to be a woman of deep qualities and a poetic soul. Hana loves her, and that is something I eventually come to share.

*****

Continue.

It is from 2044 to 2064 that we fight the secret wars of the Nakai Foundation. Who would have thought that Katayama and Hakamichi colours would one day share a banner?

My beautiful wife stares at me bitterly one day. “You should have married Rika Katayama,” she hisses, “and spawned an army of the godforsaken. Do you want to live forever? I will have no part of this.”

These are the years in which our daughters Kitsune and Shiina grow up. To keep the peace for them and for us all, I surrender partial control of both foundation and empire to my wife. The Families are stunned, outraged. The medicine is almost as bad as the disease, and only Shizune is able to bend all parties to her will. At the end, she is holding all things together by sheer willpower. She reminds Hana of the first Queen Elizabeth.

I will never forget the sight of the massed guardsmen of all our Families bowing to the left and right of her at the great auditorium on Mount Aoba. We have friends in the media, and the images go out all over the world. Japan’s titans have clashed in final battle, and our consortium has forced a peace that will gain us much against our competitors.

Dear reader, understand here that in all that, I failed, and failed many times—winning a war is far inferior to never having to fight one. What you may see as successes, from some distant future perspective, I saw as bitter losses that almost carved apart the fabric of our times. I was Sword of the Hakamichis, as my friend Rika was to the Katayamas. But we were one family in the end.

In January of the final year, the conventions are signed and our futures are secured. All that, you would think, is what history is about. But 2064 is a year in which grief defeats me. All I can do is rage and cry, storm and weep, as Hana tries to console me. For on the sixth day of that month, my cousin Akira finally dies of her disease, and I have been too busy to go to her.

By the time the Nakai Foundation begin to pursue their vision of immortality, I no longer want anything to do with them. It is Fate’s irony that the conclusion of our matter has come in the year that Shizune also dies. She goes away from us on her birthday, smiling a secret little smile, perhaps happy that Hisao’s dream has been accomplished.

[Shizune, my sister; Akira, my cousin. No longer will I feel the heat of your gaze, the warmth of your affection. No longer will there be the safe haven of elder sisters, although one is supposed to have outgrown such things. May you be happy at last.]

It is when my lady wife delivers her moving eulogy, and the Shimbun livestreams it to the entire world, that I realize what has been done to us. The powers of faith and love and time itself are all grounded in the word and the image. My beloved Hana-chan has made Shizune and all the rest of us into gods, little gods of humanity, a pantheon amongst many pantheons. Does she know what she has done?

When the time comes to put Shizune into the ground, I am determined in my intent. She will sleep with our forefathers, a Hakamichi like each one before her. The space next to her I shall reserve not for myself, but for someone else who deserves it. I laugh to myself, knowing that somewhere else, cheery laughter responds.

Upload.

*****

Continue.

“Dear Sachiko, it’s fitting that my story came alive with you, and it ends with you. This is the last time we will see Saitama, where everything began; it is possibly the last time we will see Japan. You will always be fondly remembered. The sun rises, and it also sets. Goodbye.”

Her stone is old and worn. Perhaps nothing remains beneath. As my wife taught me, “When their bones are picked clean, and the clean bones gone; they shall have stars at elbow and foot…

And this brings me in turn to the last memories I shall record.

*****

Continue.

The year after Hana and I were married, Lilly made her last trip home to Japan. My wife was on overseas assignment, and I made my lonely way to Narita to pick my cousin up.

“Thank you, Hideaki. It is very kind of you, indeed, to have come to my assistance.”

“Always my pleasure, cousin.”

“Although Akira might have been more to your taste, eh?”

She giggles a little. Blind or not, she packs a naughty tongue, that one.

“What brings you home, Lilly?”

“Unfulfilled promises. Remember Hisao’s will?”

“Ah. You mean to say you’ve not seen… experienced Mutou-sensei’s famous plaque?”

Just a bit too late, I catch myself. She merely laughs it off.

“No, I have not. But I promised Hisao I would.”

I think about it. I know what’s on that plaque. Few people do; all they see is the obvious design.

There are three packets of tissue left in my glove compartment. They should be enough.

When we get to the cemetery, I bow formally to my cousin, holding her by outstretched arms so that she can acknowledge that I do this. Then I leave her to her remembrance and her grief, and the message that Hisao left only to her.

I meet my sister on the way out. Shizune herself doesn’t know what’s on that plaque. Trust Hisao to think of such a plan.

[Sister, our cousin is already there.]

[She is early.]

I refrain from making a joke about too many late people in a cemetery. Sis is a good person, but she might not get it. And besides, it’s not appropriate. So I just smile and give her a brief hug. She returns it warmly, but impatiently, and I pat her on the shoulder, heading outside to wait.

I know what awaits them. It is Rin Tezuka’s design, out of Hisao’s ideas and Mutou’s workshop—a dour grey plaque of ruthenium steel, engraved by diamond drills to show a pattern of stars and clouds. To most of us who see with our eyes only, this is tasteful, but strange. It is a beautiful little piece, an unusual find in any cemetery.

But to one who is blind, the stars spell something out in Braille: “I loved you first of all.

Now, in the churchyard at St Stephen’s Church in Andorra la Vella, there is a simple graveyard marker. It reads: In Memoriam — Lillian Alexandra Anderson Satou — 7 February 1989 † 7 August 2074 — Loved And Never Lost.

That is all we have, the idea of love that does not die. The Greeks have a word for truth: ἀλήθεια. It means, ‘that which is not forgotten, that which is not concealed or lost.’ What else can we hope for?

*****

Continue.

It is to that same Andorra, a little territory hidden in the Pyrenees between France and Spain, that we retire. My darling Hana is no longer a power in the Nakai Foundation, nor one at Hakamichi Industries. She teaches at Montpellier when she feels like it, and when they will have her. I myself am no longer a Hakamichi weapon; that is a game for younger folk.

We have had many happy years here, and now she is no longer with me, here at the end of our times.

Do you, privileged readers of the late 21st and early 22nd centuries, understand what it is to age and die? Some of my generation will go on, and maybe they can tell you. And if they do not, they have archives that will. Seek out Rin Tezuka and Rika Katayama. Who knows? Perhaps they will have launched their starship; perhaps they have just fallen by the wayside, like the cherry blossoms have done so many years ago.

But I, Hideaki, sit here in the mountains, alone with my memories.

End upload.

=====
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*****

Editor’s Note:

Hideaki Hakamichi passed on in 2084, remembered clearly by few and having outlived most of his friends. I thank Kitsune and Shiina Hakamichi for their invaluable service and kind encouragement in the preparation of this volume, the journals of their late father. I make no philosophical arguments concerning the final state of those who have undergone the Zelazny Process, but I hope that this man, with whom I shared friendship in times of peace and war, will indeed receive his just reward.

— R., inner Sol system, 2090
Last edited by brythain on Sat Apr 29, 2017 10:44 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/Hideaki's Arc (Complete)

Post by Oscar Wildecat » Wed Jun 04, 2014 11:21 am

Have I mentioned that I loved the Arcs of the "side" characters (who in the AtD-verse feel more main-characterish than the main characters) the best. If I haven't, the I've been negligent in my duty as a reader.

By the way, you'll need to reprimand Hideaki and Hanako a bit here. It seems that the happy undertones of their life together sometimes betrays the seriousness of the work you're trying to achieve... :wink:
I like all the girls in KS, but empathize with Hanako the most.
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Re: After the Dream—Shizune's Arc/Hideaki's Arc (Complete)

Post by brythain » Wed Jun 04, 2014 7:08 pm

Oscar Wildecat wrote:Have I mentioned that I loved the Arcs of the "side" characters (who in the AtD-verse feel more main-characterish than the main characters) the best. If I haven't, the I've been negligent in my duty as a reader.

By the way, you'll need to reprimand Hideaki and Hanako a bit here. It seems that the happy undertones of their life together sometimes betrays the seriousness of the work you're trying to achieve... :wink:
I think that the 'side' characters needed more characterisation, since we know less about them. :)
And those two, they'll never listen to me! :D
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/Hideaki's Arc (Complete)

Post by Frankyo » Fri Jun 06, 2014 1:37 am

Amazing work as always. Your Hideaki is definitely someone that I now aspire to be. And yeah, I love the stories of side characters. I wish you wrote more about the Hideki-Hanako romance though :lol:
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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