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

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brythain
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Re: After the Dream—Shizune's Arc/Hideaki's Arc (Complete)

Post by brythain » Fri Jun 06, 2014 1:41 am

Frankyo wrote: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:
I think Hideaki purged all the electronic media of those because it was too painful for him. But I'll go see if Kitsune and Shiina kept any written versions. :) Thanks!
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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Interlude (20140721)

Post by brythain » Mon Jul 21, 2014 12:54 am

[Author-san, your acquaintance called me soulless. I'm not.]

I am doing an assignment for tomorrow's class on energetics, while tweaking my book chapter on shadow education. This is unwelcome interference. I frown at my computer's treacherous screen, and the little window that's just appeared.

[Who?]

[You know who. I'm not the sort to drop in and visit your bedroom unannounced and unchaperoned.]

[Shizune-san?] Wait, she's not telling the complete truth here. [But you've done it before.]

[Well, I'm not the sort, but it was my birthday, if you recall. Birthday girls have privileges. Besides, they all do it.]

She types very quickly. Either that or she is indeed a ghost in the machine. Placate the ghost, as my friends tell me.

[Shizune, how may this poor (and very busy) author assist you?]

[ :) you may assist me by allowing me to assist you. I have recently mastered your interface, as you can see. I have material for you.]

That rainbow-coloured orb spins on my screen for a while, and then something begins to take form in a certain folder.

[That's very generous, lady.]

[It is the least I can do. Not that I am like some people who keep dumping on you, but truth must be balanced. Good night, author-san.]

And then it's back to work.
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 YutoTheOrc » Sat Aug 16, 2014 5:23 pm

I'm starting to enjoy the endings with the girl's deaths and meeting a Hisao in the afterlife more. Feels more final to me, doesn't make me sad as just "She dead son". Loving it as usual, one more primary arc left! Hanako awaits me! :D

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Re: After the Dream—Shizune's Arc/Hideaki's Arc (Complete)

Post by brythain » Sat Aug 16, 2014 10:49 pm

YutoTheOrc wrote:I'm starting to enjoy the endings with the girl's deaths and meeting a Hisao in the afterlife more. Feels more final to me, doesn't make me sad as just "She dead son". Loving it as usual, one more primary arc left! Hanako awaits me! :D
Maybe it's just a… 'Final Fantasy'? Thanks! It's always fascinating to see what people look at and notice when they read the mosaic...
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 YutoTheOrc » Sun Aug 17, 2014 10:09 pm

Space-the final frontier! Loved it as usual, you never cease to amaze me o puppeteer! Looking forward to starting the next bit in a few mins. :wink:

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Re: After the Dream—Shizune's Arc/Hideaki's Arc (Complete)

Post by brythain » Sun Aug 17, 2014 10:46 pm

YutoTheOrc wrote:Space-the final frontier! Loved it as usual, you never cease to amaze me o puppeteer! Looking forward to starting the next bit in a few mins. :wink:
Wow, you're blazing your way through all of it really quickly! That's a great honour to my writing… :)
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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The Underwater Basket Weaving Society (up 20141125)

Post by brythain » Tue Nov 25, 2014 10:50 pm

This one-shot came about as the result of a post by Oscar Wildcat, which was possibly (Edit: I've been corrected :) ) not at all prompted by Broomhead's use of the phrase here. The phrase is of course much older; I remember it being used pejoratively in academic circles in the 1970s and it probably is a postwar formulation from the 1950s.


The Underwater Basket Weaving Society (T-17)

[Shicchan! Why so grim?]

Her friend cracked her knuckles noisily. Distracted, Misha twirled a loose corkscrew of metallic-pink hair. What’s got you so steamed up? she wondered.

Shizune snorted, her expression changing subtly to one of broad sarcasm. [This. We have an application to the Student Council for an Underwater Basket Weaving Society. Do you not think this is wonderful?]

[That sounds like fun!]

[I knew you would see things that way. No. It is a disaster waiting to happen. So we will not let it happen.]

[Shicchan… that is so not fun. It’s good to have some variety. This activity, maybe it will be good for physical fitness!]

[You are indeed a one qualified to say such things. Remember your idea of a Parfait Club?]

Misha sighed. When Shizune was in this sort of mood, she could not be reasoned with. With deliberately finessed lack of tact, she replied: [Are you still angry with me and Lilly?]

Just as deliberately, the other girl took off her glasses, wiped them, replaced them, and took a few more seconds to adjust their position on her nose.

[No. Not you.]

[Give the weavers a chance, Shicchan!]

[Do you know who has submitted this harebrained scheme?]

[Do I get three guesses? A clue? Cheer up, at least we have some creative people here!]

[The proposal is from Moriko and Suzu.]

[Molly? Snoozu?]

[If Moriko wants to say she is half Japanese, she should use her Japanese half name.]

[That’s sweet of her, Shicchan! She hardly ever says anything in class! You should let her do it! She does swimming therapy, you know!]

[I know many things. Such as the fact that you should have an Underwater Club or a Basket Weaving Club but not both in one. Someone could drown.]

Shizune adjusted her spectacles carefully and pointedly upon her nose. It was a gesture that brooked no further dissension.

[You’re being a spoilsport.] Misha pouted slightly, but her heart wasn’t in it. There was a little grief mixed in. What was it about people that made them want rule after rule after rule until no fun was left? Slowly, a tear formed at the corner of her eye, escaped her lower lid, and followed the line of her jaw down to her chin. It hung there for a while, defying gravity. Then it hit the ground, leaving a perfect little circle in the dust.

Shizune looked up and made a face. [Misha!]

[What, Shicchan?]

[There is an old Student Council rule that says a club or society may be formed even if the President disagrees. All the class representatives must support it and a teacher must countersign the application form.]

[But… but you’re the class representative of 3-3. And the President. It isn’t fair!]

[The class representative of 3-3 can vote differently from the President.]

[She can? You can? Shicchan! You’re confusing me! Unless… did you just claim you could override yourself??]

[Yes.]

[Does that mean we can have an Underwater Basket Weaving Society?]

Shizune sighed and made a characteristic gesture of exasperated surrender.

[Yes. Now let’s go have lunch. I’m hungry!]

[Speaking of which, how about that Parfait Club?]

[Don’t push it] Shizune signed grimly. Yet, there was a trace of tenderness as she placed one hand firmly on Misha’s lower back and guided her out of the Council Room.
Last edited by brythain on Tue Nov 25, 2014 11:20 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—Shizune's Arc/Hideaki's Arc (Complete; U

Post by Oscar Wildecat » Tue Nov 25, 2014 11:13 pm

[Speaking of which, how about that Parfait Club?]
First rule: You do not talk about Parfait Club.
Second rule: You DO NOT talk about Parfait Club.

I loved this bit of Shizune and Misha interaction. For the record, my use of the phrase "Underwater Basket Weaving Society" in the referenced post was independent of Broomhead's use. I needed a generic name for a club in that post and I remembered the term from my college days. At the school I attended, it was indeed used perjoratively -- especially by engineering majors in referring to certain liberal arts majors.
I like all the girls in KS, but empathize with Hanako the most.
"Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience." - Mark Twain
“Diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions.” - Winston Churchill
Checkout SordidEuphemism's Logo Thread.

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Re: After the Dream—Shizune's Arc/Hideaki's Arc (Complete; U

Post by brythain » Wed Nov 26, 2014 7:55 am

Oscar Wildecat wrote:
[Speaking of which, how about that Parfait Club?]
First rule: You do not talk about Parfait Club.
Second rule: You DO NOT talk about Parfait Club.
The correct response to this would of course be... Wahaha!~ :)
I loved this bit of Shizune and Misha interaction. For the record, my use of the phrase "Underwater Basket Weaving Society" in the referenced post was independent of Broomhead's use. I needed a generic name for a club in that post and I remembered the term from my college days. At the school I attended, it was indeed used perjoratively -- especially by engineering majors in referring to certain liberal arts majors.
I've edited in a correction (in the preamble to the story). Sorry... was wondering about the sudden resurgence of the phrase twice in a month! Yes, that was the context in which I had heard it too; one of my venerable ancestors was heading a department in the local arts faculty and mentioned it. :)
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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AtD—Shizune: Letter dated 08 April 2005

Post by brythain » Mon Feb 09, 2015 1:17 am

One is sometimes gifted with strange packages and traces of the past. I found this on my desk this morning.
It appears to have been written on Friday 8th April 2005. The ink has not faded much with time, but there is no envelope.


=====

To: Madam Mayoi Satou, Inverness, Scotland
From: Shizune, your daughter


My very dear mother,

In this time of beautiful spring, I trust that you are keeping well, and also that Uncle Hiroyuki and family are in good condition. Please send my respects to Cousin Akira. It is getting warmer in Sendai but it is still quite cold, especially at night. The cherry blossoms will be out soon.

This is my first week but you told me to write and so I should start as soon as possible, because early is good. It is Friday, so maybe I should have started earlier, but then I would not have had so many things to say. I humbly request that you check my English. I want to do well in this subject and I will use a dictionary to help me.

My classmates in 1-1 are only fifteen in number. I asked the teacher about this, because it doesn’t seem to be an efficient use of resources. She said that this is because they have a second intake in the second year, and sometimes transfer students. I accepted it because some flexibility is tolerable for the greater goal.

One of them has no difficulties at all, except that she is terrible at signing. She told me that she came to learn how to sign. I realized that she is using American signing, which is not the same. Now I have to teach her, because she sits next to me. Her name is Mikado, which seems like a joke but she insists it is true. I pointed out that this is a name that refers to our Imperial apparatus, including the emperor, and it is anyway used wrongly by most people. She says her father registered it that way, and that’s the way it will be. So stubborn!

The boys in my class are slackers. It is true that this is only the first week, but they are already smuggling beer into the dorms, skipping classes, and reporting sick. I have had the pleasure of catching one of them trying to get into our dorms, and he was so terrified that he told me about the beer. Of course, I have reported them all. They are only fifteen! They should do better!

I have met a good man, however. I was not feeling very happy in the first few days because of all these things, and also because I was missing home. Hideaki is at home with Father, and I fear for both of them. They might go mad and when I get home, there’ll be pools of blood all over. But back to the good man.

His name is Mutou-sensei and he is a senior science teacher. I was very angry at my class and I was in the library corridor kicking a wall. This was not good behaviour, so when he came up to me, I was prepared to get punished. I bowed to him and waited to be scolded. But he nudged my foot and surprised me, and I looked up at him. He looked back and he raised one eyebrow, as if he was asking what was up with me. So I signed at him about how everyone seemed to be laughing at me because I was serious about my work. And he signed back! He actually knows sign, and he signed ‘I am not laughing at you’ to me. He wasn’t very good, a bit slow, but we were able to have a chat.

He is a very learned man. Somehow, he seems to know me very well even though we have only just met. Mother, do not be worried. I don’t think I am having a crush on a high school teacher. But he is someone I can relate to. He’s thoughtful and thinks of everything as a situation to be examined and understood.

I think I can be happy in this place. Everyone here has problems and difficulties, some which can be solved and fixed, some that cannot. If people helped each other efficiently, things would work out well. The thing that is lacking is information. Sometimes people don’t tell each other things, and that leads to a lot of waste in time and stuff.

Next week, I am going to Mikamine Park to see the cherry blossoms. A few of them are already blooming around Sendai. They are almost all gone in Saitama now, Hideaki told me. He counts the ones outside our house. I wish we could save them for you, but it doesn’t work that way. I guess some things that are broken cannot be fixed.

I hope to write to you again soon. I wish you good health, happiness and long life.

Respectfully yours,


Shizune Hakamichi
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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Shizune: Return Trip (2008/2024)

Post by brythain » Wed May 06, 2015 2:56 am

Sometimes, it's hard to understand how things become more precious over time, even if they're only paper and memories.
Happy birthday anyway, Shizune!



Shizune: Return Trip (T -16)

May 2008

She looks at him grimly. Only weeks into term, and this nonsense. She thought he was getting better, but now already his focus is slipping. He hasn’t shaved.

[So, what is so urgent, Hisao?]

[We need to make a trip, Shizune.]

[A trip???] She makes it a question three times over, with emphasis, her fingers jabbing holes in the air. In her light green sleeveless blouse, she looks very charming, although she is unaware of it.

[Yes. Promise you’ll come with me?]

She looks at this untidy boy—well, almost a man. He has that mulish look on his face that means he’ll be stubborn about whatever it is he wants. He’s lean, still underweight from the strains of life, love, loss and examinations. Hasn’t gained enough weight. She would have to see to his diet. Again. No more mooning around reading poetry with Hanako and acting melancholy about that poor girl’s best friend.

My cousin, she thinks even more grimly, who abandoned Japan, and this sad fellow.

[Is Hanako coming with us?]

[No. Just we two.]

[This is not a rebound confession, is this?] she signs, half joking and half in frustration. Come on, out with it, we haven’t got all day. I have a tutorial to prepare for.

[No. Hanako knows about this and is okay with it.]

Insufferable, she says to herself. This is one screwed-up approach to a date, if that’s what he has in mind. Idiot boy. You don’t have to consult someone else, you need to find out if the person herself is okay.

[You asked Hanako? What ever for?]

[Well, there are only three of us here at Todai, and I didn’t want to leave her out without telling her.]

[Fine. So where? When?]

He pauses, seemingly surprised at her sudden capitulation. She smiles sweetly, waiting to pounce if he makes just one more mistake.

[Sendai.]

[How lovely. A date at the Shanghai, is it?] She’s very good at conveying sarcasm through the swift kendo-like strokes she makes with her fingers. She’s practiced a lot. There can be nuance, and also brutal blows, and she knows she’s good at it. The main problem is that those who aren’t so skilled can’t appreciate it.

[No. Just thought you might want to visit the old place over Golden Week.]

[Have I nothing better to do?] she signs delicately, with the faintest twitch of her fingers in the direction of the papers and books stacked neatly between them, mostly hers.

[It’s a holiday. I asked Mutou-sensei for some help.]

That makes no sense at all to her.

[Mutou-sensei?? Are you out of your mind?]

[No. Will you come with me? We can leave Friday night.]

[Well, I have to be back by Tuesday to visit my family in Saitama.]

He looks very relieved. He might even be happy, from that look on his face. She’s not so good at reading faces, but it seems to be something like that.

[That’s great! You won’t regret it.]

[Right.] She glares at him just for effect. [Now may this humble person get back to her work? Or she will not be able in good conscience to follow you around to the ends of the earth.]

Startled, he leans back. Then he gets the point, and the joke, and smiles. She gives him a chiding look, then softens the blow with a small, mysterious return-smile.

[Thanks, Shizune. You won’t regret it.]

[Repeating yourself is a waste of effort. Just make sure I don’t.]

That is perhaps unnecessarily harsh. So she broadens her smile and taps him on the arm to show that she’s joking again. Then she turns back to her books, and when she next looks up, he’s gone.

Sendai, she ponders. Whatever for?

*****

Wednesday 7th August 2024

She sits in the old room. Very little of it is recognizable. Years of different student councils, each with its own agenda and personalities, have chopped and changed things. Some of the old desks are in one corner, some of the old files and stationery sit dusty on a high-up shelf.

The door opens and a student clumps in without knocking. Messy young fellow with a limp. She snaps her fingers without thinking, as she recalls his name. Itaguchi, that’s right. Kenzo. 3-4, batch of 2024/5. Missing bones in one leg, something like that.

He looks at her in alarm and opens his mouth while signing badly. She sighs and thumbs her implants on. “… Madam Principal Hakamichi-san, so sorry, so sorry, didn’t know you were here.”

He is bowing repeatedly as if in a spasm. She reviews her mental records and finds nothing to worry about. She signs back: [It is all right. I was just dropping in to inspect the place.]

He looks even more alarmed and bows as he backs out. His signing seems to say: [Leave you alone to do it. Sorry sorry sorry sorry.]

The door shuts. Shizune lets out a slow breath. In the top corner, could that be …? There’s a box there, in the shadows. If she looks hard, she can see handwriting. No wonder nobody has touched it. ‘Property of Katayama R’—runes magical enough to deter the casually prying eye.

Grimly determined, she stands up and stacks three chairs on top of each other, looks around, grabs another chair. She climbs precariously, using the other shelves to support her weight. Carefully, she reaches up for the box and manages to wiggle it loose from cobwebs and grime.

It’s done. What has she got? A small box, filthy with age. Under Rika’s name, she sees something written on a peeling old length of masking tape: ‘Shizune 2008’, it says, in Rika’s neat cursive.

She holds her breath and tears through the tape with a sharp nail. The box gives up its secrets very slowly.

A plastic tablecloth in faded blue and white checks. Hakamichi colours. There had been a Black Forest cake, in a big silver cardboard box on it, she remembers. She spreads out the sheet, looks at what it encloses. There’s the box, clean but musty, folded neatly into a square foot. Covered with garish metallic paint, there’s also a banner. From memory, it says ‘Happy Birthday Shizune Hakamichi’, and in smaller letters below it, ‘with thanks from your juniors in the new Student Council’. She doesn’t unfold that.

There are other things in this box which bring back memories. These include a green party hat, which she last saw sitting on a tousled mass of brown hair, and a paper plate on which someone had drawn a cartoon of her friend Misha. There’s a little envelope, a square of paper, mottled with age.

She pauses and then decides to open that as well. In it is a faded instant-print copy of a digital photograph. Her mind fails her for a second, then she remembers: Aoi and Keiko, of course. She’s lost track of them. Rika, her successor as President of the Student Council. And Hisao, who had conned her into coming back for the improbable surprise birthday party.

Hisao, whom she’ll be speaking about tomorrow at the funeral. She’s glad nobody is around to watch her weep. Just to make sure, she turns to face the window, walks over to look out into the morning light through the worn white curtains. Behind her, the box sits forlorn in the shadows.

=====
main arc
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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Interlude (20151215)

Post by brythain » Tue Dec 15, 2015 5:45 am

As Akira once noted, there's a presence about her—a commanding authority that can't be masked even if she tries to cloak it. And that's why I turn my chair out of its pool of morning light, so that I can face her. It's hard for me to interpret JSL, something I only attempted after completing KS. Fortunately, she's like the other members of my huge pool of interested parties, editors, and 'dramatic persons'—as they used to say—in that she has other means to communicate.

A quick slash of her open hand, and I know I should keep an eye on my monitor. Warily, I keep the other on her. One does not simply turn one's back on Shizune Hakamichi.

She dimples, having read that thought all too clearly. It is true, what they say about those with a different package of senses: they often have others in their sensorium. Even as she signs, my terminal glows to life, providing a text translation.

[Author-san, it has come to my attention that you recently suggested that Ms Suzuki should receive a rewrite of her arc.]

Cautiously, I respond. "My forum comrade Oddball has that effect on my writing."

Ms Hakamichi grows animated. I notice a reddening of her cheeks, where her glasses float just above the angles of her face. [It is clearly not a consistent effect, and hence you do not have to follow up on it immediately.]

That's a curious thing. I wonder why she has to say it. "Dear lady, I haven't even completed Suzu's arc, so it's of no consequence."

She smiles, but there's steel under that façade. [That's good. You can do mine instead. It has not escaped my attention that you rewrote her arc a year ago and have not done as much for any of the rest of us since then. Except Kenji, who seems to be commandeering your output most of the time.]

"Ah. I see. Well, perhaps, I could..."

[You could.] She smiles warmly. [After all, you've said several times that you are married to someone like me. It should allow you to draw certain conclusions.]

"What... ah," I begin to reply, but she laughs and vanishes without preamble or special effects. Huh. I turn back to my screen.

[Consequences come in many flavours] is what I see printed there.
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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Nightfall (20180621)

Post by brythain » Thu Jun 21, 2018 4:04 am

Nightfall on Mount Aoba (T +31) (Dec 2055)

I am Shizune of the Hakamichi clan, and I have a diary. It is a boring diary. But sometimes, I write in my journal instead. I think the diary is for day-to-day and the journal is about important stops in the timeline of my life. This is one such stop.

*****

I had long believed in the indestructibility of the man I had known as a repulsive teenager many years ago. Like a cockroach, I used to think, he would survive anything by creeping into his hellhole of a stinking room and waiting out the end of the world. Over time, he had become a friend.

Earlier in the year, an unlamented female cousin of mine had got herself blown up in an Edinburgh café. Unlamented, of course, because she had not in fact been blown up, although she had been blown down and bounced around a bit. The news footage showed her giving an interview. It failed to mention how she had survived the bombing.

For unforgiveable days, even months, I had presumed the worst had come to pass: the once-repulsive fellow had indeed got killed while saving my cousin’s life. I did not know what I should feel. Sometimes, we all have awkward relationships we cannot classify.

He was my friend, but we were not really close. He bought me cheesecake on my birthday—which Misha mostly ate. I bought him whisky, when I remembered he had a birthday. Mostly, he was Hisao Nakai’s weird hallway acquaintance from when we were in high school, and somehow, his son was Hisao’s godson. Why these things happen, I don’t know.

In my head, I always feel I don’t know enough. Often, it is true. Thus, I am hardly ever disappointed in myself. After I turned 60, I began to do a lot of things freely that I would not have done when I was younger. Before Christmas in 2055, I caught myself shedding a tear. Misha thought it was because of my cousin’s narrow escape from death, and then she laughed because I made a face. Of course, if my cousin had actually died, I would have been deeply unhappy. We had become friends in our old age.

Then Misha thought I was being sentimental because my brother’s two daughters would be home for Christmas. Kit, who was then 25, and Shiny, who was then 22, were interesting young ladies. I liked Kit a lot. Misha said it was because the elder sister was serious, and she somehow had taken a liking to me as well. I couldn’t disagree. Shiny, on the other hand, liked doing weird things. She enjoyed conspiring with Misha to put people in unusual situations. She rode a high-powered motorcycle under manual control, and wanted to be a vet.

But Misha never figured out that I was shedding tears for Kenji Setou. It was a terrible surprise to me as well. I was not used to losing anything, for anybody. I would beat this yet. Or so I thought.

*****

During the Christmas break, there is little for the principal of a high school to do. This has always been fine with me. I am almost always running ahead of my workflow at Yamaku. I spend most of the rest of my time working on tasks which are mine because I am, among many other things, the head of Clan Hakamichi, and thus responsible for entities such as Hakamichi Industries. Where I can, I delegate such tasks to my surprisingly effective brother and sister-in-law. I also have a number of reliable associates who can handle projects of large scope.

In my personal life, I am ashamed to say that I sometimes neglect other people’s needs. I made a deal with my best friend, Misha, with regard to that. She is supposed to remind me when I’m doing it, and to help me compensate for that. She’s very good at dealing with people, and so, for Christmas 2055, she was handling the impending arrival of my nieces, and dealing with our adopted children. They have always been happy to be with her. With me, not so much. I have learnt to live with that, as with so much else.

It was late on a December night that I received the high-density encrypted pulse. My sensorium quickly shuffled other dataflows out of the way. I was rather miffed. This was some stranger who had obtained my priority code. I prepared a robust response. The pulse elaborated itself. Damn, it had priority codes that were of an even higher level than mine.

[Shizune Hakamichi. ID REDACT. Metadata location assay package. Accept?]

[Of course. Condition: ID REVEAL.]

[Black Knight. ID CONFIRM. Sending.]

I had a fraction of a second to identify the sender. Why was Suzumiya Suzuki contacting me? We had little to do with each other.

Then a huge data stream hit. I was getting location data, video, audio, scans in several different sections of the EM spectrum. Even ultrasound. It was Kenji’s house in Saitama, or what used to be that. I was appalled at the completeness of the destruction. There was literally a hole in the ground.

[How is Yuuko?] It was all I could think of to say, imprinting my will upon the carrier waves.

[Not here. DNA majority trace is male Setou, unidentifiable.]

[Not surprising.] Kenji’s traces must still be dominant in that deserted place, I thought to myself. He had lived there for so long. As had his father before him.

Long pause. I began to wonder if the fault was in Suzu or in myself (or both).

[Shizune, the General was never here, and he is still alive. But security footage shows his son was here. He did not survive.]

Whoever is reading this private record, please try to understand what it was like for me to have received that message.

*****

As I recollect my thoughts, let me tell you about Akiko Nakai. She is my—that is to say, she is our, Misha’s and my—adopted daughter. When her parents left this earth, her surviving grandparent entrusted her and her brother to me. There is a long story behind that, but that is not part of this account.

Akiko is a natural athlete, and there is much that spurs her on towards high achievement. She has represented our country at the Olympics. Sadly, she has also spent most of her life disliking me, and some parts of it disliking my cousin Lilly, whom she blames for her parents’ death. This often led to irrational and unpleasant behaviour, but that had been under control for some years.

Largely, this measure of control had been brought about by the presence of a thoughtful young person in Akiko’s life. Koji was the son of the General, as his staff called him—Kenji Setou. This odd relationship drew Kenji and I even closer in our dealings. Koji was not like his father at all; he was a historian, a man of peace, a quiet and reasonable person. Akiko benefited a lot from that.

More than ten years ago, the affair of Koji’s aunt and the unrelated affair of Meiko Ibarazaki’s death had triggered great changes in the relationship between Koji and Akiko. On one fateful autumn evening, I communicated with Koji, while half a world away, his father spoke to Akiko.

I remember that evening well, like a sharp image even though it seems so far away. We were using a small table in a quiet room where Mutou-sensei used to meet former students such as I, when we returned to visit Yamaku. Now I was the principal of the school, and Koji one of my teaching staff. He looked very much a weary scholar, lean and tall, ill-at-ease, his long legs crossed and showing baggy woolen socks. I served the tea, then sat.

[Koji, how is it between Akiko and you?]

[Principal Hakamichi, Akiko and I, we are not destined to be together.]

I sighed. Very firmly, I signed: [She needs you. She has nobody else.]

[That is not how I see it. She has you, and she has—] he looked confused for a while here, then resumed [—Aunty Misha.]

I grinned sourly at him, showing my left upper canine. [She has always disliked me. She loves Misha like her own mother.]

[That is not entirely true. She respects you more than you think.]

[Well, she respects you more than –you– think.]

He looked melancholy. [I do not dare think that is true.]

[She only wants to know that there are anchors in a world of storms.]

He looked up at that. It was a quote from one of his own writings, carefully chosen. Like my late father, I’m not a person who has many clever words. A glimmer of life flashed in his eyes, and the hint of a smile showed at their edges.

[That is not something Akiko would say.]

[She would say it if she had your words. She has always loved your writing.]

[What can I do?] his fingers signed, halting, uncertain.

[There are many things you can do. We can help.]

And so it was that Koji and Akiko would meet at a place that their parents’ memories held dear. Their relationship would grow, and they would live together for more than a decade, before… this.

*****

[The General is alive?]

[Yes. We had to keep it a secret. Tokyo Central was leaking.]

[Who did it?]

There was a long pause. My anger flailed quietly, with nothing for it to strike.

[Chiaki Hasegawa.]

Chiaki? She was an alumna of Yamaku, like me. Also like me, she had been Student Council President. I remembered that her disability had been to do with her brain being wired wrong. Somehow, the national intelligence services had found that useful. Somehow, she’d become Kenji’s successor.

Why would she have blown up Kenji’s house?

[I don’t understand.] That kind of message was something I sent when I wanted the other person to say more. It was not always a request for more information. Sometimes, I just wanted the time to think.

[She used a pinhead device. Half-ton yield, focused detonation. Then she killed herself, to my consternation.]

I found myself repeating: [I don’t understand.] I really did not.

[We don’t understand everything either.]

[You don’t understand? Who is ‘we’?]

[Shizune, more important: the pinhead signature was Hakamichi.]

There was a sudden silence. The carrier wave was gone.

I closed my eyes, blinded by sudden wetness.

Two things: my friend—even though we were not that close—had left me feeling sad about his death, which turned out to be untrue and therefore a waste of feelings; my adopted daughter’s best friend had died instead, and I was fond of her even though she had no such liking for me. Worse, I had thought highly of young Koji, and appreciated our working relationship and his friendship with Akiko.

*****

I look at the words I have just written, and I shudder at how cold it all sounds. I know why. It’s because I am so sad that I cannot say how sad I am. It is one of my failings, and I have never known how to overcome it. I will close my journal now.

=====

Editor's note:

My sister-in-law's journal entry makes reference to events also mentioned in her cousin's account here and in other records of the time, such as this. She was not as bad a person as she thought she was. [H, Sendai, 2063.]


main arc
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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