After the Dream—Lilly's Arc/'Testament' (Complete)

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brythain
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AtD (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Lilly4 up 20140304

Post by brythain » Tue Mar 04, 2014 7:53 am

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

Lilly 4: Timing (2024)

It is a truth privately acknowledged that a Catholic young lady (or even one of middle years and no longer so very Catholic) carries a large burden of sentimentality for the sins of her past. This is not often a serious difficulty, as long as that past does not hurt too much or bring unexpected pain.

“He’s gone, Lils. Emi didn’t want to pull the plug, didn’t want to let him go. Nurse-san, you remember him, had to persuade her that there was nothing left of him to save, and she kept asking why she couldn’t save him. Hanako was in tears, she said she just couldn’t think of what to do except to help Rin with the children, and Rin didn’t seem to be helping because she kept saying, ‘It’s OK, that’s not Hisao anymore.’ Then our cousin the madam dictator gave Emi this big hug and they were both crying and then Emi said, ‘If he’s not going to be Hisao, I’ll let him go,’ or something like that. And they pulled the plug.”

Lilly sits there, in the mellow oak atmosphere of the family library. She does not move, as the bullets thud into her broken body. How many does it take to kill someone? She has heard that it’s possible not to die. Akira had taken the call. The soft hesitations, the murmured words, the fact that Hanako hadn’t wanted to speak to her even though they were best friends: these were only the cocking of the rifles before the execution.

“The funeral’s in three days’ time. I’m flying down to read the will, although Hideaki normally handles Hisao’s legal matters. You’re coming with me this time. No excuses.”

She has no excuses. Half a lifetime ago, she had said her goodbyes. To be honest, she doubts she has harboured particularly strong feelings for Hisao the man, happy with his exuberant wife and two charming children. But she cared a lot for Hisao the boy, and the man was once the boy. And the boy is gone forever, lost in the glowing fields where two silly teenagers had claimed to love each other.

But why was it so hard to think? The problem, as madam dictator would have said, needed a solution. Perhaps it was because those closest to her kept the memories alive. After all, Hanako was godmother to Hisao’s daughter, and Akira godmother to Hisao’s son, and they visited often. Yet Lilly had never touched their faces, had never known those children that were never hers in any way.

‘The business won’t run itself’ will no longer fly. Perhaps it did at the faraway wedding, or in Sapporo. Perhaps it did when Akiko had been born four years ago, and even when Hisao had almost died two years ago, just barely. But now, the business almost runs itself, because she has been an efficient steward.

“No excuses,” she replies. She turns away from Akira. She knows that you can never go back, but now she has to try. Maybe the cherry blossoms will bloom like a bridge across the sky.

*****

It is a little-known fact that Lilly Satou’s middle name is Alexandra, the feminine version of the Greek word for ‘defender of men’. It was her nature, therefore to be a fervent protector, a self-appointed guardian of other people’s interests and personal freedoms. How are the mighty fallen.

She and Akira are unpacking. Choosing what to wear is always difficult for her; she goes by her sense of line and space, cut and texture, and tries to feel what will cover her nakedness in a way pleasing to herself. Years ago, she bought the long silk dress that Akira says is midnight-blue, much like her favourite pair of pajamas. Midnight-blue is a mysterious colour-word to her — it is the colour-word of clandestine dates and the aromas of night, of tentative gusts of gentle breeze, of wine and the awkward warmth of two people all alone together.

It is an appropriate colour, she has been told. Mother had said she looked stunning in it, and then clapped her hand to her face, horrified at her mistake. It was all right. She would never be able to compensate for the wasted years anyway. When Shizune (oh yes, madam dictator) had slapped the badly-Brailled message into her hand at the end of that summer, Lilly had haughtily told her not to thrust her shrewish nose into other people’s affairs.

[He loves you. You will break him.] Pinpricks in paper hurled away.

No, Hanako had been with him, and that was a good thing. He’d get over it. After all, if a man won’t fight and is of the opinion that certain things should be let go, perhaps all is for the best. Such were the thoughts that had gone through her youthful mind as she left her white knight en prise, sacrificing it to some unknown advancing foe.

And now? Well, now it is time to appear as an old and distant acquaintance of the family: Aunty Hanako’s best friend and Aunty Akira’s sister. Certainly not ‘an old friend of your father’, she thinks in desperate irony. Lilly Alexandra Satou is clad in midnight, and steeling herself, she goes silently towards the day.

Akira coughs at the door. It is time.

*****

She exchanges formal pleasantries in the Japanese style that she now finds awkward, before Akira guides her to a seat. She has paid respects to a long wooden box in which there is no mystery, only loss. The cemetery is full of the scent of apples. She is told that Emi’s father is buried here too. There is altogether too much melancholy in the air.

A certain kind of rustle and tentative testing of the seat on her left prepares her for a burst of muted happiness. “Hanako?”

Slim strong arms embrace her, and she smells a woody perfume, rather subtle, and an old familiar beret. “H-hello, Lilly. I’m… happy that you’re here.” What’s unsaid is that Hanako has not been happy that she’s been absent before.

That’s not what friendship is about, though. “Thank you for always being my friend, Hanako.” She is almost about to cry. Both of them, probably.

“Akira? She t-told you about everything?”

“Yes, she did. I’m sorry for not coming down earlier.”

When Hisao was still being kept alive. Both of them shy away from that.

“It’s OK. We all missed you.”

That’s probably not completely true. She knows some people wouldn’t have. She instinctively casts her net of sensation wider, tries to figure out who is here and who is not. Hanako feels this, and helps out a bit as usual.

“Your cousins are both here. Hideaki’s at the back, in the charcoal-grey suit I b-bought for him. Your other cousin is wearing the same colour — I think she only wears grey everyday anyway — and she’s sitting to one side, I think she’ll be speaking as the school principal later. Rin is three rows behind us, wearing a white shift and pantaloons and looking after the children… Oh, Mutou-san is sitting there too… And I think that’s Misha standing alone over there.”

The descriptions fade, blend, blur. She seizes on one incongruous phrase. “Hana, did you say you bought a suit for Hideaki?”

A pause. “Y-yes. It looks good on him. A nice Parisian cut. Akira and he and I, now and then we get together, we went shopping a few months ago. I ordered two suits because he’s a young lawyer and looks so scruffy, not as professional as Akira.”

She hardly stutters now, Lilly realizes, comparing Hanako now with Hanako of old. So many things have changed; they change so gradually that you don’t notice, until a falling star brings them all to light.

The service has begun. She hears subdued weeping all around, and even that now threatens to drown her. There are too many ghosts in this place.

“To those who remember him, Nakai was a great teacher and a loving husband. He was firm but inspiring towards his students, and generous with his time and assistance to his colleagues. He and Ibarazaki were known as the ‘Dynamic Duo’ to the young people of Yamaku. I am sure that Dr Hakamichi will elaborate on that later…”

Oh yes, madam dictator. But suddenly, Lilly imagines what it must be like to have to make a speech of this kind. She imagines what she herself could say. She had known Hisao only for a few months of her youth, a few perfect, intense months. The others here, they have known him now for more than a decade. She would have nothing to say except that she loved him, and even that was so long ago.

I love you, Hisao, she remembers saying. Again and again. She thought then that it would last forever. And now, now… Good night, Hisao. And the tears come pouring down.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Sat Apr 29, 2017 10:18 pm, edited 6 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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AtD (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Lilly5 up 20140305

Post by brythain » Tue Mar 04, 2014 9:31 pm

This is the fifth part of Lilly's arc in 'After the Dream', my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic. It has slight overlap with Shizune's arc here.

Lilly 5: Transmute (2028)

I’m sitting here at my keyboard, trying to say things that almost cannot be said. Hanako wants me to do it; she says it will help. Although I’m not so sure this is the case, I appreciate her friendship very much, and so I must try.

*****

Tanabata is a quaint Japanese summer festival, some say borrowed from the Chinese, celebrating the night when two divine lovers meet, or not, depending on the vagaries of the Milky Way — it’s the river that separates them the rest of the year. Strangely, it is the first thing on my mind, when I should instead be describing the events of the last few years. Well, here we go.

Four years ago, my first love passed away from a congenital heart disorder that had finally triumphed over medical science. We had parted on rather strained terms in the year before graduation, and although I’d been invited to his wedding some years after that, I had sent my regrets and something nice for distant old friends with whom I had… no longer much in common.

Somehow, his death had brought back a flood of memories. After all, you never forget your first love; there are always things that you keep, that remind you of the time when you were young and perhaps a little foolish. I’m old enough to admit without blushing that I was very deeply in love at the time.

With young love often comes young idiocy. They tend to hold hands when you least want them to, which is why the entire Eurasian landmass lay between us on the day that I had promised I’d be with him: Tanabata, the year after high school. It was perhaps the last straw; by that time, I think we both felt it was long over.

But there I was at his funeral almost two decades after that, sobbing my heart out. I had to leave early, and I was sure at least one person took it to heart — my cousin Shizune, who was giving the final eulogy when I walked out of the proceedings.

The years passed. I had been very busy running the little group of restaurants that my elder sister Akira and myself had developed with a helping hand from our late father. Mother got a share of the business when he died, and my cousins on the Anderson side began to help out, so I had a little more time for myself.

The earth had continued turning under my feet, and I’m ashamed to say I had not noticed many things, or at least, not been my usual perceptive self in matters of logistics. My sister and Shizune’s brother Hideaki had been taking too many trips together for some years, and they’d been keeping secrets. When I confronted them, a whole mess of skeletons fell out of the cupboard.

Fortunately, they weren’t very frightening skeletons, and after a long, long talk and much single-malt Scotch, I learnt many things that changed my perception of my family and events back in Japan. (Yes, Hanako, I’m going to put some of it down. We don’t want to forget any of it, do we?)

*****

It all began when Shizune, of all people, pinged me. I don’t receive many incoming communications with strange Japanese identifier codes, so I answered. A somehow overly perfect and rather sexless synthesized Japanese voice replied. What it said perturbed me quite a bit.

“This is Shizune. Hakamichi Jigoro is dead, and we have to talk.”

It’s a wonderful world in which the mute can speak and the blind can see them speak. It’s also very hard to describe to people who are not so blessed. Despite all the enabling technology we now have, words can still fail us, communications can still be impossible.

“Hello, Shizune. My, my. It has been a long time, hasn’t it? How are you?”

Yes, I had completely lost it. My only excuse is that one tends to start with the traditional civilities before moving on to other matters. My cousin is fairly traditional too, and her opening gambit had rather confused me.

“I am not angry with you. Our fathers are dead and there is no point. Also, when you walked out on the funeral, it was fine with me. No important words were missed. But I have to ask: have you been speaking with Hanako recently?”

(Yes, Hanako, that was the moment at which I began to suspect betrayal. I’m sorry. It was all my fault for not paying attention.)

“Of course I have.”

“Then you know she is joining our family?”

“In Sendai? How lovely! I hope you all have a good time.”

“… (something untranslatable) … wedding next year.”

“Did you just say there’ll be a wedding?

At that point, I am sorry again to say that Shizune, never the most patient of relatives, metaphorically threw a few rocks through my windows. In the shattered remains of my peace, I made out the fine texture of a rather dastardly plot involving Akira, Hideaki, and my very best friend Hanako. And worse, Shizune knew all about it, and I had not a single clue.

Hideaki, that awkward kid brother of Shizune’s, had grown up. Growing up with two older ladies, who went dining and shopping together, had made him quite a man of the world. Oddly, his transformation had had little to do with bold Akira, and much to do with quiet Hanako. (You can stop blushing now.)

In fact, I thought he had been making little puppy-dog eyes at Akira for years. Apparently, Akira had deflected such incestuous tendencies all too successfully, and Hideaki had fallen hard. He had confessed his love to Hanako with huge bouquets of flowers sent to (and from) the uttermost corners of the earth. He had written reams of poetry. He’d even been threatened with death by his (and Shizune’s) irate father. I could imagine the scene.

Hanako had firmly rejected him at first. But he’d been persistent, and warm, and a lot less robotic than I remembered him. They had begun spending time together even without Akira. Then his father had died, with some sort of uncouth blessing falling from his lips. And now, they were to be married. It was a great shock to me. I felt terribly unsettled. I felt completely betrayed, actually.

(Yes, I know you tried to tell me. But your idea of a hint is an unfinished game of chess in a formal Japanese garden.)

When Shizune had calmed down, and I had managed to gather my own thoughts, we had a proper conversation. We caught up. She expressed her worries over Emi’s deteriorating health and mental state, her concerns over Rin’s increasing eccentricity, and her approval of the godmothering duties performed by Hanako and Akira for the benefit of Hisao’s children.

I must confess I felt a twinge of loss then. I had once upon a time dreamt of having a family with him, with godparents whom I numbered amongst my closest friends. My best friend and dear sister had fulfilled that part of the dream without me having had any part of my own.

We ended the conversation on a friendly note. I think time does indeed repair a fabric rent by childhood animosities. We had found no reason to increase our mutual antipathy, and we now had interests in common. Somehow, she wanted to be friends, and I could not begrudge her that. It had been a pleasant surprise.

However, I now had quite a few bones to pick with certain family (and soon-to-be-family) members. Hence the Scotch and the terrible, terrible hangover that ensued. I also remember being thrown out of a rather up-market establishment and finally crawling into my parish church, the Sacred Heart, to make a rather drunken confession to an alarmed Jesuit. Somehow, Akira persuaded Hanako and Hideaki to have the wedding in Edinburgh, since we were all rather impressed by the church in which we were sprawled, and that suited me fine.

(I think this is a good place to stop for now. Hanako?)

*****

I’m feeling quietly relaxed. Hanako seems to be comfortable in her corner of the library, where she’s been humming to herself and planning for the wedding. In fact, she might have fallen asleep, from the even and contented sound of her breathing. Perhaps this literary exercise is just what we both needed.

I miss the days when we used to sip tea at the Shanghai, with no serious decisions to make and no regrets to ponder. But the weight of later decisions and regrets begins to lift. In fact, there’s only one thing that remains to be done.

I need to go back to Sendai. In my music-box is the strip of Braille parchment that Akira gave me after the reading of the will. It was from Hisao, she said. Before he died, he expressed his wish that I should do two things: enjoy his humble haiku and appreciate for myself the decorative plaque that Mutou-san had made for his gravestone.

I left before touching the plaque. But I’ve memorized the words on the parchment, his last words to me: “Star-crossed, we broke faith / The winter world between us / See me in summer.” I will. Good night, Hisao!

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Sat Apr 29, 2017 10:18 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 (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Lilly6 up 20140305

Post by brythain » Wed Mar 05, 2014 12:15 am

This is the sixth part of Lilly's arc in 'After the Dream', my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic. There's a special guest-star (heh) at the end.
This part also dovetails with Shizune's arc here.


Lilly 6: Transpose (2030)

It has been six years since I was last in Japan, for Hisao’s funeral. I remember losing my dignity on that occasion and fleeing this place in a flood of tears, like a Gothic heroine. I have returned because now the ghost-count is rising, and I feel that I must at least speak with some of them.

Hideaki leaves me and walks quietly outside to wait, ever the dutiful and considerate younger cousin. He has brought me from Narita to the cemetery. He will have to wait a little longer, I think apologetically.

Events of the last few months have taken their toll on him; he sounds fatigued, and with dear Hanako (his ‘Hana’ now) away, he sounds older than I feel. She’ll be back in a couple of days, so that’s not so bad; it’s something for him to look forward to, after weeks of separation.

I have brought flowers. Lilies. I think Hisao might have liked that; he always had a dry sense of humour. I have no idea what his religious beliefs were in the end, but I hope that something of him remains to listen to my confessions, for there is a lot to confess.

I kneel in the well-trimmed grass of summer. Tonight is the Tanabata festival, when long-separated lovers meet across the void of the stars, and when more mundane people make wishes for better times ahead. I feel that I am both.

I run my hands lightly around the space in front of me, feeling the old stone on one side, the new stone on the other side. I place my name-blossoms on Hisao's grave and hold my breath for a while, as if expecting some response. Perhaps there is. The leaves rustle a little, but the heavy step is missing.

“Dear Hisao,” I begin. “I am sorry that I wasn’t here last Tanabata as I thought I would be. I’ve not been very good at keeping my promises to you. But I’m here today, and if anything of you remains, I want this to be a happy reunion. I loved you very much.”

Last Tanabata, months after hosting the wedding in Edinburgh, we had decamped to Montpellier for a while before the honeymoon couple went off to Andorra. I think Hisao would have liked the wedding; he’d always had a soft spot for both Hanako and Hideaki.

“I’m here today to fulfill your last wish. I have no idea what I will find, but Akira told me the story of how you commissioned Mutou-san to make a plaque of ruthenium steel and mount it as a decoration on your stone. It must be beautiful; everyone says it is. Today I’m going to find out for myself.”

It takes me a lot of fortitude to do this. The breeze has died down completely. It’s as if nature is holding its breath, as I reach out to touch the part of the stone that is covered with smooth metal. Stars and clouds, Akira had said. I find the stars immediately; they’re stark indentations in the swirling steel of the clouds.

It’s a Tanabata design, a Milky Way separating the divine lovers. I feel a wetness welling up in my eyes. And then I feel something else. I move my fingers across the clouds. Again. Unmistakeable, now. It is something for me.

I cannot move. I am transfixed. At some point, I lower my head over the remains of my love. I hear familiar music. I am saying good night, although it is day.

Eventually, the person who agreed to meet me here arrives. I hear the click-clacking along the stone path, but I feel too exhausted to rise.

*****

They meet at the grave as planned. Lilly is already there, and she is bowed over Hisao’s stone, running her fingers over that curious plaque of ruthenium steel, with a design of clouds and stars, that Mutou-san had made for a decoration.

Shizune’s gaze is still as sharp as a knife. She can’t help it; she has had a lifetime of looking out on the world, a fox who cannot hear. She notices that her cousin’s hair is transmuting slowly from gold to lead, that the tender skin of youth is becoming the fine parchment of early middle age.

She clasps her cousin’s arm as Lilly’s face turns towards her. Those tears she sees are genuine, she knows. But Lilly was always emotional in an odd way. She wonders at the tears, after so many years of a love that can only have been a distant magnetism. She’s come to know her cousin a lot better over the last two years. But still, why?

She does not expect it when Lilly signs on her palm, asks for the tabphone, activates her implants, and answers the question she cannot possibly have heard. The words tumble into her ears like an avalanche, and she has to look at the tabphone to make sure she is hearing what she hears.

“Shizune, cousin, in some ways you have loved him more than I, and for longer. I do believe that I loved him very much. When I left him, it was entirely my fault; I was angry because I thought he didn’t want me. I was later to realize that we had parted because he thought I did not want him. By then, it was too late. It feels so childish now.

“I thought he might end up with Hanako, and I was happy for them both, and encouraged them. Hanako and he both grew a lot that year, and before she went to New York. Then he was at Gakudai with Emi, and after that you moved to Yamaku, and I thought that might be best for him, because you were all his friends. I did nothing because I loved him enough to let him be happy, and I told myself he would be happy, and it was like that for years.

“Then he passed, and Akira gave me the message he left me that had been sealed with his will. It told me about the plaque on his stone. But that was after the funeral, and I had gone home to Edinburgh, and since then, I’ve not been back.”

Lilly takes a deep breath. Shizune’s implants stop vibrating and the sudden and familiar silence feels like an eclipse of the summer sun.

“Do you know what the stars on that plaque say? They’re not just a random pattern. They are words in Braille. They say, ‘I loved you first of all.’

Shizune looks down at the three neatly manicured graves. And there on the sad height, she blesses and curses and holds her cousin as they shed tears for the past that has gone to waste and the cost of all those years.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Sat Apr 29, 2017 10:19 pm, edited 6 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Re: After the Dream (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Lilly6 up 2014030

Post by Hotkey » Wed Mar 05, 2014 8:29 am

Most enjoyable chapters.

Hideaki and Hanako? Did not see that one coming. Kinda cute! Wait...make that...very cute ^_^!
Last edited by Hotkey on Wed Mar 05, 2014 12:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: After the Dream (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Lilly6 up 2014030

Post by bhtooefr » Wed Mar 05, 2014 9:06 am

I was wondering if that's where you were going with the Shizune POV thing... and... you know, I don't hate the ship.
bhtooefr's one-shot and drabble thread
Enjoy The Silence - Sequel to All I Have (complete)
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Re: After the Dream (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Lilly6 up 2014030

Post by brythain » Wed Mar 05, 2014 10:18 am

Most of it will have to wait for Hanako's arc… I will be taking a break after Lilly's arc. Emi will be next. :)
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) Lilly6 up 2014030

Post by Frankyo » Wed Mar 05, 2014 10:28 am

brythain wrote:Most of it will have to wait for Hanako's arc… I will be taking a break after Lilly's arc. Emi will be next. :)

Geez... I wonder what happened to Emi, since Shizune had to adopt her kids...
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!

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AtD (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Lilly7 (Complete)

Post by brythain » Wed Mar 05, 2014 12:55 pm

This is the seventh and last part of Lilly's main arc in 'After the Dream'. There's a lot more to tell, but not here.
It is also the logical ending to the entire Lilly story, including 'Testament', whose last chapter concludes just before this.


Lilly 7: Terminus (2074)

It’s Tanabata again, and I feel it deeply within, in this Year of Our Lord 2074. Fifty years ago, a funeral I thought would hold little meaning for me became the pivot around which all our lives were spun. And now, I am old, an old lady high above an autumn valley with mountains in the background. I don’t feel that old, or I wouldn't be here.

I came to live with my dear friend Hana years ago, when I realized almost everyone else was gone. At least, she has the grandchildren, and there are others who visit. They always ask the same questions and want to listen to the same stories. And that is why I sometimes turn and go up to the comfort of my corner room, where I can listen to my little music-box and my memories.

“Lilly?”

“Yes, Hana?”

Every afternoon, we sit in the warmth of the sun as it shines across the third-floor balcony. Always, I make the tea, following a routine that I first found in my youth and regained in old age. Always, she brings a meal from the kitchen below.

I reach over to touch her face, and she tilts it towards me. I love that face. The beauty she possessed in the past has been made perfect now, a gift from the Nakai Foundation. She claims I am just as beautiful, but next to her I am heavy, clumsy, ungraceful despite years of dance lessons.

I feel her lips move. “We have a visitor today, three hours out of Barcelona in bad weather to get here.”

“Who?” I ask, querulous, unable to keep the taint of displeasure away at the idea that someone is to interrupt us. I had thought the noise of an extra vehicle was something to do with our neighbours. I examine recent events in the house’s MindSpace. Hmm, Japanese-origin tags.

I hear her quietly place another bento box on the table and then clasp my wrists. “You will want to meet him, Lilly. It has been quite a while.”

Now it is ridiculous. I feel my pulse quicken, sluggish at first. If it were who I think it is, I would want to see him. But despite the blandishments of the Foundation and my late cousin Shizune’s generosity, I have been too comfortable with myself to try stem-cell optic nerve regeneration. It hardly ever works, they say.

“Hello, Aunty Lils!” his voice rings out around the staircase. Moments later, Akira is in the room, his broad frame enfolding me. I blush, as I always have.

We have an odd relationship—he is my cousin’s adopted son, he was my sister’s godson—but the one thing I cannot forget is that his body is so much like his father’s was. He must be past his half-century by now, but his physique is mostly lean muscle, angular bone; with all the warmth of a happy heart.

There’s more fat now, I realize. I giggle like a schoolgirl (but an octogenarian one) and poke him playfully in the liver, just barely resisting the urge to tousle his hair. “Akira, my dear boy! How nice to have you with us. My, my… you’re a bit heavier since the last time we got together. Are Rekha and the children with you?”

I send my radar probes downstairs, cheating a little. Rekha’s a lovely lass, all tiny and impulsive. The children must be teenagers themselves now, junior members of the Foundation at Yamaku. It’s a pity their actual grandparents are not around to see them.

I shake my head. There is sad history in that past, and I don’t think I want that to spoil my mood right now.

Akira releases me gently, pats me down a little. “They’re all here. It’s not often the kids get a summer in Europe. They’re very excited about it, and they want to meet Gran Lilly, Dad’s tall and beautiful exotic aunt.”

“Flatterer.”

“Rekha told them I had a crush on you before I had a crush on her. And since they’re at the age of crushes, they wanted to come see you. The last time they saw you was when they were way too young for such thoughts.”

I can feel his smile under my hand. It’s his father’s smile. Clearly, he has much of his father in him. I sense Hanako’s amusement; after nearly seventy years of friendship, it’s not difficult. I also detect her sneaking off downstairs to invite Akira’s family up to our tearoom, ever the thoughtful hostess.

I lower my hand to his elbow. He tenses. He knows what I’m going to ask.

“How’s Akiko? Is she coming too?”

“Unlikely. She’s busy at the Foundation, and sends her best wishes as always.”

He’s lying, with the best of intentions. It’s bitter to me, although I am beyond bitterness in most things. His sister was ten when their mother died of a broken heart and Rin Tezuka vanished. Akiko blames me somehow, and also Shizune, who was so kind to them. I’ve never been able to work out the details.

I retreat around the tea-table as he sits on the sofa. Hana somewhat breathlessly arrives.

“Ta-da! I present to you your Gran Lilly, most beautiful and exotic of your father’s aunts!”

I feel Rekha move across the room to me, kneel and clasp my hands in her much smaller ones. “Hi, Aunty Lilly. It’s very good to see you again.”

Whispers.

A girl’s voice, sassy, enthusiastic: “Wow, in real life she looks good for her age, almost like Gran Hana! Can see what Granddad saw in her.”

A boy, alarmed: “Shh, she has augs. Don’t be rude! See?”

He must’ve seen the ghost of a frown crossing my brow. We had all agreed to bury any hint of a relationship between Hisao and me, in respect for the memory of Emi Ibarazaki. I suppose time has worn the barriers thin.

My smile returns. “Hello, dears! I’m glad you think I still have some of my youthful looks. I must say, however, that Gran Hana was even more beautiful, and your grandmother was the loveliest bride ever!”

It never hurts to create a good truth. I hear my late sister’s voice mock me: “Lils, you weren’t even there!” Yes, Akira, but I’m quite sure Hisao thought so.

*****

It’s night now, and we’re in cosy honey-lit warmth with the windows all closed and climate control cruising. Hana leaves the cybernetics to me these days, so I keep the food supplies coming and she does the cooking. It’s a bit like running a restaurant.

The front door activates, seals again. The sound of feet stamping and an overcoat removed. Tag: Hideaki Hakamichi.

“Hello, everyone. Just in via Toulouse. Glad all of you look comfortable. Long time no see. Need to kiss Hana first, don’t look.”

All in one nearly monotonous breath, this is. My cousin sweeps past the rest of us at the dinner-table like an ancient spectre and pounces on his wife, who makes embarrassed sounds and is otherwise smothered for about a minute before she’s allowed to breathe.

When dinner resumes, everyone is animated, happy. I want to join in, but somehow, just as it has for almost every Tanabata of my adult life, melancholy seizes me. It’s worse tonight, though. Everyone has someone. I only have everyone else’s someones.

“Lilly?”

“It’s nothing.” Trust Hana to hear what nobody else hears.

*****

The old music-box has survived flight, fire and flood. Its pitch is now uncertain, and I sometimes forget to wind it. But it still works, the Sarabande tinkling softly forth in my hands. As I always do, I listen for a while and then say my goodnights to the ghosts of other times. At the end, my usual: Good night, Hisao.

I am surprised when he answers. But then, it is Tanabata after all, and star-crossed lovers may get at least one chance.

*****

Diari d’Andorra (British Version), 7 August 2074 — Andorra La Vella, Andorra.

Death: Lillian Alexandra Anderson Satou (b. 7 February 1989?), at the home of Hideaki and Hanako Hakamichi, of natural causes. Ms Satou, citizen of Scotland and Japan, had been resident in Andorra for ten years. She will be laid to rest at the Church of St Stephen at 3 pm on Saturday 11 August. A wake service will be held each night at 9 pm up to Friday 10 August. No wreaths please.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Sat Apr 29, 2017 10:20 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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Re: After the Dream (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Lilly6 up 2014030

Post by brythain » Wed Mar 05, 2014 1:16 pm

Frankyo wrote:Geez... I wonder what happened to Emi, since Shizune had to adopt her kids...
Emi's arc doesn't end very well for anyone. That's why I'll need a break before I start writing it. Sigh. I'm beginning to think only Hanako gets a good deal in my 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 (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Lilly6 up 2014030

Post by dewelar » Wed Mar 05, 2014 1:44 pm

brythain wrote:
Frankyo wrote:Geez... I wonder what happened to Emi, since Shizune had to adopt her kids...
Emi's arc doesn't end very well for anyone. That's why I'll need a break before I start writing it. Sigh. I'm beginning to think only Hanako gets a good deal in my mosaic…
Not surprising. The whole thing has an overbearing sense of sadness thus far. Thanks for the warning re: Emi...will definitely have to make sure I'm in the right frame of mind to read it once it's posted.

I admit to struggling with the idea of Lilly carrying a torch for Hisao for 60+ years, and moreso with Hisao's message to her on the plaque, but otherwise still very well done.
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Stuff I've written: Developments, a continuation of Lilly's (bad? neutral?) ending - COMPLETE!

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Re: After the Dream (PostLilly NeutralEnd) Lilly6 up 2014030

Post by brythain » Wed Mar 05, 2014 1:54 pm

dewelar wrote:I admit to struggling with the idea of Lilly carrying a torch for Hisao for 60+ years, and moreso with Hisao's message to her on the plaque, but otherwise still very well done.
*grin* I admit to struggling with that too. But by Lilly's neutral end, they've had quite the romance—and Lilly's a romantic sort. I think that if you've been obsessively in love for a few months, and that love has been returned, and it's your first one, it takes a long time to wear off for some people. It's partly a joke to her, but after the funeral, it takes on deeper meaning. So in keeping with Lilly's good ending, I made it a star-crossed lovers thing, long-deferred. Thanks! I'll try to do better with the rest.
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) Lilly6 up 2014030

Post by Hotkey » Wed Mar 05, 2014 2:06 pm

While you take a well-earned break, may I ask for a complete list of character arcs?

So far we've had Shizune and Lilly. Hanako and Emi are still to come. Apparently you have a Misha one saved for last? Looking forward to that. Does Rin have an arc? I'm quite curious about her dissapearance.

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Re: After the Dream (PostLilly NeutralEnd) LillyArc (Complet

Post by Guest Poster » Wed Mar 05, 2014 2:07 pm

I must admit the "Emi dying of a broken heart"-thing came across to me as weird. It almost sounds like Emi lost her will to live after Hisao died, gave up and faded away. Emi's dealt with loss before. We also know how she deals with it...by running her artificial legs off and trudging on. She hates giving up with an almost unreasonable passion.
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Re: After the Dream (PostLilly NeutralEnd) LillyArc (Complet

Post by forgetmenot » Wed Mar 05, 2014 2:10 pm

Guest Poster wrote:I must admit the "Emi dying of a broken heart"-thing came across to me as weird. It almost sounds like Emi lost her will to live after Hisao died, gave up and faded away. Emi's dealt with loss before. We also know how she deals with it...by running her artificial legs off and trudging on. She hates giving up with an almost unreasonable passion.
Which brings up an interesting possibility - the likelihood of Emi running too hard, to the point where she does develop infections in her legs and must have them amputated above the knee. Being stuck in a wheelchair with pretty much no hope of ever getting out? I can see that doing quite the number on Emi.

Anyhow, I agree that it seems odd for Lilly to carry a torch for Hisao for 60+ years. As the story drew to a close, I found myself thinking it strange that she wouldn't recount any other experiences she's had other than the small, explicit vignettes we've seen. It seems cherry-picked.

In the end, though, it was written well and concluded nicely (well, as nicely as a very sad ending can conclude). Looking forward to reading the rest of the arcs.

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Re: After the Dream (PostLilly NeutralEnd) LillyArc (Complet

Post by bhtooefr » Wed Mar 05, 2014 2:13 pm

And her physical health was mentioned as declining, too...
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