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

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brythain
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Re: After the Dream—Lilly's Arc (Complete; Testament2 201502

Post by brythain » Sun Feb 01, 2015 10:00 pm

azumeow wrote:You made me cry. I was already feeling a bit sad, because of some music I'd heard on the way home from work, but.....

I miss her, brythain. She was terrible and in the end truly a wretched person, but I still love her and I miss her so, so much. I wish I had read Katawa Shoujo the day it came out. It might have saved it all. I still wonder if the way things are now is for the best or not.

On to the writing itself: It was good. It mentions the flaws of both characters in LNE. Thank you for writing this.
You're very welcome. As I've said before, we all come here with various levels of brokenness, feeling, emotion, and so on. We learn from each other, and in the end we hope for better times ahead.
Serviam wrote:Ouch.

Ouch.

Lils, you magnificent woman, I've read your letters. They hurt.
You have no idea. I thought my eyes were bleeding when I read the documents Hanako showed me. But no, they were only tears.
Oscar Wildecat wrote:I would hope that somewhere in the "After the Dream" universe, someone may be just a bit happy ... possibly. But if so, it seems that knowledge of that fact will never make it past brythain's firewall of despair. :wink: :(
Hey! Some people ended up happy to the end. But endings tend to be sad to those who are left behind, like we the readers and editors who are forced to think about what might have been. I am quite sure Mutou, Misha, Rin, Natsume, Hanako, Hideaki (the list goes on) were quite happy (or at least somewhat satisfied) when they passed away.

Perhaps the problem is that I've actually gone right to the end of each person's path. :( I do, however, love the term 'firewall of despair'. :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—Lilly's Arc (Complete; Testament2 201502

Post by Oscar Wildecat » Sun Feb 01, 2015 10:21 pm

brythain wrote: Hey! Some people ended up happy to the end. But endings tend to be sad to those who are left behind, like we the readers and editors who are forced to think about what might have been. I am quite sure Mutou, Misha, Rin, Natsume, Hanako, Hideaki (the list goes on) were quite happy (or at least somewhat satisfied) when they passed away.

Perhaps the problem is that I've actually gone right to the end of each person's path. :( I do, however, love the term 'firewall of despair'. :D
I'll grant that I exaggerated my original point -- in order perhaps, to make the point. However, I would respectfully disagree with you that the problem is that you're going to the end of each persons path. Several people in your stories have reached endings that I would consider enviable. Hanako's, in particular, stands out as a life well lived. In my opinion, the problem lies in the selective editing required to emphasize "what what lost and what might have been" aspect of these stories. I could see how letting too much happiness through e.g. Hideaki and Hanako figuring out the mechanics of diapering a squirming baby... would distract the reader from the theme at hand. Hence the term "firewall of despair."

BTW, feel free to use that. :)
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
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Re: After the Dream—Lilly's Arc (Complete; Testament2 201502

Post by brythain » Sun Feb 01, 2015 10:31 pm

Oscar Wildecat wrote:In my opinion, the problem lies in the selective editing required to emphasize "what what lost and what might have been" aspect of these stories. I could see how letting too much happiness through e.g. Hideaki and Hanako figuring out the mechanics of diapering a squirming baby... would distract the reader from the theme at hand.
Ah, heh, got me there. Although I did have fun writing the scene where Hideaki cooks for Jigoro, and suchlike. :) The 'firewall of despair' has some open ports!
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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Lilly: Testament3 (T +50)(up 20150202)

Post by brythain » Mon Feb 02, 2015 1:16 pm

Being a transcription of some of the last writings of Lillian Alexandra Anderson Satou, penned in her own hand in the month of June in the Year of Our Lord 2074, and dedicated to the memory of old friends and the glory of God. The original documents may be found in the care of the archivist of the Church of St. Stephen, in which graveyard her mortal remains are interred.


Lilly: Testament3 (T +50)

It is still rather amusing to wake up in the morning, even after all these years, and rediscover that my dear Hana has become my relative by marriage. It is especially so when the man cooking breakfast is so comically different from the young person he used to be.

I am happy to have poached eggs (made exactly the way they ought to be) on some kind of deeply aromatic and slightly chewy bread. Also, unless I miss my guess, spinach which does not offend my tastebuds—with a dash of certain familiar spices—and tiny pieces of raw but subtly flavourful fish. The years roll back, and I remember the five restaurants that I used to run in Edinburgh.

Actually, there are two things I remember in particular: the reason I went into the business in the first place, and the fact that Hanako only agreed to marry her young man five years after Hisao died.

‘After Hisao died’ is a phrase I cannot write without soon thereafter leaning back in my chair and pausing for a long while. How could his death have hit me so hard after all those barren years? How does it still affect me so much?

*****

By 2009, I had begun my academic life in the lovely old stone sprawl that remains the University of Edinburgh. That august institution reaches its half-millennium in about a decade from now, and its School of Literature, Languages and Cultures was the oldest of its kind in the United Kingdom.

I remember that I had been painfully stung by Father’s attitude that his dear blind daughter, being quite pretty and so on, should quietly get married and establish some financial value for herself by virtue of such an alliance. My plan, worked out with Akira’s connivance, was instead to establish my credentials by going to university and becoming a power in my own right.

Ah, the self-righteous anger of youth! But there was no denying its effectiveness as an impulse towards bettering oneself. Especially as I had been told tales of how Father’s sisters had all married ‘idle layabouts’ (and other more offensive terms had been used) and were suffering for it.

That year was a watershed year for me. In March, as spring began to lift flowers toward the sky and the chill began to give way to the sun, I realized one thing. I had not spoken to Hisao for months, and I had not really missed it. There was just a kind of spiritual numbness in my heart, as if the winter had sent a warm furry animal to sleep and then it had never reawakened. When I thought about it some more, I cried a bit at first, as one might weep for a lost pet. And by reflex, I called Hanako, because that is what I had always done.

She was busy with her first-year examinations. It seems so terribly ungracious now, but I was greatly hurt that she seemed so distracted when I spoke to her. When I mentioned Hisao, she sounded suspiciously non-committal. Perhaps he had turned the corner, and was now with her? I could not find it in me to ask outright. Also, my fearsome cousin was with them at the University of Tokyo.

I believe that when I replaced the phone in my little bag, I felt that my earlier life was truly at an end. It was with renewed determination that I thought forward to another three years of university, and then further studies beyond. My father would have no call to refer to me as a ‘beautiful little trophy’, or worse, an ‘idle layabout’.

*****

My hair was grimy. I could feel the dirt in every ridge of my fingerprints and every pore of my exposed face. I could smell minerals, the tang of slowly rusting steel bars, the soft metallic aura of aluminium, the gritty sharpness of curing concrete and cement. Behind everything, however, were the sweeter fragrances of wood and paper and the more complex aromas of tobacco and spirits.

That moment comes from the sharpest memory I have of the beginnings of my first restaurant. It still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it. I smoothed my thick denim skirt down, feeling its hem fall around my sensible leather boots. “What do you think, Akira?” I asked, as I sat down gracefully… on a nail that someone had left lying around.

“No!” she yelled, almost splitting my eardrums a fraction of a second before I myself screamed. There was a sudden commotion as burly Dunedain surged into the room, armed with the tools of their trade. (Oh, do allow an old lady certain linguistic pleasures; I lived in that city long enough to know that there is legitimacy in the use of the term.) Much fussing ensued.

At the end of it, however, ‘Northern Light’ was ready for business. We were doing rather well in 2017, as the North Sea was fished out in terms of quantity, quality and variety, and Japanese aquaculture began to supply what was missing. I loved the little joke that Hanako, Akira and I had embedded in the name and in the restaurant’s interior décor—of course, Hokkaido means ‘North Sea’s Road’, and is thus in some ways to Japan as Scotland is to the United Kingdom.

The Japanese love their Scotch, and their tartans, believe it or not. A large segment of our clientele came from Japan, almost as many as those from elsewhere in Scotland. Many of them came to meet me in person, curious at what a great gormless half-foreign girl would have to offer by way of Scottish-Japanese cuisine. Some of them probably thought of it as an abomination to the sensibilities of any right-thinking Japanese gourmand. I can tell that Hanako is shaking her head as I write these words; to this day, she stoutly maintains that our little bistro (I cannot think of it as mine alone) was never anything but a success.

Another large segment came from the university around us. Foreign students, especially non-Japanese Asians, loved the ambience which allowed them to enjoy Asian food while not being quite so Asian. One of them once asked if I had dyed my hair blonde. I believe I gave him a single strand of my hair and told him to get it analysed; the young man later had it embedded in a glassite block for posterity!

In all that time, I hoped that perhaps one day a certain other young man would visit, and my fingers would reach out to find the familiar texture of his clothing, the angular planes of his face. He never came, but that was not something to brood over, because I was far too busy. At least, that is what I told myself.

It was just before my 29th birthday that Akira brought the thick, beautiful envelope to me. Someone had gone to great lengths to emboss the paper with both ordinary letters and Braille. Thoughtfully, I opened the envelope and released the card within. Hisao Nakai. Emi Ibarazaki. How do you think I felt, dear reader?

Much later, when I was calm again, I asked myself an odd question. Would I have preferred it if my cousin Shizune had been Hisao’s choice? The surprising answer, as shocking and strange as it might seem to you, and as it did to me, was ‘yes’. I genuinely did have some affection for Shizune, despite our horrific squabbles and profound differences; for Emi (yes, it sounds uncharitable now to be saying such things, but it is truth) I had no particular sympathies. In some ways, I resented this. It made me sad for no good reason. It made me a bad person. Eventually, I declined to attend the nuptial celebrations. I had a business to run.

*****

It was the same excuse I gave for years. If ‘the boy’ (for so I thought of him even when we were far from the children-playing-adults stage and even beyond the adults-playing-children stage) refused to even think of coming up to Scotland, why should I bother? But I did. On most nights, I listened to the same tune, from the same music-box, which I diligently protected from both incident and accident.

You will probably shake your head in stupefied wonder, thinking of why on earth a reasonable, hard-headed naturalized Dunedain lady would continue bearing a torch for an old flame, for so many long years. My first response would be to tell you that it is none of your business what I chose, and still choose, to think. But that is not quite true, and it is also unkind to you, which I do not want to be.

I think the truth is something like this—although, to be honest, it changes a little from day to day—I loved him briefly and intensely, and enough to trigger one particular Satou instinct. We are stubborn, but we are also loyal. If separation is inevitable, we may never forgive, but we certainly never forget. And even if hell or hatred should bar the way, that inability to forget reminds us of the good that we left behind. I spoke frequently enough with Hana on this matter to realize that Hisao too had not forgotten, the mulish fellow.

Over the years, he had become his own person, and in one inebriated moment, he had actually confided in my dearest friend this gem: “She’s a successful businesswoman now; I could never have given her such a good life. I’m only a teacher.” Oh, what guff! There were times I would gladly have given up everything to return to Yamaku as a teacher of English.

But those times were few and far between. I was good at what I did, and I was proud of my achievements. As I entered my thirties, I realized that he was right in one way—we saw each other as distant ideals of a time that had outlived itself. We had become different people, too different, but in a sense we anchored each other across the years to the children we had been. The news that Hanako brought from Yamaku now and then served to remind me more of what distance had grown between us, rather than of what might have been.

And then he died.

There were no more excuses, as my sister said bluntly. What I knew at once, the moment she had finished her phone conversation with Hanako, was that there would no longer be any chance that ‘the boy’ would walk into one of my restaurants and fill my immediate environment with his presence. There is a great deal of difference between something you say is over and done, and something you know is forever gone.

I was cold, so cold. I could not feel anything below my neck except for the heaviness of my heart. ‘The boy’ was dead. There were no words for it. Never again would we stand in a sunset field between heaven and earth to speak of love; never would I hear him say in his direct way, “It's okay, Lilly. I'll never go away.” Because first I had gone away, and now he had gone forever.

I made ready to fly back to Japan with Akira, who was uncharacteristically silent throughout. It would be the first time in seventeen years that I would be seeing people that I once thought I knew, my cousins and perhaps my estranged uncles. In my heart I was eighteen again, and the pain of old loss had been made fresh and new.

Akira had rented a small fast car of the kind she liked, and she drove us to the funeral, just a few minutes from our service apartment. There was little I could say, and as I took my seat next to Hanako, I realized that perhaps the one thing left that might bind me to my birthplace was gone: my grandparents had passed on years ago. It was the most shallow of my thoughts—the rest I kept in my heart, locked up lest they destroy my composure.

The eulogy was to be presented by my cousin Shizune. I had no idea if her loud friend would be translating or whether her synthesizer would do the job. In any case, I found myself unable to stay. I had paid my respects to the lifeless thing in the casket, his careless hair and warm breath but memories. I had not even had the chance to touch what was left of him, and when I thought about what else might have been and what else I had lost, I am sorry to say that I made my exit.

Shizune’s brother drove me back to the apartment. Rather thoughtfully, he had pressed a few packets of tissue paper into my hand before he saw me to my room. Finally, alone, I tried to let Hisao go. There hadn’t really been anyone else; perhaps I had always dreamt of a reunion, a miracle. Stupid, stupid. He was married; he had two children with Emi Ibarazaki; he was gone. Let go, let go, I said to myself, but nothing came out but the idiot sounds of despair.

Akira and I had arranged to have a quiet dinner in the apartment that night, but she had left me alone to mourn and gone off to visit our uncle, who had been Hisao’s colleague at the end. I did not begrudge her that, for I myself was in no fit state for polite company. The note she had left merely said: [Out for dinner. Don’t stay up. Drink lots of water. Love, AK.]

Tremendously weary, I thought briefly of Aunt Michi, warm and cheerful, now in self-imposed exile at a certain house in Hokkaido. I wondered irrationally if she could smell Hisao and me there, like the scent-ghosts of a bygone era, holding each other in the bathroom, in the living room, in the field outside what should have been our own home.

I did not look forward to the next day. Akira and Hideaki, as Hisao’s lawyers, would be handling his will. If I attended, I would be in the same room as Hisao’s wife and possibly others whom I would have had no interest in meeting. I went back to sleep after drinking some water as my dear sister had requested.

In the end, I did not go for the reading of his last testament. Akira later passed me a sealed packet which Hisao had bequeathed to me. I waited till we were in Inverness before I opened it. Inside was a little folded message, painstakingly done on an old Brailler. Perhaps it had been the old Perkins from the Student Council room? I had thought myself emptied of tears, but certain memories found a last reservoir of grief. It would be six years before I returned to Japan for one last time.

*****

I will end the arduous transcription of this sad portion of my memories on a happier note. On 18th March 2029, two weeks before Easter that year, I had the very great honour of standing in for the parents of a new bride. An orphan should have every right to choose who shall give her away in a traditional wedding, and I was (and am) very glad that my dearest friend Hanako chose me.

Uncle Jigoro had passed on the year before, leaving a legacy of surprising kindness and generosity. The Hakamichi clan were up in arms, but my Hakamichi cousins stuck to their guns and an uneasy truce prevailed across the Family. For cousin Hideaki had finally made his intentions clear and his course of action plain, and Shizune was backing him with pride and equal courage.

I said nothing, for I had long since forfeited any right to a place in such matters. Akira and I were fond of Hideaki, though, and when the couple invited us to be present as honoured supporters at an Edinburgh wedding, we were really very glad to accept.

Before the wedding, Hana told me what my uncle had said on his deathbed: “You always reminded me of Hideaki’s mother. You’re beautiful. Look after him, and my ghost will haunt any fool who says you’re not.” I could not at first imagine what similarity Uncle Jigoro had perceived between Aunt Mayoi and my friend—and then I realized that Hanako Ikezawa had grown stern and noble, generous and strong. She would be a good partner for the new Hakamichi heir. If anything, she would keep the Family honest, whether they (or she) liked it or not. I believed that her relationship with Hideaki would certainly be far better than the unfortunate misalignment of his parents.

At the wedding itself, Akira, dressed in a gown that matched mine, whispered to me, “Can you hear the banners?” I had thought that I had heard an unfamiliar rustling, so I gave her that half-nod which told her I was not sure, but that something had caught my attention.

And she told me this, which is one of those things I will not forget: “The vault of the church is lined with banners and flags, to catch the air. They’re all blue and silver, because those are the Hakamichi colours, and also the colours of Saint Andrew; silver is ice and metal and light, while blue is sky and sea and mystery. It’s all beautiful, Lils, and it matches your eyes. Our cousin’s dressed in a formal tailcoat, old-fashioned, almost military; Hana’s in white, like snow, and she’s gorgeous.”

I remember all that because that was how Akira used to talk to me when I was a plump little girl. She wore her hair long then, a single long braid, and I loved her and was in awe of her. She’s gone now, but I am happy with the memories I have.

Best of all, that bride and groom are here with me now, and they have been married for forty-five years! I have just told them to give me a moment to finish up and set down my pen for now. Then Hideaki, still large and strong and the youngest of us, will drive everyone down into town for lunch.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Sat Apr 29, 2017 2:07 am, 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—Lilly's Arc (Complete; Testament3 201502

Post by Oscar Wildecat » Mon Feb 02, 2015 2:05 pm

Your firewall leaked on that last part there, brythain. :wink:

However, if Lilly was going after LOTR references, I would think that she's exhibited some rather dwarvish behavior, rather than that of the Dunedain. If I recall correctly, Tolkien noted that many dwarves lived their lives unmarried due to the fact that could not wed their desired mate, and would have no other...
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
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Re: After the Dream—Lilly's Arc (Complete; Testament3 201502

Post by brythain » Mon Feb 02, 2015 2:19 pm

Oscar Wildecat wrote:Your firewall leaked on that last part there, brythain. :wink:

However, if Lilly was going after LOTR references, I would think that she's exhibited some rather dwarvish behavior, rather than that of the Dunedain. If I recall correctly, Tolkien noted that many dwarves lived their lives unmarried due to the fact that could not wed their desired mate, and would have no other...
Edinburgh, in Scots Gaelic, is Dùn Èideann. :) I suspect, however, that Lilly always wanted to be Galadriel.
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—Lilly's Arc (Complete; Testament3 201502

Post by Oscar Wildecat » Mon Feb 02, 2015 2:35 pm

brythain wrote:Edinburgh, in Scots Gaelic, is Dùn Èideann. :) I suspect, however, that Lilly always wanted to be Galadriel.
I always wondered where Tolkien came up with that word, now I know. And, in her good ending, doesn't Lilly become Galadriel to Hisao ... (Alas, in this universe, twas not to be.)
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
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Re: After the Dream—Lilly's Arc (Complete; Testament3 201502

Post by azumeow » Mon Feb 02, 2015 10:30 pm

Today's been a hell of a day, dude, and this....this was nice. It didn't hit nearly as hard as I thought it would, but after learning about Monty Oum's death, not much could hit as hard as it should.

I never have much to say about these things. It's usually some variation of the same thing: I like your writing, even if it makes me sad.
"I don’t want to be here anymore, I know there’s nothing left worth staying for.
Your paradise is something I’ve endured
See I don’t think I can fight this anymore, I’m listening with one foot out the door
And something has to die to be reborn-I don’t want to be here anymore"

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Re: After the Dream—Lilly's Arc (Complete; Testament3 201502

Post by brythain » Tue Feb 03, 2015 12:21 am

azumeow wrote:Today's been a hell of a day, dude, and this....this was nice. It didn't hit nearly as hard as I thought it would, but after learning about Monty Oum's death, not much could hit as hard as it should.

I never have much to say about these things. It's usually some variation of the same thing: I like your writing, even if it makes me sad.
Thank you. It's not all that bad... (yes, I know I keep saying that...) :)
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Lilly: Testament4 (T +50)(up 20150204)

Post by brythain » Wed Feb 04, 2015 12:24 am

Being a transcription of some of the last writings of Lillian Alexandra Anderson Satou, penned in her own hand in the month of June in the Year of Our Lord 2074, and dedicated to the memory of old friends and the glory of God. The original documents may be found in the care of the archivist of the Church of St. Stephen, in which graveyard her mortal remains are interred.


Lilly: Testament4 (T +50)

It is rather unbecoming of a lady in her eighties to be rushing around. But over lunch, and after a short but meaningful stop at the Russian museum, I felt the need to return to my writing, and told dear Hana so.

She gave me the silence she has perfected over the years, which says, “Do what you have to do, but I know what you’re doing!” and then said instead, “You’re up to 2030, Lilly?” There’s no hiding anything from my closest friend, most of the time.

The year you turn forty-one is the year that you know youth is gone forever. If you once had illusions of having had a life at twenty-one, you are now well and truly almost two such lifetimes in debt. It was not a bad year when I celebrated that birthday, but it collapsed rather dramatically later, into a shambles that I would rather forget—but cannot.

To tell the truth, I am not up to 2030 yet. I have a tiny bit more of 2029 to mention. And then, I promise you, dear reader, I shall write about the year I left Japan forever.

*****

It was on the morning of Sunday, 18th March, in the Year of our Lord 2029, that the doors of the Church of the Sacred Heart in Edinburgh released blinding light into its relatively small nave. There were few guests at this most private of weddings, for which special permission had had to be sought. The Satou girls are all Catholic, and so are their children, by right—and nominally, that included the big man on whom the light shone as he awaited his bride. The light was behind us as Akiko, Hana’s goddaughter, led us into the church to some rich and brooding tune which I knew to be one composed by Vaughan Williams. On that day, I still had no understanding of what it was to be illuminated in daylight, but I associated what Akira conveyed in whispers to me with warmth, and air, and perhaps my own never-never wedding from a dream so long ago.

I could feel Hana twitch, her old nervousness returning. I gently placed my hand on her arm, only to realize that I too was trembling a little. On her other side, Akira continued her whispered commentary: “Uncle Akio is here! Oh, and Rika with him. Appallingly beautiful, pale, cold, skinny. Like a vampire. She’s only here because she’s the official Katayama rep.”

Yes, and Hideaki’s counterpart in that Family. We both resented her, but left it unsaid. Our dear uncle had been sad for so long, but now he was happy with his new wife, and that—oh, so selfish of us!—seemed unnatural. The bitterness passed, however, and we took our cues to lead our dear friend up the aisle to her appointment with the one who had loved her for so long, and at such cost.

*****

I had no desire to enter into Family business, and so, apart from the fact that Father owned shares in my first two restaurants and occasionally arm-twisted the Hokkaido brethren, I was untouched by goings-on back in Japan. This happy state lasted even through the first half of 2030. I was older, true, but I did not particularly feel so. My best friend brought a baby girl into the world on St David’s Day, and they named her Kitsune, which I thought was unusual, but sweet.

When Emi Ibarazaki died, Hanako and Hideaki told me that they were staying in Japan to look after Hisao’s children. I felt only a very faint twinge of melancholy. I suppose my main concern was for those children, who were suddenly orphans. Akira flew out to join them, and I was left alone with my thoughts.

Hisao’s wife had always been… ‘spunky’, I suppose, filled with a certain passion for life and a desire to impart that passion to others. I had never known her well, and on bad days, I felt (wrongly and uncharitably, of course) she had taken what had been mine by right. Perhaps that was why I so readily acquiesced (not that I had any real right to demur) when Shizune put forward Hideaki’s suggestion with regard to the children. But I really am getting ahead of my story now.

I had started planning in May, reminded of mortality and promises, to visit Hisao’s grave as I had promised years ago. Charting my course through the calendar, it came to me that I had indeed been with him during Tanabata in 2024, but not in a way any of us could have expected or desired. I opened his music-box, stilling its voice with a finger as I withdrew the thin strip of parchment I kept in it. Simple lines, punched into the paper:

star-crossed, we broke faith
the winter world between us
see me in summer

elegant fingers
trace the north sea’s wistful road
read my autumn scroll

I had always wondered about how much effort Hisao had expended, composing in English. Haiku is an art that is difficult even in our native language. The attempt spoke well of its author, and each time I read those pinprick lines, I felt greatly touched, even if only by words from beyond the grave. I was also sure that ‘see’ had been meant both metaphorically and as a reminder of an old joke. The Hisao who had written this was surely a more complex man than the callow youth of decades past.

Then the terrible news came. I could hardly understand what Akira was trying to say. It was morning in Scotland, and afternoon in Japan. But when I finally got the message, it was night all over again, cold and bleak. Did anyone ever wonder what I first felt in Hisao’s face? I had felt a familiar strength, a familiar sense of curiosity and indecision that had not quite become weakness—I had found a memory of the first masculine face I had really become fond of: my uncle Akio’s irregular, slightly unkempt features. And he had been taken from us, untimely ripped, as our Scottish play would have it.

I am not ashamed, old as I am now, to say that I wept then. It was all too much. You can love, and love again, but when the time comes, it will pour out of you like milk from an urn, spilt and useless as its odour rises around you. I wanted to be in Japan, in Sendai; to sit in the warm bay window of an old apartment, and have the fading scent of Aunt Michi and the whisky fragrance of Uncle Akio teach me the meaning of melancholy that was not total loss.

The burial would be a quiet one. I would not be there. I told myself I could not bear it. By now, dear reader, you will have realized that in some ways, the Lilly Satou you thought I was is not as brave, nor as heroic, as the stories might have said. And yet, on the tenth day of July, I bade farewell to Mother and Father, to Warlock my loyal Friesian steed and to the manse at Inverness, and caught a flight towards the rising sun.

*****

“Happy belated birthday, Hanako!” I whispered. Even to myself, I sounded weak, lacking in vitality. No doubt it had been a long flight, into an unfamiliar (and yet terribly familiar) airport—but that was no excuse. I gave her the brooch of sea-polished Norwegian amber set in antique silver that I had been meaning to give her for a while, and she carefully accepted it.

“It’s beautiful, Lilly! Where did you get it?”

“St Mary’s, at Christmas. I thought I’d give it to you then, but you’d been a naughty girl.”

She stiffened slightly, then giggled. At Christmas, Hanako had been experiencing unusual difficulties with her pregnancy, and they had not been able to travel. Hideaki wrapped a large arm around my shoulders and said, “Ach, but she’s a right dainty wean, noo?” in a terrible fake-Scottish accent, which set us all off again.

After we had calmed down a bit, he coughed and continued. “So, cousin Lilly, about a month? That is great news. We’re glad to have you back in Japan for so long. Unfortunately, Hana has a little trip overseas in early August, so we can’t both be with you throughout. What are your plans?”

My plans, dear reader, were all mixed up in my head. No doubt, Hideaki would later edit and summarise things to make it seem as if I had a clear itinerary and was merely wrapping things up. But I had a long journey to make, and it looked quite a mess.

We drove from Sendai Airport to the Academy, where we checked in with Hideaki’s sister. She still had that electrifying presence, that tension which raised my hackles instinctively. But we were on friendlier terms, that year. Old animosities had been laid to rest along with Hisao, and then later, Uncle Jigoro—not that either Akira or I had been part of that old family tangle.

When we finally reached the grave up on Mount Aoba, I spent long moments absorbing the atmosphere of that secluded site. Uncle Akio had clearly taken pains to find a place that would be difficult to reach and hidden from most. When Shizune held my hands and told me about the smaller marker, I felt my world somersault as one mystery suddenly resolved. I felt very sorry for Aunt Michi, and how their lives had been blighted by this terrible event.

Then I sensed another living presence. I heard Hideaki move forward and greet someone. “Rika, thank you for coming. Cousin Lilly, here is Uncle’s second wife. She insisted on meeting you today.”

To say that I was unprepared was a bit of an understatement. I must admit I felt a little upset, even angry, especially after thinking of Aunt Michiko. I had wanted this to be a private goodbye, a family thing… then the more charitable side of me realized: Rika too had lost someone very important to her. I felt absolutely rotten to have felt such dislike for her in the past.

I heard her moving to greet me, the traditional behaviour of a junior to a senior. She was almost soundless as she bowed, and only Hideaki’s gentle signal at my elbow alerted me as to what she was doing. I returned her bow as best as I could.

“Cousin Lilly? This inadequate person is greatly honoured that you have allowed this meeting. Your uncle always spoke highly of you. He regretted not being able to spend more time with you, over the last few years. He left something for you, and this person humbly insisted on giving it to you by hand.”

Oh, that was a sharp knife indeed. I had once had a terrible childhood crush on Uncle Akio. Akira and I had once (well, at least once) had harsh words about that. After I’d left for Scotland, Akira had returned at least once a year to visit him, but I never had. I had briefly met him at Hisao’s funeral and at the wedding in Edinburgh, but not conversed much. I regretted that, as with so many other things.

“Thank you, Katayama-san.” I remember feeling awkward. How did one address the second wife of one’s uncle, who happened to be your junior from high school days? She had called me ‘Cousin’. I did not feel I could call her ‘Cousin Rika’ in return.

I heard the sound of paper being slightly crumpled or uncrumpled. “May this person read his note to you, Satou-san? There is also Braille if you would prefer to read it yourself.”

“Please do me that honour, Rika.” I had decided to dispense with formal address completely, but her earnest courtesy was beginning to infect me.

She cleared her throat softly and began. “The note reads thus: [For my beloved niece, Lilly: hand-forged titanium links, ruthenium-alloy clasp, beads in lapis lazuli and gold. ‘Light shines in darkness, even though the darkness cannot comprehend it.’].”

A small, knobbly package wrapped carefully in soft, strong tissue of some sort. I knew what it was before I opened it: a rosary, from a man who had never had much time for such things. In itself, I suspected it was valuable. From his hands, it was beyond price. I remember little else from that day, apart from our silent descent. In my heart, I was finally accepting that some goodbyes were forever.

*****

Dear reader, I am quite sure that by now, you must be thinking that this old lady had been quite the glutton for self-flagellation in her younger days. Let me assure you that my last journeying through Japan was not really that; rather, it was time to clear the slate and begin anew. If you are younger than I was then, you might also think that at forty-one, it was far too late. My answer to that is that it is never too late for oneself, even if it might be too late for others.

And so it was that days later, I sat in a quiet, strange and yet painfully familiar room. It was early evening, and I was alone. Hideaki, my ever-faithful accomplice, had guided me up into the hills, although I had been quite certain of finding my way alone. He had merely laughed and said, “Hana would never forgive me, dear cousin, if I’d abandoned you. Damn, there’d be Akira and even my sister to deal with. Don’t worry, I’ll come and retrieve you when it’s time.”

“I’m not worrying!” I had said to him. His reply was to chuckle, remain silent throughout our trip, and then remind me only when we had reached our destination that he would be on call. He let me into the old house, and described enough of it for me to get my bearings and avoid tripping over things. Then I heard his footsteps trudge off through the summer fields.

Around me, I felt the ghosts. Young Lilly. Young Hanako. The boy, whom they had both loved and lost. The boy, bemused, concerned, aroused, solicitous, dismayed, happy. The furniture was new, and the flooring was different. I sat, and waited. My memories no longer overwhelmed me. But I needed to speak to someone.

She let herself into the house, her house, in an efficient, quiet way. I heard her ‘tsk’ as she noticed what must have been dirt or some other trace of intrusion. Then she stopped. A lesser woman might have expressed shock. This was Aunt Michi, my father’s youngest sister, soft and gentle, but made of stern Satou stock.

“Lilly? Oh, my God. It really is you, my niece.” She moved towards me, around the leather sofa that had replaced the old one. I tried to stand, and tottered slightly. She caught me. She was much smaller than I remembered, a petite woman. I felt large and ugly next to her.

“May I?” I asked, reaching tentatively towards her. She understood at once, and brought my hand to her face. I felt her let go, then grasp me around the waist and hug me so tightly that I gasped.

Her face had fine lines in it that had not been there before. She was keeping herself trim; I could feel a bony hip through her jeans, and firm muscle under her loose blouse. “I’ve m-missed you,” I whispered. I had lost too many people already.

That night, she told me the rest of her story. She also told me she had been acting as Father’s independent agent in Hokkaido, and congratulated me on my business acumen. My family, it seemed, had an annoying habit of keeping secrets. I had not known of this at all, although in retrospect I would have been surprised if my aunt had not had anything to do with the family business.

But what stayed with me most were her words before I left the next day. “We all make mistakes. All we can do is try not to make them again, and move on. I never stopped missing your uncle, but it was best to move on. We were both at fault, maybe one of us more so than the other. You need to know, though, that when he decided he might want to marry Rika Katayama, I was happy for him and told him so; when he died, Rika and I grieved together. Forgiveness is a mercy to both those who give and those who receive.”

She walked me out. Hideaki was already waiting in the car, having excused himself to give us ‘more time to finish the woman talk’. Sometimes, that man made himself sound like his father, but it was all obviously a joke.

I waved in her direction, and she raised her voice in reply, “Goodbye, Lillian Alexandra! May you find a peace that passes all understanding!”

I never saw Aunt Michiko again.

*****

It was early August before I confirmed my appointment with Shizune. I would be meeting her at the right time, in the right place. But that lay a few days in my future.

Like a ghost, I had spent my time wandering around Japan and going to places I felt sure I would never have the opportunity to visit again. On rare occasions, Akira was with me; sometimes, Hanako and Hideaki—but they were busy with Kit, and it would have been wrong of me to impose. Much of the time, I improvised the way I always have. New technology had of course made things much easier since the days of high school.

So it was that armed with nothing much more than my GPS cane and a few wise precautions, I came at last to a little church in Saitama. It was quiet there, on a weekday morning. The man who met me there was a stranger, even though I had known him for decades.

“How are you?” he said, sounding like a perfectly normal congregant who had walked into church to attend the celebration of daily Mass.

“I’m fine,” I replied quietly. “How have you been? And the children, I hear?”

“They’re good. It’s a surprise that you’re here talking to me. I said to myself, what the hell is that blind bitch doing in Japan again. And then I banged my head against the wall for reverting to old stupid me from the bad old days. Then I apologised to you, even though of course you weren’t there to hear it.”

I laughed softly, behind my hand. He had not changed much, in some ways. But you could tell he wasn’t crazy anymore—if he ever had been. On the other hand, I had come to talk to him about something else from the distant past.

“You were a good friend of his, weren’t you? I was surprised to hear you’d kept in touch.”

“Oh yes. We were quite close. It was a surprise to me too. That’s a nice rosary, by the way. Good Japanese craftsmanship. But really, what are you doing in Japan?” Before I could reply, he added, “Sorry, my professional life makes me ask everyone that question. Haha. And yes, I’m blind too, but I see very well. You should get Hakamichi implants.”

I fought a surge of impatience. “I’m leaving Japan for good, after this. I just wanted to say goodbye, clear things up a bit. It probably sounds rather silly and desperate to you, but… did he ever mention me?” Yes, dear reader, I did really want to know.

I could feel him tense up a bit. Then I felt his hand, surprisingly large and dry and firm, come down gently on my own clasped hands. “Ah heck,” he began, speaking almost as if only to himself, “It can’t hurt now. He’s gone, she’s gone, and we’re like family anyway, right? No noise about Mafia feminists? Templars at Edinburgh? What? Painting banners on the classroom floor? Heh, never mind. Let’s do this.”

I moved my hands a little, just enough to indicate that perhaps he should continue—and he did. “He couldn’t forget you, remembered your birthday and all. Don’t get me wrong, he loved Emi completely, as his wife and at the end. But some things you don’t lose. Trust me on that. Have you been to his grave?”

The abrupt shift of topics was something I realized I had to get used to again. But I wondered about that. “Why do you ask?”

“Oh? You haven’t, then. Go. It’s been very nice seeing you again, Lilly Satou. Ha, it’s been nice seeing anything at all. We’re not so different, you know. My wife said to say hello, but you’ve probably already met her.”

“Have a nice day,” he added as an afterthought. He had already risen from the pew. He paused for a while, presumably facing the altar or tabernacle, and began to walk away.

Still rather rude, I noted. I felt a sense of resignation without closure. Then he stopped, and I heard his footsteps returning. “He never forgot, you know. And that meant I never forgot. Come outside for a while.”

I got up and followed him, making my gestures of respect along the way. The blind, leading the blind. When we were outside, he told me to turn until I was facing the sun. Then he reached up and I felt his lips brush drily across my cheek, for a fraction of a second, almost like a lapse in my imagination.

“That’s from him. He would’ve wanted that. Goodbye, Lilly Satou.”

And then I was alone again.

*****

I decided to fly down to Okinawa for a couple of days, but there was little left for me to find, and I took the short hop back up to Narita because that was where I had agreed to meet Hideaki. I told him nothing about what I had been doing, because I was not sure enough of myself to do that.

He greeted me warmly as usual, but sounded rather tired. He had been looking after Kit while Hana was away on her trip. I collected my flowers from the airport shop and he helped me with my bag.

He waited for me to get belted into the passenger seat of his monstrous vehicle before he asked me, “So, Cousin Lilly, what has really brought you home this last time?”

I had given quite a bit of thought to my little sojourn, but even so, his blunt question had come as a surprise. “Ah, well, promises. One of the main things is that I’ve yet to fulfill my promise to return to Hisao’s grave and pay proper final respects.”

“Oh? You’ve not yet seen… ah, sorry, experienced our uncle’s beautiful craftsmanship?”

I laugh briefly and awkwardly. “No, not yet.” I had, of course, a marvelous example of that around my neck. But I am sure Hideaki meant the mysterious plaque that had been mentioned in Hisao’s will.

“Hmmm.” He drove on, sounding curiously non-committal. At a traffic light, I heard him open and close the glove compartment, as if looking for something. Then he broke the silence. “My sister will join you a little late, but she’ll be there.”

We had arrived at the cemetery. Hideaki guided me to the grave, and then told me he would be waiting outside. I suppose that by now all of you who read this will have known what was on that plaque. I could not have known.

I remember kneeling in the warm, fragrant grass of August. It was the last day of the Sendai Tanabata Festival. I took water and a soft cloth, dabbed at the exposed surfaces gently. Someone had already visited, because the stones felt very clean. I placed my name-flowers in the little receptacle provided. I traced his name, their names engraved together in his stone. On her side I could feel the raised representation of a running-track—in the modern style, a very small inscription read, “Distance is nothing.”

I paused for a while. I spoke to him. I apologised for anything I had to apologise for, and forgave him for anything I should have forgiven. I waited for an answer, out of habit, but I could not hear anything in reply. Then again, he had already told me what to do—perhaps he was waiting for me to do it.

On his side, I felt metal, a rare find in such a place. It was thin but very hard, the surface buffed with a matt finish. An engraving of clouds and stars, I had heard, and now I was feeling them for myself.

The years have passed, all gone now, and the grief has also gone, for the most part. But can you sit with me, dear reader, and imagine the scent of grass, the warmth of the sun, and the blind woman seeking beauty in a metal plate?

In that part of the world is a story of lovers separated by a river of stars. It is said that only on Tanabata can they come close enough to meet again. There were stars on that plaque indeed, punched deep into the metal by my very dear uncle, at the behest of my long-lost friend. They were scattered through the lines that represented the clouds and the banks of the river. But they were not randomly scattered, as I suddenly realized.

Braille. I was trembling in the still summer heat. Stars in the clouds? Light in the darkness. My uncle had also left a clue. I ran my fingers over the steel again. In those stars was a simple statement of fact, a reminder without a promise.

*****

I shall stop here for now. I need some fresh air, and high above me, I am sure the stars are coming out.

=====
main index | lilly's arc | prev | next
Last edited by brythain on Sat Apr 29, 2017 2:08 am, edited 5 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Serviam
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Re: After the Dream—Lilly's Arc (Complete; Testament4 201502

Post by Serviam » Wed Feb 04, 2015 5:39 am

Mafia feminists and Edinburgh Templars? Sounds like the Man with the Hard Shit, alright.

And now you've got me searching for relevant parishes in the Diocese of Saitama. A small parish would rule out the Urawa Cathedral.
"What the government is good at is collecting taxes, taking away your freedoms and killing people. It’s not good at much else."
- Tom Clancy summing up l'état in a nutshell

In order of completion:
Lilly > Hanako > Rin > Emi
Currently on: Shizune

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Re: After the Dream—Lilly's Arc (Complete; Testament4 201502

Post by brythain » Thu Feb 05, 2015 11:50 am

Serviam wrote:Mafia feminists and Edinburgh Templars? Sounds like the Man with the Hard Shit, alright.

And now you've got me searching for relevant parishes in the Diocese of Saitama. A small parish would rule out the Urawa Cathedral.
Kenji normally attends weekday mass at Ome in the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Tokyo. It has morning mass at 6.30 am, so he can make it to work on time. On weekends he attends mass at his parish church at Omiya in eastern Saitama. Just for the public record. :)
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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Lilly: Testament5 (T +50)(up 20150205)

Post by brythain » Thu Feb 05, 2015 2:02 pm

Being a transcription of some of the last writings of Lillian Alexandra Anderson Satou, penned in her own hand in the month of June in the Year of Our Lord 2074, and dedicated to the memory of old friends and the glory of God. The original documents may be found in the care of the archivist of the Church of St. Stephen, in which graveyard her mortal remains are interred.


Lilly: Testament5 (T +50)

It has been a couple of days since I last dared to write anything, dear reader. You would think that an old lady would be inured to old hurts and the faint echoes of misery long past. Well, no. Sometimes you think it has gone away, and then you cut through skin that is thinner than it ought to be, and you bleed.

So let me recapitulate. I last left you at Hisao’s grave, where I had just read the message he had hidden in plain view—that is, those seeing would see nothing, but I, his old blind love, would see everything. Simple words, and you probably know them by heart if Hanako’s myth-making has borne fruit: I loved you first of all. Is it not so very silly that to this day they still bring me to the verge of tears?

I will tell you what I did after I stopped writing the night before last. I went for a walk, not knowing where I was going. Eventually, I found my way to the old church of St. Stephen Martyr, and I sat down. Then I cried like a baby until the young priest took pity on me and asked me what was wrong. So I told him, and all I could manage was, “He’s dead. He died fifty years ago, and he loved me.” And then that young fellow started crying too! It was quite a while before we had recovered enough for him to drive me home. Poor man.

Eventually, though, all things end. We think we get used to it, but over the years, the ending itself does not seem to end. I shall try to get through the next part of these memoirs of mine with fewer interruptions.

*****

Shizune and I held each other, united in grief. I suppose you have all read about how the dauntless Hakamichi matriarch once had a rival whom she once hated. The tabloids have said as much, although I do believe Hana has told more of the truth—that it was not hatred, but the clash of two different philosophies of life. And on 8th August 2030, we were not thinking of that at all.

On my part, I had only one question: Hisao, why hadn’t you just said so? I had had suspicions of a previous girlfriend, or perhaps a love divided between Hana and myself, or God forbid, even my cousin Shizune. I had never mentioned these suspicions to him, and I had felt ashamed of them regardless. Later, Hideaki was to tell me that Shizune had been upset with me for not sticking it out; her words were: [She made him better than I could have, and then she went away. She always does that.] Those words stung more than they should have, because they had a grain of truth behind them.

So yes, we were united in grief. We mourned for the lost life of one who somehow had been dear to both of us. But as usual, and I am not shy to admit it, Shizune was the practical one. She had a very good hug, surprisingly comforting, and she made me feel better before she patted me on the back and let go. We made our way to the gate of the cemetery, where Hideaki was waiting for me. Then he and I, and Shizune in her own car, made our way back to Yamaku.

That was when she and her brother sprang it on me. Under the most recent legislation, Shizune had applied to adopt both of Hisao’s children. Although they lived with Meiko Ibarazaki, Emi’s mother, they were still orphans. The new laws allowed easier adoption by a cohesive family unit. I looked at Hideaki, puzzled, as he tried to explain this.

“Why not Hana and you?” I asked. My voice sounded tired, dejected, plaintive. “I could help out.” Too late, I realized that Shizune might take this as a challenge.

She did not. Hideaki replied for her. “My sister points out that Emi asked her to do it, and that she said it was not possible. But Emi had spoken to me first, and we had worked out that it was. The new rules let Shizune and Misha form a two-mother unit despite not being married to each other.”

I have never been a good Catholic, really. Lust and fornication, pride and wrath, petty sins and evil thoughts—the list goes on. I have done much penance, dear reader, and sometimes I do not think it has ever been enough. But I was shocked. I could not believe what I was hearing. “What?!”

I heard a creaking sound as someone got up from a chair in the corner of Shizune’s office. “Lils, it’s for the best. C’mon, Hanako and I might be their godparents, but we’re not very good at it. We’re travelling all the time!”

“Akira?” I felt betrayed. I felt as if they had conspired against me. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m still helping out with Hisao’s estate, you know. He tied a lot of it up in a foundation, and Shizune is administrator of that foundation. She’s also in charge of the children’s trust fund until they reach 21. You know she’ll look after them. Emi’s mother has agreed; she’s 67 years old, and that’s not so young.”

I knew. Objectively, Shizune would be a good choice. But this was bitter medicine. “What do the children think?”

There was a pause. Then Hideaki replied, “Akiko’s very angry with all of us, except Hana. She likes Misha, but she… has issues. Young Akira is fine. He trusts his godmother and he seems to like my sister.”

I wanted to ask what they thought of me. But the thought came crashing back like a tsunami: you almost killed their father, you almost broke his heart. I did not really think it was true, but it shattered me nevertheless. “That’s fine, then. It isn’t for me to say anything, but I trust Shizune will do what is right.”

“Shizune thanks you.”

I bowed slowly. Home was Scotland now, and there would be no return. No more reasons to return, anyway.

*****

“This is all wrong,” I said petulantly to my best friend. I knew that what was wrong lay with me, and not with Hanako, but I was feeling rather upset.

“H-Hisao wanted this to happen, Lilly. It was in his will.”

His infamous will, cobbled together by my sister and my cousin, stipulated the establishment of a foundation with certain goals aimed at reducing the practical difficulties of people with various physical conditions not found in the general population. It was what we would once have called a charity for the disabled, except that this was rather more ‘high-tech’. It was backed by the Family research arm and the Hakamichi industrial complex. But the part which galled me most, for reasons I was finding hard to enunciate, was that it would be called the Nakai Foundation.

“He was not like that at all,” I said firmly, unable to reconcile my memories of him with some glass-and-titanium building in a country far away. “Besides, I don’t need to be able to see. I wouldn’t be able to cope with the… sensory whatever. My dear Hana, this is all nonsense!”

“Your mother doesn’t think so.” Her tone of voice had changed.

“My mother… is standing at the doorway, isn’t she?”

I felt Mother walk softly across the parquet. You could not be angry in the presence of the former Mistress of Nairn. She was like the land, beautiful, tough, silent as the night. I felt her arms around me.

“I think it’s wonderful, my Lilly. He was quite the braw laddie, wasn’t he?”

Over the years, my mother had learnt to code-switch in the most appalling way. Dear reader, you are probably a cosmopolitan traveller, and thus familiar with what I call Whiskyish—Japanese spoken like a Scotsman, or Scottish spoken with Japanese inflections. Mother tended to confuse the two simply because she’d spent so much time making herself clear to my late father. She was doing it then. I am attempting to approximate.

I made no sound as she continued. “He didna do it all for Lillian Alexandra, mind. It’s for all of ye.”

“Put that down!” I said rather too sharply as I heard Hana’s fingers (nervous? upset? angry?) whisper over the little folded crane I had recently placed on my bookshelf. “I need to go out for a while.”

There was no pursuit as I went round to Warlock’s stall. A good ride would clear my mind. My trusty steed made a sympathetic sound and rammed his muzzle gently into my shoulder. I was already feeling slightly better.

*****

The years passed. In January 2033, Hana and Hideaki had a second daughter. They named her Shiina, in honour of her de facto aunt. I suppose it would have been too much to have named her after me in some way, but I did not mind. After all, Misha had tried very hard to be a friend. In the past, I had had moments of extreme irritation, mostly aimed at her too-loud voice. But when you are entering your mid-forties, such things seem too petty. Some things, however, can still eat at you, and some things bite deeper.

You all know by now the story of the Nakai Foundation, so I shall not bother with details. I knew I was being selfish to feel that way, but each time I received news about the good done by Hisao’s legacy, I felt diminished. More exactly, I felt that my memories of him were no longer the straightforward, personal, romantic memories of a teenage girl or a young lady with the leisure to regret her past.

They were becoming part of a legend over which I had no control. To hear it being told, Hisao had been a heroic soul who had spent his life in service to the cause of the disabled. I was in turn his lost love, the inspiring muse who had left him and whom he had never seen again! It disgusted me, it made me sad. Some days, it made me angry. On those days, the restaurant staff knew better than to get in my way—and that added a sense of guilt to all the other thoughts roiling in my mind.

We had simple lives, then. We fell in love, and we survived the experience. That was it. The general tale had played itself out a million times, in thousands of high schools across the world and throughout history, I was sure. But our few months together, now that he was gone, were mine alone.

And then it was 2034, the tenth anniversary of his death.

I had hardly known Natsume Ooe when we had been at Yamaku together. Now she was a rising (perhaps, risen) star at the Asahi Shimbun, it seemed. She was doing some kind of anniversary special, and in February that year, she wished me a happy birthday and requested an interview.

I gave it to her, in my native Japanese, in case anyone had forgotten that I was Lilly Satou and not the strange foreigner from Scotland. “Ooe-san,” I told her, “Hisao was a good man, a good teacher, and I’m sorry to say I did not know him very well. You can ask Shizune Hakamichi or even my sister about him; they knew him better than I did. I am truly sorry, and I do not want to seem ungracious, but that is the truth. Sometimes I wish… that it had been otherwise.”

There was silence at the other end for a while. “Would you like to tell the story of the real man? He was only a boy, and my classmate. He started growing up because of you, you know. You taught him to be kind.”

Dear reader, do you know what I thought just then? Damn journalists. Damn them all. Damn the lurkers who sit in the corners of the world and spy on the rest of us. Damn Natsume Ooe for being sharper than a Highland dirk. Also, damn her for not giving credit to Hana. And then off to St Mary’s to seek absolution for my sins.

The actual interview was published in September. I think it remains my only public confession on the matter.

*****

In the mid-2030s, I was still not an old woman. I had admirers, you know—Akira once told me that I was a very pretty girl. But here I shall provide a personal response, from the horse’s mouth if you will, with regard to all that. I think I felt that something—what I had once called my ‘healthy adolescent sex drive’ in an ill-considered moment of humour—had died with Hisao. Stupid, you will think. The heart, as a wise man once said, has its reasons that reason does not know. I had on occasion attempted to encourage a young man or two, but romantic intensity had never failed to elude me.

There is something, however, to be said for what I think of as ‘stereotyping’. For me, although I do not know how it is for you, a ‘stereotype’ is a three-dimensional image, a body of feeling and sound and sensation that differentiates one kind of person, or one particular individual, from another. It is what causes an impression, as the history of information technologies will tell you.

In 2037, I received visitors at the Anderson ‘manor’ in Inverness. Mother by then was nearly eighty and, while still rather spritely, was not up to prolonged navigation of the draughty halls. Accordingly, she had installed me as lady of the house since, of her two daughters, I was the one more often in residence.

Akira, Hanako, Hideaki and Misha had brought Hisao’s two children over for a Highland holiday. Akira was first through the door, and she enfolded Mother in a delicate embrace before turning to me and giving me the same hug she had always given me since we were children. “Hiya, Mother, Lils! We’ve brought the kids up to see Aunty Lillian and Grandaunt Catherine!”

Our family relationships were so complicated that it took me some time to decide on how true these labels were. Regardless, I smiled, feeling a sense of apprehension mixed with delight at the idea of being seen by these young people.

The first voice I heard was male and a little squeaky. “Hello, good morning!” After a pause, presumably to bow in the traditional way, he said, “Ah, errm, Aunt Lilly, very beautiful! Sorry, rude of me, this one is name Akira after Aunt Lilly’s handsome, ah, excellently fair sister.” English was clearly his second language.

“Also, um, apologies, my own sister outside, experiencing some difficulty!” It sounded a little odd to me, and I felt a twinge of concern. Did young Akiko have some kind of disability? A cardiac arrhythmia, perhaps? I frowned a little and focused my senses beyond the door.

Misha and Hideaki were still outside, unless I was off my game. Hana was just at the edge of the door; I caught a whiff of her favourite scent. An unidentified female voice, slightly harsh, with well-rounded undertones—that would be Akiko. They were speaking in Japanese.

“No. I’m not seeing her. That is Father’s mistake. She is not my aunt or anything.”

“Aki-chan, that is most unkind. You should apologise,” said my cousin.

“Will not, respected uncle, there is nothing to apologise for. It is all true.”

“Aki-chan~ Aunty Misha is sad that you are like this! It is not true! Your father liked Aunt Lilly very much!~”

“He liked her so much that he didn’t have enough left for Mother! I am very sorry, I do not want to meet her.”

I caught hold of Hanako at the door, and tried to steel myself. “It’s all right,” I whispered. “Don’t force her.” I felt broken, but continued in Japanese: “It is not good to make her say things she would be happy not to say.”

There was silence. Blindly, I said, “I am sorry for whatever you think I have done, Akiko. I did love your father a lot, but it is long ago. Please forgive me, but even if you do not, I shall not bear you any ill-will.”

Then I turned, carrying myself as stiffly as I could, and walked back into the house. Unfortunately, there was an obstacle in my way. It seemed to be wearing a woollen vest.

“Sorry, sorry, Aunt Lilly!” Strong hands caught my shoulders as I lost my balance a little. In that disconcerting moment, the ‘stereotypic impression’ struck me. It was almost strong enough that I briefly thought Hisao had come back to me. But it was only his son.

“That’s all right, Akira,” I said to him. “Thank you for coming. I am sorry I…” I had intended to go straight up to my room, but something held me back.

“Is OK! Sometimes my sister, wrong time of month, many apologies! Not wanting to make respected aunt unhappy, surely. Please to sit with us for taking the tea.”

It was almost like magic. I had been feeling so wretched just moments before, and now I felt like laughing. “My, my, you are such a polite young man!” I found myself saying.

True to her word, as always, Akiko never met me again. But young Akira and I became good friends and co-conspirators throughout the years ahead. He learnt to call me ‘Aunty Lils’, and to me he has always been the ‘dear boy’, even when he himself became a middle-aged father. We have drunk much tea together.

*****

The years that followed were not particularly dreary. Some were cheerful, and there were even hilarious moments. The darkest moment of those happy years came in 2039, when faithful Warlock collapsed in his stall and left me. I have never ridden since. But it was a rare moment of grief in years that went well.

Hana and Hideaki flew back and forth on various kinds of business (which I shall leave one of my other prolific friends to write about), sometimes with their children. Misha would fly over via Europe once in a while. She had learnt to modulate her voice, and we became fairly good friends; once, she even brought Shizune over, and I enjoyed that time very much.

Akira and I had opened a dessert café in 2040, and in our usual ‘drink until we find a good name’ mode, we had ended up naming it Misha’s. It had become very popular with the Russian crowd. Shizune loved it, and managed to tuck away an entire sampler selection without noticeable trouble. Even Misha was astonished and impressed. I have always marveled at how my cousin managed to eat the way she did and still maintain such a tidy figure.

One of the more important moments in the second half of my life came on the twentieth anniversary of Hisao’s death, in 2044. I remembered him, as always, walking down Lauriston Place to Sacred Heart to light a candle in his memory. I received a call from Hanako shortly thereafter.

“L-Lilly?” she began, sounding rather more shaken than her usual confident self.

“Yes, Hana, is anything wrong?”

That was when she told me about the woman who had first loved Hisao. In a strange way, hearing her tale brought me a great deal of closure. Someone else had cared for him long before any of us. This served as reminder that Hisao had had a history before he came to us, and that his life had not begun at Yamaku.

“I would have loved to meet her, Hana.”

My friend sounded curiously reticent, almost as she had been in decades past. “Um… she was an interesting p-person. Akiko was with me later, and wanted to know all about her.”

“What did you tell her?”

“Oh, nothing. I just said she was someone Hisao used to know a long time ago.”

Like me, came the thought unbidden to my mind. “I see. Thanks for telling me all this. Come back to Edinburgh soon, and bring Kit and Shiny! And my huge ugly cousin!”

Hana giggled, and agreed to do so. I went back into the church. There, I said a prayer for the one who had loved Hisao first of all, in the hope that she too would find some measure of peace.

*****

Oh dear, it has certainly gone very late. I should stop now. I felt old then, aged 55. How old do you think I feel now? Well, not very much more, I should honestly say. Yet, all this maundering through the past can be a trial to the soul. Dear reader, do grant me your indulgence; I will resume in the morning.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Sat Apr 29, 2017 2:08 am, 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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Lilly: Testament6 (T +50)(up 20150206)

Post by brythain » Fri Feb 06, 2015 5:05 am

Being a transcription of some of the last writings of Lillian Alexandra Anderson Satou, penned in her own hand in the month of June in the Year of Our Lord 2074, and dedicated to the memory of old friends and the glory of God. The original documents may be found in the care of the archivist of the Church of St. Stephen, in which graveyard her mortal remains are interred.


Lilly: Testament6 (T +50)

I woke up this morning, disoriented and thinking of Nairn. Why? Because there was a time when that town was part of my life. I remember Akira telling me, when we had first returned to Scotland, that Tilda Swinton had moved into Nairn, to which I replied, “Who?” and was rewarded with a few paragraphs about an interesting actress. Nairn is a town less than twenty miles east of Inverness, and known around those parts for hosting Charlie Chaplin every summer.

There is a fairly long beach at Nairn, along the Moray Firth. In the right lighting, according again to Akira, a blonde girl with blue eyes would look as if she had sprung whole from the waters, like one of the dolphins or porpoises of the Firth, but more beguiling. You will probably have realized by now that Akira, for all the years of my life, was one of my most important sources of input. It was she who helped me interpret what people meant when they used colour words.

It is in Nairn, strangely enough, that my sister is buried. I have only visited her grave once, and that was when we laid her to rest. At my age, the waypoints of my life all seem to be deaths and funerals, dear reader, but I shall try for once to steer your attention to other things.

*****

We sat in a sunlit room, its atmosphere redolent with the scent of bacon and eggs, root vegetables, mushrooms and other odours left over from breakfast. It was nearly noon, and richer smells from stock that had been simmering since dawn had begun to mingle with the earlier ones.

“How old are you now?” I asked the young man across the table.

“In Japanese years or Scottish, Aunty Lils?” he replied, bringing a broad grin to my face.

“You could give it to me in dog years and I’d still say you were too young. But tell me more, dear boy.”

I was having lunch with my cousin’s adopted son, my sister’s godson. I treated him like a blood relation and thought of him as my nephew.

“She’s small and graceful and very intelligent, and we met in San Francisco. It was love at first sight. She’s at least a quarter Japanese, you know. Such unusual features. And stunningly beautiful, and also quite intelligent, and… oh, I think I’ve already said that.”

Akira’s English had improved a lot since the first time I had met him. I had received many reports from my sister on his linguistic progress over the years. Apparently, the trauma of embarrassing himself in front of his Aunt Lilly had motivated him considerably.

“My, my. So what’s the problem, Aki?” I remember having a problem keeping my face straight.

“Uncle H is a bit of a traditionalist.”

“Uncle H? Hideaki? No! You wouldn’t attempt to pull a fast one on your elderly aunt, would you?”

“No! Well, no,” he said, sounding genuinely shocked. “Uncle H keeps going on about how un-Japanese she looks.”

“And you’re not elderly at all,” he added. There was a trace of gentlemanly shyness in his voice. “I would be honoured if people thought you were my girlfriend.”

Now I too was shocked, but only at what he had said about my cousin; the last aside had cheered me a little. “Would you like your foreign-looking aunt to have a word with your ‘traditionalist’ uncle, he who used to dress up as a girl?”

“What?! No. Cannot unsee. Gah, begging pardon, respected aunt, didn’t mean it!”

I could not longer hold back. He sounded so confused, and now he was mixing a Whisky-ish accent with what sounded like West Coast American. I laughed, and quickly covered my mouth in that old childhood gesture.

“It’s okay, Aki, it’s fine, calm down and let your Aunt Lilly think about this for a while.”

It had transpired that while studying in America, young Akira had fallen in love with a girl named Rekha, who was apparently of South Asian stock, but not quite. Her mother was half-Japanese, and I was later to learn that she had a connection of sorts to us. The immediate problem was that cousin Hideaki, one of the most tolerant people I knew, seemed to have gone insane.

“Thank you, my aunt.” I heard the chewing sounds resume from the other side of the table and reflected on the resilience (and appetite) of youth.

“Perhaps,” I said after some time had passed, “I should have a word with Aunt Hana. If anyone has any influence, it would be her. Your uncle is terrified of her. Incidentally, how is your… mother taking it?”

“Mother Shizune is perfectly happy with it. I spoke to her about Uncle H and all she signed was that it ran in the family, or something like that. She said I would have to sort it out myself, because that was the honourable thing to do. I replied that he would cut my hand off with a katana or something. And she laughed at me!”

“You mean, the way I am laughing at you, dear boy?”

“Everyone’s laughing at me!” He sounded genuinely aggrieved.

“What does your sister think?”

“My sister believes that everyone should have their heart broken at least once in their lives, and thereafter remain single.”

Oh, a conversation killer indeed, I remember thinking. “She’s not a Satou girl,” I replied instead, attempting to keep the tone light. “It’s a meme, almost. We’re all unfortunate in love.”

Akira stopped eating. “I didn’t mean that either! Oh, I’m so sorry, Aunt Lils!” he exclaimed. He sounded extremely upset.

“No harm done, Aki. I was just joking, really. I have taken no offence and you are still my favourite nephew.” I placed my hand unerringly on his, and felt it twitch. “Don’t worry, we’ll work things out.”

In April 2048, Akira Nakai married Rekha Pillay. My cousin Hideaki supplied a security detail and paid for their honeymoon. Akira and Rekha visit me often; indeed, they should soon be visiting again.

*****

“What brings me out of my dungeons? Haha, you are still sharp-witted as ever, Lillian Satou. But you should know, of course, that it is you!”

“I?” I had hardly travelled out of Scotland for a long while, and since Mother’s death, I had stayed in a little flat in Edinburgh most of the year. I was actually happy, and satisfied with the small life I had carved out for myself. I was supposedly a famous reclusive, but this had never been believed by the people I met each day, and the staff who through no fault of my own remained loyal to my little group of eateries.

“Yes. I have thought about you for years since I first told you about the eyeballs.”

Oh. Those. Back in 2044, this shadowy gentleman and former classmate had told me about the prototype augments he had worn for decades, and what they had become in the hands of Nakai Foundation researchers. He had offered me a free trial of what he called the biological option at first, but after some thought, we had both decided it probably would not go well. After all, unlike him, I had been born sightless.

“I am surprised that they let you out of Japan without a leash these days, my friend.” My Japanese was still functional, although I had lost many of the niceties. He was fluent in English, surprisingly so, although he still sounded the way many of my countrymen do.

“Ah, well, the story goes that even if they don’t use a leash, I would make my own,” he replied cryptically. “You are no longer a citizen of Japan, but I have made promises to the Japanese people, and to me it is not only a matter of citizenship. Oh my God, you have a very elegant bone structure. Tough too.”

“What in Heaven’s name are you nattering on about?” I said to him sharply.

“Eyes. They need not see the way they used to see. I have sonar. I have radar. I have the ability to synthesize multiple modalities into a coherent mental image. Would you like to try?”

“Wouldn’t it be rather confusing? Especially if you were to walk down the Royal Mile during bad weather?” I felt rather uncomfortable. Although I detested his jargon, I thought I understood his capabilities.

“It might be,” he conceded, pausing for a while. “Then again, you already do a lot of that with your other senses. We all do, but you more than I. What we suffer from most is the ability to detect things at a distance. The accident-avoidance fields we now deploy in vehicles are the wrong way round; they should’ve been given to the people first.”

I nodded. In our time, silent vehicles had had to be given the ability to make artificial sounds and deep vibrations so that people could sense them coming. Cars had accident-avoidance fields so that they could avoid pedestrians and each other by giving feedback to their drivers. However, pedestrians were still prone to doing the sudden, unexpected, and fatal.

“Cousin Shizune has a surprisingly lifelike voice these days, and I understand she has a rather unusual sense of hearing,” I probed. “Your doing?”

“Oh no,” he chuckled. “Most things are not my doing. I have just had the pleasure of seeing them work and being curious enough to investigate. Which is supposedly my job.” I heard him take a sip of Earl Grey.

“Supposedly?” Despite my better nature, I was becoming rather curious. I had tried not to bother with news from Japan, but Akira and Hideaki had been keeping me current, and I had been a little anxious about the way events had been moving. I took a little bite from my chocolate éclair.

“I think our homeland is on the verge of a collective seizure. It’s a little like the one we had more than a century ago. That one didn’t end well for our neighbours, and we were forced to become a different country. It looks possible that this is happening again. Augmented people are common now, and traditionalists are not happy; corporate entities are people now, and this distresses the common people. Our old friend Natsume has been forced to travel with extra security, and I might perhaps be a dangerous person to be seen with.”

“Why would that be so, my friend?” I had my suspicions.

“It’s like the days of Masamune Date. Tohoku and Tokyo are not seeing eye to eye, and people like myself are in a precarious position, being both and neither. My family is living in Sendai now, in case you were wondering. Also, you know I’m an augmented person.”

“How did you first get augmented?”

There is a rather pained silence, one that I can sense is not a happy one. “She’s been dead for a decade now, the friend who offered me the chance. I don’t think she would have wanted me to talk about her, but I am sure you knew her. She was part of the Nagasaki situation, and she managed to get them to support Hideaki before she died.”

I trawled briefly through my memories, but nothing came up. I had been away too long for much of it to make sense. Then, the world shifted sideways and I lost my hearing. It was like the thunderclap of God’s hands.

“DAMN!” I heard a voice vibrating in my head. “Stay down.”

I could feel something poking me in the knee, and I realized that I was sprawled on one side, sniffing unpleasant debris under a table. Something wet plastered the left side of my blouse to my back.

“What happened?” I whispered.

“Delivery from Tokyo. Probably via Hungary and then the Netherlands.”

“I can hear your voice vibrating in my head. Why is that?”

“I’m projecting it with active sonar. Sort of. Imagine I’m a porpoise or something.”

I heard a few clicks and soft whistling sounds. The next few minutes were a blur, a montage of incomprehensible and peculiar events. Then again, silence. A rather suspicious silence.

“We’re safe now. Hah, I was right to ask for backup. Let’s go.”

“I think I’m bleeding,” I said softly, hoping that it was not anything serious.

“No, that’s my blood.” A matter-of-fact tone. He had an arm around my waist, and then I was being lifted. “Sorry, I’m not very strong and you’re rather big.”

“That’s no way to talk to a lady!” I was perturbed, but not so much that I had lost all sense of humour.

“Nobu, get her to the hearse. Where’s Kei? Ah, fine. It’s all right, I’ll stay for the local police. You need to vanish her. What? Of course we’ll pay for damages.”

I felt myself being transferred to someone with a much larger frame. I was not to meet this friend of mine again for many years.

The Edinburgh Attack of 2055 was soon forgotten. The public were told that mysterious foreign interests had clashed by great misfortune in Scotland’s capital. Arrests had been made, but the only fatalities had been to the unknown agents of those foreign interests. A pinhead fission device had been found, but it had not been primed for deployment.

Feeling guilty, although I knew I had no reason to feel so, I bought over the ruined site and opened a sixth restaurant. Part of the financing came from funds transferred through Hakamichi overseas holdings. My sister was not amused.

*****

If I were asked whether I had felt my life had ended at any point when it had not, in fact, done so, I would of course mention 2024. And you who read this will probably also think of that. But those who know me better, and not the caricature that fans of the Nakai Foundation have made, will also think of 2064. That is why I will save the miseries of the decade just passed for the last thing I write.

My account then, at least for today, will end in January 2064. I shall not let sad thoughts intrude on my relative comfort. It has been a lovely spring, and it looks like a glorious summer lies in wait. So here are the main events of the years before 2064, as seen from a faraway place.

I suppose you know of the ‘Peace of Aoba’? It was on all the screens that year, a worldwide event forced upon the datastreams by people I knew. It ended one kind of power and gave the people power of a different kind. I watched it with my augmented sensorium, but I turned the augs off when I realized they were interfering with what I was hearing. Shizune was using Aunt Michi’s voice. Was it a tribute? If so, perhaps that was what brought tears to my eyes.

I had not spoken with my cousin for some years, but in that moment, I wanted very much to speak with her. Then I realized that after the Peace, Shizune belonged to everybody; I, on the other hand, had never quite belonged to anyone.

My mind went back to December 2061. It was after Christmas, and cold. Akira and I had received an unusual visitor, and I remember being rather uncertain about how I should be responding. I remained standing in my office, not wanting to appear that I was flaunting my position. Akira remained in the armchair near the window. She had been suffering the aches and pains that are the reward of a misspent youth, according to her.

“Good morning, respected senior ladies. It has been very kind of you to receive me. Cousin Hideaki is dealing with some family difficulties back in Japan, but he and Hanako send their warmest regards, and those of their family.”

My last encounter with this voice had been on Mount Aoba, at the burial of my late uncle. This was his second wife, Aunt Michiko’s successor. Angry with myself, but taking pains not to show it, I banished the thought.

“Good morning, Rika Katayama, wife of my late uncle. It is our pleasure to meet you and serve you in any way we can. If we may offer useful help in making the difficult less so, we would be most pleased.”

We bowed to each other. She was wearing some stiff material, probably rather formal. I kept my augments off and listened.

“This is a secure room,” she said, with certainty in her voice. It was not a question, but I nodded anyway. “Through your father, your sister and you hold three sets of voting shares in the extended Family, if I might be impolite enough to confirm?”

“That is correct,” I replied, taking a few seconds to summon up and consider the necessary data.

“Also, indirect control of the following assets has also accrued to you?”

I accepted the data package from her, scanned it and examined the list. “Yes, that list seems to be in order. However, most unusually, they seem to be entirely under my personal control.”

“Ah. May we then make a formal statement to you? It has legal implications.”

I suspected so. “Sister?”

“Lils, go ahead. I’ve had a chat with Hideaki about this already. Besides, I’ve transferred all proxy rights to you. Don’t want to be in this at all.”

“Cousin Rika? I accept delivery.”

The package I had then accepted contained the infamous two-year warning. Certain uses of Family voting rights took 24 months to effectuate as a failsafe mechanism. There was a required level of seniority, as well as the requirement that more than one Family representative be present. Our little meeting had the stench of conspiracy about it.

Rika confirmed this. I could hear her fiddling with her long braid. “All legal conditions have been met for this to qualify as a prorogued Family transfer of votes under the 24-month stipulation. It further enjoins you to top-level security in holding these assets, which remain embargoed for other use until after 31 December 2063; that is, once the calendar year 2064 has begun.”

“I so agree.” The words we spoke were relatively meaningless. I did not know the right forms anyway, but the documents we had exchanged were binding. I made a mental note to arrange automatic power of attorney for someone else I could trust.

When they announced the ‘Peace of Aoba’ in 2064, I felt comforted, at least, that I had contributed something to my abandoned country. The proxies I had held had made a difference. Then again, anyone’s proxies would have.

*****

I shall end here with what, to me, was the best part of 2064: New Year’s Day. Shizune had called me in September the year before to tell me the good news. To be speaking with Shizune across the distance between us was itself a minor miracle, or would have been when we were young. She was no longer using Aunt Michiko’s voice—that, as she explained, was only for the one special occasion. The voice she was using was one Misha had helped her design: [It’s what she thinks is my voice, the voice of Shizune!]

I accepted that, and we gossiped and exchanged information as we once used to. She had kept her hair short, almost like a helmet, a style which I suddenly realized was the model for Misha’s own hair. “How is Misha these days?” I inquired.

[That’s what I’m calling about, really. They have passed a law that allows us to be legally married. Misha has accepted. On 1 Jan 2064, she will change from Shiina Kobayashi to Misha Hakamichi. She has always been my best friend, that won’t change. I had to tell you. I’m very happy!]

I had many questions—the matter of how all this had happened, why Misha’s surname was not what I remembered, why Shizune was telling me—but all that came to mind was how very happy she looked. We were both now heading for 75, but she looked as if she’d just entered her half-century. I felt diminished, happy for her, but with nothing left for myself.

“Congratulations, Shizune. I wish you all the best, I’m glad for you and Misha.” It sounded a little hollow to me, but I was trying. I wanted them to have their joy, to be able to celebrate their friendship, their… love.

[Cousin Lilly, we may have had our differences in the past, but apart from Misha, you’re my oldest friend. Will you come back to Japan for us? Celebrate with us?]

The memory of three girls running a festival stall came unbidden to my mind. We had been happy then. Shizune and I, we had many things in common. I said to her, “Yes, I will.”

Her eyes were lively, dancing, as she replied: [We will look forward to that. It has been so long! Thank you. Thank you for all your support.]

I knew she was thanking me for many other things besides the obvious.

*****

My stamina is not what it used to be, long-vanished ‘healthy adolescent sex drive’ notwithstanding. This old lady needs her rest, and I trust that I will be able to continue after lunch and a good nap. There is not much left to write, anyway.

=====
main index | lilly's arc | prev | next
Last edited by brythain on Sat Apr 29, 2017 2:09 am, edited 5 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Re: After the Dream—Lilly's Arc (Complete; Testament6 201502

Post by Serviam » Fri Feb 06, 2015 5:53 am

In the end, Shizune's final moments are all the more bittersweet. Might she have known she was dying?

And that Noodle Incident with Kenji...
"What the government is good at is collecting taxes, taking away your freedoms and killing people. It’s not good at much else."
- Tom Clancy summing up l'état in a nutshell

In order of completion:
Lilly > Hanako > Rin > Emi
Currently on: Shizune

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