After the Dream—Rika/Mutou/Akira (Complete)

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After the Dream—Rika/Mutou/Akira (Complete)

Postby brythain » Thu Mar 06, 2014 11:24 pm

This thread now contains the arcs for three other characters in my 'After the Dream' mosaic.
Akira Satou, Rika Katayama and Akio Mutou are showcased here, in a complex relationship of sorts.

Main character completed arcs: Shizune | Lilly | Emi | Hanako | Rin | Misha — Main Index

1. Rika Katayama's arc:

Rika 1 — The Chance of a Ghost (2008)
Rika 2 — Watching the Watchers (2009)
Rika 3 — Counter-clockwise (2012)
Rika 4 — Sword of the Mountain (2016)
Rika 5 — Heartache (2024a)
Rika 6 — Ghost Clockwork (2024b)

Rika: Strings (2027) (Spoilers: probably best to read after the three arcs in this thread.)
Rika: Stirrings (2042)

2. Akio Mutou's arc:

'Duties of Care' is a Mutou vignette that takes place in 2009, the year after Hisao graduates from Yamaku.
Three years later, Mutou returns in 'Choices of Life'.
In 2015, Mutou expounds his 'Theories of Humanity'.
He then attends a wedding in 2018, in 'Dreams of Happiness'.
A long-anticipated break in his routine occurs in 2021, with 'Points of Transition'.
This is followed by 'Hopes of Redemption' in 2024.
Mutou's arc concludes with 'Moments of Despair', set in 2027.

There is also a one-shot: 'Pavane'.
This seems to describe the outline of his long friendship with Rei Miyagi, a colleague and later his boss, from 2006-2016.

3. Akira Satou's arc:

'Willing' (see below) is an Akira/Hisao vignette. It takes place partly in 2013, partly just before the events in Shizune's arc here, and a year before Lilly's arc here. Perhaps more to the point, it occurs before and during the events in parts 3 and 4 of Emi's arc.
'Working' is the second Akira vignette, which takes place not very long after the end of 'Willing'.
A year later, Akira attends a 'Wedding'.
The girls have a night out in 2020, in 'Wishing'.
We find out what Akira might have been wishing for in 'Wanting', set in 2024.
Akira's arc concludes with 'Waking', set mainly in July 2030.

=====


Akira 1: Willing (T -11)

It all begins with a terse text from an unknown number. I am at the Sendai office, bored as hell. The guys are traditional Japanese salarymen. The girls are nothing to look at either. Me, I am somewhere beyond both. But the paperwork is killing me…

[Meet me at the park. Guy in running gear dark blue hoodie. HN]

What park? ‘HN’? It sounds like a heart attack waiting to happen… Oh, him. My sister’s very lately, once very frequently lamented, very ex-boyfriend. And dark blue too, how sweet after all these years. I know which park now.

[KK. AS]

What the hell, Hisao… He’s just lucky I’m in town; these days I’m hardly in Japan. Wait. He’s planned this, hasn’t he? Classic slow build-up planning guy. Could use someone like that in the business. Heh.

I take a lunch break. “Family matters!” I trill as I strode out of the room, glad to be away from the corporate stench. Nobody looks up. Even those who are about to look stop. Family is king here, so I’m making use of tradition for my own ends. Point for Akira Satou.

Another text: [Not too obvious, watch for small girl with no legs. If seen evade meet Shanghai rear section.]

[Set.]

Gods. Oops, I mean, God. I dredge around in the sump that is my memory. No legs? Gah, no idea. But I keep a lookout anyway. I take a roundabout route past a convenience store and grab a couple of cans of Sapporo Classic for old times’ sake.

Throwing one last glance up and down the street, I cross the road and step into the park. The old wooden benches are still around. The leaves flutter like old letters waiting to be shredded. There’s no one there.

“Akira?”

Behind me. I suppress my reflexes. Having a secret identity is all well and good, but if you don’t have one and you kill someone with a blow to the sternum, that’s not good.

“Hey man, you startled me! How’s things?”

Inane, inane. You can do better. Then again, I’ve not seen him in how many years? Messy brown hair sticks out a bit from under the hoodie, and he’s not shaved for a while. His features are still nicely-chiseled, though.

“I need a lawyer.”

I roll my eyes while wondering what on earth has happened to him. “Commercial only, Mr Nakai. You could always ask Hideaki, he’s around and he hasn’t decided what to do with his… ah.”

Forgot, my cousin Hideaki is still in law school. But he had this funny man-crush on Hisao and would probably do anything for him.

We’re whispering behind a tree now, and I find it all a little alarming, a little amusing, and strangely exciting. It’s like a John Grisham novel written anime-style.

“You're the only lawyer I know. Can you do a will?”

Now, that I did not expect. Wickedly, I tell myself that if he leaves anything to Lils, I’ll make him draft the provisions out in Braille. Those two… like children pretending to be adults, they were.

He looks down at me in the shadow of the trees, tall, big—a hooded man with piercing eyes. He's grown up… quite a bit. I’m suddenly very conscious of my flat-chestedness. He realizes he’s clutching my arm, like a drowning man holds on to a beer.

Well, that’s a solution. Wordlessly, I pass him a Sapporo, and I watch him live.

*****

Four years later.

Again with the furtive communications and instructions. Come on, come on.

“Hisao, I love you like a brother, but why the hell all this secrecy? Why are you going behind Ibarazaki’s back? Are you insane?”

Part of me has a tiny pang of conscience, considering our shared past. But heck, been there, done that, and the guy should commit full-time. ’Sides, I’m not giving him marital advice; she’s only his girlfriend. The most beautiful pitbull in creation, I sometimes think. That, however, is what could get us killed.

“We’ve only been dating a few years,” he says mulishly, “But I thought it would be good to amend my will before anything happened. I have assets, you know. Not a charity case.”

Yes, yes, we know. Hisao’s investments in industrial-grade precious metals are more golden than gold. I got Hideaki to take over his case as soon as I could, and baby cousin has been assiduous in keeping track of things. Been way too busy myself to have this on my mind.

“Wait. You still haven’t told her you have a will.”

He grins sheepishly. What a sheep. I score myself an animal cracker.

“She hates thinking about death. She’s always told me that if anybody dies, they die and wills don’t matter anymore. She once got very angry when I brought it up and told me to shut up and not talk about it. Unfortunately, I already have a will.”

Hideaki interrupts, good man. “You can always void it. But professionally that would be bad advice because it leaves distribution of your assets to the state. You might still want to leave specific things to specific people. Ahem.”

Like that hot little codicil burning away in Hideaki’s safe, the last flame for an old dame. A ring of parchment and instructions about something more lasting. Sigh. Ms ‘Fastest-Thing-On-No-Legs’ Ibarazaki will tear him a new one if she ever figures it out. Thank the gods, or God, for client confidentiality and the thought that she probably won’t figure it out in this lifetime. Not while she’s still making Japan look good on the podium, anyway.

“No, not voiding anything. But we’re getting married next year, and I want to make sure everything is OK… just in case.”

Ooh. Not girlfriend, fiancée. I wonder how Lils will take it. And from Hideaki’s face, he’s wondering how his own sister the madam dictator will take it too. Marriage around here is something relatively final; it changes your status, the social context nearly forces you into a limited range of roles.

“You won’t be able to flirt with your new boss anymore,” I say with my brightest smile. When the family heard about Shizune’s coming transfer to Yamaku as vice-principal, I’d laughed my head off but hidden the key to the liquor cabinet.

Both of them turn red. Haha, I’m good at this! I score myself a double. I’m quite sure Hideaki once hoped that Hisao would end up as his brother-in-law.

“Wha-at? Never! Never did!”

Right. River in Egypt and so on.

“Also, in the event of marriage and subsequent death, your spouse inherits two thirds of your estate, and your lineal ascendants… sorry, your parents… will get one third combined. They will have to decide how to divide it up, and that can be messy. Article 906, you know.”

You have to love a kid who has the whole Civil Code stuck in his head and uses it to change the subject of a conversation. Maybe if I can upload all the EU documents I’ve had to deal with into that head of his, life will be so much easier.

Flash-beep. Comms from Edinburgh. My sister’s lovely features appear on the screen. Aha! An excuse to stick Hideaki with everything and make a three-point exit.

I wave the phone in Hisao’s face, making sure he gets a good look at the sweetheart of his youth. “My friend, your new lawyer can handle all the amendments. Keep in touch, don’t forget to send us all invitations, you hear? Gotta go, Lilly wants something, and what she wants, she gets!”

I stand up and pat him firmly on the shoulder. It’s interesting to watch their faces as I head out.

=====
main index | next
Last edited by brythain on Mon May 15, 2017 12:55 pm, edited 65 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: Willing: Akira Vignette (AtD One-Shot)

Postby Helbereth » Fri Mar 07, 2014 1:14 am

There's a reason I haven't cracked open the Akira route everyone seems to have fallen in love with, and it is this: I cannot fathom fast-minded Akira ever falling for Captain Obvious's estranged cousin , Petty-Officer Oblivious. Every good interpretation of her character that I have read - this one included - indicates that, even if the novelty had its trappings, she would soon tire of Hisao and his mental foibles.

It's nice to see a bit of humor injected into this particular universe, which has been distressingly absent in the previously released iterations thereof. Hideaki idolizing Hisao is a little far-fetched, but we don't know how they might have interacted following Lilly's exit stage left, so I guess it's possible.

The idea that Hisao somehow managed to secure a fortune through market strategy is on the verge of seeming unlikely, but not wholly impossible - all it takes is one good day. Am I to garner from this that in the event of his death, his future children will have all the care they need? Or is the trust less adequate than I'm perceiving?

The thread about Emi having an aversion toward living wills is somewhat understandable, and I could see her perhaps viewing it as a declaration of intent rather than a caution against inevitability, but this is ~10 years after graduation from Yamaku, and I'd expect even she would have learned to rationalize such things. Sometimes old hatreds die hard, though - so to speak.

Anyway, I'm still enjoying these epilogues. And, yes, I even went back and read Lilly's, which got a lot better after the fiasco of the songs.

Just how much research did you do on the Japanese legal system, anyway?
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Re: Willing: Akira Vignette (AtD One-Shot)

Postby brythain » Fri Mar 07, 2014 1:26 am

Helbereth wrote:*snip*

Anyway, I'm still enjoying these epilogues. And, yes, I even went back and read Lilly's, which got a lot better after the fiasco of the songs.

Just how much research did you do on the Japanese legal system, anyway?

Edited: I've snipped a bit up there to avoid ProfA-ning the thread. :)

Akira's a key supporting character here I think because she's the logical link between Scotland and Japan for me. She flies around a lot, must be a corporate expense account. Meanwhile, Hideaki gets more time with Hisao than anybody bargains for...

Hisao's unlikely market success is… yes, unlikely. There's only so much a chemistry teacher can do to beat the vagaries of the market, although buying copper and other metals besides gold is a clever hedge for someone who reads the science journals like Mutou's disciple might. I think he just wants to protect Emi and show that she's provided for and cared for, and… as usual, once in a while, he pisses her off because all she wants is for him to be there. I'm not saying anything new here… yet.

My research, such as it is, comes from having contacts with Japanese culture and school system for about 30 years. Like everyone else, I still have to Google stuff, with the slight advantage that I have a few extra insights here and there.

Thanks very much for reading Lilly's arc, and I am still thinking about what to do with the first part, which dragged on too long in the way you noted. Hopefully, things will turn out better after my break!
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: Willing: Akira Vignette (AtD One-Shot)

Postby Oscar Wildecat » Fri Mar 07, 2014 10:44 am

I've always been a fan of Akira. I've always imagined her a sort of a reincarnation of Oscar Wilde, in the "work is the curse of the drinking classes" fashion.

As far as After the Dream goes: It has all the feels of a forest on a fall day -- beautiful colors that precede the montones of winter.
I like all the girls in KS, but empathize with Hanako the most.
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Re: Willing: Akira Vignette (AtD One-Shot)

Postby brythain » Fri Mar 07, 2014 10:56 am

Oscar Wildecat wrote:I've always been a fan of Akira. I've always imagined her a sort of a reincarnation of Oscar Wilde, in the "work is the curse of the drinking classes" fashion.

As far as After the Dream goes: It has all the feels of a forest on a fall day -- beautiful colors that precede the monotones of winter.

That's a beautiful line, that last one there. :)
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)
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Re: Willing: Akira Vignette (AtD One-Shot)

Postby TyronePotato » Sat Mar 08, 2014 10:19 pm

I love this, nice little one shot. I like the concept.
ooooh feels.
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Re: Willing: Akira Vignette (AtD One-Shot)

Postby brythain » Sun Mar 09, 2014 12:38 pm

TyronePotato wrote:I love this, nice little one shot. I like the concept.

Thanks! It's likely the first of a few Akira pieces I have in mind… :)
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)
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AtD—Rika1: The Chance of a Ghost (20140411)

Postby brythain » Thu Apr 10, 2014 1:17 pm

This is the first part of Rika's arc in my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic, 'After the Dream'.
The arc consists of the following parts:

Rika 1 — The Chance of a Ghost (this post)
Rika 2 — Watching the Watchers
Rika 3 — Counter-clockwise
Rika 4 — Sword of the Mountain
Rika 5 — Heartache
Rika 6 — Ghost Clockwork

Completed arcs: Shizune | Lilly | Emi | Hanako | Rin | Misha — Main Index

The Main Index contains the different parts in chronological order, along with other fragments.



Rika 1: The Chance of a Ghost (T -16)

I am fortunate that my clan has hereditary ties with the other clan to which I now owe allegiance. You might think it strange that I, who look almost mythologically dubious with my albinism and inadequate blood, should be so traditional in that respect. But we all live in stories, and it is because of other characters in my world that this life of mine has now extended much farther beyond what I thought it would be.

Now, in our current tiny space of history in which I am permitted to make a mark, I have decided that, as is the custom of my people, my own story shall be a tribute to those who have gone before. Yet, I cannot make it too blatant a tribute—a hagiography or paean; I am going to speak as plainly as my overly ornate style allows. I have been an artist, a scientist, a specimen of the expertise of others in these disciplines; now, I will be Rika Katayama, a ghost writing through ghosts, and I will tell you about two people in whose footsteps I have followed, and whom I shall never forget.

Perhaps the best place to start would be in 2008, the year that I joined Yamaku Academy’s Student Council—and the year in which I became Shizune Hakamichi’s enemy.

*****

“It’s insane, but Madam President can be inspiring in a kinky sort of way. Come on, think about it. There are many things we can do, although she just makes me want to lie down and groan.”

That is Aoi, caught up as usual in one of her many enthusiasms. Aoi is noisy and not easily daunted, but also somewhat lacking in subtlety. Keiko, my other friend, is perhaps the reverse. Very quietly, she proceeds to analyse the situation.

“Hmm. We are soon to be third-years. We will be seniors. Hakamichi has built a solid bureaucratic framework, and whatever she has done with her two henchmen, we too can do. After all, she has a lot of drive, but all the other two do is look alternately mad and sad, and we can do better.”

“Yes! And Rika, you have such a way with words! The teachers all like you, and you will help us get assistance from everywhere!”

I choose not to waste my breath nor sigh. This is how it has always been. Three of us—Aoi of the hot blood, Keiko of the cold blood, and I who have no blood at all, according to some people. And that is how we end up deciding to collect Student Council nomination forms.

Some days later, I painfully prevail upon Mutou-sensei to sign my form as teacher-sponsor. I say ‘painfully’ because my short time with him after Physics class makes me aware of some things I would rather not have recognized. This is how the conversation goes.

“Mutou-sensei, may I…?”

“Oh, hello, Rika. What can I do for you?”

“I am applying to be a member of the Students’ Council. Could I perhaps request your signature as teacher-sponsor?”

“Ah,” he says, giving me one of his famous Mutou searching looks. “That’s interesting. It is my duty to ask you why you intend to do this, before I recommend that you do.”

I have been thinking about that myself, knowing that I would have to answer such questions from him. The easy answer, and also a false one, would have been a traditional line about the duty and honour owed to one’s school. But Mutou, despite his air of perpetual absent-mindedness, is a perceptive man. He would have seen through this rather quickly and come to the “Really, Rika?” moment at which I myself had arrived. And so, the truth, no matter how embarrassing.

“Mutou-sensei, it is not just about serving the student body. That is something which is not quite ‘me’. I think it is more about continuing a legacy of achievement, if I can make myself understood? I do not know how long I have left, and maybe there is not much of that. But people like Nakai and Enomoto are as doomed as I, and they are trying to do something with their lives. Sensei, I feel that I have done nothing.”

If I memorize my lines, I can say a lot. I seldom speak so much, otherwise. And perhaps Mutou realizes that, because his face takes on a slightly sympathetic expression.

“Is that the only reason?”

I sigh softly. I am physically frail, although I do try to keep fit. When I sigh, it makes grown men shed a manly tear. Mutou, however, is used to seeing frail girls sigh at him. I suppose it makes a difference from loud girls with pink hair. His look of concern remains just one level above neutrality, although it does seem genuine. On my part, the hesitation is genuine. I like Mutou above all the other teachers, but am I ready to trust him this much?

This time, a deep breath is required. My thin blood needs it.

“My senior, Nakai…” —who is Mutou’s favourite student— “… he has gone through many difficulties of late, but he serves the Council and it seems to help him cope with those difficulties. It is as if serving others makes a difference.”

Yes, because I have been selfish all my life, but that leaves nothing for the future. Maybe Hisao has learnt something that I need. He has been kind to me, very human and decent. If only… ah, that way lies madness.

Mutou offers me a tentative smile, not very expressive, slightly wry. But it is unexpected enough to interrupt my repetitive musings.

“You see something of Hisao Nakai in yourself? That is surprising in some ways, although your conditions have a little in common. The young man has only been here for less than a year!”

It is hard to tell Mutou that while Hisao is a friend, and important in the whole scheme of things, it is something else connected to him that has drawn my interest. It is as if he is a heterogeneous catalyst of some sort; in particular, the kind that increases or extends the functionality of the people around him. I blush a little, realizing that I am thinking like a chemist, in front of my favourite science teacher—who, of course, over-interprets that blush and makes me even more embarrassed.

“Ah, say no more.” As he signs my form, he adds with a tinge of melancholy, “But don’t let the Council define you, Rika. You’re still one of my best physics students, and your chemistry is also top-grade. There’s always the Science Club.”

“Thank you for the encouragement, Mutou-sensei. I have great appreciation for your advice.”

“No, no. It is only what I owe my students. Have a nice day, Rika!”

I bow politely, he returns my bow solemnly, and I exit the classroom. My friends are waiting outside, and that is when all the messiness begins.

*****

It has been a few weeks. I have learnt to be more a ghost than I have ever been. It is unpleasant to be glared at by Hakamichi, despite that she seems to have mellowed a little, and it is possible that it is equally unpleasant to be jovially shouted at by Mikado, who will translate for Hakamichi and insert her own wild spin on whatever the Boss has signed.

I have also learnt that Hisao, my erstwhile comrade of the medical unit, is slowly untangling himself from a truly complicated web of events—a drama not only of what I thought of as ‘difficulties’, but of love and disaster, friendship and obstinacy, near-death suffering and a lack of desire to live. He seems to not mind talking to me in his mostly laconic way; perhaps it is because I do not speak much, listen well, and am… well, only a lowly junior of no great presence, beauty, or threat to my lady seniors. He also tends to vanish when Aoi and Keiko appear.

“Where were you, Rika?! We got reamed out by the Great Dragon Lady herself! She kept saying through the Voice of Shizune that we were inadequate, unprepared, slothful, incompetent… Aaargh! I will never make my hair pink! Or blue! Nor blue! Whatever! And after all that, she took a deep breath, paused and told us to go away!”

“Perhaps she feels she has the right because she is an overachiever who has run the most efficient Council in decades. Or so she says. Records would appear to back her up. Or at least, the ones she has shown us. It’s unfortunate that you weren’t with us, Rika. At least we might have diffused her intensity a bit more.”

“Oh. I am so sorry for not standing around to get signed ferociously at by a maddened warrior maiden,” I say softly. My friends are used to such behaviour, so after further grumbling and a few sharp words, we wander off for tea.

Let me say that I have an advantage over my two friends in such situations because I can understand some Japanese Sign Language. My rather too wealthy parents ensured that I was given a lot of tutoring in preparation for transfer to Yamaku, and it is because of this that I am also a walking encyclopaedia of disabilities and treatments, medical conditions, drugs, side-effects, and drugs that offset side-effects of other drugs. Part of the reason is the sad fact that I have a long list on my daily menu, and I suspect it might be longer than Hisao Nakai’s own smorgasbord of pharmaceuticals.

While they were getting ‘reamed out’ as Aoi put it, I had been standing at the doorway, watching the unfolding tableau from one side of a folding table. It was grimly fascinating to watch Hakamichi behave so much like the father she professed so much dislike for, as I had been given to understand. Quite a character, that father. My own father used to tell me stories about him.

The only difference, it seemed to me, was that while Hakamichi’s father was said to rant about manly heroism, traditional kenjutsu or the bushido code, this younger version ranted with her fingers about student indolence, apathy and the noble heritage of the Yamaku Student Council. No doubt, she felt like the Lady of Aoba Castle.

I have no idea to this day why I did it. As Shizune Hakamichi paused in mid-tirade and by evil chance turned in my direction, our gazes locked. I mouthed at her something that might perhaps have looked like ‘bitch’ and fled the scene gracefully before anyone else had seen the eavesdropper.

I do not think either of my friends ever found out what I did. But a day later, a folded note written on Student Council official paper appears in my room. Thus begins inauspiciously a series of events that will someday become a key strand of my narrative. Reamed out? I treasure that note to this day as a masterpiece of sarcastic invective. It is a worthy artifact of the Hakamichi Council of 2007-08.

*****

Thursday mornings are sacred times to me. They are times when I see Kaneshiro-san, who is as much ‘Nurse’ as Mutou-san is ‘Teacher’, and wonder if I am tipping over from life to death, ghostly Rika to Rika-ghost.

If I am fortunate, there are moments with Hisao, who has become more alive towards the end of his time in Yamaku. He satisfies my thirst for new and different knowledge, and I am proud to say that my reading habits have changed because of him. It will be a few years before I figure out that his habits were formed in turn by too many weeks in hospital, Mutou’s kind provision of science journals and books, and Hanako Ikezawa’s love of literature. For now, I am happy to be refreshed.

“Good day, Nakai-san. Is my esteemed senior looking at a shorter list these days?”

“Hello, Rika! It’s down to fifteen, maybe fourteen. My friends are helping me keep to a healthy lifestyle. One of them persists in monitoring my diet as if I am a pipette to be filled,” he says with a slightly sour look, but with a smile that makes it clear this is only a joke. “And you?”

“Ah, Hisao, I am not long for this earth, I feel. It is my fondest wish that when the flesh has finally let go, I can wander the world’s libraries in spirit form, discussing human transcendence, black hole physics and classical poetry with an old friend in similar straits.”

A terrible effort. But only Hisao bothers to listen to my limping efforts at literary humour. Aoi would just give me a giddy look and tell me to use simpler words, while Keiko would begin to explain everything to Aoi with even less humour, if possible.

This time, he laughs, which pleases me inordinately.

“Rika, I know I don’t know you very well, but…”

“Nakai, if you’re going to hit on your juniors, don’t do it in my office. Besides, there are people who would love to know what you’ve been up to, and I also have the option of adjusting your medication in a way that will alter your life quite a lot.”

I twitch guiltily as Nurse Kaneshiro chuckles in sinister fashion. His sense of humour has many barbs. Sometimes I sense that he is protecting Hisao, but I’m not sure from whom. Or for whom.

“Hey, I was only going to thank her for cheering me up now and then.”

“Well, if you’re going to do THAT, at least get some useful items from me first.”

Hisao blushes a little. I suspect I am a crimson disaster myself. It’s hard to disguise a flush even if you wear makeup, and I gave up on that many years ago. Embarrassment, however, is no excuse for discourtesy, so I try to salvage some dignity for both of us.

“I gratefully receive my esteemed senior’s compliment and am happy to have been able to make his life seem more acceptable.”

Nurse chortles. “Heh, always so polite, little ghost. Hisao, get out of here while I attempt to assess her own quality of life.”

Hisao smiles at me and leaves hurriedly. Nevertheless, this is a good day.

*****

Or it appeared to have been going that way, at least. As I step out from my weekly check-up, I am accosted by a loud package of pink hair and sensual fragrance. And also, the Divine Wind of Yamaku.

“Wahaha~! So! Are you the one distracting Hisao from his Council duties?”

“Errm,” I begin indecorously, trying to recover from my instinctive flinching. “No, I do not think so, esteemed senior lady Mikado.”

I always lay it on thick for Mikado, because it makes her uncomfortable. Also, because Hakamichi gets impatient and sometimes becomes indiscreet with her fingers.

[We only have days. Tell the skinny –unfamiliar word– that if they want to replace us smoothly, they need to finish up the preparations for graduation.]

I feign ignorance while Mikado translates.

“Rika, we are running short of time! You and your friends need to hurry up in your preparations for Graduation Day! Then only can you take our place! Remember, we are not holding onto power, we are passing it on to successors who must be worthy! Haha~!”

Yes, I can see what idiomatic translation might look like in the hands of a pink-helmeted samurai of the mouth. I also reflect on the assets that allow Hakamichi to rightfully highlight my relative flatness of chest. Oh well.

“Please tell esteemed senior lady Hakamichi that I will try my best to convey this urgency to my cohorts.”

“Wahaha~! Always so formal. We have some editorial work for you! Our valedictorian has things to say but won't say them. She’s being very strange! Instead she wants Shizune to say them in her speech, and Hisao and I will translate. Please check for typos and such, we know you’re good at it!”

She hands over a thin, neatly typed and stapled sheaf of paper. How odd. I had thought that either Hakamichi or my friend in infirmity would be valedictorian this year. I look down, curious.

[Hanako Ikezawa] says the header. I must say I never saw that coming.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Mon May 15, 2017 12:47 pm, edited 5 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)
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Re: After the Dream—Other Material (Rika upd 20140411)

Postby Yukarin » Fri Apr 11, 2014 9:59 am

I'm liking the exposition on Rika's parts. They are not what I expected, but it is a good refresher.

I am eager for more.
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Re: After the Dream—Other Material (Rika upd 20140411)

Postby brythain » Fri Apr 11, 2014 12:15 pm

Yukarin wrote:I'm liking the exposition on Rika's parts. They are not what I expected, but it is a good refresher.

I am eager for more.

Thank you! I'll check with Rika and get back to you… :)
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)
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AtD—Rika2: Watching the Watchers (20140412)

Postby brythain » Fri Apr 11, 2014 12:55 pm

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

Completed arcs: Shizune | Lilly | Emi | Hanako | Rin | Misha — Main Index

The Main Index contains the different parts in chronological order, along with other fragments.
]


Rika 2: Watching the Watchers (T -15)

Let me tell you that I am not a deliberately deceptive person. Rather, I am one who struggles with expression, and may in doing so provide an incomplete picture of events. My editor has been the only person with the patience to let me tell my story without blunting my words, and I am grateful.

And so it is that this morning Editor-san looks at me, smiles and asks, “Rika-chan, you mentioned two people in whose footsteps you followed, but that last piece left your readers hanging somewhat. I would assume that they might want to know exactly which those two are, of all the people mentioned.”

I still blush, and when I do, I look more rosy than you would imagine. Someone has likened it to the flowering of the cherry blossoms in spring. This is because I am indeed fairly transparent, and being laughed at makes it worse.

“Ah. That is indeed my fault. It was obvious to me, but not to the reader. But that is because my story was not complete!”

“A great fault, to be sure. If the argument is not deployed fully, the conclusion is dubious. You need to follow through, dear girl.”

There is no point arguing that I am now in my mid-thirties. I will always be ‘girl’ to some people. Therefore, I present to you the second part of my youthful folly.

*****

On Graduation Day in 2008, I am sitting with the relatively small number of students from my year who will soon be taking over the reins of student affairs after the Hakamichi era. I reflect that, in all fairness, the Dragon Lady and her circle have done a good job of rehabilitating my friend—and that we have a worthy, although voiceless, valedictorian. This last is a contradiction in terms, of course. But our school has always been quirky in so many ways that this is not a problem.

I confess to having a tiny twinge of what some might recognize as longing, or envy, but probably not jealousy, when Hisao leaps from the stage and heads towards his friends. I know about the surprise he intends to perpetrate. My only moment of anxiety comes when he draws Hanako Ikezawa to her feet after a well-controlled peck on the cheek, and the spotlight comes down upon our valedictorian. Will she lose her composure? I am glad she does not. And on that note of relief, my second year at Yamaku comes to an end.

With the drama of that year behind me, I shall draw a veil over the next year or so. My heartaches and growing pains are not your concern, so I will summarise the outcomes and move on.

[Editor: That’s a cheat, R. Your audience will be deprived of many good things.]
[R: Some day, I might look back.]

*****

To my surprise, I placed fairly well in the school examinations, and managed to do well enough in the entrance examinations to enter the University of Tokyo’s Department of Materials Engineering, on Mutou’s recommendation.

“Rika! I am very happy for you. The department is a new one, since my time, but it has a great reputation. I wish you all the best, and should you never return to brighten these corridors, I assure you that you will be remembered.”

“Thank you, Mutou-sensei. Were it not for your encouragement, I would have vanished into the halls of literary academia instead.”

I am not sure that I was joking here. The idea had crossed my mind. But Mutou’s eyebrows were a sight to behold as they twitched in two different directions.

“We need more young people in nanomaterials and bioengineering. I am very pleased indeed, personally. Do keep in touch, and if you need any further advice, you have only to ask.”

It was, I should say, a pleasant but Mutou-style melancholy parting. I made my bows, acknowledged his nod, and left the old and familiar classroom. I was already feeling a kind of nostalgia in advance as I went up one last time to the girls’ dormitories and finished packing in preparation for my return home.

The extremely black car that would be waiting outside for me marked a semestral transition that always wore on my nerves. In this case, my last day at Yamaku marked the last time I might see Aoi and Keiko again. I was never one for a social life, but I felt an enormous gratitude that these two had given me one at all. We had parted as good friends the day before. Unbeknownst to them, I had already had their names placed on the family Register.

*****

It is a few months later, in the autumn of 2009. I am sitting in cool indirect sunlight near the Asano Gate, where my faculty is situated. Classes have started and I am feeling a little tired from the unexpected demands on my body. I have the rest of the day off, though. What to do?

I collect a box lunch from the meager little co-op (we engineers apparently do not eat proper meals nor need much by way of physical comforts) and wander out through the famed Uchido Gothic architecture. My walk takes me past the museum and out into the rest of the university. Soon I see the rising columns of the science buildings to the south, and a faint memory nags me enough to make me head that way.

Perhaps I will finally get to visit the famed Sanshiro Pond, I muse. It will probably be the closest I get to classical literature. Not for the first time, I wonder what my subconscious is telling me. By instinct, I flick my gaze up and to the right, away from the late-morning sun. A watcher, as always. It is hard to be alone and, as I have often been told, irresponsible of me to attempt it. Long habit has made me aware of the habits of such watchers, and thus I am able to create the illusion of solitude.

That is why I jump a little, and feel a moment’s odd terror, when a half-familiar voice says, “Katayama! Are you a student here too?”

My head whips round. I must look like a startled heron, one with a long braid of silver hair. Fortunately, although my wits might wander at times, they are relatively quick.

“Venerable sir! How is my senior colleague of the Broken Hearts Club managing these days? You can still call me Rika, Nakai-san.”

Hisao’s careless brown hair is still messy, and his features are still sharp. I guess the food over at Science is as poor as that at Engineering.

“I’m doing well, Rika. Haven’t had an attack since I took up regular running. Even though I’ve not seen Emi for more than a year now, I’m sure she’d be glad to know that I do still keep something of hers!”

“Nakai-san, you are a terrible person. First thing you do when talking to a junior lady is to mention a more beautiful senior lady? I am wounded.”

Frankly, Emi Ibarazaki is frightening. She belongs in a Family. I would love to swap places with her. I might even have had a girl-crush on her once, except that nightmares of being pursued by Nurse’s top spy at high speeds through a sports complex at dawn kept haunting me.

“Oh dear, Rika-chan. Well, I am off to lunch with two other senior ladies, also very beautiful, perhaps even as beautiful as you. Would you like to join us?”

Damnation. I am blushing again.

“Ah. No, I am condemned to lead the life of an engineer, which is to say, none. This one thanks the esteemed senior for his concern. Keep in touch?”

That last bit comes across as a little too plaintive for my taste. However, I can hardly turn redder than I have. Perhaps he will blame the sun, which does make me go red as well.

“Certainly! It’s been good to see you, Rika.”

He waves and saunters off, in the direction of… the Sanshiro Pond. Sigh. Disgruntled, I find a shady spot and eat my somewhat tepid lunch. It would be nice to be a little less alone in my loneliness. But if I am not in error, there are only three of his year at Todai, which means I know only too well who he must be meeting.

[Editor: You still haven’t said whose footsteps you’re following in.]
[R: I think we can put that off for now. At the time, I would not have known.]

*****

I have my own apartment, the only concession the Family has made for me. That was all Mother. Father just waved a finger, and it was done. After I get in, it is with loathing that I find a black and red Katayama thumbdrive on my desk. Under it is a little sticky note, in a grey-and-pink pastel version of the Katayama colours. [For your viewing pleasure] is printed on it, in Tanaka-sama’s meticulous writing. It is as much a command as he dares to give me.

I do not have to do this, but I slot the thumbdrive into my AirBook. The small memory device flashes its light at me and my computer comes awake. A file is launched; its filename reads [video-20091015-thu-1127-1402-edit-RT]. Remarkably sharp footage, as usual. Of me, saying goodbye to Hisao. Of Hisao, sitting down with Shizune Hakamichi and Hanako Ikezawa, all nicely labeled with little green tags. Hakamichi’s tag has the little violet numbers that show she is a collateral member of a Family. Their meal unwinds, with transcript subtitles below.

When I have seen enough, I yank the drive and throw it across the room into a wastebin. I am well-practiced at that. I have no energy for anger, though.

I have no privacy, and neither do my friends. So, if I am not marrying one of those people, best I stay out of their lives. It is bitter, and I might be used to it. But on some days, I wish it were not so. Oh gods, I wish it were not so.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Mon May 15, 2017 12:48 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)
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Re: After the Dream—Other Material (Rika upd 20140412)

Postby dewelar » Fri Apr 11, 2014 1:32 pm

I must say I find Rika's character-voice very interesting and appealing. I have read even less Rika fic than I have Saki fic (i.e., I have read nothing beyond the original April Fools post and the occasional fic like TD where she has appeared as a side character), so it may be that it's based on something else, but even so it's done very well.
Rin is orthogonal to everything.
Stuff I've written: Developments, a continuation of Lilly's (bad? neutral?) ending - COMPLETE!
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Re: After the Dream—Other Material (Rika upd 20140412)

Postby brythain » Fri Apr 11, 2014 8:01 pm

dewelar wrote:I must say I find Rika's character-voice very interesting and appealing. I have read even less Rika fic than I have Saki fic (i.e., I have read nothing beyond the original April Fools post and the occasional fic like TD where she has appeared as a side character), so it may be that it's based on something else, but even so it's done very well.

That's very encouraging. She's a real enigma, and I'm trying to look behind that and do for her what I've done for the rest of the characters! Thanks.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)
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AtD—Akira2: Working (20140412)

Postby brythain » Sat Apr 12, 2014 12:24 am

This is the second part of Akira's arc in my 'After the Dream' post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic.
It takes place in 2017 in that continuity, just before this part of Lilly's arc.



Akira 2: Working (T -7)

And here I thought I’d got rid of all of that shit. I look at my cousin with loathing, which is really undeserved. If the client were here, I’d transfer that look to him straight away. Damn that Hisao Nakai, what a daft thing to do.

Dear Akira, reads the note, I am grateful for our long friendship and I have entrusted Hideaki with the duty of discussing these things with you. If I could have met you face to face, I would have done it that way, but sadly, that has not been the case. I apologize deeply. HN.

Well, yes. We’ve been avoiding each other in public, of course. Wouldn’t do for ‘the most beautiful pitbull in all creation’ to be hunting Akira Satou down on suspicion of conspiracy. Emi Ibarazaki can be vicious and very loud when provoked.

When Hisao suggested a meeting, he had his usual list of haunts around Sendai. I almost smacked him up the back of the head for being stupid. Then he suggested a restaurant in a hotel. That’s when I punched him. Ouch, for both of us. The idea of being caught in a hotel with my sister’s old flame… Brrr. What a chilly thought.

And now, here we are, Hideaki Hakamichi and Akira Satou, partners in ghastly association. Our little meeting in Tokyo has an agenda with only two items on it, says he. Both of them are poison, I suspect, each in a different way.

“Okay, shortie, what does he want? What’s Item One?” I snarl at my now large and chunky thug of a kid cousin. I remember being able to muss his hair easily. Now I have to aim up a bit unless he’s sitting down.

He’s looking pretty uncomfortable.

“Sorry,” he says, for the umpteenth time. I roll my eyeballs, ditto. “Item One: to deliver this wedding invitation to your sister, and also to convey Hisao’s genuine desire to see her at the wedding in August next year.”

Oh yes, the usual dense Hisao Nakai behaviour. What’s it with that guy, as if inviting his old flame to the wedding isn’t enough? He’s going to invite her to a Tanabata wedding, the time of year which has particularly painful bittersweet memories of a commitment that burned down to the ground once both parties abandoned ship. Shit, mixed metaphors again.

And also, when I said ‘send invitations’ I meant for him to send them himself. By mail. Or email. Not by hand, and not by MY hand. Maybe I’ll just sneak it onto her office desk.

“I’ll do it. Doubt she’ll come, whether or not I want her to, and I’m not going to say Hisao wants her to. But I’ll say what I can.”

My sister. I sigh again. So stubborn, the both of them. What a damn waste, and it always makes me feel guilty even though I know it wasn’t MY fault.

He clears his throat, which for some reason needs a lot of clearing today. He’s consulting his notes now, which irritates me.

“Item Two: establishment of private foundation in the long term, with the stated aims of a) aiding the advancement of medical knowledge toward amelioration of, compensation for and/or elimination of physical disabilities, b) providing scholarships for deserving students with such disabilities, and c) production and dissemination of technology that makes use of aforesaid medical knowledge. There’s a whole list of stuff that Hisao says he and Shizune have put together.”

What. The thought continues in my head, but it kinda dies in committee.

“Foundation?? He and Shizune?!”

“Errm, yes. Since their days in university, apparently. He’d been taking notes during their conversations over the last eight or nine years.”

“Wait. Isn’t she his boss now?”

“That too.”

He looks unhappy. Hisao is giving us a lot of work to do, and it’s not all legal work. I wonder if the pitbull will maul us. I decide to fine myself a hundred yen for each time I think ‘pitbull’ again.

“How much money involved?”

“The initial stake is about a quarter of a billion yen.”

“What?! That’s all his investments!” I yelp, doing a quick calculation. “In fact, I don’t think he has anywhere near that much! Doesn’t his wife-to-be get a say?”

100 yen, Akira.

“Errm, no. His parents are contributing and Shizune has a stake too. Apparently she bought a lot of US assets when she was at grad school in Chicago, and liquidating them has brought profits.”

“How the hell did she get to be vice-principal at Yamaku? And what for?”

“The board appointed her directly, with responsibility of setting higher academic standards for curriculum development and stuff like that. She is a distinguished alumna, you know,” Hideaki adds, very defensively.

She’s his sister, after all. But as I look at what’s forming, I can’t help but feel an unhealthy level of apprehension.

“Shortie, come on, there’s more to it than this, right?”

He looks very uncomfortable now, even more so than before. Damn, I was right, what stinking secret is there here, now? 200 yen, Akira.

“Cousin, Hisao says that Shizune made him promise he would try to be more than just a teacher. And Hanako made him promise that he would always try to do the right thing. So he’s hoping that this will help him fulfill his promises.”

“And Miss Ibarazaki will be okay with his promises to these two?”

300 yen, now. Shortie, what next?

“He’ll be just a teacher, with a teacher’s salary. But he and Shizune will be joint trustees of a charitable trust, and it becomes the full foundation only when he reaches his 40th birthday on 1 April 2029 or at the moment of his certified death, whichever comes first. He’s got a lot of weird ideas in this file, and we have to make them work.”

I start flipping through the pages that lie before me. Gods, I don’t know what to say. Although every time Hideaki says his sister’s name I now automatically fine myself another 100 yen. I hate sneaky stuff like this.

But the ideas here are interesting ones. Money sitting around and growing unpredictably until it hits critical mass. A way to live on forever, maybe. Action at a distance. I’m already jotting notes and hating Hisao with a growing admiration.

“Okay, shortie. How the hell we ever got suckered into this, I’ll never know. How’s he paying us?”

“He and Shizune, half and half, cash retainer. And Emi not to know anything.”

Right. 400 yen, no, 500 yen to myself now. Well, at least it’s not Family money-laundering. Wait. Cash?

Or is it?

“My very dear little cousin,” I coo at him, “are you holding out on me?”

“I’ll let you read the file. I’ve already given you the main details, boss.”

When he calls me that, something’s up.

“Hide-chan. Is this Family business, perhaps?”

“Err, no, although Hakamichi Industries might be on board some time in the future. I don’t see it not happening.”

“You’re not telling me everything. Out with it.”

He is indeed looking rather unhappy.

“Remaining stake is from another Family. The Katayamas are in.”

Oh gods. The Hand of the Mountain despises Jigoro Hakamichi, although I don’t think he has anything against the rest. But why this?

Hideaki looks at me uncertainly. He reads my expression well.

“I don’t know either.”

“Yeah. Well, we’ve got work to do.”

And an invitation to deliver personally to my sister back home. Which I bet would be the more complicated task. Appears I was wrong, again, dammit. Hate being wrong.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Mon May 15, 2017 12:52 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)
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AtD—Rika3: Counterclockwise (20140415)

Postby brythain » Tue Apr 15, 2014 11:42 am

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

Completed arcs: Shizune | Lilly | Emi | Hanako | Rin | Misha — Main Index

The Main Index contains the different parts in chronological order, along with other fragments.



Rika 3: Counterclockwise (T -12)

This is Rika again. My editor has convinced me, for he is a very convincing person, that I should at least set on paper the last part of my years at the University of Tokyo. Clearly, some of those things cannot be said anywhere. But I suppose that for your amusement and edification, some of these things may now be spread around to all and sundry.

I am tall and pale and slim, but possessed of a firm and unyielding physique because my dear father has always been of the opinion that a Katayama should have the form of a mountain and a heart of stone. Sadly, this means I might stand out in a crowd if caught unawares; I have therefore learnt to automatically blend into the hubbub of the urban scene. I cannot do much with forests, though, except perhaps look like a skinny tree with not much by way of fruit.

It was thus that I was able to follow Hisao Nakai unseen during his morning run one day. Although my blood is thin, I have built up considerable stamina through various exercises. If one is to drop dead at any moment, one should at least look good lying there. Hence, my choice of a comfortable rust-brown tracksuit and something purple for my hair.

He was going at a fairly comfortable pace (for me) and rounding a corner when I heard a loud thump and some groans. Immediately I eased myself into a café across the way. I hoped it was not going to be an emergency situation, but if so, it would be wonderful to force my minders to go to his assistance while I enjoyed some peace and quiet.

To my surprise, after some muffled conversation and much expostulation, he came back round the corner with a familiar face in tow: Emi Ibarazaki, fastest thing on no legs. They had run into each other after a long absence, it seemed. What ill fortune. I tapped my field bracelet.

[Transmit on my mark. Begin. Subject: Ibarazaki, Emi. Seen with Nakai, Hisao. Query: arranged? Query: of interest? Class: non-urgent. End. Mark.]

We Katayamas were familiar with the name Ibarazaki. Emi’s father had been the famous ‘Thorn’—the fastest detective in Tokyo’s Organised Crime Control Bureau both in physical and intellectual speed, and perhaps in organizational capacity. Years ago, some Family had taken him out, and Emi had lost her legs in the same incident. I had always felt a pang of guilt about that. He had seemed an honourable man, and for all I knew, my own father might have had been behind his termination.

I had always been deferential towards this older girl in school. She deserved no less, as a matter of honour. But when Nurse Kaneshiro assigned Ibarazaki to be my trainer for cardiovascular fitness, I had to decline. It was just too much to be seeing her cheerfully determined face every day, training hard on the prosthetics that my own family might have made necessary.

And there we were, fewer than a hundred metres apart. I hid behind a convenient copy of the Asahi Shimbun, but was quietly horrified to see them head over towards the café. I did my best to blend into a dim corner.

Fortunately, they seemed to have no eyes for anyone except each other. Hisao Nakai, I said to myself, you must be joking. No wonder Mutou and Kaneshiro had been shaking their heads at his ‘range of interests’.

Perhaps, I mused, it was only a chance meeting. I, however, had a more important meeting of my own to attend—and I was running late.

*****

“Mutou-sensei, this sad young lady deeply apologises for being tardy.”

He looks up. His smile instantly erases several layers of aged fatigue. He places his pen on the battered old table deliberately, instinctively squares his marking away in a reasonably neat pile.

“Rika! Good to see you. Are we ever to cure you of excessive formality? How are things going at Todai?”

“I have made a little progress on the ideas for my honours thesis, Mutou-san. They still aren’t much. But the concept of graphene-on-ruthenium electrodes coupled with ruthenium-on-graphene catalysts still engages my imagination. Controlled deposition to form useful structures shows promise. It is hard to scale these phenomena up, but there is something there.”

“Fascinating! I had hopes that our friend Hisao would travel that route, but he has found something else to do.”

Or someone else to do, I say to myself, before blushing with shame. And then blushing again as I realize how Mutou might take my first blush. Fortunately, he chooses to overlook it in favour of a little light humour.

“No, it is not one of his many complicated relationships. He’s finished his final work and is going on to Gakudai for teacher training. In some ways, that delights me. He has the manner and attitude for it.”

“He has helped me conceptually. Somehow, he is able to explain technical concepts with great clarity.”

“Glad to hear it. May I invite you to take tea with me, Katayama-san?”

I smile a little at his contrived over-formality, but acknowledge it for what it is.

“Honoured to accept, Mutou-san.”

The teachers’ section of the cafeteria is as dreary as ever; with ochre walls and tacky beige plastic tables, it is probably the least inspiring part of an already uninspiring but fairly comfortable facility. It is also the only part of the place that has no windows; it was originally designed as a bomb shelter, and can still be used as such. It is empty at this time today, which suits my purpose.

Mutou reaches into a little cabinet and pulls out a traditional tea set. The effect is somewhat weakened by his somewhat scruffy appearance, but somehow his clumsy grace as he sets about his task makes me feel as if an old-time ronin is preparing to serve a lady far above his nominal station in life.

He is meticulous, at least. He dispenses some hot water from what looks like a deionizing column to cool for a while, then measures out a few careful grams of dark green tea into the clay teapot. His cups are fine white porcelain, remarkably clean despite their apparent age.

“So, milady, what is the real reason for your approach to this old and battered dispenser of tea and teaching?” he asks, as dry as ever and with bare service to social conventions.

I do not like having to do this, but this man is the only one I can ask such questions of, without fear that I will be made part of some plan beyond my control. I trigger the diffuser, gaining me some privacy for a few minutes, and take a deep breath. I can feel the pulse pounding in my temples, so I sit down cautiously.

“Mutou-san, you know what I am. But there is a time that comes in every life, when a person must make choices, and make them with integrity. I need to decide on some matters, and I do not want them to be Katayama decisions.”

“Ah,” he says. He is silent for a moment. He looks searchingly at me, as if trying to see his own reflection in my blood-red irises. Then he produces a minimal smile and begins to pour tea in a strangely controlled way. I can almost see the cogs meshing in the gears of his mind.

He stops pouring and takes out his phone, a slim geeky model with a scratched leather case. “No signal,” he remarks. “Katayama-san, you are a dangerous person to know. I am honoured by the request you seem to be making.”

*****

The tea had been of the finest quality. I would never have expected Akio Mutou to be such a connoisseur. I keep that to myself, and when we are done, and emerge from the cool tomb of a teachers’ tearoom, we bow politely. I wave to him as I leave, and he returns the gesture. It will be a few years before I meet him again.

Outside, my bracelet beeps as it comes back to life.

[Subject: Ibarazaki, Emi. Interest: Nil. Subject: RK11. Data: Offgrid 11:32.27. Query: Reason? Class: Priority. End.]

Tanaka-san’s code flashes. Damnation.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Mon May 15, 2017 12:48 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)
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