After the Dream—Rika/Mutou/Akira (Updated 20190704)

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brythain
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Re: AtD—Akira's Arc (Part 3 up 20140512)

Post by brythain » Mon May 12, 2014 10:48 am

dewelar wrote:Thinking about what you said in JohnnyTruant's thread about Emi being vanilla...I find it interesting that Akira seems to be the most vanilla of the characters in this story. I'm not saying it isn't appropriate, because it is, I'm just making a note of it :) .

However, I mostly had to post because of this line:
brythain wrote:He looks up too, slow as always, and gives me a microwave
No no no, Hideaki, I know you like Akira and all, but bringing presents to a wedding for someone other than the happy couple is bad form!
Haha, I forgot, that joke doesn't translate well… thanks for that comment re Akira. But you'll find that her character changes over the years too…
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—Akira's Arc (Part 4 up 20140513)

Post by brythain » Mon May 12, 2014 10:02 pm

This is the fourth part of Akira Satou's arc from my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic, 'After the Dream'.
In that continuity, it takes place on 11 Aug 2020. It parallels Hanako's arc here.
Caveat: Hanako's account of events and Akira's are parallel but have discrepancies. I'm not sure which one is more reliable.



Akira 4: Wishing (T -4)

Spending part of my adult life at Sendai legal office, up near Lils’s old school, means that I’ve picked up a fair bit of the local traditions. This one’s a particularly sad one, but I’ll share it with you anyway. My classic Japanese is crap, so here’s a westernized translation of the Tanabata festival story.

Once upon a time, there was a princess, named Tanabata, who was of the Celestial Family. Some say she was daughter to the Emperor of Heaven himself. She wove the most beautiful cloth in creation, or grew the peaches of immortality, or held the threads of fate. Whatever. She was bright, skilled, an amazingly pretty girl—and she fell in love with the herder of the celestial cows. Oops.

The Emperor, so it’s said, was furious and put an end to it by separating them. He diverted the Milky Way to do that, and to meet the legal requirements (yeah, my kind of thing!) he allowed them to meet once a year if they could accomplish a certain task. He couldn’t cut them off completely, see.

That task was the making of a thousand straw slippers (for the cowherd or the princess, it varies) or the building of a bridge of birds (cranes or magpies, for the princess), or the guarding of a thousand melons without touching a single one (for the cowherd, of course). All these tasks were for a single year, and continue to this day. If they’re successful, they get to meet for a couple of days, but not more.

Sometimes they fail, and they come very close, but aren’t allowed to touch. During the festival, people make wishes for those two to be successful, and also for themselves to find love and that sort of thing. It’s a damn sad story, really.

And here I am, Akira Katharine Anderson Satou, watching the modern version play out in front of me. With me are my sis, Lilian Alexandra, ‘Lils’ for short, and her good friend Hanako, who is beautiful and sweet but had a terrible accident when she was a kid. Shortie, my cousin Hideaki, is designated driver for tonight, so he’s out looking for Scots ghoulies and ghosties or some weird thing like that, while we down a few wee drams of the guid stuff, as they say over here.

I idly toy with a cigar in my left hand as I look at Lils and Hana in the gloom. Our restaurant is closed at this time of night, closed a little early this lovely August evening. It’s Tuesday, 11th August, a few days after the Tanabata festival ended in Sendai. Hana’s sitting in her usual seat, in the shadow of a pillar; I’m facing her, my dying cigar the brightest point of light here, while Lils is on Hana’s left.

Northern Light’s a great place to hang out. The locals think we named it after its location, which is the great old city of Edinburgh, capital of Scotland. Actually, it’s named also for our old home in Hokkaido.

We’re having a pretty comfy girls-only session, talking about fashions and business trends and silly family goings-on. There are still things we don’t lightly talk about, like certain ex-boyfriends and such, but we’re relaxed and the drinks are helping. Tonight’s mainly about red wines from Bordeaux, 1978 and younger. I’ve a good sweet Riesling for the end, in reserve.

I don’t know when it goes wrong. Maybe it’s the moment when Hana, of all people, asks a question that leaves us all stunned. She stutters a bit, that’s her under stress, but it’s pretty clear: “How does it m-make you feel, n-now we’re in our th-thirties, that n-nobody seems to love us?”

Man, that’s a stinker.

I snatch a quick glance at Lils, who’s been mourning her loss for more than ten years now. It’s not that he’s dead—he’s separated from her by the Milky Way and the prettiest pitbull in all creation. Nope, sis isn’t taking it very well.

I’ll need to distract her a bit, so I clear my throat and give it a shot.

“Hey! I’ll have you know I’m hitting forty in a while, so pipe down a bit, yeah?”

Actually, I turned 38 in May. Went to visit Uncle Akio, who’s the only older person with whom I’m comfortable just bumming around and sipping good Scotch. Those two are just about 31? Something in the very low 30s, anyway.

Lils mumbles something about growing old and missing the bus. Sigh. That’s just plain depressing. Hana looks very embarrassed at our responses, and if she weren’t already in a shady spot in a darkened room with her hair over half her face, she’d try to hide. Instead, she tops up my sister’s glass.

I do a little count and come up short. Wait, that means Lils has been drinking most of our Bordeaux. Not good. I dip a finger in some water and quietly signal to Hana not to let her drink too much more. Unfortunately, Lils has really good hearing, and when my finger squeaks a bit on the table, she catches the sound.

“Is anything wrong, Akira?”

Taken by surprise, I make a tactical mistake.

“Yeah. I mean, no. I was just about to ask Hana to tell us about her recent time in Sendai.”

The moment the words are out of my mouth, there’s no taking them back. I just know this is not going to end joyfully. See, Hana’s just come back from the birth of a daughter to our friends Hisao and Emi Nakai. And that Hisao happens to be the cowherd that my princess of a sister has left behind.

For a fact, I know that Lils and Hisao had a thing going once upon a time. They even talked about having kids and going to university together and all that sort of stuff. Then my father decided to summon us back to Scotland and sell most of our holdings in Japan. Some of it went to other Families, some of it went to his own siblings. I have no idea what prompted that shift, but the effect was drastic. There were tears shed between Lilly and Hisao, but both of them felt a long-distance relationship was doomed. So did I, but I was hoping, y’know. My own love-life was a shambles by that time. Even Uncle Akio couldn’t help me much with that.

By the time I come out of my sad little musings, I gather that Hana’s kept to safe topics about the state of Hisao’s hair and his furniture and how things are with the storekeepers and Yamaku staff and so on. But it’s really too late when Lils, still smiling, decides to be polite and ask about her rival for Hisao’s affections—his spunky athlete of a wife, Emi Ibarazaki, fastest thing on no legs and a pitbull by temperament.

“What about Emi? How are they getting along? I had heard she was… expecting.”

Gah. I almost spit out my mellow, delicious mouthful of tannins and berry flavours. As it is, I am barely able to swallow. The truth is, I was supposed to tell Lils but I chickened out, and now Hana knows. Which is why two dark laser beams zing me on the tip of my nose before Hana stutters out her answer.

“H-Hisao and Emi are f-fine. The b-baby’s doing w-well.”

“Baby?”

I desperately try to change the subject, but, ah well. Damn. Lils heads towards the train wreck as if she wants it badly. She’s got that brave-but-doomed look on her face.

“Oh. How sweet. Tell us everything.”

And Hana’s probably too stunned to stop her.

“H-her name is Akiko. She’s very s-sweet. About four and a half k-kilos. Light brown hair, big b-bronze eyes.”

Ouch. A lot of Hisao in that one. I remember Lils telling me how beautiful it would be to feel a baby in her arms with Hisao’s messy hair.

My brain’s been flailing around for a while, and then it comes up with this: ““Wow! We should send congrats and a little gift, Lils. Does the kid resemble Emi or Hisao more? For a girl, better Emi, I guess. Did they appoint a godmother?”

Babbling, babbling, stupid woman. You should know better. Argh. I clamp my lips shut in some sort of inane grin. Lils just picks up her glass and drains in it one gulp.

Hanako and I, rambling on down the road to a very sad Lils…

“R-Rin said no. She s-said that she didn’t know anything about being a g-godmother. Emi was d-disappointed. B-but…”

No. No, don’t say it. I think I know. Quickly, I write in water, [YOU? O SHITE DN SAY IT].

Too late. It’s not Hanako who says it, it’s Lils who gets it way too fast. Her voice is exhausted, trembly, sad. This has got to hurt. Lils, polite to the end.

“Oh, H-Hana. C-congratulations. They’ve m-made an excellent choice.”

Her face is stiff and her smile has faded away. She’s trying to hold it back, and I’m too far away to hug her. Hana looks panicked.

“T-thank you, Lilly.”

“I’m so h-happy you were able to be with them. Must’ve m-meant a lot.”

She’s crying softly now, tears rolling down her cheeks. It’s like the whole burden of all these years has finally come home. She really loved the guy. It was such a waste those two didn’t just decide to shack up somewhere and hell with my father, but it wasn’t my decision to make.

This one is, though.

“Lils? We should go to bed soon. Had a bit too much to drink, me. I’ll go get Shortie.”

I get up, come round the table to give her a quick hug, and then go outside for some fresh air. All that emotion, it’s exhausting. I really feel for Lils though. I wonder what it’d be like if someone I liked ended up with someone else, and I only found out too late how much I really loved that person.

Tossing the dead cigar into a bin, I try to raise Hideaki on my phone. He’s quick to respond.

“So early, nechan? Give me a minute, I’m just round the corner.”

“Take your time. Lils and Hana are sorting something out.”

What if you had your chance, and you took it too late? I think of messy hair and I think of all the people I’ve tried to love, and I think it might be too late for me. What will it take for sad old Akira to be happy? Or am I always gonna be faking it for everyone else to see?

Tanabata, right? What the hell. I make a wish, that there’ll be someone on the other side of the river for all of us.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Mon May 15, 2017 12:53 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—Akira's Arc (Part 5 up 20140513)

Post by brythain » Tue May 13, 2014 10:34 am

This is the fifth part of Akira Satou's arc from my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic, 'After the Dream'.
In that continuity, it takes place on 8 Aug 2024. It parallels Mutou's story here.
Caveat: Mutou's account of events and Akira's are parallel but have discrepancies. Neither is telling the whole story, I'm sure.



Akira 5: Wanting (T +0)

“Lils?”

There’s only a faint animal sound from behind her locked door. Hnng. Hnk. Something like that, irregular, ragged, wrong. It’s the sound of someone all cried out, no more tears left, just the dry sobbing. She’ll be all right in the morning, I suppose. But it’ll be terrible till then. Been there before.

It makes me feel bad that I’m determined to enjoy my night out, y’know what I mean? We’ve just put Nakai into the ground, and my kid sister has wept her heart out, is starting on her guts and maybe her liver, and… I’m about to go out for dinner with someone whose company I really enjoy.

I leave a note on the table. [Out for dinner. Don’t stay up. Drink lots of water. Love, AK.]

I’ve a few minutes left, not really much time for a change of clothing, but it’ll do. Off with the dark mourning suit, and into something else that’s black. I don’t want to be Akira the sister or Akira the lawyer now. Just for tonight, I want to be plain ol’ Akira who likes imagining she can be simple, pretty, innocent. Yeah. Really.

I freshen up a bit so that I’m not at dinner with funeral makeup on. Then I strip down and look at myself critically. Light muscle from working out. Not curvy like Lils, but good enough. Legs fine, maybe starting to develop a couple of barely-visible varicose veins from too much standing around. Let’s be honest, I’m not a Lils-style pretty manga girl, never will be, and for tonight especially, wouldn’t want to be.

The black satin still fits. It sits well on my hips and doesn’t ride the wrong way. It’s been more than fifteen years since I last took it out of its tissue paper. I won’t cry the way I did then: Akira Katharine Anderson Satou, aged 42, too old for tears, and too much time past to remember such things anyway.

I have to pick him up in ten minutes. I hope I remember the way.

*****

This isn’t a date, I remind myself. It’s just what family does. My cousins are off doing their own thing, Lils is in her room and won’t come out, he’s all the family I have left. We’d have to see each other tomorrow anyway, but we should catch up with each other first.

I slip into a vacant lot just outside his apartment and text him @rum3: [os now].

He’s only a couple of minutes, and he’s not slouching. Rather, his spare frame is still dark and thin in his funeral suit. At least he’s changed his tie to a sort of dark brown. I wonder why he’s using a stick. He doesn’t need it for support, as far as I can tell.

“Hello again, Aki-chan,” he says half-cheerfully in his gravelly baritone. “Still driving these fast little cars, are we?”

I note his battered old Civic parked sloppily down the road and allow myself a snarky smile. “Get in, respected uncle sir. Your driver wants to bring you to dinner post-haste, not tour the city.”

He laughs briefly, and then looks a little guilty. He gives me a half-bow, pulls the door open carefully, and folds his length mostly into the other bucket seat before closing the door just as carefully. Somewhat apologetically, he adjusts the seat so that it moves further back, then buckles himself in.

“One can’t be too careful, my dear niece. These days, times are hard. Innocent people have to keep weapons close at hand.”

So that’s what the stick is for. He’s been keeping up with his hanbojutsu training, I guess. Uncle has always been a fan of strange weapons—also, Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who and other western fiction. I like that, because talking to him doesn’t need me to ‘think Japanese’ so much. But he tries to find traditional parallels with this borrowed culture, and that’s always fun to watch.

“Can you actually use that thing?” I wave at his blackwood (ebony? rosewood?) cane. The menacing silver hawk’s-head handle stares at me blindly with two red eyes. I stare back, taking my eyes off the road for a moment.

Silence. Uncle stares pointedly at the steering wheel while I try to outstare his walking stick, and I take the hint. He only speaks when both my hands are back on the wheel. Older folks are like that. The defensive-space sensors in my car will keep us safer than Akira’s ageing reflexes.

“It’s a nicely balanced African hardwood short-staff. Yes, I can defend your honour with it, if necessary. The eyes are Ceylonese garnets, native calcium aluminium silicate with iron impurities, and the head is that of a local mountain hawk-eagle, cast in palladium-ruthenium alloy. Thanks for catering to my unreasonable fear of your usual driving technique, by the way.”

He grins, having had his fun and the opportunity to lecture. I smile back, but try to drive smoothly so that he knows I’m paying attention. We’ve always had a comfortable relationship, and that’s important to me.

*****

I catch him watching me strangely as I exit the car. I’ve caught people watching my ass before when I’m in a dress, but… hey, this is my uncle. Then I realize he’s not watching me, but the way I move. He’s frowning slightly, as if trying to recall something.

“Uncle?”

“Hmmm?”

“What’s on your mind?”

“That’s a nice dress,” he says very neutrally. He’s obviously thinking about something else. It’s hard to tell with him. He’s ALWAYS thinking about something else.

“You like it? It’s my idea of the right thing to wear for a meal with my dear and very serious uncle.”

“I think it’s beautiful, Aki-chan. I’m seldom so blessed as to see you in such finery.”

I laugh, slightly embarrassed. I even catch myself covering my mouth like some traditional Japanese young lady. He’s being very kind. He’s not always this stiff except when he’s being nice to someone. Means well, good guy, that’s him.

“Thanks for not mocking me, respected uncle. It’s just a comfortable old dress, kept a long time for a special occasion.”

“The last person to have seen you in it must have been a very special person.”

I feel hot all over. The last time I wore this, I was about to break up with someone, just before I thought I was leaving Japan for good. Then I was ditched instead and the dress went into storage. I’m about to say that the person now seeing me in it is indeed a very special person, but he gives me an awkward look and changes the subject.

“Hmm, the wine list tonight seems especially fine.”

That’s a good topic if you ever need to change subjects when talking to me. It also gives me time to think about what I’m doing here. Uncle Akio has always been a friend to me, someone with whom to have quiet conversations about life whenever I came down Sendai way. Sensible always, but so very lonely. I think I need his experience with loneliness. I’m going to end up like him one day.

But most of all, I need some answers. My aunt, my father’s youngest sister, left him eighteen years ago, and the story’s never been complete. Father once said I looked a bit like her, and for years when I was younger, I wanted to grow up to be like her. I don’t know what I’m saying when I open my mouth.

“Uncle, do you ever speak to Aunt Michiko?”

It’s like I’ve hit him or something. His head rolls slightly and he suddenly looks cautiously dazed.

“No, not for maybe twelve years?”

“Dad once said that if I dressed and acted more like a lady, I’d resemble her quite a bit. But blonde, of course. What do you think?”

Yeah, I’ve this sad tendency to babble when nervous. Not many people make me nervous, unless they’re people I love and whom I don’t want to hurt.

He winces, and for the first time this evening, he looks at me. Really looks at me, as if I’m a woman in her forties whom he’s just seen for the first time. I see Mutou-san the scientist, weighing, evaluating, thinking hard about what he sees. Then he speaks, and it’s Mutou-san the man.

“Your eyes are a lot like hers; you have the smouldering dark Satou eyes. All of you have those eyes except Lilly. If your hair were chestnut-brown, and if your face were a little rounder, you’d look very much like your Aunt Michiko.”

The person he’s describing is not really me, is it? A bit rounder, dark eyes, that’s more like Shizune Hakamichi, my cousin. I feel strangely disappointed. Is that all he sees in me?

“Very much like your boss, you mean.”

Again, impulsive words are out of my mouth before I can stop them. I desperately hope these aren’t bitter enough to hurt. But surprisingly, he releases a soft chuckle.

“No, no. Shizune doesn’t move like Michiko did, and her hair is like Hideaki’s—very Hakamichi-black, the kind that can easily turn blue.”

I can’t help but grin. So that’s what Uncle was looking at! He was looking at me move, and liking what he saw. Because I move like Aunt Michiko… This time, I bite back what I might otherwise say. Fortunately, the food arrives just then.

*****

I really can’t remember what we had for dinner. Steak, I think. It was good, nice and rare, the way I like it, with mushrooms. But I was looking at Uncle Akio too, watching his precise actions, his well-concealed grace of movement. He doesn’t shave closely, he’s a bit sloppy about some things. But he has hidden depths. And he’s only eleven years my senior, and if things had been different…

“Aki-chan, you’re not eating. What’s up?”

I’m staring. At my uncle. Like some love-sick girl! Akira Satou, quick, get your brain in gear! I blink demurely, or I hope I do.

“Heh. Was thinking of something that happened long ago.”

“Do carry on.”

“It’s about the last time Lils and I really, really fought.”

Yeah, we fought over Uncle Akio, believe it or not. This part’s really cringe-inducing, now that I’m in my forties. Especially since I know that he’s going to want to hear all of it, now that he’s got his I-would-really-like-to-know face on. Okay, fine, let’s get it over with.

“When was that? And why?”

I try to pout at him, but fail. Wasn’t ever very good at doing the Emi Ibarazaki kind of thing. So I go headlong into the story.

“Well, it was quite a long time before Lils went to Yamaku. Always serious, our Lils. Maybe she wanted to be happy, but didn’t quite know how to manage it. So there we were, serious Lils and flighty Akira, chatting in the garden. I said that when I grew up, I’d want to be a lawyer like Aunt Michiko.”

I take a deep breath.

“She replied that she wasn’t interested in being a lawyer, because she was more interested in being married to you like Aunt Michiko. Quite stupidly, I provoked her by telling her I’d get there first. We were fighting, and everyone in the neighbourhood heard us. Mother had to calm us down, and she was unhappy too. Dad was away of course, so I don’t think he ever heard about it.”

My dear uncle looks terribly uncomfortable. But heck, y’know—sometimes you’re in so far that you’ve gotta go all the way to the end. Akira might be dumb, but also very brave. So, here goes.

“I’d just turned twenty-three, when I found out that you and Aunt Michiko were getting divorced. I felt so guilty for thinking that if I’d been married to you, this wouldn’t have happened. Y’know, Lils cried and cried? It was only her second year at Yamaku when you weren’t really her uncle anymore. You broke her fairy-tale.”

“Ah. That’s very sad.”

He looks like I’ve made him eat a bad egg. But I can’t help it. I’ve got to let it out after twenty years have gone by. Nakai’s death after all that pain and sadness and suffering? It made me think. This is something you have to do. You have to say it before you never get to say it ever again.

“Then she found out that you’d be Shizune’s form teacher, not hers. She called me and was so angry about it. I reminded her that Shizune didn’t know about you. But I was sad about it all. I was sad that Aunt Mayoi and Aunt Michiko just didn’t want you and Uncle Jigoro in our family anymore.”

“All water under the bridge, Aki-chan. Forget it.”

He looks resigned, and determined, and willing to be kind, all at once. It gets to me. What happens inside when you’ve decided to give up on happiness? Do you have to give everything away?

From deep within me, a voice says, you could just tell him that you love him. Dammit, I’m not so stupid as to say that. But clearly, I'm fool enough to think it.

“Uncle, are you happy? Do you have anyone to care about, to care for you?”

He looks as if something is inside him too, struggling to get out. Maybe, says that damn voice inside my heart, it’s the same for him. Or maybe not. He takes a deep breath, as if to make up his mind. I’m holding mine.

“Aki-chan, I’m not that sad. I care about my students. I have a few friends. If you drop by with one of your usual gifts, I will cheerfully accept. You have a special place in my heart, eldest niece. Always.”

A special place. Shit, I’ve been friendzoned. A single tear runs down my cheek, just one that gets away before I tell the rest to shut up. But my uncle is still my friend, my confidant, that’s something not to lose. I breathe again.

“And you in mine, old man. Let’s get some dessert. Then we can talk about tomorrow, when Shortie and I have to read that damned peculiar will of Hisao’s and you have to be its executor.”

*****

That night, just as I drop him off at his apartment, his phone rings. He seems pleasantly surprised, says he’ll call back in a while. I sneak a peek at his display just before he shuts it off. And with a sense of final loss, I wonder, who the hell is that goddamn beautiful woman named Rika Katayama?

Before I drive off home to check on Lils, he waves. I smile at him and wave back even though my heart’s so heavy. He’ll always be my very dear uncle. And that’s all he’ll ever be.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Mon May 15, 2017 12:54 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—Others (Rika/Mutou done, Akira5 up 20140

Post by bhtooefr » Tue May 13, 2014 10:41 am

OK, I actually... saw that coming, and they're not actually related, but... squicks me out a touch still.

Poor Akira, though. :(
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Re: After the Dream—Others (Rika/Mutou done, Akira5 up 20140

Post by brythain » Tue May 13, 2014 10:44 am

bhtooefr wrote:OK, I actually... saw that coming, and they're not actually related, but... squicks me out a touch still.

Poor Akira, though. :(
It's kind of sadly elegiac to read her account and Mutou's side by side. Yeah, I felt that. Doomed.
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—Others (Rika/Mutou done, Akira5 up 20140

Post by forgetmenot » Tue May 13, 2014 11:02 am

brythain wrote:
bhtooefr wrote:OK, I actually... saw that coming, and they're not actually related, but... squicks me out a touch still.

Poor Akira, though. :(
It's kind of sadly elegiac to read her account and Mutou's side by side. Yeah, I felt that. Doomed.
Agreed. I may have thought something similar ever since the parallel chapter in Mutou's story. Good to know my suspicions weren't unfounded, even if they're slightly incestuous (if only in the statutory sense).

Honestly I think these two arcs are some of your best work yet, because these characters exist firmly on the edge of the Hisao-sphere. It's not enough for them to have loved him at one point (Lilly), or even for them to have just run into each other a few times at school (Rika, although her story picked up a significant amount of steam towards the end). As a result, I feel like Akira and Mutou are the most real-feeling out of everyone. Fantastic work.

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Re: After the Dream—Others (Rika/Mutou done, Akira5 up 20140

Post by bhtooefr » Tue May 13, 2014 11:08 am

Really, I want everyone to be happy, but Hanako and Akira are the two that I most want to see get their happy ending (in any story), and it's sad to see Akira being denied that happy ending due to circumstance.

(That probably has something to do with me identifying with Hanako at some level, and Akira's personality (and parts of her backstory, even) so strongly resembling that of the one person I can truly say I fell in love with. (This is also why I ship them as hard as I do.))
bhtooefr's one-shot and drabble thread
Enjoy The Silence - Sequel to All I Have (complete)
Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfucking zombies on this motherfucking forum!

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Re: After the Dream—Others (Rika/Mutou done, Akira5 up 20140

Post by brythain » Tue May 13, 2014 1:54 pm

forgetmenot wrote:Honestly I think these two arcs are some of your best work yet, because these characters exist firmly on the edge of the Hisao-sphere. It's not enough for them to have loved him at one point (Lilly), or even for them to have just run into each other a few times at school (Rika, although her story picked up a significant amount of steam towards the end). As a result, I feel like Akira and Mutou are the most real-feeling out of everyone. Fantastic work.
I'm really grateful that you feel this way. To some extent, the three characters in this thread are people I can feel more proprietary about, sort of, because they're not such well-trodden ground as the 'main' characters. They're also a near-classic triangle, formed by accidents of timing, relationship and circumstance.

They're also pretty close-mouthed about their pasts, and won't let me write as much as I wanted to!
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—Others (Rika/Mutou done, Akira5 up 20140

Post by brythain » Tue May 13, 2014 1:58 pm

bhtooefr wrote:Really, I want everyone to be happy, but Hanako and Akira are the two that I most want to see get their happy ending (in any story), and it's sad to see Akira being denied that happy ending due to circumstance.

(That probably has something to do with me identifying with Hanako at some level, and Akira's personality (and parts of her backstory, even) so strongly resembling that of the one person I can truly say I fell in love with. (This is also why I ship them as hard as I do.))
I really like Akira. In my mind, she's like someone I would've married. Didn't happen, won't happen now. And it makes the rest of her story really hard for me to write, even though she's finally come round to letting me write it. (Note that Akira-1 was written on 7 Mar, two months ago; that's a really long time relative to the rest of the output.) Thanks for going along with me this far!
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—Akira's Arc (Part 6 up 20140514)

Post by brythain » Wed May 14, 2014 12:48 am

This is the sixth and final part of Akira Satou's arc from my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic, 'After the Dream'.
In that continuity, it takes place during the period 6-9 July 2030, with occasional flashbacks to other events.
The only extant account of Akira's passing is found in Misha's story, here.



Akira 6: Waking (T +6)

It’s been two months since Emi Ibarazaki finally died of a heart that had been breaking for years. Hideaki (we’re too old for me to be calling him ‘Shortie’ still, especially since he’s six-two in socks) has been handling the paperwork. I have an eight-year-old godson to help look after, and he’s got a ten-year-old sister who doesn’t like me for a bunch of silly reasons. I’ve turned forty-eight, and that’s bloody old, let me tell you.

The sun’s shining in through Meiko Ibarazaki’s windows, and it’s all over the place. It really gleams on Small Akira’s shiny brown hair and the slightly more coppery hair of his sister Akiko. Meiko’s sitting at the kitchen counter assembling breakfasts for everyone. Hana is playing chess with her goddaughter while I listen to my godson’s latest story about how he wants to be a scientist.

What’s stupid and pathetic is that it’s really such a beautiful day when everything finally ends for me. And since I’m writing this from the viewpoint of 2030, it’s probably the last piece of work I’ll do. Hana can finish up, she’s good at that, always has been.

*****

Let’s go back a long while though. There’s a lot of story to tell, and not a lot of time left to tell it. Can you imagine Akira Satou as a teenager? Heh, lookie here.

18th December 1997, I’m fifteen and a half, and I’m bridesmaid for my lovely Aunt Michiko, youngest of my father’s sisters. Lils is tall for her age, but still relatively small, and she’s the flower girl. All she has to do is walk in a straight line and look cute. Me, I have to look nice and not outshine the bride. For teenage Akira, second part’s easy, first part is tough.

“What’s Mutou-san like?” Lils squeals excitedly. “Will he let me know his face?”

I’ve already fallen in love with Aunt Michiko’s husband-to-be. He’s tall, with a clever face, narrow, lively, professional. But his eyes are kind, sad, like a puppy-dog that is begging you take him home from the pet shop. And he smiles when I talk to him; all the other adults are like, “Shut up, girl!” and “Why are you always so loud?” He’s fairness in an unfair world.

And I can be unfair too. “Nah, Lils, he’s too old for you, he’s a serious man, a teacher. Maybe if you’re lucky I’ll get Aunt Michiko to introduce you to him.”

Lils looks hurt. That really gets to me, because I hate hurting people even if I have a sharp tongue and a rude mouth. So I relent, in what’s going to be a pattern for the next twenty years or so.

“But he’s a kind teacher. I’ll see what I can do, Lils. Don’t worry about it.”

Her sweet little face lights up in her little helmet of golden curls. I can see some day she’ll be a beauty, and won’t know she is. I’ll have to protect her from the nasty boys who’re out to take advantage of her—my pretty blonde, blind sister. On impulse, I give her a big hug and she squeaks softly.

After the wedding, I’ll cut my single pale-gold braid of waist-length hair short, and keep it like that. Otherwise, it just gets in the way. Looking back, that’s when angsty but happy teenage Akira Katharine started becoming me.

*****

Y’know what they say, that people edit their memories to get rid of the bad parts? It doesn’t always work. I remember Aunt Mayoi with her luggage hissing at Father. She’d left Uncle Jigoro for good, and Father was telling her to go back for the good of the family, and she said something very classical and cutting in her gentle, steely voice. They argued for a while, while Lils and I eavesdropped, terrified and shocked. It was only a year after Aunt Michiko’s wedding.

“Hiro, I do not care what you tell the Hakamichis. You can ensure my children are looked after but I shall not be going back. He blames ME for Shizune. He says it is the Satou gene that makes monsters. I cannot do this any more, and I will not continue.”

Mother interrupts for one of the few times I remember.

“Surely you should support your sister. Jigoro’s clearly been unfair to her and she’s tried for years to make it work.”

Father is furious, but he realizes that with all the women against him here, he’ll lose. It galls him a lot. There’s only one person he can take it out on now, and that’s why he will never speak civilly to Jigoro Hakamichi again.

Years later, I know all about the ‘Satou gene’, even though I gave up on high school biology. It’s a warped version of what they call ‘fragile X’, an X-chromosome that actually comes from my father’s mother, who’s also a Satou cousin. It’s generally non-lethal in the girls, because we’ve got two Xs, and one covers for the other most of the time. I’m lucky, I’m only addicted to danger and sadness.

But the main thing is that Lils and I now know how easily things like marriages can break. In Japan, the couple just sign a few documents and it’s done. The kids often end up with the father’s family. And just like that, it’s almost as if Uncle Jigoro never existed for us. Except that Mother insists that we children still treat the Hakamichis like cousins.

It shakes Lils up a lot, because she needs stability. She needs someone she can touch, feel, hug; she needs warmth, and life that responds to her immediately. Her blindness is complete, and her world is all about smells and sounds. I’m shaken too, because up to that day, I’d believed love should last forever.

I’m seventeen when I ditch my first boyfriend. I talk to Aunt Mayoi about it. She narrows her lips and says, “Good for you, kittycat. It is an excellent thing to know what you want in life. But if the right one comes, you must also know that. Neither should you sell yourself cheaply. Satou girls are strong; we have to be.”

She was the only person who liked my middle name. “Katharos,” she said, “That name means ‘purity’ in Greek. It is about being purged, being unstained, being free of shame and guilt. Never feel ashamed of yourself; never do something that will make you feel dirty.”

In 2006, she tells me, “Kat dear, help me with Aunt Michi? Your youngest aunt is feeling ashamed and guilty, and she should not be feeling that way. It is not anybody’s fault when someone fails to be born.”

Aunt Michi is only eight years older than I am, but she’s aged a lot when she joins us in Scotland. She’s pretty, but not beautiful the way she was when she got married. She hardly recognizes me, which is unsurprising because my hair’s short and shaggy, and I’m not the sweet teenager I used to be.

When Aunt Mayoi passes away, I cry to myself, because nobody will ever call me Kat or ‘kittycat’ again. And I’ll make sure that stays true.

*****

What’s the point of all this, you’re probably asking. Yeah, we get that you had a sad childhood and all. But the 1990s? That’s ancient history.

Yes, it is. So let me tell you about 2028. It’s the year Uncle Jigoro passes away. Father died a couple of years before, and Mother lives mostly alone in the gloomy old mansion at Inverness. Lils stays there on weekends, and I have a room there too.

They bury him with quiet honours, because Uncle Jigoro, for all his insanity and lack of tact, was a master juggler for his Family. To this day, I don’t know what his real work was. He called himself a ‘consultant’. But at the wake, only Hakamichis and their bond-people are allowed to attend. I’m furious to hear that Satous are explicitly excluded.

Shizune helps a bit, and I get to see him one last time before they close the casket. Lils remains in Scotland. Somebody needs to be available for Mother.

The point is that everyone from that generation is almost gone. All their fighting, their noise, their whatever-it-is Family rivalries and stuff, that’s over. Shizune’s contacted Lils, and they’ve actually had a civil conversation over the internet. I think they haven’t actually been enemies for decades, just uncomfortable relatives.

I fly back to join Lils on the morning of Uncle Jigoro’s funeral. My memories of him are of a strong man who was brittle on the inside because he loved Aunt Mayoi and thought she was perfect, but she wasn’t. Nobody is. But he could be kind, and warm. I never found out what he was to Misha, but she treated him as if he was her father, all the way to the end. So did Hanako, but that’s another story, as is Misha’s.

*****

I guess I can’t drag this out. Bear with me. Just a little bit more?

It’s 2030 again, and there we are, one little family in Meiko Ibarazaki’s house, two months after Emi’s passing. My phone beeps, so I glance at it and Little Akira shuts up because he’s always curious about things like that.

Shizune. I wonder what Madam Chairman of the Yamaku Foundation wants. Nah, she’s not so bad. I swipe and answer.

“Hey, what’s up?”

Voice goes to text on her side anyway, but unless we’re in public, I’m faster talking than texting.

[You need to come at once. MGH. Something’s happened to Mutou-sama.]

*****

Hit by a bus while crossing the road. Emergency surgery. I look across the room, past the young doctor as he speaks. There’s misery on his face, there’s misery everywhere. No, it isn’t true. The world, the world, it screws with us, but not like this. Surely not like this.

In the background, Rika stands perfectly straight, tall, her single silver braid falling into her left hand as she coils it and uncoils it slowly. Her ruby eyes gaze nowhere, like those of a hawk roosting. Nothing else moves. I could have hated her, once upon a time, but I never did. Now, she hates herself. She got back from her work at Tokyo as fast as she could, but too late to say goodbye.

I know it’s over from the look on Doctor Kaneshiro’s face as he comes out of the operating theatre. Old fox, old friend, you’ve never looked so sad before.

I’m about to go to him, but he’s walking over to Rika already. Of course. He bows, whispers a few words. Very formally, she returns his bow. He bows back.

Sometimes, you never know how much hope you have in you until it’s gone forever. Dimly, I feel Shizune help me out of the room. Dammit, Akira, you’re crying as if you’re Lils. Let it all out, be clean again, I hear Aunt Mayoi whisper from a very, very distant place.

*****


Editor’s note:

This last section was assembled for publication, with the author’s agreement, from portions of her personal notes and scattered recollections. It has been withheld by her request until after her death. That regrettable moment having just passed, here is the full text.

—HH, Andorra la Vella, 2064


*****

There’s a little place high up on the flank of Mount Aoba, behind Yamaku. It lies beyond a dandelion field and is well concealed by tall trees and windy paths, by nature and by the work of human hands.

Although the wake was held through the last few days on the school grounds, the burial is to be a private ceremony. The guardsmen who now ring the mountain below us are clad in Hakamichi and Katayama colours, some in blue and silver, some in red and black. Two rings of steel, as ceremonial as they are practical.

Hideaki stands on my right, with Hana. So many secrets, we’ve all been keeping. I didn’t know this place existed until they read Uncle Akio’s long and detailed will. The three of us are looking down at the newly dug, still-empty grave.

There’s already one marker there, a surprise to most of us. It’s very small. [Haruki, son of Michiko and Akio | 2005 | Spring is the End of Winter] is what it says. I never knew. The will asserts the right of Michiko Satou to have her remains interred here as well, should she wish it. Now I understand why.

I look up at my long-lost aunt. Aunt Michi is still very pretty in her mid-fifties. The afternoon sun catches in her hair like gentle flame, only a little silver in it. She’s staring at the closed coffin, as if she’s lost the words she wanted to say. Then she turns to Shizune and says, “I do so acknowledge and accept.”

Shizune gives that almost-invisible twitch that tells me her electronics are working, and bows to my aunt. Her aunt, too.

Aunt Michi catches me looking at her and gives me a sad little smile. She walks over to me, puts an arm around my shoulders in silence. Then there’s an awkward moment as she turns to Rika. I hold my breath.

Rika bows to her. It surprises the hell out of me, and even more when I hear what comes next.

“Satou-sama, this humble person requests that she may be allowed to share in your grief again, as in the last few days.”

My aunt bows back, equally formal.

“Katayama-san. No, this is something you have earned more than I. It is I who am the outsider here. I offer my deepest sympathies on your loss.”

Rika gently enfolds Uncle Akio’s first wife in her long, slender, beautiful arms. Aunt Michi stiffens instinctively, then relaxes and returns the embrace warmly. I wish someone would hold me. I’ve always wished for that.

Shizune stares at us. I wonder what she sees, framed against the setting sun as her elite guardsmen begin to lower the coffin into the grave. Three women, who all loved one man—one gave him up, one won him, and one chose not to try. Does my cousin know? She seems to know everything. It will otherwise remain a secret till I’m gone.

Hana’s translated the poem engraved on my respected uncle’s marker. It’s as enigmatic as the rest of his thoughts.

Blood on the mountain
The hunting hawk has returned
Finding what he sought


The tears are beginning around me. Time to let mine fall too.

In my concealed hand is his last gift to me. There was a note that went with it.

[For my eldest and much-loved niece, Akira: palladium-ruthenium alloy, gold highlights, brown hessonite garnets. ‘The heart has its reasons, of which the reason knows nothing.’]

It’s a small piece of jewellery, a pendant or a brooch, the kind of charm one gives to a childhood friend—a little cat with eyes of deep, dark brown.

=====
prev | end
Last edited by brythain on Mon May 15, 2017 12:54 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: AtD—Akira's Arc (Part 6 up 20140514)

Post by dewelar » Wed May 14, 2014 2:24 am

brythain wrote:Shizune stares at us. I wonder what she sees, framed against the setting sun as her elite guardsmen begin to lower the coffin into the grave. Three women, who all loved one man—one gave him up, one won him, and one chose not to try. Does my cousin know? She seems to know everything. It will otherwise remain a secret till I’m gone.
She knows, Akira. She knows, because not long ago she was you.

Well played.
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Stuff I've written: Developments, a continuation of Lilly's (bad? neutral?) ending - COMPLETE!

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Re: AtD—Akira's Arc (Part 6 up 20140514)

Post by brythain » Wed May 14, 2014 2:52 am

dewelar wrote:
brythain wrote:Shizune stares at us. I wonder what she sees, framed against the setting sun as her elite guardsmen begin to lower the coffin into the grave. Three women, who all loved one man—one gave him up, one won him, and one chose not to try. Does my cousin know? She seems to know everything. It will otherwise remain a secret till I’m gone.
She knows, Akira. She knows, because not long ago she was you.

Well played.
Thanks! Very sharp, well spotted!

Now that most of the mosaic is done, there's a kind of epic feel to the whole cycle. Like most epics, there's sadness, but also victory. Ordinary people with extraordinary lives in the context of their world. Only a few more threads to add, now.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Interlude (20140515)

Post by brythain » Wed May 14, 2014 10:12 pm

It's dark, an indeterminate time. I've fallen asleep at my desk again, tired from trawling the endless data-stream, the daily grind of having to teach with still-recovering lungs and throat.

Tap-tap. I jump. What?

"Hello, author."

She's 18 (19?) again. Long blonde hair, blue eyes shadowed in the half-light of my room. She looks a little older perhaps, as my eyes dark-adapt their way through the waking-up process.

"Lilly? Ma'am, I wasn't expecting you."

Perhaps someone else, but not you, Lils. Lilly. Miss Lilian Alexandra Anderson Satou.

She give a sad little laugh, very proper, very genteel.

"No, Akira's not coming. She asked me to talk to you. I think she's shy."

"Why?"

I'm genuinely puzzled. Akira, shy? Unlikely. But I remember her short, conflicted moments with me, as she struggled to share something deep within but was sometimes unable to get it out. Profanities were often the bountiful children of such sessions.

"You remind us of Uncle Akio, you know."

Ah. That. I begin to object, but she holds up her free hand.

"Dear me, you must be so embarrassed. I assure you that you're not really that much like him, if that will help?"

I'm not sure whether to be relieved or disappointed.

"Thank you, ma'am," is what I settle for; I am indeed grateful for what they've shared.

"No, not at all. You know we've been less than frank with you—preserving what's left of our modesty, so to speak. I for one am grateful for that; you've been kinder than I thought you might be. Please think about not calling me ma'am, though—this is 2014, so I'm only in my twenties. But back to business…"

"Go ahead, Lilly."

She favours me with that demure smile which has held so many KS fans captive over the years.

"Akira says that she's still not comfortable with Part 7 of her arc. But she's considering it seriously, and she's happy with how you and Hana handled the rest of her… sensitive material."

From the other corner of my room, I hear a snort.

"Ah dammit, Lils. I love it, but I just can't bring myself to let him upload that last piece. And Hana's a gem, but I hate sad endings."

"So do I, Akira. It was the last time we held hands, remember? Two old ladies?"

Then there's silence. I don't want to, don't dare to, break that silence.

"Dear author, forgive us. Sometimes, we don't know what we want, until we can't have it any more. But you know that already. Thank you."

The indeterminate darkness brings me back to sleep.
Last edited by brythain on Wed May 21, 2014 1:10 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—Others (Rika/Mutou/Akira complete 201405

Post by Yukarin » Thu May 15, 2014 12:08 am

I swear everytime i finish one of your mosaics I go "daaaaamn that was deep". Amazing job, as always.

Also Akira, I hate sad endings too, but it can never be perfect all the time.

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Re: After the Dream—Others (Rika/Mutou/Akira complete 201405

Post by brythain » Thu May 15, 2014 12:31 am

Yukarin wrote:I swear everytime i finish one of your mosaics I go "daaaaamn that was deep". Amazing job, as always.

Also Akira, I hate sad endings too, but it can never be perfect all the time.
Thank you very much! Things will slow down a bit soon; much to think about. Akira's ending is with two of the people she really loves, so that's not so bad...
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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