After the Dream—Emi's Arc/Akiko's Story (Complete)

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Helbereth
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Re: AtD—Emi's Arc (Part 3 up 20140311)

Post by Helbereth » Mon Mar 10, 2014 3:55 pm

What she can’t quite get used to is that can be rather cool, sometimes chilly, even on the beaches.
This is missing an 'it' somewhere. Also, if this is a reflection, shouldn't it be in past tense?

As dewelar said before me, this is a vast improvement. The narrative is cleaner, it doesn't lose track of itself, and you managed to reach a more Emi-ish place with the more subtle manic jumps in topic. It still reads more like a stream of consciousness rather than proper exposition, but that's just a stylistic choice on your part.

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Re: After the Dream—Emi's Arc (Part 3 up 20140311)

Post by Oscar Wildecat » Mon Mar 10, 2014 4:30 pm

I'm having a hard time reading this particular arc, knowing what awaits our happy couple. But, I still do so. A testament to the writing, perhaps?


Blissful cloudless days
To a sorrowful future
Emi at her Emiest
I like all the girls in KS, but empathize with Hanako the most.
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Re: AtD—Emi's Arc (Part 3 up 20140311)

Post by brythain » Mon Mar 10, 2014 7:20 pm

Helbereth wrote:
What she can’t quite get used to is that can be rather cool, sometimes chilly, even on the beaches.
This is missing an 'it' somewhere. Also, if this is a reflection, shouldn't it be in past tense?

As dewelar said before me, this is a vast improvement. The narrative is cleaner, it doesn't lose track of itself, and you managed to reach a more Emi-ish place with the more subtle manic jumps in topic. It still reads more like a stream of consciousness rather than proper exposition, but that's just a stylistic choice on your part.
Aaaah. The missing 'it' is back. For Emi's reflections, I'm going (for now) with 'in the moment' mostly. Will review, and if it gets too uncomfortable, I'll do something about it. 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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Re: After the Dream—Emi's Arc (Part 3 up 20140311)

Post by brythain » Mon Mar 10, 2014 7:22 pm

dewelar wrote:"By George, I think he's got it..."

First impression of this: much, much better. Will read it again later for more detailed thoughts :) .
Well, with you fine folks and Emi riding herd on me… wait, are you saying I do little? :D
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Re: After the Dream—Emi's Arc (Part 3 up 20140311)

Post by brythain » Mon Mar 10, 2014 7:24 pm

Oscar Wildecat wrote:I'm having a hard time reading this particular arc, knowing what awaits our happy couple. But, I still do so. A testament to the writing, perhaps?


Blissful cloudless days
To a sorrowful future
Emi at her Emiest
Owwww. Got me in the feels. I'm having a hard time writing this particular arc already, as it is.
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—Emi's Arc (Part 3 up 20140311)

Post by dewelar » Mon Mar 10, 2014 7:47 pm

brythain wrote:
dewelar wrote:"By George, I think he's got it..."

First impression of this: much, much better. Will read it again later for more detailed thoughts :) .
Well, with you fine folks and Emi riding herd on me… wait, are you saying I do little? :D
No, I'm saying that with a little bit...with a little bit...with a little bit of luck you'll get it right. :wink:

On second read, the thing that most makes me wonder is the flashback scene. You skip back and forth between first-person and third-person narration without indicating you're doing it, which is jarring. Also, Emi seems a bit too passive there, but not so much as to be totally OOC. Otherwise, I take no issue with the characterization in this vignette :) .

I presume that this means that Emi knows that Shizune is carrying a torch for Hisao, both in 2012 and 2017. That...has a lot of repercussions for what is to come. Did I just feel a chill?

Loved the proposal. That is all.

Ah, well...enough nitpickering for tonight...
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Stuff I've written: Developments, a continuation of Lilly's (bad? neutral?) ending - COMPLETE!

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Re: After the Dream—Emi's Arc (Part 3 up 20140311)

Post by brythain » Mon Mar 10, 2014 8:04 pm

dewelar wrote:
brythain wrote:
dewelar wrote:No, I'm saying that with a little bit...with a little bit...with a little bit of luck you'll get it right. :wink:

On second read, the thing that most makes me wonder is the flashback scene. You skip back and forth between first-person and third-person narration without indicating you're doing it, which is jarring. Also, Emi seems a bit too passive there, but not so much as to be totally OOC. Otherwise, I take no issue with the characterization in this vignette :) .

I presume that this means that Emi knows that Shizune is carrying a torch for Hisao, both in 2012 and 2017. That...has a lot of repercussions for what is to come. Did I just feel a chill?

Loved the proposal. That is all.

Ah, well...enough nitpickering for tonight...
I shall focus on nitpicking with some of the key details later (would that be kernel nitpickering, I wonder). But this stream-of-consciousness thing should be right up the street where she lives. I've just realised, though, that it's not so much about who's carrying a torch for Hisao: it's more like a torchlight procession.
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—Emi's Arc (Part 3 up 20140311)

Post by dewelar » Mon Mar 10, 2014 8:21 pm

brythain wrote:I shall focus on nitpicking with some of the key details later (would that be kernel nitpickering, I wonder).
Oh, but wouldn't it be loverly if it were?
I've just realised, though, that it's not so much about who's carrying a torch for Hisao: it's more like a torchlight procession.
Indeed, especially given the Rin hint contained within this vignette...and I thought Developments was bad... *shakes head* :wink:
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Stuff I've written: Developments, a continuation of Lilly's (bad? neutral?) ending - COMPLETE!

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Re: After the Dream—Emi's Arc (Part 3 up 20140311)

Post by griffon8 » Tue Mar 11, 2014 12:15 am

And now you managed to surprise me by turning what seemed to be a small matter of students witnessing an illicit kiss between two teachers into the whole student body being present for a marriage proposal.
I found out about Katawa Shoujo through the forums of Misfile. There, I am the editor of Misfiled Dreams.

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Re: After the Dream—Emi's Arc (Part 3 up 20140311)

Post by brythain » Tue Mar 11, 2014 12:18 am

griffon8 wrote:And now you managed to surprise me by turning what seemed to be a small matter of students witnessing an illicit kiss between two teachers into the whole student body being present for a marriage proposal.
*grin* unreliable narrators and all that… nobody outside the school knows the whole score, and Shizune knows but doesn't want to know.
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—Emi's Arc (Part 4 up 20140311)

Post by brythain » Tue Mar 11, 2014 7:36 am

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


Emi 4: Final Stretch (2018)

So many bright memories. Today, as Mom messes with my hair and Rin examines the corsages, I see them for what they were—signposts towards this time, and perhaps what lies beyond.

I’m no longer the Emi Ibarazaki with unruly pigtails who knocked people down in the corridors; I’m now Miss ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’ Ibarazaki with an unruly ponytail who tries to make sure people don’t do that. I hear that some of the students think I’m the most anal biology teacher ever, because I don’t give up on anyone.

I look across the quad and see Rin’s mural. The Art Club students touched it up a few years ago, and the original creator noticed. Typical Rin: “It’s nothing. That’s from before I was me.”

I’m so happy she’s back in our lives, although it was a big surprise when she walked into our place unannounced while we were... otherwise occupied. She was soaking wet from the thunderstorm outside, and all she said was, “Rain. Needed butterflies. Good apartment. Although, that’s more like togetherment with you two.”

In the distance is the old sports complex. That track, now being upgraded, was where I spent a lot of time growing up. In a way, today began a long while back, when a sad-looking boy was pining for his first love and I thought he needed to get it out of his system. I don’t think he ever really did, but he got very fit trying.

I’m not one of the elegant, literate, brilliant types that caught his eye in the past, and I know he’ll always remember them. But this crazy little running girl wanted to make him healthy and he’s decided there’s no better fate than that, and he’s given me all of himself now, and all of his future. So here we are!

Speaking of which, I’ve not seen him for more than a day. It’s the kind of tradition that irritates me. I want him, but I’m not supposed to have him. We’re like two knights fasting and keeping vigil separately before the dawn. I guess I’ve learnt how to delay gratification, but the old Emi in me goes all grouchy at that and begins to snarl a bit.

“Emi Ibarazaki!” Oops, I did that last part out loud, and Mom is pretending to look faintly scandalized. Rin’s also looking at me, with some sort of bewildered amusement on her face.

Under my gown I’ve got new legs just for today. They’re beautiful things, carbon-fibre and titanium alloy. It’s as if I’m in boots, and they make me much taller than I used to be. Mom thinks I look like the Princess Emi I wanted to be when I was young, and when we were all together.

Which brings me to one last memory. Dad, thanks for helping to make me who I am. I think you’d approve of my young man, who’s like you in wanting to make everything right at all costs. He’s the kind of son-in-law you’d be proud to stand next to when we do the photographs. He’s not a replacement for you, but what Mom and you had? That’s what I wish for Hisao and me.

Mom’s gaze is on me. I know what she’s thinking. We’ve both talked about it, and no more needs to be said. Whenever life stops, it stops, but it’ll be worth it if you want it to be.

Rin’s tapping her foot, something she often does to catch my attention. I look at her. She looks back. “Today’s a good day. I checked. They’ll be all over the place. Time to go now.”

*****

I almost lose it at ‘as long as you both shall live’. Hisao replies firmly, “I will.”

I can do no less. I feel a lump in the throat as I remember that nobody’s giving me away, since I’m Emi Ibarazaki and perfectly able to give myself away, but I know Mom’s nodding in approval behind me, and if Dad can see this, he is too.

It’s almost as bad at ‘till death brings an ending’, the version we’ve chosen. And then it’s my turn, and my mouth feels like cotton wool, because I never thought I’d get this far and grow so old. I head down the final stretch, replying.

We turn to each other. In the distance, I see his parents. Mr Nakai is resolute about not crying, but Mrs Nakai is all teary. Hisao once told me he’d been very angry with them for ‘dumping’ him at Yamaku. But he found peace by telling them all the good things that came out of it, and that’s why when he brought me home, they were so happy to finally meet me. They’re good people. They’re grateful that Hisao is still alive.

Hisao puts the plain grey-gold metal band on my finger as I try to look demurely at him from behind my veil. I’m very thankful for the veil. Miura’s decided to sit behind the Nakais and she’s grinning at me while twitching a prosthetic finger.

Inside the ring now on my own finger is engraved ‘Hisao Nakai’; ‘Emi Ibarazaki’ is inside the one I give him. He said the spine of each ring was made from the stuff of stars, some really tough metal, incorruptible. He told me, “Emi, you might not have been my first, but you’ll be my last.”

I hate such words. I wouldn’t even let him talk about a will until Mom finally put her foot down and pointed out that it was not only practical, but a sign of his love and commitment.

And then it’s time for the kiss.

He leans forward to draw back my veil. He’s so awkward that it’s almost funny. As he cups my face in his hands, I deliberately lean towards him and reach up. Our lips come together and I take the opportunity to run my tongue along his teeth. I can tell he’s only a little surprised; he responds by opening his mouth a little further and I feel him draw a heart with the tip of his own tongue. My traitor brain takes this opportunity to remind me that the tongue is the only muscle in the body that’s anchored only at one end, and that it’s otherwise strong and flexible.

The minister clears his throat. Minutes have passed.

We’re getting a standing ovation in a rising breeze.

The sun is shining so brightly! And true to Rin’s word, the air is suddenly full of dandelion seeds.

*****

We’ve had four wonderful years together, each one a gift of time.

It’s not yet midnight. I can tell, using that strange mother-sense that people develop once they’ve had children. I sigh quietly to myself as I think old tired thoughts about how damn inconvenient it is to get up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet with all that extra weight pressing down on your bladder. I’ve had occasional accidents.

Next to me, Hisao slumbers. He’s got a very light snore which wouldn’t normally keep me awake, but is somehow annoying when I feel so gravid. What I teach in biology class and what I experience myself don’t always match.

Hisao fell asleep during Akiko’s thankfully uncomplicated delivery two years ago. He’s never quite forgiven himself, but I was happy for him because by the time he thought of panicking, it was all over. Hanako had dropped by earlier and was actually on the way to the airport when she got the news. She turned back to be with us, which was very sweet of her.

Hey. Ridiculous. I think I’ve wet myself again. Hisao’s gotta be a saint to put up with me. The rubberized sheet should help. I wiggle around, thinking of how best to proceed. Odd… the smell is all wrong. Gah. Bad luck, Ibarazaki. Membrane rupture.

Without thinking, I turn to Hisao and thump him on a shoulder. His snore chokes in his throat and his eyelids fly open. “Wha-a?”

He’s still bleary with half-sleep. I whisper as clearly as I can. “My waterbag’s burst. Should be going into labour soon or they’ll have to induce. Wake Rin. She’ll have to look after Akiko by herself. Call Nurse. Get us to Miyagi General.”

I don’t even have the breath to be Emi for him, but I’m trying. I give him a big smile to tell him it’s OK. I try to wiggle into a more comfortable position. And then it starts, that odd cramping sensation in my pelvis. Hnn. Different from before. Violent, somehow.

Hisao’s switched on the bedside lamp. I must look terrible, not his pretty Emi anymore, but the sad-ugly-faced one. He looks very concerned. I must look more awful than I think. He gets up, looks a bit dazed.

Then he clutches his chest. Oh no. No. I can’t move. “Hisao!”

He turns towards me and stumbles, falls to one knee, half on the bed. “Rin!” I scream. I can’t remember much after that.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Sat Apr 29, 2017 11:51 am, edited 4 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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AtD—Emi's Arc (Part 5 up 20140312)

Post by brythain » Tue Mar 11, 2014 1:45 pm

This is the fifth part of Emi's arc in 'After the Dream', my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic.
It precedes this part of Shizune's arc and this part of Lilly's arc.


Emi 5: Finish Line (2024)

I’m so tired. Emi Ibarazaki is not beaten, but she’s damn close to it. And now, as if I don’t have enough shit on my plate, I’m supposed to have a conversation with Mikado, whom I haven’t seen for years and have no great need to see now.

So here we are, at one of those new Mermaid coffee bars, a few floors down from, well, the place where they stick the serious cases. She looks good, I have to say. I know I don’t. I only dress up for the man who can’t really see me anymore, who was kept walking and alive by the little machine in his chest for eighteen months of bittersweet joy, and then by the big machines.

She’s unsure what to say, like one of my students who knows the deadline’s over and wants to ask for an extension. Straight brown hair, a pink tint for the old Misha, the rest is Shiina, hands restless as the fingers knot, unknot. Come on woman, I think, say something, we’re not enemies.

“Emi? I’ve been talking to Shicchan.”

Wonderful. Yes, I know you and my boss are very good friends. Whether my friend is a very good boss, different matter. I mutter something wordless.

“She said that she didn’t know what was best, but that you could count on her support. The bills are going to be expensive even after the subsidy and if you need anything, she’s willing to help. We’re all willing to help.”

How very odd. Madam Principal Dr Hakamichi is a traditionalist, she’d never be so direct to my face. Oh, I forgot, she’s got Misha to do it for her. Poor Misha with her big golden eyes waiting for me to reply.

“I think our financing will survive, Misha. Tell Madam Principal that we are very grateful to her but we have enough for now.”

“She told me that you’ll be Head of Sciences retroactively, and that allows her to increase your pay and add the back pay that you’d be due. It is the right thing to do, she said. She means well, Emi, she really does.”

My fury is detached, stored away in a little space where I used to save things I almost said to Hisao and then mercifully did not. That’s so Shizune. Means well, has all the tact of a rhinoceros in heat. Of course it’s the right thing to do, if you assume my husband is no longer Vice-Principal and I can ethically assume the appointment I hold in fact if not in name. But that’s one assumption too far.

When did I stop being Emi, part of me asks another part of me. I shut them both up before they say anything more. It’s the Dread Pirate Roberts we need now, climbing up a dark cliff. ‘Right’? I do not think it means what you think it means.

I miss him, says the largest part of me. Not in front of Misha, cautions an old part of me. Largest wins. I feel the hot tears, and I know Misha can see them anyway. Why can’t I just be myself?

“M-misha? I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I know she wants to do what she thinks is right. But it’s too soon! I don’t know if I can even continue to teach at Yamaku if… if…” and my words fall into the pool of my heart. He said he wouldn’t leave me. He said he had given everything he had left to me. Hope is such a thin thread, so easily broken. And there’s hardly any left.

*****

School’s been out for some days now, or I’m sure more of our students would be visiting. A lot of them came at first, for a teacher they liked more than a vice-principal they hardly saw. But it's the end of July now, two months since Hisao’s little machine failed to work and his heart gave way.

It was Shizune, passing by his office, who had noticed he’d collapsed. She acted quickly and effectively; I’ll give her that. Being ruthless is golden at such times. Nurse—well, he’s the school’s Doctor now—stabilized him and they got him to MGH, just down the road. His heart had stopped just a bit too long, though. It chills me that I can think of it so calmly, but I don’t think I have much choice.

Today’s a good day. He’s able to mumble a bit, and it will have to do. I put on my brave little Emi face, and greet him with my usual cheerful, “So, Hisao, what would you like to do today?”

I see the ghost of a smile. He says something like, “Race you.” He’s even able to sign, and Misha, dear Misha who tries to laugh for him when he asks, she translates for me. I wish I’d spent more time learning.

“Hicchan asks how the kids are!” He can’t remember their names.

I whisper to him. “Akiko’s four soon. She’s got thick brown hair like yours, but she said she wanted to get it the same colour as Mommy.”

He grips my wrist. “Pretty Emi,” I think he mutters. I can’t bear to see him like this, but I can’t bear not to see him at all.

*****

Hanako flew in from Frankfurt again this afternoon. She’s resting at home with Rin and the children while Mom and Nurse sit with me. We take shifts. There was a lot to talk about and busy ourselves with at the beginning. Now we just sit, and occasionally talk to the medical staff. I watch Hisao’s eyelids twitch, and hope he has good dreams.

I’m keeping a journal because it’s something to do. In the mornings, I hit the track. It’s a great track, good energy return, consistent feel. I imagine him running with me, slow, steady, conscientious. Students used to watch us. Now nobody watches, and there’s only me.

*****

We don’t deserve such friends. How did we ever become so close? They’ve taken leave from their busy lives just for us. Hanako reads to him every day, books that used to be his favourites. She reads about tigers floating in the sea, sandworms bigger than houses, stuff I never really got into; now it’s too late. Occasionally his eyelids twitch and sometimes his hands move. His eyes no longer open.

My eyes move to the monitor banks. Nurse tells me they’re a lot more complex than they used to be, and sometimes he tells me that Hisao might be dreaming, locked up in his skull. It’s a horrible thought, except that it means he’s alive.

Shizune is standing quietly at the door. She doesn’t like to come in. I used to not know and not care what went on in that silent head of hers. But over the weeks, I’ve learnt she cares for him in her own way. Misha said it started out as a project years ago, and then a friendship, and many other things, and now it’s because she wonders if it were all her fault.

I tried my best to tell her no. If anything, it was Hisao who always worked too late and forgot his meds and tried to be there for everyone. I try not to think about how if he’d not been there for anyone, he’d still be here for me. Then I remind myself that he’s still here, that my husband is still there in the bed.

*****

In the cold thin air there’s a metal voice. “Paging Dr Kaneshiro. Paging Dr Kaneshiro…”

That’s Nurse, isn’t it? Why are there so many people here, why can’t they leave him alone?

Somewhere I hear Rin and she’s saying that’s not Hisao anymore. I can’t believe the race is over, the race is done. Emi Ibarazaki doesn’t give up ever. Emi Ibarazaki hits the finish line at full stride. But Hisao got there first. Inconsiderate of him. Glorious of him. What the hell am I thinking. Oh God, Shizune’s hugging me, where’s Mom, there are too many red lights. Yes, turn them off, turn them off, I don’t want to see them anymore if it’s not Hisao.

We’ve been here before, it’s all familiar but different. Like the four laps in a relay. But each lap has a different strategy. And this one has no strategy because it’s the end of the line.

Hisao, you said you’d never leave me.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Sat Apr 29, 2017 11:51 am, edited 4 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Re: After the Dream—Emi's Arc (Part 5 up 20140312)

Post by Helbereth » Tue Mar 11, 2014 5:15 pm

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."
- Stopping By The Woods On A Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

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AtD—Emi's Arc (Part 6 up 20140312)

Post by brythain » Tue Mar 11, 2014 10:46 pm

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

Emi 6: Warming Down (2028)

It’s cold and dark when I begin my warm-up, and not much brighter when I hit the track. Feeling and hearing the grit under my blades keeps me real, keeps me good. There’s this moment when just as I take off on another flight, the sun rises and I know I’m still alive. I’m still me. I’m still Emi Nakai, fastest fortyish thing on no legs.

As I finish my final lap, I slow down, feeling the good burn, the warmth in my thighs. I might be too old to compete at the main events, but damn, the young things I train still have to work hard to catch me.

Out of long habit, I look up, but there’s nobody on the bleachers. It’s just me, on a lovely summer morning, all alone.

*****

“Morning, Mom!”

“Hi, sunshine!”

It’s really a beautiful day, and Akiko’s hair is golden-brown in the morning sun as she hops back and forth from one foot to the other. I’m grinning at her because she’s tied her hair up in pigtails and she reminds me of a young Emi Ibarazaki, all shiny and new.

“Is Aunty Hana going to be with us this year?”

Maybe not, if what I’ve heard is true.

“No, I don’t think so. Did she say she’d be here?”

“She said she mi-ight. But that was a-ages ago. Maybe she’s forgotten? Can you call her?”

I think timezones, wonder if Hanako is indeed in town. She’ll almost certainly be here for Aki-chan’s birthday; she hates disappointing people and she’s a faithful godmother. Yes, let’s do it.

“Why not? I’ll call and you can talk to Aunty Hana.”

More noises, as the rest of the cast begins to invade the breakfast area.

“Morning, sunshine!”

“Hi, Mom!”

“Hi, Gramma!”

“Hi, little sunshine!”

Mom looks all amused as she surveys the room. She poses in the light, letting the sun gild her hair just enough to highlight the similarities between us. Three generations of golden girls, all pretty.

And one little boy, long-limbed, with messy brown hair that’s as tufty as a dandelion. He’s not much one for words. Instead, he runs headlong into me and mumbles a greeting into my guts.

“Good morning to you too, Na-chan!”

I have some idea but I don’t really know how come we ended up naming him Akira. It makes him and his sister sound like twins. But Rin insists that I’d chosen the name myself and, somehow, it fits. He gets to be called ‘Young Master Nakai’ though.

“There’s a lot of it,” she says, as she appears in the doorway. She seems to be squinting.

“Where’s a lot of what, Rin?” You tend to end up sounding like her when you talk to her.

“This room. Sunshine. All of you. Maybe one of you should be moonshine.”

I laugh and step over to the wall, two skinny dumplings trailing in my wake. Wherever you are, Hanako Ikezawa, you’re going to have to give your goddaughter a few minutes.

After which there’ll be no putting off the rest of the day. It’s been four years.

*****

Rin’s taken to wearing linen bandoliers. It’s like every time I look at her, I wonder what she’s packing, and why she’s packing it. We leave Mom and the kids at the gates as she walks ahead of me, which is unusual. I normally do this part alone. I can feel my steps getting heavier as we approach the place under the cherry trees.

Hanako said she’d be arriving this evening. She flies pretty often these days. Long-range relationships still aren’t easy, but they’re a lot easier than they used to be with the new shuttlecraft and all. I should talk, I’ve got one of the longest-range relationships you can have.

I gather my scattered thoughts, as scattered as the gravestones around us. When I had first brought Hisao here, he’d stayed very quiet. Later, he’d told me how he felt in such a place. “All those lives, what they did, what they might have done if they’d lived longer. When do I wind up with a marker of my own? What if one day I never get to see your face again?” he’d said.

Well, now we know. I wish we didn’t.

*****

“But you can’t do that!”

“Painting? Am doing it. Must do it. He needs to talk. The stone won’t talk for him. I don’t know what he’s saying, I have to try to let it out of him.”

There’s a long silence. I don’t know what to think. I’m not really angry, and I’m not really sad. She’s already started, and it’s amazing how with a few strokes, she puts something so vibrant into a place so lacking in life.

“I miss him too, but it wouldn’t be right. People would disturb him to see what you’ve done. It’s beautiful but it’s wrong. This is a public place!”

“I don’t miss him. He’s here. Is it beautiful? Can’t be wrong then.”

Rin’s staring through the stone on the right, as if appraising something that can’t be seen.

“What do you see? I wish I could see it too.”

“Butterflies. Cocoons. Talking. Flight.”

I let her do it. We’re like sisters, even though we seem to have nothing in common. But even though we are friends, there are things we don’t talk about much. We just know what they are and we live around them. Or try.

I spend some time with Dad.

*****

After Mom’s turn, during which she gently guides our children through the right things to say and do, we bow briefly to each other. It’s a little formal bit that helps keep this time of memories special to us.

I go back later that day to clean up what Rin did. It’s too beautiful to remove. Before I do anything else, I sit down next to him.

“Hi, Hisao. We’ve had a good run, it’s coming on ten years now. I hope you like the way the dumplings are turning out.”

I run my fingers over the starkly brilliant steel plaque Mutou-san made for my husband. Stars, clouds. It’s the same kind of steel used in our rings. Incorruptible metal, a message meant to last forever. My name in his ring, his name in mine.

“I didn’t think I’d survive this long. But so long as I’ve known I’ve been with you, it doesn’t matter. Does it?”

I tell him what I always tell him. I’ve been telling him this for years, and I won’t stop. “I once thought that the best way to live each moment was to do it alone. But even now, I don't think I'd have it any other way. I'm glad I married you, Hisao.”

I place my hand flat on the stone. The metal band gleams dully in the shifting daylight under the trees, silver-grey metal wrapped in gold that once matched my hair. “Love you. I’ll catch up with you one day soon.”

It’s time to go. But not before capturing the image of Rin’s painted butterfly, electric blue in the morning light, landing gently on a strawberry, bright colours on flat grey stone.

“I’m still terrible at saying goodbye,” I whisper.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Sat Apr 29, 2017 11:52 am, edited 3 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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AtD—Emi's Arc (Part 7—Complete)

Post by brythain » Wed Mar 12, 2014 2:15 am

This is the seventh and last part of Emi's arc in 'After the Dream', my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic.
It takes place about six months before the events of Lilly's arc here.


Emi 7: Victory Lap (2034)

It’s been a cold autumn at Yamaku, and a colder winter. January is a two-faced month. Spring is coming, but it’s far away.

You can’t grieve forever. But there’s a serious question in my mind now, and I’ve asked around, and maybe the people around me are all as bad as I am, because only Mom tries to answer it, and I’m not Mom.

What if you love somebody so much that you don’t have much left for anyone else—and then they go away?

I’m not even sure who ‘they’ is. Rin, for one, would fit the ‘anyone else’. Just a few months ago, we were talking about butterflies. The next day, when I was about to head out for my morning run, there was a note on the door. [Butterflies fly. See you someday.]

There was a lot left in her old room, but no clues, or maybe there were clues but we couldn’t understand them. My oldest friend was gone. I’d known her for a quarter-century. The kids were stunned; they’d grown up with Aunty Rin. Sometimes, they even thought like Aunty Rin.

Hisao would have said, “Let her go.” But that’s not always a good thing. The last time I let her go, she painted non-stop for days for her stupid exhibition and then wound up wandering deliriously around Tokyo.

Or maybe he would not have said that. He’d grown up a lot when we got together at Gakudai. Hisao’s my ‘love somebody so much’. It’s been more than five years since he went away, and when they say you can never love again? It’s not true for everyone, but I’m beginning to think it’s true for me.

Looking back, this run began when Nurse told me to look after the new kid at Yamaku. I don’t think I fell in love with him then. He was an extra motivating factor for me to turn up regularly in the mornings and train. I used to bet with myself, and sometimes with Rin, whether he’d turn up or not.

I was pretty wimpy then. Fast, but light. Light was good because my stamina was always enough—there wasn’t a lot of bulk weighing me down. But it was hard to go further. Except that I used to imagine shifting a large Hisao body around and realizing that if he really collapsed, I’d be pretty darned useless. So, weights.

You know how it is when you’re used to training at a higher intensity and then you stop? Everything feels light at first, like you’re air, or sunshine. Then you realize you miss the intensity. You can’t really work up passion for something without pushing yourself.

Hisao once shared with me something Mutou-san taught him. It goes like this: “Whatever acts cannot be destroyed, nor can it be destroyed naturally.”

That’s what it means to run, to be a runner. As long as you’re in action, you’re good, you’re indestructible, invincible. As long as your heart goes on, you’re golden.

But all things end, and you see the final stretch and the tape and your vision narrows to the track before you and the thin strip ahead somewhere and you hurl yourself through it headlong. And then you have to stop, sooner or later. There’s no point continuing the race once it’s over.

I never thought of such things until I’d spent enough time with Hisao. He never successfully persuaded me to read his favourite books, but he’d talk about them, and lots of the ideas in them, and you can’t help but be changed by that. In a way, even if what comes next goes wrong, it’s still his fault. Hmph.

The triumph of the human will, Hisao told me, is that it makes natural the impossible.

*****

I’m a bad mother. I love them so much, but it’s been six years now and he’s never coming back and he left me when he said he wouldn’t. It wasn’t his fault, though. These things just happen.

But even after the race is done, you can make plans. I know now that my heart’s really quite broken, and that you can expect some people to heal but some people heal badly. I’m no fit mother, but my children have many around them who still love them.

I’ve been Emi Ibarazaki—I know what I was doing there, being Dad’s daughter, fastest thing on no legs. I’ve been Emi Nakai—I know what that was too, being Hisao’s wife, carrying on a combined legacy at Yamaku. But I’ve also just been plain Emi, what Rin used to say was Emi at her Emiest.

Nobody will believe that Shizune’s completely innocent. She keeps losing her science heads. They’ll think bad thoughts about her, as they always have. But her brother Hideaki knows what’s likely to happen, because he’s known Hisao’s mind on this, been in on it since the beginning.

*****

I surprise Shizune in her office. Her face is only a closed book if you haven’t shared a common sorrow. I sign to her slowly, tell her to shut the recording devices down. The fact that I can sign is just the first surprise. This is going to be one hell of a principal-teacher meeting. I head straight in, armed with truth.

[You loved Hisao too. He liked you. He trusted you.]

Her face tightens and her brows knot. Misha’s not here, cannot be here for this. And I’m cutting close to the bone, for all our sakes. She nods, not trusting herself further. She seals the door behind me for privacy.

[I need you to consider something unusual.]

[What?]

[If I am gone, who takes care of the children?]

She squirms a bit. This is not the conversation she’s expecting. We’re equals in this room now, not Yamaku’s principal and her head science teacher.

[Your mother? The godparents?]

The obvious answers, but not good ones. I have her at a disadvantage.

[My mother is of retirement age. Akira? Hanako?]

Her lips are pinched. Both godparents are hardly ever in Japan. I press on.

[Who is related to both? Answer is not Lilly.]

Her eyes narrow. I’ve cut us both. Difference is that I was prepared for it. Hah, Shizune Hakamichi, I’m good at games too. Especially when there’s a stake to play for.

[You cannot be serious] she signs with enough force to slit the air.

[Hideaki knows it can be done. He will ask it of you on Hisao’s behalf.]

She’s shocked. This game was begun months after the reading of the will, years ago. Her own brother never told her about this. She realizes I came prepared for a clean win.

[Hakamichi-sama, the late Hisao Nakai and I humbly request that you make all effort to become the legal guardian of our children in the event that we have both passed before they attain their majority.]

It takes a lot to learn unfamiliar signs. I’m slow, deliberate, unmistakable—inexorable. But this is not a fight. We’re on the same side. We’re friends, although most friends don’t do such things. And to show that, I reach out painfully and hold her hands for a moment before she can say anything.

She withdraws her hands after a decent interval. She stands and motions to me to do likewise. She bows to me, very slowly, acknowledging my win, affirming our friendship. I return her bow. Then she gives me the answer that everyone needs.

*****

Well, I’ve made it this far, had a good run. They’ll be checking on me soon, but I see the finish line. And the human will—it can make natural the impossible.

I open my eyes, and see.

I see him. I see him ahead of me, completing the first lap. Hisao, I’m coming for you. There hasn’t ever been an event Emi Ibarazaki Nakai has given up on, and when I get my hands on you, you’ll know it!

*****

She has her running face on. There is hungry devotion in it. She accelerates round the bend. The straight beckons to her as her blades flex beneath the fire of her muscles. Far ahead, but not so far, Hisao turns to look.

And then it’s as if she shoves a door open and steps beaming into the sunlight.

*****

“I don’t know what to make of it, Kaneshiro-sama.”

“Please, call me Goro.” The senior physician’s voice is soft in the presence of the peaceful. “It’s not as if I am so much older than you, Hansuke.”

His mind seems to be a mile away. Hansuke clears his throat unobtrusively. “It’s a strange case. Patient presented yesterday with chest pains, no obvious cause, otherwise asymptomatic, had history of mild depression. We warded her for observation. She said you knew her, so we left you a message.”

The young man pauses. “This morning, Director, there was sudden tachycardia before first meal, double her resting heart rate. Her vital signs spiked and then just flatlined. We did the usual, but no heroic measures as per the file.”

Goro Kaneshiro, once a nurse and now a doctor, has seen most things. He never thought he’d see this one. But he thinks he knows exactly what happened, so he can do something for his younger colleague, who’s still in shock. “I know. I can tell you for certain that it’s not your fault. Let me handle the next of kin. Did she leave anything behind, besides the legs?”

“There’s a note.”

“Let me have it.”

Hansuke bows, hands the little piece of paper over.

Goro returns the bow. The words are clear, unhurried. GONE RUNNING, in neat, moderately large script. It doesn’t look depressive.

Normally, Hansuke’s boss is all sinister smiles and bad jokes. Now, he can barely make out the next words as Director Kaneshiro turns away, sighing. There’s a deep, controlled grief in there.

“Fastest thing on no legs.”

What an odd thing to say.

=====
prev | end | akiko's story
Last edited by brythain on Sat Apr 29, 2017 11:53 am, edited 4 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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