After the Dream—Rin's Arc/Miki's Arc (Complete)

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Yukarin
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Re: After the Dream—Rin's Arc (Done)/Miki2 (up 20140516)

Post by Yukarin » Fri May 16, 2014 1:14 am

Miki is a particularly interesting fellow, eh? Loves to say what's in her mind. No sugar coating.

Happily awaiting for more!

also pancakes are delicious

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brythain
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Re: After the Dream—Rin's Arc (Done)/Miki2 (up 20140516)

Post by brythain » Fri May 16, 2014 7:52 am

Yukarin wrote:Miki is a particularly interesting fellow, eh? Loves to say what's in her mind. No sugar coating.

Happily awaiting for more!

also pancakes are delicious
*grin* every time I talk to her, I feel like I should be washing my ears out… I'm sure she has a lot more to say!
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 (20140517)

Post by brythain » Fri May 16, 2014 9:19 pm

"You can't be serious."

"Yes, I can~" she says, long tanned legs provocatively swinging from the edge of my desk.

Distracted, I reply, "You got that from Misha, didn't you?"

"I'm a fast learner. So how about it?"

"It's a good piece, but I'm not sure how to edit it."

"She's already edited it. She said dammit that's you, Miura, I ain't gonna change a thing."

I look up at her. A proper look, for the first time since she popped into my room and disturbed my peace. She's gone for the tied-up hair and serious glasses look. I guess she can be serious if she wants. But in those eyes, I sense apprehension. It hits me. She's afraid I won't take her seriously, that I'll treat her the way so many others have.

"That doesn't sound like her..." I begin.

"Yeah, that's her in my words," she interrupts. But she's still looking at me, searching my face.

"You can be serious. I won't edit much either. I like it. There's a lot more to you than people think."

"Aw, you're saying that just to be nice. Or to get some tongue."

"What?!"

"Haha, kidding! See you later, lover-boy. Naw, that's a joke too. Seriously? Thanks for everything."
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—Miki's Arc (Part 3 up 20140517)

Post by brythain » Fri May 16, 2014 9:39 pm

This is the third part of Miki's arc in my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic, 'After the Dream'.
It takes place in 2010 at the start of Miki's second year at Chodai (Nagasaki University). That sets it just after this part of Misha's arc.



Miki 3: Treading Water (T -14)

We’ve got an old custom about returning to your hometown to give birth. Well, that’s something like what I’m doing, finding a new me in the old town. For Miki Miura, that’s Nagasaki. More than a year ‘back home’ and I still feel I don’t belong. But I’ll fit in, somehow.

The shit I’m going through right now is all Hisao Nakai’s fault, actually. It’s not all bad shit but there’s a lot of it—it’s the daily grind of going to class at the local university and studying something that’s some days stuffed with so much math my head hurts like a bitch.

Reinvent yourself, Miki. Do something with your life, Miki. You need help with math, Miki? Good ol’ Nakai, I hope he’s having just as much fun in Todai as I am here. Because I did all of that, and now Ms Miura is working on a degree in Economics. Yeah, you heard me, Econs. Go ahead, laugh.

Okay, I confess, it’s not all about Nakai. The second sentence up there? It’s from Rin Tezuka. I’ve always admired her because she can do so many things despite not having arms at all. Sure, I know she was born like that, so it’s all natural. But I’ve been short one hand for more than half my life now, and damn if I can’t do half the things she can. Shit, see that? All those fractions, they’re getting to me.

But one day a couple of years ago, I’m lying on my tummy watching Rin paint in the loft when she says, “What is a Miki?”

That’s a funny question, and I give it a funny answer: “A Miki is a restless woman who’s useless to everyone and sits around all day bitchin’.”

Rin puts her brushes down, one from each foot, plop, plop, into her brush washing whatevers. She looks at me very seriously, her head all tilted to one side.

“No-o,” she says slowly. “No-o. Not useless. You need to do something. With your life. Or it will leak out of you. Like tears. Or memories. Or butterflies.”

It’s one of those moments when something snaps and you need to hug somebody. It’s the day I learn that Rin can’t hug the way the rest of us can, but she can hook a leg over your hip and kinda do something that works like it.

*****

Since then, I’ve tried to keep in touch with Rin. It’s damn hard to explain why, but I’ll give it a try. See, Rin doesn’t understand people. She just looks and tries to make sense. She gets frustrated, and she’s afraid she’s got it wrong, and so sometimes she just won’t talk. But she can paint, and sometimes it makes life meaningful for her that way.

Me, I can’t even paint. I could run, but Ibarazaki was better anyway, even without legs. People who didn’t have any damn thing were better than I was. It made me want to do better, but I was afraid I’d fail. Then Rin said what she said, and I knew that big tough Miki was wasting her life being afraid.

So screw math, but screw it so hard it cries uncle. Take extra econometrics modules, that’s me. It’s like training, hurts like fuck sometimes, but you get tougher, better. I didn’t even want to run. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a swimmer. Now, I can’t.

That’s why I talked to Rin. I loved her. It’s not warm hugs at night when you’re feeling lonely, the heel of her foot grinding into your back because she’s got no hands to hold you. It’s not the weird stuff she says that suddenly makes sense. It’s all about knowing that even if you don’t understand, there’s somebody you can share it with.

On the day before she and Hisao said goodbye to me at the station, she looked at me in a funny way. Yeah, she does that a lot, but this was special. It wasn’t the deep way that makes you ask what the hell she’s thinking, it was Rin being shy.

“I did something for you. Everyone needs a butterfly. Here’s yours.”

She waved a little piece of paper at me with her right foot. Damn, it was torn from her sketchbook, she’d torn one of her precious sheets out for me. About postcard sized, a butterfly crawling out of a cocoon. It’s a kinda… pretty reddish brown, I guess, and a clear dark blue and a silvery white in the wings. One wing is still coming out of the cocoon, which is this dead, grey bandage-like thing.

I don’t know what the heck it all means, but she’s written on the paper, in her spiky hard-to-read script: ‘Miki’s Butterfly’. I’ve never had anything so beautiful before, never. It’s me. Somehow, it’s me. Oh gods, she’s done it, I don’t know how. And then she’s saying to me, “Miki, you’re leaking. Please stop. You need to keep it in, or it goes away.”

So here I am, at Nagasaki, studying hard, being a nerd. People look at me, they see a tall tanned girl with a ponytail and black-rimmed glasses. I still wear short skirts cos they’re comfy. But jeans, long skirts, whatever, I’m good. I’m Miki, reinventing myself because I can.

*****

You know all the things I’m avoiding, right? But you want to hear them from me, because it’s just you to want to fucking know. It’s okay, I’m not mad at you for doing your job, ma’am. We’ve known each other how long now? Yeah, that’s long.

Fine. Here’s another one from around that time.

I remember 21st March 2009. We all do. It’s the day we first lose someone from our year. It’s the day Enomoto dies. Osaka is really beautiful in spring, but that’s not why so many of us are there. We’re there, from 3-1 and 3-2 and 3-3 and 3-4 and 3-5, because Yamaku people stick together. Even Mutou and Nurse turn up. I’ve never seen the school staff look so human and so sad before.

All of us heard Saki Enomoto’s last words. Even those who weren’t there found out. She said, “Don’t be sad. We all do what we can, with what we have.”

I wish I’d known her better. I know you did, maybe I should interview you instead. Ha. But seriously? It’s one of those things you remember, it sticks with you. It’s one of the things that made Miki go back to Nagasaki wanting to make a difference.

*****

Okay, back to 2010. I’ve settled in a bit, caught up with Dad and Mom’s friends who knew me when I was a little girl who could swim. The new sensei at Grandpa’s dojo is a cousin of my mother’s. He lets me live in a small apartment nearby, because I’m family. That’s damn convenient, since it’s a short distance from Katafuchi campus, nice and central. In the evenings, I help him with the paperwork, and he gives me a small allowance for that. His wife’s a great cook, by the way.

It’s a shit of a year not only because it’s hard work—I can handle that—but because Rin’s gone back to the art gallery, she’s had a fight with Hisao, she won’t speak to me, and I’m still worried about the future. You can want to change, but change to what?

So one day, I climb up the hill next to my campus. Miki’s got time to think now, she’s not the shallow chick people think she is, which maybe she used to be. On the other side is the Peace Park, and next to it, the A-Bomb Museum—everyone knows what Nagasaki’s famous for. I look across my hometown, and I try to imagine it. There’s a flash of light, and 75000 people die. The mountains around the city protect some, and focus the blast on others. Who dies, who lives, it’s kinda random. And 65 years later, here I am.

Numbers, numbers. Math coach Nakai would be proud of me. I’m sure he’s got other things on his mind though, what with having both Ikezawa and Hakamichi with him every day.

They all want to change the world. Why can’t Miki do the same? The centre of my city’s like a shrine, even my campus looks like classic stone monuments in a sea of beautiful trees and grass. Some parts of the city are growing old and dying and the ships are going away to China and Korea, just across the sea. I’ve come back to a city that’s trying to change and survive.

When I was a little girl, all I wanted to do was swim. Now I’m a big girl, and all I want to do is change the world. Way to go, Miura. Dream on. But why not? I’ll never be like Dad, the Nagasaki Fist, or Mom who was happy to just be Sensei’s Daughter. But I’m their Miki, and they’ll be proud of me yet. Yeah.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Wed Jul 26, 2017 2:38 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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AtD—Miki's Arc (Part 4 up 20140518)

Post by brythain » Sat May 17, 2014 11:59 pm

This is the fourth part of Miki's arc in my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic, 'After the Dream'.
It takes place around the time that Miki graduates from Chodai (Nagasaki University).
That sets it roughly in parallel with, but a bit later than, this part of Rin's arc.



Miki 4: Across The Pool (T -12)

A long time ago when I left Yamaku, if you’d come up to me and said, “See you in grad school, Miki,” I would’ve given you a finger and hinted strongly where you could stick it. Mock me, willya?! But… here I am, thinking about it.

This part of my story takes place around the end of 2012 and early 2013. My life is getting kinda stable now: university degree settled, I’m hanging out at the Project for Global Human Resource Development, and I’ve got a job offer. That last part, I’m not so sure about. But it’s a little bit of my story that I always shake my head at, and you know why, don’t you?

Hmmm. It’s occurred to me that while I’m telling my story here, the person who’s making me tell it is conspicuously absent. That’s because she’s been sneakily editing herself out of it, dammit. I looked at the last few pages, and, naughty naughty, got you!

[MM: Natsume Ooe, journalist-san, take a bow, please.]

[NO: I’d rather not, thanks. Stiff joints and all.]

*****

It’s sometime in autumn that I get a call from Nakai. Months have passed since I last heard from him and, to be honest, I’d written him off as ‘old friend, faded away’. He tells me about Rin’s accident and I go all cold. Feeling comes back when he says she’s okay, and that she’ll be living with him again for a while because the art gallery has to close.

Well, that’s fine with me, never liked that place, it gave me the creeps. But I’m so damn happy Rin’s safe that I dance around the room a bit and annoy my neighbours a lot. It gives me a bit more energy to start hitting the books for my finals in a few months’ time.

When she’s recovered, Nakai lets me know and I start calling her again. You can talk long-distance to Rin, in a way; it just takes more effort. With a tabphone it’s easier—she draws her answers sometimes when she can’t find a word. So I start using my tablet as a phone and then I get to see her as well.

Yeah, sorry about the lack of conversation snippets, Ooe. It’s difficult to describe conversations with Rin. You need Ikezawa for that sort of shit.

But I’m stunned when Rin says she’s got family in Tsushima. Wtf, I think to myself, that’s just… you see, at Yamaku, we don’t often talk about family. Too many landmines, you know what I mean? All the missing parents, the siblings dead of some genetic disease, that kinda stuff? So here I am in default mode, thinking Rin’s got no family, she’s an orphan like me and Ikezawa.

It turns out that a few people do know Rin’s got a family. I’d just never asked. They paid to get her into Yamaku, and they paid to keep her there, and they kept paying to keep her at Tokyo. And Rin never went home. But now her parents have retired, and she’s worried about something.

“Rin’s got a father and mother, Miki. Like most people. But Father has stopped working and Mother has stopped working. I do not need money but they keep sending money. That’s not right. Money can’t come from nowhere.”

As an economist, I’m about to correct her and tell her how money can come in many ways from nowhere. Then I realize that people know fuck all about money, even economists. The Japanese economy’s collapsing around our ears. Rin might have a point.

“Don’t worry, Rin. I’ve got some free time coming up and I can go visit them and see how they’re doing.”

Where did that come from? Miki, I say to myself, you can do this. After all, you survived Nakai’s parents once. Hur hur, I chuckle, fond memories.

“Miki will visit Rin’s parents? That is a strange thing to do. Father and Mother might think one of my arms has grown out normal.”

It’s one of those unreal convos you have with Rin. The only way is to attempt logic, which I’m not very good at, and see what happens.

“My hair’s black and very long, and I wear glasses.”

Silence. She looks at me curiously from the screen.

“That sounds bad. They might not recognize me.”

Err… when in doubt, give way. Learnt that in driving lessons.

“I’ll tell them about it. I’ll call you when I’m going, next weekend, and I’ll call you again when I get there.”

“O-kay. Get them a tabphone? Rin doesn’t know how to talk to them because they don’t have computers and they don’t have a phone that Rin can remember.”

“Check. One tabphone. I’ll put it on your bill.”

“You can put it on my Hisao, but he’s not really my Hisao. Rin has to go, the butterflies need feeding.”

“Right. Love you, babe.”

She flickers out without a sound. That’s my Rin. Crap, what have I really gotten myself into?

*****

Flying from Nagasaki to Tsushima takes less than forty minutes, but it costs ¥12000, which is a lot for poverty-stricken Miki the student. That’s what friendship’s about, though. You’d do it for your closest friends, trust me.

On the way there, I look down into steel-blue water and imagine the smell of the sea. I think about parents, and home. I wonder what Rin’s parents will be like.

I can’t remember Mom and Dad much, and that’s sad. To me, they’re like legendary superheroes, not part of the real world. I’ve visited their grave; it’s only a few minutes down the road from my favourite spot above the campus. Two names and one stone. I keep it clean, sometimes sit a while. They were a good-looking couple. Uncle said I was built like Mom and looked like Dad—I think I’d be okay even the other way round.

In the aircraft window, I catch a reflection of me. My face is too chunky, heavy cheekbones, big chin. I think I have a sexy smile, but that and the hair just help to hide a girl who’s got a tight body with a plain face. Look up close, and you’ll know why nobody at Yamaku really made a pass at me. Satou, she was sometimes fending dozens of them off with teabags and politeness. Story of my life.

Tsushima is all mountain and forest. It’s like the end of civilization. I’ve done some reading on it, I’ve got maps in my tabphone up and running. It takes me an hour from the airport, taking a modern little bus to get to the street on the edge of the foothills, in the shadow of Mount Yatate. Everything here looks old. Where are the kids? It’s too quiet.

I’m scared. Big bad Miki Miura is scared shitless. What if they don’t like me? Crazy, right?

It’s too late now: I see the address Rin gave me. Running away would be dumb.

I hold my breath. There’s a traditional bell at the door. Ding.

“Who comes?”

Lucky I’m already scared shitless or I would’ve shat myself. That voice is like from one of those old tragic Noh plays. It’s a beautiful, high, clear, terrifying old-man voice. I want to run, but I can’t. And the door opens.

“Oh? Who are you, young lady?”

“Ah, I-I’m Miura, my family name is M-Miura, I’m looking for Tezuka-sama. I’m a f-friend of R-Rin.”

Oh gods, I sound like Ikezawa. The person in front of me has long red-brown hair, woven in an intricate hairdo. She’s very striking, must’ve been beautiful when young, which she is not. It’s like seeing Rin grown old. With arms. In traditional dress. It’s goddamn frightening. I bow, to be polite. Also, to conceal my shock.

She returns my bow, very exact, as if she’s measured it with some machine.

“Why didn’t you say so?! Come in. Not often do guests come. I have the honour of being Tezuka-sama’s beloved wife,” she adds ironically, as if she doesn’t quite believe it and would laugh if it were true.

She looks sharply up into my face then continues rattling on. I’m not gonna stop her! She might stab me with a knife and throw the body down the mountainside.

“You’re a mixed-blood. Maybe some Portuguese blood. Likely from Nagasaki. I am told not to be so rude by my husband. But when I am polite, he says I make people fearful. Tell me, are you afraid?”

“Erm. You’re very unusual, Mrs Tezuka.”

“Haha, now you are being polite, young lady. I am an actress, and Tezuka-sama is a retired fisherman, in his own way, believe it or not. That’s worse, right?”

Well, not often Miki’s mouth runs on empty. I’m trying to think, but nothing happens.

“I said, come in. Tezuka-san will be unhappy if I keep you waiting too long. He is like the feudal lord of this place, but not so much.”

If Rin’s mother is like this, oh joy, I can’t wait to meet her father. She refers to him as if he is ‘The Tezuka’, and I don’t know what that’s all about.

I nod and follow her in.

“Tezuka-sama, your humble wife brings a visitor into our home! It is a young lady of the house of Miura, and she hails from far Nagasaki!”

The house is not large but somehow it feels big, as if it makes you feel tiny within its walls. There isn’t much light. Books line the walls. Also, photographs and prints. It feels as if someone took a big lump of culture and injected it into a quiet spot in the forest.

“Coming! On the way; that is to say, I was there, but am now here. Hello!”

The voice is light and relaxed. This is Rin’s father? Oh come on, Miki, of course it is, what a silly question. I look at the man coming down the staircase. He’s very ordinary-looking. Dark complexion, neat and thin, not very tall. Long-sleeved white shirt and black trousers. Honest face but with a big, flat, chunky nose, as if someone punched him really hard a long time ago. Hair short, mostly grey.

“Oh, a beautiful girl. You needn’t have.”

“Tezuka-san, don’t tease. She’s a friend of our daughter.”

“We have a daughter? Check. She has friends? Yes. Time to update the log. Why do they call it a log. It’s just a book. Never figured it out.”

A large grey cat with silver and black markings slinks down the stairs behind Mr Tezuka and pauses next to Rin’s mother. It looks at me with large dark eyes, swishing a long thick tail as if undecided about something. Then it butts my leg hard with its head, walks past me and sits down. It begins to lick itself all over.

“Meet Kurome, appointed guardian of the house of Tezuka, local defender of food and drink, but not above misappropriation and outright larceny. He likes you, it is clear. You are now welcome to live here.”

“Mother? You want this girl to live here? That is scandalous. Yes, very. I like it.”

I now know why Rin speaks like that. It’s all about the parents, isn’t it? Here I am, with this dramatic woman on my left, in front of me a man fumbling with a thick notebook and a wooden pencil, and being occasionally stared at by a big cat who is… yeah, well, licking himself everywhere. I don’t think humans could do that. Lucky I don’t blush easy.

I remember I’m supposed to be polite, so I bow to Rin’s father, who nods back and closes his notebook. What do you say to a cat?

“Hey, cat, pleased to meet you.”

Kurome stops licking his balls and looks up. We exchange glances. Am I supposed to stare back or blink or what?

“Well! Now you’re here. And so are we. How pleasant! Is there a reason, or were you just looking for Rin? She’s not here. Never quite was here, but now not at all.”

“Respected sir, I have a gift for you, from your daughter. May I?”

“Yes, you may! Any friend of Rin’s is a friend of Rin’s,” he says, smiling.

I unzip my slingbag and slide out the tabphone package that’s been weighing me down a bit.

“She brings modernity to us, father. I should go and make tea and also check that we have electricity enough to power such a device. I think it is a computer. Woe to us, poor uncivilized wretches, that have not such things!”

What. Am I being mocked or is this just the way she always talks? Or both?

“Ah, nice, nice. Don’t mind mother. She is not always nice. I like technology. I just don’t have any. You will have to show us. It will be fun. Or nice. ‘Nice’ is an excellent word to use when you don’t have a better word.”

*****

Back in Nagasaki that night, I’m thinking about Rin. I messaged her from Tsushima, as agreed, but got no reply. Does she not want to talk to her parents at all? Anyway, I’ve got it set up so they can call her, and I’ve sent her the info on how to reach their tabphone. Still no reply, though I tried calling.

Her parents are weird, but they’re okay. I had tea. And then lunch, and then they showed me Rin’s old room. It was full of small furniture, which made me feel sad, because it was only then I realized they must have sent her away quite young. Rin’s father then offered to show me around Tsushima, but it was getting late and I respectfully said no.

On impulse, I showed them some pictures of their daughter and her work. I’ve got quite a lot of that on my phone. They were all like, wow, look at her, she’s so big now, how pretty she is, what talent! It’s as if she was a stranger, at best a distant niece or daughter of an old friend. At the same time, they seemed to be proud of her, glad to find out more about her.

And that’s what made me decide: I’ll be back again. We share something, those two old people and I. We share a mystery called Rin.

=====
prev | next
Last edited by brythain on Wed Jul 26, 2017 2:39 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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Re: After the Dream—Rin's Arc (Done)/Miki4 (up 20140518)

Post by dewelar » Sun May 18, 2014 12:20 am

Okay...

This is going to be one of those chapters where I'm going to have to read it again so that I can figure out how to express what seems to be wrong about it because right now I'm tired and haven't been sleeping and would like to be able to write something that makes sense but I really don't think I can do that after only one reading so that's why I'm going to read it again but I can't really say whether I'll even be able to figure out what's not exactly wrong but not exactly right either because it's one of those things that goes in and out of your head but isn't really a thought but more of a feeling and when you can't really describe the feeling it just sits there eating away at you like a vulture gnawing on the bones of someone who's tired enough to feel like they might be dead but aren't really because they're only dead enough to not be able to figure out what they want to say about the thing that they're trying to say it about so I think I'll probably just leave it there for tonight even though I know I'm going to be seeing this in my sleep when I should be seeing the chapter that I'm editing but when something sits there like that it's going to keep sitting there until I know what it is that's the problem with this portion of the story.

So, see you tomorrow.
Rin is orthogonal to everything.
Stuff I've written: Developments, a continuation of Lilly's (bad? neutral?) ending - COMPLETE!

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Re: After the Dream—Rin's Arc (Done)/Miki4 (up 20140518)

Post by brythain » Sun May 18, 2014 12:28 am

dewelar wrote:Okay...

This is going to be one of those chapters where I'm going to have to read it again so that I can figure out how to express what seems to be wrong about it because right now I'm tired and haven't been sleeping and would like to be able to write something that makes sense but I really don't think I can do that after only one reading so that's why I'm going to read it again but I can't really say whether I'll even be able to figure out what's not exactly wrong but not exactly right either because it's one of those things that goes in and out of your head but isn't really a thought but more of a feeling and when you can't really describe the feeling it just sits there eating away at you like a vulture gnawing on the bones of someone who's tired enough to feel like they might be dead but aren't really because they're only dead enough to not be able to figure out what they want to say about the thing that they're trying to say it about so I think I'll probably just leave it there for tonight even though I know I'm going to be seeing this in my sleep when I should be seeing the chapter that I'm editing but when something sits there like that it's going to keep sitting there until I know what it is that's the problem with this portion of the story.

So, see you tomorrow.
Probably because I watched the FA Cup final while writing it and I think something got screwed up from mixing personal angst at going two goals down with my edits from a previous version and the current version and I thought I'd fixed it but I guess I hadn't and so in short I'm really looking forward to finding out what's wrong and I bet a certain other editor is going to pm me and tell me what's on her mind anytime soon. Thanks very much!
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—Rin's Arc (Done)/Miki4 (up 20140518)

Post by Yukarin » Sun May 18, 2014 2:19 am

Omg you two are so hilarious

I cant rin-speak at all so i'll just leave it to you guys.

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Re: After the Dream—Rin's Arc (Done)/Miki4 (up 20140518)

Post by bhtooefr » Sun May 18, 2014 5:09 am

I would've just gone with "my brain is full of fuck", but that works too. :lol:

Also, Google Maps claims a flight from Nagasaki to Tsushima takes 1 hour, 20 minutes.
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Re: After the Dream—Rin's Arc (Done)/Miki4 (up 20140518)

Post by brythain » Sun May 18, 2014 5:21 am

bhtooefr wrote:I would've just gone with "my brain is full of fuck", but that works too. :lol:

Also, Google Maps claims a flight from Nagasaki to Tsushima takes 1 hour, 20 minutes.
It would probably take that much if you include queueing, boarding, deplaning etc. The flight itself takes 30-40 mins.
Apparently, Japan's national tourism board agrees… here. :)
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.
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Re: After the Dream—Rin's Arc (Done)/Miki4 (up 20140518)

Post by dewelar » Sun May 18, 2014 10:11 pm

Sorry about not posting yet, but it's been a long day :|. I actually haven't gotten back to reading it, but I recall that most of my quibbling stemmed from the way Rin's parents are portrayed. I'm not sure I like the concept of her speech and/or thought patterns being so obviously passed down, and (I'm probably reaching here) there were (presumably unintentional) undertones that they are how they are because they're Korean.

Hope that makes sense. If not, will try and elaborate at a later time.
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Re: After the Dream—Rin's Arc (Done)/Miki4 (up 20140518)

Post by brythain » Sun May 18, 2014 10:17 pm

dewelar wrote:Sorry about not posting yet, but it's been a long day :|. I actually haven't gotten back to reading it, but I recall that most of my quibbling stemmed from the way Rin's parents are portrayed. I'm not sure I like the concept of her speech and/or thought patterns being so obviously passed down, and (I'm probably reaching here) there were (presumably unintentional) undertones that they are how they are because they're Korean.

Hope that makes sense. If not, will try and elaborate at a later time.
Ah, yes, that makes sense. I do realise I've overplayed my skimpy hand this time, so to speak. Will think hard about this. Thanks!

Edit: Have tried a few tweaks out, to minimise discomfort. I found that I'd accelerated certain things a bit much. A bit like the time I over-Emi'd Emi. I always welcome criticism! :)
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.
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AtD—Miki's Arc (Part 5 up 20140520)

Post by brythain » Tue May 20, 2014 12:25 pm

This is the fifth part of Miki's arc in my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic, 'After the Dream'.
It takes place around the time of this part of Rin's arc.



Miki 5: Deep End (T -6)

It’s funny calling them Motoko and Kazuo. They started by asking me to treat them as ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’, but no way I’d call them that, so we tried ‘Aunt’ and ‘Uncle’ for about a year or so, and all kinds of other things. They’ve stopped calling me ‘Rin’s Friend’, so I’m back to being Miki.

Rin’s parents are in their late sixties, which means that when Rin was born, they were already pretty old. I’ve wondered why they made the decision to move Rin to Yamaku, so far away. I’ve not asked.

“So when will the raven fly and make a nest of her own?”

Shit. I’m startled, as usual, by Motoko’s dramatic entrance. Not her words, though—she’s asking the same old question about when Miki are you gonna get married. She calls me the raven, because she thinks my arrival is a sign of divine providence, I have black hair, and also the sun’s approval in my tanned skin.

I used to roll my eyeballs in secret. These days, I’m asking the same kind of questions. Why am I doing this? Why am I looking after Rin’s parents (or maybe, why are they looking after me) when Rin herself won’t come home?

When the days are cold and the monsoon keeps us in, I think about that a lot. I’m beginning to understand why Satou and Nakai gave it up. At least the goddess Tanabata and her cowherd got to look at each other face to face, and not just exchange pictures from a distance.

“Dunno, Motoko. Maybe I’m not the nest-building kind.” Maybe.

“Ai-ee! Beauty must be conserved, passed down to the next generation! What would your ancestors think?”

How do you answer that? I’m dressed for work, dark jacket, white silk blouse, a decent skirt. I’m not Miki Miura aged eighteen and looking hot, I’m Ms Miura, senior research analyst for Hakamichi Industries, Fukuoka—and I’m almost thirty now.

“Thanks, Motoko. Give Tezuka-san a kiss from me when he wakes up. Gotta go!”

“Do not let the heart of romance desert you this day!”

She smiles at me mischievously, her crows’-feet wrinkling, and presses my live hand. I relax a bit and squeeze back.

*****

Three years ago, my friend Natsume (no, dammit, you’re not censoring this bit) got me together with Shizune Hakamichi to talk about new industries and the economic situation. She hoped that by interviewing two economists with different views, she’d get a good piece for her special section on ‘What should Japan do next?’

Shizune’d been doing something basically about how ‘hidden’ R&D in Japan distorts the economy in all kinds of ways. Me, I’d been studying how we could improve local businesses by working with global trends and info systems. I didn’t think we were that much different, just looking at it from two different angles. But, hey, it looked like fun, and as long as you put me on my right so my damn left-side prosthetic didn’t hog the show, I’d be fine.

It was funny. What she got instead was: Shizune surprised that Miki had a civil tongue in her head, me surprised that Her Royal Highness was so full of wry humour, and one helluva discussion on the socioeconomic impact of transhumanist technology.

[MM: Thanks, Nat. You make rude words sound so good, sister! So much for not censoring.]

[NO: I did not censor that bit. I merely adjusted the part about you and Hakamichi to increase clarity and coherence.]

I have to say I was all kinds of surprised a week later when I got this very classy email from Hakamichi Industries. It politely asked if I would have any interest in having tea with some people in Fukuoka.

The first thing that came to mind was that it was ‘Family’ business and I wanted nothing to do with it. I mean, everyone knows ‘having tea with some people’ is either a very good thing or a very bad thing in the end, when there’s a Family involved.

The second thing that came to mind was: girl, you need a job. Working for a Family is solid job security if you’re at the public end. Maybe the Dragon Lady put in a good word for me? Yeah, Miki, you can dream, what’s not to dream?

And finally, I contacted Rin, which led to pleasant conversation and an insight into the artistic process.

“How can you have tea with Shizune’s family without Shizune? That seems wrong.”

“It’s tea with a Hakamichi team, babe.”

“That is interesting. If enough people have tea together, is that what makes a team?”

“I think they want me to work for them.”

“That’s rather rude. You don’t invite people to tea and make them pour.”

As usual, I feel that the conversation is way out of my control. I’m just content to let Rin go wherever she’s going, though. Which turns out to be…

“You cannot have tea with Shizune.”

“I’m not having tea with Shizune. ’Sides, why can’t I have tea with Shizune? I had an interview with Shizune once.”

“Hisao read that to me. It was in the Asahi Shimbun. Or some other Shimbun. I forget. Do you think I forget a lot? But I remember why you cannot have tea with Shizune. She is in Sendai having a holiday with Hisao.”

Now that sounds interesting. And here I was thinking he was attached to Ibarazaki. I guess it’s tough being attached to a woman who’s always training for the Olympics. Stop that Miki, you’re being a bitch like in the old days…

“So do you think it’ll be a good job? If they offer me a job should I take it?”

“If you stay Miki, you can do what you want, because you’ll still be you.”

That’s a great answer, babe. I love the way talking to Rin confuses the hell out of you but sometimes it gets to the truth faster.

“Thanks. Your dad and mom send greetings.”

“They also sent money. And an electronic birthday card that isn’t very pretty. I think money is more useful. Maybe I should send them a painting. What do you think?”

I sense the big grey-black presence just before Kurome pads over to me, miaouws plaintively and butts his head against the tabphone. Wants attention, this cat, probably food.

“Oh, is that Kurome? Hold him for a while so I can sketch him. Then I can send them a painting of him.”

Hold Kurome? That’s insane. However…

“Hold on for a while, Rin. I’ll get him some food and then he’ll stay.”

And that is why, in a little house in Tsushima, there’s a medium-sized painting of something huge and scary hunting down little innocent brown biscuit-like people, all screaming and pointing as the fangs come down. That’s my Rin.

*****

Back to now. I like my work because I can do it from home most times. An analyst handles data and information trends, then tries to figure out what they mean. The Tezuka home now has a fairly good set-up with a microwave antenna aimed at the mainland. The reason I’m all dressed up is that I need to be at the office today, in person.

Here’s the story. When I hit senior analyst, the health benefits scheme kicked in. Also, the option to test-drive the latest tech. I’ve never been a geek, but I like trying new stuff that’s free, and so today I stride into the gleaming building that insiders call ‘Fukuoka Base’ with a little extra bounce. Today’s the first working Monday of January, and that means new toys for Miki!

“Kyu-san!”

I bow to the sharp-faced elder gentleman who lurks below Hakamichi Industries’ Fukuoka campus. What kind of a name is ‘Kyu’ anyway? It’s not his real name, and all he’ll tell me is that it’s a classic pseudonym.

“Ahi ahi! It’s Miura-san, she with the long hair that’s always tied up since she became a senior analyst. Why does the charming young lady visit old Kyu?”

“This unworthy young lady decides as usual to can the crap and abase herself before venerable elder Kyu as she anticipates that perhaps he might show her a small sliver of the mysteries of the universe.”

I’m running out of breath here. But old Kyu is a gentleman, and we play these games because we’re friends and it’s kinda fun.

“Oho oho! I have a great mystery to show you.”

His eyes twinkle as he bows and hands me a beautiful little rosewood box, about the size of a spectacle case but just a bit larger. A music box? A set of chopsticks? That’s gonna be some weird tech.

I bow back and receive the box from him.

“May this humble orphan open the box of mysteries that she’s so very unworthy to approach?”

“Go ahead, grasshopper.”

I don’t know where he gets all these things from. He must be from some distant rural part of Japan, but it wouldn’t be polite to ask. Or maybe it’s some classical reference and I’m just too illiterate to pick up on it.

Carefully, I unfasten the smoothly-machined bronze clasp and lift the lid. Hmm. Inside is what looks like a pair of… my glasses?

I look up at him. He’s smiling broadly, as if waiting for me to get the joke.

Shit. They look exactly like my nerd-girl glasses. Black rims, rectangular lenses… wait, what’s this?

“Put them on, Miura-san. I shall hold your own spectacles for you, if you would be so kind?”

I hand him my glasses with one hand and then lift the new ones from the box. Exactly the same weight too, it feels like. I put them on, wondering what the joke will be.

Shit! The gentle buzz in my cheekbones tells me that these glasses (of course) are not what they seem. Something is flashing in the corner of my right eye.

“Ahi ahi! Look at me, Miura-san. Focus on my nose, perhaps.”

Not quite sure what’s happening, I follow his instructions. And a little blue dot flashes. As I try to track the damn thing, my field of vision opens up. Oh gods, it’s a heads-up info display. I’ve always wanted one of those.

[Kyu. Senior research engineer. Grade: superscale, classified. Files: 1 (pending), 24367118 (blocked). Access pending file(s)?]

“Ah, Kyu-san, how does your lowly associate agree to a request from your information systems?”

“Say ‘yes’, Miura-san, just one syllable with nothing before or after. You can say it quite softly, since the device can pick up vibration through your skull. If it’s yes-no, it tests for airflow patterns. But don’t be too informal, it can’t differentiate well between grunts.”

“Ooh.”

I subvocalize my agreement, and a file is scrolling across the screen in front of my right eye. My left is still uncluttered, as I open and close my eyelids to check. With both eyes open, it’s like seeing text over Kyu’s face.

[Good morning, Miss Miura. It is the eighth day of January in the year 2018. This is a test message from Old Master Kyu. He sincerely hopes that you will accept this little gift, which in any case has been logged as a permanent loan to you under your Hakamichi account. He also expresses a humble desire that you use this trifling technology on anything that could somehow seem of interest to you in the course of your work. May your labours be enlightened.]

“I am enlightened already, most senior engineering associate. Thanks very much!”

“Do not be a stranger to me, Miura-san. Visit often, if you would make this old and infirm soul happier. But that is enough for one day. We all have our work to do.”

He chuckles and bows, dismissing me. What a guy.

By the time I’ve spent a couple more hours at Fukuoka, I’ve learnt that this is way too distracting. I’ve figured out how these bloody things work. You look at something long enough, and if it’s got a tag that’s logged in Hakamichi’s servers, a blue dot blinks. You focus on it, and a little window opens up with options. People must be thinking I squint a lot.

I look into the mirrored surface near my mostly-unused desk. That’s when I realize my left-hand prosthetic is tagged. I hang my jacket on the chair back and unbutton my sleeve at the wrist. There. Shit, yeah, of course, it’s a Hakamichi device.

[HI-550Gt Prosthetic Hand. Titanium/carbon fiber/polymer resins. Tolerance (currently configured): max estimated load 3000N (momentary) — sustained typical load 150N — max estimated grip 600N (momentary) — sustained typical grip 300N. Time from deployment: 8256661s. Time to next servicing: 7295339s. Further information — see engineering log, first opened 20171006. Account: Miura, M — see personnel file, first opened 19980921.]

Wait, what? My file was opened when I was about nine years old? Oh. Right, I’m a Hakamichi orphan. Buddha’s balls! They really do track you.

I’ve lots to think about now, and I need to get home to think about it properly. Damn, Miki, your life is one hell of a visual novel.

*****

Over the last three years, Rin’s moved out from her lonely life in Hisao’s old apartment, and back in with him and Emi at Yamaku’s staff apartments. The deal’s something Shizune set up. It’s complicated. But it’s also as if my old friends and classmates are getting on with their lives, while mine just goes from day to day until it all ends.

I never thought Yamaku would be anything I’d care to remember. But you know what, it was the last time people cared for us and we thought to care for others. You get out back into the world, and you’re just not important at all.

When Hisao first appeared in Yamaku, there was a period in which we were wondering if he’d make it. Two such periods, actually. One before he found Satou, and one after he lost Satou. The guys in the class were actually thinking of forming a support group, something like the ‘Satou Broken Hearts Club’. But as I said before, the girls beat them to it and did more useful things.

If my heart broke right now, nobody’d pick it up. Damn, I say to myself. Stop that. If life’s gonna be a bitch, it’s gonna be MY bitch. So there.

I’m finally home after that little round trip to the office. Kurome darts past me, bumping my ankle, and is gone. It’s early evening and it’s already dark and cold and sad. It’ll frost tonight. I’m glad for my lightweight but warm woolen suit.

The door opens, and yellow light cuts a bright shape into the darkness.

“Mi-chan!”

“Kazuo, respected elder!”

“We were worried you would get caught out. It’s getting cold. It’s already cold. The forecast is bad. But dinner is good, Rin’s esteemed mother has made a bittergourd soup with red dates in it.”

We exchange bows. He’s not normally so talkative, although he smiles a lot. I wonder what’s up. Good call on dinner though, I’ve never tried that kind of stuff and it sounds great.

“Also, you have mail! A real letter!”

Must be heckuva special mail, if he’s jumping up and down. Who sends physical mail these days anyway?

I stow my footwear and change to something more comfortable. He keeps looking at my left hand. He always does that. Maybe he’s wondering if his daughter might have used that kind of tech.

Bowing once more, Rin’s father hands me a cream-coloured envelope made of some very thick and expensive-looking paper. I take it from him gently, right hand slightly forward, and bow back.

The writing on the envelope is in blue-black indelible ink, almost calligraphic in quality, neat and small. It’s somehow familiar in style. What a crime to open it, but at last I use the cutting nail on my left hand and slit it across one edge.

Motoko’s silently joined her husband. They’ve moved quietly to one side and are now politely pretending not to be interested.

It’s a wedding invitation. August, at Yamaku. They’re finally getting married, Emi Ibarazaki and Hisao Nakai. Nice of them to invite me, I guess. Must be Hisao’s doing. A happy occasion. Rin hasn't told me anything about this.

I'm cold, and tired, and for now I have no feelings at all.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Wed Jul 26, 2017 2:40 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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Interlude (20140521)

Post by brythain » Tue May 20, 2014 10:26 pm

"Mm. Good morning, colleague."

What now… ? I heave myself out of bed. It's 10 am, argh, late for work, things to do, shouldn't have hit the snooze button. Thump.

"If I could request a few minutes of your time?"

There was a certain amount of weight on one corner of my sheets, preventing me from heaving myself properly out of bed. Which is why my legs are tangled up on the bed and the rest of me is on the floor.

I am looking up at some very fine legs, which are very primly crossed. As my eyes refocus, I find myself looking up into the gaze of a hunting owl. With one eye that's golden-green and the other a very dark brown…

"Oh for [self-censored] sake," I mutter under my breath. Then, louder, "Good morning, Ms Ooe. Please excuse my current state."

"Ah, some fault accrues to me. That said, thank you for listening."

"Listening?"

"Our mutual friend says, I quote, 'Let's just skip the sad parts, do the happy parts, and get to the end. Like playing with yourself.' "

Even to my floored consciousness, that sounds like a rather cavalier approach to biography. I guess it shows on my face.

"I do not personally agree with her position, but I can understand why it is so. However, she has consented to abridgement, spanning those four events."

Oh, those four events. I thought I had a tearjerker on my hands. Ah well, all for the best, my dear readers probably are sick of the unrelenting parade of bad, sad, or just plain melancholy endings.

"I see. So, journalist-san, what shall we do?"

The hunting owl grins, which only makes her look more dangerous.

"The end of life is always sad to those who are left behind. Since we already have that from Ms Tezuka, maybe we can stop in 2039?"

"Let's discuss this further when I'm more fully awake."

"I understand. I brought coffee. It's waiting downstairs, with a lemon-blueberry muffin."

Now, that's a higher class of visitation than I'm used to, and I feel a lot better.
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—Miki's Arc (Part 6 up 20140522)

Post by brythain » Wed May 21, 2014 9:03 pm

This is the sixth part of Miki's arc in my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic, 'After the Dream'.
It eventually dovetails with this part of Rin's arc.



Miki 6: Flip Turn (T +6)

Here’s a summary of my life so far.

It’s twelve years now since my old housemate Hisao Nakai married one of his high school sweethearts. They had two kids, then he died, and I guess it was just one more thing that made me think, fuck it, Yamaku was so long ago that special or not, you gotta leave it all behind.

But someone else left that all behind last year, and now she’s back home and things feel a lot better. What’s left to say? The end.

[NO: Ah. There is a lot of missing narrative right there.]

[MM: We’re friends and all, but I need space. It ain’t easy, getting there without being sad. And Miki hates being sad, remember?]

I actually went for that wedding, which is why I started this piece where I did. It was a great wedding, and I kinda made up with Emi Ibarazaki; we’d not really been friends, and maybe she resented the short time I was with Hisao, but yeah, things were okay after that. I was really happy for Hisao, because he was finally happy, and thoughts of Lilly Satou were pretty far away that day in the dandelion field behind Yamaku. Weddings are great things.

After the wedding, Hisao and Emi were off to Hokkaido for their honeymoon. I was due a couple of weeks’ leave, so I stayed in Sendai for a while.

*****

“It’s nice when you do that. Do it again.”

“You mean, this?”

“Mmmmm. When people get married, does it mean they get more benefits?”

“If you mean this kind of benefit, I don’t know. But everyone expects them to, I guess.”

“Lower down. Rin can’t rub herself there easily. It itches.”

“Your feet are very flexible, babe.”

“Hands are flexible too. It’s like having four feet. You’ve got three and a half. I like your flesh hand, it’s more comfortable than your new hand.”

“My new hand has special attachments. See?”

“Ooh. Hell-o. Mmm. I don’t know how to say what I’m feeling. Mmm. My butterflies. Escaping. Ahhh.”

I wonder what Hisao and Emi’s neighbours can hear. We’re house-sitting, Rin and me, up in their second-floor staff apartment. Rin has amazing muscles. They’re very different from other people’s, in many, many ways.

“Auuwrgh. Babe, you don’t need attachments. Eh-eh-eh. Oooooooooh.”

“Am I hurting you? My butterflies are distracting me.”

“They’re distracting me too. Uhhhm.”

It’s been a long time since we’ve spent so much time together. Most of it’s spent doing boring things that somehow feel good when you do them with someone else. Like buying tubes of paint from an art shop, or picking a sushi selection, or sitting in the park. It’s all about letting go of tension and being comfortable with someone else.

And then my leave’s about up, and Rin has stuff she wants to do, and… well, people drift apart sometimes. When I fly back into Fukuoka, it’s back into my other world, the world where I worked my ass off to prove I liked my work and I wasn’t getting special favours from being a Hakamichi orphan. It’s also a world where I’m like a daughter to nice people who are Rin’s parents, not mine.

I didn’t know I wouldn’t be meeting Rin again for eleven years.

[MM: Do I have to?]

[NO: No. We make no requests around here. It’s all up to you, old friend.]

*****

I guess people don’t know much about Miura-san who, in the year 2030, sits up on the 17th floor, now in the office of Director, Global Initiatives. She has no private life except that some people know she could possibly have family in Tsushima, which isn’t quite true. She used to get lonely, and she used to spend some time in Nagasaki, but most people don’t know that. And to be frank, even people who’ve read to this point still don’t understand a lot of things about me.

I’m back in Fukuoka by September 2018. Dinners near the dojo still happen about once a month for me. Murata-san, my mother’s cousin and the current sensei, is one of the few relatives I have, as far as I know. My father’s relatives are distant, I think mainly in Osaka. By tradition, I’m not allowed to enter the dojo itself as a student or practitioner—my hand is not natural and I might accidentally injure someone or be injured myself because of that. Yeah, I like to think of myself as ‘westernised’ and ‘modern’, but deep down I’m still Miki the Japanese girl, and I accept all that.

After dinner, I normally walk past my old apartment on the way to the bus station, or when catching a taxi to the airport. It’s habit, I guess. If you live in a nice place for a while, you sometimes want to look around, see what’s been happening to it. That’s why I notice one evening that the lights are on. Someone’s moved in.

I pause and look up. There aren’t any signs of movement, and it’d be rude to just knock on the door and say hi to a complete stranger. Also, pretty dumb. Miki’s thirtyish and mature, not given to random acts, mostly. I laugh at myself for even thinking it, but hey, you only live once…

That’s when I’m caught by surprise. A chrome-yellow Hayabusa coasts round the corner and its rider stops the machine next to me. It’s not a particularly new bike, but it looks well-maintained—that’s the first thing I think. The second thing I think makes me flex my left fist and fire up the servo augments, almost a reflex now.

“Hey, need a ride somewhere?”

Right. So not in the mood for being picked up. Especially by this messy-looking guy who’s fumbling to get his helmet off. Iron-black hair. Fine cheekbones and a pointy chin AND dimples. Ah. Well, maybe he’s okay.

“Motorcycle-san, you pick up any old girl on the street? What would your ancestors say?”

He laughs. You know what a carefree laugh is? That one.

“My ancestors would say, foolish and irresponsible child, why did you leave your cousin Miki alone and unguarded by the side of the road?”

Oh shit! It’s whatshisname, the Murata son who went overseas to study and then ended up working in Tokyo. How embarrassing. I power my augments down.

“Ah, hello cousin. Or second-cousin, really.”

“Yes, your humble servant, junior Murata cousin Tomohiro. Call me Tom if you won’t call me your Hiro.”

He says the last part in accented English, as if it’s a joke. I get it fairly quickly, in time to grin in appreciation but not laugh. He’s young, maybe five years younger than I am. Funny how awkward I feel at the idea of laughing.

“Well, junior cousin, this lady is off to the airport. I wouldn’t dream of inconveniencing you! You should be joining your parents for dinner.”

“That’s excellent advice, senior lady. However, this lowly male has already had his dinner and was thinking how sad his life would be chained to that little apartment in the middle of town. So, my peregrine falcon must fly, and where better than up into the northeast?”

So he’s got my old apartment now, eh? That explains the lights. Okay, Miki, make up your goddamn mind.

“It would be a very long ride.”

“Respectfully, it would take under ten minutes to reach the airport, using the expressway. No inconvenience at all, unless you mind the high speed?”

He’s teasing me, dammit.

“Not at all, if it’s okay with you, Murata-cycle-san.”

“Oh, I am so pleased that your sense of humour is as enchanting as your beauty, senior cousin! Here, have a helmet. I have maintained it well but you may wish to swab it down before use.”

He hands me a sealed hand-towel and a helmet that matches his. I take a polite and unobtrusive sniff. It smells brand new, unused. He is a considerate sort of guy, though, to have thought of all that.

We end up getting married, and it lasts for more than five years. The less you say, the better it is. But I’m damn happy for most of that time, and Tom is a great guy too. It’s amazingly fun until things fall apart.

Yeah, that’s it. I’m done.

[NO: My dear friend, what kind of abrupt ending is that?]

[MM: Come on. They can put two and two together from Rin’s story. Anyway, no more family for Miki, so back to Rin’s parents. Fuck, what do you want me to say?!]

[NO: I am truly sorry. I did not mean to hurt you at all. You can say what you want, you know that.]

[MM: I’ll add a bit more. Might as well. Sorry for shouting.]

*****

Kurome the Fearsome left us in the spring of 2020. I was so damn angry. It hurt so much. Animals are animals. But sometimes they’re friends, and I cried and cried because everything felt fucked up. He just went out and died, curled up next to the door where we found him the next day. He’d never needed much. Just wanted to bum around with the humans or go catch prey whenever he felt like it. Motoko was inconsolable, swore she’d never get another cat.

Tom and I were married a few months later. He was very gentle with me. Most people who think I’m sexy think it means I’m easy or very physical. I’m not. I’m body-shy. If you’ve got body parts missing or burnt off or something, it’s not easy to be with someone else. He was good with that, treated me like a lady for most of our marriage.

But I think there’s a point where people just crap out of the game—in bed, I’m either with two hands—one made of titanium, or I’m one-handed. Either way, it freaks most people out even if they’re trying not to be freaked out. I like being touched, I like touching, but I’m shy. It’s hard to explain, and I won’t go into the details.

Things didn’t improve when I kept getting promoted, worked harder, tested stuff for Hakamichi Industries, did some courses in electronics and engineering. He began to complain that we weren’t spending time together. A lot of it was my fault. I love my work, I loved it then.

We started fighting. His family sided with him of course—tradition was on their side. When he beat me, I walked out. I flew out. I was pregnant. He was furious. We met once more. He beat me again. I fought back. Forgot my augments. Broke his skull. Found out I’d lost the baby. Tried to quit my job. They wouldn’t let me.

I didn’t tell Rin much of it.

[MM: Enough?]

[NO: More than enough. Would you really let us work with this? I’m sorry I made you share so much of your pain.]

[MM: If I didn’t want to, you couldn’t have made me. But thanks anyway. Go ahead.]

*****

While I was going through the happy part of my life, I learnt from Rin that Hisao had died. It was only six years after he and Emi got hitched. I felt really sad for them, but it was happening in a place that felt far away. I liked Hisao—not quite in that way, but because he wasn’t really complicated and he’d learnt how to be sensitive. The thing that really mattered? I had one less person to talk to if I needed someone.

Tom only knew that Rin was my friend from high school. There was nothing else he needed to know, and Rin herself seemed quite happy for me. So my life went on quite cheerfully until it all went to hell, and then I went back to work. That was two years ago.

I resume visits to the R&D group in their dungeon below. Over the years, I’ve had exactly one real friend there. The rest are either frightened or jealous. Or something else, I suppose. I hate office politics.

“Kyu-san! A most blessed morning to you.”

“Ahi ahi, it’s the elegant Miura-san, the most lovely model ever to bear the jewels of Hakamichi R&D! This elderly retainer offers quiet admiration for the way your long hair flows like a well-contained river, reflecting the stars at night.”

We exchange bows. He is still very sprightly, even though he must be 70-ish by now. His grip is firm and dry. Maybe he has augments too.

“Most respected elder, what small parings of your talented fingernails can you scatter into my outstretched hands?”

“Amusing junior lady who has soared to the heights of administration, do not mock me thus! It is an honour to share my tiny children with you.”

Over the years, our banter has gone in all kinds of directions. I hear that our emeritus engineering consultant’s subordinates have a book of our dialogue, and they test out some of our lines on unsuspecting visitors.

However, old Kyu’s bit about tiny children brings an unexpected hollowness to my heart. I sigh. He didn’t mean it. He didn’t know. Perhaps.

“Kyu-sensei, today… perhaps the honoured senior might consent to magically produce a tea-set and grace this one’s innocent ears with knowledge and counsel?”

His face changes. That’s some serious shit, and he knows it. I hardly ever ask for that.

“At once, my dear lady of Global Initiatives. Please let your beauty illuminate these dark tunnels, the ones on your right wherein my grimy talent makes its nest.”

That day, I sit in his tiny office, surrounded by chunks of engineering, and tell him about loneliness. I ask him at what damn point a person should just give in and call it a night. He listens, he makes little encouraging noises.

When I run out of stuff to say, he looks at me sympathetically. It’s a look I’ve hardly ever seen.

“Miura-san, if I may?”

“Please, wise counsellor, you may be frank with me. I will deserve and accept any harsh words that enter the air between us.”

“Well, between friends who have worked so long together, I only have two things to say. First is that you have been like a daughter to me. I lost my family at Awaji Island many years ago, and this work has been my wife since then. Second is that it’s never too late to make friends. You should. I won’t be around forever, Miura-san.”

“That’s harsh indeed. You’ll make me cry, my father.”

“But, alas, it is true. And I wish you much happiness, my daughter—although I do not know how it will arrive.”

*****

It’s a few months later that my happiness begins to take form. Kazuo comes home one day in the rain, and gets helluva scolding from Motoko for it.

“Old man, you have been dancing in the rain like a silly westerner! Where is your umbrella, that we have toiled so many years to afford?”

“Ah. Pretty wife, I needed both hands.”

“For what? There are very few things for which a man your age needs both hands.”

“This.”

I instinctively crane over Motoko’s shoulder to look.

In Kazuo’s round, flat hands, there’s something wriggling. And making a thin high-pitched sound.

“No, no, what have you brought into this house? A drowned rat? Are you turning senile, my husband?”

“I only want you to be happy, wife.”

His hands open a little. In them is a little kitten, eyes closed. It’s all bedraggled, but its fur will be golden when dry, streaked with black and silver.

“…”

Motoko is about to say something, but stops. I realize I’m holding my breath.

“Oh, Tezuka-san. Trust you to be unwise in such a beautiful way. Give him to me, he will catch a cold in your hands.”

Kazuo hands it over, beaming with pride and excitement.

“Come to mother, little kitten. Oooooo…”

That’s the first part of my happiness, I know it in my bones. The second part comes when Rin calls me briefly. She’s not called me for a very long time. She seems unhappy, but we catch up a bit before she has to go, and it’s nice to see her and hear her voice.

The third part seems to last forever. But it’s all worth it.

The day finally comes when I’m at Tsushima’s little airport, waiting. Suddenly, there she is, long red hair and tied-up sleeves, flanked by two flight attendants.

“Rin!”

“Hell-o. I’ve missed you.”

And just like that, my life has finished turning around.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Wed Jul 26, 2017 2:40 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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